Education in Singapore

Education in Singapore
Education in Singapore
Ministry of Education
Minister Heng Swee Keat
National education budget (2006)
Budget S$6.966 billion
General Details
Primary Languages English
System Type National
Total 95.4%
Enrollment
Total 532,225
Primary 290,261
Secondary 213,063
Post Secondary 28,901

Education in Singapore is managed by the Ministry of Education (MOE), which controls the development and administration of state schools receiving government funding, but also has an advisory and supervisory role in respect of private schools. For both private and state schools, there are variations in the extent of autonomy in their curriculum, scope of government aid and funding, tuition burden on the students, and admission policy.[1]

Education spending usually makes up about 20 per cent of the annual national budget, which subsidises state education and government-assisted private education for Singaporean citizens and funds the Edusave programme, the costs for which are significantly higher for non-citizens. In 2000 the Compulsory Education Act[2] codified compulsory education for children of primary school age (excepting those with disabilities), and made it a criminal offence for parents to fail to enroll their children in school and ensure their regular attendance.[3] Exemptions are allowed for homeschooling or full-time religious institutions, but parents must apply for exemption from the Ministry of Education and meet a minimum benchmark.[4]

The main language of instruction in Singapore is English, which was officially designated the first language within the local education system in 1987.[5] English is the first language learned by half the children by the time they reach preschool age and becomes the primary medium of instruction by the time they reach primary school. Although Malay, Mandarin Chinese and Tamil are also official languages, English is the language of instruction for nearly all subjects except the official Mother Tongue languages and the literatures of those languages; these are generally not taught in English, although there is provision for the use of English at the initial stages. Certain schools, such as secondary schools under the Special Assistance Plan (SAP), which encourages a richer use of the mother tongue, may teach occasionally in English and another language. A few schools have been experimenting with curricula that integrates language subjects with mathematics and the sciences, using both English and a second language.

Singapore's education system has been described as "world-leading" and in 2010 was among those picked out for commendation by the British education minister Michael Gove.[6]

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Contents

School grades

The school year is divided into two semesters. The first begins in the beginning of January and ends in June; the second begins in July and ends in December.

Level/Grade Typical age
Preschool
Pre-school playgroup 3-4
Kindergarten 4-6
Primary school
Primary 1 6-7
Primary 2 7-8
Primary 3 8-9
Primary 4 9-10
Primary 5 10-11
Primary 6 11–12
Secondary school
Secondary 1 12-13
Secondary 2 13–14
Secondary 3 14-15
Secondary 4 15–16
Post-secondary education
Tertiary education (College or University) Ages vary (usually four years,
referred to as Freshman,
Sophomore, Junior and
Senior years)

Kindergartens

Kindergartens in Singapore provide up to three years of pre-school for children ages three to six. The three years are commonly called Nursery, Kindergarten 1 (K1) and Kindergarten 2 (K2), respectively.

Kindergartens provide an environment for children to learn how to interact with others, and to prepare them for formal education at Primary school. Activities include learning language - written and oral - and numbers, development of personal and social skills, games, music, and outdoor play. Children learn two languages, English and their official Mother Tongue (Chinese, Malay, or Tamil). Many private or church-based kindergartens might not offer Malay or Tamil, so non-Chinese pupils might also learn some Chinese in these kindergartens.

The kindergartens are run by the private sector, including community foundations, religious bodies, and civic or business groups. There are more than 200 kindergartens registered with the Ministry of Education. Kindergartens are also run by child care centres as well as international schools.

The People's Action Party, which has governed Singapore since 1957, runs 247 kindergartens through its charitable arm, the PAP Community Foundation.[7]

Primary education

Primary education, normally starting at age seven, is a four-year foundation stage (Primary 1 to 4) and a two-year orientation stage (Primary 5 to 6). Primary education is compulsory and free, though there is a fee of up to SGD 13 monthly per student to help cover miscellaneous costs.

Foundation stage

The foundation stage is the first stage of formal schooling. The four years, from primary 1 to 4, provide a foundation in English, mother tongue (which includes Chinese, Malay, Tamil or a Non-Tamil Indian Language (NTIL)) and Mathematics. Other subjects include Civics and Moral Education, arts and crafts, music, health education, social studies, and physical education, which are taught throughout Primary 1 to 6. Science is taught from Primary 3 onwards.

Orientation stage

All pupils advance to the orientation stage after Primary 4, where English Language, Mother Tongue and Mathematics are taught at the appropriate level according to the pupil's ability. Schools are given the flexibility to develop their own examinations to match pupils with the levels that suit them. The streaming system has been adjusted: previously, pupils were divided at Primary 5 to the EM1, EM2 and EM3 (English and Mother Tongue at 1st, 2nd and 3rd language respectively) streams, but since 2008 they are streamed according to subject. They can take their Mother Tongue at the higher, standard or foundation levels; Science and Maths can be taken at the standard or foundation levels.

Primary School Leaving Examination

At the end of Primary 6, the national Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) is held. The examination determines whether the student is ready to leave primary school by passing; places in secondary schools are allocated according to students' performance in the examination.

Secondary education

Students having assembly in the hall of Nan Hua High School.

Based on results of the PSLE, students are placed in different secondary education tracks or streams: "Special", "Express", "Normal (Academic)", or "Normal (Technical)". Singaporeans are forbidden to attend international schools on the island without Ministry of Education permission.

