Offering an inquiry-led education from nursery to Grade 10, SSMIS is a Jewish school that combines all the familiarity and community feel of a small school with the values and culture of a faith school.
Sir Manasseh Meyer International School (SMMIS) is a homegrown, all-through Jewish school that has invested time, money – and plenty of effort – into broadening its appeal as an international school over the past four years.
The school was founded in 1996 as a small nursery and then became a small primary with 170 students in centrally-located Tanglin. Today, SSMIS is an all through-school school (Grades 11-12 are yet to open) in the far-northern Sembawang district.
For a small school of just 500 students it has an impressive $40 million campus – and a big heart to match. And, while SMMIS still offers an education imbued with Jewish values, tradition and culture, it has become a truly international school that welcomes many students from all faiths and nationalities.
The message from SMMIS is very clear: don’t write off this faith-based school just because your family is not Jewish. There are several reasons why SMMIS could be the right fit for your child, regardless of faith. It’s a school that has a modern, well-equipped and welcoming campus; it still has the familiarity and community feel of a small primary school; and it has ‘affordable’ tuition fees of $22,000.
The not-for-profit SMMIS currently enrols students from nursery through to Grade 10 (with Grades 11-12 opening from August 2020), offering families all the stability of an all-through school. It offers an education based on the International Primary and Middle Years Curriculum, blended with the rigorous Singapore Ministry of Education curriculum for maths and the UK National Curriculum for literacy. This is a creative but rigorous curriculum that works towards the globally recognised IGCSE and A Level qualifications. And, as the city-state’s only Jewish school, it comes as no surprise that it also teaches Jewish Studies and Modern Hebrew. For Jewish families, this exposes their children to a solid Jewish education; for other families, it means that the school has a strong focus on values such as integrity, respect and kindness.
In the words of principal Elaine Robinson:
“SMMIS has a family feel, individualised attention, walk around and we all know your child’s name; we do give an individualised learning experience. Community feel. We are driven by values. Speak to any of your Indian, Korean or Chinese families and they will say about the warmth and community feel regardless of culture, nationality and religions.”
Named after one of the most prominent Jewish leaders in Singapore, SMMIS stays close to its roots as a faith school. The school’s vision says that it is “bettering the world through a first-class education imbued with Jewish values”. And this is felt throughout many aspects of the school, from curriculum to student life. That said, SMMIS can offer the right fit regardless of faith; with children coming from Korea, Japan, Brazil, Israel, France, Russia and the UK, there is a genuine feel that all religions are made to feel welcome.
As one Grade 3 student says on the school’s website:
“I feel happy in this school, the teachers are kind and my friends are very nice. I have friends from many countries in my class- Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Israelis and Koreans, and we all play and talk together and share some things about our homes and countries and culture.”
So, how does the school balance being a faith and an international school? Every school day starts with traditional morning prayers for Jewish students, or a mindfulness session. Students participate in communal Rosh Hashana, Tu B’shevat and Pesach celebrations, as well as activities on Succot, Chanuka and Purim; the school also celebrates other cultural days and National Holidays relevant to Singapore. (The colourful wall displays on world religions and festivals proudly show this). Jewish students are encouraged to wear white school polo shirts on Fridays for Shabbat, and all children can choose whether to participate in a communal Grace After Meals following lunch.
SMMIS is clearly very proud to be a Jewish school. However, it’s the school’s sense of family and community that arises from this that shines through here. As principal Elaine Robinson says, “Rather than pushing God, it’s about racial harmony and acceptance”.
Robinson has fostered a positive school climate that can be seen and felt. There’s a nurturing side; for example, every new student wears a ribbon so that their peers will make them more welcome. A thoughtful side; for example, students come together every day for a hot kosher lunch sat round bright blue and yellow tables in the dining room. There are also meatless Mondays, a salad bar where students can help themselves, and a freshly baked afternoon snack (which smelt delicious during our visit); this all contributes to the homely feel of this school. And there’s a community side; for example, parents are actively involved with fundraising, social events, and learning support, and the school community is brought together at events such as a recent popcorn and move night.
SMMIS offers the creative and inquiry-led International Primary Curriculum blended with the rigorous Singapore Ministry of Education curriculum for maths, the UK National Curriculum for literacy and the US-based research-based science curriculum, FOSS. The curriculum also includes a coding and robotics programmes; Jewish Studies and Modern Hebrew as a second language; and PE, swimming and Personal Social and Health Education.
The school says: "This curriculum offers students opportunities to learn about a wide variety of integrated topics through an international lens."
The IPC and IMYC take a very creative, thematic approach to teaching and encourages students to research and ask questions about what really interests them. Maths is taught based on the high standards of the Singapore MOE curriculum, which uses visual aids such as blocks, geometric shapes and bar charts to tackle mathematical problems. This system is widely admired as local students in Singapore are repeatedly ranked at or near the top of international maths exams.
It’s a comprehensive curriculum, with baseline testing at the end of Grade 6 that provides an international benchmark of student performance at the school. It should prepare students for a secondary education at SMMIS where they work towards IGCSE and A Level exams, both internationally recognised qualifications. The IPC/IMYC is followed at other schools in Singapore with lower tuition fees – including Invictus, Middleton International School and The Grange Institution. It is certainly cheaper to deliver than the IB programme, which is offered at many international schools here but, if taught well, is a strong primary and middle years curriculum.
During our visit to SMMIS, we saw many examples of the IPC’s thematic units of learning. For example, students had created dolls houses for the Buildings unit; and music was being explored in different ways from learning about instruments used in Ancient Egypt in Grade 2 through to creating a song about social justice in Grade 8.
As you’d expect, teaching is deeply rooted in the values and ethics of Judaism. Jewish education starts from Tiny Tots (10 months), when children also learn music, gym and art activities. This takes a fun approach to teaching basic morning prayers, blessings, Jewish values, and Hebrew reading, writing and language skills. From Grade 1, students can choose to pursue an intensive Jewish Education programme, which is taught in Hebrew, or to follow a cultural Jewish Education and World Religion curriculum. In secondary school,
sh and covers Jewish values, Jewish history, Zionism and holocaust studies.
Technology supports learning at all stages of learning, and classrooms are equipped with smartboards, iPads and laptops. The school has an impressive iSTEAM and Makerspace programme that uses technology including 3D printing, programming, micro:bits and Minecraft for Education. And, after school, students are encouraged to take part in a range of activities including chess, swimming, soccer, dance and martial arts.
The campus: Read our Experience tour of SMMIS
Annual tuition fees range from $14,850 for pre-school to $23,480 in Grades 6-10, which is at the lower end of the scale for Singapore’s international schools. Fees include daily lunch and snack, and there is a one-time development fee of $1,605. The school is currently open for pre-school to Grade 10; Grades 11-12 will open from 2020-21.
SMMIS offers bursaries, which are means-tested and range in value according to financial need and the funds available.
Read more: Faith Schools in Singapore
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