Canadian International School Singapore
Established in 1991, CIS is an all-through IB school in west Singapore with a strong Mandarin-English and French-English bilingual programme and outdoor discovery centre for kindergarten.
- Canadian International School Singapore
7 Jurong West Street 41
- T +65 6467 1732
- E [email protected]
- W www.cis.edu.sg
- Lower School Ages: 2-6
- Lower School Sexes: Co-ed
- Middle School Ages: 7-11
- Middle School Sexes: Co-ed
- Senior School Ages: 12-18
- Senior School Sexes: Co-ed
- Senior School Numbers: 515 boys and 524 girls
- Total School Numbers: 3,100 boys and girls (across two campuses)
- Teaching Language: English
- SEN: SEN considered case by case
- Boarding: Available
- Uniform: Yes
- School Year: 2 Semesters: Aug – Jan; Jan - June
- School Hours: 8.30am – 3.30pm; with half day available for nursery
- Fee Currency: Singapore Dollar
- Fee Details: Annual tuition fees range from $17,450 for half day nursery through to $44,200 for IB grade 12. Slight fee increase for students on the bilingual programmes.
- Fee Extras: $2,500 application fee; $4,000 confirmation fee which reduces to $3,300 for the second child and is waived for third and subsequent children. Uniform, EAL support and outdoor excursion trips all extra.
- Religion: Non-denominational
- Memberships: Certified EduTrust. Keeping Safe accredited school.
- State/Independent: Independent: privately owned (individual/corporation)
- International Baccalaureate (Diploma)
- International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (MYP)
- International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (PYP)
- Authorised by International Baccalaureate Organization (not to be confused as an inspection or accreditation agency)
- COGNIA (formerly AdvandED; SACS)
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
- EduTrust Certification (Singapore)
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The Good Schools Guide International. Period.
What The Good Schools Guide International says
Head of school
Since 2022, Dr Allan Weston EdD MEd. Over 25 years of experience in prestigious schools across the world, including Australia, the US, the UAE and Asia. Received his doctorate in education from Portland State University and a master's in education from Deakin University, Australia. Formerly principal at Greenfield International School in Dubai and before that, spent eight years as CEO and executive head at the Taipei European School, where he oversaw four distinct schools, with three language instructions. Seems like a natural fit for a school of CIS’s size, range of nationalities and language programme offering.
Wholeheartedly believes in a balanced approach to education and helping students develop their own ‘flight paths’ to success. Visible around school, either at morning drop-off, afternoon dismissal time or during his regular walkabouts – which, in such a large school, takes two hours (‘a great way to get your steps up,' he tells us). A keen trumpeter, playing since he was 9 years old, Dr Weston sits in on, and supports, the brass section of the school orchestra every week. This is his time and one that he cherishes, where students see him ‘as a fellow musician’, not just the head of school. He is also a famed member of the staff rock band.
Sailing, water sports and the water in general is where he loves to be when not in school, particularly fishing with his family back home in tropical, North Queensland. Indeed, he hopes to be found by the beach when retired, supporting his ’brilliant chef’ wife with running their own bistro. A family man whose mottos in work (and life) are ‘never forget where you came from’ (whatever your position, always remain focused on the teaching and learning) and ‘pick your battles’ (try to find a compromise wherever you can) - something most parents can no doubt relate to.
Year-round, rolling admissions until grade 9 and 10, when entry is only before February of that school year. In grade 11, entry closes two weeks into the school year. No entry into grade 12. Proficiency in both languages required for the Mandarin-English or French-English bilingual programmes. Non-native English speakers are assessed for English proficiency on application.
Early exit may be to anywhere around the world and we hear that moving into another IB school is seamless, less so into a home curriculum. Not that this worries the school. In their view they are preparing children for where they are going when they graduate, not for what they are doing in the next year.
And graduate well they do. In the last five years,136 students went to the US (covering an A-Z list of colleges from Arizona State Uni to UPenn), 113 to the UK (eg Bath Spa, Cambridge, York), 37 to Canada (eg UBC, McGill), 41 to Europe (eg Trinity Dublin, Erasmus, Utrecht), 21 to Australia and New Zealand (eg Monash, Sydney) and 33 to Asia (eg Nanyang and Yale NUS in Singapore).