"Special" and "Express" are four-year courses leading up to the Singapore-Cambridge GCE "O" Level examination. The difference between these two courses is that in the "Special" stream, students take 'Higher Mother Tongue' (available for Chinese, Malay and Tamil only) instead of 'Mother Tongue'. A pass in the Higher Mother Tongue 'O' Level Examination constitutes the fulfilment of the Mother Tongue requirement in Singapore, whereas Normal Mother Tongue Students will have to go through one more year of study in their Mother Tongue after their 'O' Levels to take the 'AS' Level Mother Tongue Examinations and fulfil the MOE's requirement. A foreign language, either French, German, or Japanese, can be taken in addition to the mother tongue or can replace it. This is especially popular with students who are struggling with their mother tongues, expatriates, or students returning from abroad. Non-Chinese students may also study Chinese and non-Malay students Malay as a third language. This programme is known as CSP (Chinese Special Programme) and MSP (Malay Special Programme). Mother Tongue teachers conduct these lessons in school after usual hours. Students of Higher Mother Tongue languages are allowed to have up to two points taken off their O-level scoring,[8] a scoring system discussed below where a lower value is considered better, if they meet set benchmarks. The Ministry of Education Language Centre (MOELC) provides free language education for most additional languages that other schools may not cover, and provides the bulk of such education, admitting several thousand students each year.

Normal is a four-year course leading up to a Normal-level (N-level) exam, with the possibility of a fifth year followed by an O-level. Normal is split into Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical). In Normal (Technical), students take subjects of a more technical nature, such as Design and Technology, while in Normal (Academic) students are prepared to take the O-level exam and normally take subjects such as Principles of Accounting. In 2004, the Ministry of Education announced that selected students in the Normal course would have an opportunity to sit for the O-level exam directly without first taking the N-level exam.

There are ongoing debates about the effectiveness of streaming, with some arguing that it should be abolished due to its detrimental psychological effects.

With the exception of schools offering the Integrated Programme, which leads to either an International Baccalaureate Diploma or to an A-level exam, most students are streamed into a wide range of course combinations at the end of their second year, bringing the total number of subjects they have to sit at O-level to between six to ten, with English, Mother Tongue or Higher Mother Tongue Language, Mathematics, one Science and one Humanities Elective being compulsory. Several new subjects such as Computing and Theatre Studies and Drama are being introduced in tandem with the Ministry of Education's revised curriculum. Subjects usually taken at O-Level are:

Languages group:

  1. English Language
  2. Mother Tongue Languages Mandarin (Chinese, Malay, Tamil, etc.)
  3. Higher Mother Tongue Languages (Higher Chinese, Higher Malay, Higher Tamil, etc.)
  4. Non-Tamil Indian Languages (Hindi, Urdu, etc.)
  5. Foreign Languages (French, German, Japanese)
  6. Asian Languages (Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia)
  7. Other Third Languages [Chinese (Special Programme), Malay (Special Programme)]

Humanities group:

  1. Combined Humanities
  2. History
  3. Geography
  4. Literature in English/Malay/Chinese/Tamil
  5. Higher Art (Art Elective Programme)
  6. Higher Music (Music Elective Programme)

Mathematics & Science Group:

  1. Mathematics
  2. Additional Mathematics
  3. Physics
  4. Chemistry
  5. Biology
  6. Science (Physics, Chemistry), Science (Physics, Biology), Science (Chemistry, Biology)
  7. Integrated Sciences

Others:

  1. Art
  2. Design and Technology
  3. Music
  4. Computer Applications
  5. Elements of Office Administration (until 2008)
  6. Elements of Business Skills (2009 onwards)
  7. Food and Nutrition
  8. Principles of Accounts
  9. Religious studies (Confucian Ethics, Buddhist Studies, Islamic Religious Knowledge, Bible Studies, Sikh Studies, etc.)
  10. O-Level School-Initiated Electives [OSIEs] (Economics, Computer Studies, etc.)

The list above is not exhaustive, and does not include new subjects such as Computing and Theatre Studies and Drama, or less common subjects, such as Integrated Sciences.

Compulsory Subjects for a GCE O-Level candidate

  1. English Language
  2. Mother Tongue (Chinese, Tamil, Malay, Others)
  3. Mathematics
  4. Combined Humanities
  5. Science (Either 1 combined science or up to 3 pure sciences)
  6. One other subject (Art, Principles of Accounts, Design and Technology, Food and Nutrition, Additional Mathematics, etc.)

Candidates must take at least 6 subjects which must include the above core (English, Mother Tongue, Mathematics, Humanities, Science) subjects.

