This all-through school, previously owned by the global education group GEMS, has been acquired by Singapore-based XCL Education, and offers a full IB education at a modern campus in Yishun.
There are seven full IB schools offering all three programmes in Singapore – but XCL World Academy is the only international school that offers the IB continuum and a choice of the IB Diploma Programme (IBDP) or the IB Career-related Programme (IBCP).
When the school opened as GEMS World Academy opened in 2014, it faced competition from other IB continuum schools including Canadian International School (Lakeside Campus), Stamford American International School, GESS, and ISS International School Singapore (High School). It also opened alongside Dulwich College (Singapore), a selective school offering a much more British education.
In its first five years the school focused on several key academic and non-academic areas to distinguish it from the rest and to build market share. Top of this list is the option to study the rigorous and broad IBDP or the career-focused IBCP. The school also offers a specialist sports programme that includes four elite training academies. Other standout features of this school include an impressive design centre, its commitment to working closely with parents, and a strong focus on languages.
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The school was acquired in December 2020 by XCL Education, a Singapore based K-12 education group, backed by US Private Equity firm TPG Capital and Temasek, a Singaporean holding company. XCL World Academy is designated to be the flagship school of the XCL Education group of schools. XCL Education is a Singapore-based education group, serving more than 30,000 students across 100 pre-schools, international schools, private schools, and enrichment centres.
This is a school that is focused on growth and responds well to change – and its recent change of ownership seems to be breathing ‘new life’ into the campus. In the past 12 months, we’ve seen it open a dedicated esports facility, The Garage, to host an esports programme where students learn skills such as game design and development, league organisation, broadcasting, streaming, and shoutcasting.
It is opening new (and much-needed) dedicated facilities for its IBDP students, has launched a Chinese-English bilingual programme for kindergarten students that is aligned with the IB PYP, and introduced a University & Career Guidance Programme from Grade 8 to encourage students to start thinking about their future sooner.
In 2022, XCL Education will open its second school in Singapore – XCL American Academy, offering a US education to students aged two to 14 years. XCL American Academy will open in August 2022 in a 'foundation campus' at XCL World Academy until its permanent, purpose-built campus is completed next door.
While the two XCL schools will follow different curricula, there will be close ties between the two campuses. XCL American Academy students will use some of the facilities at XCL World Academy. We've seen this model work effectively at Brighton College (Singapore), which uses some of the facilities at the neighbouring Australian International School (AIS) – both schools are owned by the Cognita group.
When leaving XCL American Academy in Grade 8, students will be offered priority enrolment into Grade 9 at XCL World Academy.
According to our Parent Survey, 50% of parents are satisfied with the level of academic performance at the school; 67% would recommend it to another parent; 42% totally agree that the fees represent good value for money given the quality of the school offering; and 50% say that their child has a tremendous amount of belonging at the school.
Located in Yishun, XCL World Academy has the capacity for 1,600 students, and it currently enrols around 975 students. It’s one of Singapore’s mid-sized schools – large enough to offer a well-equipped campus with a wide variety of courses, but still small enough to have a close-knit community.
XCL World Academy enrols students from two to 18 years. In a positive step towards supporting parents with children of different ages, XCL World Academy opened its two nursery classes in January 2019; this means there is a much easier pick up schedule for families who have older children. The school also offers a complimentary Extended Care Programme from 7am to 7pm for students enrolled for a full day Nursery and Pre-K programme.
There are four to five classes per grade in the primary school, and three to four in the secondary years. Class sizes are 14 in nursery, 16 in kindergarten, 24 in Grades 1 – 5, and there’s always two teachers in every class; from Grades 6 – 12 there is one teacher and classes are capped at 24.
Reflective of its name, XCL World Academy has a very diverse, international community made up of more than 60 nationalities, making it one of the most demographically diverse and truly international schools in Singapore. The largest group of student nationalities are Indian, Australian, British, American, and Japanese.
In the past, the school has had difficulty in retaining all of its students, not through any specific fault of its own, but simply by being a second choice to another school. Some parents would use GEMS World Academy as a holding ground until seats became available in more established schools elsewhere. This is clearly not something the school has wanted, and will be something that the new owners will no doubt be focusing on.
XCL World Academy is authorised by the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) to offer all four IB programmes – the Primary Years Programme (PYP), Middle Years Programme (MYP), Career-related Programme (CP), and the Diploma Programme (DP). In addition to the MYP, middle school students can opt to sit IGCSE exams. The school is currently the only international school in Singapore, apart from School of the Arts Singapore (SOTA), to offer the IBCP. (Dulwich College (Singapore) will introduce the IBCP in August 2022.) This alternative to the IBDP is specifically developed for students who want to focus on career-related learning.
Teaching all four IB programmes can be an advantage, and XCL World Academy strongly believes the PYP and MYP is the best – and most rigorous – preparation for the demands of the IBDP or the IBCP. Led by a principal with extensive experience of working in the IB programme worldwide, and with a team of teachers with an IB background, XCL World Academy is committed to this internationally recognised curriculum.
