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International Schools in Singapore: Choosing the Right School for Your Child

Singapore has a large expat community and is very fortunate to be home to a wide choice of world class international schools. When faced with a new school system, it is important to make comparisons across several key criteria.

As an overview, the schooling options in Singapore fit into four broad categories:

International Schools

These schools usually cater to a diversity of cultures with no dominant nationality or ethnic group. For mobile expats, the mix of international curriculums allows children to transfer and continue their curriculum easily. Curriculums are usually a mix the International Baccalaureate ‘IB’ (divided into Primary Years Programme (PYP), Middle Years Programme (MYP) and Diploma (DP)), the International Primary Curriculum and the IGCSE.

Examples of International Schools include: UWCSEA, GEMS World Academy, Nexus International School, St. Joseph’s Institution International and Overseas Family School.

National Curriculum Schools

These schools place emphasis on mirroring the syllabus to that of the home country’s education system and curriculum for easier transitions. Whether you intend to remain in Singapore as a family for the medium term or an unspecified period of time, those with intentions to return to their home county tend to consider keeping the curriculum aligned with the curriculum in their home country. This allows for smoother transition and minimum disruption when transferring between countries, and for older children, entry to higher education/universities in their home country.

Examples of National Curriculum Schools include: Tanglin Trust School, Singapore American School and Avondale Grammar School.

Hybrid Curriculum Schools

These schools offer a dual curriculum approach, combining a home country curriculum with one or more international curriculums. There is the option to choose which curriculum to follow dependant on personal preference.

Examples of Hybrid Curriculum Schools include: German European School Singapore, Stamford American School and the Australian International School.

Local Schools

Some expats choose public schools for the richest possible exposure to the local culture and language for their children, with fluency in Mandarin. Singapore’s education system has an excellent reputation internationally with specific focus in sciences and mathematics. Families considering staying in Singapore a long-term may favour this option, but should be aware that there is strong competition for places. Waiting lists are extensive and Singapore Citizens and those with Permanent Resident (PR) status get allocated places ahead of foreign nationals without PR status.

In this school guide, we highlight some of the most prominent options in Singapore and are on hand to provide school literature, admission assistance and organise school visits to your short-list of schools.

10 key factors to take into account when choosing a school:

  • 1. Curriculum

    Dependant on the age of your child, it is important that the curriculum fit’s their character and educational needs. For those 12 years and older, deciding what curriculum to follow is an important choice for future opportunities.

  • 2. School Fees

    International schools often have a higher price tag than expats may be accustomed to in their home countries. It is noteworthy that school fees tend to increase year on year between 3-8% and there are often significant supplementary costs for development levy / infrastructure fees, application and enrolment fees as well as payments for school excursions, exams, insurance, learning support, extracurricular activities, books, school buses, uniform and lunches.

    Discounts are sometimes offered to families who have more than one child attending the school, although this usually applies when there is a third or fourth child. 

    Every school will have its own fee structure, some schools will allow payments to be made in instalments, whilst others require payment upfront.

  • 3. School culture

    Getting a sense of the school’s ethos and values system is very important. It often can come down to personal preference and so understanding what values will be instilled into your child is key.

  • 4. Admissions process/waiting lists

    Each school will have its own applications process, detailed in the school brochure and on each schools website. Many applications are submitted online and each vary in what is required. There is often a pre-requisite for the child to be proficient in English by a certain age, many request previous school reports to be submitted and some may request entrance assessments.

    The application process usually opens 1 year prior to the start of the academic year, however, those transferring during the school year can also be accommodated.  

    In the circumstance that the school has reached capacity and cannot offer a placement, the school may offer an option to join a waiting list.

  • 5. Facilities & extracurricular activities

    The standard of facilities offered by many of the international schools are world class, Olympic sized swimming pools, climbing walls, innovation centres, 600 seater auditoriums and technology tools. It is key to understand how much exposure students typically have with these facilities and how they are incorporated to benefit your child’s learning.

    Extracurricular may or may not be included in school fees and offer children a balance to the academic experience. It is helpful to be aware of the activities available to your child, most schools offer a wide range of sports, music and visual arts.

  • 6. Subjects/Languages offered

    It is important to be aware of what subjects and language options are offered at each school, especially if the child is at the critical stage of deciding what field they intend to forge a career in and require certain facilities and support to do so. 

  • 7. Exam results and success

    The standard of education is generally high across all curriculums, with exam results published annually. Many schools opt for annual inspections to ensure the highest standard is maintained. 

  • 8. Holiday and term time

    School holidays and term dates vary from school to school. It is useful to be aware of the two different academic year start dates. Those mirroring the Southern Hemisphere nationalities tend to be January to December, whilst the Northern Hemisphere nationalities and international schools tend to be August to July.

  • 9. Location & Commute options

    Please refer to our school brochure, detailing the location and closest transport options for each school. Most international schools offer school bus options at an additional cost with information on what areas pick up and drop off are offered to around the island. 

    It is also advisable to be aware of how long the lease of land is or any plans the school has to relocate. 

  • 10. Population: Class size/Student:Teacher ratio

    Class sizes and teacher – to-child ratios are markedly varied from school to school and for each academic year.

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