The class of 2022 scored an average of 37 points in their IB diploma, consistent with the year previously and up from 35 in 2020, with four students scoring 44 points and two students scoring the maximum 45 points. A quarter of all diplomas gained were the prestigious bilingual diploma.
Teaching and learning
An IB world school intent on delivering an education that ‘prepares students for a world that doesn’t yet exist’ by teaching ‘them how to think, not what to think’. The school day is approached in a Canadian-esque way: ‘everyday should be hard fun’. Academics balanced with arts, sports and service - as the former head of school said, ‘We talk about it being a test for life, rather than a life of tests.’
IB PYP is offered through kindergarten and primary grades, each operated as ‘schools within a school’. The classrooms organised by grade levels within a purpose-built, dedicated wing complete with 2,600 sq m outdoor discovery centre.
Indoor-outdoor learning is big but core skills are still a focus. Primary-years literacy and numeracy standards are based on American common core and Ontario standards respectively, with 80 minutes of both mandated into the daily PYP programme.
If it’s early year's language you are after, CIS delivers. An outstanding Chinese bilingual programme starts in pre-k and runs through to grade 6. A French bilingual programme is also offered in grades 1 to 5 and has been so popular it is being extended into grade 6 from the 2022/23 academic year. Forty per cent of all students across both primary campuses are in one of these bilingual programmes. For those that aren’t there are daily French or Mandarin language acquisition classes from junior k and parents tell us that 'these are also excellent'.
Grades 7 to 10 (ages 12 to 15) follow the MYP with eight core subjects. Language, literature and maths all offered in English or Chinese enabling bilingual students to maintain their skills. Spanish joins the language acquisition menu from grade 7. Media studies make an appearance in grades 9 and 10.
The IB PYP and MYP lead through to the IB diploma. Results are celebrated but qualified with recognition that students are ‘more than the sum of their IB scores. They are emerging scientists, artists, researchers, engineers and entrepreneurs.’
Multiple STEAM makerspaces provide hands-on fun and students are encouraged to collaborate. One student’s idea for a game jam led to a partnership with a local gaming business. The annual STEAM fair always a highlight in the school calendar.
A one-to-one iPad programme starts in grade 4. Frustratingly for many parents, students switch to a MacBook in grade 7. An excellent parent guide answers frequently raised questions such as, ‘Can my child access social media on their device?’ Answer, no.
Class sizes may change year on year as is the nature of international schools with rolling admissions, but the school is committed to a teacher-student ratio of 1:11.5. This drops to 1:8 in kindergarten and bilingual programmes to enable closer support.
Nearly a third of teachers are Canadian, the rest from the world over. Sixty per cent hold advanced or double degrees. Students and parents say that as pressure builds in the IB years the teachers are really supportive and willing to go the extra mile - ‘This is a stand-out for the school,’ said one parent.
Students are benchmarked against NWEA (Northwest Evaluation Association) standards and MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) three times a year. Student learning documented via digital portfolios and detailed reports twice a year, four in secondary. Parent-teacher conferences held three times a year.
Coffee mornings, assemblies, parent seminars, hands-on workshops hosted regularly. Parents tell us it’s easy to build a rapport with their child’s teachers.
Learning support and SEN
Learning support is offered after assessment, on a case-by-case basis.
Multilingualism is celebrated in this very international school, where over 100 languages are spoken within the student body. An after-school language programme supports mother tongue maintenance and language acquisition at extra cost.
A 12-month primary and secondary EAL intensive foundation programme runs for students in grade 5 through to 8, to develop the language skills required to access the MYP. Up to 20 hours of dedicated English classes are balanced with respective peer group classes for maths, science and individual societies.
The arts and extracurricular
Plenty of sport, arts, service learning and action. Music particularly popular, with a plentiful range of ensembles, bands and choirs, providing yet another opportunity for languages as showcases and performances sometimes conducted in Chinese or French.
