Education in Singapore
Mustafa Ergün
Singapore’s Vision –
An Intelligent Island
Singapore, an independent City-State
Total land area:
Main Language:
Literacy Rate:
% with Secondary or
Higher Qualifications:
260 sq. miles (680 sq. km)
4.48 million
95% in 2005
61.6% (among resident nonstudents aged 15 yrs & over)
Features of S’pore Education System
• The bilingual policy ENGLISH and Mother
• 6 years Primary; 4 /5
years Secondary; 2 years
• Adaptive education
• Post-school institutions Institute of Technical
Education, Polytechnics,
Kindergartens in Singapore provide up to three years
of pre-school for children ages three to six. The
three years are commonly called Nursery,
Kindergarten 1 (K1) and Kindergarten 2 (K2),
Bilingualism, or mother tongue policy, is a cornerstone
of the Singapore education system. While English is the
first language and the medium of instruction in
schools, most students are required to take a "Mother
Tongue" subject, which could be one of the three
official languages: Chinese, Malay or Tamil.
The bilingual policy was first adopted in 1966.[13] One
of its primary objectives is to promote English as the
common (and neutral) language among the diverse
ethnic groups in Singapore. The designation of English
as the first language is also intended to facilitate
Singapore's integration into the world economy.[
• 6 years of primary education
– Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE)
• 4 to 5 years of secondary education
– Government-aided schools; Specialized (Vocational) schools;
Specialized independent schools; Privately-funded schools
– 3 courses available: Special/Express, Normal (Academic),
– GCE ‘O’ Level exams
• 2 to 3 years of post-secondary education
– Junior Colleges (JC); Centralized Institutes (CI); Institutes of
Education (ITE); Polytechnic
Singapore Education
• All students follow a broad-based mainstream curriculum which is
based on the British system. Some schools offer gifted education.
• Students study six (6) years at Primary level and four (4) or five (5)
years at the Secondary level.
• After GCE “ O “ level (secondary school), most students go either to
Junior Colleges for A-level studies, Polytechnics for Diploma
courses, Private schools or the Institute of Technical Education.
• After GCE “ A “ level or graduation from Polytechnics, students will
proceed to tertiary education e.g. universities in Singapore or
overseas universities.
Primary education, normally starting at age six, is a four-year
foundation stage (Primary 1 to 4) and a two-year orientation
stage (Primary 5 to 6). Primary education is compulsory and
free, though there is a fee of up to SGD 13 monthly per
student to help cover miscellaneous costs.
Orientation stage: Pupils were divided at Primary 5 to the
EM1, EM2 and EM3 (English and Mother Tongue at 1st, 2nd
and 3rd language respectively) streams.
At the end of Primary 6, the national Primary School Leaving
Examination (PSLE) is held.
Based on results of the PSLE, students are placed in different secondary education
tracks or streams: "Special", "Express", "Normal (Academic)", or "Normal
"Special" and Express are four-year courses leading up to a Singapore-Cambridge
General Certificate of Education Ordinary-level (O-level) exam.
Normal is a four-year course leading up to a Normal-level (N-level) exam, with the
possibility of a fifth year followed by an O-level. Normal is split into Normal
(Academic) and Normal (Technical). In Normal (Technical), students take subjects of
a more technical nature, such as Design and Technology, while in Normal
(Academic) students are prepared to take the O-level exam and normally take
subjects such as Principles of Accounting.
"Co-Curricular Activities" (CCA) are compulsory at the
secondary level, where all pupils must participate in at least
one core activity, and participation is graded together with
other achievements throughout the four years in a scoring
system known as LEAPS ("Leadership, Enrichment,
Achievement, Participation, Service"). There are many cocurricular activities offered at the secondary level, and each
student is judged based in these areas.
The Integrated Programme, also known as the "Through-Train Programme”, is a
scheme which allows the most able secondary students in Singapore to bypass
"O" levels and take "A" levels, International Baccalaureate or an equivalent
examination directly at the age of 18 after six years of secondary education.
Admission to post-secondary institutions
Upon completion of the 4- or 5-year secondary school education,
students (excluding Integrated Programme students) will
participate in the annual Singaporean GCE 'O' Level, the results
of which determine which pre-universities or post-secondary
institutions they may apply for. Pre-university centres include
junior colleges for a two-year course leading up to GCE 'A' Level,
or the Millennia Institute for a three-year course leading up to
GCE 'A' Level.
Students who wishes to pursue for a professional-centred
diploma education go on instead to post-secondary institutions
such as the polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education
The pre-university centres of Singapore are designed for upper-stream
students (roughly the top 20%-25% of the cohort) who wish to pursue a
university degree after two to three years of pre-university education, rather
than stopping after polytechnic post-secondary education.
There are currently 18 Junior Colleges (JCs) and a Centralised Institute (CI),
the Millennia Institute (MI, established 2004), with the National Junior
College (NJC, established 1969) being the oldest and Innova Junior College
(IJC, established 2005) the newest.
Singapore currently has two fully-fledged public universities (National
University of Singapore & Nanyang Technological University), and two
fully-fledged private universities (SMU & UniSIM). However, UniSIM
accepts only adult learners in general, so A-level students may apply only
to SMU, NUS, NTU, several foreign university offshore campuses, and
more than ten other private tertiary institutions offering undergraduate
and postgraduate degrees.
A third university, Singapore Management University (SMU), opened in
2000 focusing on business and management courses.
In Singapore, English is the first language learned by half the
children by the time they reach preschool age and becomes
the primary medium of instruction by the time they reach
primary school. English is the language of instruction for
most subjects, especially mathematics and the natural
Due to its large expatriate community, Singapore is host to
many international schools, one of which, the Singapore
American School has one of the largest intakes of
international students in the world.
Approximately 5,000 Singapore students studying in the U.S.
Approximately 80,000 foreign students studying in Singapore
U.S. Universities In
University of Chicago Graduate School of Business
University of Nevada Las Vegas
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Cornell University School of Hotel Administration
George Washington University
Stanford University
Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
And more …..
Government budget for education : at 19.3% of total
Ratio of teaching staffs to student (Primary) 21.4
pupils (2009)
Ratio of teaching staffs to student (Secondary) 17.9
pupils (2009)
Enrolment ratio, aged 6-20 years 87.4% (2004)
,Literacy rate (aged 15 years and above) 94.6% (2004)
Mean years of schooling (aged 25 years and above)
8.8 years (2004)

Education in Singapore