Top 10 Questions About Singapore's Schools

The WhichSchoolAdvisor.com team receives thousands of questions each year, many of which tend to fit into one of the following questions... If you still have a question that we have not answered here, either add in the comments section below, or email us at editor@whichschooladvisor.com.
Top 10 Questions About Singapore's Schools
By Carli Allan
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LET'S GO

The following are the questions the WhichSchoolAdvisor.com team is frequently asked about schools in Singapore.

Jump:

  1. What is the best international school in Singapore?
  2. Which curriculum is the best in Singapore?
  3. When does the academic year start in Singapore’s international schools?
  4. Which are the cheapest schools in Singapore?
  5. Can I apply to a local, Ministry of Education-run school in Singapore?
  6. Which schools in Singapore offer a bilingual programme?
  7. When can my children start school in Singapore?
  8. Which is the best IB school in Singapore?
  9. Can Singaporeans attend international schools?
  10. Should I send my child to a private pre-school or an international school preschool in Singapore?

Question 1: What is the best school in Singapore?

Answer: It is the question we are most often asked and everyone wants to know. However, the answer is kind of unsatisfying. The right answer is that depends upon your child's needs.

It is understandable that many parents, and even students, would like a simple answer to the question because it would save a lot of time and research (and give some parents and students serious bragging rights!), but that does not mean there is one. Ask yourself:

  • Does your child like sport?
  • Is your child academic?
  • Is your child an extrovert or an introvert?
  • Does he/she make friends easily?
  • Is he/she more likely to find friends in a smaller, or larger school?
  • Will your child need additional attention in the classroom?
  • Is your child gifted in the classroom, or at a sport?
  • Which curriculum are you interested in?
  • Where do you plan to go after Singapore?
  • What's your budget?

The answers to these, and other questions like them, that may be unique to your situation, will help you identify the characteristics of the school that will be a fit for your child.

There is no such thing as the perfect school, and there is certainly not one top-ranking school in Singapore that casts a shadow over all the others. It’s all about finding the best fit for your child, a school where he will really ‘belong’, and an education that will see them making progress and reach their full potential.

That said, the editors at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com have selected their top international schools in Singapore for 2020-21 based on the strength of their curricula, quality of teaching and learning, facilities, academic success, affordability, value for money and location.

In terms of desk-based research the other resources to look at include BSO reports for UK schools; these inspections are very much optional so only a handful of schools have been inspected this way.

Nothing however beats visiting schools, so our final recommendation – once you have made your shortlist – is to visit the schools themselves. On a school visit, here is what to look for.

Read more
Top International Schools in Singapore

Question 2: Which curriculum is the best in Singapore?

Answer: Which is the best depends very much on it being fit for purpose for you as a family. 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. The first option is especially important for international families that plan to 'return home'. The second option is important for those parents that do not see themselves returning home, but perhaps moving between countries; this is also important for parents targeting a tertiary education for their child(ren) outside their country of origin.

The most international curricula are the UK (I/GCSE and A' Level) and the IB. We define international simply as the curricula most frequently used by international private schools around the world, and the qualifications accepted most readily/easily by universities globally.

Read more
A Levels vs IBDP? Where to Study in Singapore?

Question 3: When does the academic year start in Singapore’s international schools?

Answer: 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), St. Jospeh's Institution (International),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.

Read more
Singapore's Public and School Holidays 2020-21 

Question 4: Which are the cheapest schools in Singapore?

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.

Parents looking for a more affordable education have the choice of schools offering the UK curriculum, the International Baccalaureate programme, India’s CBSE, the Singapore MOE curriculum, and the International Primary Curriculum (IPC). There are also schools teaching AP courses and Cambridge programmes, as well as French, Korean and Australian curricula.

The new Invictus International School (Centrium), due to open early 2021, will offer one of the most affordable English-Mandarin bilingual programmes for primary years. Schools planning to offer IGCSE and A Level programmes for less than $20,000 per year in the future include Invictus (Centrium) and Middleton International School (Tampines).

The majority of schools offering fees from $5,500 to $20,000 are primary, and you should expect to pay $21,000 and above for most secondary schools in Singapore. That said, St Francis Methodist School, GIIS SMART, Middleton International School, Singapore Korean International School, 5 Steps Academy, International French School, DPS International, Yuvabharathi International School, Dimensions High School, and One World International School (Nanyang) all enrol secondary students (or plan to) for less than $20,000 per year.

