We had the pleasure of speaking to Christina O., who has three children at OWIS. Her youngest daughter is in Grade 2, and she has two sons, one in Grade 5 and her eldest who is in Grade 7 of Secondary School. Here, Christina talks about her experience of transitioning her children into a new school and discusses the highlights of communication, pastoral care, curriculum and school culture.
Q) What were the key factors in choosing the right school for your children and family?
One of the important factors was the choice in secondary that your child can do IGCSE or IB. And I think that was particularly good at OWIS. The size of the school is also important as many of the international schools are getting far too big. The fact that it is limited to about 1,500 means that I feel that the teachers are going to understand the needs of those children a lot better. So the size was important. I also felt that there was a very pragmatic approach whenever I spoke to any staff, when I had a walk around the school and when I spoke to any of the class teachers. It was very much down to earth, and it wasn't about paying for a brand, but it was a real community feeling. When we first arrived back in Singapore, we were looking for an environment that was the right family fit for us. And it was a school that catered to all of our needs in terms of grade 2, grade 5 and grade 7. We like the fact that the curriculum covered IB as well as IGCSE.
Q) How long have you been at OWIS now, and how are you feeling about your decision?
So, we arrived in August 2019 at One World International School, and frankly, we've been happy with the school. The communication from the school is fluid, I know there’s a blog that various teachers write, which is interesting. We use a communication tool for primary, which is a good communication tool and the older kids use a similar one designed for secondary. These tools are great as you can track your child's homework and communication. They give parents updates but not too much to overwhelm you. There is a tool to watch videos which are happening in class and uploading of presentations, so it's a great communication tool.
Q) How did your children find the transition to OWIS?
I would say that the transition was pretty smooth. My youngest had a buddy in the early days, so she gained and gathered friends. I think the teacher was quite aware of the fact that we'd moved countries, so that really assisted us. The boys found friends pretty easily. I did get quite a bit of communication from each teacher, which I had asked for, just to see how they were faring, to understand if they were enjoying school and that helped put my mind at rest, to know that they found their footing in the new school. So if you were to ask me “Am I happy that I chose One World?” Absolutely. I think it was the right choice, the right fit for my family.
Q) Do your children give feedback about how they are feeling about school and what sort of experience have they had?
I have an older boy who is just turning thirteen and who talks about school, who is mindful, wants to talk about the subjects and about being part of the school. He went on an amazing school trip to Vietnam the previous year where they did community work as well as had an adventure. So that was really good. I see the topics that they're covering in terms of their units of inquiry. And it seems like they are able to grasp big ideas and concepts. But really, it's in the tiny little ways in which they work that those concepts are translated. The child might not even know it, but they understand how to build much more social awareness about themselves, their classmates, the environment; and they seem to enjoy school really well.
Q) Can you describe your son’s experience of secondary school and are there any things that you find particularly special?
The secondary six is, from what I understand, a way of life when you're in secondary school. They talk about not only the responsibility of your academic work but actually being socially responsible, so being empathetic, understanding someone else's opinion, being mindful and respectful. I think those are the types of values that you'd want any young person to adopt. I think if it's built into everyday life and culture, just like when we go to work, there is a culture that they're trying to build, which I think is really special.
Q) What are your thoughts on the Pastoral Care at OWIS?
As I understand it, pastoral care is around the concept of ensuring that there is time to balance academics with the culture of learning social awareness. I think for growing teenagers, that's super important because you need to find where you fit in this very dynamic, fast-moving world. I think it's important for them to have that time where they are in an environment that is trustworthy. They get to understand. I think it's important for any young person to understand how to socially navigate in today's world: it's changing, it’s dynamic, it's hard. So I think to have those values, to have an environment that's trustworthy, that is familiar, that you hang out with your friends, but you get to talk about big ideas and big things, and then go into your everyday hectic lessons, I think that's really, really good.
Q) What is your eldest son’s experience of the tutor group system and the pastoral care programme?
My son finds it very positive having an early morning tutor group meeting. He has those few moments in the morning when they have time just to chill out a little bit and have a little bit of social interaction before the hectic lessons start. He talks about that time, he's fond of the different activities and that they change it up a bit. Some days they might be doing a task, and they relate it back to a topic. For instance, they discuss, "What are you thankful for this week?" and he can talk about that afterwards, which is quite nice.
Another example is he will say how they watch CNN today, and they learn XYZ, which I think is quite nice. It's like us going to work, sitting with a co-worker having a coffee before the hectic day starts and I think that's really nice. And the way that they bring in certain values that seem to come across, even though he might not even realise it. So that's a nice thing.
Q) Can you give any examples of the experiences he’s enjoyed during this time?
Jacob's spoken about the fact that he likes that time in the morning. They do different activities. And in fact, just recently he told me that they are building a tower out of paper that can sustain a chocolate bar, and they are, working against each other in teams. So it's a little bit of competition but also a little bit of science, I guess? So those types of things seem to be talked about whether they understand how it's influencing their social skills, not too sure, but clearly, it is. But the fact that you enjoy it, is important. So I think that's the fundamental part.
Thank you, Christina, for taking the time to discuss your OWIS experiences with us. To learn more about what sets OWIS apart from other schools, and find out more about our supportive and friendly school culture, schedule a tour with us.