The Ministry of Education (MOE) completely controls and manages education in the country. Thanks to conscious endeavor from MOE, System of Education in Singapore is known as one of the most successful in the world holding the fourth position among World’s Best Education Systems.
The education system in the country consists of the following education stages: preschool, primary school, secondary school, pre-university education and university education.
Education in Singapore starts with preschool. Then students move to a primary and secondary school in that order. After students graduate from a secondary school, they can continue their education in the form of pre-university or university education in that order.
Preschool education in Singapore is non-compulsory and provided by the following educational institutions: playschools, nursery schools, and kindergartens. Though this level of education is optional, most of the parents send their children to playschools that accept children even younger than 3 years old. When a child riches the age of four, it is possible to apply to nursery school. Kindergartens in Singapore are created to provide children with two years of pre-school education that consists of two stages: K1 and K2. Children in Singapore can attend kindergartens when they reach the age of 5.
Pre-schools in Singapore are represented by private educational institutions, including religious bodies, community foundations, business groups, etc. Despite being private, each preschool in the country needs to be registered with the MOE in order to start functioning.
The first step towards formal education in Singapore begins when a child reaches the age of 7. After reaching the age of 7, children in Singapore have to attend a compulsory primary school that consists of 6 grades. It is worth to mention that there is no middle school in Singapore. Instead, primary school into two stages: Foundation stage that includes the first four years of studying and Orientation stage that lasts for two more years.
Though primary school is compulsory, there are some exceptions for children who are homeschooling, children who attend some religious institution and children with special needs who are unable to attend mainstream schools. Also, it is interesting to know that though the primary stage is free of cost to all citizens of the country, there is a little fee (up to 13 SGD per student) associated with miscellaneous expenses.
After successful completion of six years of primary education, students can go directly to the next stage – secondary school. Nevertheless, each student will have to pass a Primary School Leaving Exam (PSLE) to be admitted to a secondary school.
After successfully passing PSLE, students can be admitted to a secondary school of their choice. Nevertheless, the process of acceptance depends on such factors as merit ranking in PSLE and student’s inclination towards a course. There is also one more possible way to be admitted to a secondary stage represented by Direct School Admission – Secondary (DSA-Sec) exercise that takes place every year before the declaration of PSLE results. In this case, participating schools will select a certain number of students considering their talents and achievements across a varied range of areas, such as art, sport, etc. Nevertheless, it is important to mention that the DSA-Sec Exercise is applicable only for admission into schools that are allowed to frame their own admission criteria.
The secondary education stage in Singapore consists of four streams. They are Special, Express, Normal (Academic), or Normal (Technical) streams. Usually, secondary education takes from 4 to 5 years. A student who completes secondary education stage will have to pass a Singaporean GCE ‘O’ Level exam in order to proceed to pre-university education. When it comes to Special and Express stages, a student will have to study for four years to pass Singapore-Cambridge GCE “O” Level examination.
Pre-university education in Singapore is similar to the 11th and 12th grades as per most European education systems, as well as American education system. Pre-university education is aimed at providing students with academic knowledge in such areas as Humanities, Arts and Languages, Sciences and Mathematics.
Pre-university education is mainly provided by three types of educational institutions: Junior Colleges, Polytechnics and Institutes of Technical Education (ITE).
The main aim of Junior Colleges is to provide students who want to continue their education in university with skills and knowledge needed to apply for university of their choice. There are two main options offered by Junior Colleges: 2-year junior college course and 3-year centralized Institute pre-university course that is aimed to prepare students for the GCE ‘A’ Level examination.
Students who want to gain professional skills and knowledge can apply to polytechnics that offer practical-oriented study with a plenty of group work. In order to get a diploma in a subject of the choice, including such areas as tourism, biotechnology, digital media, engineering, business studies, etc., a student will have to complete a 3-year course.
Institute of Technical Education (ITE) is the third component of Singapore’s education system. About one-fourth of secondary school graduates are enrolled in the ITE that offer their students the National ITE Certificate (NITEC), Higher NITEC, Master NITEC and diploma programs. Such institutions represent vocational and technical education in the country.
There are six national universities in Singapore. They are the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Management University, Singapore University of Technology & Design, Singapore Institute of Technology and SIM University.
The National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University are considered to be the best in the country as they are listed in Top 50 Best Universities in the world. These public universities offer a wide variety of undergraduate and postgraduate degree programs, as well as doctoral degrees.
The Singapore Management University (SMU) that offers its students undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs in Business Management, Accountancy, Economics, Information Systems Management, Law and the Social Sciences since 2000, is the first autonomous government-funded university in the country.
There are two more autonomous government-funded universities in Singapore: the Singapore University of Technology & Design (SUTD) and Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT).
The SUTD offers various Engineering Design courses and provides its students with Bachelor’s, Masters and Ph.D. degrees. The SIT offers specialized degree programs in Engineering & Applied Sciences, Health Sciences, Design, Interactive Digital Media, Education & Social Sciences, and Hospitality since 2009.
The only national private university in the country is represented by the SIM University that is aimed at adult learners and offers part-time degree programs for working adults since 2005.