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Education System in Singapore

Education System in Singapore

Apart from enjoying a status of famous shopping and tourism destination, Singapore is also emerging as a place for pursuing higher education.
The pro-high technology policy of the government has invited billion of dollars of foreign investment in the fields of biotechnology, IT and research. The Ministry of Education (MOE) is responsible for controlling the development and administration of the schools and various government-funded educational institutions. In case of private schools, the MOE plays a crucial supervisory and advisory role. Education mainly revolves around the interests of the students. The teaching and pedagogical system follows a flexible approach that helps the students in developing their potentials and aptitudes.

The Ministry Of Education (MOE)

The ministry of education is the premier authoritative institute that is responsible for ensuring that students in Singapore receive world-class education. The government on an average allots 20% of its annual budget towards development of educational institutes in the state, which is managed and appropriated by the ministry. Both the state and private educational institutes are allowed certain amount of autonomy in designing their curriculum, tuition fees and admission policies to remain qualified to government’s aids and assistance. The state has made it a criminal offense for parents who fail to enroll their children to schools at the right age. The main medium of education has been English although Malay, Mandarin Chinese and Tamil are also taught.

Singapore has also established itself as a favorite destination for higher studies for foreign students. Foreign students, especially from Asian states like India, gather in Singapore to get admission to its various technical, medial and business schools. These institutes offer industry oriented courses that help students to launch an international career.

Singapore enjoys one of the highest literacy rates in the world. The education system of Singapore has evolved over the years to match the international demand for skilled workers for economic development. It has ensured that every child receive proper education that will help him/her to explore his/her proper potential. It focuses on identifying the unique aptitude in the child and design schools curriculum according to that. :

Singapore has best educational institutions with internationally recognized faculty. The Ministry of Education is the responsible body for monitoring, controlling and administering the education system in Singapore.

The Singapore education system comprises schools, colleges and universities. Education in Singapore is imparted through the following educational institutes:

The term education has a broad sense of meaning, and it accumulates, knowledge, culture, values through generations. Education is brought to the common man by proper schooling. Each country has its own system of education, which aims at training its students in the best way. Let us have an overview of the education system of the Republic of Singapore, known as Singapore, a city-state located in Southeast Asia.

Education in Singapore is managed by the Ministry of Education (MOE). The MOE is responsible for the administration, management and development of education in Singapore. Also, the MOE manages the funding from the Government and out of total 20% of the economy is allocated for the Education Department. The MOE targets to impart, a minimum of primary education to every child born, according to the Compulsory Education Act, made in 2000. Any exemption from schooling, during special cases, has to be certified by the MOE.

Singapore education uses English, as the main language of instruction. This opens a wide arena for inclusion of international students from all over the world.

General schooling system is divided into three stages: Primary, Secondary and Post-secondary / junior college. The actual school system has been divided into two semesters; each taking half the year. The first falls from January to June, followed by the second that commences from July to December.


The first stage, kindergartens, is for children between the ages of 3 to 6. It usually spans three years when the kids learn to interact and are prepared for the formal education at higher level. Most of the kindergarten schools run for five days a week and 2 ½ to 4 hours a day.

The pre-school education further parts into 3 stages: Nursery, Kindergarten 1 (K1) and Kindergarten 2 (K2).

This level of education is really necessary to the children, as it provides them a lovable atmosphere and an opportunity to interact, learn and play at the same time. Outdoor play, games, activity, interaction with other children is closely followed at this stage. Hence the main activities of Kindergartens include development of interaction skills, games, learning language, numbers and music. Basically, private sector runs the kindergartens. Therefore, primary schooling is considered as an important exposure to children before entering the formal education.

