ULTIMATE Guide To Curriculums At International Schools In Singapore

Enrolment at international schools in Singapore can be challenging, especially if you’re new here. And with the many curriculums and school jargons going around, what do they all mean?

Don’t fret, we are here to unpack popular pedagogies surrounding the curriculums of international schools in Singapore. From early learning to pre-university years – we’ve got you!

Early Learning

singapore international school curriculums

1. Play-Based

In this programme, children are given the autonomy to choose activities based on their interests. Children develop social and emotional skills through theme-based activities. School examples: Australian International School (read more here); Mosaic Play Academy; NEXUS International School (Singapore) (read more here); Shaws Preschool; Tanglin Trust School (read more here); White Lodge International Preschool & Childcare (read more here).

2. Inquiry-Based

Contrary to traditional teacher-centred approaches, an inquiry-based approach encourages active participation from the child in his or her learning process. The teacher becomes a facilitator, allowing the child to question and explore many possibilities. School examples: Australian International School (see previous); EtonHouse International School (read more here); One World International School (read more here); The Grange Institution (read more here).

3. Reggio Emilia-Inspired

Created by a pedagogist and parents in the villages around Reggio Emilia, Italy, after World World II, this early learning pedagogy is student centred, self-directed and encourages experiential learning through collaboration. It adopts a constructivist educational approach where students construct new understandings and integrate them with what they already know. School examples: Australian International School (see previous); EtonHouse International School (see previous); Sir Manasseh Meyer International School (read more here); Stamford American International School (read more here); Tanglin Trust School (see previous).

4. Montessori

This curriculum focuses on experiential learning through a child-led approach, and was developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori in the early 1900s. A key aspect of a Montessori-style education is that its classes are mixed in terms of age group. Learning is very visual and hands-on: Instead of textbooks, Montessori tends to use building blocks as educational material, and it also imparts practical life skills. School examples: Brighton Montessori; House on the Hill; Masterminds; Montessori for Children; Pink Tower Montessori

5. International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (IB PYP)

Under this programme, students are agents of their own learning and interpersonal relationships, and the priority is to build a strong learning community. The IB PYP aims to foster an individual’s self-efficacy: Students with strong self efficacy are believed to be active in their own learning while engaging with their learning community. School examples: Chatsworth International School (read more here); EtonHouse International School (see previous); ISS International School (read more here); NEXUS International School (Singapore) (see previous); One World International School (see previous); Stamford American International School (see previous).

6. Nurturing Early Learners (NEL)

This is a curriculum set by the Singapore Ministry Of Education (MOE) that is used in local preschools. An integrated approach, learning is facilitated by teachers using purposeful play and quality interactions to allow students to develop holistically. A key feature of the NEL approach is to develop language and literacy skills of children, as well as to nurture bilingualism (commonly English and Mandarin).

7. Various International Curriculums

Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is a programme that originated in the U.K. which encourages active learning, critical thinking, creativity and exploration – and it is offered in schools like Tanglin Trust. But, in SG, there are different early learning curriculums from countries including America, Australia, Canada, France, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, which cater to international families.

International 

singapore international school curriculums

1. International Baccalaureate (IB)

(A) Middle Years Programme (MYP): Offered to students aged 11 to 16, this curriculum aims to help students develop a personal understanding of their emerging sense of self and responsibility in the community. Teaching and learning are done to facilitate experiential learning; big ideas and concepts are also used across disciplines to impart real-world application skills. Among others, service learning and diversity are the cornerstones of the IB curriculum. School examples: Chatsworth International School (see previous); ISS International School (see previous); Stamford American International School (see previous).

(B) Diploma Programme (DP): For students aged 16 to 19, this programme aims to develop individuals with excellent breadth and depth of knowledge. Through the curriculum, students learn the nature of knowledge, conduct independent research and undertake a project with the community. School examples: Chatsworth International School (see previous); EtonHouse International School (see previous); ISS International School (see previous); NEXUS International School (Singapore) (see previous); One World International School (see previous); Stamford American International School (see previous); St. Joseph’s Institution International School (read more here); Tanglin Trust School (see previous).

(C) Career-Related Programme (CP): The CP is a framework of international education that incorporates the values of the IB into a unique programme addressing the needs of students who wish to engage in a career-related education. The programme leads to further/higher education, apprenticeships or employment. CP students engage with a rigorous study programme that genuinely interests them, while gaining transferable and lifelong skills. School example: GEMS World Academy.

2. International Primary Curriculum (IPC)

Tailored for students aged 5 to 11, this programme focuses on flexible learning by adapting to a child’s interests and level of understanding, while also engaging parents. It offers a simple but structured curriculum that can be integrated into other curriculums. School examples: St. Joseph’s Institution International School (see previous); Sir Manasseh Meyer International School (see previous); The Grange Institution (see previous).

