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A school that offers a unique education

As Singapore and Switzerland mark 50 years of diplomatic relations this year, the Swiss School in Singapore too is celebrating its golden jubilee

"The Swiss School is a boutique school and very family oriented. It is a happy place and each child experiences each day as a new adventure into the world of learning. It is a place where children learn to become young adults with a background of Swiss values mixed with a multicultural influx." - Rebekka Aicher Koch, president of the Swiss School in Singapore.

THE Swiss School in Singapore, located inside the vast Swiss Club campus in Bukit Timah, is one of 17 officially recognised Swiss schools abroad. It is one of the smaller ones and the only one with a very high proportion of Swiss students of about 60 per cent, which is supported by the fact that Singaporean children are not allowed to participate in a private school programme through their official school years.

Says Rebekka Aicher Koch, president of the Swiss School in Singapore (SSiS): "Although Singapore has a wide offering of international schools, the Swiss families find it important to expose their children to Swiss values and a Swiss curriculum enhanced with an international approach. The school's location in the jungle-like environment of the Swiss Club is another fantastic feature highly valued by the Swiss and the German speaking community."

The Swiss School in Singapore is divided into three learning sections. Children from two to five years old are in the so called early childhood programme. "They are learning through playing and are prepared step by step for kindergarten, which is the first year of the official Swiss curriculum. The Swiss School in Singapore is officially acknowledged to teach from the first year of kindergarten up to grade 9," says Ms Koch.

Due to space limitation grades 7, 8 and 9 are taught at the prestigious United World College of South East Asia campus in Dover.

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"The core task of the Swiss School is to teach children according to the Swiss curriculum but being located in Singapore, English is a very important part of the education and is an integrated part of the curriculum.

"Currently the Swiss School teaches around 260 students on the home campus. Sad to say that the numbers are declining and we are trying hard to find some beneficial solutions to cope with this trend," says Ms Koch.

The Swiss School in Singapore started celebrating its golden jubilee with an event on May 2, 2017: an inaugural opening celebration, the first of a series of three events, which lasted for 50 days. Around 320 invited guests from Singapore, Switzerland and around Asia enjoyed a perfectly organised evening. Various performances and a portrait exhibition of 50 individuals, who contributed to the life of the Swiss School from 1967 to 2017, gave an interesting insight into the past of the Swiss School.

"Speeches brought the audience back into the presence or even future and a fantastic variety of cocktail food accompanied by raclette and risotto catered by the Swiss Club rounded off an unforgettable second of May," says Ms Koch.

As the president of the Swiss School, she says that turning 50 for the school means perseverance, stamina, success and achievement as it is proud to be among the 17 officially acknowledged Swiss Schools abroad.

Looking back on the growth of the school over the past 50 years, she says that in 1963 the Swiss School in Bangkok opened its doors. This inspired the Swiss families living in Singapore to follow suit, as they realised that it would result in many advantages.

The Swiss companies showed a keen interest in the foundation of a Swiss School in Singapore because this meant that recruitment of Swiss people would be much easier if there was a Swiss school for their children. The economy was also thriving.

"Therefore the Swiss fathers, who were at the same time at the helm of various Swiss companies, founded an ad hoc committee in April 1964. The task was to find out what was needed to found a Swiss School. On June 6, 1964, all the Swiss families were invited to an information evening and it was soon clear that all were totally excited about this idea," says Ms Koch.

On the Jan 31, 1965 Swiss Club members voted for the motion to build a Swiss School campus on its grounds. After due diligence was done and permission by the Singapore and Swiss governments obtained, the Swiss School started functioning on May 2, 1967 with 10 children in primary and eight children in kindergarten.

"Classes were held outdoors and in temporarily allocated rooms as the school building was only to be finished by the second trimester. Today the Swiss School teaches around 260 children on a solidly built and beautiful campus," says Ms Koch.

Currently, 41 teachers are doing a great job at the Swiss School. They are from Switzerland, Singapore and various other English speaking countries and are all highly trained. Their common asset is their great motivation to teach, which enhances the family spirit even more, she adds.

The Swiss teachers are responsible for the education according to the Swiss curriculum taught from kindergarten onwards to grade 9. However, as the Swiss School children also have to learn how to speak English properly and learn the customs and culture of the Swiss School's host country Singapore, the English-speaking teachers - locals and expatriate - take care of subjects like English as well as science, arts and crafts and partially mathematics. The latter is especially important for Primary 5 and 6 because grade 7, 8, and 9 are taught at UWCSEA, where English is the primary teaching language.

"To stay within the requirements of the Swiss curriculum we have a Swiss teacher at UWCSEA, who specifically teaches German, French and Swiss history and geography to fulfil these requirements," says Ms Koch.

"Our preschool children are in the care of mainly local teachers. Here the main language is English and these little ones are introduced to many Singaporean traditions and greatly prepared for the big step into kindergarten."

There are many things that are special about the Swiss School in Singapore, says its president.

"The Swiss School offers a unique learning experience in a fantastic location. It is a boutique school and very family oriented. It is a happy place and each child experiences each day as a new adventure into the world of learning. It is a place where children learn to become young adults with a background of Swiss values mixed with a multicultural influx."

The Swiss Schools abroad are partially subsidised by the Swiss government. The key income, though, are the school fees, says Ms Koch.

Asked about what the school's plans are going forward, she says that currently the school faces the fact that fewer families with a Swiss or German background are moving to Singapore. The decrease in student numbers is a challenge that the Swiss School here is facing.

"The Swiss School's strength is its high quality of education, its beautiful location and its warm, cosy and family-like approach to making education a unique learning experience. With this very solid foundation and an open approach to new teaching methods and setups and a very diverse offering of academic programmes, the Swiss School will become the preferred school for the Swiss and German-speaking families or German language affiliated families," says Ms Koch.

Even though it is called Swiss School, it does not just cater to Swiss children. It is open to all German speaking and German affiliated families and with its unique curriculum it ensures the children a smooth transition into a Swiss, German or international school at any time, she adds.