The School System

Information on the system of schooling in Singapore, from pre-primary to higher education...

Singaporean state schools (public schools) are consistently at or near the top of international achievement rankings.

The education style follows the general principle of “teaching is talking, learning is listening” and students are assessed more on their knowledge than on the thinking process that leads to a particular conclusion. This results-oriented approach can be quite different to previous experiences of expats and their children who are relocating to Singapore and is one reason international students can mostly be found in international schools rather than their local public counterparts.

For those families who prefer the academically rigorous Singaporean system, it is possible to enrol a child in a local school provided there is an opening available.

  • More information on how to enrol in a Singapore State school can be found on the Schooling and Education main page
  • More information on International (non-state) schools as well as links to the schools' contact details can be found on the International Schooling page

 

The different stages of Singapore state education

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Pre-school

Even though children are not required to start school before the age of six, there are many pre-school centres for children from six months old. Some will take children as young as three months. These are mainly used by working parents who do not have live-in help.

Between the ages of three and six years children will often be enrolled in a kindergarten. There is a varied choice of these in different areas of the island, including foreign/international kindergartens for the children of expatriates. Kindergartens are run by the private sector and must be registered with the Ministry of Education (MOE).

Child care centres may also offer a kindergarten programme. These are licensed by The Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS).

Primary Education

In Singapore children start studying at Primary One at the age of six and study for six years.

Singaporean schools will only take children from a certain catchment area, which is determined by a set radius around the school campus. Some schools are more popular than others mainly because of their exam results and it is not uncommon for parents to buy or rent a home within that school's catchment area just to get a place for their children.

At the end of the six years the child takes the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) before moving on to secondary school for another four or five years.

Secondary Education

Secondary schools in Singapore can be government funded, government aided or independent.

Depending on the results of their Primary School Leaving Examinations the child is placed on different levels (Special, Express or Normal) of course in secondary school.

Students attend four or five years of secondary education.

The Special and Express Courses prepare students for the Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education Ordinary (GCE O) Level examination in four years.

Students in the Normal Course can opt for the Academic or Technical stream, both of which prepare students for the Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education Normal (GCE N) Level examination after four years of study. Upon satisfactory completion of the Normal level examination, students may study for the GCE O Level examination in the fifth year.

Post-secondary and Pre-university

After the secondary level, the student can choose to continue education through a number of institutions:

Technical (ITE) or commercial institutes

  • MDIS – Management Development Institution of Singapore
  • MIS – Marketing Institute of Singapore
  • TMC – Technology Management Corporation
  • SIM - Singapore Institute of Management

Polytechnic education

Polytechnics provide diploma courses in a wide range of subjects.

From here the student can follow on with tertiary education. If they choose to study abroad, some universities in the UK, the USA and Australia allow polytechnic graduates to enter the second year of the degree course.

Centralised institutions

These are pre-university centres or junior colleges to prepare for the Senior Cambridge General Certificate of Education Advanced (GCE A) level examinations and later on tertiary education.

A School graduation certificate is awarded to students who complete their pre-university education.

University

The MOE website has information on the options available for further education:

In Singapore:

For tertiary education Singapore has a number of universities, all of which provide a wide choice of subjects:

Overseas:

Many students choose to go to university overseas, especially in the UK, the USA or Australia. Some universities in these countries allow Singaporean polytechnic graduates to enter directly in to the second year of the degree courses.

Further Information

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