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Singapore Education System: Features & Details Explained

February 18, 2022
Muthu Chockalingam
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A student is preparing for primary examinations using the Studysmart app modules using a laptop.

In Singapore, all education policies, the curriculum and pedagogy are formulated and implemented by the Ministry of Education or MoE. The Ministry is responsible for overseeing and developing all Government-funded schools, polytechnics, universities and other academic institutions in Singapore.

A young child engrossed in a PSLE learning session in front of a laptop.

The Ministry works to provide a well-balanced education that helps students capitalise on their potential. It also nurtures students to imbue life lessons that will transform them into responsible citizens of the nation.

MOE's vision is "Thinking Schools, Learning Nation"- a phrase coined by the then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong in 1997. Staying true to these words, Singapore has chosen a unique educational approach that promotes lifelong personal and professional learning.

Under the Ministry's guidance, the education system is broadly divided into four levels which we shall explore in the next segment.

Singapore's education system, widely regarded as one of the best in the world, is one of the many noteworthy characteristics that make this nation a powerhouse. As much as it is a destination for tourists and investors, Singapore is one of the top destinations for students too. The country is home to some top-ranked academic institutions imparting high-quality education.

If you are new to Singapore or planning to move here in the future, you need to know about the country's education system. Of course, you can rest assured that your child will have the best possible education in the best schools. However, being well-informed about Singapore's education system is an added advantage. It will help you pick the right options for your child.

Would you like to give your child the best chance possible to excel in PSLE exams? There are many ways you can assist them in preparation and revision for their exams when they are ready. StudySmart's online learning platform gives them deep practice across all subject areas. Take a look at our products: PSLE English, PSLE Maths, PSLE Science.

Let's explore the details.

MoE And Its Role In Singapore's Education System

The Four Stages of Education In Singapore

Stage 1: Pre School Education

Duration: 3 years
Age- 4 to 6

In Singapore, preschool is considered the initial stage of education. During this period, children are taught all the basics about colours, shapes, alphabets, animal names, fruit names, etc. Preschool education is an option in Singapore. Most parents prefer sending their toddlers to preschools run by charities, private organisations, and community groups.

Stage 2: Primary Education

Duration: 6 years
Age- 7 to 12

Primary education is free of cost and mandatory for all citizens and residents of Singapore. According to the Compulsory Education Act 2000, all children born after January 1, 1996, must attend primary school. The parents will be held guilty of an offence if they fail to send their children to schools for primary education.

Primary school education is categorised into two sub-levels:

1. Foundation stage

The first four years (Primary 1 to Primary 4) comprise the foundation stage. The curriculum taught in these four years aims to impart the basics of the language, Science, Math, and moral education. Children are also given ample opportunities to hone their extracurricular skills.

2. Orientation stage

The final two years (Primary 5 and 6) comprise the orientation stage where children learn the foundational subjects. Subjects like English, Maths and the Mother Tongue language are the prime focus in Primary 1 and 2. Science is introduced only in Primary 3. Additional subjects like Civics, Moral Education, and extracurricular activities are also a part of the primary school curriculum.

Since Singapore is home to multicultural residents, the curriculum is designed to give equal importance to Mother Tongue Languages like Chinese, Malay, and Tamil. Under Singapore's Bilingual Education Policy, Mother Tongue Language is compulsory for all Primary students.

At the end of Primary 6, all children face their first major exam milestone, the PSLE or Primary School Leaving Certificate. Children will write their exams in the following subjects:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Mother Tongue Language

The PSLE scores determine what your child will study in the next stage of Singapore's education system.

Stage 3: Secondary Level

Duration: 4 or 5 years

At the secondary school level, children are banded into four streams:

  1. Express (E)
  2. Normal Academic (NE)
  3. Normal Technical (NT)
  4. Integrated Programme

This banding is mostly based on their PSLE scores, academic abilities, and their stream of interest. The secondary level curriculum offers a wide range of subjects. Apart from the basic subjects like Math, Science, Mother Tongue Language, and English, the list includes:

  • Humanities
  • Design and Technology
  • Home Economics
  • Combined Science with electives
  • Double or Triple Pure Science
  • Combined Science
  • Pure Geography or History
  • Literature with Social Studies
  • Combined Humanities

At the end of the secondary level, all students will face their next big milestone exam, the O-Level or Ordinary Level exam. This exam is an extremely crucial turning point for it determines what your child will study in university or polytechnic.

Stage 4: Post-Secondary Education

Once they've written their O-Level exams, students move on to the Post-Secondary Level. Also known as Vocational Training or University Preparation, this level is completely optional. Students can choose any one of the three institutions to pursue courses of their choice:

Junior College- 2-year course

Students are streamed into either Science or Art, where they can choose subjects relevant to their stream. At the end of Junior College, they will appear for their JCE- A-Level exams.

Polytechnic- 3-year course

All polytechnics in Singapore offer a wide range of courses that offer hands-on learning in various subjects. Students are graded by a Grade Point Average of 4.0.

ITE or Institute of Technical Education- 2-year course

ITE offers pre-employment training through Nitec and Higher Nitec streams. Upon completion, they can either go to polytechnic or a private university, depending on their interests.

Also Read : 9 Ways in Which Parents Can Help Kids to Manage Exam Stress

The School Calendar & Cost of Education in Singapore

In Singapore, the academic school calendar commences in January and finishes in December. The entire academic year is split into two semesters, with the first semester extending from January to May. The second semester commences in July and runs until a break in November or December. Each semester also has a short middle break.

This school calendar is applicable only for state-run schools. Private institutions may follow the Western standard calendar with long summer and Christmas holidays.

Educational expenses in Singapore

We mentioned earlier that primary education is free in all Government-run schools in Singapore. However, students must pay a small miscellaneous fee. Private schools will charge a lot more than state-run schools. Singapore is home to many international schools teaching one of the three syllabi:

  1. International Baccalaureate
  2. Australian curriculum
  3. American syllabus

The fees collected in these schools range from USD 15,000 to USD 30,000 per academic year. The schools may also collect extra registration fees, technology costs, and special deposits.

The Bottom Line

Education in Singapore is truly a cut above the rest. Every year, the nation churns out exceptionally talented graduates who excel in the world arena.

The primary objective here is to lay a rock-solid foundation for each student from the school level. StudySmart, Singapore is one of the latest AI-powered PSLE online app designed to aid your child's exam preparation and fortify their educational foundation.
Visit our website to know more about us and our product.

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