ISS Preston prepares secondary school students for university by offering the globally respected International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme within a small school that lives up to its international name.
With just 250 students, ISS International School Preston is one of Singapore’s smallest international high schools. What this IB school lacks in terms of trendsetting classrooms, Olympic-sized sports facilities and wide-open space, it makes up for with small class sizes, a central location and a truly cosmopolitan student population. There’s a wonderful family feel that can sometimes be lacking at sprawling campuses in Singapore, as well as a nurturing environment and the promise of an empowering education. When weighing up your options for that all-important secondary education, there are advantages (as well as the obvious disadvantages) of a small school.
ISS opened more than 35 years ago, making it one of Singapore’s oldest and most well-established international schools. Today it has two campuses, one serving the elementary and middle schools (Kindergarten 1 to Grade 8, PYP and MYP) at 25 Paterson Road (off Orchard Road) and the high school campus at 21 Preston Road (off Alexander Road). The ISS high school is based at a hilltop campus in Bukit Merah, where it offers the Middle Years Programme (MYP) and International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) from Grades 9 to 12; ISS also gives students the option to take the IB Diploma Course Programme (IBDC). It is just a 15-minute drive from the ISS Paterson campus.
Realising every student’s potential
There’s a lot of talk on the ISS website about “realising potential” in each and every student. The school sets out to achieve this by keeping class sizes small with as few as eight students per class. There’s also an excellent student support system including an onsite student counsellor, university advisor, guardianship and boarding services, pastoral care programme, and an after-school ROW (Reading, Organisation, Writing) club for learning support.
ISS also delivers a strong and established "English as a Second Language " programme. Each students' level of English language proficiency and progress is closely monitored with a differentiated approach taken for each and every student. At the MYP level, ISS has the Preparatory Course for High School, a one-year preparatory course of study that prepares students with limited academic English for entry for entry into either IBMYP 4 or 5 (Grades 9 and 10) and subsequently to gain entry into the IB Diploma programme (Grades 11 and 12). Students undergo intensive English instruction at the same time as they learn core secondary subjects such as mathematics, science, humanities and elective subjects such as the arts and physical education.
As stated in the parent-student handbook, students are expected to take at least one co-curricular activity (CCA), commit to a community service project, act as a buddy for new students, recycle materials, e-waste, spend time with others during breaks – and get plenty of sleep. (All parents will happily support that one!)
ISS expects learning to continue beyond the classroom, and Grades 9 to 12 should complete 90 minutes’ homework plus reading daily. There’s also an academic honesty code and a house system to encourage healthy competition. It all makes ISS feels like a very traditional school – and one with a close-knit community that can be so appealing to expat families.
An international school
There are plenty of schools with international in the title, but some feel more international than others. ISS Preston is one of them. The school was founded in 1981 by a member of Singapore’s post-colonial government, Chan Chee Seng, to address the shortage of international schools in the country. ISS is part of a larger ISS educational group, which includes the Beijing International School of Singapore (BISS) in China.
Today, this family-owned, not-for-profit school has kept its appeal to students from all nationalities. It is one of only a few international schools in Singapore to offer a purely IB curriculum, and not mix and match with other curricula. It has a teaching staff from 19 countries including the UK, US, Canada and Australia. Also, it supports students with English as a second language and strongly encourages bilingualism; all students study Mandarin, although this is the norm in many private schools here. For parents living overseas, the school offers a guardianship programme that places students with ISS-listed guardians, as well as a boarding house service.
The Preston campus is on the smaller side and does look slightly dated next to the newer schools on Singapore’s education scene. However, it does offer all the basics for a quality education, from a well-equipped library and wi-fi enabled classrooms to two basketball courts, an outdoor study area and a canteen. Its leafy surroundings and hilltop location are a bonus too. The school year runs from August to June.
The school’s most recently published results for the 2018 Grade 12 IBDP cohort show an average score of 33. This was higher than the global average of 29.78. There was a 100% pass rate.
ISS has the benefit of many years’ experience in offering the IB programme to expat students. As well as the core subjects taught as part of the IB curriculum, the arts, PE, extra-curricular activities, and Service as Action / CAS, feature very strongly at ISS too. this ensures a holistic education for all their students. Evey student is given an equal opportunity to participate in all such activities to enable them to identify their strengths. Hence, there is student participation in public art exhibitions; scriptwriting, improve and drama; and a biannual Arts Showcase.
PE lessons, including swim classes, are mainly held off campus as the school has limited sporting facilities. Students are introduced to a wide variety of sports including badminton, taekwondo and ultimate frisbee. ISS also fields teams in basketball, football and volleyball for the Athletic Conference of Singapore International Schools (ACSIS) league.
Languages offered include English, Mandarin, Japanese and Korean, and a multitude of other mother tongue languages from Grade 6 to Grade 12. While it may not have the most modern technology labs, ISS is wired with technology. All students follow the 1:1 MacBook programme (students are required to purchase their own MacBooks). Students also use the online learning platform ManageBac to receive and submit assignments.
Action as Service is an integral part of the curriculum at ISS, and this initiative encourages students to apply what they learn in the classroom to real world issues. Projects in Vietnam, Cambodia and Singapore have included creating a basketball court for an orphanage in Indonesia, building boats for children to go to school in the Philippines, and working with animal welfare groups. At the very least, all high school students take part in one Week Without Walls activity.
Students are actively encouraged to sign up to the school’s extensive ECA programme, which runs clubs on campus every day from 2.30pm. Activities cover the arts, sport, sciences and creativity, and range from app inventors through to voluntary community service work.
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