The primary school delivers the PYP, which is based on six Units of Enquiry – Who we are, Where we are in place and time, How the world works, Sharing the planet, How we express ourselves, and How we organise ourselves. XCL World Academy promises that learning “is not confined within the boundaries of traditional subject areas” and all subjects (mathematics, languages, science, social studies, personal, social and PE, technology, music, and art – are taught through integrated units.
Separated streams for IGCSE and MYP were introduced in August 2021 for Grade 9 and 10 students. Subject offerings in MYP and IGCSE have expanded over time to include business, physics, chemistry, biology and the arts, giving parents and students flexible options to select learning tracks while enjoying a wide base of academic course offerings.
The new MYP eAssessment (externally assessed by the IB) was introduced in August 2021 to push secondary year students well beyond the rote memorization of subject-specific content, allowing them to demonstrate their communication and critical thinking skills. XCL is one of the few international schools in Singapore to offer the full IB MYP eAssessment examination, leading to the award of the IB MYP course results or the IB MYP Certificate. IGCSEs are offered to those who want to take them (Grades 6 to 10), but only a few do.
From Grade 8, students are offered bespoke university and careers advice by the on-campus counsellor. IBDP students can select courses from a decent offering of 44 different subjects, with a wide choice of languages and experimental sciences (including sport and design technology).
XCL World Academy launched the IBCP in 2018, and it has partnered with the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) to offer an art and design programme that covers areas including fashion, architecture, fine art, graphic design, user experience (UX), and many more. In August 2019, it launched a second IBCP in partnership with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which focuses on aeronautics, aeronautical engineering, aviation, cyber intelligence and business management.
While IB schools such as SAIS and CIS root their IB education in US or Canadian culture and standards, XCL World Academy is committed to delivering a more international education – and this makes sense at a school that’s not focused on appealing to one dominant nationality. In keeping with the internationality of the IB programmes and the very wide mix of nationalities at XCL World Academy, the school has a strong focus on languages, with Mandarin, French, and Spanish on the curriculum. All students study Mandarin until Grade 1, when they can choose to continue studying Mandarin or switch to Spanish or French classes. XCL World Academy also offers after-school mother tongue classes in French, Mandarin, Spanish, and Japanese from Grade 1 to 10.
In addition to the above, the school offers a variety of languages as part of their IBDP and CP programmes, including Japanese Language & Literature. Recently, the school launched its Early Years English-Chinese Bilingual Programme for students in Pre-K, KG1 and KG2, that focuses on building language foundations for all students (regardless of prior knowledge of Mandarin) through equal exposure to both English and Mandarin.
In addition to offering the core IB curriculum, XCL World Academy has an iSTEAM (Innovation & Inquiry in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) programme. There are many variations of STEM and STEAM in modern education, and XCL World Academy has labelled its own approach to implementing “project-based learning that can increase student interest in science, technology, engineering, art and maths by involving students in solving authentic problems, working with others, and building real solutions”. iSTEAM is not a lesson and it’s not a facility – but it does suggest that the school is taking an active approach towards innovation and inquiry across all subjects.
“We want students to innovate in what they’re learning and then use inquiry techniques to solve problems.”
As mentioned before, XCL World Academy has made a commitment to using technology and innovative thinking through its iSTEAM programme. To help support this, there’s a 1:1 iPad programme from Pre-K – Grade 5, and 1:1 MacBook Air laptop from Grades 6 – 12. As much as the school is using technology to augment learning, it is also focused on teaching students the responsible usage of technology.
The school also has the facilities to foster innovation – STEM labs and its ‘’jewel in the crown’, a 630 sq m Design Centre with seven creative workshops. Fully equipped with hammers, saws, laser cutters, pottery wheels, 3D printers, forges, robotics kits, and sewing machines, this design centre is an inspirational space for students to study design and technology courses throughout the IB’s Middle Years and Career-related and Diploma Programmes.
It has also opened a dedicated esports facility, The Garage, which is dominated by a full-wall LED display, and is equipped with 24 high performance gaming stations, two racing simulator rigs, two flight simulator rigs, and four virtual reality headsets, making it the hub for the school’s student-led esports clubs.
The academic programme extends well beyond the classroom. To support the IB’s focus on service and global issues, the school organises monthly visits to an elderly home, fundraising activities, school staples such as bake sales to raise money, and environmental projects such as a Beach Clean Up.
XCL World Academy runs a Week Without Walls (WWW) programme, designed to help students from Grades 6 – 11 become more internationally minded and better global citizens. During WWW, students engage in sustainable service projects, gain awareness of the issues that transcend national borders, and develop an understanding of issues such as poverty, indigenous people, and environmental degradation and preservation.
The school also offers a wide range of extra-curricular activities including sport, science, language, media, and art activities, among others. These include free and paid-for activities for children in KG 2 through to Grade 12.
In addition to timetabled PE and swimming lessons, students can attend after-school sports clubs, compete in one of many school sports teams, or be selected for one of XCL World Academy's Sports Academy Programmes – the Athlete Programme, Rugby 7s Academy, Swimming Academy, and Triathlon Academy. It’s these academy programmes that really make XCL World Academy stand out from the crowd in terms of sport – and this an opportunity for elite athletes to train and learn about nutrition, strength training, sleep, and recovery. Other schools offering similar programmes include Australian International School (AIS), Nexus International School, Dulwich College (Singapore), and Singapore Sports School.
