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Expat Tips on family and schools

Query: I am considering a move from the US to Singapore this summer with a family with four children. I have some questions regarding schooling.
1) I expect the kids will enroll in one of the private American schools (picked up by my company). When does the school year begin and end? I want to have our kids start school at the beginning of the school year, if possible.
2) Do the American private school systems have music (band & jazz) programs? My son is a big Sax player.
3) My children are in 1st, 4th, 5th, and 8th grade - would they typically go to the same school, or would they have K-6, Jr. High, and High School like separations?
4) What are the big sports programs for students in school?
5) My kids want to know if the students wear uniforms to school?

Tip #1:
1. Last Day of school is 2 June, first day of school is 14 August
2. Concert Band, Jazz Band, Dixieland Band, Wind Ensemble, the works.
3. The entire school is on one campus. There are Primary, Intermediate, Middle and High Schools contained within the same campus.
4. Cross Country, Soccer, Volleyball, Basketball, Rugby, Swimming, Tennis, Badminton, Softball, Baseball, Track & Field, Football.
5.  Yes. White Polo Shirts with blue shorts/skirts. Very comfortable, and nice looking. Alternate dress days every other Wednesdays. Tell them that every school in Singapore wears uniforms. It is a matter of team pride as much as uniformity.
Contributed by Paul N

Query: I haven't heard too much about the Canadian International School - does anyone have comments on the school? My boys are age 6,10,13 - what is their Grade 9-12 program like?

Tip #1:  I know they are looking for a new campus for the 9-12 grade kids. Right now they are all together. I have a junior kindergartener at CIS and can tell you how much we love it. The teachers are first rate, the programs are outstanding and the student body is quite diverse. I have never heard anyone say anything negative about CIS. I'm American but chose CIS because it's closer to home and they focus on learning through play for my little one. They have a website at www.cis.edu.sg which you should look into. You should definitely shop around to make sure you are getting what you want. Be aware if you are moving back to Canada sometime, the school is linked to several universities there and your younger kids can ease right into the Canadian curriculum.
Contributed by Cyndi

Query: What are the issues with sending kids to a local 'government' school? We have no allowance for schooling and cannot afford the fees private schools charge.

Tip #1:  My children aged 12 &14 attend a local school and so far there have been no problems. Dependant pass holders can go to the school of their choice and see if they have vacancies. Your children may then be asked to sit for a basic maths, science and english test to ascertain which grade they will be in. It is hard to get into the top 10 schools but then again why put pressure on your children to compete and merge into a new culture. I paid approx $200 per child for 2 sets of uniforms, a year's text books, stationary and art supplies. There is also a monthly fee of approx $5. The school did not look very good from the outside but when we stepped into the courtyard, there was a beautiful chinese garden complete with a waterfall. The children also have a large canteen area where they can buy cooked asian meals for $1. School does start early at 7.20am and finishes depending on extra activities that they may choose. You can have an exemption from Chinese, Malay and Tamil language lessons if no one in your family is a native of these countries. For children in secondary schools, your kids will then have to learn another language (French, German, Japanese) and these lessons are held after school but are not included in their end of year assessment. Except for those parents that are trying to get their children into the top 10, extra tuition seems rare. Pressure is put on the children to do their homework and to do the best they can.
Contributed by Sondra

Tip #2:  As far as I know, It is extremely uncommon for caucasian kids to go to the local schools. I only know of one child (aged 5) who attends one, but she was at a local kindergarten before that so she already had a grasp of Mandarin. I don't know too much about the admission procedures, although there is much competition amongst Singaporeans to get their kids into the "best" schools.

An English/Filipina girl in my son's class went to a local school but could not settle; apparently all the kids in her class went for extensive tuition every day after school and this little girl was not happy to do this continuously. She has returned to her old school and is much happier - although her parents are financially stretched. Some local schools work on a half-day system, one lot of kids begin lessons at 7.20am until lunchtime and then the second lot of kids come in for lessons from lunchtime until about 6pm or 6.30pm - and lessons on Saturday mornings. Some class sizes are about 40 pupils and rote-learning is the norm. An expat friend who taught in a local school said they are taught to pass exams, but not to think creatively (the govt is trying to move the education system away from this mindset). Also you might need to check if your kids would need to learn another language ie a "mother tongue" - Malay, Tamil or Chinese (Mandarin).

Local schools are well-regarded but it is best to consider if your children would be able to assimilate not only having to move to a new home and country, but maybe a totally different education system to what they are currently used to.
Contributed by Bear In Mind

Query: Our family will be expatriating to Singapore right around the time my wife is expecting our second child. Looking for information on all aspects of having a baby deliverd in Singapore, eg costs, care, facilities etc

Tip #1:  I've been living here for a number of years and it seems that the majority of expat women have Dr. Anne Haggarty deliver their babies. She is a Canadian and her "Clinic & Surgery for Women" is based at The Promenade, 300 Orchard Road, #04-09. Tel 736 0951. (Mount Elizabeth Hospital is right behind the Promenade). My friends were very happy with Dr. Hagerty.

There is also a group medical practice of family doctors in Orchard Road (opposite Planet Hollywood)where you will find expat GP's/MD's, including a lady paediatrician. The practice is called "Mel & Partners", 350 Orchard Road, #15-02, Tel 735 2868. Their other branch is at Holland Grove Road, first left after Jelita Cold Storage/Caltex station on Holland Road.
Contributed by Dawn

Tip #2:  I had a baby approx 11 weeks ago. I had an emergency caesarean at Gleneagles Hospital stayed 3 days and my bill was S$6,500 (prenatal care included. Unfortunately my son's lung collapsed and he spent 9 days in intensive care which cost S$12,500. Normal delivery, 2 days stay, no problems would be in the region of S$4,000. The care that my son and myself received was excellent.
Contributed by Wendy

Query: I would appreciate if anyone has any information, or experiences, with finding schools for kids with special needs in Singapore. How do these schools compare with special needs schools in the west? I currently live in Canada which has a very good school system for special needs kids.  Are there intergrated schools?

Tip: There are some schools here which you could contact. There is the Horizon School for Special Education: Tel (+65)270 1824 or see their website at: http://home.pacific.net.sg/-horizonschool. Dover Court Prepatory School also has Special Needs provision, although I don't know the sort of disabilities their pupils encounter. You should be able to find their contact details on this  website (Editor's note: go to our education section).

Finally there is a new school which has recently been set up for severe special needs - the name of the school is Genesis School. Phone: 733-6695. The fax is 733-6695. Address No. 16 Evans Rd. Singapore 259363. My son goes to school there and he is doing great. There are a number of different nationalities. Contact Lisa Barron at Genesis. She is a wealth of information. Whether or not you send your child to her school, she will help you out.

I do hope you find the information you need and it enables you to make an informed choice, although it is better if you are able to visit the schools in person. I have no knowledge on how they would compare to the Canadian systems. Why not try the Canadian Embassy in Singapore to see if they can help?

Intergration in Singapore is difficult but it has been accomplished on a child by child basis. Nothing like Canada or the States.
- contributed by Dawn and Sara

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