Expatriates looking for a cheaper schooling option for their children will have yet another school to choose from next year.
EtonHouse, a player in the preschool and international school market, plans to open Middleton International School early next year, charging $18,000 a year. The fee is 40 per cent less than the average fee of $30,000 charged by top-end international schools here.
Middleton, which is likely to be in the Bukit Timah area, comes after Invictus, an international school which charges a relatively low fee of $15,000 a year, was set up in Bukit Merah last month.
The two schools have identified a gap in the international school market, said Dr Yvonne McNulty, associate lecturer at SIM University, who studies global mobility.
A sizeable number of expatriates here are on local packages which do not cover housing and children's school fees, she said.
"With the high cost of living in Singapore, international schooling at the pricey institutions is often out of their reach, especially if they have two or three children.
"Lower-cost options for schooling will increasingly meet a critical need for this segment of the expatriate population, particularly as admission to local Singapore school is frequently unavailable."
A survey in September last year by an online support group for expats here found that only about 34 per cent - 86 out of 250 pupils - were able to secure Primary 1 places in local schools last year.
Dr McNulty, who expects Middleton to have a good take-up rate, believes there will be more international schools offering lower fees .
"At $18,000 per year, per child, the EtonHouse model is certainly higher than the local school option of $550 to $1,000 per month for primary school to pre-university students, but much lower than, say, the top-tier international schools."
Middleton, which is still waiting to receive final approval from regulatory agencies, will offer a primary school programme with a strong second language foundation in Chinese. It will follow the British national curriculum and the Singapore Ministry of Education curriculum for Mathematics and Chinese.
Class sizes will be slightly larger than those in other international schools, with 28 children in each class.
It also promises a strong IT programme and co-curricular activities to cater to a wide range of interests and talents, but some of these programmes will be offered outside.
Students can transition to EtonHouse Secondary School in Broadrick Road offering the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), the equivalent of the O levels.
Mr Ng Yi Xian, executive director of EtonHouse, said the school can cut operating costs through relatively lower rent, using external spaces for sports and other co-curricular activities, and economies of scale from running many schools in Singapore.
EtonHouse runs 100 international schools in 12 countries. In Singapore, it runs 13 schools. All offer pre-school programmes, except for its Broadrick Road campus which also offers primary and secondary programmes, and its Thomson Road campus, which offers a primary school programme.
Last month, technopreneur John Fearon from South Africa launched Invictus. He said cost savings will come from the school not offering "plush" sports facilities.
Dr McNulty said EtonHouse has a good reputation but parents must "read the fine print" and understand where the cost savings are coming from. They also need to find out if there are additional payments needed for school reports, exams and textbooks, which may not be included in advertised fees.
Check out the full list of international schools in Singapore here.
By Sandra Davie, The Straits Times, 11 October 2016