Education & Studying in Singapore

Expat Guide - Education & StudyingExpat Guide - Education & StudyingExpat Guide - Education & Studying

Education is essential for every child, and the government emphasises on formal education for every child in Singapore. This page consists of information on education system in Singapore and procedure to admit into a local school.

Education System in Singapore

Primary School Education

A child starts studying at Primary One at the age of six and studies for six years. He/she then sits for the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) before moving on to secondary school for another four or five years. The Primary School Education consists of a 4-year foundation stage from Primary 1 to 4 and a 2-year orientation stage from Primary 5 to 6. The overall aim of primary education is to give students a good grasp of English language, Mother Tongue and Mathematics.

  • 6 years of compulsory education
  • National examination: Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE)
  • Students are encouraged to participate in Co-Curricular Activities (CCAs) and Community Involvement Programme (CIP)

Secondary School Education

Secondary School Education places students in the Special, Express, Normal (Academic) or Normal (Technical) course according to how they perform at the PSLE. The different curricular emphases are designed to match their learning abilities and interests. In secondary school, he/she can choose- based on his/her examination results to enter in the School Cambridge General Certificate of Education 'Ordinary' (GCE 'O's) level examinations.

  • 4-5 years of education
  • National examination: GCE 'O' Levels (for Special / Express courses) or GCE 'N' Levels (for Normal course)
  • All students take part in at least one CCA; CCA performance is considered for admission to JCs, CI, polytechnics and ITE

After the secondary level, it's a selection whether to go:

  1. Technical (ITE) or commercial institutes (MDIS, MIS, TMC, SIM)
  2. Polytechnics (Nanyang, Temasek, Ngee Ann, Singapore Polytechnic) to pursue diploma courses
  3. Pre-university centres or junior colleges to prepare for the Senior Cambridge General Certificate of Education 'Advanced' (GCE 'A') level examinations and later on tertiary education
  4. Centralised institutions

Pre-University Education

The Pre-U Education prepares students for the GCE 'A' Level examination at the end of the 2-year junior college or 3-year centralised institute course. Students who completed their pre-university education will receive aSchool Graduation Certificate.

  • 2-3 years of education
  • National examination: GCE 'A' Levels
  • All students take part in at least one CCA. CCA performance is considered for university admission

Tertiary Education

For tertiary education, the National University of Singapore (NUS), the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore Management University (SMU) provide a wide choice of courses.


The primary role of ITE is to ensure that its graduates have the technical knowledge and skills that are relevant to industry. ITE is the national authority for the setting of skills standards and the certification of skills in Singapore.


Polytechnics were set up with the mission to train middle-level professionals to support the technological and economic development of Singapore. Reflecting the wide range of abilities, aptitudes and interests of their students, the polytechnics seek to train students with relevant and specific skills for the workplace to give Singapore a competitive edge as we move into a knowledge-based economy.


Singapore's undergraduate university education aspires to prepare students not only for today's world but also for a world where there will be jobs that have yet to be invented and challenges not yet foreseen.

Special Schools

Schools tailored for handicapped children are also available and are mainly operated by managed by private schools/ organisations.

Expat Children Admission into Local Schools

Expatriates in Singapore on employment / professional visit passes could apply for their children for admission to the government or government-aided schools through the Ministry of Education (MOE). If there are vacancies, they need to obtain student passes from the Immigration Department. School fees in such schools are much lower than in private schools. The students in local schools are usually Singaporean origin whereas students in International Schools consist of students from all over the world. Information and procedure of enrolling into a local school are listed below.

Admission of Foreign Students to Government, Government-aided, Independent Schools, Junior Colleges and Centralised Institute

Applications for school admission of foreign students must be made using the prescribed form obtainable from the foreign student information website or the schools (ie Government/Government-aided/Independent schools/Junior colleges/Centralised institute).