Community and service programmes are de rigueur. The ‘Open Minds’ programme sees primary years spend up to a week in real-world settings exploring Singapore’s wetlands or museums. In secondary, service-orientated trips are not mere tourist excursions but a chance for students to get stuck into a mangrove reclamation project, build a school in Nepal or more.
Extracurricular activities delivered across three blocks each year with up to 80 different weekly activities in arts, sports, STEAM and leadership. Budding unicyclists and jugglers showing off their skills in many a home.
Track and field, soccer, softball, tennis, basketball - all popular ‘Husky’ teams and pretty strong too. The U19 touch rugby girls finished runners up in the Singapore ACSIS league, boys’ tennis took home the championship trophy in 2020 and will be promoted to division 1 and 11 basketball teams fielded last season. Husky swimmers enjoy a 50m pool at the Lakeside campus and soon enough a heated training pool will be added for those little Husky pups. The popular annual Husky award is awarded to the most committed and positive member of each and every team.
Boarding can be facilitated for students aged 12 and above through an arrangement the school has with ACS Cobham Hall, a premium local boarding house. Small numbers only. Generally used by those attracted to the school for the strength of its foundation EAL programme.
Ethos and heritage
CIS has come a long way since its beginning in 1991 as a high school with just six students and six teachers. Now well over 2,400 students are settled on the 43,000 sqm, seven-storey campus in the west of Singapore.
Recent upgrades have seen the addition of a new wing that includes the upgraded outdoor discovery centre (ODC) for kindergarten. A huge space, with grand-looking play forts, tunnels to hide in, mounds to climb, a central pond and waterfall and even a maze. Naturally, there are sand pits and water stations, along with a fully functioning mud kitchen. All surrounded by an appropriate sized bike track for little trikes. An outstanding space for some very lucky children.
The wing also provides older years with the benefits of a covered 25m solar-heated swimming pool, learning pods and libraries, a multi-purpose gym, dance studio, black box theatre, soundproof music rooms and visual arts studios. We especially loved the instructional bakery, which will also be used to make the bread and bakery items sold in the school coffee shop.
This may be Singapore, but the ‘great outdoors’ is never far from the mind. Students belong to one of four houses: wolf, otter, cougar and eagles. House captains, house events, primary student council - leadership and cooperation encouraged daily.
The school canteen is run by an external caterer. Primary and secondary students can opt for a packed lunch if they prefer. Or hold out until the end of the school day when they can tuck into the delicious sounding double-poached egg, ‘Mr Canadian’, from the Red Dot café. Parents and grade 12 students can enjoy this cafe at any time in the school day.
Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline
According to the parents we spoke to, the school deals well with all the ‘usual teenage and Singapore issues’ and is not afraid to discipline if a student steps really out of line.
Home room teachers in primary, and advisory teachers in secondary, form the backbone of the school’s pastoral programme, covering everything from TCK (third culture kids) issues to goal setting and study skills. All supported by a team of full-time counsellors.
Pupils and Parents
An important part of the ‘Canadian piece’, the school will tell you, is that theirs is a warm, caring and supportive community. It’s a very international school with over 70 nationalities, broken down roughly across continents as 58 per cent Asian, 22 per cent Europeans and 13 per cent from North America and seven per cent elsewhere. There were some mutterings around a sharp uptake in the Asian population some years back but this has now settled and parents say it isn’t a bad thing - it’s driven academic standards up and given students a great opportunity to explore Mandarin outside of the formal programmes.
The school places great importance on retaining and celebrating an inclusive, multinational identity. A cross-campus online ‘Just Sing’ music video being the highlight of the annual UN Week.
A strong PTA sees parents regularly putting their hands up to help the ‘Open Minds’ excursions or mystery reading in classes
In June 2020, a SGD $680 million deal saw the school acquired by China Maple Leaf Educational Systems Ltd, China’s largest private education provider.
Fees are in the mid to high range for Singapore international schools. The bilingual programmes only a fraction more expensive than normal tuition fees and, as such, feel comparatively good value.
The last word
Whether you see the C in CIS as a reflection of the Canadian nurturing approach or the impressive Chinese language programmes, this is a grown-up international school which holds its place well as one of Singapore’s established IB world schools, with a strong community spirit and family-friendly vibe.
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