New international schools for Singapore as expat population surges

The Telegraph, 30/04/15, the city-state hopes to lure millions more foreign workers to its shores over the next 15 years and needs extra school places for their children. HMC international member schools Tanglin TrustDulwich CollegeMarlborough College are referenced.

More international schools are planned for Singapore as it plans for a huge influx of new expats over the next 15 years.

While it is relatively straightforward to secure a place for a child at an international school at present, the 5.6 million population of the city state is projected to grow 30 per cent by 2030. Much of this growth will come from immigration which, the government says, is needed to help offset a slowing birth rate and ageing population.

Therefore the economic development board, which controls all land that can be zoned for international school use, is to release new sites with 30-year leases. It has asked existing international schools – and parties who may be interested in opening a new one – to notify them of their interest.

Singapore currently has 83 international schools and kindergartens that teach in English. These have 5,667 full-time staff and 58,785 students, according to the International School Consultancy, which provides data on the international school market. Just under half of the schools are British in their approach.

Alvin Tan, the Singapore economic development board’s assistant managing director, said of the planned expansion: “Foreign system schools play a part in strengthening Singapore’s position as an attractive global city and home for business.”

Justin Harper, a British freelance journalist, has two sons at Dulwich College Singapore, one of the existing international schools, which opened last year.

“It’s not really tough to get a school place at the moment,” he said. “There are many good schools here such as Tanglin Trust, United World College, the American International School and Dulwich College. Then just across the border in Johor Baharu, southern Malaysia, there is Marlborough College which is also another excellent school to which many British expats send their children. Very few have waiting lists.

“These schools are all huge, with many boasting student populations of 3,000 or more. But Singapore has plans to increase the population so they may well be planning for future growth.”

Since local citizens are generally barred from attending international schools at primary level in Singapore, demand for places is closely linked to the size of the expatriate community.

Mr Harper explained: “The government doesn't want an exodus out of the local school system, which is often criticised for being too intense and stressful.”

Frog Michaels, a British mother-of-two, sent her daughter to a local kindergarten where most classes were taught in Chinese. However, she attends Dulwich College Singapore, for her primary education.

“The British system appeals in many ways – not least because she may ultimately continue her education back in England at some point,” said Ms Michaels, who works as a writer.

Helen McClure, founder of the website Expat Explorers, has two children aged eight and five. She said: "While some local schools are open to expats, many have long waiting lists, and Singaporeans are given priority. The classroom culture is more intense than international schools, and lessons are conducted in Mandarin. For these reasons expats rarely choose the local school option, putting massive pressure on the international system."

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