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Singapore Education System

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The education system in Singapore is known for its well-structured and comprehensive approach. It encompasses different stages that students go through as they progress in their academic journey.

From early childhood education to primary, secondary, and pre-university levels, each stage plays a crucial role in shaping students’ knowledge, skills, and character. We will examine the distinctive features and objectives of each stage, highlighting the educational experiences and opportunities available to students at different points in their schooling. By understanding the different stages of the Singapore education system, parents, educators, and individuals interested in the country’s educational landscape can gain valuable insights into the progressive nature of learning in Singapore. In this article, we will take a closer look at the various stages of the Singapore education system.

Stages of School Education in Singapore

The Ministry of Education (MOE) in Singapore holds the responsibility of developing and executing educational policies and goals. Singapore’s approach to education is distinctive, focusing on comprehensive and professional growth at each stage. The education system in Singapore is typically categorised into four levels:

– Pre-School
– Primary
– Secondary
– Post Secondary

What is Pre-school?

Image Source: MOE

Preschool is for children under the age of 7 and broadly includes:

    • Half-day or full-day care programmes.

    • Kindergarten preschool education.

Children engage in a variety of activities that promote their cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development. The curriculum in Singapore’s pre-schools, also known as Early Childhood Education, is designed to provide a solid foundation for future learning. Here are some key areas of learning in pre-school:

Language and Literacy: Children are introduced to the English language, which is the medium of instruction in most pre-schools. They are exposed to storytelling, rhymes, and basic writing skills to develop their communication and language abilities.

Numeracy: Basic mathematical concepts like counting, recognising numbers, shapes, and patterns are introduced to lay the foundation for later mathematical learning.

Social and Emotional Development: Pre-schools emphasize the importance of social skills, emotional regulation, and character development. Children learn to interact with others, share, and collaborate through play and group activities.

Motor Skills: Both fine and gross motor skills are honed through activities like drawing, cutting, threading, running, and playing with manipulative toys, which help in developing physical coordination.

Cognitive Development: Activities and games that stimulate critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making are integrated into the curriculum to foster cognitive development.

Aesthetic and Creative Expression: Children are encouraged to explore their creativity through art, music, dance, and other forms of expression, allowing them to develop their imagination and artistic abilities.

Science and Discovery: Pre-schoolers are introduced to basic scientific concepts through hands-on experiments and exploration of the natural world. They learn about topics such as plants, animals, weather, and simple scientific principles.

Environmental Awareness: Pre-schools often include lessons on environmental sustainability and appreciation for nature to instill a sense of responsibility towards the environment.

Introduction to Cultural and Moral Values: Basic values like respect, empathy, and understanding of different cultures are introduced to help children develop a strong moral foundation.

Primary Level

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The transition from kindergarten to primary school is compulsory in Singapore, signifying the commencement of a child’s formal education. The Ministry of Education (MOE) is responsible for setting the guidelines and age requirements for primary school admission.

Primary education is compulsory for Singaporean citizens, commencing at the age of 7. As professionals, parents bear the responsibility of ensuring that their children are enrolled in primary school and complete their primary education.

The primary school journey in Singapore spans six years, encompassing Primary 1 (P1) through Primary 6 (P6). During this period, students receive a comprehensive and well-rounded education.

Primary school students will learn the following subjects:

    • English Language

    • Mother Tongue Language (MTL)

    • Mathematics

    • Science

    • Art 

    • Music

    • Physical Education

    • Social Studies

    • Character and Citizenship Education

    • Co-curricular Activities (CCAs), and the Programme for Active Learning (PAL)

In Primary 5 and 6, your child will be offered English Language, MTL, Mathematics and Science at the foundation or standard levels, depending on their Primary 4 school examination results. They may also be offered Higher MTL depending on their MTL results.

At the culmination of the end of their sixth year of primary education (Primary 6) students are required to take a national examination called the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). The PSLE is a significant milestone in the education system and serves as an assessment tool to determine students’ academic progress and placement for secondary education by using AL score chart below:

Source: MOE

Secondary Level

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After your child receives the results of the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), the scores obtained play a crucial role in determining their secondary school course. Based on their PSLE T-score, students are allocated to different secondary schools and courses. The three main secondary school courses in Singapore are Express, Academic, and Technical.

Source: MOE

For students who are not eligible for Express, Normal (Academic) or Normal (Technical) courses, they would be offered the option to retake the PSLE. Alternatively, they could progress to Assumption Pathway School (APS) or NorthLight School (NLS), with their principal’s endorsement, for a more experiential and hands-on learning approach.