Grade and scoring systems

Most schools commonly follow the kind of grading system awarded at the Singapore-Cambridge GCE O-Level examination, which a student sits at the end of four or five years of secondary education, taking at least 6 subjects. The level of achievement in each subject is indicated by the grade obtained, with A1 being the highest achievable grade and F9 the lowest:

  • A1/A2 (Distinction)
  • B3/B4 (Merit)
  • C5/C6 (Credit/Pass)
  • D7 (Sub-Pass/fail, that is, passing at a lower standard in the exam or fail)
  • E8/F9 (Fail)

A student's overall academic performance is measured through several scoring systems (such as the L1R5, L1B5 and L1R4 scoring system) depending on which type of post-secondary institution a student is applying. Each grade has a point value respective to it, for example, with grade A1 being 1 point, A2 being 2 points, and B3 being 3 points. Thus, the lower the points obtained, the better the score. For example, in the L1R5 scoring system, the student's L1 or first language (either English or Higher Mother Tongue Language) and R5 or relevant 5 subjects (which must include at least one from the Science & Mathematics group, one from the Humanities group, and excluding subjects such as Religious Studies, Mother Tongue "B" and CCA). Consequently, an L1R5 score of 6 points is considered the best score attainable to enter a Junior College. A student requires an L1R5 score of less than 20 points to be eligible for Junior College. On top of that, students must also pass English and Mother Tongue examinations.

For non-major examinations, several schools use the Mean Subject Grade (MSG) scoring system, while schools running the Integrated Programme (IP) also use the Grade Point Average (GPA) scoring system.

Co-Curricular activities

"Co-Curricular Activities" (CCA) are compulsory at the secondary level, where all pupils must participate in at least one core activity, and participation is graded together with other achievements throughout the four years in a scoring system known as LEAPS ("Leadership, Enrichment, Achievement, Participation, Service"). There are many co-curricular activities offered at the secondary level, and each student is judged based in these areas. Competitions and performances are regularly organized. Co-curricular activities are often categorized under the following: Uniformed Groups, Performing Arts, Clubs & Societies and Sports & Games. Students may also participate in more than 1 CCA.

Uniformed Groups

The main uniform groups are NCC (National Cadet Corps), NPCC (National Police Cadet Corps), NCDCC (National Civil Defence Cadet Corps), St John Ambulance Brigade, Red Cross Youth, Singapore Scout Association, Girl Guides, the Boys Brigade and the Girls Brigade. Students are expected to learn drills and must wear the respective uniforms.

This is to prepare male students for National Service (NS) when they reach the age of 18. Besides military drills, they also learn skills such as team-bonding and first-aid.

Performing Arts

Performing Arts CCAs vary from school to school, although most will include the Choir, Military/Concert/Symphonic Band, Chinese Orchestra, Dance groups for different ethnic cultures, Drama and Debate. Most are oriented towards performing and the musical arts.

Clubs and societies

There is a broad range of clubs and societies, ranging from Singapore Youth Flying Club to Robotics, Media and Infocomm Clubs and martial arts.

Gifted Education Programme

The Gifted Education Programme (GEP) was set up by the Ministry of Education in 1984 amid some public concern to cater to the intellectually gifted students. As of 2005, the schools participating consisted of 9 primary schools — Anglo-Chinese School (Primary), Catholic High School (Primary), Henry Park Primary School, Nan Hua Primary School, Nanyang Primary School, Rosyth School, Tao Nan School, St. Hilda's Primary School, and Raffles Girls' Primary School. Seven secondary schools originally started the programme, but with the introduction of the Integrated Programme, most have folded the GEP programmes into their IP curriculum. The two remaining secondary GEP schools are Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), a school which provides both Cambridge 'O' Levels and the Integrated Programme, and is one of the top school globally in the International Baccalaureate, and Dunman High School, a mixed autonomous government school; the autonomous all-boys Victoria School had to suspend GEP classes due to low enrolment, with GEP students preferring IP schools.

Pupils enter the programme through a series of tests at Primary 3, which will identify the top 1 per cent of the student population. A second selection used to be conducted at Primary 6 for those who do well in the PSLE, but this was discontinued after it was found to be too difficult for these students to catch up with the programme. In the programme, pupils are offered special enrichment programmes to cater for their needs. However, not all students in GEP are successful. Some are not accustomed to the fast pace of study which affects their performance in the core subjects and may choose not to continue the programme at the secondary level.

The Secondary School Gifted Education Programme was discontinued at the end of 2008 as more students take the Integrated Programme (IP).[9]

Integrated Programme

Hwa Chong Institution was one of the first four schools in Singapore to offer an Integrated Programme.

The Integrated Programme, also known as the "Through-Train Programme" (直通车), is a scheme which allows the most able secondary students in Singapore to bypass "O" levels and take "A" levels, International Baccalaureate or an equivalent examination directly at the age of 18 after six years of secondary education.

The programme allows for more time to be allocated to enrichment activities. By bypassing the GCE "O" level examinations, the students are supposedly given more time and flexibility to immerse themselves in a more broadly-based education. In addition, the students enjoy more freedom in the combination of subjects between Year 1 - 4 as compared to their non-IP counterparts. Generally, only the top performers (usually from Special, and sometimes Express, stream) are eligible to be part of the IP programme. This will ensure that the main body of the students pursue their secondary education at their own pace by first completing a 4-year "O" level course before going on to a 2-year "A" level education (as opposed to a 2-year "O" level and 4-year "A" level education).

As a result, schools with an IP allow their students to skip the "O" levels at Secondary 4 and go straight into junior colleges (JCs) in Year5/JC1. The Integrated Programme with the revised Singapore-Cambridge GCE "A" levels or the IB Diploma as a terminal qualification has become an increasingly popular alternative to the standard secondary education pathway. This is because it is perceived as having moved away from the usually heavy emphasis on the sciences, a phenomenon resulting from the post-independence need for quick and basic technical and industrial education; to subjects in the arts and humanities. Such programmes are more project-based and students are expected to be independent learners.

