The Singapore Education System
Singapore remains a top destination for all categories of migrants across the continent. This is largely due to the attractive state of the nation’s economy and social environment. One aspect that migrating or relocating parents always consider however is the quality of education at the destination. This can easily affect the academic foundation of children and should therefore never be overlooked. Let’s just take the time to closely examine Singapore’s education system to determine whether or not it matches the world-class status that the nation boasts across many fronts.
The main indicator as to the nature of any education system is global rankings. Singapore students generally perform extremely well in globally standardised tests such as the Cambridge international examinations which indicates very high learning standards. The majority of learners in the country attend government and government-assisted schools. Unlike other nations, these government schools are well-financed and adequately resourced with very low student to teacher ratios and fully equipped laboratories and libraries.
How the System Works
Schools in Singapore operate within the guidelines provided by the national curriculum. The curriculum is structured by the Ministry of Education which ensures that students thoroughly exhaust the basic concepts of any subject. One of the most unique practise in the country is the regular streaming process. Students are subjected to standard exams and then subsequently sorted according to their performance for different academic routes and studies. After the primary stage of education, for instance, students are sorted into two main groupings; the academic group and the vocational one. The academic group is reserved for the excelling students and is often referred to as the Express stream. The less academic group, known as the Technical Stream is inclined towards the vocational training and educational methods.
Once students complete their ordinary levels, they are subjected to a variety of choices depending on personal preferences and attained results. Academically inclined students can proceed directly to junior colleges and then on to university while trade-inclined ones may need to go via the polytechnics first for diploma studies before pursuing degree qualifications. Singapore has also established the Institute of Technical Education to enable the technical-oriented students to develop their skills and enhance their knowledge with a competitive qualification.
Pros of the System
The setup of the Singapore education system offers several benefits for both native and immigrant students. It is no doubt the reason behind the dominance of the nation in global academic standards. Many students from Singapore go on to secure places at prestigious international schools and Ivy League schools quite easily. Here are a few pros that significantly stand out;
- Global Competence
The high education standards ensure that school leavers are capable of performing anywhere on the planet in any endeavour. According to the 2016 records from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Singapore students were the best in the core subjects namely maths, reading and science. The organisation’s findings indicate that Singapore scholars can easily assimilate into any academic programme anywhere on the planet and in any field of study with ease.
- Language Proficiency
As the world evolves towards a global village design, language proficiency in dominant tongues becomes a necessity. The Singapore education system opted for English as its official learning language. This automatically exposes all learners to the language throughout their academic years, fostering a deeper understanding of the language and impeccable communication skills. Schools also offer a variety of other international languages optionally. Considering that the community largely speaks Mandarin, students from Singapore schools easily become fluent in two of the most commonly spoken languages on the planet, making them even more globally competitive.
- Skill Orientation
Many developing nations have made the error of focusing on purely academic education for students. This has led to a serious employer-hunting syndrome which eventually leads to unemployment as graduates eventually flood the industry. Singapore has managed to eradicate this problem by focusing on skill development in students which ultimately promotes self-employment and entrepreneurship after graduation. This has had a positive effect on the local economy which enjoys a healthy and balanced supply of skilled workers, entrepreneurs and academic professionals.
- Inclusive Learning Environment
Singapore prides itself for promoting inclusivity within its communities. The education system is therefore designed to reflect this quality considering the high numbers of migrant settlers whose children learn in local schools together with the local children. Foreign students, however, blend easily into the local education system and perform just as well as the others. The use of English as the official language for both verbal and written communications also lessens the burden for foreign students who do not understand Mandarin at first. Local schools such as Nanyang Primary have played host to children of the popular Jim Rogers, both of whom blended well into the system and even learnt perfect mandarin in the process.
Cons of the System
The Singapore education system is not without its flaws. Its main de-merit, if only one, is Academic Pressure. The sorting practises at the end of each major academic level places students under extreme pressure. Singapore experiences a significant number of student depression cases from students who can’t cope. While the system generally accommodates students of all intellectual levels, the less smart are often side-lined to vocational options regardless of their passions or interest. It is, however, worth noting that all students can still pursue their dreams through alternative channels that operate at a more modest pace than mainstream academics.
Child development experts have long since established the need for students to participate in extra-curricular activities. Singapore’s curriculum is designed to cater to such needs to promote well-rounded growth and development for students. These activities are also targeted at raising wellness levels which effectively improve student fitness levels and builds an active-culture in them along the way.