For information on school admission of foreign students, you may visit foreign student information website here

For further clarifications, please contact:

- MOE Customer Service Centre at DID (65) 6872 2220, Fax No (65) 6776 4617
- MOE email address at

Part 1: Application Procedure

Step 1 - Apply at school of choice

The parent/guardian submits the completed application form for school admission together with all the necessary original documents directly to a school of choice. For children whose parent(s) are holding S Pass or Work Permit (R Pass), they are required to pass a qualifying test before seeking school admission (see Step A).

Step 2 - School conducts placement test and issues Letter of Acceptance

School will conduct placement test for the applicant if there is a vacancy.

If applicant passes the placement test and the school accepts him/her, the school will issue a Letter of Acceptance (LOA). The LOA will indicate in-principle acceptance of the applicant to the school. The applicant can proceed to ICA to apply for a student's pass with this letter (see Step 3)

Acceptance to the school is subject to the applicant obtaining and returning with a student's pass from Immigration and Checkpoints Authority(ICA) within 2 weeks from date of issue of the LOA.

Applicants who are holding a Dependant's Pass (DP) or an Immigration Exemption Order(IEO) are not required to apply for a student's pass from ICA. He/She can be admitted by the school immediately upon passing the placement test (go to Step 5).

Step 3 - Apply student's pass at ICA

The LOA is valid for 2 weeks from date of issue. Upon receiving the LOA, the applicant should proceed to ICA immediately to apply for a student's pass. Applicant must produce the original LOA endorsed by the School to ICA.

Step 4 - Return to school within 2 weeks with student's pass

The applicant must return to school with a valid student's pass within 2 weeks from the date of the LOA. The applicant will forfeit his/her admission to the school if he/she does not return within 2 weeks.

Step 5 - Donation to the Education Fund

After the applicant has been successfully admitted to the school, the Ministry of Education will send a letter to him/her requesting for the biennial donation to the Education Fund, i.e $1,000 for every 2 years.

Step A - For Children of S Pass and Work Permit (R Pass) Holders Only

Applicants with at least one parent working in Singapore on S Pass or Work Permit (R Pass) must pass a qualifying test (Assessment of General Ability conducted by Civil Service College Consultants) before they can be considered for admission. For more information on this requirement, please refer to Ministry of Manpower's website at

Applicants who have not taken the qualifying test can apply online at General Ability Test Singapore website.

The applicant will receive by post a letter on the Outcome of the Qualifying Test. If the letter shows that he/she is eligible to seek admission to a Singapore school, he/she can then approach a school of choice with the letter to apply for school admission (refer to Step 2)

Part 2: Other Information

1. Application Period

Applications for school admission are accepted by schools subject to availability of vacancies. Application can be made anytime during the year. For admission to Primary One in the following year, the applicant may register with the school of choice during or after Phase 3 of the annual Primary One Registration Exercise.

2. Donation to the Education Fund

A foreign student is requested to make biennial donations (that is, once every two years) to the Education Fund of the Ministry of Education if his/her application to study in Singapore is approved.

Foreign students are requested to make the biennial donations of S$1,000 within the period stated in the Letter of Donation.

Thereafter, foreign students are requested to make the donation in advance every two years. The biennial donations are requested from foreign students of all nationalities who seek admission to schools, junior colleges and centralised institute for the academic year beginning in January each year. The biennial donations replace the previous donation rates ($3,000 for Malaysians and $5,000 for other nationalities) which were requested once at the primary education level and once at the secondary education level.

Foreign students whose parents are Singapore Citizens, Singapore Permanent Residents, or holders of work passes (including P1, P2, Q1, S, R and other work passes), who are admitted from 1 Jan 2001 onwards, are also requested to make the biennial donations to the Education Fund.

The donations to the Education Fund are eligible for tax-exemption and the official receipts will be made in favour of either the donor or the foreign student. The donation is non-refundable except when the foreign student is awarded a Singapore Government Scholarship in the year of admission or when he/she has not attended any lessons in school.

3. Particulars of Guardian

The foreign student is required to provide the particulars of his/her guardian to the school for contact purposes. The guardian should be a Singapore Citizen/Singapore Permanent Resident above 21 years old OR the parent of the foreign student if the parent is working/staying in Singapore.

