Saturday, 26 November 2016

Are International Schools worth the hype?

It wasn’t too long ago when schooling was just another deal for parents. Children were enrolled in public or private schools, based on which was more accessible monetarily as well as geographically. Curriculums were uniform and eventually all students graduated from school with similar prospects. However, the situation today is completely different for parents seeking admissions for their little ones. In a multi-racial and education-focused nation like Singapore, the sheer number of schooling options available imply that parents need to do sufficient homework before choosing a school for their child. Not “child’s play” certainly.
In this context, international schools are firmly placing themselves as the most sought after schools, especially amongst the expatriate communities in Singapore. What makes them so special? Is the hype around international education worth it?

The bright side

Most international schools offer an IB (International Baccalaureate) curriculum, a highly reputed and advanced programme that emphasises on inquiry-based learning instead of traditional rote learning. The IB curriculum does not affiliate itself to a particular country and is widely accepted across the world. For expat families, schools offering the IB curriculum are ideal as this allows a smooth transition in schooling for kids when moving between countries. The IB curriculum is also considered appropriate for today’s era where globalization is a reality and future leaders need to be more creative and innovative than ever before. Providing the right tools to nurture creative and innovative traits in children at a young age is imperative and IB sets to achieve this.
The other major advantage of international schools is the student-teacher ratio. While public schools in Singapore have a student-teacher ratio of 30:1 on an average, the ratio is between 24:1 and 10:1 in international schools. This essentially means that children get more attention from teachers which is certainly a good indication.
A school’s scope is not limited to teaching children different subjects and providing exposure to co-curricular activities. It plays an indelible role in laying the foundation for a child’s view of the world. International schools often provide a richer and more diverse environment with the the student community on-campus comprising children from different nationalities and various walks of life. This will play a huge role in the student’s development socially and emotionally and a local school may not be able to provide this kind of an environment.

Things to give a second thought about

There are certain shortcomings in international schooling too. If parents want their children to get exposure to the local Singaporean culture, international schools may not be the best option as the percentage of native Singaporean students would be miniscule. Therefore, this may not work well for families with permanent or long stay plans in Singapore.
There is a popular belief that international schools only offer English as a language and do not offer bilingual programmes unlike public schools where Malay, Tamil, Mandarin and other languages are also offered. This is not entirely true. The Canadian International School (CIS) is one of the most sought after international schools offering the innovative Bilingual programme in Chinese and English. So, a little more research while shortlisting schools can help cast away such fears.
Another very important factor that does not encourage parents to apply to international schools is the fee structure. International schooling is not within the reach of all families. Especially when compared to local schools, the fees of international schools can seem enormous.

So, should you enrol your child in an international school?
To summarise, it is a well-accepted fact that international schools are known to provide the best quality of education as far as infrastructure, teachers, teaching methods and future overseas prospects are concerned. Local public school structure in Singapore tend to be highly competitive and stressful for students even if they rank among the best in the world. As for the higher fee structures in international schools, many expatriate families are allowed subsided school fees through employers while other avail of the scholarship programmes available at almost all international schools.

Enrolling your child into an international school or a local school is thus an individual choice.  
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