If your child is starting school for the first time, you’re moving to Singapore, or you have decided to change schools for whatever reason, how can you get a place for your child at a primary or secondary school here? The uncertain nature of Covid-19 means that schools need to prepare for a variety of scenarios for the end of this academic year and the start of the next. While we don’t yet know how and when schools will reopen, we can see the impact it is having on this year’s admissions cycle. Enrolment deadlines and admissions criteria remain the same, but application fees are being reduced or waived, and virtual tours are replacing face to face meetings.
In Singapore there are more than 70 international schools educating more than 63,000 students and offering a choice of IB, UK, US, French, German, Indian and Singaporean curricula. Tuition fees range from the affordable to the expensive, schools vary from a colonial mansion to state-of-the-art, purpose-built campuses, and grades are typically above global averages.
While the majority of schools in Singapore are all-through, with several enrolling students from as young as 18 months, there is also a choice of standalone pre-schools and primary schools. Read more.
Fees vary considerably from $9,000 up to $40,000; parents looking for a more affordable education have a 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 27 local and international schools in Singapore offering the IB Diploma Programme, including seven that are full IB schools and also follow the IB Primary Years (PYP) and Middle Years Programmes (MYP). There is a much smaller choice of local and international schools offering A Levels in Singapore with the most established programme offered at Tanglin Trust School where students have the choice of taking either A Levels or the IBDP.
During the circuit breaker period, schools are using virtual tours to offer families the next best thing to a walk-on campus visit. There are 360-degree tours where you can ‘tour’ facilities such as the sports hall, library, playing fields, science lab and theatre. Many schools had these on their website already and, while they can offer an immersive experience of a campus, there can be technical glitches and delays.
Schools 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.
For example, EtonHouse offers online face-to-face consultations for all its schools; GEMS World Academy (Singapore) offers one-to-one Skype conversation; Stamford American International School, Singapore offers live virtual tours with its admissions manager showing you around the school and answering questions; and Singapore American School will send a link to its virtual tour on application. These schools are not unique: Dover Court too offers Virtual Discovery Meetings for a personalised tour of the school; GESS hosts admissions meetings on Zoom; the new Brighton College (Singapore) is hosting a virtual afternoon tea information session; and NLCS Singapore is hosting online coffee mornings with the founding principal Paul Friend.
We have started to see schools tailor these virtual tours to specific year groups and offer separate sessions for primary and secondary. GESS, for example, now offers an IB Diploma Open House where students talk about the diploma programme, and teachers discuss the application process for universities in Europe, UK and US.
Schools hope to reopen on June 1; if and when they do, social distancing measures will still be in place but hopefully there will be opportunities to visit the campus in person and attend initiation days before the start of term in August.
International schools in Singapore accept applications for enrolment throughout the year, and very few have a deadline for admissions. 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 though.
In the current situation, you can submit an online application as a first step, which typically takes around 15 minutes, and then take part in an admissions interview via Zoom or another video app.
Whether you’re planning to move to Singapore or transfer to a different school here, here’s your checklist for primary and secondary school applications.
What documents will I need when I apply to an international school?
All documents must be supplied to the school in English or a certified translation.
How to get into a Singapore school
Parents normally pay an average $6,000 to secure a primary or secondary place at one of Singapore’s 70-plus international schools. This includes a typical cost of $1,300 just to complete the school’s application form. However, in the current financial climate, many schools are offering new parents’ waivers and discounts on application fees.
During May, EtonHouse schools Broadrick and Orchard, as well as its pre-school campuses at Claymore, Robertson Walk and Vanda, are offering fee waivers of up to $2,000. DPS International School has a limited waiver of its registration fees, meaning that anyone applying for Grades 1-12 will pay $1,000 rather than $2,500. And the new Perse School (Singapore) is offering a 20-30% discount on its annual fees of $25,000 and waiving its application and enrolment fees; this can reduce the cost of joining the school by $10,000 from $30,700 to $20,950.
There are also incentives for families to stay at their existing school in Singapore. Schools including International Community School (ICS) are extending their re-enrolment deadlines and reducing their re-enrolment fees; and GIIS SMART is offering parents up to $650 for referring a new student.
This is not an exclusive list, and always check with the school for any discounts on application fees.
In Singapore, you can apply to any international school regardless of where you live. Many schools offer a bus service if required; another option is the Schoober ride-sharing service for K-12 students, which is used at smaller schools such as Invictus International School to create carpools with other families.
ISS International School offers a 3% postcode catchment discount on fees for families who live within the Alexandra/Gillman community; this covers districts such as Queenstown, Orchard, and Tanglin.
The process of moving your child from one school in Singapore to another involves two key steps. Contact your existing school to confirm that you will not be re-enrolling your child, and then obtain a Transfer Certificate from your school.
There are several factors to consider when changing schools:
Expats can apply to some local, Ministry of Education-run schools in Singapore. However, there is strong competition for places and priority is given to Singaporean citizens and those with Permanent Resident (PR) status.
All expats entering Primary 2-5 and Secondary 1-3 in a local school must pass the Admissions Exercise for International Students (AEIS), which assesses English literacy, numeracy and reasoning abilities – and students often have extra tuition to prepare for what is widely regarded as a challenging entrance exam. Applicants who pass the test are offered a place in a school, based on availability, test performance and home address in Singapore.
The Admissions Exercise for International Students (AEIS) for a place in 2021 (remember that local schools follow the January to December academic year), will be conducted in mid-September 2020 and application will open in July 2020. In view of the evolving Covid-19 situation, the MOE advises all applicants to refer to its website in July for any updates.
This year will see three new British public schools move into Singapore – The Perse School (Singapore); Brighton College (Singapore); and NLCS Singapore. Although these schools are British by name, their curriculum is, to varying degrees, more international by nature.
The Perse School, Singapore follows the International Primary Curriculum, and NLCS Singapore plans to offer the IB Programme. Brighton College (Singapore) is the only new school to follow the UK National Curriculum. However, as exports of a British public school, they are all founded on British traditions and incorporate elements from their pre-prep and prep schools in teaching.
The Perse has annual tuition fees of $25,000, Brighton College is $27,700- 35,010, and NLCS Singapore is the most expensive at $30,925-43,988 and; all three schools have places available for August.
A fourth school to open in Singapore will be Invictus’ new secondary and bilingual primary. The Centrium campus will primary school offering a Mandarin immersion programme from Grades 1-6 and a secondary school from Grades 7 to 12 (11-18 years). Subject to government approval, Invictus will open this centrally located campus in Farrer Park in August 2020.