Middleton International School's Tampines campus in eastern Singapore is an affordable school offering the creative and inquiry-led International Primary Curriculum blended with the rigorous Singapore Ministry of Education curriculum for maths and Chinese.
Middleton International School has added one of the largest campuses to the growing shortlist of international schools offering an affordable education. Education group EtonHouse has expanded its family of schools with a second branch of the Middleton International School, which opened in Tampines in May 2018. And with fees of $15,000 for primary and $17,250 in Grades 6-8, the school is nearly 50% cheaper than many other international schools in Singapore.
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This all-through school has capacity for 1,000 students from nursery through to Grade 12, although it is currently only open up to Grade 7 and has around 300 students; Grade 8 is due to launch in January 2020 (subject to CPE approval) and it plans to be a through train school by 2024.
Middleton offers the creative and inquiry-led International Primary Curriculum blended with the rigorous Singapore Ministry of Education curriculum for maths and Chinese; as the school expands, secondary students will take IGCSEs and A Levels.
The Tampines campus is a sister school to EtonHouse’s Middleton International School in Upper Bukit Timah, a small primary school with capacity for just 125 children. The choice of name for Middleton for these two schools perhaps reflects a desire to see a separate brand for the less costly school model.
Middleton follows a January to December academic year, which places it in line with local Singaporean schools, St Joseph's Institution International School, and the Australian International School. Class sizes range from 22 in nursery to 28 students in Grade 1 and above, and there will be a maximum of six classes per Grade. As the school is slowly building up its enrolment, class sizes are currently smaller.
Middleton offers the International Primary Curriculum. This is a comprehensive curriculum, based on the English National Curriculum with references to the UK Key Stages 1 and 2, but adapted for international schools, with reference to the IB (International Baccalaureate)) inquiry-based approach to learning. It takes a very creative, thematic approach to teaching and encourages students to research and ask questions about what really interests them. Maths and Chinese (which is optional) are taught based on the high standards of the Singapore MOE curriculum.
When Middleton does launch its most senior grades, it will become one of only seven schools in Singapore to offer A Levels.
Where can I study A Levels in Singapore? Click here.
Aside from cost, curriculum is the key differentiating factor between Middleton and EtonHouse, which offers the IB programme. Also, while EtonHouse schools have a dual teacher arrangement one English-speaking and one Chinese-speaking native per class), that enables them to deliver a strong bilingual programme, this is not rolled out at Middleton. As an affordable school, this is hardly surprising though. Instead Middleton offers a solid but stripped back curriculum, where families can choose to pay extra for Hindi or Chinese classes, after-school activities and swim lessons.
While Middleton does not have a vast team of department heads, there are specialist teachers for languages, PE, art and library. Other specialist subjects such as IT, art and design and technology are taught by the class teacher, and sometime with the help of experts from in and outside of the school. For example, Grade 7 students worked with Middleton’s maintenance team to design a water play area for the kindergarten as part of their design and technology lesson.
“We want to make it authentic for our students, particularly in the older grades. Here they are working with real-life industry experts rather than a design and technology teacher. Also our parents come in all the time to talk about their culture or industry.”
In terms of languages, students can choose to study Chinese or Hindi for an additional fee; students who choose not to study a second language attend a supervised class four times a week. It’s another way in which the school is making an education here as affordable as possible, by giving parents the choice to pay for what some families may regard as less-important subjects.
Although Middleton may not be the most state-of-the-art school in terms of technology, computing is taught and integrated across the curriculum including mathematics, science, and design and technology. Although you won’t find makerspaces and innovation labs equipped with the latest gadgets, students do have access to a bank of computers and iPads, which are shared across the school.
There’s a BYOD programme from Grade 4 onwards, which is an additional cost to bear in mind. Once again, though, the school is doing its best to work with parents to keep the cost of education down. Whereas most schools will specify a certain device that must be used by all its students, Middleton does not.
“We knew that our parents would be unable to afford very expensive devices, so we didn’t want to specify a certain device. Instead we just say that they need a device with minimum specifications, and then we do the majority of our work on free Cloud-based software. So, we have children coming in with multiple devices and our teachers are confident enough to work with this even though they may not understand every device. There’s a lot of peer to peer teaching going on.
“We’ve had to rethink the whole BYOD model and we’ve tried to make it more sustainable. We don’t ask our students to print from their device. Why substitute a pen and paper with a device and then print from it – it’s a waste. For example, Grade 2 students made an iMovie about the food cycle from farm to table, and these movies were sent via an app to their parents. There was no need to print anything.”
Sport and the arts
While you won’t see an Olympic-sized swimming pool or new Astro-turf pitches here, you can’t help but be impressed by the school’s large grass sports field. Used during PE lessons and break times, it’s certainly a rare feature of an affordable school, where campuses are typically smaller and more vertical.
Sports such as swimming and football – which might ordinarily be expected to feature in the school PE programme – are held in external facilities as part of a programme of optional extra-curricular activities; these are run by companies for an additional charge.
“Although we don’t have a swimming pool here, we’re right next door to the SAFRA Tampines sports club, and we can offer swimming lessons there.”
Although Middleton does not have the resources to offer a large programme of free, teacher-led activities, there are free clubs including Bollywood dancing and Chinese calligraphy. Students are also given the opportunity to develop their creative, academic and sporting skills at paid-for clubs including Lego robotics, drama and keyboard.
In line with the IPC, Middleton offers art and music lessons within the curriculum. Music and drama facilities are limited here, although they may be developed further as the school opens it secondary years.
Teaching and leadership
Middleton is led by its founding principal Atima Joshi, who has worked for the EtonHouse group since 2003 and helped to found the original Middleton campus from Janaury 2017. Joshi is a popular principal with a passion for the Middleton brand of education. You can expect to see her on the school gate in the morning, in the playground during break times, and frequently visiting classes throughout the school day. And, as one parent comments on the school website,
“It is fantastic that each morning we are greeted by the smiling faces of the teachers and staff alongside the principal who all the children by name.”
Teachers are recruited internationally from countries including the UK, China, the US, Singapore, Australia and India. The school is very keen to stress that all teachers are fully qualified – and there is “no compromise in terms of their teaching experience and qualifications”.
Middleton takes advantage of its EtonHouse links to offer ongoing teacher training and development programmes. Joshi talks a lot about how to excite and energise her staff, which appears to be successful; as Middleton goes into its second year, the school has 100% retention rate.
Campus and facilities
Located close to the airport, and in the eastern residential town of Tampines, Middleton has a spacious campus with basic but well-maintained facilities. In addition to a cluster of classrooms within each Grade ‘pod’, there is an indoor flexi area, multi-purpose hall, library, makerspace, sports field, outdoor play area and art rooms.
Admission and fees
The good news for parents is that fees at Middleton are among the lowest for an international school in Singapore. Fees range from $15,800 for early years to $15,000 in Grades 1-5 and $17,250 in Grades 6-8. Additional charges include fees for technology, ECAs, field trips, uniform and meals.
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