Asia is home to a variety of international schools that are giving their rivals in the West a run for their money — a region that was once the most sought after geographical location for students who wanted to study abroad. “Asia is probably the most dynamic continent in the world and economically, it presents endless opportunities. The centre of gravity is moving towards the East,” said Alexander Stubb, former Prime Minister of Finland.
The continent’s economic and population booms have been accompanied by rapid growth in the international education sector, leading to ever-more attractive options for prospective students. According to an ISC Research report, there are over 9,605 English-medium international schools worldwide, a number forecasted to exceed 16,000 and 10 million students by 2028. The 2018 Global Report on the International Schools Market states that the number of international schools in Asia is growing by 32% in four years.
Then, there is the region’s treasure trove of amazing experiences ready for young minds to discover. Think of study tours to Chinese factories, internships at one of South Korea’s conglomerates, trekking the Himalayas, exploring the spirituality and culture of Tibet — these are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that will nurture tomorrow’s globally-minded leaders. The best part? They are great avenues for them to get a head start in developing the highly in-demand soft skills — from leadership to active learning and complex problem solving — for the future of work. Here are the top international schools in Asia with an eye for the future:
Tianjin International School
Highly rigorous academics, a caring community, qualified teachers, student-focused learning, numerous Advanced Placement (AP) courses, university-level opportunities — these are the features that ensure student success at Tianjin International School (TIS). TIS is where children will learn with purpose, develop holistically and evolve into globally-minded individuals. The result? Students who learn, love and lead with these qualities: purpose, curiosity, discernment, connection, compassion, courage, humility, service and persistence.
“For over thirty years, our school’s doors have been open to foreign passport holders living in this wonderful city of Tianjin, China, and inviting them to participate in a well-rounded, high-quality education programme,” says Head of School Ryan Witt. “The encouraging and diverse atmosphere of our school provides children a unique environment to gain cultural enrichment and age-appropriate development.”
Whether your child is a toddler or high school senior, new to international settings or a long-time attendee, a TIS education is set to be transformative for them. Based in a modern campus, it provides an American based education for three-years-olds through to 12th graders.
At the Early Childhood Centre, children get off to the best possible start and develop vital skills while enjoying creative and stimulating schedules, including character education, language arts, mathematics, science, and play. In Elementary school, they follow a comprehensive curriculum that emphasises language arts and mathematics, which is merged with specialised enrichment programmes in music, arts, physical education, language and technology.
College-level academic subjects are offered via 17 different AP courses. TIS is also one of the leading schools in China to offer the highly valued AP Capstone Diploma, a qualification that makes one stand out in the college admission process, earn college credit and acquire critical skills.
At TIS, students succeed in both the arts and sciences. Young artists can nurture their talents and express their passions at its music suite, auditorium and art department. There are many ways they can flourish in the sciences too — every year, the school hosts one of the premier robotics competitions for secondary students, VEX Robotics. Engaging and immersive, it’s a future-forward approach to STEM learning through the building and programming of robots.
Outside the classroom, there are over 30 different clubs and co-curricular activities to choose from, encouraging students to pursue their interests and learn new things. The Model United Nations, for example, teaches public speaking, debate, research, and writing skills in a highly-interactive simulation of the intergovernmental organisation. Graduate Priscilla Shine sums up the TIS learning experience best, “My time at TIS has shaped me into the person I am today.” To learn more about TIS and its over 30 years of world-class education with proven results, click here.
Seoul Foreign School
Seoul Foreign School (SFS) in South Korea prepares students for the future of work by expanding students’ global outlook through an international curriculum and a diverse campus community. SFS offers the International Baccalaureate and the English National Curriculum. The Elementary, Middle and High Schools offer the full IB programme. The British School at SFS provides English National Curriculum from Foundation to key stage three. Extensive fine arts, athletic, and student life programming are also offered here, ensuring students receive a well-rounded education.
One of its key unique features is its close-knit multicultural community. Despite being a Christian school, SFS is not affiliated with a particular denomination nor with a particular church and does not have weekly chapels. The school welcomes students from all religious backgrounds, offering a real feeling of home to each and every student. “This is a community that goes the extra mile for its students. We work together to understand how we can help each learner fulfil his or her potential, setting them on the road to achieving their dreams,” said Head of School Colm Flanagan.
SFS’s dedication to sports can be seen through its athletic associations — with Asia Pacific Activities Conference, Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference, and Federation of British International Schools in Asia — and its participation in a variety of extracurricular activities such as volleyball, tennis, cross country, swimming, basketball, soccer, badminton and so forth.
Creativity is similarly emphasised. Through the school’s drama, music and visual arts programmes, students are taught that education comes in many forms — some of which include rhythm, movement and flair.
Singapore American School
Singapore American School (SAS) provides an exemplary American educational experience — from preschool through to Grade 12 — with an international perspective. It is home to over 4,000 students from 56 nationalities.
At SAS, learning is personalised. Through a myriad of course offerings, students are pushed to develop their individual talents and passions in ways that prepare them to embrace the possibilities of the future. “My teachers have taught me many life lessons from cultural knowledge to leadership responsibilities through the many programmes available,” said grade eight student Olivia M.
For students who want to stand out on their college applications, SAS offers 25 Advance Advanced Placement (AP) courses and the AP Capstone Diploma programme. “SAS is special because of the facilities and the endless opportunities. Students have so many options as to what passion they might want to pursue. My advice to younger students is to remember that high school is a place to find who you are,” said alumni Lexie Walling.
The school puts large emphasis on arts and athletics. At Eagles Activities and Athletics, students get to pursue their passion for baseball, swimming, soccer, volleyball, tennis, rugby, badminton and more — there is something for everyone. School has also never been more interesting with music, art and dance being elective options. To hone their talents, students get to choose from art, band, choir, dance, design, film, media and drama. “Walking into the auditorium on the first day, you are hit with this enormous wave of love, support, and compassion from everyone present. I believe joining performing arts may have been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made at SAS,” said grade 8 student Connor M.
British International School Ho Chi Minh City
Established in 1997, the British International School Ho Chi Minh City has grown to become one of the largest international language schools in Vietnam. Students from age two to 18 are welcome at its campus where over 50 nationalities are represented. Average class size is 18 — the student to teacher ratio at the primary level is 21:2, secondary is 11:1.
BIS HCMC was the first school in Vietnam to be inspected and approved by the Association of British Schools Overseas. It is also officially awarded full accreditation status through the prestigious Council of International Schools (CIS) and a registered centre for the UK examination boards, Cambridge International Examinations (CIE).
The school’s partnership with the Juilliard School enhances the learning of performing arts at BIS HCMC. Students get to explore core works of music, dance, and drama using teaching materials, creative activities, historical information, rehearsal strategies, and professional development — all designed by the prestigious conservatory.
BIS HCMC also collaborates with the world-renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to provide a STEAM curriculum that tackles real-world challenges across the subjects of science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM). This is how BIS HCMC students get to develop transferable skills such as flexibility, creativity, and communication.
“The wellbeing activities are enjoyable and help us to improve ourselves, such as our health when following the workout videos or our photography skills when participating in the daily photography challenge. Most importantly, the school has taught me to enjoy every moment in life,” said BIS HCMC student Marya Cao.
*Some of the institutions featured on this article are commercial partners of Study International