Flood of inquiries despite $20k fees at Stamford American International
SINGAPORE'S newest international school was officially opened yesterday, and already, demand for places is heating up despite fees that run to $20,000 a year.
The Stamford American International School (SAIS) started classes two weeks ago on its temporary campus in Lorong Chuan - beside the Australian International School Singapore (AISS) - with an enrolment of about 90 students.
By year's end, it will take in another 90 students.
The school is operated by Cognita - an international education group that runs about 50 schools worldwide, including the AISS.
The group's chief executive officer for Asia, Mr Brian Rogove, said yesterday that interest in the school has been high.
The number of inquiries on places has grown from about 20 a week at the beginning of the year to about 75 a week now.
He expects demand to remain strong, as many of the inquiries are from parents looking to relocate to Singapore soon.
In fact, he said, about half of the students currently enrolled come from families who moved here this year.
'We see this as a sign that the economy is growing and more families will be moving here in future,' he added.
SAIS expects to have 2,500 students by 2016, four years after its permanent campus in Upper Serangoon opens.
The school's temporary Lorong Chuan premises can accommodate only 600 students.
SAIS takes in children between the ages of two and 18, and offers the International Baccalaureate and American Advanced Placement Diploma programmes.
The demand for places at SAIS is mirrored at other international schools here.
For example, AISS - which currently has an enrolment of 2,258 - has over 100 children on its waiting list for next year.
Over at United World College of South East Asia (UWC), the waiting list is in the thousands, said the school's director of communications, Ms Joy L. Stevenson.
The strong demand for places has dispelled earlier fears that the global recession would affect enrolment.
Earlier this year - as Singapore and the rest of the world were caught in the throes of the recession - insiders predicted that the rush for international school places would slow to a trickle, as companies cut jobs, forcing many expatriates to leave town and take their families with them.
But such fears proved unfounded.
In fact, UWC's Ms Stevenson said that, if anything, waiting lists have grown longer. The reason, she said, is that 'more expatriate families are staying on beyond their one- or two-year contracts, and are making Singapore their permanent homes'.
SAIS' Mr Rogove agreed.
He said at the school's opening ceremony yesterday: 'According to an internal survey, we estimated that about 2,000 expatriate students would leave Singapore this year.
'But to our surprise, this has not been the case. Not only are families staying on, but we are also seeing new families who just moved to Singapore this year applying for places in the school.'
He added: 'I think this is due to the resilience of Singapore's economy and also because of confidence in the quality of education in schools here.'
The American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore said a survey it conducted showed that this year, there will be more people moving here than moving out.
Although they can apply to place their children in mainstream schools here, many expatriate parents prefer international schools.
When interviewed, expats said that while they plan to stay in Singapore for the long term, they want their children in international schools so that they can maintain links to their home countries.
One such parent is Mrs Laura Byers Day, a Canadian who has lived with her family here for 11 years. She has three children enrolled in SAIS.
Said the 40-year-old housewife: 'We don't plan to leave any time soon. Singapore is a great place to live in, it's safe and the education is good.
'But, at the same time, since we are so far away from home, we want our children to be educated in a system which we are familiar with.
'And if they choose to go back, they will be able to fit in better.'
MORE STAYING PUT
'According to an internal survey, we estimated that about 2,000 expatriate students would leave Singapore this year. But to our surprise, this has not been the case. Not only are families staying on, but we are also seeing new families who just moved to Singapore this year applying for places in the school.
Mr Brian Rogove, Cognita's chief executive officer for Asia
Source: Straits Times, 29 Aug 2009