When it comes to looking for that perfect school for our kids, we always consider how happy we think they’ll be. We’ve raved about Gems’s fantastic art program and said great things about their STEM learning approach, but we’ve never talked about how the students and their parents feel about the school. Of course, nothing beats an honest review from parent Sérine de Labaume, who tells us why her daughters have been loving GEMS World Academy (Singapore) from day one…
Tell us about your kids who are attending the school?
Amarina who just turned 13 is in grade 7. Aria just turned 9 and is in grade 3.
What were the most important factors for you in selecting a school?
Open-mindedness, kindness, and good vibes.
How has the school lived up to your expectations?
I don’t want to jinx it, but so far, it’s exceeded my expectations.
What do your children like most about attending this school?
They loved it from day one. Both were immediately integrated in their new classes even though we joined mid-year. The school’s ‘buddy’ system ensures newcomers like my children are looked after by their peers. I have no idea if it’s something that exists at other schools, but it worked brilliantly for us. My daughters love their teachers, they love most of their classes, and they have made some really good friends.
What sort of curriculum does this school offer?
It offers the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP), Middle Years Programme (MYP) and Diploma Programme (DP). The IB PYP (Primary Years Programme) is known for its ‘inquiry-driven’ learning. Compared to the traditional learning method where students are ‘fed’ with information to ‘memorise’ and are expected to give the ‘right’ answers, it is quite different. Students are encouraged to reflect, search, inquire, and be creative. They are not scrutinised for giving ‘wrong’ answers, as any reflective answer would open doors to developing the thought process. When I think of my miserable school years, I feel so lucky that my children have a different upbringing.
What do you value most about the school?
Many teachers seem to enjoy their school life. We are all humans and I strongly believe that if the working conditions aren’t good, there would be a bigger chance of (even dedicated) teachers becoming pessimistic at times. This will inevitably have a huge impact on the children’s lives. As my children keep saying, everyone is nice at school.
Are you satisfied with the level of communication you receive from the school and how they engage parents?
Yes and no. We moved from a tiny school, so I am not used to getting so many emails from teachers. Many departments send different emails and it gets confusing. But if I had to choose, I’d definitely want to be kept updated. At GEMS World Academy (Singapore), I have experienced a few minor communication glitches but all it takes is a brief email to Josephine at administration and problems will be solved.
There are so many workshops, conferences, meetings and other activities, I can hardly keep up! I might be new, but I have been to quite a few workshops – and they sometimes make me want to go back to school!
How much homework is expected of your children?
Aria (grade three) gets practically none. So far, she’s had one project done at home which we enjoyed working on together. Aria does get a lot of time to do what she likes: read, play, make tons of art and craft creations, swim… and simply be a child.
Amarina (grade seven) seems to have a fair amount of work to do at times, but she isn’t at all unhappy about it. She still has plenty of time to read, hang out with friends, listen to music, watch movies, and help me out with chores. She seems to be managing them well, with just the right amount of pressure every now and then to meet the school’s deadlines. I believe that a lot of learning should be done through a diverse range of activities for a happy school life.
What advice would you give other parents trying to choose a school?
Visit the school to check out the culture and environment for yourself. If you are unable to do it in person, try to find a way to speak to the parents of current students or alumni. Alternatively, you can call the school for a chat with someone working there as it helps to learn how the school is run. You can get a rough idea of what to expect from your experience with the school, from how your requests are being handled.
This post is sponsored by GEMS World Academy