The first batch of IP students sat for the revised GCE "A" Level or International Baccalaureate Diploma examinations in 2007.

The schools offering the IP / IB programmes in Singapore are:

Admission to post-secondary institutions

Upon completion of the 4- or 5-year secondary school education, students (excluding IP students) will participate in the annual Singaporean GCE 'O' Level, the results of which determine which pre-universities or post-secondary institutions they may apply for. Pre-university centres include junior colleges for a two-year course leading up to GCE 'A' Level, or the Millennia Institute for a three-year course leading up to GCE 'A' Level. Junior colleges and the Millennia Institute accept students on merit, with a greater emphasis on academics than vocational technical education. Students who wish to pursue vocational education go on to post-secondary institutions such as the polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), where they receive a diploma upon successful completion of their courses.

Admission to a two-year pre-university course at junior colleges after graduating from secondary school is determined by the L1R5 (first language + 5 relevant subjects) scoring system. This scoring system is based on the 'O' Level subject grades, which range from A1 (best) to F9 (worst). The candidate adds the numerical grades for six different subjects: English (or another language taken at the 'first language' level), a Humanities subject, a Science/Mathematics subject, a Humanities/Science/Mathematics subject, and two other subjects of any kind. The best L1R5 unmodified score is therefore 6, for a student with A1 grades in six subjects which meet the criteria.

Students scoring 20 points and below may be admitted for either a Science or Arts Course. In addition, a student must also achieve at least a C6 grade, which is 50% or higher, in the GCE 'O' Level English Language and Mathematics papers in order to qualify for junior college admission. Pre-university centres that are particularly associated with academic excellence, however, usually expect students to attain points in the single digits, in order to be admitted. This is because the system is merit-driven, with places given to those with lower scores first.

For admission to a three-year pre-university course at the Millennia Institute, the L1R4 (first language + 4 relevant subjects) scoring system is used, and students are expected to score below 20 points to be admitted. Students may opt for any of the science, arts or commerce streams when pursuing a three-year pre-university course.

For students seeking admission to diploma courses in polytechnics, the L1R2B2 (first language + 2 relevant subjects + 2 best subjects of any kind) scoring system is used. However, students will also be required to meet specific prerequisites outlined by the different polytechnic schools they are applying for. Students applying for courses in the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) Colleges will also have an independent scoring system, depending on the course they are applying for.

Bonus points can be deducted from a student's aggregate score, thus lowering it. These bonus points may come from either scoring an 'A' or 'B' grade in CCA, taking Higher Mother Tongue Language and obtaining a minimum of 'D7', or through affiliation (for feeder schools). Bonus points are capped at 4, except for those applying to schools offering Chinese Language Elective Programme (CLEP) or Malay Language Elective Programme (MLEP).

Pre-university

The pre-university centres of Singapore are designed for upper-stream students (roughly about 20%-25% of the cohort) who wish to pursue a university degree after two to three years of pre-university education, rather than stopping after polytechnic post-secondary education.

There are 18 Junior Colleges (JCs) and a Centralised Institute (CI), the Millennia Institute (MI, established 2004), with the National Junior College (NJC, established 1969) being the oldest and Innova Junior College (IJC, established 2005) the newest.

Junior college

Junior colleges in Singapore were initially designed to offer an accelerated alternative to the traditional three-year programme, but in recent years the two-year programme has become the norm for students pursuing university education.

JCs accept students based on their GCE "O" Level results; an L1R5 score of 20 points or less must be attained for a student to gain admission. JCs provide a 2-year course leading up to the Singapore-Cambridge GCE Advanced Level ("A" level) examination. The CI accepts students based on their GCE "O" Level results; an L1R4 score of 20 points or less must be attained for a student to gain admission. The MI provides a 3-year course leading up to the Singapore-Cambridge GCE Advanced Level ("A" level) examination.

Centralised Institute

The Centralised Institutes accept students based on their GCE "O" level results and their L1R4 score (which must be 20 points or below). A Centralised Institute provides a three-year course leading up to a GCE "A" level examination. There were originally four Centralized Institutes: Outram Institute, Townsville Institute, Jurong Institute and Seletar Institute. Townsville Institute and Seletar Institute stopped accepting new students after the 1995 school year and closed down after the last batch of students graduated in 1997.

There currently remains only one Centralised Institute in Singapore, the Millennia Institute, which was formed following the merger of Jurong and Outram Institutes. Additionally, only Centralised Institutes offer the Commerce Stream offering subjects such as Principles of Accounting and Management of Business. The standard of teaching and curriculum is identical to that of the Junior Colleges.

Diploma and vocational education

Polytechnics

Polytechnics in Singapore provide 3-year diploma courses. They accept students based on their GCE "O" level, GCE "A" level or Institute of Technical Education (ITE) results. Unlike polytechnics in some other countries, they do not offer degree courses.

