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.
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).