Mandarin immersion boosts intake at Dulwich College

Dulwich College's dual-language approach exposes students to English and Mandarin from a young age. The school's 5ha campus in Bukit Batok has a full range of sporting facilities, including three swimming pools and four rugby fields.
Dulwich College's dual-language approach exposes students to English and Mandarin from a young age. The school's 5ha campus in Bukit Batok has a full range of sporting facilities, including three swimming pools and four rugby fields.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

From 800 last year, it now has 1,300 students; expects 200 more by August

It is not just local parents. Expatriate parents recognise the value of mastering Mandarin, too.

The emphasis on Mandarin is one of the reasons why Dulwich College, a renowned British Independent school, which started with 800 students in Singapore last year, has grown its intake to 1,300 now. It expects to add another 200 students by next August.

In the college's dual-language approach, children from the ages of two to seven are taught by two teachers, in English and Mandarin. The idea is to expose children to both from a young age, enabling them to move seamlessly between languages. In the junior school, until age 11, they have daily Mandarin classes.

Headmaster Nick Magnus, who used to head Dulwich in Suzhou, China, said the dual-language programme has been a hit with parents and students. He explained: "The children are exposed to Mandarin all day, every day.

"They are provided with opportunities to use Mandarin in everyday situations. The language is real, meaningful and alive."

Mrs Karen Andrews, 40, who is planning to enrol her daughter in Dulwich next year, said: "My husband and I believe that proficiency in Mandarin is an important asset. And we like the daily and intensive exposure to Mandarin that Dulwich provides."

The school officials also attribute the high demand to the fact it is an academically selective school where applicants, aged seven and above, are screened for their mathematics, English and reasoning abilities. Said Mr Magnus: "It allows us to follow a rigorous academic programme, where children are taught by subject specialists but within a supporting pastoral environment."

The school, which has six other campuses in Asia, including Beijing, Shanghai and Seoul, offers an enhanced British curriculum and prepares students for the International General Certificate of Secondary Education. It is also looking into offering an internationally recognised pre-university qualification over the next few years.

For some parents, the emphasis on academic rigour is important.

Mrs J. Joseph, who is from India, is hoping to get her two teenage children into Dulwich next year. She said her husband agreed to take up a job in Singapore only because Dulwich has set up a school here. "We decided to move to Singapore because of Dulwich. It offers a top-notch education and my two boys are into sports, and its facilities are good. "

The school's 5ha Bukit Batok campus, which has state-of-the-art classrooms, has a full range of sporting facilities, including three swimming pools and four rugby fields. A performing arts centre which can seat more than 700 people will be completed by August next year.

Dulwich, which charges annual fees ranging from $26,000 for a full-time pre-school programme to $37,000 for senior students, plans to eventually grow its student number to 2,500.

Its arrival in Singapore has gone some way to meet the demand for international school places. Market studies show that there are about 40,000 students in more than 30 international schools here.

A few years ago, foreign business chambers had warned that the lack of international school places was a stumbling block for international firms looking to come here.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 03, 2015, with the headline 'Mandarin immersion boosts intake at Dulwich College'. Print Edition | Subscribe