Are you looking for lower school fees? Would you prefer your child to study Singapore’s rigorous Ministry of Education curriculum? If the answer is yes, then you should consider applying to a local, government-run school. Annual fees for expats range from $7,800-13,200 (for 2018-19), which is at least half that charged by international schools. As well as being considerably cheaper, local schools will immerse your child in the local culture, offer a world-class curriculum with an excellent reputation for maths and science, and a strong focus on learning Mandarin.
Read more: Local vs international schools in Singapore
Here’s the catch. There is strong competition for places and priority is given to Singaporean citizens and those with Permanent Resident (PR) status.
Primary 1 applications from foreigners are in the last phase of the annual registration exercise, after Singaporeans and PRs have secured their places. Also, all expats entering Primary 2-5 and Secondary 1-3 have to pass the Admissions Exercise for International Students (AEIS), which assesses English literacy, numeracy and reasoning abilities – and students often have extra tuition to prepare for what is widely regarded as a challenging entrance exam. Applicants who pass the test are offered a place in a school, based on availability, test performance and home address in Singapore.
There are a number of secondary schools that offer allocate limited places based on a more flexible Direct Schools Admission – and this can appeal to international students; it does not require them to sit the AEIS and it admits students based on non-academic achievements in sport, leadership and the arts.
Local secondary schools offer various streams of education: the Special, Express and Normal streams that follow a four-year curriculum leading to the Singaporean GCEs, while the six-year Integrated Programme (IP) gives students the option to study for A Levels and the IBDP (the last two years are completed at a local college); international families may prefer to apply to a secondary school offering the IP.
Read here: How to apply for a local school place
The MOE receives around 3,500 applications from foreigners annually. According to MOE statistics, around 1,800 applications from international students to enter a local school were rejected in the 2016 Primary One Registration Exercise.
Here we round up the most popular local schools for expats (and where you’re most likely to receive a place), as well as Singapore's three local international schools: Hwa Chong International School, Anglo-Chinese (International) School and SJI International School. Local international schools are privately funded but managed by the MOE, and they have the freedom to set their own curricula and fees. While these schools are largely popular with Singaporean families, it can be easier for an expat child to secure a place here.