What's on at Holland International School?

A series of bite-sized blogs about what it's like at Holland International School, about our vision for education, how we excel at sparking a love of learning and how our approach establishes a happy and secure foundation for our students' personal and academic growth.

Cooperative Learning at Holland International School

15 June 2023, Ms. Nanou Hartlieb (Cooperative learning coordinator)

When you visit the Holland International School, you notice right away that the students work and learn in teams. Of course, this is a way of working together and is not new or unique. What you don't see right away is that they are in teams in a structured way. Each student has his or her own task and responsibility within that team and in doing so helps to ensure good solid classroom management.  

Home teams

The students are in teams of 4, which we call the home team. This team provides a safe home base for your child. After each vacation, new teams are created by the teacher. In the teams we do team building activities. These are activities with the home team to get to know each other better, trust and respect each other and work on increasing the "will to work together" and creating a strong learning team. It is nicer for your child to ask for and offer help to a teammate he/she knows well and likes, than to someone with whom your child has less affinity. At the end of the period, teammates say goodbye by expressing appreciation to each other. 

Learn by playing

When you visit the Holland International School we also often hear the questions: are they playing a game? Why are these students walking through the classroom with their hand up? Doesn't this detract from effective learning time?

Questions to which we at HIS can give unequivocal answers. These students are engaged in one of the many structures that cooperative learning entails.

The StandUp HandUp PairUp is seen in all groups from preschool to grade 8. In this way, children find a buddy with whom to discuss an answer, exchange something, ask a question or just to form a pair with. Many happy faces, moving students and an active contribution of 100 percent, because everyone is actively participating. A lot is learned in a short time. 

All students are active at the same time, greetings and thanks are given. Social and communication skills are trained and the students thus meet many of their classmates in a pleasant working atmosphere. This activity can also be done without a curriculum. Then we call this a class building activity. This is an activity without curriculum where students meet each other and build good relationships among themselves in order to improve the group climate. At least once a week we schedule a class building activity. One of our core qualities is that our students learn in a cooperative, fun and engaging way.

Equal opportunities

Within cooperative learning, all students are given an equal opportunity. They have equal participation and are responsible for their own part of the group task.

For example, in the IPC unit: Save the Rainforest, students are assigned to research the soil layers of the rainforest. The students first research independently and then return to their team with the information they found. They share this through a RoundRobin in which each takes a turn. Then they make a poster with their team using the information from all of them. The children depend on each other to make a good poster with the right information. 

The acronym PIES sounds very tempting, but in practice it makes the difference between collaborative and cooperative learning. Everyone has equal participation, individual accountability, positive interdependence and simultaneous action.

No one gets the chance to hitch a ride and everyone also gets the chance to use and utilise their own qualities. Because at the Holland International School our higher goal is to empower happy confident and competent learners and inspire them to become the best version of themselves.

Learn more about the way we bring the Cooperative Learning into practice at HIS

The IEYC and the IPC at Holland International School

08 May 2023, Ms. Jolinda Groothedde (IPC coordinator)

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in developing teaching and learning practices that incorporate play-based learning and the development of life skills that are essential for thriving in the 21st century. At Holland International School, this interest is reflected in the school's two educational approaches: the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) and the International Early Years Curriculum (IEYC).

The IPC is a comprehensive, thematic, creative curriculum for 5-11 year olds, with a clear process of learning and specific learning goals for every subject. It is designed to help children develop essential knowledge, skills, and understanding, and to provide opportunities for learners to explore, discover, and learn through inquiry. The IPC encourages a cross-curricular approach, integrating subjects such as science, geography, history, and art, and aims to develop life skills such as critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.

The IEYC, on the other hand, is a play-based curriculum for children aged 2-5 years old. It is designed to support the holistic development of young children by providing opportunities for them to explore and learn through play. The IEYC focuses on developing skills such as communication, collaboration, and critical thinking, as well as promoting personal, social, and emotional development.

