Singapore Education

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Introduction to Education in Singapore
In Singapore the education system gain the international reputation and is well known for producing students strong in math and sciences. There are around 80,000 foreign students from 120 countries in the Singapore education system, spread out across local public schools, private international schools, three local universities, top international universities with campuses in Singapore, and polytechnics. 
Our main aim is to provide a brief introduction to education related options available for their children in Singapore so that selecting a school can’t be a difficult decision. We will discuss in this article about the number of different factors including type of curriculum offered, the quality of education, location, fees, admission requirements, and of course the potential waiting list.

Kindergarten through grade 12 Education (K-12)
K-12 education is the main designation for the students of pre-school, primary and secondary education. In some countries this is also known as elementary, middle school and high school levels.

K-12 level provides you the two different choices for children of expat families:
1) The local public school system: The local schools mainly cater to Singaporeans. While some local school system is open to children of expat families who are on a dependent pass visa.
2) Private international schools: the choice of private international schools is done by the family’s expat families.


Local School System
All the local schools in Singapore are government-aided schools. The quality of education offered by these local schools are excellent, often local education system is criticized for not nurturing a creative mind and focusing too much on fact memorizing and the examination as a motivator for learning. As now a day the government pays more concentration on the holistic development in the child but this process is far from complete. 
In local schools the English is considered as the primary language for the instruction. The local education system follows a specified national curriculum that grooms Singaporean students for higher studies in a local university.


The curriculum for K-12 followed under the local school system is as follows:

  1. Preschool – K-12 are learning centers that provide a structured 3-year pre-school education programme for the children of 3 to 6 years. The preschool is for 5 days a week for 3-4 hours a day and the programme consists of Nursery, Kindergarten 1 and Kindergarten 2. The activities involved are based on learning only that develops the language and literacy skills, basic number concepts, simple science concepts, social skills, creative and problem solving skills, appreciation of music and outdoor play.
  2. Primary Education - At the primary level, it is a six-yearly course that focused on English and one additional language that is usually the language of their cultural heritage known as ‘Mother Tongue’, and Mathematics.
  3. Secondary Education - At the secondary level, the students have to select one of the three courses according to their interest as well as learning abilities. The three courses are:
    1. The Express Course, which is a four-year course focusing on English, Mother Tongue, Mathematics, Science and the Humanities;
    2. The Normal (Academic) Course, which is a four-year course where student learn a range of subjects similar to the Express Course;
    3. The Normal (Technical) Course, is a four-year course where students learn English, Mother Tongue, Mathematics and subjects with technical or practical emphases.


Top Local Schools
Edupoll is an online education guide launched in 2004 that focused on quality education in Singapore and selected countries around the world. Currently there are 179 government or government aided primary schools in Singapore. Based on Edupoll's survey, the top 5 primary schools among the 179 are:

  1. Nanyang Primary School
  2. Rosyth School
  3. Tao Nan School
  4. Raffles Girls Primary School
  5. Henry Park Primary School

Also there are 161 secondary schools in Singapore. The top 5 secondary schools, also based on Edupoll’s survey, are:

  1. Raffles Institution
  2. Raffles Girls Secondary School
  3. Hwa Chong Institution
  4. Dunman High School


For the children with dependent pass may directly apply for admission to local schools. Following are the some of the important point that expat families need to consider when deciding whether to send their child to a local school include: 

  1. The cost of sending your child to a local school is significantly lower than sending the child to an international school.
  2. Local schools’ curriculum as well teaching style is likely to be quite different from that in the student’s country of origin, thus academic adjustments will be necessary.
  3. Foreign students are also given the lowest priority during admission process, therefore getting into one of the top schools may be quite difficult.
  4. More stress of Local schools is on exams and grades which are often criticized as being mere tests of memory rather than knowledge.
  5. Local schools provide the best opportunity to learn the local culture and language and adapt to the local society.


School Fees
According to the type of course and type of school the school tuition fees is decided. Typical fees for local public schools are:

  1. Primary level: S$80 per month of fees is to be paid but the schools that are under government or government aided that excluded the miscellaneous fees.
  2. Secondary level: S$130 per month of fees is to be paid. \


A letter requesting for a contribution to the Education Fund. This contribution is designed to reimburse the government for the subsidy that the government provides for the local schools.  Malaysians must contribute S$3,000 for primary, secondary and pre-university education, while parents of other nationalities must contribute S$5,000. Note that this is a one time contribution and is not expected each year.


International School System
According to these schools the local curriculum or language is not necessarily required. Singapore is home to both a sizeable expatriate population, and some excellent private international schools.

Singapore international schools offer either an internationally recognized high school diploma or a high school diploma recognized in a specific country. As most of these children attend a foreign university upon completion of their K-12 education this point must be considered in mind. 
Majority of the international schools in Singapore offer International Baccalaureate high school diploma (IB Diploma). An IB Diploma Programme is a worldwide leading university entrance course. It is taught in 2,075 schools, often in international schools, in 125 countries all around the world. The Diploma Programme curriculum consists of six subjects, an extended essay of up to 4,000 words, participation in the Theory of Knowledge, and a requirement of at least a total of 150 hours in Creative, Action, Service (CAS). Marks are awarded from 1 to 7 in each subject with 7 being the highest. In order to receive an International Baccalaureate Diploma, candidates must receive a bording to these sinimum of 24 points.
Majority of the international schools use English as the primary of instruction in Singapore. Certain international schools have strict English proficiency level as part of the admission criteria while other schools (e.g. Overseas Family School, Canadian International School) specialize in enrolling students who are not yet as proficient in English.  Certain other international schools (e.g. The Japanese School, French School) offer a country specific curriculum taught in the national language of the country. 