Post Secondary Level












Post-secondary education in Singapore encompasses various educational pathways pursued after completing secondary education (equivalent to high school). Its primary aim is to equip individuals with advanced academic, vocational, or technical training, enabling them to acquire specialised skills and knowledge in specific fields. Singapore offers a diverse range of post-secondary options to cater to different interests and career goals. These options include based on the result of Singapore-Cambridge GCE Examination.

Polytechnics: Singapore has five polytechnic institutions offering diploma programs in various disciplines such as engineering, business, media, design, hospitality, and more. Polytechnic education is focused on practical skills and prepares students for the workforce or further studies.

Institutes of Technical Education (ITE): ITEs offer vocational and technical training programs that equip students with skills for specific industries. ITE graduates can enter the workforce directly or progress to higher-level courses at polytechnics or other institutions.

Junior Colleges (JC) and Millennia Institute (MI): JCs and MI offer two-year pre-university programs known as the “A-Level” curriculum. These institutions provide a more academically rigorous education, preparing students for university entrance.

Millennia Institute (MI): MI offers a three-year program for post-secondary students who wish to pursue the Arts stream in the Singapore-Cambridge GCE “A-Level” examination.

Private Education Institutions (PEIs):
There are various private education institutions in Singapore offering a wide range of diploma, degree, and professional courses. These institutions are regulated by the Committee for Private Education (CPE) to ensure quality standards.


The difference between Singapore local schools and International schools

Singapore Local Schools:

Image Source: CNA

National Curriculum: Local schools in Singapore follow the national curriculum set by the Ministry of Education (MOE), which is designed to meet the educational needs of students.

Local Students: Local schools primarily serve Singapore citizens and permanent residents, so the majority of students are locals.

Cultural Immersion: Attending a local school allows international students to immerse themselves in the Singapore culture and education system.

Mother Tongue Requirement: Local schools have a mandatory Mother Tongue language requirement for students to preserve their cultural and language heritage.

Affordable Tuition: Local schools generally have lower tuition fees compared to international schools, particularly for Singapore citizens and permanent residents.

National Examinations: Students in local schools take national examinations, such as the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) and the General Certificate of Education Normal/Ordinary Level (GCE N/O-Level) exams.

International Schools in Singapore:

Image Source: Singaporeofw

Diverse Curricula: International schools in Singapore offer a wide range of curricula, such as International Baccalaureate (IB), Cambridge International Examinations (CIE), American, or other country-specific programs.

Expatriate Community: International schools cater to a diverse community of expatriates, as well as local students seeking an international education.

Language Options: International schools often offer bilingual or multilingual programs, providing instruction in English and other languages.

Global Perspective: These schools promote a global perspective and often incorporate intercultural learning opportunities.

Higher Tuition: International schools typically have higher tuition fees compared to local schools due to the additional resources, facilities, and international accreditation.

Non-National Examinations: International schools may offer different sets of examinations based on the chosen curriculum, such as the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) or the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE).

Specialised Facilities: International schools often boast modern facilities and resources tailored to support various educational programs.

Continuity for Expatriates: For expatriate families, attending an international school provides continuity in education if they move to different countries frequently.


In conclusion, the choice between a local school and an international school in Singapore is a significant decision that requires careful consideration. The factors mentioned earlier—curriculum, language preferences, cultural exposure, tuition fees, and long-term plans—play pivotal roles in shaping the educational journey of a student. Both local and international schools offer distinct advantages, catering to various learning styles and ambitions.

Singapore’s renowned education system has demonstrated its efficacy by consistently producing well-rounded individuals who contribute meaningfully to society. The system’s emphasis on nurturing excellence, fostering character development, and offering a robust curriculum lays the groundwork for this ongoing success. Moreover, obtaining Singapore Permanent Residency (PR) brings about added benefits beyond securing a top-tier education for your children. These benefits encompass enhanced employment opportunities and access to the government’s Central Provident Fund (CPF), which serves as a valuable resource for healthcare, housing, and investments.

Ultimately, the choice between local and international schooling should align closely with the unique needs and aspirations of the student and their family. It’s a decision that holds the potential to shape not only a student’s academic journey but also their personal and professional trajectory. By carefully evaluating the options and considering all relevant factors, families can ensure that their chosen path leads to a rewarding and prosperous educational experience for their children.