The school opened in 2014 and is the seventh in the London-founded Dulwich College family. It’s international, but with a solid British ethos and a reputation for being rigorously academic. Dulwich College (Singapore) has grown organically and rightly earned its place among the big hitters on the education scene here.
DCSG is situated in Bukit Batok, an area to the west of Singapore. The exterior of the main building is modelled on Dulwich College in the UK, right down to the distinctive clock tower, and, while the footprint of the campus is quite small for this number of pupils, the facilities are knockout – especially the performing arts centre and the Alleyn Theatre, which holds concerts, assemblies and has the second-largest pipe organ in Singapore.
Each of the schools (DUCKS, junior, senior) has its own entrance, canteen and outdoor play areas. Sports provision is good too, including a 25m pool, a sports field, running track, a dance studio and cricket nets on top of the building.
Younger children tend to take the school bus service and there is drive-through drop off for those coming in by car.
Charismatic Nick Magnus was the founding head of Dulwich College Suzhou, after which he moved to Singapore to set up an outpost here. Very approachable and visible (in the first few years he would even marshal the school traffic in the rain at pick-up time) – we hear that he is especially welcoming to new families. He is known for his sense of humour and instilling in children the need to put themselves out there to try new things (he leads by example: once he stood up and sang a song in front of everyone, totally off-key, to prove that anything is possible). His wife Sonia is deputy head of early years and their two children are currently enrolled in the senior school.
DCSG is unashamedly academically selective. Children looking to join the junior school (Year 3 and above) take a computer-based cognitive ability test and submit a written essay for English proficiency. This is supported by school records, reports and diagnostic testing, if needed. Applications are accepted throughout the year and, if the student meets the entry requirements but no place is available, they will be added to the waiting list. Those who don’t meet the academic criteria but want to try again can resit the assessment six to 12 months later.
It’s seen as cool to work hard at academically demanding DCSG and teachers are great at enthusing students without putting them under pressure (their response to parent emails is lightning fast and we hear that they know the children really well). In juniors, the language focus is Mandarin and pupils have more lessons each week than many other schools; anyone who wants to study another language before seniors needs to employ an external tutor. As numbers have risen, the junior school has gone up from eight to ten classes per year. This means that year groups are mixed on each floor - great for making friends with different ages but some parents feel it’s at the expense of the community year group feel.
No separate curriculum for SEN, but the learning support and EAL specialist team, especially in the junior years, may be able to support a child who struggles with certain aspects of learning.
A handful of children leave at the end of Year 8 to board overseas. DCSG offers guidance to those pupils through CCAs (co-curricular activities) that help to prepare for Common Entrance, and there’s a dedicated exam coordinator to support families through the process if they have been out of the UK system for a while. Parents, take note: going to Dulwich College (Singapore) doesn’t mean immediate entry into Dulwich College in London. You have to go through the admissions process as any other student would.
The arts are fabulous. Budding artists can showcase their talent through regular exhibitions at the school, as well as inter-Dulwich contests such as the Dulwich Science Art Photography Competition; all students in juniors are able to have their own instrument to learn on and take home to practise (the type of instrument is chosen by the music department after an assessment).
A highlight of the performing arts programme is a collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company in the UK, where the company’s actors visit the school and spend a week teaching pupils techniques to expand their range, culminating in the Dulwich Shakespeare Festival. Plus, there are a number of events in which all students at Dulwich College participate in – for example, the MADD Festival for music, arts, dance and drama, which the children love.
This is one of the top schools for sport in Asia, so competition is fierce on the playing field. The sheer number of pupils means that only the super-talented are picked for the A and B teams. Don’t worry: although the school is exclusive, it’s also inclusive – so while the first and second teams are all about winning, there is always a team for everyone.
As part of the Dulwich College International network, pupils can be selected to take part in the Dulwich Games and the Dulwich Olympiad, as well as in external competitions such as those hosted by ACSIS (Athletic Conference of Singapore International Schools) and FOBISIA (Federation of British International Schools in Asia). There’s also the Ignitel Programme for high performers across all areas, including Drama and Music.
There’s a wide range of CCAs from Model UN to Scouts and the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award (there can be conflicts in scheduling, so pupils sometimes have to choose their favourites). We like the sound of the Dulwich Challenge, where children receive an award if they complete a CCA in each of several categories (sport, creative, educational). Additionally, DCSG runs interesting CCAs on topical issues such as gender diversity and Black Lives Matter.
British-passport holders might be the largest nationality sector, but the school makes a real effort to bring in other cultures and consequently there is a good mix of Australian, Chinese, Indian and Singaporean children too.
Pastoral care is excellent; the school has recently been awarded the Ethical Values Education Award for a compassionate systems framework that develops children’s emotional literacy. There is a lovely ambassador system where potential parents can chat online with parents of current pupils (they create profiles to show what country they are from, the age of their children and if they have a specialist area of knowledge – for example, sports or dyslexia).
Lots of social events and fundraisers are arranged through Friends of Dulwich College, a very active PTA (there are representatives for different nationalities to make sure everyone feels welcome and settles in as quickly as possible). One of the highlights is Founder’s Day, which celebrates music, arts, sports and performance – plus the school sets up the only pub in Singapore, the Old Alleynian (a massive hit with parents).
DCSG is the first school in Singapore to commit to 100 per cent carbon neutral electricity by offsetting carbon emissions equivalent to planting more than 35,000 trees.
The competitive element (and sheer expense of the fees) might be off-putting for some but for those who thrive in an academically stretching environment, this is a fabulous choice.