Deciding between local and international schools for your child is one of the most pressing dilemmas an expat parent can have. The logical choice may be to send your child to an international school, where the chances are they feel much more ‘at home’. But are there some benefits to local schools that an international school simply doesn’t have? Let’s take a closer look.
What works for your situation
As we discussed previously in our post about choosing the best international school, the first point to consider is what works for your child. However, equally important is what works for your familial situation. If you have relocated to Singapore based on the expat package your company has offered, then perhaps an international school is included in that. If it is not or if your situation changes, then perhaps you are left with no alternative but to take a look at the local system. It goes without saying that international schools are hugely expensive and it may be out of your budget to send your child there.
What works for your child
There is a stigma in Singapore that the local system is extremely rigid and traditional and there is little to offer by means of Learning Support. Whilst this may differ from school to school, the general consensus is that international schools offer far more in terms of hands-on support. If your child has different learning needs or will require support in the future, it is best to try to get an expert opinion. This can be from fellow parents, medical professionals or from talking to the school directly. What they can offer you does not depend largely on whether the school is international or local, but what their resources are.
The age of your child will also ensure that your decision is swayed one way or another. If your child is kindergarten or pre-school age, many parents agree that the expense to send them to an international school is simply not worth it. The learning system at this age is largely universal between international and local schools, and it may well be that your local kindergarten has much to offer. If your child is older and preparing for exams, then again, the individual schools you have in mind must be consulted. Many parents veer at this point from reconsidering the local system and investing their time and cash in an international school. This depends on the type of exam your child is studying for. If it is baccalaureate or iGCSE, then your choices may be more limited.
It is not easy for an expat parent to admit their child into the local system. Many parents have expressed concern over the fight they have had to ensure their child a place. However, it is not impossible. But be prepared to have to work long and hard to ensure a place. This may also depend on the school and the type of visa that you have. If you are a long-term resident, it should be slightly easier than if you are not. Of course, it goes without saying that the only restriction on entering international schools aside from availability, is money. Research your options well and take a look at waiting lists to see how long a child typically has to wait for.
Local schools start much earlier than international schools, at around 7.30 am. Children will finish much earlier in the afternoon, of course. International schools do have longer breaks, with local schools only having a twenty minute recess period. This may be an important factor for your child. The cost also differs greatly. Local primary schools cost up to S$613 per month for foreigners whilst local secondary schools can be as much as S$920 per month. International fees vary depending on the school, but can cost up to as much as S$50,000 per year. You will also have to pay registration and matriculation fees plus any additional administration fees. Consider also that your child will have to sit entrance examinations at both local and international schools, although it may differ for each individual school.
Many parents are keen for their children to be immersed in Singaporean culture. By enrolling your child in a local school, their exposure to the ‘real’ Singapore will be second to none. If you are considering a long term future here or simply want your child to adjust to living in a foreign country, it may well be the factor that swings your vote one way or another. International schools have often fallen into the stereotype of being ‘in a bubble’ of privilege. Some parents will argue that sending your child to an international school means that they will grow up without experiencing any of the local educational culture. However, it is worth considering if this is a moot point or not. Your family are living in Singapore so it is really up to you as a parent to decide how to expose your child to local culture. If it may be too overwhelming, then an international school may well be the answer. Consider where your child will be happiest and where they would prefer to learn.