Moving to Singapore? The Guide to Finding A School

So, a move to Singapore is on the horizon and now you’re wondering about schools for your children. Are international schools in Singapore very different from those in your home country? How much are school fees? And what are the curriculum options. WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has all the answers…
Moving to Singapore? The Guide to Finding A School
By Carli Allan
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Planning a move to Singapore? Looking for a school for your child for the 2020-21 academic year? Choosing a school in an unfamiliar country can be a challenge, particularly when faced with a choice of more than 90 international schools? With a variety of IB, UK, US, Indian, French, Australian, Dutch, Japanese, German and Singaporean curricula-led schools, tuition fees ranging from less than $15,000 to more than $40,000, and campuses in every neighbourhood, it's not an easy decision to make.

To help you get started, here is WhichSchoolAdvisor.com's complete guide to international schools in Singapore, including fees, curriculum, term dates, virtual open days, bilingual programmes and Covid-19 measures.

How have international schools in Singapore been affected by Covid-19?



All schools moved to full-time distance learning on April 8, and Singapore was one of the last countries globally to be widely affected by Covid-19 to keep its schools from closing temporarily.

International schools reopened their campuses on June 2 after a three-month period of delivering distance learning. Under new health and safety measures, students at all schools must wear masks or a face shield (except for during PE lessons), there is fixed exam-style seating, frequent hand-washing and wipe down of surfaces, twice daily temperature checks, and staggered school timings. These measures are expected to ease when Singapore introduces Phase 3 of its circuit breaker exit.

What do international schools in Singapore offer?


Singapore American School is the largest all-through school in the city-state

Most expats in Singapore send their child an international school. There is the widest choice of International Baccalaureate (IB) schools, with 28 offering the IB Diploma Programme. Other schools follow the UK National Curriculum and teaching systems of the US, Germany, France, Australia, India, Switzerland, Japan and the Netherlands. In short, you will be able to find a school that either follows the curriculum of your home country or offers a curriculum that is globally recognised by universities.

Singapore is not the largest of places, and schools are located across the city-state and school buses operate numerous routes. Campuses range from the vast all-through Singapore American School, which has 2,500 students, to the smallest of primary schools, such as Rosemount International School with just 140 students.

International schools are open to students of all nationalities, although some may offer priority admission for students of certain nationalities. Singaporean students need special approval from the Ministry of Education to study at an international school.

Schools welcome applications from new students year-round. Some of the top-tier, most well established schools such as Dulwich College (Singapore), Nord Anglia’s British-branded school Dover Court, and one of Singapore’s oldest international schools Tanglin Trust have long waiting lists.

While there is a demand for places, particularly within the early years and primary sector, places are still available across the city-state. There are four new international schools opening in 2020. The Perse School (Singapore), Brighton College (Singapore), NLCS (Singapore) and Invictus International School (Centrium) are all open for enrolment and have places available.

Many international schools have frozen their tuition fees for the 2020-21 academic year and, to help families cope with the financial impact of the current situation, several have reduced application and enrolment fees.

Read more
Top 20 International Schools in Singapore
14 Standalone Primary Schools
Singapore Schools Offering Rebates, Discounts...

Where can I send my child for pre-school education?


The AIS Early Learning Village is one of the largest pre-schools in Singapore

Several international schools in Singapore offer pre-school education for children from as young as two months through to five years old. Children can benefit from being part of a larger school environment with all the opportunities that an all-through school can offer. These can range from access to sports and arts facilities to after-school activities and bilingual programmes. They often have lessons from specialist subject teams, such as Mandarin, swimming, music, dance and PE, and have access to outstanding facilities that smaller nurseries simply cannot offer.

There is also a wide choice of standalone pre-schools across the city-state, which may offer smaller class sizes, lower teacher:student ratios, and more charm and warmth.

Read more
Pre-Schools on an International Campus

When does the academic year start in Singapore’s international schools?


Middleton International School (Tampines) is one of a few schools in Singapore to follow a Jan-Dec academic year 

Most international schools have an academic calendar that runs from June/July to August/September in line with Northern Hemisphere schools.

However, there is also a small choice of international schools that start in January, in line with the January to December academic calendar of Singapore’s government-run schools and the Southern Hemisphere. Australian International School (AIS), Middleton International School (Tampines), Middleton International School (Upper Bukit Timah), Dimensions High School, Integrated International School (IIS), and The Grange Institution all begin their academic year in January 2021.

Indian schools including GIIS SMART Campus, NPS International School, Yuvabharathi International School and DPS International School run from April to March.

Dates for the academic year are not regulated by the Ministry of Education, so schools have the freedom to decide when their terms start and end; this can mean that school holiday dates vary significantly between schools.

Can I apply to a local, Ministry of Education-run school in Singapore?


MOE-run schools in Singapore enrol only a very small number of expat students

The short answer is yes, and there several reasons why you may want to consider sending your child to a local school. Annual fees for expats range from $8,000-15,000, which is at least half that charged by most 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.

However, the deadline for Primary 1 applications for the 2021 academic year is now closed for all non-Permanent Resident (PR) foreigners, and the Ministry of Education does not accept late applications. For future years, it is worth knowing that there is strong competition for places and priority is given to Singaporean citizens and those with PR status.

