In 1995, leading members of the Jakarta business community felt the need for a Singapore-style school in the bustling city to cater for expatriate children working in Indonesia. Several initial meetings with Singapore's Ambassador to Indonesia H.E. Edward Lee fired the enthusiasm needed to start the project. This culminated in a meeting in early 1996 with H.E. Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, Dr. Tony Tan who was also then the Education Minister. The inspiration drawn from that meeting set the wheels in motion.
The team moved quickly to secure the help of Raffles Institution, Singapore's premier school. The expertise of one of Singapore's most respected educationist Mr. Eugene Wijeyhsingha (former Principal of Raffles Institution) was utilized to give the school a good foundation. And soon afterwards the Board of Governors of SIS successfully lobbied the release of Mr. Magendiran also from Raffles Institution to be the first Principal of the Singapore International School in 1997. Mr. Magendiran is today the Vice-Principal of Raffles Institution, Singapore.
SIS began in its small and humble premises in North Jakarta with minimum facilities. Then the Asian financial crisis hit and potential sponsors and funders turned away. The riots in 1998 saw the school's enrollment coming down. It was here that the decision was made to move the School to the south where the expatriate community mainly resides.
Move to South Jakarta
In 1999, with a small investment, SIS was able to build a modest one-story school building in yet another temporary site. After a year the School was able to afford to construct its first basketball court and a small playing field. Despite not having the facilities, the high standards of teaching under the principalship of another prominent educationist Ms. Nanda Bandara, former Principal of premier Singapore primary schools, Raffles Girls' Primary School and Haig Girls' School saw the enrollment steadily increase from 50 to the school's maximum intake of 200. And the school soon had a long waiting list of foreign students. This pushed the Founders to expedite its search for a permanent premise with facilities matching the top international schools in Jakarta.
A Permanent Site for SIS International
With the help of international consultants, SIS was able to redesign, construct and eventually turn an "abandoned" clubhouse into a school that is the talk of the town, in a housing complex of Bona Vista, South Jakarta. Located in a quiet neighborhood bordering the elite Pondok Indah real estate, the School is only two minutes from the Outer Ring Road making it accessible from many parts of Jakarta. The SIS complex boasts of an open, airy concept amidst lush, contoured gardens. In Bona Vista, SIS is able to enjoy all the amenities in this complex and this includes a competition-sized pool, soccer field, basketball courts and tennis courts. After a busy construction schedule, SIS finally opened its doors in its new complex in January 2002 with bigger classrooms and better facilities. The enrollment today includes a student population coming from at least 25 different nationalities.
An Independent Appraisal
The Board felt that an independent appraisal was needed to confirm the course set for the school before any further plans for expansion were considered. In June 2002 SIS commissioned two distinguished academics from the National Institute of Education (NIE is an institute of the Nanyang Technological University), Associate Professor Agnes Chang and Dr. Ang Wai Hoong to appraise the school. A simultaneous appraisal was also done by another distinguished academic Dr. Soh Kay Cheng (also of NIE) to assess the standards of our examinations. NIE is the exclusive Singapore government body that looks after teacher training and the development of the Singapore curriculum for all Singapore schools.
This independent appraisal not only confirmed the high standards in both the academic and non-academic areas, it also puts SIS amongst the top schools in Singapore. To quote the all encompassing line from the executive summary of the appraisers:
The school is indeed comparable to a good school in Singapore in terms of teaching and pupil's performance.
A New Secondary School wing in SIS International
The results of the independent appraisal, the teamwork, sense of community service and a call for continuity in education has inspired the Founders to start the first class in its secondary school in January 2003.
A secondary school in SIS means that our pupils would be able to forgo adapting to a new educational system and culture. It means that there is an automatic progression from the primary level. It means that pupils will benefit from having teachers who can nurture them in a way that new teachers can not, having seen them grow and knowing their individual weakness and strengths.
SIS' reputation for excellence in education and nearly a decade of experience in adapting the Singapore educational curriculum to the needs of the children overseas will stand it in good stead when establishing the new secondary school.
International Examination Boards
Pupils will be prepared for the internationally recognized educational qualification, the International General School Certificate of Education (IGSCE). This qualification is accredited by the University of Cambridge Local Examination Syndicate and is a prerequisite for entry into tertiary institutions in America, Europe and Australasia. Pupils will sit for both the basic and advanced level examinations that are equivalent to the old GCE 'O' and 'A' level scheme. The University of Cambridge local examinations Syndicate is the same Examination Board that administers the GCE 'O' and ‘A' level scheme in all schools in Singapore. SIS is now studying into the possibilities of conducting the IB exams following closely developments in Singapore.
In recent Cambridge check-point examinations at Primary 6 and Secondary 2 levels, SIS students performed extremely well, prompting Cambridge to make a special remark on the high academic standards of SIS.
The Start of SIS schools for Indonesians. National Plus schools
The Board of Governors and senior management of the Singapore International School has established a credible track record in the development and operation of schools in Indonesia.
The success of the Singapore International School set up in 1997, allowed the Founders of the school and the educationists involved to deeply appreciate the complexities of subjecting Indonesian students to a curriculum modeled after the Singapore education system that demands high standards. The lack of proficiency in English and Mandarin and inconsistencies in the foundations of core subjects like Maths and Science observed in the pioneer batch of Indonesian students pushed for an immediate need for yet another carefully designed curriculum from that used in the Singapore International School for the Indonesian learner.
SIS started two pilot National Plus schools in Kelapa Gading (North east Jakarta) and Kebon Jeruk (West Jakarta) in 2002. The aim was to monitor the performance of the students in a "controlled environment" with the new designed SIS curriculum especially for the National Plus schools. After 2 years, SIS noted remarkable results of its students and decided it was ready to roll out the schools for the upper and middle income population in Indonesia
The primary objective is to focus on the growing upper and middle income class frustrated with the country's public and private education of poor standards. The SIS Schools planned for different parts of Indonesia would also ensure that there was no need for families to migrate from the provinces to Jakarta, or from Jakarta to another country in their quest for good quality education.
SIS then invited the International Finance Corporation (member of the Word Bank Group) to examine the results in these two pilot schools and sought a partnership with the IFC to expand its operations. After a thorough due diligence that saw curriculum, systems and financials under scrutiny, IFC decided to partner with SIS, its first formal education project in Indonesia.
In an IFC press release in 2004, IFC East Asia Regional Director Javed Hamid described the project as:
one that will extend access to high quality primary and secondary education in Indonesia.
The IFC press release also mentioned SIS:
providing high quality education modeled after the Singapore curriculum.