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Studying In Singapore

Singapore has a rich history and culture. With the passage of time the city-state has emerged as an important trading destination in Asia. Diverse cultures, languages and religions give Singapore a cosmopolitan look.

The Government of Singapore spends a huge amount on education and it is among one of the top priorities of the government. After the secondary education, students can get themselves enrolled to a junior college and then move on to any one of the four universities present in the country.

These universities – the National University of Singapore, the Nan yang Technological University, the Singapore Management University, and the SIM University – provide state-of-the-art facilities and excellent opportunities in higher education.

The two public universities in the country – the National University of Singapore and the Nan yang Technological University each has more than 20000 students. These universities have a number of undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes and doctoral degrees. The Singapore Management University is a private university funded by the government. The SMU provides excellent education in Management and Business streams.

The curriculum at the higher educational institutions has been patterned on a modular system. The undergraduate and graduate programmes are multi-disciplinary in nature. These programmes have been designed according to each student's ability, interest and ambitions.

Singapore: A preferred educational destination

Singapore has the highest rate of literacy in the world. The education in Singapore is managed by the Ministry of Education. The ministry directs the education policy, controls the administration and development of state schools and maintains a supervisory and advisory role in private schools.

English has been incorporated as the first language in Singapore along with other mother tongues being taught as second languages. The bilingual policy and the merit-based educational system have proved to be distinctly successful in creating students who have excelled in international competitions in debating, mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology.

Singapore has 4 main Universities, 2 of which are public universities and the other 2 private universities. Other than these universities, there are 5 Polytechnics and several tertiary institutions which also give graduate and post graduate degrees. Besides these institutions, there are several international educational institutions which have set up their centers in Singapore.

Living in Singapore

Accommodation is an important service for students living away from home. There is a wide variety of accommodation types in Singapore to suit different budgets and needs.

Students should make prior arrangements for accommodation before arrival in Singapore. Temporary accommodation can be arranged before you leave home, giving you time to plan your living arrangements when you arrive.

Most educational institutions have an International Student Office specialising in the needs of international students. The staff at these centres offer advice on accommodation procedures, contacts for private rental offers, room-mate matching services, handy tips about renting student homes, as well as help in selecting an accommodation type which best suit students' needs.

Halls of Residence and Hostels

First-year international students are normally given priority when they apply for on-campus accommodation. Rooms can be single or shared. Meal packages are available at extra charges. Halls of Residence provide amenities such as television rooms, reading rooms, laundry rooms, computer rooms, kitchenettes and so on. Welfare services and bonding activities are also organised for its residents.

Room rates range from S$155 - S$560 a month depending on the number of students sharing the room.

Boarding Schools

Boarding schools are normally open to Secondary and Junior College students aged between 13 and 19 years. Selection is normally preceded by an interview of both the parents and the students. Boarding services include lodging, meals, laundry services, 24-hour security, pastoral guidance, tuition, supervision, sports & recreational facilities. A spirit of camaraderie often exists in boarding schools due to the bonding and friendships that are forged among boarders. Rates range from S$8,000 to S$15,000 per academic year.

Private Hostels

Private hostels are run by educational institutions or independent agencies. Options of single or sharing are normally available.


Some households in Singapore open up their homes and offer full boarding to international students. Homestay programme seeks to provide a conducive environment where the student gets to enjoy a homely environment, receive attentive care and emotional support from the guardians in the absence of his / her parents.The costs for homestay ranges from S$1000 to S$1,600 per month.

Education System in Singapore

Pre-School Education

Pre-School education is offered by kindergartens and childcare centres, consisting of a structured three-year programme for children aged three to six. Registered with the Ministry of Education, kindergartens in Singapore are operated by community foundations, religious bodies, social and business organisations. Childcare centres are licensed by the Ministry of Community Development and Sports.

Most kindergartens operate two sessions a day with each session ranging from 2 1/2 to 4 hours, five days a week. The curriculum generally includes programmes in English and a second language, with the exception of foreign system or International schools which offer kindergarten programmes for children of expatriates.

Registration periods for kindergartens and childcare centres vary from centre to centre. Most childcare centres admit students all year round subject to availability of vacancy. Please contact the individual kindergartens directly for more information on admission, curriculum and other matters.

  • Primary Schools (years 0-6 or 7).
  • Secondary High Schools (years 7 or 8-12).
  • Junior Colleges (years 7 or 8-10 only).
  • Senior or Matriculation Colleges (years 11 and 12 only).
Primary Schools

A child in Singapore undergoes six years of primary education, comprising a four-year foundation stage from Primary 1 to 4 and a two-year orientation stage from Primary 5 to 6 .

At the foundation stage, the core curriculum comprising English, the Mother Tongue and Mathematics are taught, with supplementary subjects such as Music, Art & Craft, Physical Education and Social Studies. Science is included from Primary 3. To maximise their potential, students are streamed according to their learning ability before advancing to the orientation stage. At the end of Primary 6, students sit for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).

Singapore's primary school curriculum has been used as a model internationally, especially its teaching methods in mathematics. Foreign students are accepted at primary schools subject to availability of vacancies.

Secondary Schools

Secondary schools in Singapore can be government funded, government aided or independent. Students attend four or five years of secondary education under the Special, Express or Normal Course. The Special and Express Courses prepare students for the Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education 'Ordinary' (GCE 'O') Level examination in four years. Students in the Normal Course can opt for the Academic or Technical stream, both of which prepare students for the Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education 'Normal' (GCE 'N') Level examination after four years of study and upon satisfactory completion, the GCE 'O' Level examination in the fifth year.

