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Meet Pete Corcoran, Head of School, Canadian International School, Singapore

Updated: Jul 1, 2021

How long have you been in Singapore?

I've been in Singapore and Head of School at Canadian International School (CIS) for four years. Before this I was in Qatar, where I was an Executive Director at Qatar Foundation Schools, and before that I spent six years as a Director & Principal in South Korea and prior to that, I spent twenty five years as a teacher in Canada.

What led you to become a teacher?

My father was a school superintendent. This absolutely influenced me. I grew up in the outback of Australia in a one room school where my father was the Headmaster. So I started my education when I was old enough to walk across from the Headmaster's house to the school where he taught and sit at the desks pretending to do work like everyone else.

It’s the greatest job in the world – you can go anywhere in the world and you can find wonderful work. You work with great people and you work with kids on a regular basis and high school kids in particular. They are so earnest and caring, it gives you a real sense that the future is in good hands, they really do care and do want to make a difference.

What is the CIS approach to learning?

We talk about it being a test for life, rather than a life of tests. Those are two different things and they are really important to us. Making sure that children have smiles on their faces when they come in everyday and that they have smiles on their faces when they leave every day. That says to us that they’ve had a day of hard fun, where they have been challenged to think, to enquire, to be creative and to communicate and collaborate; all those 21st Century learning skills that are so important for those students who will graduate from CIS and go on to university and solve the problems that we are creating right now.

What are the three things that make CIS stand out?

The first is our Chinese-English bilingual programme, which I continue to tell people, in an uncharacteristically Canadian way, is probably one of the best in the world, if not THE best in the world. We now have over 800 students served by it and it attracts a huge number of families. The model that we have in place is a model unlike anywhere else in the world. We offer units of enquiry, one day in Chinese, one day in English, with two teachers in a classroom situation which is rich and enquiry based and with teachers who are PYP trained and understand enquiry based learning.

The second is our our outdoor discovery centre, our innovative approach to teaching and learning, STEAM, our open minds programme. That notion that learning has to be engaging to students and to spark curiosity in different ways.

And the last part is the Canadian piece, that idea that we are very much a warm, caring and supportive community of learners. We hope that comes through in the daily work that we do with students.

What is your biggest challenge at CIS?

Managing expectations in a really multicultural environment. We are a school with over 70 nationalities and more than 100 languages and it is really important for us to retain that identity of being multinational, to be an inclusive and a warm, caring community and still keep academic rigour high. For the past five years we have worked really hard to improve our academic standards and are proud to have seen a change at all levels - from mandating 80 minutes of literacy and 80 minutes of numeracy into our daily PYP from Kindergarten to Grade 6 through to seeing improved results in our IB Diploma exams, with our students achieving an average of 35 points and more than 35% of those students receiving the IB Bilingual Diploma.

What do you want for CIS in the future?

My belief is that it never should be a matter of luck whether you get an outstanding teacher for your child. We are at a point now where, with who we have hired and who we have put in place over the last five years, it just doesn’t come down to luck. Every teacher that we have in our classrooms and in front of our students is outstanding and and brings an outstanding level of care and commitment to their work in this school. I can say that with my hand on my heart.


Canadian International School, Singapore is an IB World School for ages 2 through to 18 with students coming from over 70 countries. CIS offers the International Baccalaureate Primary, Middle Years and Diploma programmes.

Learn about their curriculum & unique bilingual programmes through their virtual coffee chats and participate in a live Q&A with their School Principals and Admissions Team here


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