Qianying (Clara) Hong never felt like a new student at ISS International School, Singapore. From day one, her teachers and friends were there for her. With their help, she quickly overcame her biggest obstacle: the language barrier. She found that at ISS, making mistakes was okay, even encouraged.
“I am grateful to my teachers and classmates for their support in helping me integrate into the school’s English language environment and truly benefit from ISS’s English Language Acquisition programme,” says Clara.
ISS educates to make a difference with accredited academic programmes led by experienced and caring educators. It nurtures students to be independent thinkers in a safe and sustainable environment. With a teacher to student ratio of 1:5, students receive individualised attention, strategies and pathways created just for them.
“Because we are a small community, ISS teachers and staff watch over each and every one of us even if they are not our class teachers for the year,” says Clara. “The IBDP Coordinator, Mr. Garden, helps me organise and further develop my thoughts, making me feel cared for, and supported.”
The school’s unique personalised learning programme, developed by teachers and administrators over several years, is based on research from the world of psychology and current thinking on how students best learn. Reviewed annually and customised to suit ISS’s diverse context, the programme is aided by the school’s investment in a powerful student achievement database.
Whether kindergarteners or Grade 12 seniors, the programme is used daily in their classes. Each student has a profile that tracks their performance via a minimum of four points of data that includes internal assessments, standardised tests, and anecdotal evidence. This gives teachers an accessible overview of each student’s performance and supports them in identifying students who need further extension of work to realise their potential.
After three years at ISS, Clara is now in Grade 12 pursuing the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP). It’s the culmination of a comprehensive plan that addresses not only Clara’s academic subjects and learning needs but also well-being and community services.
The plan is tailor-made for each student. Frequent dialogue with teachers and parents opens opportunities for reflection, to celebrate progress, and enhance student self-esteem and creative thinking. Students grow to be independent learners, vital for their success in school and in life.
For IBDP students, this plan is further modified and acted upon by the entire school. “At the start of G10, students are surveyed for their inclination, IBDP subject preference and university major,” says Mr. Christopher Garden, Deputy Academic Director and IBDP Coordinator. “We use this data to consider subject offerings and staffing for the following year. It also allows us to create a unified data profile and a curriculum structure that suits our students.”
From these conversations, the school offered two new subjects this year. “We strongly believe in allowing our students the opportunity to customise their own learning journey,” says Mr. Garden. “This requires substantial consultation with students, families, and the university advisor. Diagnostic data, results from previous years and, most importantly, the student’s voice, is considered in these decisions.”
In addition, an academic team helps ISS students understand how they learn best. By analysing its extensive data, the team explores the aspirations of each student and what they need to achieve their goals.
Through this consultative approach, Clara takes ownership in selecting subjects she’s passionate about, excels in while also meeting the entry requirements of her dream universities. “Because most universities in the UK have subject-specific requirements, I chose my IB subjects with great care under the guidance of Ms. Jeyaram, our University Counsellor,” she says.
Students like Clara are set to do well in university and beyond. This year, ISS students achieved a 100% pass rate at the IB Diploma level; 15% above the worldwide average. 96% of students achieved a bilingual diploma (well above the worldwide average of 27.64%) and the average points achieved was 35; three points above the global average. These excellent results place ISS in the top 10 schools offering IBDP in Singapore.
Such excellence is built on ISS’s emphasis on student well-being. The campus is a safe haven where students gain confidence and feel valued. It’s a space that is optimal for learning and encourages creativity, high level thinking, and innovation — critical skills for success in our world.
“When our teachers notice a student under stress, they will schedule a private meeting between the student and the counsellor so that the student can receive timely support,” says Clara.
ISS cares for students in a holistic manner. “My favourite well-being initiatives are those that focus on our varied cultural backgrounds, developing the students’ international mindedness and intercultural understanding. They go beyond mere knowledge of cultural celebrations,” says Mr. Garden.
“Honouring and celebrating the rich traditions in our school community creates a greater sense of identity and improves the well-being of all our students. Being a diverse and inclusive community, there is a strong focus on our shared commonality. ”