Singapore schooling - again...

(47 Posts)
Mummyinggnome Sun 13-May-12 04:33:54

Are there any MNers who have their children in the local school system here? We have our places for Tanglin for August but our kids are in a Singaporean kindergarten at the moment which seems so good that I'm wondering if we should stick with it. Academically Tanglin seems to be behind the Singaporean schools on a same age comparison?
Wuld love to hear any experiences?
Many thanks

empirestateofmind Sun 13-May-12 06:51:22

Academically Tanglin seems to be behind the Singaporean schools on a same age comparison

What makes you think this? It seems a sweeping generalisation!

Mummyinggnome Sun 13-May-12 11:59:01

In terms of a child in nursery / reception versus what they would be covering in the Singaporean system. From what I hear and have experienced.
The reason I'm asking is to find out! As I say 'seems' rather than 'is'!

Its mainly the human aspect that is different, i think you already know that.

The teachers interract very differently with the pupils. In the Simgaporean system they are more likely to point out a pupil's shortcomings whilst in an International school its a more positive parenting attitude.

The system is part of a wider extremely condescending paternalistic ethos, where "esprit de corps" networking, allegiance and service are pivotal values. No place for dissent, not even a bit of creativity, no slacking, no pacing.

You'd have to feel at ease with that. Certainly if you are a PR/part Singaporean family you should consider."Esprit de corps" is very important when it comes to finding a job one day.
A good friend (PR) is a surgeon with husband lawyer. They removed their child from tanglin (where he was laready doing extremely well) and moved to a prominent local institution as he will grow to be part of a circle that will serve his future best. And as he will go to national service, he will have the camaraderie of fellow pupils which will no doubt help on the social ladder.

Another local friend has their kids at TTS and shiiped to oarding school overseas at 12 as they just can not handle the total lack of empathy and "missionary" ethos.
They are not 100% ethnically chinese so that also says something as to how within even thosevpublic schools there is a social stratification that you'd need to be at ease with.
Anyway, lets no go into that territory, but hey ho, sometimes things need to be said.

So really what am saying, without any judgement at all, is that you know best what will suit your child and your family dynamic. I know a lot of happy parents/kids at local schools. They are all in it for the long run.

I only have good things to say about TTS from experience. They actually do a pretty good job at "pushing" kids with a potential and generally keep a busy reading and homework schedule from an early age.
They are however quite opaque with the parents as to the ability grouping but its easy to figure out if you volunteer as a parent reader for instance. So its very much to the parents to keep on top of it.

UWC and TTS are always on top of listings for a good reason, they are academically very sound yet nurture a whole person.
They provide a happier environement and let us pushy parents do the dirty job grin
i feel that schools should help identify talent, abilty and areas of interest. Its my job as a parent to keep the whip on nudge my child in the right direction to fulfil the potential.

empirestateofmind Sun 13-May-12 13:35:34

Ha ha laptop I like your style!

I have no personal experience of the infants at TTS (my children are older), but I know many people who have DCs there and they are all very happy.

I know lots of the products of the infants and they are a very capable, articulate, well mannered and well turned out bunch!

Lol Empire! Am in hk now so free to speak grin
honestly its been such an eyeopener, this move!
I just love the brash feisty athmosphere here. Flesh and blood.

Mummyinggnome Sun 13-May-12 15:58:26

Thanks laptop, v helpful.
It's a tough one, but I can't help feel that being the odd one out in a local school would be tough long term...
Anyway, as you say, I think I'd rather be pushing my kids than a teacher. Academically I do like the local schools, but the lack of any individuality means that I think we'll stick with Tanglin.
Thanks for the kick in the right direction!

Hamishbear Mon 14-May-12 15:53:13

Laptop I agree in part with lots you say.

TTS is effectively a very good state school. Class sizes are large (far larger than you'd pay for in the private sector in the UK) and in some cases teachers are not the most committed. They are good in the main and the school is the best for delivering the British curriculum I think. The school is vast, think 8 parallel classes of 24 or 25. They do manage to keep the schools (Junior, Infant, Senior) separate and they do a very good job considering the size.

