Get schooled for school: The Singapore education system.

So you’re settled in: you’ve got your job, your serviced apartment and your kids all here in one piece. Now the next step’s getting everyone’s life started. After-work for you and the spouse, and getting the kids enrolled in schools. So pick up your pencils and start taking notes – this is your go-to guide on the Singapore education.

The local school system.

We’ll start off the first part of this series with the local schools. The local school system is quite similar to the British and Australian school system. The fees are considerably cheaper than private schools, but priority placings are given to local and PR students. Try for enrollment at multiple schools, and there are local schools that have been known to be more welcoming to expats.

The fees.

Start your little tots off at a kindergarten.

Your little ones will first attend kindergarten for three years, from ages three to six. They start from Nursery to Kindergarten 1 (K1) and finally to K2. Kindergartens are run by private sectors, child care centres and international schools.

Next, scoot your kids off to Primary School.

Children will go through primary school usually between the ages of 7-12 (Primary 1-6). The first 4 years are considered the foundation stage then students will be streamed based on academic results for 2 years of the orientation stage, to prepare them for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), to get them into a secondary school.

After some word-of-mouth and some forum research, expat-welcoming schools include Bukit Timah, Balestier, Swiss Cottage and Bukit Panjang.

Your teens will then attend Secondary School.

For 13-17 years old, your teenagers will go through secondary 1-4 (or 5). He or she will be placed in either the Express, Normal (Academic) or Normal (Technical) stream, depending on their PSLE results. The Express stream is a 4 year course leading to the Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level (O-level), where the Normal stream is a 4 year course to take the Normal level, with a chance to take the O level at the fifth year.

After 2 years, students are streamed into course combinations, for subjects they will take during the O-level.

Prepare your kids for University/Work: Tertiary/Pre-U level.

The options: 1. Junior College.

It’s a 2-year course leading up to the Singapore-Cambridge GCE Advanced Level (“A” level). An alternative 3-year course from Millennia Institute is also available. These courses are specifically tailored for students who wish to pursue a local university education.

The options: 2. Polytechnics & Arts Institutions.

These institutions offer 3-year courses and students will be awarded a diploma after completing them. These courses prepare students for work or university education. They offer a wide range of courses for your kid – accountancy, engineering, nursing and many, many more.  


There are 6 local universities, the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Management University, Singapore University of Technology & Design, Singapore Institute of Technology and Singapore University of Social Sciences.

The local schools, albeit more expensive for expats, are considerably cheaper than international schools. Your kid and you will have a chance to be immersed in the Singaporean culture where the melting pot of races grow together.