Education System in Singapore

Singapore is one of the fastest growing developed nation in terms of economic growth. One of the key factors for the success is its strong and well-reputed education system. As per recent study Singapore is ranked fourth in terms of World’s Best Education System.

The positive aspect of Singapore education is to keep check on education cost so as to make it affordable. It becomes possible by heavy funding from Government’s side, which in fact is 20% of the national budget of Singapore. This combination of world-class education at affordable cost has made Singapore a favorite destination spot amongst international students too.

Education Structure in Singapore - A Brief Synopsis

Singapore is the land of the best schools, colleges, universities and other educational institutes. Singapore education system is broadly classified into:
  • Pre-Primary
  • Primary
  • Secondary
  • Pre-University
  • University

Pre-Primary Education

The pre-primary education constitutes of Playschool, Nursery and Kindergarten. These schools are usually run by the private sector, including religious bodies, community foundations, business groups, etc.

Primary Education

The primary education is a compulsory education and usually starts at the age of 7.  It is the first step towards formal education and spans for 6 years in total. The primary education is broadly divided into two stages:
  • Foundation stage - Primary 1 to 4, Total 4 years
  • Orientation stage - Primary 5 and 6, Total 2 Years
After completion of 6 years of primary education, students have to appear for a Primary School Leaving Exam (PSLE) before moving to secondary level.

Secondary Education

Based on the PSLE merit ranking, a student is place in one of the four secondary education streams: Special, Express, Normal (Academic), or Normal (Technical).

The secondary education is usually completed in 4-5 years after which students need to appear in Singaporean GCE 'O' Level exam. Based on the merit in that exam, students proceed to pre-university education.

Pre-University Education

Pre-university education is broadly classified into Junior Colleges and Polytechnics.

Junior Colleges offer a 2-year junior college/3-year centralized institute pre-university course leading to the GCE ‘A’ Level examination. These colleges equip students with necessary skills and knowledge as requisite for university education.

Polytechnics offer 3-years diploma course in varied subjects like tourism, biotechnology, digital media, engineering, business studies, etc. All these courses are practical-oriented, with plenty of group work.   

University Education

Singapore has six national universities, namely the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Management University, Singapore University of Technology & Design, Singapore Institute of Technology and SIM University. Of these, only SIM University is the sole national private university in Singapore.

The University Education compromises of graduate, post graduate and doctoral programs in varied fields. National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University are listed in Top 50 Universities of the world. Both these universities specialized in research activities and hence attract large number of research scholars across the world.

The privately run SIM University is the only university in Singapore that is dedicated to adult learners only. The university offers part-time degree programs only for working adults.

All these universities in Singapore have tie-ups with other top universities worldwide to provide students with enhanced learning experiences especially in the field of research.

Private and International Schools

Apart from government funded state schools, Singapore also boast of several private schools too. These schools are not administered by local, state or national government; instead these schools are managed by private bodies like an individual, group, trust, or organization. These schools do not rely on government funding and instead are funded wholly or partially by charging their students high tuition fees.

However, it should be noted here that in Singapore Private schools start operating from Secondary Education level only. Therefore, to get admission to a private high school too one has to pass the PSLE exam.

In addition to private schools, Singapore hosts several international schools mainly catering to the educational needs of its large immigrant community and generally do not give admission to local Singaporean students. Most of these schools follow International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum. In addition to international curriculum some of the International schools in Singapore provide national curriculum targeting to students of a specific country.

It is much easier to get admission in a private or international school than the government school. This is because in government schools preference is given to Singaporean citizens and hence seats for immigrant students are very limited. Often an immigrant student has to wait for long in order to get admission to a government school of repute.

The monthly tuition fees in private schools and international schools are considerably higher than those charged in government schools; it is approximately 10 times higher.

Ministry of Education - A Brief Introduction

In Singapore, it is the Ministry of Education (MOE) under the ministry of the Government of Singapore that controls administers, implements and formulates policies of the entire education system in the country starting from Primary level till University education. Additionally, MOE closely monitor the development and management of all state schools in the country; and has a supervisory role in case of private and foreign-system schools.

Singapore Education Policy


Meritocracy is considered as one of the core principle to Singaporean Education System. The academic performance is considered as the most important factor for the students' career and the objective of meritocracy is to identify and prepare young bright students for various leadership positions in the country.  

Bilingualism (Mother Tongue)

Bilingualism, or mother tongue policy, is another important principle of the Singapore education system. English is considered as the first language and is also the medium of instructions in academic institutions. Apart from English, compulsory mother Tongue language has to be taken as a subject by a student which can be one of the three official languages: Chinese, Malay or Tamil. However, a non-Tamil Indian may opt for non-official language such as Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi or Urdu, in place of Tamil.

The objective of this policy is to promote English as the Global Language and at the same time students can learn about their own cultural values.

Financial Assistance

In Singapore, education policy is framed in a manner to ensure that no child is deprived of fundamental education because of financial background. As a step towards this direction, MOE made school fees in public schools highly subsidized. There are no school fees in entire duration of primary education and a student has to pay only a nominal fee per month towards standard miscellaneous expenses.

MOE also provides financial aids to deserving students in form of Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) and Edusave Merit Bursary (EMB) scholarship. The EMB scholarship is given to needy students who excel in academics in their respective school.

In addition, schools have their own financial assistance schemes to help their own students in coping with financial needs during studies.

Singapore’s universities education prepare the students not only for today’s challenges but also for future that have yet to be invented and challenges not yet foreseen.
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