If you’re planning to settle in Singapore with your family, here’s an overview of how the education in system works here.
Preschool education is commonplace and parents send their children for pre-nursery/playschool (at age 3), nursery (at age 4) and kindergarten (5-6 years old). School fees pretty much depend on how long school hours are (half or a full day) and if you send your kids to government or private schools. Fees can range between $250 to $1200 a month.
(Photo source: singaporemontessori.com.sg)
Primary School (Grade school)
In the year when kids turn 7, they start attending Primary school for 6 years of compulsary education (Primary 1 to 6). Students take 3 subjects – English, Mathematics and Mother Tongue from Primary 1 to 3. Science is introduced in Primary 4. School hours are from about 7.30am-12.30pm for the morning session. Some schools have the afternoon session (1.30-6.30 pm) as well. From Primary 3, students are encouraged to take up a CCA (co-curricular activity) in school based on their area of interest like soccer or choir. At the end of Primary 6, students sit for the national Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) to determine which Secondary school (high school) they can go to.
Some parents have a preference for certain schools based on the school’s academic track record or CCA choices, but eligibility is largely based on living proximity to the school. Balloting in phases go on during the primary school selection period for 6 year olds which is usually held in July.
Following the PSLE, students are streamed into 3 main categories, namely, Special, Express and Normal (Academic or Technical) based on their results. Their results also determine which schools they qualify and can opt for. Students take English, Mathematics, Mother Tongue, Science, Social Studies, Literature, Geography and History as subjects at the Secondary 1 and 2 levels. In upper Secondary, students get to choose a specialty humanities (Geography, History, Literature) and science (Chemistry, Biology, Physics) subject(s). After a 4 or 5 year education, students sit for the Cambridge GCE O Level examinations.
(Photo source: andersonsec.moe.edu.sg)
Secondary school students also take up a CCA. Annual inter-school competitions or performances for sports and arts activities are held for students to compete in.
Other than the mainstream schools, there’s also the School of the Arts Singapore (SOTA) for 13-18 year olds with talent in the arts. Sports wise, there’s the Singapore Sports School. The curriculum incorporate an academic schedule as well.
Top students who do well academically have the option to select the Integrated Programme (IP) available at selected schools after PSLE, otherwise known as ‘through train’, where they do not sit for the O Levels and instead undergo a more broad based curriculum. At the end of 6 years, they will also sit for A Levels or the International Baccalaureate (IB), just like the Junior College students.
Students choose their Junior Colleges based on their O Level examination results and attend JC for 2 years. The subjects include the mandatory GP (General Paper) and Mother Tongue, and a combination of up to 4 of the following subjects Economics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics (Science stream), or Literature, Geography, Art, History and Mathematics (Arts stream). At the end of 2 years, students sit for the Cambridge GCE A Level examinations.
(Photo source: www.hci.edu.sg)
At the Primary and Secondary levels, some schools are single gender schools. Students are required to wear school uniforms up to Junior College. Schools and the syllabus are managed by the Ministry of Education (MOE) and teachers are trained at the National Institute of Education (NIE) before they are assigned a teaching post in a school.
A fresh academic year begins in January. June and December are school vacation months for Primary, Secondary and JC students. There is a one week school break in March and September as well.
School fees for primary, secondary and JC school education are minimal for citizens. Permanent residents and foreigners pay more.
Majority of the students go for external tuition lessons after regular school hours and on weekends because school can get pretty competitive. (With tuition and CCAs, sometimes kids have a more packed schedule than their parents!) Parents are usually just as stressed (or more stressed) as their children when exams approach. Lol~
After the O Levels, students can also choose to attend a Polytechnic for a 3 year diploma course instead of going to a JC. Entry into a preferred course of study is based on merit depending on the students’ O Level results. Some courses carry a higher grade requirement. There are 5 Polytechnics in Singapore – Nanyang Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic, Singapore Polytechnic and Temasek Polytechnic. Courses are also open to working adults for skill upgrading.
(Photo source: www.rp.edu.sg)
Students also can choose to attend the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) to obtain skills such as Nursing or F&B related after their O Levels. Academic courses such as Engineering and Accounting are also offered and can lead up to a placement in Polytechnic later for a diploma. Part time studies and courses are also available for working adults.
There are 4 main universities in Singapore – National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University of Singapore (NTU), Singapore Management University (SMU) and the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM). There’s a 5th one coming up as we write – Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). After Polytechnic or Junior College, students apply for tertiary education where a placement into their preferred course of study is largely dependent on grades and sometimes involvement in external activities such as sports, volunteer work or entrepreneurship. Because of the fixed number of placements and limited fields of study available, many students go abroad for further studies. There are a number of private schools here offering degrees from overseas universities as well such as PSB Academy. Tertiary education costs about $6000 a semester for locals and about $20,000 for foreigners.
(Photo source: www.smu.edu.sg)
Other than the government schools, there are international schools in Singapore too, such as the Canadian International School, The Japanese School Singapore and the Singapore Korean International School.