Secondary education curriculum includes English, the Mother Tongue, Mathematics, Science and the Humanities. At Secondary 3, students can opt for electives of their choice, depending on whether they are in the Arts, Science, Commerce or Technical stream.

Singapore's secondary school curriculum is recognised worldwide for its ability to develop students with critical thinking and intellectual skills. Foreign students are accepted at secondary schools subject to availability of vacancies.

Junior Colleges / Pre-Universities

Upon completion of the GCE 'O' Level examination, students may apply for entry to a junior college for a two-year pre-university course or a centralised institute for a three-year pre-university course. Junior colleges and centralised institues prepare students for their entry to the university and lay the foundation for tertiary education. The curriculum comprises two compulsory subjects, namely General Paper and the Mother Tongue, and a maximum of four Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education 'Advanced' GCE 'A' Level subjects from the Arts, Science or Commerce Courses. At the end of the pre-university course, students sit for the GCE 'A' Level examination.

Foreign students are accepted at Junior Colleges and Pre-Universities subject to the availability of vacancies.


Polytechnics were established in Singapore to offer students practice-oriented studies at the diploma level. There are currently five polytechnics in Singapore :

  • Nanyang Polytechnic
  • Ngee Ann Polytechnic
  • Republic Polytechnic
  • Singapore Polytechnic
  • Temasek Polytechnic

They offer a wide range of courses such as Engineering, Business Studies, Mass Communication, Design and Info-Communications. Specialised courses such as Optometry, Marine Engineering, Nautical Studies, Nursing, Early Childhood Education and Film are also available for those who wish to forge a specific career path

Institute of Technical Education (ITE)

ITE is an alternative post-secondary institution for those opting to develop their technical skills and knowledge in various industry sectors. Besides providing full-time institutional training and traineeship programmes for secondary school leavers, ITE also provides continuing education programmes for working adults.


The three local universities in Singapore :

  • National University of Singapore (NUS)
  • Nanyang Technological University (NTU)
  • Singapore Management University (SMU)

They mould outstanding graduates with internationally recognised degrees. Research and scholarship opportunities are also available to post-graduate students.

Since its founding in 1905, NUS has since evolved into a comprehensive university offering courses in major disciplines such as the Sciences, Engineering, Technology, Law, Arts & Social Sciences and Medicine.

NTU was set up in 1981 to provide facilities for tertiary education and research in engineering and technology. It has since incorporated the National Institute of Education (NIE) "the teachers' college" and expanded to include Accountancy, Business and Communication Studies.

SMU was established in 2000 as the first publicly-funded private university with a focus on business and management programmes.

International Universities in Singapore

In addition to local universities, many of the world's leading foreign universities have also established their presence in Singapore. These leading foreign universities have either set up a physical campus (institutes of higher learning) or have joint collaborations/programmes with local universities (local tie-ups).

Leading International Institutions with Asian Campus located in Singapore
  • University of Chicago Graduate School of Business
  • Duke
  • SP Jain Centre of Management
  • Digipen Institute of Technology
  • University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV)
  • New York University Tisch School of the Arts Asia
Leading International Universities in Collaboration with Singapore Universities
  • John Hopkins
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  • The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
  • Design Technology Institute
  • German Institute of Science & Technology
  • Shanghai Jiao Tong University
  • Stanford University
  • Waseda University
  • Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay
  • New York University School of Law
  • Cornell University

In addition, our local universities, the National University of Singapore and the Nanyang Technological University also have joint programmes with more than 16 other institutions around the world. These include: University of St. Gallen (Switzerland), Beijing University for Chinese Medicine, ESIEE (France), Australian National University, University of Melbourne (Australia), University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (USA), UCLA Anderson School of Management (USA), Ecole Supérieure d'Electricité (Supelec) (France), Peking University (China), Karolinska Institutet (Sweden), University of Basel (Switzerland), Technical University of Denmark, King's College London, Tsinghua University (China), Université Pierre Et Marie Curie, Université Paris Sud and the French Grandes Écoles.

Private Arts Institutions

There are currently 2 private arts institutions in Singapore providing post-secondary education in the arts, LASALLE College of the Arts and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA)

The 2 schools are privately-managed entities; both arts institutions are non-profit, private educational institutions and operate autonomously with financial support from the Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE), in the form of polytechnic-level funding for the respective Diploma programmes. In addition, the institutions also offer offshore or externally accredited degree programmes which are not funded by the government.

As with other educational institutions in receipt of public funds, they are exempted from the CaseTrust for Education scheme.

Foreign System Schools / International Schools

Foreign System Schools , or International Schools , offer you the opportunity to pursue an education similar to the one in your country of origin. Registered with the Ministry of Education, they follow guidelines and curriculum identical to those in their home country.

Singapore has a number of International Schools granting admission to foreign students and permanent residents. Some International Schools impose minimum requirements for admission, such as language proficiency or nationality. The criteria vary with each school.

Fees per year generally range from S$4,600 to S$14,000 for the lower grades and S$6,000 to S$18,000 for the upper grades. The school year and semesters also differ from school to school.

Three of Singapore's top schools, Anglo-Chinese School (ACS), Hwa Chong Institution and St Joseph's Institution have established private arms. The first 2 schools admitted their first intake of students in January 2005, while the 3rd will open its doors to students in January 2007.

Set up under the entities of ACS International , Hwa Chong International and SJI International respectively, the 3 schools offer secondary and post-secondary education. ACS International offers the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP), Hwa Chong International offers a secondary and pre-university programme culminating in the Cambridge GCE A Levels certificate, while SJI International will offer an international curriculum leading to the International Baccalaureate Diploma.