Middleton International School opening in Singapore: the rise of affordable education for expat families

Expats have more options for international schooling at more accessible costs.
There’s an exciting new trend starting in Singapore: affordable international education. With expats struggling to meet the demands of high cost living, we think this could be the start of a revolution!

Schooling is one of the biggest costs for expat families living in Singapore. So we’re saying hallelujah to this:  EtonHouse is opening Middleton International School in 2017 with fees around 40% lower than most international schools! We’ve seen a trend towards more affordable education in Singapore in recent months with the opening of Invictus Private School in August, and with The Open Primary ready to take on kids in 2017. It’s refreshing news in a city where it can be nigh on impossible to lever your kids into a local institution:  just ask our writer Tracy who knows the international vs local schools debate too well, and has one child in international school and two in the local education system! We’re all about options and quality education for all, so let’s look a little closer…

The average cost of a child’s first year at international school in Singapore comes in at a whopping $31,000 (with annual on-going fees in the region of $20,000-$35,000)!  Check out our handy infographic below for a breakdown of how much it really costs to get started in international school in Singapore (these fees are for Grade 1, and include some one-off fees such as application and admission fees on top of tuition) . Full expat packages covering housing and schooling are rare in the current economic climate, so for families of two (or more!) kids it can be rather difficult to make ends meet. Yearly fee hikes and extra-curricular costs like school camps, canteen, transport (and that much-loved gymnastics class) all draw on your rainy-day-savings. And let’s not even mention the cost of supermarket shopping in Singapore. It’s enough to make us seriously consider a move north of the border to Malaysia (or home with our tail between our legs). So to say there is a demand for cheaper schooling among the expat community is a massive understatement.

So, what is Middleton International bringing to the table? In a nutshell, it’s aiming (once regulatory approvals are through) to provide a quality international primary education (ages 7-11) for $18,000 a year, or $1,500 a month. The programme is based on the UK National Curriculum, and will have a strong bilingual focus drawing on the Singapore MOE curriculum for Chinese (and maths). Students can then move on to the EtonHouse Secondary School that offers the IGCSE qualification. Costs are kept at a minimum with larger class sizes (28 kids) and smaller facilities, with students using external spaces for sports and co-curricular activities (drawing on the facilities of the stable of EtonHouse schools). The campus is likely to be located in Bukit Timah.

It remains to be seen how the new lower-cost education facilities will perform against current top tier alternatives. South African technopreneur and father-of-three John Fearon launched Invictus Private School in Bukit Merah in August to provide a no-frills quality international education for $15,000 a year. We sat down with Emily Leahy, mum of four boys, with twins at Invictus. The competitive pricing was a big driver for her family when choosing the school.

She says: “So far we are quite happy. The teachers and principal are lovely. My boys particularly like the Mandarin teacher because she’s super practical and interactive. We like that there’s lots of communication from the school about what the kids are doing. Invictus is using creative ways to work around their limitations. For instance, there isn’t a school library so the class has a weekly trip to the public library across the street. The kids love the adventure of it. They do fun things like ‘wake & shake’ and ‘energy booster’ 15 minute active sessions between lessons to help them run off excess energy doing awesome stuff like cosmic yoga or funny dancing. The school is still developing; they are seeking approval to create a rooftop garden play space (which would be great!) and will possibly expand to a couple more grades. It’s fun to be a part of this new venture.”

The Open Primary will be offering a novel approach to education with private tutoring in a group setting from next year. We’re waiting with baited breath…