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About Schooling in Singapore

Schooling in Singapore: Sound Preparation and Ample Variety

When choosing a home in Singapore, forward-looking parents often place great importance on being close to reputable schools. Aside from enjoying priority in admissions at their school of choice, which is commonly granted to families who live close by, being close to school can make a huge difference in students’ day-to-day experience. With the internationally-recognised rigour of the Singaporean curriculum and the extensive extra-curricular offerings of Singaporean schools, a short commute to and from school means more precious time for schoolwork, activities and for friends and family.

Overview: The Singaporean Education System

Singapore’s education system is highly regarded around the world, as Singaporean students consistently rank amongst the most academically able students internationally. In the most recent set of international education benchmarking tests, Singapore’s 10-year-olds ranked 1st in mathematics, 2nd in science, and 4th in reading.1 With English as the language of instruction, students graduate from the local education system in strong standing to enter renowned universities and pursue careers both locally and abroad, and Singapore has thus become a sought after destination for students across Asia.

The local school system has five main phases: Pre-School (4-6 years old), Primary (7-12 years old), Secondary (13-16 years old), Post-Secondary (17-19 years old) and University (20-23 years old).



Source: http://www.moe.gov.sg/education/landscape/

From Pre-School to Secondary, in addition to subject areas such as mathematics, the sciences, and the humanities, students develop fluency in two languages at minimum: English, and a Mother Tongue language, which is typically Mandarin, Malay or Tamil. Social sciences, such as Economics in Junior Colleges, and vocational courses, such as Mass Communications in Polytechnics, are introduced in the Post-Secondary stage.

The Primary and Secondary phases conclude with national examinations: namely, the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), and the General Certificate of Secondary Education Ordinary Level (GCSE ‘O’ Level). After Secondary school, those who choose the more academically-focussed Junior Colleges take on a third national examination, the GCSE ‘A’ Level examinations, while those who opt for the more vocational Polytechnics and Institute of Technical Education (ITE) move on to a module-based Diploma system.

Students in Integrated Programmes, such as those run by the prestigious Raffles Institution and Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), do not sit for the ‘O’ Level examinations, and proceed to sit for the GCSE Advanced Level (‘A’ Level) examinations or the International Baccalaureate when they are 18 years old.

Currently, Singapore has four public universities: National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore Management University (SMU), and Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). NUS in particular is consistently featured in published rankings of the top 50 universities in Asia and worldwide. Singapore is also home to a handful of Asia campuses for global educational institutes, such as INSEAD and the New York University Tisch School of the Arts.

Across this educational landscape, active involvement in extracurricular activities is strongly encouraged. Competitive national divisions for sports exist for every phase, while arts groups participate in a central judging process for the Singapore Youth Festival every two years, giving students ample opportunity to pursue passions and interests outside of their schoolwork.

Admissions Process

Because of the strong emphasis that Singaporean families place on education, admissions to schools at all phases of education is extremely competitive.

For Primary school admission, priority is given to children of parents who were former students of the school or its affiliated schools, and to children whose parents volunteer at the school. Children from families who live less than 1km from the school are also given priority where space availability allows. Where applications for admission far exceed the number of remaining places at the school, balloting is used to allot these places.

Secondary, Post-Secondary and University admission is largely determined by academic performance. Students who perform well in the above-mentioned national examinations stand a higher chance of gaining a place at a prestigious and popular school for the next phase in their education, as schools accept the highest-scoring applicants first, then progress down through the performance ranking until all their places have been filled.

For students with special ability in a non-academic area, such as a sport or artistic discipline, they may also request that these special achievements be considered as part of their admission application through the Direct School Admission process. For such applications, the academic performance required of the applicant may be lower than demanded in regular admissions.

Foreign citizens may apply for admission directly at their school of choice, or through the centralised Admissions Exercise for International Students (AEIS), which allocates Primary and Secondary school places based on a diagnostic test and the residential address of the student.

A Selection of Popular Local Schools

Schools which have the resources to cater to students of high ability inspire confidence in parents. For Primary schools, one indicator of this capacity is if the school offers the Gifted Education Programme (GEP), for students who have shown exceptional reasoning and verbal capabilities. The following Primary schools offer the GEP:



Source: http://www.moe.gov.sg/education/programmes/gifted-education-programme/gep-schools/

For Secondary schools and Junior Colleges, the most in-demand schools at the moment tend to be the schools that have Integrated Programmes, where students remain in the programme from age 14 to 18 and bypass the GCSE ‘O’ Level examinations. Only schools with an established track record of cultivating academically successful students have been granted permission to run Integrated Programmes, as the curriculum for these programmes are largely developed in-house.



Source: http://www.moe.gov.sg/education/secondary/other/integrated-programme/

Foreign System Schools (International Schools)

Several Foreign System Schools exist in Singapore to facilitate the education of international students in the Pre-School to Post-Secondary age group. These schools are often named for the national curriculum that they model, such as Lycée Francaise or the Japanese School, and are intended to provide continuity in educational experience for the students. Foreign System Schools that use English as their language of instruction, such as the American, Australian, British or Canadian schools, are usually open to admitting students of other foreign nationalities as well.2

Securing the Right Educational Arrangement: Planning Ahead

Given the diverse selection of local and foreign system schools in Singapore, families will be able to find an educational arrangement that adequately supports and engages their children in their personal academic development. To maximise their children’s chances of admission to their school of choice, and their enjoyment of their schooling years, parents should indeed pay careful attention to their chosen residential location.

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1 http://www.overseassingaporean.sg/articles/d/spore-pupils-top-tests-score-higher-in-reasoning
2 http://www.moe.gov.sg/education/private-education/foreign-student-admissions/
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