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Academic Year and Language of Instruction in Singapore

Singapore formal education system comprises of Schools, Polytechnics and Universities. The academic year varies amongst the mentioned academic institutions in Singapore.

Academic Year in Schools

In Singapore, the academic year for majority of schools (both primary and secondary) including all Ministry of Education (MOE) schools coincides with the calendar year. The schools usually starts it academic year from January 2 unless it is a Friday or a weekend. If January 2 falls on Friday or weekends, in that case school academic year will start from the next immediate Monday.

A single academic year of a school is divided into two semesters. And each semester is further subdivided into two terms each. A single academic year comprises of 40 weeks of teaching, 10 weeks for each term. And after each term there will be holidays before the next term commences.

The following list describes the academic year for Primary and Secondary schools in Singapore:

Semester I:
  • Term 1: January to March (Term 1 holidays: one week)
  • Term 2: March to May (Term 2 holidays: four weeks)
Semester II:
  • Term 3: July to September (Term 3 holidays: one week)
  • Term 4: September to November (Long holidays: seven weeks)

However, International Schools functions on the academic calendar that is very similar to their home countries. For example, Singapore American School (SAS) is an International School in Singapore that teaches U.S. curriculum from preschool through to Grade-12. For that reason the school follows U.S. academic calendar, August to June, instead of local academic calendar, January to November.

Academic Year in Junior Colleges

Junior Colleges are post-secondary academic institution and provide 2-year courses leading up to the Singapore-Cambridge GCE Advanced Level ("A" level) examination. Similar to Schools, here too a single academic year is divided into two semesters. However, unlike Schools where the academic year remains almost same throughout the School, Junior Colleges have different academic years in its First Year and Second Year. The First Year academic term starts in February. The reason is to shortlist only those students for admission, who passed the O-level exam (results are declared in January).

The complete academic year for an entire course in Junior Colleges is described below:

Year 1
  • Semester I:
    • Term 1: February to March (Term 1 holidays: one week)
    • Term 2: March to May (Term 2 holidays: four weeks)
  • Semester II:
    • Term 3: July to September (Term 3 holidays: one week)
    • Term 4: September to November (Long holidays: seven weeks)
Year 2
  • Semester I:
    • Term 1: January to March (Term 1 holidays: one week)
    • Term 2: March to May (Term 2 holidays: four weeks)
  • Semester II:
    • Term 3: July to September (Term 3 holidays: one week)
    • Term 4: September to end of ‘A’-level exams (Course Ends)

Academic Year in Polytechnics

Polytechnics function on different academic calendar than those of Schools. The academic calendar is formed to match the northern hemisphere calendar more closely. Each academic year comprises of two semesters, the schedule of which is listed below:
  • Semester 1: April to August (with a break period in June)
  • Semester 2: October to February (with a break period around Christmas)

Academic Year in Universities

Universities too operate on their own academic calendar, which differs from the academic calendar of Schools as well as Polytechnics. The Universities academic calendar in Singapore is more influenced by the academic year in India. A typical academic year of Universities in Singapore is listed below:
  • Semester 1: August to December (Semester 1 vacations: 4-5 weeks)
  • Semester 2: January to May (Semester 2 vacations: Usually 12-13 weeks)
In addition to the two semesters, a University typically conducts Special Term in the Semester 2 vacations. The Special Term comprises of two parts, and each part usually lasts for 5-6 weeks.

Language of Instruction

Language of instruction or the medium of instruction is the language used for teaching. It may or may not be the official language of the country.

In Singapore, the language of instruction varies at various educational levels. In pre-schools children are usually taught in two languages: English and a mother tongue, Chinese, Malay or Tamil. In all primary and secondary schools under Ministry of Education (MOE) the language of instruction is English for all subjects, except for "Mother-Tongue" subjects e.g., Chinese, Malay and Tamil. International and private schools may use other languages.

At Post-Secondary level all subjects are taught in English, except for Non-English language subjects like Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Tamil, Hindi, French, etc.

Conclusion

In Singapore, the academic years vary between Schools and Higher Studies. The academic year of schools coincide with calendar year, whereas academic year of Polytechnics and Universities more closely coincide with Northern Hemisphere academic term. The pre-dominant language of instruction in Singapore is English except for Mother-Tongue and Non-English language subjects.
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