Polytechnics offer a wide range of courses in various fields, including engineering, business studies, accountancy, tourism and hospitality management, mass communications, digital media and biotechnology. There are also specialised courses such as marine engineering, nautical studies, nursing, and optometry. They provide a more industry-oriented education as an alternative to junior colleges for post-secondary studies. About 40% of each Secondary 4 cohort would enrol in Polytechnics.[10]

There are five polytechnics in Singapore, namely:

Graduates of polytechnics with good grades can continue to pursue further tertiary education at the universities, and many overseas universities, notably those in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, give exemptions for modules completed in Polytechnic.

Polytechnics have also been actively working with many foreign universities to provide their graduates a chance to study niche University Courses locally. For example, Ngee Ann Polytechnic has engaged with Chapman University in the U.S. to provide a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Producing for graduates of the School's Film and Media Studies department. Nanyang Polytechnic, likewise, has tied up with the University of Stirling in Scotland to provide a course in Retail Marketing.

Institute of Technical Education

The Institute of Technical Education (ITE) accepts students based on their GCE "O" level or GCE "N" level results and they provide 2-year courses leading to a locally recognised "National ITE Certificate." There are 10 ITE Colleges in Singapore. A few ITE graduates continue their education at polytechnics and universities. ITE students are sometimes seen as being less capable and possibly less successful than polytechnic or JC students. Recent speeches by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister of Education Tharman Shanmugaratnam have pointed out that there can be different definitions and types of success, in a bid to work towards a more inclusive society. However, this has mostly been lip service, with little concrete action being taken to give ITE students greater recognition or address the stigmatisation that exists.[citation needed] This is admittedly a difficult job as such views have been ingrained in society for many years.

ITE provides three main levels of certification:

  • Master National ITE Certificate (Master Nitec)
  • Higher National ITE Certificate (Higher Nitec)
  • National ITE Certificate (Nitec)
  • Technical Engineer Diploma (TED)

There are also other skills certification through part-time apprenticeship courses conducted jointly by ITE and industrial companies.

Universities

Singapore has four universities.

The Nanyang Technological University and National University of Singapore each have more than 20,000 students and provide a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes including doctoral degrees. Both are also established research universities with thousands of research staff and graduate students.

A third university, Singapore Management University (SMU), opened in 2000, is home to more than 7,000 students and comprises six Schools offering undergraduate, graduate, and PhD programmes in Business Management, Accountancy, Economics, Information Systems Management, Law and the Social Sciences. The University has an Office of Research, a number of institutes and centres of excellence, and provides public and customised programmes for working professionals through its Office of Executive and Professional Education.[12]

The fourth university, privately-run SIM University (UniSIM), opened in 2005.

Two other public institutions are also sponsored by the government: the Singapore University of Technology and Design and the Singapore Institute of Technology. Many private universities exist, including foreign universities which have established campuses in Singapore such as the Chicago Business School and Technische Universität München.

The Southern Cross University University of New Brunswick, Queen Margaret University, Temple University, The City University of New York, Baruch College, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Aventis School of Management, Curtin University of Technology & University of Wales Institute, Cardiff have established offshore campuses in Singapore to provide local and foreign (in particular, Asian) students the opportunity to obtain a Western university education at a fraction of the cost it would take to study in Canada, the UK, the U.S.A. or Australia. University of New Brunswick College, Singapore, Queen Margaret University, Asia Campus, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Asia began operations in Singapore between 2007 and 2008, with the Curtin University of Technology Singapore Campus & University of Wales Institute, Cardiff: Asia Campus due to join them in December 2008.

The government has planned the fourth public university, Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), to meet the rising demand for university education. It will start its operations at Changi in 2011.[13]

A fifth public institution Singapore Institute of Technology to be started in 2011 was announced in 2010. The institution is intended to provide an upgrading pathway for polytechnic graduates.[14]

International and private schools

Building of ACS (International), one of the newest international schools.

Due to its large expatriate community, Singapore is host to many international schools. International and private schools in Singapore generally do not admit Singapore students without permission from the Ministry of Education.

However, on 29 April 2004 the Ministry of Education permitted three new international schools to be set up without permission being needed to admit Singapore students. These schools must follow the compulsory policies set by the Ministry such as playing the national anthem and taking the pledge every morning, as well as following the nation's policies on bilingualism. These schools -- Anglo-Chinese School (International), Hwa Chong International and SJI International -- are private schools run by the boards of other locally-renowned institutions . The school fees are 15 to 20 percent lower than those of foreign international schools. Their intake includes students from countries such as Malaysia, India, Indonesia, People's Republic of China, Taiwan, South Korea, Philippines, Vietnam, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

The Council for Private Education (CPE)

Established under the Private Education Act, the Council for Private Education is a statutory board empowered with the legislative power to regulate the private education sector. In addition to its role as the sectoral regulator of private education institutions, the Council facilitates capability development efforts to uplift standards in the local private education industry.

On 20 May 2010,The Council for Private Education (CPE) has registered the first batch of private education institutions (PEIs) under the Enhanced Registration Framework (ERF). Following the launch of the new private education regulatory regime on 21 Dec 2009, all PEIs within the regulatory scope of the Private Education Act are required to register with the CPE under the ERF. Under the Enhanced Registration Framework, private institutions must meet requirements relating to their managers, teachers, courses and examination boards. Out of 308 which applied, less than a third were given the stamp of approval and students are relieved that their school has made the mark. Only 63 ERF applications have been evaluated by the CPE, of which 36 PEIs have been registered for a period of four years, and 26 PEIs have been registered for one year. The registration period awarded to a PEI is dependent on its degree of compliance with the Private Education Regulations.