If your child is identified as able (think top 10% rather more than top 20%) they'll be pushed. If not seen as immediately able there's a chance they won't be appropriately challenged, but as Laptop says that's down to you. They set for maths in Y3, they will move the odd few if appropriate (and it is an odd few) but when you think there are 8 sets or so the die can feel like its cast quite early on. The top sets receive work that is more challenging and delivered at a faster pace. Gaps can open up early that are hard to bridge.

If you are after academic rigour then TTS supplemented by some of the excellent local enrichment classes might be something you'd like to explore. There are some out there for the 'future leaders of Singapore' that insist on accurate spelling and grammar from a very young age but have a extremely creative bent. That way, if you like local schools as you say, you can have the best of both worlds perhaps?

Local primaries are changing, rote learning is going out of fashion and there's a growing emphasis on creativity but the very high academic expectations remain. The English curriculum may not always be appropriate for a native speaker. Singapore Maths is highly regarded.

Many I know have used local schools to 11 (if they are longer term expats) and some of their children have excellent Mandarin as a result. There are a few outstanding bilingual local primaries if you can get into them. This chap moved his whole family here from New York and thinks the local Singaporean education is the best in the world not least for the work ethic: best education in the world

Best of luck.

Mummyinggnome Tue 15-May-12 09:00:11

Thanks so much. Useful stuff, particularly as dc 1,2 and 3 are so different socially and academically.
It's a tough decision and one that my dh and I are changing our minds on daily at the moment.
Very grateful for your insight. Thank you.

very good point about mandarin tuition Hamish.

I can only compare now that am in HK where the top international schools have a much stronger program with an hour daily and a fast paced homework schedule.
In a year (Y3) DS has achieved fluency in basic conversation and can read and write a fair bit of it too (and in traditional script!). I could not see that happening at Tanglin (which the only school I can speak for).

<proud mum emoticon>

empirestateofmind Tue 15-May-12 12:15:59

Hamishbear I guess you are talking about the Infant School. My experience of the Seniors is very different. If you look at the GCSE, A level and IB results on the school website you'll see that TTS holds its own with good grammars and with a lot of independents.

Given TTS is not selective this is an impressive achievement and is a testament to the hard work of the students and teachers. I can assure you it is more like a grammar in ethos and behaviour, it is not like comprehensives. It doesn't have the oak panelling to be an independent though grin.

Hamishbear Tue 15-May-12 12:47:09

I thought the infant school was very good. I don't want to be negative about the school, it's impressive, but it isn't an independent school. If you know the UK independent sector well there are big differences & not just with the panelling smile. The campus is crowded and the sheer size means swimming etc might happen for only a few weeks every couple of terms etc. Class sizes and teacher quality (it's hard to get consistently good teachers in international schools) for another thing. It's true that since the new head came in there have been some inspired hires and things have improved. The fact remains most wouldn't pay in the UK for those sort of class sizes as a starting point. Not that it's necessarily a benchmark of quality but it's true to say nearly all the teachers have never worked in the independent sector or at a grammar. They don't expect the middle to really exceed expectations and push the boundaries in my opinion. There is no real competition and many think the school is outstanding.

The results are good, especially at A'level/IB, but again if you wanted a selective school in the UK at 11 plus you might find it wanting. It's on an academic par with a second tier grammar or less academic independent. They always say it's not selective, but it really it self selects. Every pupil there has at least one graduate parent (the majority with have two) every family tends to be affluent etc. They don't take pupils with SEN (only mild SEN) etc.

I'm being hard on it. It is a very good international school, most others (in my experience) can't hold a candle to it.

It will be interesting to see what happens when Marlborough, Malaysia opens up. It's not a franchise and things look very promising so far with a very impressive leadership team & some good hires. I am amazed they've managed to get teachers to live in an as yet undeveloped/developing area.

Laptop - which school are you at? That's very impressive! Keep on keeping on with it. So many I know have said that they think Mandarin is a trend, a flash in the pan, like Japanese in the 80s etc. Increasingly I think not.

