If you feel flummoxed when faced with an inordinate amount of cupcake flavours or wine varieties to choose from, then deciding on a school for your child may well feel overwhelming. Where they go can make all the difference to their academic success, confidence, and happiness, and when you’re an expat in Singapore, there are considerably more dazzling education options to choose from that go way beyond ‘the local school down the street’.

“A school is not only a place for children to acquire knowledge and an education. A good school environment, with the right ethos and solid, passionate educators, helps in character building, and in turn helps parents to nurture their child’s passions,” says Kellie Hammond, Head of Admissions at Tanglin Trust School (tts.edu.sg). “In addition, a child spends a significant amount of time in school, so the right place needs to be one that provides a safe and caring environment for them to learn.”

Community support system

Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Kellie knows first-hand just how crucial making the right pick is. “My sons, Blaide, Jet and I have been living in Singapore for 10 years. Finding a school with a community back home isn’t as important as it is when you’re an expat. This is because our community and support system is already there with family and friends we’ve known for decades.”

When Kellie enrolled her boys at school here, she found a community with parents who also sent their children to the same place. “They gave me the support I needed as a young expat mum. Other parents advised me on what to do when my boys found certain subjects challenging, we organised play dates and looked out for one another,” she says. “When you’re an expat family, finding a supportive community is very important; you can turn to them when you need urgent medical attention, a listening ear, someone to help babysit in an emergency, or even when you need an ‘extended family’ to celebrate moments such as Christmas, Easter, or Australia Day.”

Whether you’re contemplating somewhere international or local, elite, or more laid back, it’s essential to ask yourself some key questions when weighing up choices.

Tips for making a selection

  • Talk it out
    Talk to the admissions experts within the school to understand more. If there’s a parent ambassador whose child is studying there already, speak to them for unbiased viewpoints
  • Get online
    Join online expat forums and ask questions. Start with forum.singaporeexpats.com and expat.com
  • Observe
    Visit the premises and request a walk-through. While doing so, observe the faces of the students; if they look joyful and smiley, it likely means that they enjoy going to school and are engaged, happy, and learning well
  • Look beyond the classroom
    Ask about co-curriculum offerings. Beyond core-curriculum subjects, children need these to develop their passions. For example, my elder son, Blaide was exposed to multiple languages when he started school in Singapore. He studied Mandarin and French, and although he may not use Mandarin often, the exposure to a second language (beyond English) has made him appreciate different languages and cultures around us

Kellie’s 5Cs for choosing the right school

  1. Child Focus
    Assess your child’s learner profile. What sort of learner are they? Is your child an enquiry-based learner? Do they learn best through experiential learning? What is the teacher to student ratio? How well does the school support children with additional needs?
  2. Community
    Does the school embrace diversity, equity and inclusivity? This is important, especially if you want your child to be broadminded and have friends of different races, nationalities and religion. If you opt for an international school, consider how much they connect with the local community and whether your child will feel enough integration within their ‘adopted home’.
  3. Curriculum
    Does the school have accreditations and elements of rigour? For example, Tanglin Trust School is inspected and accredited every three years by Ofsted British Schools Overseas (BSO).
  4. Caring environment
    Does the school offer good pastoral care to students? This is important as all children need tools to cope in life, especially when they are distressed.
  5. Co-curricular activities
    Does the school offer a wide range of co-curricular activities and clubs that fit your child’s aptitude and interest?

You’ve made a choice, now what?

How long before you know you’ve made the right decision?
Every child is different. Some children take a longer time to warm up or get adjusted to a new environment. Six months is a reasonable time period to ascertain if the school fits.

What are some repercussions of making an incorrect choice of school?
Happy children learn best. A school environment that’s the wrong fit may be revealed in a child’s progress; they may not want to attend school or they’ll be inattentive in class.

How to deal if you think you’ve made the wrong decision?
Speak to the teachers/educators in the school to find out more about why your child isn’t progressing. In the meantime, join online expat forums to research other potential schools.