Parent Name: Matthew O’Connell (Wife & mum – Mali O’Connell)
Nationality: Irish (Matthew) and Israeli (Mali)
Children’s Names: Daniel (9) & Dylan O’Connell (7)
How did you first hear about SMM International School?
Moving to a new culture, country and continent, research is key.
We did our research from Europe so it was difficult to fully prepare and know the right strategy beforehand. We were aware of SMM and other international schools – although initially, in hopes of limiting costs, we hoped to investigate local schools. SMM provided the best value to meet our needs in private schooling, and it was our first fall-back option in we failed to qualify in the speculative lottery for local school entrance.
During a Singapore fact-finding visit, I had arranged to meet some of the staff at SMM. I was treated to a short morning where I explored the facility and met with the teachers who explained, in detail, the structure of their curriculum and teaching methodology. It was very impressive.
The SMM Admissions officer provided so much invaluable preparatory information to help guide us before arriving in Singapore. Without their help, it would have been a much rockier road to travel – thanks Tal!
What factors played into your decision to send your child to SMM International School?
As a family with an Irish-Catholic father and Israeli-Jewish mother, we try to teach our children good values and have agreed to enforce neither of our religious beliefs zealously on our children.
The Jewish teachings of the school were therefore neither the highest priority nor the determining factor, but offered the benefit of providing of additional historical, cultural and religious context aside from that provided at home.
Overall, SMM offered the best all-around package for our needs. Both the old and new SMM locations were convenient to our preferred residential location. We liked the language(s) offered – particularly the advantages in Hebrew reading and writing.
Did you take a tour of the school before making your decision? What were your first impressions?
I toured the original SMM premises near Redhill, and was very impressed by the friendly and courteous faculty and staff. The administration office – Tal in particular – had been of great help even in the run up to our move to Singapore. The original premises were adequate, but the future premises (the current new campus) and their facilities, that are of the highest international school standard, helped make the decision to place our children at SMM an easier one.
How did your child adjust to the school? Did the school take any special measures to help with the settling in process?
Both our school-going-aged children speak Hebrew fluently. However, having attended local Flemish school in Belgium for 6 years, their skills in English – speaking and particularly reading and writing – needed much improvement.
We were very pleased with the immediate progress of our eldest in getting up to speed, and the support provided to our younger son in the ESL (English as a Second Language) course has allowed him to improve to the English level appropriate for his age.
The early recognition of the need for this special support was very positive and the specific curriculum adaptation to suit his needs was quick and effective.
What in your opinion are the three greatest strengths of the school?
It’s difficult to limit this to three!
Although facilities might seem like an obvious strength, I prefer to point to the faculty: the quality of the teachers that I have met in face-to-face discussions, their belief in the strength of the curriculum, the teaching methods, and the attitude generally. The leadership and enthusiasm of Dr. Kahn is reflected in the attitude of the faculty as a whole.
The current size of the school and classes provides a very high teacher-pupil ratio and offers the possibility for each child to receive more attention, focus, and recognition. I am not aware of an educational institution with similar ratios. Even with the inevitable future increased popularity of the school on account of the highly attractive facilities and infrastructure, class sizes are intended to be limited & teacher-pupil ratios maintained.
As a non-Jewish observer, I feel that my children experience a sense of togetherness and community. The same is true for my wife and I, who frequently meet faculty members outside of the school environment at ad-hoc picnics etc. as part of the wider Jewish community. Again, this is a togetherness experience that is, in my opinion, quite culturally unique among Singapore’s Jewish community.
How does the school include parents in the community?
In addition to the points mentioned above, there have been various open days organized recently to showcase the school. The end-of-the-year school performance has also highlighted the strength of the drama programme.
Furthermore, there are regular school communications by e-mail and social media.
How does the school keep you informed about your child’s progress?
Reports are published by e-mail each semester.
What is the number one thing you’d miss if you transferred your child to another school?
Probably the money! According to our benchmarking last September, SMM provided the best all-around value for money in private schooling with English as the first language.
What kind of child (or family) would you say would be the best fit for this school?
Israeli-Jewish families will fit in easily of course. Both English- & Hebrew-speaking children will fit in smoothly and quickly.
However, I see no obstacle to families or children outside of either of the above categories being integrated and feeling comfortable. It is a very welcoming, caring and highly professional environment.
What extra-curricular activities or out of school programmes does the school offer which you have taken part in?
Honestly, I may not know when attending an event if it is a school event or a community event. For me, that is a very positive endorsement of the sense of community surrounding children, parents and faculty.