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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'!

laptopwieldingharpy Sun 13-May-12 13:03:23

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!

laptopwieldingharpy Sun 13-May-12 13:42:28

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.

laptopwieldingharpy Tue 15-May-12 11:18:39

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.

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