Check out our ultimate guide to bilingual schools in Singapore to see what’s available at the international and preschool level, mama!
Bilingual Education is a huge perk of living in a multi-cultural, multi-lingual country like Singapore. In addition to its obvious cross-cultural benefits, being bilingual has been shown to have massive social and cognitive benefits as well.
Studies have shown that people who speak multiple languages have better attention spans and multi-tasking abilities, starting from as young as seven months of age! It can also help stave off dementia and keep minds sharp as people age.
So we’ve established that bilingualism is clearly awesome, but how best to achieve it if you only speak one language at home? Here in Singapore, the obvious answer is at school. Both local and international schools here are renowned for their language programs, most notably in Mandarin, but each school takes a different approach.
Some offer immersion programs, in which children are solely exposed to a language like Mandarin. In another variation, children have two co-teachers speaking different languages, and interact equally with both throughout the day. Particularly at the preschool level, this is an effective way for emerging speakers to absorb different languages just as they’re beginning to speak themselves. Children can also take dedicated language classes, or might take some classes in English and others in Mandarin.
We’ve rounded up our picks for the top bilingual school programs in Singapore, at both the international school and preschool level to give you an idea of the vast variety of programs out there so you can hopefully find the right fit for your little one, mama!
Stamford American offers programs for two of the world’s most spoken languages, Mandarin and Spanish, with both a daily or bilingual option. The Mandarin/English Bilingual Program comprises two hours a day of language access, while Daily Mandarin or Spanish offers 40 minutes of language instruction a day with a focus on literacy.
For Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 4, Stamford American also offers an established Mandarin/English Bilingual Program that divides daily classroom time between the two languages. Students are taught by a full-time teacher who is literate in both immersion and monolingual classrooms, allowing students and teachers to develop a strong relationship where students can be taught based on their individual proficiency level.
CIS is renowned for its Chinese-English bilingual immersion program, which runs from Junior Kindergarten (age 4) through to Grade 5. Fully aligned with the IB Primary Years Program, the curriculum provides two fully qualified teachers for each class – one a native English speaker and one a native Chinese speaker.
Students attend classes in English one day, and in Chinese the next, ensuring equal exposure to both languages. CIS currently has 26 bilingual classes (there are no limits to just one class per grade), and provides a pathway for students to maintain their Chinese at a high level after Grade 5. From Grade 2 onwards there are language entry requirements to help proficient learners truly excel.
We love CIS’s strong focus on integrating culture (values, history, and even how to think in a respective language), because speaking a language without understanding its culture has very little real-world value.
Since it opened last year, Dulwich has drawn raves for its DUCKS Dual Language Immersion Programme aimed at ages 2-7, in which students have equal focus on Mandarin and English. Following the English National Curriculum, each class is led by a native English speaker who is supported by a bilingual Mandarin speaker, seamlessly integrating Mandarin vocabulary into classroom topics and lesson objectives throughout the day.
DUCKS focuses on developing speaking and listening skills first, just as students acquire their first language, so as to enable children to understand and use Mandarin in a practical setting. Reading and writing are taught separately.
Beyond DUCKS, all Dulwich students from Year 3 to Year 8 receive daily Mandarin lessons in which they are banded according to their assessed abilities – with kids from over 50 nationalities, Dulwich students demonstrate a full spectrum of language skills!
Dulwich College (Singapore), 71 Bukit Batok West Avenue 8, Singapore 658966,
EtonHouse offers an exceptional dual language programme delivered on a daily basis, ensuring that students have significant exposure to the language along with integrating culture into the curriculum. They also offer a unique 100% Chinese-only child care centre where children are immersed in a Chinese-only environment, and Chinese classes held 4 times a week in the Primary years.
Did you know that in 2011, EtonHouse International School became the first international school in Singapore to start a fully immersive bilingual option in the primary years, aligned with the International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years programme, mama? The programme has been very successful since then with a two-time champion in Crestar’s Singapore Chinese Language Competition for International Schools and several cohorts of fluent bilingual speakers!
EtonHouse International School, 13 EtonHouse campuses located island-wide, www.etonhouse.com.sg/schools/schools-in-singapore
With two tracks – both a German curriculum and an IB curriculum – GESS has a strong bilingual program with instruction in both German and English (or alternatively the Danish Mother Tongue Programme). The bilingual foundation is so strong, in fact, that by the time students get to secondary school they can pick a third language to study (including French, Mandarin or Spanish), or can opt to pursue other languages through the school’s unique Mother Tongue Support Programme. GESS also offers a unique Language Enrichment Programme covering 11 different languages at the Primary level.
