Swedish kids study in Singapore

What’s the difference between studying in Sweden and at an international school in Singapore? “Discipline! And of course that we are taught in English and get a good understanding of English,” responds 12-year Karl Enarsson immediately when we meet him and three of his other Swedish school mates, Karl Elmqvist 10, Carl Sjödoff also 10 and Karl Enarsson’s 15-year old brother Emil in the Sjödoff apartment in a green hilly area some ten minutes off busy Orchard Road.
     “And the teachers here know more about the subjects they teach,” he adds.
     The other three students nod in agreement.
     “If you’ve forgotten to do your homework, the teacher tells you to do it and makes sure you have done it,” continues Karl Enarsson who like Emil are fairly new to the international school environment.
     Their last school before Singapore was in Sweden, in Örgryte near Göteborg.
Karl Elmqvist has attended Montessori School of Beijing and in Chagning School in Shanghai before Singapore, while Carl Sjödoff has studied at a British school in Qatar.
     None of these young Swedish students sees strict discipline as something bad.
Rather it makes you focused and result-oriented in a positive way.
     “When students get their marks it is not only about what they know theoretically but also how they behave in society as human beings and how they can improve in that area,” says Karl Elmqvist’s mother Anna.
     Normally teachers work with one grade only and stick to that level of students all the time. That is another specific feature of the international schools in Singapore, the Swedish students observe. Other differences?
     “They don’t shower after we have had physical education,” smiles Karl Enarsson.
     ” Even though we have bathrooms few bother take a shower.”
     But that odd detail has no impact whatsoever on the Swedes getting along fine with fellow students from all corners of the world.
     “In Qatar, where I studied before, most students came from England. Here they come from everywhere and that is better,” says Carl Sjödoff who counts a Singaporean boy among his best friends now.
     All but Karl Elmqvist, who is enrolled at United World College of South East Asia, UWC, study at the Overseas Family School, OFS.
     Both schools are popular among Scandinavians.
     UWC have around 2500 students from over 60 countries, approximately 25 of them are Swedish.
     OFS enroll around 2000 students, also from over 60 countries. Around 50 students come from Sweden.
     Very few Singaporean kids study in the international schools here. These schools are normally open only for expatriate students. Exceptions occur in some instances.
     UWC follow the IB Primary Years programme from grades K1 to G5.
It has an own curriculum in grades 6 to 8 designed to prepare for the GCSE/IGCSE courses in grades 9 and 10. The internationally accepted British based IGCSE curriculum leads to externally marked exams in grade 10 and the awards of certificates. Finally, grades 11 and 12 follow the IB Diploma programme.
OFS follows the IB programme in all grades, from PreKindergarten to grade 12. GCSCE/IGCSE is also offered in grade 9-10.
     “If you move around the world IB is the standard practiced almost everywhere, which means your children don’t need to adapt to a new curriculum when you settle in a new country,” says Anna Elmqvist and Carl Sjödoff’s mother Ingrid.
     How much of parents participation and feedback is encouraged in the schools you have your children in here?
     “I find the teachers very accessible. Even if the school is big teachers care and engage themselves in individual students and parents,” says Anna Elmqvist.
     “It is a fairly open environment with room and respect for different opinions. We have an open dialogue with the teachers,” adds Ingrid Sjödoff.
     Cultural and religious differences are a welcome part of daily life in Singapore’s international schools.
     When religious and national holidays occur the schools see them as opportunities to arrange events which explain and educate children from different cultures what it is all about.
     Intentionally or not this reminds how Singapore as a state carefully makes sure that all faiths and ethnic groups in the island state are treated equally and with respect.
     It should also be added that international schools in Singapore stay open long after teaching hours.
     “They arrange lots of after school activities. Sports, culture, music, tuition,” says Anna and Ingrid.
     Any advise to newcomers?
     “Start looking for a proper school long before you arrive and get your child into the queue,” say Anna and Ingrid. “Almost all international schools in Singapore are full, which may sound surprising given the number of teaching facilities here, and have queues for applicants.”
     All teaching is in English and students at UWC are expected to command English when they begin studying there. OFS offers SPP (study preparation programme) for students who arrive without any knowledge of English.
     Fees are fairly similar in all the international schools in Singapore, they add.
You should expect to pay around SEK 55 000 per year for lower grades and some SEK 80 000 for the higher grades.
     There are few if any ways for private expatriate families residing in Singapore to get help or assistance with funds for school fees.
     “We do have some students at UWC that are there on grants but their families live outside Singapore,” says Anna Elmqvist.
     Swedish language and culture studies are upheld through a Swedish Supplementary School with 90 students in 8 classes, aged 6-15 yrs.
     “We provide one hour and 45 minutes teaching a week in Swedish language and culture,” says Ingrid Sjödoff, the current head of the Swedish School Board in Singapore. We follow the curriculum from the Swedish School authorities.
The Swedish school uses OFS’ facilities where studies in Swedish are held every Friday afternoon.
     And Swedish is actually catching on in all walks of life in cosmopolitan Singapore.
     “It is interesting too that quite a number of adult Singaporeans and other expats want to study Swedish. Some work in Swedish companies. For example staff at Ikea, explains Ingrid.

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