Local vs international schools in Singapore

While the majority of expats in Singapore send their children to an international school, some families choose to go the local route. There are pros and cons to each, so here’s some information to help you weigh up your options.
Local vs international schools in Singapore
By Carli Allan
Do your children attend a Singapore school? Take our survey and help other parents.
WhichSchoolAdvisor's annual school survey.


Local schools
Singaporean citizens are given priority for places at government primary and secondary schools and there are limited spots available for expats; currently, just 5% of places are taken by expat students. The Ministry of Education handles all applications.

All primary students must apply for a place through the Primary One Registration Exercise; this is detailed here.

International students from Primary 2 upwards are required to sit a rigorous assessment test, the Admissions Exercise for International Students (AEIS). Admission for secondary school is also based on Primary School Leaving Examination (PLSE) results.

Applications for primary and secondary places can only be made for the following academic year during the MOE's annual registration exercise, from June to September.

From 2018, children who attend an MOE kindergarten will be given priority to register for a co-located primary school.

Some secondary schools allocate places based on a more flexible Direct Schools Admission (DSA) process, which recognises students' non-academic talents rather than academic grades.

Students can seek admission to a secondary school based on their achievements in sport, the arts or leadership – not just their PSLE results and academic ability. The DSA process gives schools greater flexibility and means that students do not have to sit the AEIS. 

At participating schools – which include St Joseph's Institution, ACS Independent, Hwa Chong Institution and School of the Arts (SOTA) – the number of places available for admission through DSA is capped by the government at 20%. Students must apply directly to the school.  Read more about DSA here.

It's worth bearing in mind that around 1,800 applications from international students to enter a local school were rejected in the 2016 Primary 1 registration process. 

International schools

Alternatively, expats have priority at Singapore's international schools, some of which have entrance exams. There can be lengthy waitlists at some of Singapore’s most popular and top-scoring international schools, though, so you’ll need to register your child as soon as possible. Applications for most schools can be received throughout the year.

Local international schools

A third option is to apply to one of Singapore's three local international schools: Hwa Chong International School, 
Anglo-Chinese (International) School and SJI International School. Enrolment is open to both local and foreign students without any restrictions. While these schools are largely popular with Singaporean families, it can be easier for an expat child to secure a place here than at a government school. Admission is based on the school's own entrance exam (Not the AEIS).

Also see: How to get into local and international schools in Singapore

>> Curriculum

Latest Singapore articles

Moving to Singapore? Which Year is My Child In?

Planning a move to Singapore from overseas? To help you navigate the school admissions pr…

Choosing A School

Is My Three-Year-Old Ready for Big School?

Parents of three-year-olds due to start pre-KG or FS1 find themselves asking a critical q…


Stefan Pauli: Leading GESS into the Future

When Stefan Pauli was appointed Principal at GESS in August 2021, he inherited the reigns…

Exam Preparation

GCSEs and iGCSEs: A Guide Map

Wondering exactly how GCSEs and iGCSEs work, as well as what you can expect from the key …


Singapore's School Terms and Holidays for 2023

Singapore's school terms and public holidays for 2023 have been announced. There wil…

School Performance

Singapore's Top Schools for Oxbridge

Two Singapore schools have beaten the prestigious Eton College for Oxbridge offers. Raffl…

Which Curriculum

Sixth Form: IBDP or A Levels?

A key decision for parents and students heading into the final college years is which rou…

New Schools

News Latest! New Principals, Facilities, Courses!

What's new in Singapore's international schools? There are new IB  programmes,…

0 Schools Selected
keyboard_arrow_down keyboard_arrow_up
Your selection Clear All