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Education Systems in Singapore

Singapore is a leading educational hub that is highly reckoned among the League of Nations. In recent times, many accolades and praises have been attributed to Singaporean education due to their outstanding strides in improving their system to world standards. Currently, the world economic forum has ranked Singapore 4th best. In terms of the educational system in the program for international student assessment (P.I.S.A) Singapore scores incredibly in the test, and to cap it all two universities from Singapore were featured in the world top 15 universities. Schooling system in Singapore is fondly referred to as a pressure Cooker Education, due to its strenuous demands for excellence. In Singapore Education is controlled by the Ministry of Education (MOE). The influence of the MOE is not only restricted to state-funded schools but also plays an advisory and supervisory role in matters of private education. Education is one of the dogmas of the Singaporean culture, as it is an unforgivable sin for parents to fail in enrolling their children in school and are by law also required to ensure their uncompromised attendance to school. Education in Singapore consumes about 20 percent of the country’s annual budget, which is why it is highly subsidized as even the private sector is not left out of the national largesse for the Educational sector. The main language of instruction in schools is English language, other official languages include: Malay, Mandarin and Tamil.

The stages of the educational system include:

  • Preschool education
  • Primary education
  • Secondary education
  • Pre-university education
  • University education

Pre-school education (kindergartens)

This is an optional stage of education for children in Singapore. Children are usually enrolled at the age of 3 or younger. This stage of education is a preparation ground for children as they learn how to interact and socialize with each other. Pre-school activities are largely social activities although a little bit of formal learning is spatially included as well. There are no state-owned pre-schools in Singapore as they are run exclusively by the private bodies but like every other school type, they are obligated to register with the ministry of education.

Primary education

Primary education usually commences at age seven. It is subdivided into two: foundation stage and orientation stage.

  • Foundation stage (primary 1to 4)
  • Orientation stage (primary 5 to 6) 

Primary school is mandatory for children although exclusions are made for children who are homeschooling, pupils with disability and special needs or those attending religious institutions full time. However, those exclusions are subject to the ministry of education requirements.

Primary education begins at foundation stage which spans 4 years at this stage, as children are taught the foundations of English along with one mother tongue, moral education, social studies, physical education, mathematics and science.

The second phase of primary education is the orientation which spans for 2 years. It usually involves the apportioning of pupils according to their individual ability. At the end of 6 years of primary education, students are required to sit for the primary school leaving examinations (PSLE). Students are usually given the liberty to choose the secondary school of their choice. However, it is their performance that will determine whether they get their first choice.

Secondary education

Student’s placement in the secondary school is contingent on the result of the PSLE. Secondary schools in Singapore are categorized into four different tracks they take special, express, normal (academic) and normal (technical). The secondary stage usually spans 4 to 5 years. Special and express are four-year courses which at the end, students will sit for the Singapore Cambridge GCE ‘’O’’ level examinations. Normal is also a four year course which at the 4th year, students will sit for the GCE – O level examination.

Pre-university education

Pre-university education is designed to prepare students for university studies. It usually lasts 2 or 3 years maximum. In Singapore, the centres for pre-university education are the junior colleges, centralised institute, polytechnics and art institutions.

  • Junior colleges:  In Singapore, there are 19 junior colleges and admission to any of the Singaporean junior colleges is determined by the (English and other 5 relevant subjects) scoring system. The kinds of grades recorded by the students is what determines where they will fit in. the whole admission system is merit driven. Generally, students are expected to achieve at least (6 grade to qualify for junior college admission. The greater concentration of education in junior colleges is on academics rather than technical education. At the end of the program, students will sit for the GCE ‘’A’’ level Examinations which will qualify them for a university education.
  • Centralized institute:  The only existing centralized institute in Singapore is the millennia institute. Admission to this institute is determined by the (English and other 4 relevant subjects) scoring system. Students with 20 points and below are offered admission into this program that spans 3 years. The focus of education is also academically based and at the end, students will sit for the GCE ‘’A’’ level examinations.
  • Polytechnics and art institutions: Polytechnics and arts institutions in Singapore prepare students for both employability and university studies. The admission is determined by the GCE ‘’O’’ LEVEL, the duration of the program is usually 3 years where diploma certificates are awarded at the end of successful completion.
  • Vocational education:  Vocational education is that education that prepares students for work in various jobs. It is sometimes referred to as technical education. In Singapore, the Institute of technical education (ITE) is designed to offer technical or vocational education to students. There are three ITE colleges in Singapore. The duration of the program is usually 2 years.

The certificates provided by ITE in Singapore include:

  • Master national ITE certificate (Master Nitec)
  • Higher national ITE certificate (higher Nitec)
  • National ITE certificate (Nitec)
  • Technical engineer diploma (TED)

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