Mummyinggnome Tue 15-May-12 15:20:51

Coincidentally, my dh and I have been looking at Marlborough tonight. They have an open day in a couple of weeks which we'll go along to.
If you look a the fees for Tanglin then add the cost of continuing with their daily mandarin school it really adds up...
I think a it of this comes down to if you want to stay in Asia long term. If you're here for a 3-5 year stint with your kids at a young age then it's less of an issue, but if you're here long term as we expect to be, then we need to get this right!
Thanks again

Hamishbear Tue 15-May-12 15:55:02

Please do report back, I'd be interested in your thoughts. There will be 18 maximum in a prep class which is excellent. If I was coming to Singapore now (and the long wait lists prohibited UWC and TTS) then I think I'd definitely plump for Marlborough. I'd have to get my head around boarding at 11 though...

The sports facilities look amazing at Marlborough and I feel that it will have all the plus points of a traditional prep, including your child being absolutely 'known' through and through by their teachers in a way which is almost impossible in vast international schools with large class sizes.

empirestateofmind Tue 15-May-12 16:57:15

Hamish I know one big dept at TTS well and nearly half of the teachers have taught in UK independents before coming to Singapore. Most of the dept were very senior in their previous schools. The experience they have is outstanding.

I agree class sizes of 24 are big, but I am impressed with how the children are known individually.

This is all immaterial to lots of people though as the waiting list is very long.

Mummyinggnome Tue 15-May-12 17:10:36

I've emailed Marlborough to ask about the boarding at 11 as the website says they 'can' board from 11 - not something we'd like to do at all!
Open day is on 27th, so I'll report back!

Merlion Wed 16-May-12 02:50:04

Having spoken to a friend who used to teach ft at Tanglin and now does supply quite a few of her students have told her they will be going to Marlborough which is interesting. She has her name and her dcs for Dulwich College.

For us ds will go to SJI in January 2013. For us it seems the right mix with Singapore maths and daily mandarin. Plus with an August born boy the change to calendar year cut-off can only be to his advantage.

Hamishbear Wed 16-May-12 05:49:47

Interesting, Empire. I didn't know that, which dept? Certainly it's not the case for class teachers in infant and junior school. Agree re: waiting list.

Mummyinggone - I am 99% certain it's boarding from 11. Sorry if that's not good news for you. In fact it's been causing angst to some in Singapore that it won't even be weekly boarding. Or at least this isn't the initial plan. The door is going to be very much open though and parents can visit regularly and become involved if they wish I believe. It's based on Marlborough UK which is boarding.

Merlion - I've done some digging and I am not convinced Dulwich College (assuming you mean the one in Singapore) is going to be able to offer anything TTS doesn't? It's a franchise and although the incoming head has a great track record I am unconvinced. Of course, time will tell but the class sizes are not going to be any smaller than TTS and it will also be tied into the national curriculum in the same way. Marlborough will offer a traditional prep & public school education, have class sizes of 18 (prep) & and will go above and beyond the NC. Why chose Dulwich if you have children at TTS is I guess what I am trying to say? Dulwich will definitely help re: the current demand for places.

Dulwich will bear little resemblance to Dulwich in the UK. It's a franchise, It just carries the name although I think there will be connections to the old boys/girls society in the UK- that's about where the real similarities end though I think. Marlborough will have Marlborough, UK in its DNA and core. Even the teachers will be 'beaks' rather than teachers as their counterparts are in the UK. It's a really exciting prospect. They have teachers who've taught at Marlborough, UK, ex Marlborough students will be present helping in the school all year. There are some problems with actually getting there each day from Singapore which are the biggest issues at the moment I think. At least they would be for me if I was seriously considering the school. It's been so well thought through and planned. The head of the prep is amazing. Dulwich were going to open this year in Singapore I believe but couldn't in the end due to red tape whereas Marlborough has spent years drawing up careful plans. I get the feeling they've planned for most eventualities and even if there are teething problems I'd trust the team to do all in their power to sort them quickly. Am I missing something re: Dulwich? I know some who have signed their children up as they assume the school & all that the high status name suggests will be a carbon copy of the UK school that bears it's name. Am I missing something?