Read more
Primary 1 Registration to Open for Expats

Are international schools in Singapore regulated by the government?


International schools such as Dover Court must be registered with the CPE

Yes. Always check that the school is registered with the Committee for Private Education (CPE), which regulates Singapore's private education sector. In order to be registered, a Private Education Institution (PEI) must meet CPE’s requirements for school premises, quality of academic programmes, teaching staff, and, all students' fees must be insured under the Fee Protection Scheme (FPS).

Click here to review the school’s registration period, expiry date and its overall registration track record.

Through the CPE, private schools can apply for voluntary EduTrust certification, which helps to distinguish higher quality educational institutions in Singapore. Only schools that are EduTrust certified can enrol international students who require a Student Pass.

What is the cost of an education in Singapore?


Invictus International School (Dempsey) is one of Singapore's more affordable schools

International school fees range from the highest at $40,000 to mid-range of $20-30,000 to around $10-15,000 at some of Singapore’s lower-cost or affordable schools.

There is no standard fee structure for international schools in Singapore, so always take the time to check what the school charges overall. Parents are paying an average $6,000 to secure a primary or secondary place at one of its 70-plus international schools. This includes a typical cost of $1,300 just to complete the school’s application form.

In addition to annual tuition fees, many schools in Singapore charge an annual or one-off facility or building fee, also referred to as a capital or development levy. Other fees cover technology, field trips, uniform, transport etc.

Read more
Affordable Schools in Singapore
The Total Cost of a Singapore School Place

What documents will I need when I apply to an international school?


Enrolment is open year-round at most international schools, such as The Perse School, Singapore

Most schools will ask for the following:

  • Completed and signed application form (this may be completed online or as a hard copy, depending on the school)
  • Application fee (the average fee in Singapore is $1,500 but check the school website for the exact cost)
  • Passport size photographs of your child
  • Photocopy of child’s birth certificate
  • Photocopy of child’s passport
  • Photocopy of parents’ passports
  • Photocopy of the child’s immigration status/visa (Dependant Pass, Student Pass, Permanent Resident Re-Entry Permit, Diplomatic Pass or Immigration Exemption Order)
  • Photocopies of parents’ immigration status/visa (Employment Pass, Dependant Pass, PR Pass, or Diplomatic Pass)
  • Official Transfer Certificate or report cards for the current year and two years prior (officially translated and notarized if not in English)
  • Any speech/language, educational psych testing, or learning needs evaluations/records (if applicable)
  • Employment letter of guarantee (if your employer is paying school fees)
  • Legal custody papers (if parents are divorced)

All documents must be supplied to the school in English or a certified translation.

Do all international schools in Singapore teach Mandarin?


There are seven international schools in Singapore offering a Chinese-English bilingual programme

Yes, all schools offer at least daily or weekly language classes in Mandarin Chinese from as young as 18 months. There is a small number of international schools in Singapore that offer an immersive, bilingual education in Mandarin (Putonghua), which is the most popular Chinese dialect. They offer bilingual programmes for students aged two to 11 years that are focused on the needs of native English speaker.

Some offer immersion programmes in which children are solely exposed to one language for a session or day; others may have two teachers speaking different languages in one classroom and students interact with both throughout a school day. Also, there is a choice of the UK, IB and IPC curricula, and a hugely varying cost with tuition fees ranging from $15,000 to $37,000.

Read more
Which Schools for a Chinese, Bilingual Education?

School campus tours and open days


Schools such as Nexus are offering virtual tours during the time of Covid-19

You’ve done your online research, taken tips from other parents and now have your shortlist of schools ready. But this research only provides a glimpse of what a school is really like. Only by visiting the school and meeting staff and students can you can really make an informed decision about your child’s future.

However, in these unprecedented time schools are using virtual tours to offer families the next best thing to a walk-on campus visit. They have also launched one to one video meetings with admissions managers and principals, Zoom information sessions and webinars, and online assessments to help manage the applications and admissions process.

Most schools will advertise their scheduled open days and online webinars on their website; you may need to register for a place in advance. Alternatively, contact the school directly to arrange a personal meeting.

Before or after visiting a campus, read our independent review of the school by searching here. 

Read more
Virtual School Tours: What to Ask?

How do Singapore’s international schools perform in IGCSE, A Level, CBSE, AP and IB results?


The latest IB results will be released on July 6, 2020

Very few schools provide comprehensive details of their results and it is something that WhichSchoolAdvisor.com is actively campaigning for.

British and IB schools in general provide some information, but often inconsistently. Indian schools often provide a list of "toppers" (top performing individuals) which really is no guide at all to the overall academic performance of the school.

Schools do not like to publish results in general - partly because they do not like to be benchmarked but also because examinations do not take into consideration their "value add". If a school is not selective on intake, then clearly the results it gains will not be as good as those of a selective based school. However, we believe that parents are aware of this, and should be given the same information they would be in other countries around the world.

You can check the 2019 results for all Singapore international schools that have released their data to us by clicking on the links below.

IB Diploma Programme (IBDP) results
CBSE results

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