Starting a Private Education Institute (PEI) in Singapore

The education industry is one of Singapore’s potential growth sectors and plays an important role in drawing and nurturing talent from around the world. The Economic Development Board launched the Global Schoolhouse initiative in 2002, with the objective of transforming Singapore into a world renowned education hub. Today there are over 1,200 private education organisations that offer a diverse mix of high quality education services, making Singapore a trusted brand name in this field. Apart from academic education, there has also been a recent rise in demand for niche, specialty vocational and skill-based courses such as culinary arts, grooming, fine arts etc.

The purpose of this guide is to provide general guidance on starting an educational institute in Singapore.

Given the attractive and lucrative business potential this sector has to offer, increasing number of individuals and foreign institutions are striving to tap the market by setting up academic or non-academic private schools, kindergartens/nurseries, childcare centres and other related services. With the aim of streamlining the education industry and its diverse players, the Singapore Government has laid down certain regulations and statutory requirements for entrants to this sector.

Classification of Educational Institutes

Overall, Singapore schools offering private education are classified into the following broad groups:

Childcare Centres

A childcare centre is any place that cares for and supervises more than 5 children, aged below 7, at any one time.

Preschools/Kindergartens

A kindergarten is a school that provides a structured 3-year preschool education consisting of nursery, kindergarten 1, and kindergarten 2 for children aged 3 – 6.

Academic Schools

Academic private schools are the ones that offer theoretical, structured courses and formal education. Typically schools offering certificates, diplomas, degrees come under the category of academic private schools. Examples of academic schools include:

  • Educational establishments that intend to provide academic classes leading to GCE examinations
  • Foreign system/international schools
  • Business schools
  • Language schools
  • Tuition schools
  • Kindergartens/Pre-schools
  • Adult education centres
  • IT schools or computer education centres
  • Fine Arts schools
  • Enrichment centres offering diplomas, certificate courses etc.
  • Distance learning centres

Non-Academic Schools

Non-academic schools are the ones that primarily offer practical, hands-on learning experiences. Examples of non-academic schools include:

  • cooking schools
  • pet grooming schools
  • driving schools
  • hair styling schools
  • dressmaking schools
  • sports activity schools

Setting Up a School – Basic Steps

 Step 1: Think through and plan first

Before you proceed to setting up your educational business, make sure you have reviewed and understood the the various regulatory requirements as mentioned here pertaining to the type of school you are starting. Needless to say that before starting your education business, the following are other important tasks that you should have completed and concluded that your new venture will be a financially viable and profitable entity:

  • Market study including the target student base
  • Identification of tentative locations including the going rental prices
  • Staffing requirements and availability of such talent along with their market salaries
  • Key success factors and risk areas including how you plan to mitigate the risks involved
  • Complete financial projections with both best and worst case scenarios in mind

Step 2: Incorporate business

Once you have decided to proceed forward, you must incorporate your business first. The most suitable legal entity for this purpose is a private limited Singapore company. Incorporating a private limited company in Singapore is a fairly straightforward and quick process although certain statutory requirements apply. For more details, refer to setting up a Singapore company.

Step 3: Prepare for operations

Once the company has been incorporated, the real work begins. There are a number of important tasks you need to complete before you can start enrolling students. These include:

Find suitable premises


You can only use premises that are approved for educational activities by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). Therefore you should check with the landowner to makes sure the premises you are planning to lease can be used for this purpose. See also Guide to signing a lease agreement in Singapore.

Once you signed the lease for the space, you should hire a qualified contractor to carry out the necessary renovation work as per your needs.

Hire staff


As majority of your staff will consist of teaching staff, you will need to make sure they have the necessary qualifications to teach relevant courses. You will be required to clearly state qualifications of teaching staff in your marketing collateral. If your educational institute plans to offer Government-subsidised training, you must comply with the additional terms imposed by the relevant authorities.

Your staff can consist of both local and foreign employees. For more details in this, see guide to hiring employees.

Apply for necessary licenses

You will also need to apply for the mandatory licenses at this stage that are applicable to the type educational institute you are setting up. For more details on this, see below section titled Licensing Requirements.

Step 4: Obtain Accreditations

Once your school is up and running, you should seriously think about getting the following accreditations in order to create trust and confidence with your potential student community:

  • EduTrust certification. EduTrust certification must be obtained before international students can get enrolled. Private education institutes can get financial support and assistance for EduTrust certification under a new EduTrust Support Scheme (ESS). The ESS provides a grant of up to S$26,500 to eligible institutes that are interested in upgrading their capabilities.
  • Singapore Quality Class (SQC) certification. SQC certifications not only helps in creating a positive perception about your educational institute but also with expedited handling of student visa applications submitted by SQC certifiied educational institutes.

Licensing Requirements

The specific licenses required depends on the type of education establishment you are planning to setup. The table below provides a summary view of the various registration, licences, permits you will need for various types of education establishments.

The key regulatory requirement for companies involved in the education business is that all private organisations or establishments providing education to 10 or more people (except non-academic schools) must register either with the Ministry of Education (MOE) or Council for Private Education (CPE), depending on the type of education establishment. Registration with MOE and CPE gives private schools the right to operate when they have met statutory requirements.

Childcare Centre Preschool / Kindergarten Academic School Non-Academic School
Business registration Required Required Required Required
Registration with Ministry of Education Required Required Required for certain types of academic schools Not Required
Registration with Council for Private Education Not Required Not Required Required for certain types of academic schools Not Required
Childcare centre license Required If Applicable N/A N/A
Canteen / food court / food stall / coffee shop licence If Applicable If Applicable If Applicable If Applicable
Placing TV sets in your premises If Applicable If Applicable If Applicable If Applicable
Publishing an educational/school magazine If Applicable If Applicable If Applicable If Applicable
Importing educational materials If Applicable If Applicable If Applicable If Applicable
Advertising the establishment If Applicable If Applicable If Applicable If Applicable
EduTrust Certification Recommended Recommended Recommended Recommended
Singapore Quality Class Certification N/A N/A Recommended N/A

 

 

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