Best of luck with SJI daily mandarin and Singapore maths sound fantastic.

Merlion Wed 16-May-12 06:11:36

I think it's mainly for those who can't get in to Tanglin or UWC not for those who already have places there. The friend I mentioned in my earlier post won't get schooling paid for unless she goes back ft at Tanglin so this is a good alternative for her. Her 2 are not yet school age.

Hamishbear Wed 16-May-12 07:36:43

Ah, Merlion, that makes perfect sense. Don't her children get wait list priority at TTS though? Even if part-time.

Merlion Wed 16-May-12 10:45:03

No she's not on a contract only supply basis - part time contracts are like gold dust apparently. Also not all schools offer full bursaries to teachers children especially if they are on local as opposed to expat contracts. As you probably know there are a lot of 'trailing spouses' who are teachers and it is much cheaper for the schools to employ them rather than getting teachers from the UK/elsewhere.

empirestateofmind Thu 17-May-12 15:00:49

The downside of people on local contracts (as they are trailing spouses) is that they can move away suddenly. It is very difficult to replace a teacher mid-year.

Hamishbear Thu 17-May-12 16:48:54

Empire - what are your thoughts on Dulwich and Marlborough? Do you think Marlborough will entice pupils away from UWC and TTS etc in time?

Mummyinggnome Thu 17-May-12 20:00:37

Hamish, apparently at Marlborough it isn't compulsory to board, I checked with the school. Will report back after the open day!

Hamishbear Fri 18-May-12 00:27:24

Hello again Mummyinggnome, boarding isn't compulsory in Prep - you're right - but (unless there's been a radical U turn in the last ten days) it definitely is after 11.

I've just been speaking to a parent who is ruling out the school because weekly boarding is not an option - only full boarding.

Hamishbear Fri 18-May-12 00:59:27

Just looked at the website, you're right Mummy it does say boarding and day school. Definitely not given as an option at earlier open days I attended (after 11).

empirestateofmind Fri 18-May-12 12:16:44

I think it is all going to depend on who the other children are and on how quickly the buses get through at the Malaysia/Singapore checkpoint each morning.

empirestateofmind Fri 18-May-12 12:48:05

I think there are a number of pupils who will be interested in the space and sports facilities that Marlborough has got. The full boarding is going to put lots of people off though after age 11.

If people can't get into UWC or TTS then I think they will look seriously at MCM.

Does anyone know will local families be allowed to send their DCs to MCM (like happens in HK) or will there be restrictions (like in Singapore) about who can go to International Schools?

Hamishbear Fri 18-May-12 15:40:05

Empire, thing is you can be a day pupil now after 11. That may change things I think. They still will give priority to boarders first but I know many who will begin to think more seriously now that's on offer.

Many are watching and waiting and as you say have reservations about the buses going across the border. Thing is the Marlborough team are very well organised and I predict things will run far more smoothly than many imagine given time.

As far as I am aware it's in Malaysia, therefore abroad, and local families won't be restricted. I know a few who would like to duck out of PSLE (can see why) and have looked. There may be restrictions I am not aware of though but nothing I've heard would stop anyone, apart from the price!

empirestateofmind Sat 19-May-12 09:14:51

I wonder how the passport stamping will go everyday. Surely the students will get some sort of pass otherwise they will need to buy a new passport every six months!

Mummyinggnome Sat 19-May-12 09:23:09

I think they've organised for the buses to be fast tracked each morning, and I agree, I'm sure it will be desperately organised.
Saying that, I'd quite like to drive mine myself - in the uk, the school run was when you actually got a good bit chat with them!
Personally, I'm looking forward to the open day, dh is very much in favour, I'm trying to think neutral thoughts re Marlborough vs Singapore local schooling and our reserve position of Tanglin.
But, I look forward to us making a choice and sticking to it!
Have a good weekend!

