As I walked up to Pat’s Schoolhouse Raffles, located in a low-rise building in the shadow of Singapore’s legendary Raffles Hotel, I had to pause to allow a line of toddlers holding hands cross the sidewalk to board a big coach bus. It was quite the adorable sight.
Moments later when I met Principal Maureen Teo, she explained that each class (“Toddlers” from 19 months; Playgroup; Nursery; Kindergarten 1 and Kindergarten 2) takes at least one outing a month to explore Singapore. Today the 3-year-olds in the playgroup were visiting Underwater World on Sentosa; other outings have included making pizzas at an Italian restaurant, learning to make a budgeted shopping list and buying groceries at the supermarket, even camping out overnight at a sister Pat’s location on Whitley Road.
The kids take these outings to get out and explore, a fun trade-off from their ultra-convenient CBD location. The school is popular with parents who want to drop their kids off on the way to work; it’s not uncommon for parents to even drop by to say hello at lunchtime. Conveniently, the centre also offers all-day childcare straight through from 7am to 7pm (classroom hours are from 8am to 5:30pm, with half-day sessions available as well), and is even open on Saturdays.
As we toured the centre (after a teacher took my temperature to ensure that I wasn’t ill), Ms. Teo enthusiastically pointed out the various areas of the school. The massive indoor playground features green floors and lush, treelike wallpaper to simulate outdoor space. The kids also get to do sand and water play.
The Toddler group was taking turns grouping fruits by colour. The K1s were singing in their music class (and happily waving to me as I walked by). And the K2s were rehearsing for their big graduation ceremony and musical — half in Mandarin, half in English.
Pat’s prides itself on its Bilingual Immersion Core Curriculum; every class has two co-teachers to speak each language. It’s been so successful that since 2009 Pat’s has pioneered a Mandarin immersion programme that’s now taught at preschools in the United States. At the Raffles Centre, Ms. Teo pointed out art projects decorated with Mandarin characters, and told me about the thematic approach that allows students to explore language through art, music, even physical education.
Student artwork or photos seem to cover every inch of the walls. Teachers upload photos on a weekly basis so parents can monitor their kids through an “online parents’ portal”. Kids also bring home a personal “communications book” that allows teachers to communicate daily with each student’s parents, and vice versa. Parental involvement is both encouraged and celebrated at Pat’s, and families can participate in school events like carnivals, exhibitions and concerts throughout the year.
Pat’s was founded back in 1988 and now has 16 locations located around Singapore, so they’re clearly doing something right. The Raffles Centre was a clean, bright space where the children were certainly having fun, but their serious educational endeavors were also well on display. The school’s philosophy is to celebrate curiosity, creativity, confidence and continuity, and its students are encouraged to explore and stretch their imaginations to become “thinking, self-assured and creative individuals”.
Of all the positive things that I saw during my tour, though, I was most impressed by Principal Maureen Teo, who was so very kind, warm and clearly passionate about her school and her students. She broke into a big smile as she recalled highlights from past field trips, and sighed a little bit wistfully as she talked about the K2s preparing to graduate. She got into the specifics of parental feedback, demonstrating that she truly values the input of both students and their parents. Caring, dedicated teachers are the key ingredient to a successful school and excellent education; the little ones who attend Pat’s Schoolhouse Raffles are truly a lucky bunch!
Pat’s Schoolhouse Raffles
11 Beach Road #03-01, Singapore 189675
Tel: (+65) 6781 2288
School hours: 7am to 7pm (Monday – Friday), 7am to 2pm (Saturday)