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  • Alexander Knight

The Driving Philosophy Behind Astor: Why We Started an International School

Like other expat parents, Marina Dotsenko and Elena Berezhnaya set out on a school-hunting journey so their kids could be exposed to the best possible education in Singapore. Unfortunately, all the options in their vicinity came with caveats such as high fees, long hours, or far-away locations. The two mothers didn’t want to settle on the next-best school and decided to do something about it. Their frustration became a catalyst for the creation of their brainchild -- Astor International School.

This new school on the block engages with students by means of enquiry-based learning - for example, measurement is taught by measuring objects as opposed to the abstract method of learning through textbooks - while ensuring that aspects like affordability and academic excellence are never compromised.

During an interview with Cornelia from Conscious Parenting, Elena shared that the founders made a mindful decision of limiting class sizes to 18 participants so students can benefit from individual attention. At the moment, only children in the age group of 6-12 are being admitted as plans of branching out and expanding into secondary education are slowly taking shape.

Their world-class curriculum is further complemented by a principal who makes it a point to interact with all the children and a management structure that has a simple hierarchical structure for hassle-free functioning. Any concerns raised by parents are addressed with an open feedback loop and transparent communication with all the stakeholders.

“We are using the best of inquiry-pedagogy, inquiry-learning to put everything together and allow children to make authentic and personal choices about their learning,” says Shannon de Winnaar, school principal.

Astor‘s USP is the four-hour school day that focuses on holistic education. Every child is given ample attention and is dealt with based on their learning requirements and levels. It ensures that everyone in the classroom is able to hone their innate abilities while picking up new skills at the same time. Besides, the acquisition of knowledge is not confined to the standard realms of subjects and is often intertwined with day to day aspects. So, children might end up learning both art and maths in the same session.

Despite having fewer hours, Astor has put together a weekly time table that allows for two extra hours of the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) subjects and an additional math class when compared to most schools in Singapore. It is a boon for all those parents who, in the future, might move to countries like the UK, the US, and parts of Asia by meeting international milestones.

In terms of costs, Elena observed that parents often had to move out of their locality or Singapore itself owing to the steep school fees in international schools. Long hours also didn’t go down well with the children, especially when they are actively involved in pursuing a sport or an art form. The flexible structure of Astor addresses this issue by allowing students to pursue co-curricular interests without compromising with studies or playtime.

Most importantly, with the senior management participating in every step of the hiring process, it is ensured that all the new hires, right from teachers to support staff, are in tandem with Astor‘s core philosophy and vision.

Find out more about Astor International School by booking a tour here.

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