“We bring in professional athletes several times a year to train those students who have a particular aptitude for these sports. Our PE teachers then bridge the gap in between those sessions to help students push themselves to new heights and challenge them to develop their skills.”
For those students with a more creative streak, art, music, and theatre are taught throughout the PYP and MYP, and students can choose art, theatre and music courses in the Diploma Programme, which is all typical of an IB school. However, it’s the style of teaching that stands out here. For example, it has set up clubs in music that are relevant to students such as karaoke and rock, and it challenges students to choose a piece of music in their friendship groups and then learn the song by listening to the music rather than relying on notation.
Music classes see students playing the drums, steel drums, and various Orff percussion instruments. There’s also an option to take 1:1 music lessons during the school day as a paid-for extra-curricular activity. It all takes place in some impressive arts facilities, including a 750-seat auditorium that is equipped with the latest facilities, including cameras linked to YouTube that screen student productions to parents who may be travelling. There are also music rooms equipped with violins and cellos, private music rehearsal rooms, and art and drama studios.
According to our Parent Survey, 34% of parents rate the performing arts at this school as being in the top 25% schools in Singapore; 22% rank it in the top 3. 45% of parents rate fine arts at this school as being in the top 25% schools in Singapore; 22% rank it in the top 3.
In addition to hosting annual school performances offering various arts ECAs, the school hosts an annual Arts Week with visiting artists.
The new owners, a private equity-backed operator run by a former Cognita executive, have the benefit of being Singapore-based. They are also a Southeast Asian focused K12 operator.
Sean O’Maonaigh was appointed Head of School for the academic year 2021-2022. Sean is a highly experienced IB leader and educator and brings with him 35 years of experience in international education.
Aside from various leadership positions at schools around the world, Sean has been actively involved in various capacities with the International Baccalaureate Organization, the Council of International Schools, the Academy of International School Heads and is a past Vice-President of the East Asia Regional Council of Schools.
There are over 20 different nationalities of teachers, and there was a low 2% turnover of staff in the last academic year.
XCL World Academy is one of only a few international schools in the north-east corner of Singapore (another being Sir Manasseh Meyer International School). But while it may be a 20-minute drive from Orchard Road and the CBD, it is well-connected to all corners of Singapore by road and the MRT – and attracts families from every direction.
As you’d expect from a purpose-built school, XCL World Academy has cutting-edge facilities and modern classrooms. The school is housed in a well-designed, attractive, and spacious campus, where all students have access to an Olympic-sized swimming pool, sports pitch, gym with a climbing wall, auditorium, e is also a parent café and quiet zone for parents to work in.
There are planned upgrades to classrooms and student spaces, new tennis courts, a running track, baseball, and cricket batting nets. These will be introduced over the next academic year.
Sean O’Maonaigh said:
“We are also planning to build a dedicated and purpose-built new High School Block with age-level appropriate specialist classrooms. This block will include a large and dedicated IBDP student common area and highly unique specialist areas, including a university and careers counselling centre, science labs, an eSports arena, computer coding labs and next-generation technology-equipped classrooms to accommodate hybrid learning models."
XCL World Academy celebrated its first IB graduating cohort in July 2018 with an average score of 31.33, which was higher than the global average of 29.78. Students went to universities in the US, Australia, Switzerland, the UK, and France.
Over the years the school has demonstrated continuous improvement of its top and average IB results. XCL World Academy’s students hit 100% pass rate for both IBDP and IBCP in 2020 and 2021. The highest score achieved is 44 points, one point away from the perfect 45. Furthermore, 20% of graduates achieved a score of 40 points and above.
|Average score||Pass rate||Highest score||Top scorers||40 points plus||35 points plus||30 points plus||Bilingual diploma|
In 2021, the school reported an average score of 35 points and a 100% pass rate. Students achieved a top score of 45 points. Its scores are above global averages and puts the school in the mid-range of international schools in Singapore. The school does not restrict access to the IB Diploma programme to only the most able students and it is non-selective, and it still delivers strong IB results – an indication of the added value here.
Furthermore, 20% of graduates achieved a score of 40 points and above, and 38% of received a Bilingual IB Diploma, which "reflects the School’s beliefs in raising intercultural awareness by letting students share and celebrate their unique sense of self and cultural identities".
Read our roundup of Singapore's 2021 IB results here.
The standard of facilities at XCL World Academy needs to be paid for, of course. Tuition fees are in the mid-range here. Fees range from $22,330 for a full day in nursery to $34,200 in Grade 1, $40,060 in Grade 6, and $41,860 in Grade 11.
XCL World Academy is one of several schools in Singapore to offer full and partial tuition scholarships, but the choice here is more varied and is open to both primary and secondary students. Tuition fee reductions of 25%, 50%, 75%, or 100% are offered to students who excel in academia, the arts, sport, or community service.
XCL World Academy is a Best of school, a ranking determined by parent surveys on the site. It can be found in the following Best of rankings:
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