Sota's 2-year programme a boon to young artists

Ms Boon, who took up the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme in Sota, performing in a production (above) by the school’s dance faculty in 2014 and taking part in the American Ballet Competition in 2012 in Austin, Texas. She is now
Ms Boon, who took up the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme in Sota, performing in a production (above) by the school’s dance faculty in 2014 and taking part in the American Ballet Competition in 2012 in Austin, Texas. She is now studying modern ballet at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.PHOTO: COURTESY OF NICHOLAS GOH
Ms Boon, who took up the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme in Sota, performing in a production by the school’s dance faculty in 2014 and (above) taking part in the American Ballet Competition in 2012 in Austin, Texas. She is now
Ms Boon, who took up the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme in Sota, performing in a production by the school’s dance faculty in 2014 and (above) taking part in the American Ballet Competition in 2012 in Austin, Texas. She is now studying modern ballet at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.PHOTO: COURTESY OF NATASHA BOON
Ms Sabrina performing in a Sota production in 2014. An IBCP student, she has received an offer from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London.
Ms Sabrina performing in a Sota production in 2014. An IBCP student, she has received an offer from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London.PHOTO: COURTESY OF SOTA

Intensive IB scheme allows students to hone craft, specialise in a career in various fields

Singapore's School of the Arts (Sota) is on track to groom more artists through an intensive two-year pre-tertiary programme.

This year, the specialised arts school produced its first batch of graduates - 22 of them - who took up the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme (IBCP).

This is taken by students who finish four years of Sota's own foundation programme. They can choose either the IBCP or the IB diploma programme for their last two years in school.

 

It has another 15 and 25 students graduating from the programme this year and next respectively, out of a yearly intake of about 200.

The IBCP, first launched by the Swiss-based IB Organisation in 2012, targets students aged 16 to 19 who want to specialise in a specific career. This could range from jobs in the arts to those in nursing, automotive technology and business fields.

About 90 schools worldwide have taken up the qualification. Sota is the first school here to adopt it.

GETTING THE PRIORITY RIGHT

In dance, the body can be used for only this amount of time. I think studying is always something you can do after dancing, but it is really difficult to do it the other way round.

MS NATASHA BOON, on how the the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme allows her to focus on her passion.

Two students in the first batch of Sota's IBCP specialised in dance, six in visual arts, and seven each in theatre and music.

So far, eight of them have gained entry into arts institutions and conservatories, such as the Queensland Ballet School in Australia and the National University of Singapore's Yong Siew Toh Conservatory.

Students in the programme said they can spend more time honing their craft than their peers in the IB diploma programme, which requires them to take more academic subjects such as mathematics, geography or chemistry.

Said Ms Natasha Boon, 18, who started her studies in modern ballet at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in December: "We had a ballet class every single day and a contemporary dance class four times a week. In the diploma programme, it is only one ballet class and one contemporary dance class a week."

On top of their specialisation, IBCP students need to learn a mother tongue, fulfil community service requirements and write a research essay. They take a subject known as Approaches To Learning, meant to develop life skills, which covers topics like critical thinking, ethics and social responsibilities of artists. They are also required to take Language Development, a subject where they can choose to take up a new language or go more in-depth in their mother tongue.

Despite her parents' reservations, Ms Boon has no regrets about pursuing the IBCP.

"(It) gave us a lot of opportunities that we probably could not get in the IB diploma programme," she said, adding that she met other dancers and took classes during a two-week trip to the New Zealand School of Dance in 2014.

She also took part in eight performances over two years and tried her hand at choreography.

For theatre student Nur Sabrina Dzulkifli, 18, the IBCP "came at the right time" when she started to seriously consider a career in the arts in her fourth year at Sota.

"Prior to that, I was still trying to get a feel of the art form and what I could do with it," she said.

In the IBCP, she took on various roles besides acting, including being a director, set designer, writer and production manager.

"It gave me a broader understanding of theatre styles and acting approaches," said Ms Sabrina, whose weekly training sessions lasted at least 20 hours.

She missed the academic rigour in writing and analysis when she was taking English literature in the first four years of school, but the IBCP gave her a chance to focus on building up a portfolio.

Besides taking part in at least nine productions in the last two years, she went for writing workshops, and joined the National Library Board Playwright Residency Programme last year.

She has received an offer from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London, but is considering other universities.

"Writing has always been in my life... I remember being scolded in primary school because I was reading books under the table," said Ms Sabrina, who is taking a gap year and interning at local publisher Epigram Books.

"In my family, no one else does the arts, but my parents trust me and they support me," she added.

As for Ms Boon, who started ballet classes at age three, she is glad her parents let her choose this route. She said: "In dance, the body can be used for only this amount of time. I think studying is always something you can do after dancing, but it is really difficult to do it the other way round."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2016, with the headline 'Sota's 2-year programme a boon to young artists'. Print Edition | Subscribe