One World International School's (OWIS) in Jurong is one of Singapore's most affordable schools, where students in EC1 to Grade 11 receive an IB and British-based education on a modern campus with large classrooms.
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The school's website says,
"Our ethos for our Nanyang campus will be to deliver an excellent international education at a moderate fee."
OWIS Nanyang opened in January 2018 with places from EC1 to Grade 8, and has since rolled out Grades 9-11; Grade 12 opened in August 2020 . It currently offers the IB programme at primary school level, followed by IGCSEs, and the IBDP. Annual school fees for kindergarten and primary school pupils start from $17,514 a year, rising to a maximum of $20,136 for secondary students. With many international schools charging $24,000-47,000, this makes OWIS a much cheaper alternative for an IB education.
The school says,
"We are not a ‘no frills’ school. We are technically offering everything that every other international school can offer, but at a moderate price."
OWIS opened a second campus in January 2020; the new East Coast Campus offers an early years education for children 3 to 6 years of age.
OWIS offers the popular International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (PYP), underpinned by the English National Curriculum (ENC), then IGCSEs (Grades 9 and 10), and the IBDP (Grades 11 and 12).
All students from Early Childhood through to Secondary school have access to specialist instruction in art, design technology, drama and music. Music is taught as part of the core curriculum until the end of Grade 8. Students may also participate in one-to-one music tuition outside of the school curriculum with the opportunity to learn piano, violin, guitar, singing, recorder, flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, and euphonium.
Mandarin is taught to all students from EC1 to grade 8 and involves verbal communication, literacy and Chinese culture with the goal of enabling all students to master Mandarin and to attain a substantial understanding of significant components of Chinese culture and cultural aspects of the Chinese language.
In secondary school, whilst continuing with an inquiry-based approach to learning, students follow the UK National Curriculum accredited by Cambridge International Examinations (CIE). Subjects include English, mathematics, science, Mandarin, humanities, PE, art, music, drama, ICT and Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE).
The OWIS model teaches students about their immediate relationships with their friends and family as well as social development, health, and intellectual development. There is also a strong emphasis on building the ability to learn and to continue learning. The school describes the benefit of this on-going ability in terms of personal growth and expanded horizons, increased employability and improved career development prospects, a broader range of interests and a wider social life.
Achievement of these three main aims is supported through the connection of Collaboration, Service and Being at One with the World. Whilst the benefits of the first two attributes are clear, the last one is designed to ensure the capacity to explore, to examine and go beyond expectations in a way in which thoughts and actions must be balanced, considered and free from external influences.
OWIS offers a 1:1 MacBook programme in Secondary School to support and facilitate learning. This is designed to deliver improved academic achievement, enable students to use the Internet and computer media to communicate and work together, use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, and solve problems. In addition, students are expected to understand and practise legal and ethical behaviour related to technology.
PE and sport is an important aspect of the curriculum. On-site, an enclosed sports pitch with running track and basketball courts is provided. Although the school lacks its own swimming facilities, all children benefit from the swimming programme held at facilities close to the school. An adventure playground, nature garden and early childhood playground are available for younger students.
An affordable school?
The school quickly dismisses the idea that it is a 'no-frills' or 'affordable school', instead describing itself as a "thoughtfully priced international school with a modern campus".
Head of school Michelle Dickinson explains,
"If you compare the OWIS fee structure against other leading international schools globally, OWIS is actually at the top end of the traditional range. It’s only when the OWIS fee structure is compared against another international school’s charges in Singapore, that our fee structure appears low."
"Higher fees do not ensure a higher quality education or better results. How a school decides to allocate its fees may be even more important than what the school charges."
OWIS Nanyang is part of the Global Schools Foundation (GSF), a Singapore-based not for profit organisation that has historically focused on schools and curricula targeting Indian families – it is best known for its Global Indian International Schools (GIIS) brand.
International teaching staff
This new campus is overseen by OWIS' head of school Michelle Dickinson, a Brit who has worked in India, China and Ethiopia, as well as in other international school groups including Dulwich and Nord Anglia.
Teachers are from the UK, Australia, Canada, Singapore, China and New Zealand. All have a degree or higher degrees and teaching certification from well-established higher education institutions. OWIS says that it looks for teachers who are dynamic, enthusiastic, caring, knowledgeable about education, internationally minded and lifelong learners.
The Nanyang campus in Jurong West Street enrols more than 1,200 students from a mix of nationalities. With at least 40 nationalities signed up to the OWIS Nanyang it is a very international campus – something the school has planned for by placing a 30% cap on any one nationality. The school is nearly oversubscribed with students from India and Japan.
"At OWIS, we pride ourselves in building an international community where children embrace diversity."
At OWIS Nanyang class sizes are limited to 18 students in Early Childhood and 24 students in Grades 1 and above.
In terms of homework, which is referred to at OWS as “learning at home”, it is very project based in the primary years. Grade 1 is 20 minutes’ reading daily, which is described as the “backbone” to any solid education; from Grade 2 and above, students are given a project to complete over a two or three week period. The school says that “process is more important than the product” so you can expect a project-based approach to homework rather than piles of worksheets.
Unlike the Indian curriculum schools owned by GSF, the academic calendar at OWIS runs from August to June, split into four terms, each of approximately 10 weeks.
The school has built a strong community – there is a Parent and Friends Association, parent reps for each class meet monthly with teachers, students are all assigned to a house system, and there's an active student council. Students and teachers use the Seesaw app to communicate with parents about their daily learning experiences.
OWIS Nanyang is built on the site of the former Pioneer Secondary School, a government secondary school that closed in 2016. As we’ve seen at other affordable schools in the region such as Invictus, lower fees typically mean lesser facilities. However, the 3.2ha OWIS campus does have state-of-the-art facilities for entrepreneurship, performing and visual arts, and technology and robotics, as well as a ‘nature’ kindergarten for outdoor learning. It also has large classrooms, which had been designed for the higher class sizes in government schools. The school has saved money by converting a former school, which removes the need to construct new buildings.
There are several empty classrooms and unused spaces across this campus, so there is plenty of potential for OWIS Nanyang to expand and widen its facilities – if there is funding available, of course.
The entire school has spacious classrooms, which are well resourced for inquiry-based learning, equipped with iPads, Macbooks and interactive Apple Tvs. The décor of the classrooms and modular furniture are designed to encourage teamwork and co-operative learning. There are specialist art and music rooms, an enormous multi-purpose hall, sports courts and pitches, a running track, library, dance studio, small rainforest and play areas. There are plans to develop science labs.
OWIS is the third international school to open in Jurong, the other two being Canadian International School and Yuvabharathi International School Singapore. It opened during an exciting time for this corner of Singapore as plans are underway to transform this backwater into a vibrant lakeside leisure destination and an up-and-coming neighbourhood. With new development will come families, and with families comes the need for schooling. So, OWIS Nanyang is just what this region was looking for.
That school has its own sports teams, and a programme of ECAs based on service, languages, the performing arts, sport and academia. There is a fee for any ECAs, which is to be expected at a school with such low fees as it gives “parents the choice to pay or not to pay”.
Admission and fees
Tuition fees for kindergarten and primary school are $17,793, while secondary school fees are $20,457; this includes two sets of uniform. Unlike at many schools here, there are no hidden extras such as technology fee or building development fee.
Dickinson says that, "There will not be significant fee hikes or surprise building fees and technology fees for parents to worry about."
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