German European Secondary School Main Campus: Kindergarten and Secondary School, 72 Bukit Tinggi Road, Singapore 289760, Tel: (+65) 6469 1131, [email protected]
Junior School Campus: Parent-Child groups, Toddler, Pre-Primary and Primary School, 300 Jalan Jurong Kechil, Singapore 598668, Tel: (+65) 6461 0802, [email protected]
Starting in the 2017-2018 school year, SAS will launch a Chinese immersion program in two kindergarten classes, and will continue to build the program as the students progress to the next grade level each year. Meanwhile, SAS offers daily language classes in Chinese and Spanish from preschool up through 8th grade (in high school language instruction lasts 80 minutes every other day, with the additional option of French).
SAS language courses are split over five differentiated levels from novice to advanced, with all teachers trained in Oral Proficiency Interviewing. With 20 Chinese teachers are certified as OPI testers – more than at any other American international school in the world! – ensuring SAS students get the best quality teaching, assessment and language proficiency around.
SMM is a non-profit, international Jewish school that welcomes students of all nationalities and backgrounds. Its holistic academic program provides a challenging but nurturing environment to empower all students. SMM’s bilingual Mandarin program begins at the preschool level and teaches students to think in Mandarin – not just translate words – as a means of learning to truly communicate effectively. Incroporating elements of Chinese history and culture, the school utilizes an aural/oral approach with a strong foundation in reading, writing, spelling, and composition. From the start, little ones are exposed to Mandarin through listening, singing, tactile toys, and even making delicious Chinese treats!
Formerly known as Chinese International School, it’s not surprising that Hillside World Academy has a very strong bilingual English-Mandarin program from Nursery on up, with one English- and one Mandarin-speaking teacher present in every classroom. HWA provides an IB curriculum through the discipline and rigour of Eastern pedagogy in concert with the inquiring, creative, collaborative approach of Western pedagogy, all in a multi-cultural environment!
Hillside World Academy, 11 Hillside Drive, Singapore 548936, Tel: (+65) 6254 0200, www.hwa.edu.sg
British Counci Preschool’s bilingual curriculum incorporates a distinctive blend of best practices from both the UK and Singapore. The daily 3-hour programme with both English and Mandarin-speaking teachers takes a play-based approach that’s influenced by pedagogies including Montessori, High-Scope and inquiry-based learning at the Nursery and Kindergarten level.
Children learn through play and exploration, along the way discovering their own potential for acquiring new knowledge and life skills!
ChildFirst’s bilingual curriculum is divided into a half-day of English and a half-day of Chinese to provide children with an immersive environment in which they can learn both languages equally and naturally. Influenced by the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, ChildFirst recognizes that each child has a different learning style, and therefore teaches Chinese through a variety of mediums, including speech and drama, role-play, stories and songs. Their ultimate aim is to not just emphasize bilingualism, but bi-culturalism as well.
ChildFirst @ King Albert Park, 896 Dunearn Road #04-02 (in front of King Albert Park MRT station), Sime Darby Centre Singapore 589472, Tel: 6469 4466, [email protected]
ChildFirst @ Mountbatten, 229 Mountbatten Road #01-32, Mountbatten Square Singapore 398007, Tel: 6440 4466, [email protected]
ChildFirst @ Tampines, 3 Tampines Central 1 #05-01, Abacus Plaza Singapore 529540, Tel: 6260 4466, [email protected]
The Children’s Place’s integrated bilingual programme gives children equal exposure to English and Chinese, with teachers who speak each language present at all times in the class so students absorb both languages in the most natural and effective way possible. To give Chinese learning extra meaning, it’s introduced through fun activities like Chinese brush painting, Speech & Drama, Arts & Crafts and even cookery (yum!), along with the use of stories, rhymes and songs.
Armed with extensive research showing that the first six years of life are the most effective time to acquire language skills, Little Paddington Preschools offer one trained, experienced Chinese language educator in every classroom throughout the day to interact with children in native Chinese. Mandarin is integrated into the inquiry-based curriculum through projects and experiential learning to make language acquisition natural and fun. The curriculum covers a range of activities in the Chinese science atelier and Chinese United Nations atelier, along with exploratory learning, Chinese music and movement, and Chinese cultural education.
These amazing and varied experiences provide the foundation upon which children can build their vocabulary and acquire the necessary skills in listening, speaking, reading, penmanship and writing Chinese.