Top School
Student count for international schools varies from few hundred to few thousand. Although quality of education is generally high among international schools in Singapore, the relative quality level can vary significantly from one school to another. The top English medium international schools include:

  1. United World Class of South East Asia
  2. Tanglin Trust School
  3. Singapore American school


Expats planning to enroll their child into an international school should keep the following in mind:

  1. Annual school fees in Singapore's international schools can be quite high ranging from S$8,000 to S$30,000.
  2. The teaching policies at international schools emphasize creativity and individual needs of students and are less focused on exams. 
  3. Children at international schools have opportunity to develop a global perspective in a school with no dominant racial, national or religious identity. 
  4. When compared to local schools, international schools have smaller class sizes.
  5. International schools being a haven for the often relocating families, the students have to cope with loosing friends who may soon leave the school as their family relocates away from Singapore. 


Higher Education
Post-secondary or tertiary education, also known as higher education, is the non-compulsory educational level following the completion of a secondary school education. Higher education is normally taken to include undergraduate and postgraduate education, as well as vocational education and training. The main institutions that provide higher education are colleges and universities. Some examples of institutions that provide post-secondary education are vocational schools, community colleges and universities. Higher education results in the receipt of certificates, diplomas, or academic degrees.
There are currently more than 80,000 international students from more than 120 countries in various higher education programs in Singapore. These are mostly Asian students seeking high quality education close to home, as well as students from the U.S., Europe and even places as far flung as Nigeria seeking a global educational experience in a culturally diverse Asian country.
Prior to pursuing higher education in Singapore, children of expatriates need to apply as International Students; even dependent pass holders are required to secure a Student Pass.

Local Universities
Singapore's universities offer a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate programs and provide Singapore with a highly-skilled, professional workforce. Students are awarded a degree after three to four years of full-time study, after which they enter the workforce or, if their results are outstanding, can proceed to postgraduate programs.
There are three major public universities in Singpaore. These are the National University Singapore, the Nanyang Technological University and the Singapore Management University. These universities are known worldwide for their quality education. Singapore's private local universities also have built their reputations for academic excellence. One of Singapore's best private institution is the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM). 
Fees for universities vary. Registration fees range from $120 to $700, while annual programme fees range from $12,000 to $34,000, depending on the courses and the school.


National University of Singapore
The National University of Singapore (NUS) has 14 faculties and schools, of which nine offer courses leading to first and higher degrees, namely: Arts and Social Sciences, Business, Computing, Design and Environment, Dentistry, Engineering, Law, Medicine, and Science. The NUS has been ranked among the World's Top 20 and Top 3 universities in Asia in the QS World University Rankings 2006 conducted by the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES). The NUS shared 2nd place in Asia and 19th spot overall with University of Tokyo. 


Nanyang Technological University
The Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is organised into four Colleges and two Autonomous Institutions: S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) and the National Institute of Education (NIE). Its four Colleges are the College of Engineering, College of Business, College of Science and College of Humanities. Degrees awarded by NTU are recognized by the relevant professional institutions both locally and internationally. 

Singapore Management University
Singapore Management University (SMU) is Singapore’s first private university to offer American-style university education. It is modeled on the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. The SMU has six schools—the School of Accountancy, the School of Business, the School of Economics, the School of Social Sciences, the School of Information Systems and the School of Law. 
On 1 April 2006, NUS, NTU and SMU were transformed into autonomous universities, allowing them to chart their own strategies towards achieving success in education. In the past years, there has been an expansion of the breadth and diversity of the local higher education sector with the addition of more universities, and institutes of specialization ranging from hospitality, culinary, and digital arts, to sports, e-learning and corporate training.


Foreign Institutes
Many of the world's leading foreign universities have established their presence in Singapore. These leading foreign universities have either set up a physical campus (institutes of higher learning) or have joint collaborations/programmes with local universities (local tie-ups). These schools claim to offer the same degrees and teaching quality as students would receive in the university's country of origin.
 The leading international institutions with asian campus located in Singapore are:

  1. Insead
  2. University of Chicago Graduate School of business
  3. SP jain centre of management
  4. ESSEC
  5. Digipen Institute of Technology
  6. University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLY)
  7. New york University Tisch School of the arts asia


The leading international universities in collaboration with Singapore universities are:

  1. John Hopkins
  2. Georgia institute of technology
  3. Massachusetts institute of technology (MIT)
  4. The Wharton school of th eunversitu of Pennsylvania
  5. German institute of science & technology
  6. Shanghai jiao tong university
  7. Stanford university
  8. Waseda university
  9. Indian institute of technology, Bombay
  10. New York university school of law
  11. Cornell university


Singapore's local universities, the National University of Singapore and the Nanyang Technological University also have joint programmes with more than 16 other institutions around the world. There are also foreign specialised institutes in Singapore, who have either set up campuses here or have tie ups with the local polytechnics; these enable polytechnic students to pursue a degree in related courses after they have completed their diplomas at the polytechnics.

There are currently five polytechnics in Singapore:

  1. Singapore Polytechnic
  2. Ngee Ann Polytechnic
  3. Temasek polytechnic
  4. Nanyang polytechnic
  5. Republic polytechnic

Each polytechnic specializes in specific fields, such as engineering, chemical and life sciences, business management, media and communication, tourism and hospitality management and information technology, among others. These polytechnics were set up to train middle-level professionals to support the technological and economic development of Singapore.
The polytechnics aim to train students with relevant and specific skills for the workplace to give Singapore a competitive edge as it moves into a knowledge-based economy. Singapore polytechnic graduates are valued as practice-oriented and knowledgeable middle-level professionals, much sought after by industries.
Polytechnics cost around $2,150 per academic year. This includes all the charges of  exam fees, miscellaneous fees, sports fee, student union fee, etc.

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