SINGAPORE - International school Lycee Francais de Singapour has more than 3,000 students, aged three to 18, of about 50 nationalities, and is set to grow its capacity by another 1,000 by 2023.
In a reflection of its international openness, it officially rebranded itself as the International French School (Singapore) at its campus in Ang Mo Kio on Wednesday morning (Feb 5), where it also announced its expansion plans.
Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who attended the rebranding launch ceremony, said the milestone is more than just a name change, noting the international school's growth over the last 53 years.
"I think there were only 15 students (when the school first opened)... Now you're going to expand so you have space for more than 4,000 students. I think this growth is worth celebrating."
The International French School offers a bilingual track in French and English, where classes are conducted in both languages. Its students take up the French Baccalaureate diploma, which is recognised globally, including by local universities such as the National University of Singapore.
Dr Balakrishnan also highlighted the impact that France has had on Singapore's education system, including the setting up of schools here.
It was a Catholic missionary, Father Jean-Marie Beurel, sent by the Paris Foreign Missions Society to Singapore in 1839, who consecrated Singapore's first Catholic church, the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, in 1847.
Father Beurel later also founded St Joseph's Institution , a Lasallian school, and the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ), said Dr Balakrishnan.
Today, there are 11 CHIJ and eight Lasallian schools here, and this shows a "longstanding and indelible impact on our own education system in terms of bilateral relations", he said.
He added: "On a political and the diplomatic level, France and Singapore share a commitment and, I would say, a reaffirmation of a belief in multilateralism, free trade and a rules-based international order."
He also expressed gratitude for France's support of the European Union-Singapore free trade agreement, which entered into force in November last year.
Mr Christian Soulard, principal of the International French School, said: "The name change is a highly significant new orientation that the school will be undertaking to reaffirm its international openness."
He added that France and Singapore have been developing significant cooperation in the field of education, with both countries' education ministers sharing expertise in areas such as teacher training, the teaching of mathematics and vocational education.
Mr Soulard also told reporters that there had been a gathering planned to celebrate the school's rebranding, but the recent coronavirus outbreak had put a slight damper on things and the school decided to postpone it.
Hygiene measures have also been implemented, such as temperature control every morning and also for adults visiting the school; students are frequently reminded to wash their hands; and bottles of hand sanitiser have been placed in every class.
Students, staff and partners working at the school who have recently travelled to China have also been asked to go on a 14-day leave of absence. There are 30 students still observing the leave of absence.
School trips are also being restricted - all international school trips have been put on hold, and in Singapore, staff and students have been advised to avoid crowded places such as Chinatown, said Mr Soulard.
Sports events are also affected. The school had intended to send a team to Dubai for a tournament, but that has also been called off.
Mr Soulard said the school is working closely with the French embassy to monitor the situation.
This article has been edited for clarity.