Little Paddington Preschool Bukit Timah, 236 Turf Club Road, Singapore 287985 (Near 6th Avenue MRT and opposite Horse City), Tel: (+65) 96495801
Little Paddington Preschool Hougang, 4 Jalan Tani, Singapore 548542 (Near Hougang and Kovan MRT), Tel: (+65) 6280 3007
Lorna Whiston’s interactive curriculum is delivered completely bilingual, to ensure that each child gets a head start for entry into primary school. Parents love their full day programmes, packed with lots of mini master classes such as Reading and Phonics, Chinese Speech and Drama, Art, Design and Cookery all under one roof, giving children a holistic experience that also keeps the precious weekends free for family time.
Preschool by the Park, 9 Winchester Road, Singapore 117783, Tel: (+65) 6272 8826
Preschool by the River, 1 Stadium Place, #01-28, Kallang Wave Mall, Singapore 397628, Tel: (+65) 6448 8846
Combining the highest standards of early childhood education from both Canada and Singapore, Maple Bear offers an immersive English-Mandarin bilingual experience backed by a rigorous, proven curriculum that’s employed at over 200 schools worldwide. Specially designed for children aged 2 months to 6 years old, Maple Bear’s program provides experienced and qualified teachers and excellent child-teacher ratios in a well-designed, safe learning environment.
An award-winning preschool with infant care and childcare programs available from 2 months to 6 years, Mulberry can expose little ones to a bilingual learning environment from virtually the very start. Employing the same “Habits of Mind” global pedagogy that’s also been adopted by the Singapore MOE’s Gifted Education Branch, Mulberry also incorporates Reggio Emilia and the Theory of Multiple Intelligences into its program. Check them out at eight different centres across the island.
Pat’s Schoolhouse pioneered the unique, progressive bilingual immersion core curriculum that deftly integrates renowned international elements with the requirements of the local school framework, and has over 28 years’ experience to back it up. Conversing throughout the day with both English and Mandarin-speaking teachers during each lesson, children become equally well-versed in both languages, so that they are caught, not taught!
Odyssey offers full Chinese Language Immersion in all classes across all levels, with a full-time Chinese language teacher who interacts with childred throughout the day. As they listen to and respond to questions and instructions in Mandarin, children acquire the language naturally and readily, gaining the ability to use it as a means of expression in the context of real life events.
Children from 18 months to 3 years at Odyssey also take part in music and movement, project work, and exploratory work in Mandarin, while older students have a Chinese cultural curriculum that emphasizes oral presentation and articulation, reading, writing and penmanship.
Rosemary Hall runs an integrated Chinese program to promote bilingualism in all of its students, with teachers who speak both Chinese and English present throughout the day. The school places a strong emphasis on culture through activities like stories, poetry, songs, games and puppetry. In short, learning the Chinese language is never boring for these preschoolers, as children learn best in an enjoyable, fun, and engaging natural environment.
Rosemary Hall Montessori (Robinson) Childcare, 14 Robinson Road, Far East Finance Building #05-01, Singapore 048545, Tel: (+65) 6221 8638
Rosemary Hall Montessori (Katong) Childcare, 17 Rambai Road, Singapore 442336, Tel: (65) 6445 5765
Bilingual education is a cornerstone of Sunflower Baby House’s curriculum. Incorporating the Theory of Multiple Intelligences into Singapore’s Nurturing Early Learners (NEL) framework, the school offers dedicated and qualified English and Chinese teachers at every level, from Infant Care through Kindergarten 2, so kiddos always have fun and engaging ways to learn both English and Chinese.
White Lodge offers a rigorous Mandarin program across its eight schools that prepares students for local primary schools in Singapore. Children gain maximum exposure to Chinese language, culture and history on a daily basis through fun-filled activities like storytelling, singing songs, play-acting, rhythms, writing, art projects, movement and performances. White Lodge’s comprehensive Mandarin curriculum is based on the Singapore Kindergarten and Primary Schools framework.
White Lodge, various centre locations, Tel: (+65) 6255 4230
With hundreds of preschools to choose from in Singapore, there’s no way we could cover every single program out there. Other strong bilingual preschools we’d recommend checking out include Between Two Trees, BibiNogs, Brighton Montessori, Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan Pre-School and Trehaus‘s new Thinking Tots Nursery programme. Happy hunting, mamas!
Brought to you in partnership with SAIS, SAS, CIS, SMMIS, GESS, Dulwich College (Singapore), EtonHouse International School, White Lodge, British Council Preschool, Pat’s Schoolhouse, The Children’s Place, Little Paddington Preschool, MapleBear, ChildFirst Preschool, Mulberry Learning Centre, The Odyssey, Rosemary Hall Montessori, Sunflower Baby House & Preschool and Lorna Whiston Preschool