The following PEIs have been awarded four-year registration period under the ERF

  • Academies Australasia College
  • Academy Of Human Development
  • Advent Links-Sauc Education Centre
  • Ascensia Academy
  • Asia Institute Of Management
  • At-Sunrice Academy
  • Aventis School of Management
  • BMC International College
  • City College
  • CSM Academy International
  • Curtin Education Centre
  • East Asia Institute of Management
  • ERC Institute
  • Informatics Academy
  • Insworld School
  • International School Of Design & Technology
  • Ivy Education Centre
  • Kaplan Higher Education Academy
  • Kaplan Learning Institute
  • Learning Capital College
  • Management Development Institute Of Singapore
  • Marketing Institute Of Singapore Training Centre
  • MDIS College
  • Parkway College Of Nursing & Allied Health
  • PSB Academy
  • SAA Global Education Centre
  • SGP International Management Academy
  • Shelton College International
  • Singapore American School
  • Singapore Chinese Chamber Institute Of Business
  • Singapore Institute Of Management
  • Singapore Institute Of Materials Management
  • SSTC School For Further Education
  • STET Institute
  • TMC Academy
  • Tourism Management Institute Of Singapore (TMIS)
  • TMIS Business School],
  • Yuvabharathi International School
  • International Executive Education Center (IEEC)]

Private Tuition

Private tuition, which is getting increasingly popular, is a controversial matter. Due to the competitiveness of Singapore's education system, many parents send their children for extra lessons, sometimes even learning the curriculum ahead of school.

Education policies

Meritocracy

Meritocracy is a fundamental ideology in Singapore and a fundamental principle in the education system which aims to identify and groom bright young students for positions of leadership. The system places a great emphasis on academic performance in grading students and granting their admission to special programmes and universities, though this has raised concerns about breeding elitism.[15] Academic grades are considered as objective measures of the students' ability and effort, irrespective of their social background.[16] Having good academic credentials is seen as the most important factor for the students' career prospects in the job market, and their future economic status.[17]

Curricula are therefore closely tied to examinable topics, and the competitiveness of the system led to a proliferation of ten year series, which are compilation books of past examination papers that students use to prepare for examinations.

Bilingualism (Mother Tongue)

Bilingualism, or mother tongue policy, is a cornerstone of the Singapore education system. While English is the first language and the medium of instruction in schools, most students are required to take a "Mother Tongue" subject, which could be one of the three official languages: Chinese, Malay or Tamil. The choice is determined by the student's race. A non-Tamil Indian may choose to offer Tamil or a non-official language such as Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi or Urdu. However, Chinese students from a non-Mandarin background, such as Cantonese speakers, must learn Mandarin. Mother Tongue is a compulsory examinable subject at the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) and the GCE "N", "O" and "A" level examinations. Students are required to achieve a certain level of proficiency in what the government considers their mother tongue as a pre-requisite for admission to local universities. Students returning from overseas may be exempted from this policy.[18]

The bilingual policy was first adopted in 1966.[19] One of its primary objectives is to promote English as the common (and neutral) language among the diverse ethnic groups in Singapore. The designation of English as the first language is also intended to facilitate Singapore's integration into the world economy.[20]

In recognition of Singapore's linguistic and cultural pluralism, another stated objective of the bilingual policy is to educate students with their "mother tongues" so that they can learn about their culture, identify with their ethnic roots, and to preserve cultural traits and Asian values.[19] Within the Chinese population, Mandarin is promoted as a common language and other Chinese dialects are discouraged,[clarification needed] to better integrate[clarification needed] the community. In 1979, the Speak Mandarin Campaign was launched to further advance this goal.[21]

Financial assistance

Education policy in Singapore is designed to ensure that no child is left behind in education even if they do not have the financial capacity to pay school fees. Therefore, school fees in public schools are heavily subsidized, so that students pay as little as SGD 13 for fees.[22] In addition, there are many possible assistance schemes from either the government or welfare organisations to help students cope with finances during their studies. Some of these are listed below.

Financial Assistance Scheme

The Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) is an MOE programme to provide financial assistance for education to low income families with monthly household income of less than SGD 1,500 or SGD 1,800, depending on the number of children in the household.[23]

Students eligible for FAS receive a full waiver of miscellaneous fees, and partial subsidy on national examination fees. They may also enjoy full or partial fee subsidy if they are in Independent Schools. In 2005, there were 15,000 recipients of FAS; MOE is expecting this number to increase to 33,500 following an enhancement of the FAS in 2006.[23]

Edusave Merit Bursary

Each year, the Edusave Merit Bursary (EMB) is given out to about 40,000 students, who are from lower-middle and low-income families and have good academic performance in their schools.[23]

Development and future plans

Student exchange programmes

About 120 of the 353 primary and secondary schools in Singapore have some form of exchange programmes which allow students to visit overseas schools. In 2005, the Ministry of Education set up a SGD 4.5 million School Twinning Fund to facilitate 9,000 primary and secondary school students to participate in these exchange programmes, particularly in ASEAN countries, China and India.[24]

Statistics

Key statistics

Sources:

  • Yearbook of Statistics Singapore, 2004[25]
  • Singapore Budget 2006[26]
  • Education Statistics Digest 2009[27]
Government budget for education SGD 5.2bn (2005)[26]
at 19.3% of total budget, 3.1000053453467 of GDP
Ratio of students to teaching staff (Primary) 21.4 pupils (2009)[27]
Ratio of students to teaching staff (Secondary) 17.9 pupils (2009)[27]
Enrolment ratio, aged 6–20 years 87.4% (2004)[25]
Literacy rate (aged 15 years and above) 94.6% (2004)[25]
Mean years of schooling (aged 25 years and above) 8.8 years (2004)[25]

Education qualification of population

Source: Census 2000.[28]

Resident non-students aged 15 years and over by highest qualification attained
Highest qualification attained Population (2000)[28] Percentage (2000)[28] Angle Sector (2000)[28]
Total 2,277,401 100.0% 360.0°
No qualification 445,444 19.6% 70.6°
Primary - PSLE 276,542 12.1% 43.6°
Lower secondary - Sec 1-3 248,598 10.9% 39.2°
Secondary - 'N' & 'O' levels 560,570 24.6% 88.6°
Junior College(Upper Secondary) - 'A' level, Nitec & Higher Nitec 226,275 9.9% 35.6°
Polytechnic - Diploma 140,970 6.2% 22.3°
Other Diploma 112,371 4.9% 17.6°
University - Degree, Masters & Ph. D 266,631 11.7% 42.1°

Schools and Enrollment

Source: Singapore Education Statistics Digest 2008[27]

Type of School Number of schools (2008)[27]
Kindergarten 200+ (2004)
Primary Government 133
Government-aided 41
Secondary Government 120
Government-aided 28
Independent 5
Specialised 1
Mixed Level1 Government 5
Autonomous 3
Independent 6
Junior College
Centralised Institute
Government 9
Government-Aided 4
Independent 1
  1. This category includes Full School, 6th Form School and JC Plus.
Type of School Enrollment (2008)[27] Number of teachers (2008)[27]
Primary 272,097 12,723
Secondary 201,531 10,454
Mixed Level1 30,981 2,112
Junior College
Centralised Institute
24,232 1,997
  1. This Category include Full School, 6th Forms School and JC Plus.

International comparisons

International educational scores (1997)
(13-year-old's average score, TIMSS
Third International Math and Science Study, 1997)
Countries:
(sample)
Global
rank
Maths Science
Score Rank Score Rank
Singapore 1 643 1 607 1
Japan 2 605 3 571 3
South Korea 3 607 2 565 4
Czech Republic 4 564 6 574 2
England 18 506 25 552 10
Thailand 20 522 20 525 21
Germany 22 509 23 531 19
France 23 538 13 498 28
United States 24 500 28 534 17
Source: 1997 TIMSS, in The Economist, March 29th 1997.

Singapore students took first place in the 1995, 1999 and 2003 TIMSS Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. They used Singapore Math Primary Mathematics series. The national textbooks have been adapted into a series which has been successfully marketed in North America as a rival to Saxon math and an alternative to controversial reform mathematics curricula, which many parents complained moved too far away from the sort of traditional basic skills instruction exemplified by Singapore's national curriculum.

Criticisms

Critics of the education system, including some parents, state that the education system is too specialised, rigid, and elitist. Often, these criticisms state that there is little emphasis on creative thinking, unlike education systems in other societies, such as those in the United States.[citation needed] Those defending the current education system point out that Singaporean students have regularly ranked top when competing in international science and mathematics competitions and assessments. Detractors believe this is more an indication of students' skills in using rote to prepare for a certain style of competition or examination than of their ability to think critically.

In response to such concerns the Ministry of Education has recently introduced a greater focus on creative and critical thinking, and on learning for life-long skills rather than simply learning to excel in examinations. However, this is still not the case and many Singaporean children are pressured on by their parents and teachers to do well in studies.

There have also been complaints about excessive educational streaming at a young age. A popular local film, I Not Stupid, highlights the competitiveness of the system and the social stigma that students struggling with studies have to face. The best students are streamed into the best and normal classes, while the others are streamed into the foundation class, where teachers usually allow them to get worse, since they are part of the "ungifted" class.

Supporters of the system assert that the provision of differentiated curricula according to streams since the late 1970s has allowed students with different abilities and learning styles to develop and sustain an interest in their studies. This ability-driven education has since been a key feature behind Singapore's success in education, and was responsible for bringing drop-out rates down sharply.

In recent years, while streaming still exists, various refinements to the policy have been made. There is now greater flexibility for students to cross over different streams or take subjects in other streams, which alleviates somewhat the stigma attached to being in any single stream. Furthermore, the government is now starting to experiment with ability-banding in other ways - such as subject-based banding in Primary Schools instead of banding by overall academic performance.

By contrast, standards-based education reform in the United States seeks to eliminate tracking by setting one high standard and expectation for all. The principle of continuous improvement is thought to enable success for all students, although in most states, all groups still achieve at different levels in the current and foreseeable future. Mathematics reform in North America was driven by the NCTM standards in a direction away from mastery of basic skills.