Primary education

Primary school education begins at the age of 7 and it is a four-long stretched schooling. This part is considered as a very vital stage in the development of children’s intellectual interests. Primary schooling in Singapore is of three stages divided into the four-year foundation stage and two-year orientation stage.:

Foundation stage
This is where the students undergo their first year of formal education. In this stage, the students are provided with a strong foundation in English, Mother tongue and Mathematics. Civics, moral education, social studies, arts and crafts and physical education are some of the other subjects taught at primary level.

Orientation stage
The students after completing their foundation stage advance to the orientation level. In this stage, Mathematics and Science are taught to an appropriate level to match each pupil’s ability. Options are available in choosing the mother tongue, or students, if interested can proceed with Mathematics and science.

Primary school leaving examination (PSLE)
PSLE is the final stage of primary education. This examination determines whether the student is ready to take up secondary education or not. Depending on the results, the students are allocated to various secondary schools.

Secondary education

The results of the PSLE, determines the track or the stream of secondary education. There are four streams to which the students are divided: Special, Express, Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical).

The first two categories, Special and Express are four-year courses, which lead to the Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education (Ordinary level) examination. However, the difference between these two courses is that Special stream students can take up ‘Higher mother tongue’. The advantage of this is that, the Special students can clear the examination with an ‘O’ level, satisfying the MOE’s requirement. On the other hand, the Normal mother tongue students, will have to go through one more year of study in mother tongue and have to clear the examination with an ‘AS’ level, after which the MOE is satisfied.

The Normal stream is a four year course leading to an ‘N’ level examination, having a possibility of fifth year followed by an ‘O’ level. Normal Academic deals with the subjects such as Principles of Accounting and Normal Technical deals with subjects involving Design and Technology. However, there are ongoing debates about the effectiveness of the streaming system.

Grades and scoring system
The grades and their representation are as follows:
A1/A2 – Distinction
B3/B4 – Merit
C5/C6 – Credit/Pass
D7 – Sub-fail/Pass
E8/F9 – Fail
After a secondary education, the students are then progressed to post-secondary education or junior college, depending on their interests.

Education system of Singapore has been credited as the “world-leading” and was one among those picked for commendation by the British education minister Michael Gove in 2010.

integrated programs of the secondary level education allows the students to engage in enrichment activities.

Scoring system of education
The achievement level of the students in different subjects is marked by the following grades:
A1- A2: Distinction
B3 – B4: Merit
C5 – C6: Credit or Pass
D7: Passing with lower grades or fail
E8 – F9: Fail
Junior colleges at the pre-university level

There are almost 18 Junior colleges that are designed to provide the students with an alternative to the three-year programmes. Junior colleges offer two-year programmes for the upper-stream students who are willing to pursue a university degree. The elective programmes offered at the Junior colleges includes humanities, arts, music and language.

The students may enroll for two years pre-university courses in junior schools or 3 years course in centralized institutes that will help them prepare for tertiary education. Foreign students are also accepted in junior colleges based on availability of seats.

Universities in Singapore

The universities basically provide undergraduate and post-graduate courses as well as research programmes. In Singapore, there are two full-fledged public universities, namely, National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University, and two private universities, namely, Singapore Management University and SIM University. Many overseas students are looking forward to Singapore as a destination for pursuing higher studies.

The universities of Singapore offer international standard market oriented courses to students. These also offer research and scholarship programs to students interested in higher education. The four local universities of Singapore are::

1. National University of Singapore (NUS)
2. Nanyang Technological University (NTU)
3. Singapore Management University (SMU)
4. Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD)

These universities offer courses on sciences, engineering, law, arts, humanities, social sciences, medicine, technology and the like.

International schools in Singapore

Singapore plays host for many International schools. These schools generally do not give admissions to Singapore students as they are meant for overseas students. If you wish to study in Singapore, do explore the opportunities through these schools.

Last but not the least, the education system in Singapore also indulges in and encourages heavily co-curricular activities, performing arts, youth clubs and societies for overall development of personality of the students.

The polytechnics in Singapore are designed to offer students with practical training based courses. The five polytechnics in Singapore are:

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

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