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 of $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. (The school should pay you to do this!).

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
Most Affordable Schools in Singapore
The Total Cost of a Singapore School Place

Question 5: Can I apply to a local, Ministry of Education-run school in Singapore?

Answer: 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

Question 6: Which schools in Singapore offer a bilingual programme?

Answer: There is a small number of international schools in Singapore that offer a 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 speakers.

The time spent learning through each language varies from school to school. 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 of them 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?

Question 7: When can my children start school in Singapore?

Answer: You should be guided by the Admissions team at the school in choosing what is the best for your child when that time comes.

However, as a guide, at most UK curriculum schools students must be four years old by September 1 to join Reception and five years old by September 1 to join Year 1.

At US schools, students must be five years old by September 1 to join Kindergarten and six years old by September 1 to join Grade 1.

At Australian schools, students must be aged five to six years by April 30 to join Prep, and aged six to seven years to join Year 1.

For Indian and Japanese schools, children need to be four years of age by July 31 to start school in Grade 1.

Read more
Singapore School Admissions - the Checklist

Question 8: Which is the best IB school in Singapore?

Answer: This would fall into the same category as the answer as the best school in Singapore - it depends very much on what you are looking for.

The most successful international schools in terms of the 2019 and 2020 IB results are GIIS SMART Campus, NPS International School, SJI International, Tanglin Trust School and UWCSEA, Dover Campus.

However, as well as academic results, you need to ask:

  • Which IB programmes is the school accredited to teach (the PYP, MYP, IBDP and/or IBCP)?
  • Do they offer the IB Bilingual Diploma?
  • Are all students in the cohort entered for the IB Diploma Programme?
  • What Standard and Higher Level courses does the school offer, and does this fit with your child’s needs?
  • What are the tuition fees?

Roundup for 2019 and 2020 IB Scores 

School Average score 2020 Average score 2019
ACS (International) Singapore (Nov cohort) Results on Dec 16  35.3
Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) (Nov cohort) Results on Dec 16 42
Australian International School (Nov cohort) Results on Dec 16 np
Canadian International School (Lakeside) 35 34.07
Chatsworth International School   36
Dover Court International School 37 32
Dulwich College, Singapore 37 First IB results in 2020
GEMS World Academy, Singapore   np
GESS   32
GIIS SMART Campus 36 37
Hillside World Academy   np
Hwa Chong International (Nov cohort) Results on Dec 16 np
ISS International School Singapore  32.4 32.12
Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah (Nov cohort) Results on Dec 16 np
Nexus 34 32
NPS International School 37.9 37.4
Overseas Family School 33.9 33.8
School of The Arts Singapore (Nov cohort) Results on Dec 16 38.5%
Singapore Sports School (Nov cohort) Results on Dec 16 np
SJI International (Nov cohort) Results on Dec 16 37.7
St Joseph's Institution (Nov cohort) Results on Dec 16 40
Stamford American International School   31
Tanglin Trust School 38.2 38.1
UWCSEA, Dover Campus 37.3 37
UWCSEA, East Campus 36.2 36

Read more
IB Schools in Singapore

Question 9: Can Singaporeans attend international schools?

Answer: Singaporean citizens are not allowed to attend international primary or secondary schools unless they are given special dispensation by the Ministry of Education (MOE). 

Question 10: Should I send my child to a private pre-school or an international school preschool in Singapore?

Answer: You have a wide choice of both private pre-schools or international school pre-schools in Singapore. Many of Singapore’s most popular international schools offer nursery and kindergarten classes in a self-contained early-years’ centre with its own community of classrooms, learning pods and recreational areas. However, such pre-schools within international schools cannot always match the small class sizes, low teacher:student ratios, and intimacy of a standalone nursery – and they may only offer pre-school childcare during term-time. 

You may want to consider moving your child to an international school earlier than Reception or Grade 1 is to secure a place as it can be easier to get a spot in early years some schools. However, if your chosen primary school does not have a waitlist, then you have no problems applying the year before they are due to attend.

Read more
Which International Schools have a Pre-school?

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