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Singapore’s School System

AN OVERVIEW OF SINGAPORE’S SCHOOL SYSTEM

SINGAPORE’S SCHOOL SYSTEM COMPRISES SEVERAL LEVELS OF EDUCATION:

  1. Pre-School Level Education
  2. Primary Level Education
  3. Secondary Level Education
  4. Post-Secondary Level Education
  5. Tertiary Level Education

There are also categories of schools / education centres catering to special needs and private students :

  1. Special Education School
  2. Private Education Schools
  3. Tuition & Enrichment Centres

Key facts of each level / type of school are covered below.

You may also find the list of USEFUL CONTACTS & RESOURCES helpful in furthering your understanding of Singapore’s school system.

PRE-SCHOOL LEVEL EDUCATION

Pre-schools provide the first level of education for most children in Singapore. There are 2 types of pre-schools – Kindergartens and Childcare Centres.

Kindergartens offer a 3 year course for children aged 3 to 6 years. The 3-year course starts with the Nursery level, followed by the Kindergarten 1 and Kindergarten 2 levels. The kindergarten curriculum consists of activities aimed at developing the following skills in a child – Language Skills (English and Mother Tongue), Number Concepts, Social Skills, Creative Skills, Problem Solving Skills, Music Appreciation and Physical Development.

Childcare centres provide full day and/or half-day childcare programmes for children below the age of 7 years. Children may enrol in childcare centres from as young as 6 months old. Most childcare centres offer flexible childcare programmes to cater to the diverse work arrangements of parents who work part-time of flexible hours. The type of programmes and curriculum offered at childcare centres varies, and parents are advised to spend some time researching on the most suitable childcare centre for their young children.

PRIMARY LEVEL EDUCATION

Primary Level Education is a 6-year compulsory course for all Singaporeans. Primary Level Education aims to equip students with a good grasp of the English Language, Mother Tongue Language, Mathematics and Science. At the end of the 6 years, all students will sit for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) to test their abilities and determine where they will go for their next stage of education – the Secondary Level.

While it is not compulsory, students are encouraged to take part in Co-Curricular Activities (CCAs) and Community Involvement Programmes (CIP) to develop their character outside of the classroom.

SECONDARY LEVEL EDUCATION

Secondary Education follows Primary Education. Upon completing the PSLE, students are streamed into either the Special, Express, Normal (Academic) or Normal (Technical) course in Secondary School according to how they perform at the PSLE. Each course is designed with different a different curricular emphasis, so as to suit the learning abilities and interests of each student.

Secondary Education is a 4 or 5 year course (4 years for Special/Express courses and 5 years for Normal course). At the end of the 4/5 years, students will sit for the national-level examination – the GCE ‘O’ Levels (for Special/Express courses) or the GCE ‘N’ Levels (for Normal course). During Secondary Education, it is compulsory for students to participate in at least one Co-Curricula Activity (CCA). The students’ performance in their CCA is a factor for admission into the next stage of education – JC, CI, Polytechnic or ITE.

POST-SECONDARY LEVEL EDUCATION

Following Secondary Education, students may choose to go to:

  1. Junior College (JC)
  2. Centralised Institute (CI)
  3. Institute of Technical Education (ITE)
  4. Polytechnic
  5. Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) / LASALLE College of the Arts

JUNIOR COLLEGE (JC) / CENTRALISED INSTITUTE (CI)

Junior Colleges (JCs) and Centralised Institute (CI) courses aim to equip students with the skills and knowledge to prepare them for tertiary (University) education. At the end of the JC (2 Year) or CI (3 Year) course, students will sit for the GCE ‘A’ Level examination and obtain the GCE ‘A’ Level certification which is a pre-requisite for admission into almost all universities or institutes of higher learning around the world. A few Integrated Programme (IP) schools also offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma.

While at JC/CI, it is compulsory for students to participate in at least one Co-Curricula Activity (CCA). The students’ performance in their CCA is considered for university applications

INSTITUTE OF TECHNICAL EDUCATION (ITE)

Institute of Technical Education (ITE) places emphasis on equipping students with technical skills and knowledge to prepare them for joining the workforce. ITE offers a wide variety of courses to meet the needs of different industry sectors.

POLYTECHNIC

Polytechnic education gives students a hand-on learning experience which prepares students for the workplace or higher education. Polytechnic courses are typically for 3 years. During the course of study, students are encourages to participate actively in campus life through a variety of CCA options.

NANYANG ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS (NAFA) / LASALLE COLLEGE OF THE ARTS 

Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) and LASALLE College of the Arts are private institutions which offer specialist creative education for students who are inclined towards the arts. Students obtain either a local diploma or overseas/externally accredited degree programmes through tie-ups with overseas institutions.

TERTIARY LEVEL EDUCATION

Following post-secondary education, students may move on to Tertiary Level Education. Students who choose to obtain their tertiary level education in Singapore have a wide range of options to choose from, namely:

  1. Local Autonomous Universities
  2. Publicly-Funded Institutions
  3. Private Universities/Institutions

SPECIAL EDUCATION 

Special Education Schools (SPED) schools aim to provide the best possible education and training to children with special needs so as to enable them to function optimally and integrate well into society. 