Both the IPC and IEYC are supported by research on effective teaching and learning practices. Studies have shown that play-based learning can have a positive impact on children's cognitive, social, and emotional development, and that it can promote the development of life skills. Similarly, research has shown that inquiry-based learning, which is at the heart of the IPC, can lead to deeper learning and a greater understanding of key concepts.

At Holland International School, both the IPC and IEYC are designed to help students achieve their personal goals, while also preparing them for the challenges of the 21st century. By incorporating play-based learning and inquiry-based learning into its curriculum, the school is helping to create a learning environment that is engaging, meaningful, and relevant to students' lives.

In conclusion, the IPC and IEYC are two approaches to education that are designed to help students develop essential knowledge, skills, and understanding, as well as promoting life skills and personal growth. At Holland International School, these approaches are supported by research and are integral to the school's mission of helping students achieve their personal goals and become well-rounded, responsible, informed, and engaged global citizens.

Learn more about the way we bring the IPC and IEYC into practice at HIS


The Power of Play at Holland International School

31 January 2023, Ms. Ashley Bentley 

When you visit Holland International School, one of the first things that strikes you is that our children love to play! For many years, children’s psychologists have emphasised the importance of play-based learning to educators and parents.  Jean Piaget (1962) was one of the first psychologists to study the impact of play on a child’s cognitive development.  Scientific research shows that play experiences help children to develop: physically, cognitively, socially and emotionally.  As the poet Diane Ackerman states, “Play is our brain’s favourite way of learning”.  Play is good for you.    

However, when I first started teaching 20 years ago, many parents and school leaders found it hard to understand how children could reach the goals expected of them by simply ‘playing’ all day.  There has certainly been a shift in mindset over the past decade, much to the relief of Early Years practitioners around the world! It is vital to understand the impact play has on young children.  Essentially, it allows them to learn about the world around them and make sense of it.  Play encourages children to create their own processes, ways to complete the tasks and ‘jobs’ they wish to achieve, both within the classroom and at home.  Good quality play-based learning, allows children to learn new skills and to challenge their own thinking.  It provides numerous opportunities to collaborate; to forge new relationships, share ideas (and resources), solve problems and negotiate arguments. At Holland International School, these are some of the key principles that we base our school upon.  

At HIS, play is a central part of both our Dutch and English Stream. Dutch education is well-known for focusing on learning through play throughout the first 2 to 3 years of primary school.  The English Early Years Curriculum, also centres its goals around the child and encourages independence; we allow children to navigate their own way within a play-based environment.  The learning environment within our Preschool and Early Years department, is designed to allow students the opportunity to engage in both unstructured and structured play.  Continuous provision is available in all classrooms; these are the staple resources that the children can access every day, for the whole school year, regardless of the IPC unit that is being followed.  This predictability in play is not a weakness within teaching, it is actually essential for young children; repetitive play is healthy for our youngest learners.  Having these core resources (such as building blocks) promotes confidence and increases self-esteem in children as they become ‘experts’ in navigating their own environment.  Our Early Years teachers are skilled enough to allow children to make their own decisions when playing, as this nurtures their sense of identity.

As the children at Holland International School move from the preschool to the Reception Class or to Group 1, they are offered structured as well as unstructured play.  Teachers know when to step-back and when to intervene in order to scaffold play and move learning forward.  Enhancements are added to learning corners, which allow for further challenge and exploration as each child grows.  However, students continue to make their own choices and pursue their personal interests as we believe this is key.  The role of adults is crucial in modelling conversations and developing language in our classrooms.  Many of the children at HIS speak at least two languages.  Whilst playing outside or within roleplay corners, our children replicate the rich language they hear adults use.   

