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 – the first cohort of IB students graduated in 2020 – and it has 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 certainly 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 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 (seniors tend to play on the pitches before school starts). The dedicated IB centre, which includes quiet study areas and a sizeable common room with a kitchen, was opened in 2017.
Most children arrive on public transport (the MRT is a bus ride away), but there is also a school bus service and 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 the outpost here. He is 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. Mr Magnus 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 college.
DCSG is unashamedly academically selective. Children looking to join the senior school (Year 7 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 re-sit the assessment six to 12 months later. There is a means-tested bursary programme for IB students that is offered on a case-by-case basis.
Academics and University Destinations
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). No separate curriculum for SEN, but the learning support and EAL specialist team may be able to support a student who struggles with certain aspects of learning.
DCSG offers a three-year IGCSE course from Years 9 to 11 – the thinking is that the extra year allows teachers to explore different areas of the curriculum in more depth, which in turn helps to prepare pupils for IB. The IGCSE students take up to 11 subjects (including PE) and the results are outstanding: in 2020, an amazing 92 per cent achieved A*–B or equivalent.
The first group graduated from the IB in 2020, obtaining an average of 37 points. All Year 13 students who applied for university entry in 2020 secured placements in their first choice – with destinations spread across the UK, Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.
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; music opportunities span everything from the Dulwich Partnership programmes – which includes the chance to sing with the Vienna Boys’ Choir – to the tremendously popular senior rock band.
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 college 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 Dulwich College students participate – 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 (co-curricular activities) from Model UN to Scouts and the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award. We like the sound of the Dulwich Challenge where pupils receive an award if they complete a CCA in each of several categories (sport, creative, educational). Additionally, DCSG runs some 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 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).
With a sushi station, pizza oven, deli and Indian corner, the senior canteen is hugely popular – and seen as something to look forward to when children move up from the juniors. No wonder not many want packed lunches from home. Pupils can sit where they want with friends (teachers are on patrol for good behaviour) and there is a balcony area overlooking the sports pitch if they want to eat outside.
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.