All local, government-owned schools follow the MOE (Ministry of Education) curriculum. There are six years of primary education for ages seven to 12 years – Primary 1 to 6 – ending with the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE). Students then proceed to secondary education for ages 12 to 17 years – Secondary 1 to 5.
The primary curriculum includes English, maths, science humanities and the arts. All students must attend mother tongue classes in either Mandarin, Tamil or Malay. There are knowledge skills classes, which focus on developing communications skills, and a character development programme that includes life skills, PE and co-curricular activities.
The secondary curriculum place students in the Express, Normal (Academic), Normal (Technical) or the Integrated Programme (IP) streams – and this is based on their PSLE results.
Students in the four-year Express and five-year Normal streams work towards taking Singapore-Cambridge GCE Ordinary Level exams (this is equivalent to IGCSEs). Students take four to nine GCEs in core and elective subjects; those in the Normal (Technical) stream can take subjects such as design and technology.
All streams focus on the core subjects of English, maths, science humanities and the arts, and all students must attend mother tongue classes in either Mandarin, Tamil or Malay. As well as offering a foreign language programme in Spanish, Japanese, French and German, MOE secondary schools offer elective programmes in art and music; after school, students can take part in co-curricular activities.
Higher-performing students can study the six-year IP in which they bypass taking GCEs and work towards A Levels or the International Baccalaureate Programme (IBDP). Local schools offering the IP include ACS Independent, Cedar Girls' Secondary School and St Joseph's Institution.
Although the MOE curriculum is certainly very academically focused, there is an increasing emphasis on the arts, co-curricular activities, innovation and global citizenship; new subjects being introduced include computing, theatre studies and drama. Also, local schools are offering more opportunities for students to take part in residential camps, join environmental groups, and explore non-academic interests and passions. All students take part in community service projects as part of the MOE's Values in Action programme.