Special Education Schools (SPED) schools run programmes that cater specifically to distinct disability groups of children who are unable to benefit from mainstream schooling. Each student has an Individualised Educational Plan (IEP) drawn up for him/her. Students receive a wide range of support – from their classroom teachers, as well as paramedical professionals such as psychologists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and social workers.

PRIVATE EDUCATION 

Private Education Institutions (PEIs) are privately-funded schools which offer specialised diplomas or degrees to both local as well as international students. PEIs complement the public education institutions in offering additional education pathways to international and local students and add to the vibrancy of Singapore’s education landscape.

Singapore has a wide range of PEIs offering a variety of programmes which cater to both local and international students. Programmes include pre-tertiary education as well as tertiary-level courses including - commercial courses, vocational training, information technology, fine arts and language courses. 

PEIs offer courses at the certificate, diploma, bachelor and postgraduate levels; they may also offer various external degree programmes through partnerships with overseas universities from countries such as the US, UK and Australia, giving students the opportunity to attain qualifications from these foreign universities whilst studying in Singapore.

All PEIs in Singapore must be registered with the Council for Private Education (CPE) in order to operate and enrol students.

EDUTRUST CERTIFICATION SCHEME FOR PEIS

EduTrust is a voluntary certification scheme for private schools in Singapore. A PEI is awarded EduTrust certification if it has achieved the stipulated standards in the areas of:

a. Management Commitment and Responsibilities

b. Corporate Governance and Administration

c. External Recruitment Agents

d. Student Protection and Support Services

e. Academic Processes and Assessment of Students

f. Quality Assurance, Monitoring and Results

The EduTrust certification scheme is voluntary, however, PEIs which wish to enrol international students must be EduTrust certified.

There are various EduTrust certification levels based on the quality of the school’s management and provision of education services

CERTIFICATION CHARACTERISITCS
EduTrust Star
Excelled in all key areas and show sustained efforts in
organisational development
EduTrust Satisfactory to commendable performance
EduTrust Provisional Attained a minimum level of performance

TUITION & ENRICHMENT CENTRES

Many students in Singapore choose to supplement their mainstream education by enrolling in Tuition & Enrichment centres which offer a variety of tuition/enrichment programmes in their school subjects, as well as other programmes such as Fine Arts, Music and Linguistic Programmes.

In order to operate in Singapore, a tuition and/or enrichment centre must be registered with the Ministry of Education (MOE). To be registered, private schools must meet basic statutory requirements, such as building and fire safety requirements, and have an acceptable curriculum and qualified teachers. As all private schools are owned by private entities, the operators themselves are responsible for the management and administration of their private school and courses.

However, students and their parents should note that registration by MOE does not in any way represent an endorsement or accreditation of the quality of the courses offered. As such, students and their parents are advised to find out more about the tuition/enrichment centre they wish to enrol in before making their decision.

USEFUL CONTACTS & RESOURCES

MINISTRY OF EDUCATION

The Ministry Of Education directs the formulation and implementation of education policies. It has control of the development and administration of the Government and Government-aided primary schools, secondary schools, junior colleges, and a centralised institute. It also registers private schools.

ADDRESS: 

Customer Service Centre (Podium Block of MOE Building) Ministry of Education, Singapore

1 North Buona Vista Drive Singapore 138675

OPERATING HOURS:
Mondays to Fridays: 8.30am to 5.30pm
Saturdays: 8.30am to 12.30pm
Sundays and Public Holidays: Closed
TEL:
Hotline: +65 68722220
Hotline Operating Hours:
Mondays to Fridays: 8am to 6pm
Saturdays: 8am to 1pm
Sundays and Public Holidays: Closed
FAX:   +65 67755826
EMAIL:  contact@moe.gov.sg
WEBSITE:   www.moe.edu.sg

COUNCIL FOR PRIVATE EDUCATION

The Council for Private Education (CPE) is a statutory board under the Ministry of Education that is responsible for regulating the private education sector.

ADDRESS: 2 Bukit Merah Central #01-05 Singapore 159835
TEL: +65 6592 2108
FAX: +65 6275 1396
EMAIL: cpe_contact@cpe.gov.sg
WEB:  www.cpe.gov.sg

COUNCIL FOR PRIVATE EDUCATION – STUDENT SERVICES CENTRE

The CPE Student Services Centre (SSC) is a convenient, one-stop service point to address students’ enquiries, provide authoritative and reliable information on studying and living in Singapore, and offer support to students who encounter problems during their course of study.

  • Attending to enquiries and feedback received from the public and students studying in the private education institutions (PEIs);
  • Providing education counselling services to students who seek advice on a range of issues from accommodation choices;
  • Providing public education through periodic student advisory talks, and organising orientation programmes to guide students in making prudent choices in their selection of private education institutions;
  • Providing internet facilities for students to gain access to updated education information online; and
  • Assisting students who encounter problems with the private education institutions with which they are enrolled.
ADDRESS:
1 Orchard Road #01-01
(YMCA International House)
Singapore 238824
TEL:  +65 6592 2108
FAX:  +65 6337 1584
EMAIL:  cpe_contact@cpe.gov.sg
WEB:  www.cpe.gov.sg
OPERATING HOURS
Mondays to Fridays: 9.30am to 5.00pm
Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays: Closed