One of the unique features of the preschool and Early Years at Holland International School, is its beautiful setting within the Bukit Timah area of Singapore.  In 2005, Burdette and Whittaker carried out some thought-provoking research which proved that outdoor play encourages a child’s brain to develop at a faster rate than indoor play.  Within our setting, outdoor play also holds significant importance as children have several opportunities each day to play outside with different groups or classes.  They can: run, climb, dig, balance, create, pretend and explore the environment that surrounds them. They can access: sand, water and other materials to encourage them to get their feet dirty. 

Psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison stated, “Children need the freedom and time to play.  Play is not a luxury.  Play is a necessity.”  

At HIS, we couldn’t agree more.  If you would like to come and see our school in action and observe our children play, please make here an appointment with Marc, our School Principal. 


Belonging: What does this mean at Holland International School, Singapore?

28 November 2022, Ms. Ashley Bentley 

"I have always been interested in the idea of ‘belonging’ and the role that schools can play in establishing this for children. Since moving to Singapore, I have become even more intrigued about what this means within an International School setting, where children come from different countries, with varying cultural identities, and often move frequently. What does ‘belonging’ actually mean? It is a term that we hear a lot within the expat community, as we fear our children won’t be able to make the deep connections that they did when living in their home country.

According to the Cambridge dictionary, belonging is: “a feeling of being happy or comfortable as part of a particular group and having good relationships with the other members of the group because they accept you.” This is a good place to start when we are considering young people, who spend the vast majority of their time within a school setting. It is essential that children feel happy and emotionally settled. A great deal of evidence shows that children who are happy and feel fulfilled socially, actually learn more, behave well and are motivated to achieve. When difficulties occur, children who feel comfortable within their school setting are able to cope better as belonging creates a protective factor for them; it builds resilience as there are always others to fall back on for support.

In the UK, I was lucky enough to help lead a school of over 400 children and 40 members of staff.  I prided myself on knowing everything about every child, their parents, siblings, often their grandparents.  As a church school, the sense of community was strong and it shaped our ethos and everything we did.  When I joined Holland International School this year, I believe I was looking for this same feeling of belonging; the need to once again be a part of a school community where, in the words of the famous sitcom ‘Cheers’, “everybody knows your name”. This is certainly true within our school. HIS is a home away from home for its students; a safe space where they can be themselves because they feel valued and supported. The positive relationships between the staff and children at HIS are key in establishing this feeling of safety, as well as the small and welcoming school grounds. Being small is not a disadvantage at Holland International School, it is one of our main strengths. When students, staff or parents, join the community they are quickly integrated and welcomed. As you walk around the school, there are similar themes that can be seen within all classrooms that bring us together, but there are also differences between classes and groups. Being the same but different is vital in an International School; the children know they belong to the same school community and yet they can celebrate their identities and unique nature within this safe space.

I love the quote by Brene Brown, an American research professor. She says, “Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect”. This is what we wish for the nearly 300 students at Holland International School, that they take risks in their learning, try new things and are confident when they move on to their next school. The International Primary Curriculum (IPC) offered at HIS, allows children to take these risks, to research and investigate with independence, but still with the support of their peers and teachers.  During celebrations such as Sinterklaas or Christmas, or simply during Friday assemblies, it is wonderful to see how the whole school comes together to connect.  The children sing, smile and cheer, free to be themselves within the safety of every school gathering. 

Parents are, of course, a huge part of our school community and the connection between home and school can clearly be seen. Recently one of my students moved to a new country. The child’s parents cried when we said goodbye to him, the other children in the class were visibly upset when the time came for him to leave; they hugged him as siblings would hug each-other. Although this was a very sad time for all of us, it also made me feel that we had created something very special. When this child left Singapore it was like a member of our family left as he belonged to our class.  Deep bonds are formed at Holland International School. 

To conclude, what does belonging mean for the students at Holland International School in Singapore? To me it means: a sense of community; being deeply connected to others (peers and staff); being understood as individuals; being seen, valued and respected."  

If you would like to come and walk around our boutique school,please contact our admin teamto make an appointment for a personal tour with Marc, the school Principal.