EtonHouse to set up Tampines branch of international school that charges lower fees

The new Middleton International School site in Tampines.
The new Middleton International School site in Tampines. PHOTO: ETONHOUSE

SINGAPORE - Expatriates looking for more affordable schooling options for their children will have another choice next year.

Education group EtonHouse will be setting up an international school in Tampines which can take in up to 1,000 students.

A branch of the Middleton International School in Upper Bukit Timah, which is run by the EtonHouse group, the new school will take in students from nursery to Grade 12.

It will offer the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), the equivalent of the O levels, and the International A levels.

Fees will range from $15,000 for primary school pupils, to $19,837 for Grade 12 students. The fees are nearly half of that charged by other international schools in Singapore.

Classes will begin in May next year.

Middleton International School in Upper Bukit Timah, which opened in January this year, has a capacity of only 125 children at the primary levels and has a waiting list for most levels.

EtonHouse, which is expanding its footprint beyond pre-schools, announced on Friday (Dec 22) that it had won the tender for a site in Tampines Street 92. The site, almost 292,000 sq ft - or about the size of five football fields - used to house one of the campuses of the Institute of Technical Education.

Mr Ng Yi Xian, executive director of EtonHouse International Education Group, said that given the size of the new campus - which includes three hard courts and a field - the school will offer a range of sports and co-curricular activities.

He expects "strong demand" for places at the new school, given the overwhelming response to the first Middleton International School.

He said EtonHouse is able to keep fees lower than many other international schools, which charge above $30,000 a year.

"We made it possible by developing economies of scale around our operations, sharing resources across our schools, running class sizes of 28, outsourcing or collaborating with external vendors for sports facilities and hiring a mix of local and expatriate teachers."

Besides the two branches of the Middleton International School, two other schools here offer education at under $20,000 a year for expatriate children.

The first to offer lower fees was Invictus International School. It was started by entrepreneur John Fearon, who faced having to fork out $100,000 a year to send his three children to international schools here. The school started small in Bukit Merah and has since moved to a bigger, 30,000 sq ft campus in Dempsey Hill, offering classes for grades 1 to 6.

One World International School will open a new campus in Jurong West in January next year for 1,200 students aged three to 18.

Expatriate parents have welcomed more "affordable schooling options". One of them, Madam Theresa Wang from Hong Kong, is considering Middleton for her two daughters.

"Our first choice was a Singapore school near our home but unfortunately, we hear we are unlikely to get a place. So I am looking at the more affordable international schools.

"At the end of the day, what counts is that it has a good curriculum and the teachers are good. My daughters don't need Olympic-size swimming pools or drama theatres, not at the high price of $35,000 to $40,000 that is being charged by some of these schools," said the housewife who is in her 30s.

Dr Yvonne McNulty, senior lecturer at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, who studies global mobility, said the Government is obviously aware of the rapid rise of localised expatriates, which means that traditional and pricey international schools are no longer affordable for them.

The Straits Times reported two years ago on the trend of foreigners being turned away by local schools. The Ministry of Education recently revealed that some 1,800 foreign pupils who applied to enter Primary 1 this year were rejected.

Dr McNulty said expatriate parents will welcome EtonHouse moving into the mid-tier market, as the education group is seen as a provider of quality education. But she said parents need to read the fine print and understand clearly what the fees will cover.

"If their child is interested in drama, music, and any of the creative arts, then they may incur additional out-of-pocket expenses."

EtonHouse is expanding into primary, secondary and pre-university education. Last month, it announced plans to open another international school offering primary, secondary and pre-university classes in Tanglin Road, opposite The St Regis Singapore hotel. With its latest school in Tampines, it will have six such schools.

The group currently has 10 campuses offering early-years education in Singapore.