Education System in Singapore

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Education In Singapore


A child in Singapore undergoes six years of compulsory 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 maximize 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 in Singapore

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 recognized 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.

Two private academic institutions in Singapore also offer international students a unique and alternative opportunity to pursue their primary, secondary and post-secondary education. San Yu Adventist School operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Mission (Singapore), provides primary, secondary, and post-secondary education to students of diverse culture and nationalities.

St. Francis Methodist School is affiliated to the family of Methodist Schools in Singapore and offers secondary and post-secondary courses to local and international students. Both schools are registered with the Ministry of Education and offer their students an academic curriculum that is flexible, broad-based yet rigorous.

Junior Colleges/(Pre) Universities

Upon completion of the GCE ‘O’ Level (General Certificate of Education ‘Ordinary’) examination, students may apply for entry to a junior college for a two-year pre-university course or a centralized institute for a three-year pre-university course.

Junior colleges and centralized institutes prepare students for their entry to the university and lay the foundation for tertiary education.

The curriculum of junior colleges 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.

Universities in Singapore

If you are planning to study in Singapore, there are several options that you have. The country is known not only for its home-grown universities, but also universities that have been set up there in collaboration with renowned international universities.

There are three local universities in Singapore.

  • National University of Singapore (NUS)

  • Nanyang Technological University (NTU)

  • Singapore Management University (SMU)

They mould outstanding graduates with internationally recognized degrees. Research and scholarship opportunities are also available to post-graduate students at the three universities.

National University of Singapore (NUS)

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.

Nanyang Technological University (NTU)

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.

Singapore Management University (SMU)

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

International Universities in Singapore

n 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/programs with local universities (local tie-ups).

Some leading international institutions with Asian campuses located in Singapore are:

1INSEAD Business School
2University of Chicago – Graduate School of Business
3Duke University
4SP Jain Centre of Management
5ESSEC Business School
6Digipen Institute of Technology
7University of Nevada (LA)
8New York University – Tisch School of Arts (Asia)

Leading international universities that have collaborations with universities in Singapore are:

1John Hopkins University
2Georgia Institute of Technology
3Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
4The Wharton School – University of Pennsylvania
5Design School Institute
6German Institute of Science and Technology
7Shanghai Jiao Tong University
8Stanford University
9Waseda University
10Indian Institute of Technology – Bombay
11New York University – School of Law
12Cornell University

In addition, the country’s local universities, the National University of Singapore and the Nanyang Technological University also have joint programs with more than 16 other institutions around the world.

Some of these include:

1University of St. Gallen – Switzerland
2Beijing University for Chinese Medicine – China
3ESIEE – France
4Australian National University – Australia
5University of Melbourne – Australia
6University of Illinois (Urbana – Champagne) – USA
7UCLA Anderson School of Management – USA
8Peking University – China
9Karolinska Institute – Sweden
10University of Basel – Switzerland
11Technical University of Denmark
12King’s College London – UK
13Tsinghua University – China
14Universite Pierre et Marie Curie – France
15University of Paris – France
16French Grand Ecoles – France

There are also foreign specialized institutes in Singapore that have either set up campuses in the country or have tie ups with the local polytechnics. Many international students opt to study in the many famous MBA colleges in the country. These enable polytechnic students to pursue a degree in related courses after they have completed their diplomas at the polytechnics.

Grading/Marking System in Singapore

The grading system in Singapore depends upon the type of the institution and the level of studies. At the primary, secondary and junior college level, local system is generally preferred.

Singapore-Cambridge GCE "O" Level Examination

GradeGrade DescriptionUS Grade

Secondary 9-point

GradeScaleScale 2US Grade
A11.00 – 1.9975.00 – 100.00A+
A22.00 – 2.9970.00 – 74.99A
B33.00 – 3.9965.00 – 69.99B+
B44.00 – 4.9960.00 – 64.99B
C55.00 – 5.9955.00 – 59.99C+
C66.00 – 6.9950.00 – 54.99C
D77.00 – 7.9945.00 – 49.99D
E88.00 – 8.9940.00 – 44.99F
F99.000.00 – 39.99F

Secondary Letter Grade

A minimum GPA of 2.0 is usually required for promotion

GradeScaleUS Grade
A+80.00 – 100.00A+
A70.00 – 79.99A
B+65.00 – 69.99B+
B60.00 – 64.99B
C+55.00 – 59.99C+
C50.00 – 54.99C
D50.00 – 54.99D
E40.00 – 44.99F
F0.00 – 39.99F

Junior College

GradeScaleGradeUS GradeNotes
E45.00-49.99Passing GradeC-
O35.00-44.99Conditional PassDDenotes standard is at AO level only, grade N in the British A Levels

Most Common

GradeScaleGrade Description
US Grade
A+95.00 – 100.00DistinctionA+
AD95.00 – 100.00DistinctionA+
A90.00 – 94.00ExcellentA
A-80.00 – 89.00A-
B+75.00 – 79.00Very GoodB+
B70.00 – 74.00B
C65.00 – 69.00GoodC+
C+60.00 – 64.00C
D55.00 – 59.00PassC-
D+50.00 – 54.00D
F0.00 – 53.00FailF

International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma

A student’s examination performance in individual subjects is scored on a scale of 1–7 points with a further 3 points available based on a matrix of performance in the theory of knowledge (TOK) and the extended essay components. Students who display satisfactory levels of performance across all subject areas and achieve a minimum of 24 points (out of a possible 45) are awarded the IB diploma. All others receive a certificate of results for the subjects examined.

GradeGrade Description
US Grade
6Very GoodA
1Very PoorF
NNo grade

University Level

ScaleGrade Description
US Grade
I70.00 – 100.00First Class Honors A
II60.00 – 69.99Second Class Honors | First DivisionA-/B+
II50.00 – 59.99Second Class Honors | Second DivisionB
III40.00 – 49.99Third Class HonorsC
IV0.00 – 39.99F


GradeScaleGrade Description
US Grade
AD95.00 – 100.00DistinctionA+Top 5% score in the subject
A80.00 – 94.99ExcellentA 
B+75.00 – 79.99Very goodA- 
B70.00 – 74.99 GoodB+ 
C+65.00 – 69.99Above AverageB 
C60.00 – 64.99AverageB- 
D+55.00 – 59.99PassC 
D50.00 – 54.99Borderline passC- 
F0.00 – 49.99FailF 

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