There may be various reasons why a parent in Singapore may be considering sending their child to an international school in Singapore. They might find that the local school education is not what they have in mind for their child’s education. Or perhaps, they may be frequent travellers or expatriates in Singapore who would prefer an international school experience for their child.

International schools also typically follow an internationally-recognised syllabus that makes it easier for children to transfer between schools across different countries, as well as use as qualifications for university admissions.

Although there are significantly fewer international schools in Singapore than local ones, it still presents a tough choice when choosing the perfect fit for a child. Due to the vast types of programmes offered, you need to tread carefully in your search. As a general guide, here are some key things to look out for in an international school:

1. World-renowned syllabus

Most parents will want a school that boasts top-class education that is internationally-renowned. The International Baccalaureate (IB) is an example of such an education programme.

With programmes for students aged 3 to 19, the IB education framework strives to develop critical and independent learners by challenging them in both academics and personal development. Above all, the IB was created to bring up internationally-minded people who will contribute responsibly and positively to the world.

IB education is offered in 4 programmes, namely:

● Primary Years Programme (PYP) – for ages 3 to 12 years

● Middle Years Programme (MYP) – for ages 11 to 16 years

● Diploma Programme (DP) – for ages 16 to 19 years

While there are many schools in Singapore offering the IB syllabus at some level, not many run IB programmes for all levels. Parents who wish to have their child transition seamlessly across the programmes can opt for a school that offers programmes for all ages, like the Canadian International School, which takes in students from the PYP level to those in the DP.


2. Learning with STEAM

An education that keeps up with the demands of the workforce is crucial, if schools are to produce students who are employable and career-ready. One approach that schools today are taking is the STEAM education programme – a hands-on approach that allows students to receive inter-disciplinary learning through projects, collaboration, and real-world applications.

Each letter of STEAM points to one key subject area, as outlined below:

● S - Science

● T - Technology

● E - Engineering (or Entrepreneurship)

● A - Arts

● M - Mathematics

One key thing to look out for is how schools are implementing this in their syllabus. Schools that truly want to educate students with STEAM will have the programmes to show it, as well as infrastructure to support it. Take CIS, for example – they model an inquiry-based, student-centred learning approach to STEAM, while providing students with resources like their well-equipped STEAM makerspace.


3. Wide range of activities offered

In developing a well-rounded learner, academics are not all there is. Children will benefit from engaging in other activities such as sports and arts.

Consider the variety of activities offered by the international school. Sports activities are effective in building up resilient, cooperative and physically active students, and arts activities are useful for developing creativity, cultural awareness, and confidence. Taken together, a good school should offer a wide range of activities to cater to the spectrum of interests of their students, and provide opportunities for holistic growth and personal development.

For an idea of what you should expect, you can browse through CIS’ activity offerings for their classroom experiences and extra-curricular activities. Indeed, there is something for everyone, no matter where their talents and interests lie.

4. Robust language programmes

Majority of the world’s speakers are proficient in at least two languages, and numerous research studies have shown that bilinguals enjoy certain advantages over monolinguals. In this vein, it means that being monolingual today puts one at a major disadvantage.

The advantages of being bilingual go from cognitive to practical – bilinguals tend to be better task-switchers, flexible thinkers, and faster language learners, in addition to being more employable and commanding higher pays in the workforce. Health-wise, some have found that being able to speak more than one language may ward off dementia to a later age, and even contribute to quicker stroke recovery. Learning an additional language also puts one in the position to learn about another culture, increasing one’s cultural awareness.

With all these benefits, it is no wonder that bilingual programmes in international schools are increasingly popular. CIS is one international school that boasts not one, but two top-performing programmes, the Chinese-English bilingual programme and French-English bilingual programme. That is on top of the slew of other language courses offerings they have as well, including after-school language programmes.

5. Diverse school population

We live in a diverse and globalised world today, making cultural sensitivity more important than ever.

Learning in a diverse classroom has its advantages. By exposing students to people of different backgrounds, they become more culturally aware, more accepting of differences, and more adept at forging cross-cultural relationships. These are useful skills in today’s world, where the occasion for inter-cultural interactions is never too far away.

Most international schools are quite diverse in terms of their student population. CIS, for instance, has a student body encompassing about 80 nationalities. This puts students in good stead to experience a diverse learning environment.


The ideal international school in Singapore

Although this serves as a guide of what to look out for in a good international school in Singapore, your final choice lies in what you prioritise for your child’s education, whether it is an academically top-performing school, or a school with a particular activity or language programme.

With a fine selection of international schools in Singapore, you won’t have to worry about settling for a less-than-ideal school.