5 Things to Consider in a Bilingual International School

International School, International School In Singapore

Being bilingual is beneficial to children in so many ways, be it to their cognitive abilities or academic opportunities. When your child is able to express a learning concept in both languages, it aids in their memory of it. In expressing the concept well, they also understand and communicate the knowledge better, which in turn, aids academic learning. This explains why so many parents are looking to provide their child with bilingual education opportunities in school.

But when it comes to picking the right bilingual school and programme out of the multitude of choices, what should you be looking out for? Here is a checklist of considerations when you attend open houses, so that you can choose the most suitable international school in Singapore for your child.

1. Teachers

As your child spends a significant amount of time in school, you want to be assured that the teachers hold the necessary qualifications to guide your child. Apart from just teaching qualifications, you would also want to ensure that teachers are trained in executing the bilingual programme, according to the school’s learning approach.

Specifically for bilingual programmes, it would be ideal that the teachers are native speakers of either one of the languages. As a native speaker, the teacher will be equipped with knowledge beyond the mastery of the written and spoken language. It is not just technical knowledge that the native teacher holds, but he can also contextualise it according to culture and, be aware of the misconceptions your child might have.

2. Bilingual education model

Different schools believe in using different bilingual education models. This is fine as there is no one-size-fits-all teaching method when it comes to bilingual education. What’s important to remember is that there is no one best programme, but different models offer different merits.

The following are three examples of education models in IB schools in Singapore. Knowing what would suit your child’s learning needs, interests, goals would direct your choice of the education model.

Total Immersion:

For this programme, the focus is on mastery of a non-native language. All subjects are taught in the students’ second language. This model is suited for children with some exposure or foundation in their first language. With access to the basics, the child can then pick up the second language quickly.

Dual Language Immersion (90/10 immersion):

The programme begins with 90% of classes content taught in the second language and 10% in the majority language (in Singapore, that would be English). Over the curriculum, the ratio gradually levels out until the ratio between languages is 50-50.

The goal of this model is to cover the curriculum with two separate languages of instruction. Across classes, your child will not experience any overlap or repetition of subject matter taught in the respective languages.

Dual Language Immersion (50/50 immersion):

English and the second language are divided equally across classes. Similarly, subject matters are not repeated across classes in different languages. This encourages equal exposure and learning of subjects in both languages.

3. Track record

It’s natural for you to want your child to do academically well. In fact, you can gauge how your child might fare by knowing the academic records of the school. The age of the programme might be a good indication of how well established the school’s bilingual programme is.

It is also useful to check the school’s academic results. What you can do is to compare the percentage of distinctions from language exams across the different IB bilingual programmes. If you are looking at enrolling your child into the IB diploma programme, check the school’s percentage of students clinching a bilingual diploma.

4. Entry requirements

Before enrolling, you want to ensure that the programme is suited for your child’s current knowledge and learning abilities. Check if your child needs any prior knowledge of the two languages. The last thing you want is for your child to constantly play catch up with the curriculum.

For instance, you might be considering the 50-50 bilingual education model for the French-English programme. However, with little prior knowledge in both languages, it might be challenging for your child to keep up with the classroom’s pace. In some cases, a placement test is required to properly assess if your child is suitable for the programme.

Different grades tend to require different levels of language proficiency so it’s essential to check the entry requirements.

5. Programme size

International schools usually offer a more intimate class size. When selecting a bilingual programme, you are probably concerned about your child’s class size. A smaller teacher-student ratio would be helpful when learning and mastering two languages.

Opt for a bilingual programme that satisfies the attention and guidance you would like your child to receive. However, a larger programme size might point to a larger number of resources your child can experiment and learn with.

Conclusion

For your child to enjoy and reap the benefits of bilingual education, choosing the most suitable environment for them matters. This environment includes the pool of teachers, bilingual education model, good track records and programme size. Consider their learning style and your language goals for them to pick the best option.