• Quiet location
• Easily accessible by car
With its striking bright blue and white exterior, it’s impossible to miss OWIS Nanyang, which has all the clean, fresh and modern hallmarks of a newly renovated – and freshly painted – campus. Located in Jurong West, which some may regard as ‘out of town’, OWIS Nanyang is located within a quiet and leafy residential neighbourhood; it’s also close to the Pan Island Expressway (PIE), which makes it easily accessible by car.
We travelled from the central Bugis area of Singapore, which took around 35 minutes during rush-hour. It’s surrounded by high and low-rise public housing blocks and is located next door to the local Pioneer Primary School, so expect a fair amount of school traffic at drop-off and pick-up times.
OWIS says: “From anywhere in Singapore, you can reach the school within one hour.”
There’s a large drop-off area with several parking spaces within the school walls, although there are plenty of places to park outside the campus too. We couldn’t help but notice the line of scooters by the school gate, which suggests that some students live close enough to scoot to school.
There are no security barrier gates at the school, but we did have to sign in with a security guard at the entrance.
Read our interview with head of school Michelle Dickinson here.
• New but basic facilities
• Separate, self-contained pre-school
• Plenty of outdoor space
OWIS Nanyang is located on the campus of the former Pioneer Secondary School, a government school that left behind large classrooms and plenty of outdoor space spread out over 3.2 hectares. The campus was remodelled in just five months – and the dark shutters, brown façade and ceiling fans of the previous government school were replaced with large windows, white paint and air-conditioning.
The classrooms provide a large teaching space for class sizes of 18 in early childhood and 24 in Grades 1-8 and are filled with plenty of natural light. With only 600 students currently enrolled at the school from kindergarten through to Grade 8, the sprawling campus did feel very quiet and empty – but we would expect that to change as the school increases its intake. OWIS Nanyang is a four-form entry school and, even when it reaches its full capacity of 1,200-plus students, it will not feel crowded or cramped here.
OWIS says: I don’t think space will ever be a problem. It’s more a question of how do we creatively use the space?”
While we weren’t dazzled by new glitzy facilities, we were impressed by areas such as the very large multi-purpose hall, a shaded outdoor art room and covered outdoor cafeteria. The outdoor facilities are where the school really shines at the moment. There are sports courts, a climbing wall, bikes and trikes, a playing field, a running track, and plenty of free space for both PE lessons and recreational activities, as well as the school’s programme of extra-curricular activities. Other outdoor learning spaces include a miniature ‘rainforest’, where a path winds its way through native plants. There are no plans to build a swimming pool here, which is a deliberate decision to help keep costs low.
Early years is separate from the main school with dedicated and gated entrances, classrooms without doors leading into a large communal area, and a large outdoor play area with sand pit and equipment. It’s a bright and stimulating environment for young children, which is filled with a variety of exciting role play toys, displays and learning resources.
We visited the campus on the first day back after the Easter break, and at the start of the school’s second term since opening. This could help to explain the lack of school work displayed on the walls that adds ‘life’ to a campus, although there were a few murals on the walls painted by the school’s art teachers to inject some colour. There were also signs of building work here and there, which you would expect at a new school that is still adding some finishing touches.
Around 30% of OWIS Nanyang campus lies empty, waiting for renovation. There are plans to utilise this space for secondary school classrooms and science labs when it introduces Grades 9 and 10 from August 2018. The school certainly has the spaces to expand its facilities – maybe with ICT labs or makerspaces – but if the school keeps its fees this low, the question is can it afford to?
Overall the campus feels new, spacious, clean and uncluttered. Yes, the facilities are certainly basic compared to many other international schools, but the school argues that “students here have greater access to the facilities than maybe at a school with a larger student body”.
• Technology in every classroom
• Collaborative learning corners
The colour scheme throughout the school is designed to “inspire” students, and includes ‘soothing’ blue and green cubbies and ‘happy’ yellow and brown chairs. While we didn’t see any central areas in the primary and middle school, each classroom is large enough to have its own study corner for collaborative learning.
OWIS says: "Children are naturally curious about the world around them and those hues which are utilised time and again throughout the campus are taken from the natural world outside the door."
During our tour we saw teachers using interactive Apple TVs, which are in every classroom, and students working on iPads.
Meet the parents
During our tour we spoke to parents at the school, William and Grace Richardson about why they chose
OWIS Nanyang for their child?
"We were looking for a school on the internet and came across OWIS, and the price was right." Additionally, the fact that the school was relocating from the east coast meant that the school was new for everyone, meaning that my children and any other children joining that school would be all new. This allows for all the children to start afresh."
When asked about the school's strengths, they said:
"I would recommend the school to other families who are looking for innovative teaching methods and the use of technology, integrating children with the gadget-driven world of today. The school also offers the IB PYP (Primary Years Programme) that focuses on the development of the whole child as an inquirer, both in the classroom and in the outside world."
The couple's five children have attended OWIS since January 2018, and they have nearly settled in quickly.
"They have a mix of interests in the arts and sports. They're also enjoying maths, geography and Mandarin. Most mornings, they're so keen to go to the school that they request that we leave home early!"
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