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Look Out for Singapore’s Very Own Boarding Schools

22 Oct 2007

The boarding school experience

New boarding school programmes will give students more opportunities to develop teamwork and learn outside the classroom.

There won’t be any Sorting Hat or any Defence Against the Dark Arts classes. But the magic and charm of life in boarding school is on its way to becoming a reality for students at five Integrated Programme (IP) institutions. Come 2008-2009, they’ll be the first to enjoy new programmes that will turn school life into a daily adventure.

Boarding schools won’t just be hostels for a stay away from home. From the camaraderie of inter-hall games to musical drama productions, there’ll be a host of lively opportunities for students to get out of their rooms, pick up new skills and interact with fellow boarders from different backgrounds and countries.

And it isn’t necessarily all just fun and games.

Those with a more academic bent can choose from multidisciplinary modules - non-examinable, of course! - on cross-cultural themes such as political science, the information revolution and the world environment. All in all, it promises to be a mixed bag, and a very full one indeed, of activities to develop the boarders in ways that no classroom alone can provide.

The five schools to pilot these boarding programmes are: Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) (ACS(I)), Hwa Chong Institution, National Junior College, National University of Singapore High School of Mathematics and Science (NUSHS) and Raffles Institution (RI). Each institution will devise its own approach, with boarding durations (ranging from 3 months to a year), curricula and special activities tailored to complement its own vision and values.

Building independence and community spirit

Some of the selected schools already have limited boarding programmes, which will serve as foundations for the upcoming integrated boarding schemes. Many parents and students have found the experience to be fulfilling. For paediatrician Dr Angelin Tan, the “structured and disciplined environment” of the ACS(I) boarding schools has instilled independence and responsibility in her two sons.

“I think overall the boarding school experience is a very positive one in terms of both the academic and non-academic aspects,” reflects Dr Tan. In addition to her sons learning to take care of their own rooms and chores, she values the interaction they have with children of various ages and from different countries.

From 2008, ACS(I) will scale up its boarding facilities so that every IP student will board for at least two semesters. The boarding programme will also include a service learning component, to help build students’ character through community projects.

The boarding school experience

Living away from home helps secondary school students to learn personal responsibility and independence.

Opportunity for all

Parents wondering if they’ll be able to afford to let their children have a taste of boarding life don’t have to worry about the cost. The schools will provide subsidies for the cost of boarding to ensure that no student is denied the opportunity to participate in the boarding programme due to financial difficulties.

Mr Singaram s/o Subramaniam, whose son Subramaniam boards at RI, can testify that such assistance has worked out well. Mr Singaram says, “In my opinion, the RI boarding programme has been excellent for my son. I’m very happy that the school provided subsidies which made it possible for my son to benefit from the boarding programme.”

As for Subramaniam, the experience has certainly taught him the real meaning of teamwork. “There are other scholars coming to live here from overseas,” he says. “I can approach them if I have any doubts. And if they approach me, of course I’m also willing to help them.”

From 2009, RI will roll out a boarding experience for Sec 3 and Sec 4 students that focuses on a suite of leadership and management modules, in order to mould students who will be articulate, involved and self-reflective.

The boarding school experience

Boarding students will have more time for after-school discussion and multidisciplinary modules.

Students have a say at NUS High School

NUSHS will offer an enhanced one-year boarding programme for all Year 5 students in 2008. The boarding programme will be seamlessly integrated with the day school curriculum, with daily structured free time for students to pursue activities of their choice.

Dr Hang Kim Hoo, Principal of NUSHS, expects each cohort of students to spearhead new student-initiated pursuits based on common areas of interest. “Of course we’ll provide some guidance to the students,” he says, “but over time, we hope to see the students take charge in organising these activities.”

Each cohort of about 90 students will also be immersed in a community programme for character and leadership development. “They will have more say in what they want to do to serve the community,” explains Dr Hang. “Some of these student-initiated activities will be cultural in nature and provide better opportunities for bonding among the students, and between the Singaporean and international students.”

With so many programmes in the works, students can look forward to an exciting time, immersed in a whole new learning environment that will provide a home away from home. It may not turn out like everything in the storybooks, but these five schools are well on their way towards putting their own stamp on the boarding school experience for Singapore.

For more information on the boarding schools, read MOE’s press release on the new boarding programmes.