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, and bilingual programmes.
Most expats in Singapore send their child to 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.
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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.
Pre-Schools on an International Campus
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.
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 2022 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.
Primary 1 Registration to Open for Expats
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.
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.
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Most schools will ask for the following:
All documents must be supplied to the school in English or a certified translation.
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.
Which Schools for a Chinese, Bilingual Education?
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 many 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.
Virtual School Tours: What to Ask?
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 2020 results for all Singapore international schools that have released their data to us by clicking on the links below.