There is a variety of sporting activities being practised in Singapore schools with well-equipped gyms and dedicated gym staff. Such a setup is aimed at developing natural talents in young students who may want to pursue those talents professionally in the long run. These extra-curricular activities are also viewed as a means of distinguishing students in highly competitive environments such as during college applications. Furthermore, students who excel in sports can easily score scholarships for their tertiary studies both locally and abroad. As such, the activities are a serious integral part of the education system and each school is tasked with the duty to ensure that no student lags or disregards the activities.
Singapore has invested a lot of resources into tertiary education to reduce the need for local students to travel abroad for their tertiary studies. These efforts have been so successful that the country has become a choice destination for foreign students wishing to benefit from the country’s top tier universities such as Nanyang University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technology University (NTU) and Singapore Management University. NUS and NTU are ranked in the top ten globally with NUS holding the first position rank in all of Asia, well ahead of competing Hong Kong Universities such as the University of Hong Kong (HKU) which is ranked at the 25th position globally. The country itself is ranked in the top 10 again in terms of suitability for hosting international students which makes it an ideal place for settling foreigners.
Enrolment Practises in Singapore
The pre-requisites for enrolling in Singapore schools are quite reasonable for both locals and foreigners. Students under the age of 12 years, however, are required to provide their immunisation information and documentation to the Health Board before enrolling in any school if they were born outside the country. This helps to safeguard students enrolled in the local schools against epidemics and creates a safe learning environment for every student.
During primary school intakes, local schools give priority to applicants who reside close to the selected school, particularly within a 1-kilometre radius. This has led to a quiet interesting trend whereby parents prefer to settle close to their school of choice. As such, property values near top-rated schools in the country tend to be much higher due to the increased demand by both new and established parents. Although some parents may argue the necessity to enrol their kids into the renowned school for laying the foundation of their children’s network in the future, Singapore schools are more or less of the same high quality hence settling close to school facilities may not be of the essence. Also, all schools have reliable and safe transport services for students. Wherever you reside, school buses are available to pick and drop students each day from designated points.
Foreign students whose parents are citizens or permanent residents of Singapore can easily enrol into any school of their choice using their permanent resident documents derived from their parents. Students outside the country or who don’t possess citizenship or permanent residency status can easily apply for the right to study in Singapore which is granted through a Student’s Pass. The pass is however only issued after the student has been accepted by a particular registered school so students should apply first remotely to be admitted before seeking the Student’s Pass.
School Options for Foreigners
Foreign students can choose to study at local government schools or international ones. The application process for both categories is similar as explained previously however the chances of a successful application are much higher at the international schools. The country has several international schools that are widely recognised such as United World College of South East Asia, Stamford American International School, Swiss School in Singapore and the Australian International School in Singapore. Both categories, however, offer foreign students the same quality of education and the regulatory and examination boards for both operate with similar standards. Here are a few key differences between the two options available to foreigners;
- International schools are more diverse than government ones due to their multi-lingual and multi-cultural environments created by students from all over the globe.
- The tuition costs and other fees are much higher at international schools than at government schools as is the norm in any nation (see below for comparison).
- Government schools are less stringent about communication languages hence students gradually learn Mandarin by default whereas international schools strictly adhere to English to cater for all students from different language backgrounds.
|SCHOOL||Application Fee $||Primary Fees $||Secondary Fees $|
|United World College of SE Asia||410||38 985||91 170|
|Stamford American International School||500||36 490||80 950|
|Swiss School in Singapore||535||18 880 +||N/A|
|Australian Int. School – Singapore||3360||33 646||82 436|
|GVT SCHOOLS – PR||0||2 616||4 800|
|GVT SCHOOLS –Asian||0||5 736||9 600|
|GVT SCHOOLS – Non-Asian||0||9 156||17 040|
Annual Fees Comparison for International Students
In conclusion, settling in Singapore can easily be a blessing as far as quality education for all is concerned whether it’s elementary or tertiary. The education system in the country is also well-rounded and encourages students to develop their interests gradually and pursue their dream careers. This is quite unlike other nations such as China and Hong Kong where career specialisation is introduced at a much earlier stage in the student’s learning process. The Chines education system also tends to be much more narrowly focused on academic and technical development whereas the Singapore system encompasses other aspects in education such as cultural and social knowledge and skills. It’s, therefore, no surprise that Singapore schools are popular with students from all corners of the world and is forever evolving to suit modern education trends and practises.