International arms of top schools to expand
Fri, May 14, 2010
The Straits Times

By Melissa Kok and Melissa Sim

THE international arms of brand name schools here are hoping to take in more foreigners who are after their programmes and multi-cultural experience.

The privately funded St Joseph's Institution (SJI) International, ACS International and Hwa Chong International plan to expand their enrolments and their facilities; demand for places by these foreigners is a significant reason for doing it, they say.

They are required to keep at least half their places for Singaporeans and permanent residents, but they say more foreigners are going for the quality of education they offer. These expats also want to expose their children to a Singapore environment and the bilingual policy these schools follow. International schools are thus not the automatic choice for expats now.

The three schools offer the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), which is similar to the O levels at Secondary 4, and the International Baccalaureate diploma.

Mr P. Kerr Fulton-Peebles, principal of ACS International, puts the rise in demand for places by foreigners down to 'international recognition of Singapore's basic education as a quality product' and to the school's bilingual platform.

High school principal of SJI International Brian Christian agreed, and said foreigners who pick his school tend to stay here long-term, and so want their children in a school that is part of the community.

Spanish expat Maria Moreno, just granted permanent residency here, has put her four sons in SJI International to expose them to local culture and Mandarin.

Now, two years later, 'they can communicate perfectly well in English, and their Chinese has improved a lot', she said.

SJI International, now full, wants to up its enrolment for its primary, secondary and junior college (JC) sections from 1,000 to 1,500 over the next five years; ACS International, also full, wants to add 300 students to its current 800 between Secondary 1 and JC 2 by 2012.

The 480-strong Hwa Chong International plans to raise enrolment gradually to 600, although it can take up to 1,000. Its chief executive Tooh Fee San said more students, especially from China, want a place, but it has to keep to the local-foreign ratio.

All three schools are planning or already building extensions: ACS will have a block of classrooms, and Hwa Chong, a boarding house for its international students.

Meanwhile, other international schools, which remain the choice of foreigners who want their children to fit easily back into school when they go home, remain popular. The influx of expats has sent demand up, and most have a waiting list. The Global Indian International School, which has 4,000 students, has 400 students waitlisted. Others like the Australian International School and the Tanglin Trust School have added new buildings and facilities.

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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