Education and Schools in Singapore

Expats moving with family will understandably be concerned about making arrangements for their children's education and schooling in Singapore.

There are options for public, private and international schools in the city-state, but parents should carefully weigh the pros and cons of each before deciding on where to enrol their children.

It's important to note that locals place a high premium on education, and expectations for achievement can be high.


Public and private schools in Singapore

The primary medium of instruction in Singapore is English, and this applies throughout the city-state's public and private schools. However, most schools are oversubscribed. The best schools have long waiting lists and preference is given to citizens – even permanent residents will find that spots are given to Singaporeans before they are granted to foreigners.

On the upside, local schools are far more affordable than international schools.

Parents who anticipate living in Singapore for the long-term may prefer the immersion of this option, but should prepare themselves and their children for the nuances of the local curriculum.

Local students are highly competitive and shoulder their fair share of external pressure to succeed. Some parents also feel that the local curriculum places too much emphasis on rote learning and does not teach students to think critically.

Foreign children can end up feeling isolated as they struggle to assimilate culturally, and even teachers who use English as their primary teaching language might, in some cases, be far from fluent.

Corporal punishment is legal and encouraged by the government for disciplinary purposes, though it may only be used on boys. Nevertheless, many Westerners have trouble adapting to this system of discipline.


International schools in Singapore

There is a large expat population in Singapore, and it follows that plenty of international schools have sprung up to service the foreign community. Overall, the international schools in Singapore have a good reputation, with some generally accepted as having higher standards and more challenging curricula than others.

Many of Singapore's international schools follow the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, while others offer the curriculum of their country of origin. Some expats choose to enrol their kids in the latter simply because it means that the school holidays align with home-country holidays.

Another factor that greatly affects school choice is availability, as popular schools often have extensive waiting lists. Others might not have waiting lists at all and are a good option for enrolment while waiting for a spot to open up at a more prestigious institution. Although these intermediary schools are accepted as offering a good standard of education, the high turnover can unsettle students and disrupt the learning environment.

Tuition and fees

International schools in Singapore are expensive – however, many expats are lucky enough to have their employers supplement their school fees. Those moving to pursue an assignment abroad should try to negotiate an allowance into their contract if one isn't initially included.

Some schools organise special field trips which parents are expected to pay for out of pocket. These trips are optional, but parents should still anticipate extra expenses connected to admissions and extra-curricular activities.