3. Cambridge’s International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE)

Set by the University of Cambridge and offered to students aged 14 to 16, this popular and globally recognised programme builds an ideal foundation for higher level courses like the AS/A Level examination, as well as the IB Diploma programme. Students have a choice in a flexible curriculum of more than 70 subjects in any combination. School examples: Australian International School (see previous); EtonHouse International School (see previous); NEXUS International School (Singapore)(see previous); One World International School (see previous); Sir Manasseh Meyer International School (see previous); St. Joseph’s Institution International School (see previous); Tanglin Trust School (see previous).

4. Nord Anglia Performing Arts with Juilliard Programme

With this programme, students’ learning of the performing arts is enhanced through music, dance and drama that includes a wide range of genres, styles and cultures designed and curated by The Juilliard School – an internationally renowned performing arts school. Students are also visited by Juilliard curriculum specialists and artists to inspire and support their learning. School example: Dover Court International School.

Country-Specific

singapore international school curriculums

1. American Education Reaches Out (AERO)

Not a curriculum per se, this is a project supported by the U.S. State Department of Overseas Schools to assist in the implementation of an American-standard education abroad. These American-sponsored schools overseas receive support in developing their own K-12 curriculum, as well as in the training of teaching staff to employ AERO standards as the basis of assessment for students. School examples: ICS Singapore (read more here); Stamford American International School (see previous).

2. Advanced Placement (AP)

The AP Programme is used in the U.S. and Canada and offers college-level courses and exams to high school students. Gaining AP credits is a good way to gain an edge when it comes to college applications. A high AP score can even give students a head start in honing the skills necessary in college-level courses, and allow students to graduate early. School examples: EtonHouse International School (see previous); Stamford American International School (see previous); Singapore American School.

3. Australian Science Curriculum (AUS Science)

This Australian curriculum aims to bridge knowledge and understanding across six key disciplines of science: 1) Patterns, Order and Organisation; 2) Form and Function; 3) Stability and Change; 4) Scale and Measurement; 5) Matter and Energy; 6) Systems. The curriculum supports students to develop the scientific knowledge and skills to make informed decisions about local, national and global careers. School examples: Australian International School (see previous); NEXUS International School (Singapore) (see previous).

4. Cambridge Primary Curriculum

Offered to students aged 5 to 11, this British-based curriculum curated by the University of Cambridge consists of 10 subjects to choose from, including English, Mathematics and Science. Flexibility is a key component and students can choose their own combination of subjects based on their interests and needs. School examples: The Grange Institution (see previous); The Perse School Singapore.

5. English National Curriculum + British General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced/ Advanced Subsidiary Level (A/AS Level)

(A) English National Curriculum: This programme aims to promote high standards of language and literacy by equipping students with a strong command of the spoken and written language. Developing a love for literature via reading is also highly promoted in this curriculum. School examples: Dover Court International School (see previous); St. Joseph’s Institution International School (see previous).

(B) British GCE A/AS Level: The two-year rigorous course hailing from Cambridge University is a widely used curriculum for post-secondary education and pre-university levels. Students, typically aged 17 to 18, who undergo this curriculum graduate with an internationally recognised qualification that is required for entry into many university courses. Because of the academic rigour of this programme, students are exposed to various depths of knowledge in their subjects of choice. School examples: EtonHouse International School (see previous); Tanglin Trust School (see previous).

6. French National Brevet Diploma (diplôme national du brevet or DNB)

This is offered to middle school students both as an assessment and certification of knowledge and skills. The assessment proceeds throughout middle school and consists of one oral exam and three written exams. School example: International French School.

7. French Baccalaureate (Bac) and French Baccalaureate International Option

(A) French Baccalaureate: An extensive national examination taken at the end of high school, it is a required qualification in France and worldwide for those who wish to pursue higher education. Students are assessed on subjects like History, Geography, Foreign Language (of choice), Science, Philosophy, and French Language and Literature. School example: International French School (see previous).

(B) French Baccalaureate International Option (IOB): This is basically the French Baccalaureate with an additional international option. Students in the programme are required to study in international sections for the last two years of high school. International sections are opened at all school levels and it welcomes both French and foreign students, offering them a bilingual and bicultural education. School example: International French School (see previous).

8. German Curriculum

Students who choose to study the German curriculum are offered the German International High School Certificate (Deutsche Internationale Abiturprüfung, a.k.a. The German Abitur). This qualification allows holders to study at any German university; most graduates are also accepted to universities worldwide. School example: German European Singapore School.

9. Indian Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and (ICSE) Curriculum

(A) CBSE: Recognised by the Indian government, this pre-university curriculum focuses largely on Mathematics and Science. It is also in line with most college entrance exams. Students are taught higher-level reasoning skills with a focus on real-life application of knowledge. School examples: Global Indian International School; GIG International School; NPS International School.

