THE WESTPORT-SINGAPORE CONNECTION Staples takes on the "lion city"

By: Charlie Colasurdo

When students enrolled at Staples are called on to discuss the meaning of "global thinking" and being a part of an highly connected world, their thoughts often drift to the world language department, where classes are engaged in modes of communication from around the world.

Taking a step further, however, the Staples community is presented with an ever-increasing array of programs and opportunities to facilitate learning around the world - including one located 2 continents away from Westport.

It's a "short" 23-hour flight to Singapore

Just a short 23-hour flight on a gleaming double-decker A380 away, Singapore is a vibrant financial hub of Southeast Asia; at 277 square miles, it's only 7 times larger than Westport. Famous for a world-class economy and vibrant, multicultural society, it's on the minds of the highest officials of the Westport Public Schools.

A National Geographic map summarizing Singapore's recent demographic and physical shifts

Beginning in 4 years ago, a partnership between Staples and the Hwa Chong Institution, an elite boarding school and pre-college in Singapore, formed out of an event held at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College, where the schools' mutual desire to "sharpen students’ critical thinking skills, and solve real-world problems" was born, according to a 2013 article.

The Hwa Chong Institution in Singapore is a premier independent school for students aged 13 to 18 covering both secondary and pre-university levels. Supported by the Staples Task Force, Staples and Hwa Chong began a unique education collaboration. Although HCI and Staples are half a world apart (9579 miles to be precise), they are united by common goals: “nurturing confident people, self-directed learners, active contributors and concerned citizens.”

The Hwa Chong Institution's Main Campus

A few years later, the mutual partnership has blossomed into a diverse set of programs, from exchanges of pupils between the two schools, to highly-selective forums in which Staples students are invited to attend. Teachers are even able to participate, partaking in observations related to cross-cultural educational systems and collaboration with the hope of finding ways of "how both of the high-performing schools can learn from each other and improve," a 2013 Inklings article states.

The view from the dorm rooms at Hwa Chong

For Michael Dodd '18 who embarked on the Staples-sponsored exchange in the summer of 2015 (the only exchange trip that is sponsored by Staples High School), he was able to experience firsthand Singapore's rise to the global stage. "The difference in methods of education was astonishing," Dodd noted when asked to summarize Singapore's innovative and sophisticated approach to teaching mathematics. Activities included tours of Singapore's bustling Central Business District, trips to the famous Marina Bay Sands resort, and sampling traditional Singaporean fare, like Dim Sum.

This year, the program is continuing with 10 staples students, who will spend August 3-14 at Hwa Chong, according to Staples's World Language page.

Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the ArtScience Museum

Though the summer exchange involves about a dozen students, all of whom sign-up for the trip, other events between Staples and Hwa Chong are highly selective and specifically catered to students' interests.

Fast-forward to November, and a similar program is occurring in Westport, when a selective dozen boys in Hwa Chong's pre-college disembark at Staples for a 10 day immersion into the lives of Americans, fostered by their host families. "The flight to America was long and I was questioning whether it was even worth it. This was soon answered as I met with my host family who greeted me with the warmest of hugs on first sight. I instantly felt at home," Zirui Chen, a Hwa Chong exchange student adds.

Students from over 20 countries participated in 2017's ISYF

For students that excel in the sciences, the International Science Youth Forum is an annual science enrichment program for young adults from all over the globe. Hosted by Hwa Chong, it invites 2 staples students to participate in a weeklong series of cross-cultural exchanges, attend masterclasses taught by eminent scientists, and dialogues held by Nobel laureates. Notable speakers included Ong Ye Kung, Singapore’s Minister for Education, and Sir Tim Hunt, winner of a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Sarah Barnett ’17 was selected to attend ISYF this past January, presenting her research on colonoscopy methods to a panel of judges. “I loved meeting people who were so different from me and yet, we connected so well, united by a shared passion for science and learning” Barnett said, when asked to reflect on her forum experience.

Singapore's Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) is considered to be the cleanest in the world

Along with the exchange, the agenda for this summer involves sending three top-performing Juniors to represent Staples in the Hwa Chong Asia-Pacific Young Leaders Summit in July. The Summit only takes students described as “both high performing students AND interested in world affairs with a special interest in Asia,” the Staples World Language page states.

Jackson Delgado’17 plans on attending, and thinks “it will be really exciting to interact with other motivated kids our age from all around the world.” Alongside this, he looks forward to the international experience, adding that it will be great experiencing a culture “so vastly different from ours here.”

Staples and Hwa Chong have formed a joint path towards producing excellent students who will certainly contribute vastly to the world on the global stage. For students looking to get involved, check out the World Language page along with special updates from the administration. Happy jet-setting!

Created By
Charlie Colasurdo


Photos by Charlie Colasurdo

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