Mummyinggnome Sun 27-May-12 14:32:55

So today was the Marlborough college open day - and I said I'd report back, so...
It really is very much a boarding school that accepts day pupils, but the headmaster was very keen that the children should board. On that basis, it is very much not for us!
Also, getting across the border is time consuming. If your child is going on the bus from Singapore it's going to be a very long day for them.
Facilities and staff were all very nice, but gut feeling was that it's not right for us.
Does anybody have any experience of St Josephs?

Merlion Mon 28-May-12 02:00:04

Mummy that's interesting re Marlborough thanks for reporting back.

As I mentioned earlier DS will start SJI on January 2013. He was on the wait list for August this year but probably wouldn't have got in but as his year will be the first to run calendar year we got him a place as effectively there will be 2 entries. I have been told by another friend that that wait list for children born in 2009 is already at 60.

I have friends whose children already attend and all are very happy with it. It has the advantage of being smaller and so the principal knows the parents and children well. For instance a friends daughter was hospitalized for about a week and the principal called my friend every day to check on her progress. Also they do daily mandarin and follow the Singapore maths curriculum.

Mummyinggnome Mon 28-May-12 02:48:14

Thanks merlion,
Just rang sji, waiting lists for 2007 year of birth is over 50.
What to do! Such a nightmare.

Hamishbear Mon 28-May-12 09:31:19

Thanks for reporting back. Are you on TTS list? It is allegedly moving faster than anticipated at the moment.

If me I think I'd go for Marlborough. I know a dozen or more now that will be commuting each day. It will be a Public school & the Prep a proper Prep. That would be enough to tempt me if I needed a spot. Not least the high quality teachers & class sizes of 18 max in the Prep.

Allegedly there are around 5 only signed up for boarding in the two parallel Y7 classes. It's true it's a boarding school but many parents want to send their children as day pupils and also want weekly of flexi boarding...

You could always live near the border for easier commute?

Hamishbear Mon 28-May-12 09:32:29

Weekly OR flexi boarding I mean.

Mummyinggnome Mon 28-May-12 13:56:40

Hi Hamishbear,
I like the school (Marlborough), the staff etc. But not overly sold on Nusujaya and surrounding area. Looked at moving closer to the border etc, but in all honesty my gut feeling is that it's not for us. At this stage anyway. I absolutely loathed boarding and will do everything in my power to make sure my kids stay with us! So, it's my hang up, rather than anything else... My positives/ negatives list was lengthy!
Out of our three dc's, one has a place for august so then hopefully the other to should get in sometime in 2013 with sibling priority. I remain hugely unsure, but equally my dh doesn't want them to go through the local school system either. So...
Do you like TTS?

Hamishbear Mon 28-May-12 14:05:21

TTS is a good school - will PM you.

Hownoobrooncoo Mon 28-May-12 20:14:40

I'm not anti the local schooling system but a few of my friends sent their kids local and came to regret after a few years and moved them back into the international system. I'm sure there are those who are happy with their choice of local schools.

Hamishbear Tue 29-May-12 01:40:24

Re: local schooling system I quite like many aspects but it's not for everyone. See the link I posted upthread about the expat who sent his children to Nan Yang Primary (a great school). It's recently become much tougher to get your children in even if a Permanent Resident. Priority goes to Singaporeans.

Personally I like the work ethic, Singapore Maths, daily exposure to Mandarin (especially in schools like NanYang that prioritise this). I was quite surprised by some of the English curriculum. It seems, to my untrained eye, that it's taught almost as a second language (which it may be for some). Think cloze passages, constructing a story around pictures, copying out prescribed phrases etc. There's also a negative marking system and lots of tests (although these are being phased out for younger children they are still generally popular with parents so some schools still using).

One of mine answered all the questions correctly for a English comprehension passage but received zero marks. They were 6 at the time. They hadn't spelled words correctly or used the correct (simple) punctuation. I thought this was quite a good thing, sloppiness in spelling and grammar are not tolerated (my child knew the correct spelling - it was there in the text). I imagine it would make many of my friends raise their eyebrows smile. It's quite a traditional, old fashioned approach that many won't like I suspect but it's only part of the whole picture.

