CUSTOMER focus may be a trait more associated with for-profit companies rather than educational institutions, but at Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) or ACS(I), providing excellent service to its students is a key part of its mission.

In this regard, the secondary school's senior administration actively oversees the development and implementation of a holistic education for all its students. It takes multiple approaches to achieving this, including talent development programmes, curriculum delivered along dual tracks and leadership training. Learning through school trips across grade levels also contribute to its students' needs.

ACS(I) adopted the Business Excellence (BE) framework several years ago to help it with its mission. Its successful efforts, using the framework, helped it win the Singapore Quality Award (SQA) twice - in 2009 and once again this year.

"The SQA framework has helped us to analyse and strengthen our school's systems and processes in the pursuit of our core purpose which is to nurture our students to be catalysts for change with Godly values and robust character, equipped and willing to serve and lead in the family, nation and the global community," said Winston Hodge, principal, ACS (I).

"The SQA framework is a rigorous and holistic one. Using the SQA framework, the school has analysed our structures, systems and processes while keeping in sight our mission of being stewards of young lives."

Some specific initiatives implemented include having its three deputy principals oversee specific stages of a student's progress - each one looks after two of the school's six cohorts - as well as to focus on student development. This helps the school's management team provide better oversight and continuity over various school programmes, explained Mr Hodge.

The school also introduced new areas of pursuits, including letting staff set aside time for professional learning and more student engagement programmes such as townhall meetings. It also set up an online portal for staff to submit ideas, with the percentage of implemented ideas increasing to 80 per cent in 2013, its highest level in five years.

Taken together, the school's commitment to meet the needs of its student "customer" has produced superior results that surpass international benchmarks.

Apart from the school's workforce, parents and alumni have played a key role in the success of ACS(I). To encourage their involvement, mechanisms for two-way communication, participation in school activities and contribution have been put in place. "Parents and alumni have always been part of the school community; parents may also be alumni, and we see them as partners in education," said Mr Hodge.

Last year, the school introduced the Bring Your Parents to School Day where parents sit through a pastoral care lesson and visit the facilities most used by their child, to help them better understand their child's daily life at school.

Another new activity is the Badge Pinning Ceremony, where parents pin on their child's Year 1 school badge at the end of their orientation. This builds a sense of community between parents and the school, and encourages parents to play an active role in their child's future, noted Mr Hodge.

Implementing the BE framework was initially a challenge. In particular, the management team had to raise the level of expertise within the organisation to apply the BE system in a school setting. However, as a two-time SQA winner, ACS(I) has clearly overcome this and other obstacles in their pursuit for excellence.

Despite its success, Mr Hodge believes that the journey of excellence is an ongoing one. "The SQA framework has helped us to build on our strengths and identify areas for improvement. Moving forward, we will continue to strengthen our programmes where we can develop our students' strengths and talents, and build character to ensure that the future will be one where the best is yet to be - not just for themselves but for others too."

A STERLING REPORT CARD

ACS (Independent)'s pursuit for excellence has produced results that compare better than worldwide results in the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme, as well as in the GCE O level. Here are some of the highlights:

  • The school's International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) results for both mean score and subject grades improved from 2007 to 2013, and are better than the world's averages by a third.
  • The percentage of higher achievers in the IBDP (those who scored over 40 points) improved from 55 per cent in 2007 to 80 per cent in 2013. This compared well against a worldwide average that stayed at below 20 per cent over the period.
  • The percentage of perfect scorers improved significantly, from 3 per cent in 2007 to 8 per cent in 2013, and better than the worldwide average of about one per cent.
  • For the GCE O level, there was an overall improvement in the Mean Subject Grade from 2009 to 2013.