Shortage of places at international schools shows little sign of easing

The shortage of places at international schools in Singapore shows little sign of easing, even as many have announced expansion plans.

The latest is Tanglin Trust School which says it will add another 700 places from next year.

The situation is of concern among business groups and even the Singapore government.

For many foreign companies, doing business in Singapore is getting more costly. Amidst rising office and housing rents, the growth in expatriates – from 798,000 in 2005 to 875,500 a year later – has worsened the shortage of places in international schools for their children.

David Boden, chairman of Select Committee on International Schools, American Chamber of Commerce, said: “We did a study that started out with 68 respondees, from our members, and they said, ‘yes, we do see an issue’. We have at least 22 of those companies that had probably an additional 200 expatriates coming in the next year, probably 300 children within those families coming…and then found out that about 35 percent actually had kids already on waiting lists, and not just at the American school.”

The Singapore American School has stopped accepting applications from non-US citizens since late 2007.

It now only accepts applications from US citizens, green card holders and children of employees of American companies.

Others, like Tanglin Trust School, guarantee a place in return for a hefty placement fee.

Steven Andrews, CEO of Tanglin Trust School, said: “It’s still possible to gain entry into the school through normal wait list procedures without joining either the Guaranteed or Standard Placement Rights scheme. But for those companies who do want to plan, it is much more helpful.”

About 80 places out of a total enrolment size of 2,250 at the Tanglin Trust School are open to this “placement rights” scheme.

The United World College and more recently, the Canadian International School, are also offering it.

The Canadian International School says its plan is “without question, a response to market conditions”.

For the schools, the placement fees can help provide funds for expansion projects.

The Tanglin Trust School, for example, estimates it can raise about S$80 million from the scheme alone.

The school will enlarge its senior section over the next few years to take in another 700 pupils. The first phase is expected to be ready by September 2009.

It now has 600 children waiting to be admitted in August this year.

That’s just one-third of the queue at the United World College of South East Asia.

Its Dover campus has over 1,900 on its list for August 08 intake.

The length of a wait list can often look intimidating, especially when the numbers stretch into the thousands.

But many international schools say these are sometimes exaggerated, and should be taken with a pinch of salt, as many parents tend to put themselves on multiple wait lists in order to maximise their chances of securing a place for their child.

Joanna Bennett, a Singaporean married to a British national, got her sons enrolled into United World College of South East Asia’s new East campus.

Its 6-ha Tampines campus will open in 2010 and take in 2,500 students. But a temporary East campus in Ang Mo Kio will open next September and take in 440 students.

When Joanna first applied to the Dover campus, she was told the wait could last three years.

But even as expansion plans by United World College of South East Asia and other schools enabled parents like Joanna to move up the queue, wait list numbers are growing.

And many say physical expansion is not a long-term solution.

Schools and business groups want to work more closely with each other and with the Singapore government to better address the issue.

The American Chamber of Commerce, which has convened a select committee on the issue, says its member survey this year will focus on the shortage of places in international schools.

Details are expected to be out in August. -CNA/ir

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 11 May 2008

Join The Discussion

Compare listings