We all want the best for our children, especially when it comes to their education. Fortunately, Singapore has one of the top public education systems in the world, with students having the highest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) scores in the world.
However, this also makes it one of the toughest public education systems in the world too, which can be problematic for expatriate students trying to adjust to a new culture, curriculum and ultra-competitive academic environment.
If you’re considering sending your child to an international school in Singapore, consider the following factors:
Consider the pros and cons
International schools primarily cater to the children of expatriates from across the globe, but there are also a growing number of Singaporeans enrolling. Unfortunately, Singaporeans need approval from the Ministry of Education (MOE) to enrol their children in international schools.
In many cases, MOE will only grant approval if you are an “expatriate” Singaporean whose children have been abroad for years or have a child with learning disabilities. However, there are several international schools licensed to accept Singaporeans including ACS International School and St. Joseph’s Institution International.
Before you enrol your child, consider the pros and cons of choosing an international school.
- Student to teacher ratio: Singapore public schools currently have about 30 students for every teacher. International schools on the other hand have between 10 and 24 students per teacher, which means students receive greater assistance and one-on-one attention from teachers.
- International Baccalaureate (IB) Curriculum: The IB Curriculum is widely recognised for its inquiry-based approach that emphasises creative and critical thinking to prepare students for coursework they can expect at the university level.
- Diverse student body: The student bodies at most international schools are comprised of pupils from around the world, exposing the students to a culturally diverse environment that’s similar to most university campuses. This will be especially good if you are planning to send your child overseas for their tertiary education.
- Less integration into local culture: Because the student body of most international schools is comprised of pupils from around the globe and few Singaporeans, there’s little opportunity for greater cultural immersion.
- Many international schools don’t offer bilingual education: Unlike Singapore’s public schools, which offer students the choice studying Mandarin, Malay or Tamil, many international schools only offer instruction in English with foreign language learning being optional.
- International schools are expensive: The annual cost of sending your child to an international school can exceed that of even universities (S$25,000 to S$35,000), making it the biggest disadvantage to choosing an international school.
Yes, international school fees can be hefty
International schools have incredibly high fees. However, some employers of expatriates offer to subsidise the cost of international school fees up to the full amount depending on the employment package offered.
Here’s just an overview of how much it costs to send a child to elementary school for a year:
Singapore public school fees are ridiculously low because the government heavily subsidizes public education nearly free or its citizens. PRs and foreigners on the other hand do pay substantially more than citizens, but the fees are still incredibly low compared to those of international schools.
Are International Schools Worth the Expense?
Yes, Singapore’s public school system is one of the best in the world AND it’s tens of thousands of dollars cheaper. But the greatest strength of Singapore’s renowned education system is also its greatest weakness – it is extremely rigid and ultra-competitive. And unfortunately, that instills a mortal fear of failure in students and makes their lives extremely stressful.
Are international schools worth the expense? The answer to this question is simple – it depends. Every family is different. And factors such as your family’s financial situation, cultural background and the school’s curriculum are important to consider before making a decision.
But keep in mind that deciding whether an international school is worth the expense takes more that just looking at the dollar value – you also need to take into account the value of sending your child to a school that he/she enjoys attending.
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