Special education

Singapore is one of only two countries in ASEAN that is not a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which mandates that persons with disabilities should be guaranteed the right to inclusive education.[29][30] Instead, in Singapore, "any child who is unable to attend any national primary school due to any physical or intellectual disability"[31] is exempted from compulsory education, and there are no public schools for such children.[32] Instead, they may attend special education schools built largely by the Ministry of Education and run by voluntary welfare organisations. These schools receive more than 80% of their funding from the Ministry of Education, but have long waiting lists.[29] The Singapore government has asserted that only "a very small number of children do not attend school each year", giving a figure of 8 students as compared to a primary school intake of roughly 43000, and that requiring all special needs children to attend school would "impose unduly harsh requirements on their parents."[32] This practice has been described as a "form of discrimination" by the opposition Workers' Party.[33]

References

  1. ^ "Singapore: Organisation and control of education system". http://www.inca.org.uk/singapore-organisation-mainstream.html. Retrieved 2006-05-01. 
  2. ^ "Statute". Ministry of Education, Singapore. http://www.moe.gov.sg/ce/statute.htm. 
  3. ^ "Compulsory Education Act (Chapter 51)". Singapore Statutes Online. 2000. http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/non_version/cgi-bin/cgi_retrieve.pl?actno=REVED-51&doctitle=COMPULSORY%20EDUCATION%20ACT. 
  4. ^ "Singapore: Compulsory education". http://www.inca.org.uk/1018.html. Retrieved 2006-05-01. 
  5. ^ "'Going back to the basics of effective English-language teaching'". The Straits Times. 2009-11-09. http://www.asiaone.com/News/Education/Story/A1Story20091109-178771.html. Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  6. ^ "Schools 'in a curriculum vacuum'". BBC News. 2010-06-18. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/10355207.stm. Retrieved 20 June 2010. 
  7. ^ http://www.pcf.org.sg/viewarticle.aspx?wfc=KINDERGARTENINFO
  8. ^ "Benefits of studying a third language". Ministry of Education. Archived from the original on February 12, 2006. http://web.archive.org/web/20060212093522/http://www.moe.gov.sg/moelc/benefits.htm. Retrieved May 8, 2006. 
  9. ^ "Gifted kids to take 'integrated' path". Channel NewsAsia Singapore. 2006-09-21. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/231715/1/.html. 
  10. ^ The Desired Outcomes of Education, speech by Education Minister Teo Chee Hean, 14 February 1998.
  11. ^ "Post-Secondary Education". Ministry of Education. 2011. http://www.moe.gov.sg/education/post-secondary/. 
  12. ^ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singapore_Management_University 'Singapore Management University'
  13. ^ Forss, Pearl (2007-08-19). "Singapore looking into setting up fourth university". Channel NewsAsia. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/294891/1/.html. Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  14. ^ http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_500237.html 'The Straits Times: Degrees for poly grads'
  15. ^ "Update on the University Sector". Ministry of Education, Singapore. 2004. http://www.moe.gov.sg/corporate/yearbook/2006/higher/more_flexibility_and_choice.html. 
  16. ^ Mika Yamashita (2002). "Singapore Education Sector Analysis". Education Resources Information Center. http://eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/Home.portal?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=RecordDetails&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=ED473030&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=eric_accno&objectId=0900000b80178722. 
  17. ^ Goh Chok Tong (2000). "National Day Rally Speech". 
  18. ^ "Returning Singaporeans - Mother Tongue Policy". Ministry of Education, Singapore. 2006-08-25. http://www.moe.gov.sg/esp/eduinfo/mt.htm. 
  19. ^ a b "Interview: Chinese Language education in Singapore faces new opportunities". People's Daily Online. 2005-05-13. http://english.people.com.cn/200505/13/eng20050513_184878.html. 
  20. ^ Anne Pakir (1999). "Bilingual education with English as an official language: Sociocultural implications" (pdf). Georgetown University Press. http://digital.georgetown.edu/gurt/1999/gurt_1999_25.pdf. 
  21. ^ "Speak Mandarin Campaign - History and Background". Promote Mandarin Council. 2004. http://www.mandarin.org.sg/smc/history.html?pg=8&mlid=8. 
  22. ^ Education Overview Link Dead
  23. ^ a b c More Financial Help for Children, Press Release, 22 February 2006, Ministry of Education, Singapore
  24. ^ Forss, Pearl (2005-10-13). "Education Ministry sets up $4.5m fund to facilitate student exchange programmes". Channel NewsAsia. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/294891/1/.html. 
  25. ^ a b c d Yearbook of Statistics Singapore, 2004 Link Dead
  26. ^ a b Singapore Budget 2006, Ministry of Finance.
  27. ^ a b c d e f g Education Statistics Digest 2009, Ministry of Education
  28. ^ a b c d Singapore Census 2000 Link Dead
  29. ^ a b http://www.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne+News/Singapore/Story/A1Story20110303-266200.html
  30. ^ http://theonlinecitizen.com/2009/11/children-with-disabilities-the-compulsory-education-act/
  31. ^ http://theonlinecitizen.com/2009/11/children-with-disabilities-the-compulsory-education-act/
  32. ^ a b http://www.moe.gov.sg/media/parliamentary-replies/2010/05/compulsory-education-for-child.php
  33. ^ http://wp.sg/2011/03/how-inclusive-is-our-society/

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