SINGAPORE: Two new international schools that cater to families on a tighter budget have opened for enrolment, in response to growing demand from increasingly cost-conscious expatriates.
Launched by the EtonHouse International Education Group, Middleton International School (MIS) will begin classes at its second campus in Tampines in May.
It will offer the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) and International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) programmes, with fees ranging from S$15,000 to S$20,000 a year.
Likewise, One World International School (OWIS) has opened its second campus in Jurong West, with fees starting from S$17,000. It offers the IB Primary Years Programme and IGCSE.
These two new campuses join Invictus International School, which opened in 2016, offering fees of S$15,000. Typically, high-end international schools here charge an average of S$30,000 annually.
The two new schools keep costs down by tapping on resources such as electronics and learning materials from their existing campuses.
Middleton’s academic adviser Martin Hughes said MIS Tampines would be keeping costs low by having larger class sizes. The school will also hire more local teachers.
“Locally there are many great teachers here and the new school will employ a greater proportion of local teachers, which then reduces the expat packages that an international school has to pay,” said Mr Hughes.
DEMAND FOR "AFFORDABLE" SCHOOLS
MIS Tampines has received 70 sign-ups and hundreds of inquiries from parents like Briton Emma Stratford, who came to Singapore with her husband and two children last April.
"My husband's package doesn't include schooling. So when we came here, we applied to the local MOE (Ministry of Education) schools. I knew that it was a long shot. So before the results, we had a look at international schools and Middleton School came out as an affordable option,” she said.
Over the past decade, more expatriates like Mrs Stratford’s family have been employed on local contracts – which means they are not given an allowance for education.
But there's another reason some are being more careful with their finances.
"Before, international families came to Singapore for maybe two to three years on an international assignment with education very much a part of their employment package,” said OWIS principal Michelle Dickinson.
“There's been a change over the last few years, where families are choosing to stay in Singapore as a life choice, to settle here long term. And they are looking for a school whose fees are moderate, where they can place their child in for a long period of time."
While local schools are cheaper, admission for international students is subject to their performance in a test and available vacancies. The Education Ministry said they make up about 5 per cent of the cohort, from the primary to junior college levels, with a large proportion hailing from ASEAN and other Asian countries.
International schools must meet standards set by the Committee for Private Education, which include ensuring that their teachers have the relevant qualifications. There are currently more than 30 international schools here.
According to the Economic Development Board, the new additions help keep Singapore cost-competitive for international businesses and also strengthen its position as an attractive global city.