(B) ICSE: This alternative pre-university qualification is more widely accepted globally because of its focus on the English language and its rigorous assessment. Students who wish to study arts and humanities may benefit more from this programme compared to the CBSE. School examples: DPS International School Singapore; NPS International School (see previous).

10. Japanese Curriculum

Created by the Japanese government, this curriculum is widely used in Japan and adapted in Japanese international schools worldwide. Education is compulsory at the elementary and lower secondary levels, and key components are split into three categories: compulsory subjects (e.g., Japanese language, literature and arithmetic among others), moral education and special activities. Students attend six years of elementary school before spending three years at junior high school (i.e., lower secondary) and another three in senior high school. Students then sit for a standardised university admission test (known as “Centre Test”, short for The National Centre Test for University Admission) upon graduating high school. School examples: The Japanese School Singapore; Waseda Shibuya Senior High School Singapore.

11. South Korean Nuri Curriculum

According to South Korea’s Ministry of Education, the Nuri curriculum is designed to promote the development of a child in five key areas: physical exercise, health, communication, social relationship, artistic experience and nature exploration. At the sole Korean international school in SG, the Korean curriculum is taught in Korean with a focus on bilingualism (English and Mandarin). School example: Singapore Korean International School.

12. Singapore Curriculum

Singapore’s education system seeks to develop future-ready individuals with a strong national identity. Students go through primary, secondary, tertiary and higher education. Among its rigorous curriculum, the world-famous Singaporean Math curriculum is known to produce high aptitude individuals. Under the Math curriculum, students are taught to master mathematical concepts in great detail using a three-stage learning pathway: concrete (hands-on), pictorial (visualisation of concepts) and abstract (solving problems via numbers and symbols).

If you choose to send your child to a local school, here are some academic qualifications you may expect your child to earn: Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE, in primary school); GCE Ordinary/Normal Academic/Normal Technical Levels (O/N Levels, in secondary school); GCE Advanced Level (A Level, in junior colleges and selected post-secondary institutions); Specialised Diplomas (in polytechnic institutions). School examples: All local primary and secondary schools in SG (see page 10 for more information about getting your child into a local school).

13. Swiss Romand Study Plan (PER)

Taught predominantly in French, this curriculum aims to strengthen students’ language skills by strengthening their vocabulary, grammar and conjugation skills (including for English). Subjects like Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences and Humanities, Music and Art, Physical Education and Health are taught. Teachers are free to use their own teaching methods best suited to the objectives of the subject taught. School example: Swiss School in Singapore.

14. Western Australian Certificate of Education (WACE)

Offered to students in Years 11 and 12, students who graduate from this pre-university programme are equipped with an internationally recognised qualification awarded by the School Curriculum and Standards Authority (SCSA), on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Western Australia. The WACE course provides a broad-based foundation in content and skills development to prepare students for undergraduate study at university. By incorporating coursework into the curriculum, the course develops inquiry and writing skills regardless of students’ native language. School example: St. Francis Methodist School.

Religious

singapore international school curriculums

1. Accelerated Christian Education (ACE)

Also known as “The School of Tomorrow”, this Bible-based curriculum seeks to equip students with skills like critical thinking, reading proficiency and character training, all while instilling a knowledge of God’s wisdom through the study of the Bible. Bible Studies is integrated into students’ curriculum in order to do so. School examples: Heritage Academy Singapore; San Yu Adventist School; TLS Academy; Victory Life Christian School.

2. Catholic-Centred Lasallian Education

A Lasallian education is rooted in the Catholic faith and is expressed through worship, reflection and prayer. Catholic understanding and practices are integrated into all elements of the curriculum and school community life. At the one international school example in SG, Religious and Moral Education (RME) lessons enable students to explore the Catholic faith. These lessons aim to stimulate critical thinking about ethical and philosophical issues, while reflecting on relationships and growing in gratitude. School example: St. Joseph’s Institution International School (see previous).

3. Jewish Education

At the sole international school in SG with this offering, primary pupils are given a choice between studying the Tal Am in Hebrew, and Jewish Education: Culture courses combined with World Religions (taught in English). At the secondary level, students are educated about Jewish values, history, Zionism and are taught Holocaust Studies. School example: Sir Manasseh Meyer International School (see previous).

4. Islamic Education

In Islamic faith schools, Quran studies are also integrated into its curriculum to impart spiritual moral education and is mainly taught in Arabic. There is a private Islamic secondary school that combines a local curriculum with high standards of Arabic. Its curriculum is geared towards Islamic subjects and lessons are predominantly taught in the Arabic language. School example: Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah.

By Willaine G. Tan, The Finder Kids Vol. 30, March 2021 / Images: 123RF.com

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