S999 Tue 23-Jul-13 18:07:00

Hi there, we have accepted places for my children at Dulwich College next year, despite having aplace for one of my kids at UWC Dover. We were extremely impressed by the standards, selective entry and bi-lingual teaching. WHile UWC is extraordinary, for the lower years of schooling, they are quite behind, in my opinion, the central London prep schools and this we felt would be a problem if we were to return to UK in a few years and have to sit the competitive 11-plus, 8-plus etc exams.

I don't think DUlwich is anything like a franchise, as pupils get entry (ok there's a test) to Dulwich College in London or JAGS (for girls). Marlborough is most certainly a franchise but Dulwich - the staff are from London, Shanghai as well as of course new recruits so quite a big link with the UK side of things. THe current head was also deputy head of the London school.

Do have a look into it, I think you'll be quite impressed. I know the Shanghai school has been a roaring success, beating Tanglin and UWC in the top ten world schools already.

Hope that helps.

Saltedcaramellavacake Wed 24-Jul-13 02:22:01

S999, can I ask about the places at Dulwich London and JAGS? I can't find any info about this on the website. Have you been told the test to get in is the standard entry test at the standard entry points (4+, 7+ etc) or is there are special entry for ex-SG kids? If the latter this might go a long wag to solving my worries about schooling on return to London! I haven't managed to get a straight answer yet, but I've been asking on the phone and plan to get to one of the open days next month.

S999 Wed 24-Jul-13 07:24:57

Hi there, I think it will be the standard tests but you can apply for occasional places at any point, not jut 4, 7 etc. There will be special consideration and help given by the school to accomodate them, we were told. I haven't focused too much on that, I was more worried about the kids being nowhere near the standard needed to get back into private London day schools, the 11plus for girls is shockingly competitive and I don't anticipate mine boarding if/when we come back, not that that's any less competitive. At least with Dulwich, the academics are really sound as well as the other opportunities for nsport, music and drama. Also, I can put all mine in one school, as it has a nursery as well!
UWC is an extraordinary school but to be honestly, the infant school and junior school weren't the same standard reading adn writing wise becaue I think IB just doesn't focus on that so much, a lot of that is up to the parents to do.
Do go the Q&A sessions, my husband went and he found it super helpful as is the head, who will happily talk to you any time, including his wife. Quite a few people I know from London are starting next year so there's definitely a captive market, not just the UWC and Tanglin rejects (we weren't) but those who want a good academic British education.

Saltedcaramellavacake Wed 24-Jul-13 09:22:45

Thanks. My kids are in an IB school at the moment and there's a strong emphasis on the basics (reading, writing etc) so perhaps it depends on the school.
Interesting to know about the London places - an easier route in may have tempted me to move schools but it is as I feared from the slightly cryptic replies I've had from the school. I'll definitely go to an info session, though - always good to see what's out there and the Mandarin program does sound good. I'm less tempted by sport but my kids are little and the big problem in SG for high level competitive sport is the size of the pool of kids to compete against!

S999 Sat 27-Jul-13 06:24:59

DH just told me that Dulwich Singapore kids get automatic entry to Dulwich College anywhere and JAGS in London. He said the headmaster had told him this specifically.

sgbaby Sat 04-Jan-14 11:36:42

hi. anyone know more about the level of mandarin at Dulwich. we signed up as the headmaster told us it was going to be a dual language approach through the primary years. I have since heard that will only be in the early years (under 6). I went to a recent talk at Dulwich specifically about the mandarin and the head replied to my question with "If you want that level of Mandarin then perhaps this isn't the school for you"..........he has changed his tune - it was a different story when he was taking my $7k cheque for 2 kids 6 months earlier!!

Saltedcaramellavacake Mon 06-Jan-14 17:07:38

I thought it was properly bilingual too but the website now says "dual language" in Early Years (to Year 2) then specialist Mandarin classes "each week" (!!) from Year 3. If that's right it seems no better than any other (not Chinese) international school in SG. Such a missed opportunity!

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