I had gone on a learning journey to an international school in Singapore. It is the Australian International School, situated at Lorong Chuan. I have always wanted to go into this building as I pass by it frequently.
I am very impressed by the differentiated learning they provide for their students. Of course, there is no way we can compare with them because the class size is 20 on average, but I had entered classes with only three students to 9 students. It is way easier to prepare materials for the high and low ability students when you do not have so many scripts to mark. However, I do agree that you can start small, by just preparing something for one student.
I like that they have a behavioral specialist for students on the spectrum and also for gifted children. Most schools in Singapore do not cater to the gifted students, thinking they can just learn on their own.
With the rise of a maker movement, I am definitely impressed by their curriculum. They have design studios, 3D printers, dressmaking studios, cooking rooms, technical workshops and others, to encourage students to pick up practical skills to make things. I am not very dexterous, so such lessons would have been useful now.
Their art studios, music studios and theatres are well-equipped and well decorated. I saw a lot of ukeleles hanging on the wall, a small computer lab for composing music, students identifying tonic and dominant chords and these are highly qualified teachers. They even have frequent recitals.
There is one-to-one computing, with all higher level students using MacBook and elementary students using iPads. This is a luxury that only the top schools could afford at the moment.
Students work on their projects and print out their brochures in colour in the French classroom. Printers are available in the hallway and students do not misuse them! I really hope to have students who treat their materials and those of others respectfully.
We did not get to sit in classrooms, but the pedagogy is probably not too different from others. Still teacher talk and students listen, but all the students were very well-behaved.
Some of the students were very articulate. They explained to us what the objectives of the lessons were and showed us what they were working on. They also responded to questions. That is something we could learn, that our students really know what they are doing in the classroom.
I enjoyed talking to some of their teachers about their experiences. Many had been in very tough schools, and they totally welcomed the discipline in this school.
I really love the sporting culture in the school. Of course, Australia has traditionally a strong culture in sports. The students join various activities on their own accord and we do not have to chase them. Despite being hot in Singapore, the children are playing in the sun without a care during lunch time. When I asked about this, they said the intensity of the sun is far greater in Australia, so they do not mind the sun here. Sports they are strong in are rugby and table tennis. They have a swimming pool too.
Something that caught me by surprise is the pride in their uniform. The boys wear ties everyday because they voted for it. As a result, male teachers had to change their dress code so that they would not look bad beside their students.
It was heartwarming seeing 18-year-olds look after the kindergarten children as part of their volunteer work. I also saw photography students taking photos of the young children playing with lights. These are great moments that the students will remember.
I really like the strong focus in academics and non- academic area but the fees are definitely way too high even if they are allowed to admit normal Singaporeans. At S$36k a year for the highest levels, it is more than the cost of my entire university education.