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 a second Primary campus on the east coast.
- Canadian International School Singapore
7 Jurong West Street 41
- T +65 6467 1732 (TK: +65 6345 1573)
- E [email protected]
- W https://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: 644 boys and 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 $16,500 for half day nursery through to $40,900 in IB years. Slight fee increase for students on the bilingual programmes.
- Fee Extras: $2,500 application fee; $3,500 confirmation fee which reduces to $2,800 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)
- Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD)
- Authorised by International Baccalaureate Organization (not to be confused as an inspection or accreditation agency)
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
- EduTrust Certification (Singapore)
No school can pay to be in
The Good Schools Guide International. Period.
What The Good Schools Guide International says
Head of School Mr Pete Corcoran BA (Hons) MA
Since 2017; Mr Pete Corcoran BA (Hons) MA started his own educational journey when he was old enough to walk across from the headmaster’s house, his home, to the school where his father was superintendent. Both degrees from University of British Columbia.
Brings 35 years’ worth of teaching and headships from his home province of British Columbia and internationally to this current role; previously he was the executive director of the Qatar Foundation Schools, a group of 10 schools and 5,000 students; director of schools for Seoul International School before that.
Says that teaching is the greatest job in the world because ‘you work with great people’ and that high school kids in particular give you a sense that the future is in good hands, ‘they really do care and do want to make a difference’.
That making a difference is what drives him, in a warm and friendly Canadian way of course. From describing how they have made their bilingual programme the ‘best in the world’, to believing it should never be a matter of luck that your child has an excellent teacher so ‘every teacher we hire is outstanding’, you get the feeling that beneath the smile and laid-back charm ‘Pete’ really is the driving force behind many positive changes seen in his time at the school.
CIS is 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 head of school says, ‘we talk about it being a test for life, rather than a life of tests.’
IB PYP is offered through kindergarten and primary grades. For these early years, the school has two separate campuses, Lakeside, the main school campus, near Jurong Lake in the west of Singapore and Tanjong Katong, affectionately known as TK, a dedicated primary years campus on the east coast. The curriculum and offering the same, the setting very different.
At Lakeside, the kindergarten and primary operate as ‘schools within a school’; the classrooms organised by grade levels within a purpose-built, dedicated wing which is soon to benefit from an upgraded outdoor discovery centre. TK is an old school building with an abundance of outdoor space and nature; all ground floor classes spill straight outside. This is one of the most fabulously back-to-nature primary campuses we’ve seen in Singapore.
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 years 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. 40% 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 and literature offered in English or Chinese enabling bilingual students to maintain their skills and from August 21, grades 7 and 8 will also be Maths offered in Chinese; Spanish joins the language acquisition menu from grade 7. Media studies makes 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.’ The class of 2020 scored a very respectable average 35 across a cohort size of 132 students, up one point from 34 in 2019, with 35% bilingual diplomas and 44 the highest score achieved.
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 1:1 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. In kindergarten and bilingual programmes, the ratio drops to 1:8 to enable closer support.
30 per cent of teachers are Canadian, the rest from the world over. 60 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 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.
Games, Arts and Options
That day of ‘hard fun’ includes plenty of sport, arts, service learning and action.
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, eleven 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.
Arts and music popular with a plentiful range of ensembles, bands and choirs, providing yet another opportunity for languages; 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.
Extra-curricular activities delivered through 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 an expat home.
Background and Atmosphere
CIS has come a long way since its beginning in 1991 as a high school with just six students and six teachers. Now ‘one school, two campuses’: well over 2,400 students are settled on the 43,000 sqm, seven-storey Lakeside kindergarten, primary and secondary campus in the west of Singapore, and a further 700 children in the TK campus over in the east.
Lakeside: a 2011 purpose-built modern school campus is about to benefit from a further upgrade; brand-new wing due to open mid 2022 with an upgraded outdoor discovery centre for kindergarten; an indoor solar-heated swimming pool and dryland training area; multi-purpose gym; black box theatre and soundproof music rooms and visual arts studios. We especially love the sound, and soon-to-be smell, of the instructional bakery.
TK: a former local girls’ school and designated heritage site on Singapore’s east coast. The low-rise, natural, leafy campus the perfect backdrop to a nurturing and outdoorsy vibe for kindergarten and primary grades. This is a school where children can play with (gasp) real mud, water, sand, sticks and stones on a daily basis. A rare highlight compared to many stage-managed kindergarten schools in Singapore. Frustratingly for the school, it lives at the mercy of the Singapore government reclaiming the lease. The current one ends in August 2022 and the school is currently waiting to hear on a renewal.
Families move seamlessly from TK on to Lakeside at the end of Grade 6, an elder sibling often paving an earlier move for younger children as the two campuses are at opposing ends of Singapore. A bus service runs between them with parents very much encouraged to explore Lakeside ahead of the transition.
This may be Singapore but the ‘great outdoors’ is never far from the mind. CIS 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 canteens - indoor at Lakeside, open air at TK – are 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. Grade 12 and parents can enjoy this cafe at any time in the school day.
Pupils and Parents
An important part of the ‘Canadian piece’, the school will tell you, is that their’s 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 7 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; this year’s cross-campus online ‘Just Sing’ music video a highlight of the annual UN Week.
A strong CIS PTA sees parents regularly putting their hands up to help the ‘Open Minds’ excursions or mystery reading in classes. The PTA is campus- specific, as is the annual PTA fair.
Pastoral Care 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; supported by a team of full-time counsellors.
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.
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 have been told 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 a almost full 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).
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.
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.