A foreign student should report any change in guardianship to his/her school principal.

4. Choice of school

Parent/guardian can approach the school of choice directly. Admission is dependent on the availability of vacancies in the school provided there are no Singapore Citizens or Singapore Permanent Residents on the school's waiting list.

5. Placement Test conducted by the school

The foreign student will be tested subjects such as English, Mathematics and Mother Tongue Language (where applicable). The tests are conducted by the school which the foreign student is seeking admission to.

6. Level of Admission

Besides the performance in the school placement test, foreign students will be considered for admission to a level subject to documentary proof that he/she has completed the previous level, and the age criteria. Foreign students who have been admitted at the primary level must complete the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) before proceeding to the secondary level.

7. Boarding Facilities

Please refer to the list of boarding schools and hostels. The private hostels are listed in the yellow pages of the Singapore Telephone Directory.

8. Exemption from offering Chinese, Malay or Tamil as a Mother Tongue Language

Exemption from the mother tongue requirement may be considered on a case-by-case basis after the student has been admitted to school. Application for exemption should be made through the school principal, who will refer the application to the Languages & Literature Branch, Ministry of Education, for consideration.

9. Monthly School Fees

For Government and Government-Aided Schools, the monthly rates of school fees payable are S$80 for primary, S$130 for secondary and S$240 for pre-university levels. For children of Singapore Citizens or Singapore Permanent Residents and dependants of Employment Pass and Skilled Work Permit Holders, the monthly school fees payable for the first 2 years are S$3 for primary, S$5 for secondary, and S$6 for pre-university levels. For the third year onwards, the school fees payable will be determined based on their citizenship status.

In addition to school fees, all students are to pay miscellaneous fees. The maximum monthly miscellaneous fees payable are S$11 for primary, S$16 for secondary, and S$22 for pre-university levels. Students studying in Autonomous Schools are also required to pay additional miscellaneous fees. Please check directly with the schools on the actual amount of miscellaneous fees payable.

The rates of school and miscellaneous fees payable are reviewed by the Ministry of Education and individual schools from time to time.

For Independent Schools, the school fees payable varies from school to school. Please check directly with the schools concerned for the fees payable.

10. Admission to Kindergartens, Private Schools, Universities & Polytechnics

A foreign student seeking admission to a kindergarten, private school or an institution of higher education (ie university or polytechnic), should approach the kindergarten, private school or institution directly.

11. General

In accordance with the Immigration Regulations, a foreigner is exempted from applying for a Student's Pass if he/she is a Dependant's Pass or Immigration Exemption Order Holder studying in a Government/Governement-aided/Independent School. For more details on Student's Pass applications, please refer to ICA's website .

A copy of the "Directory of Schools and Educational Institutions, Singapore" is obtainable from the Customer Service Centre at the Ground Floor, Podium Block, Ministry of Education, at S$3.50 per copy excluding postage. This publication provides the addresses and telephone numbers of all the schools in Singapore. Alternatively, the information may be found in the Schools Information website at

Age Criteria for Admission of Foreign Students


Permissible Age Range as at 1st Jan or Year of Admission

Primary 1 6 to 10+
Primary 2 7 to 11+
Primary 3 8 to 12+
Primary 4 9 to 13+
Primary 5 10 to 14+
Primary 6 No direct admission is allowed to this critical level as the students will not have sufficient preparation time for the Primary School Leaving Examination held towards the end of the year.
Secondary 1 12 to 16+
Secondary 2 13 to 17+
Secondary 3 14 to 18+
Secondary 4 No direct admission is allowed to this critical level as the students will not have sufficient preparation time for the GCE "N" or GCE "O" Level Examinations held towards the end of the year.
Secondary 5 No direct admission is allowed to this critical level as the students will not have sufficient preparation time for the GCE "O" Level Examinations held towards the end of the year.
Pre-U 1 16 to 20+
Pre-U 2 No direct admission is allowed to this critical level as the students will not have sufficient preparation time for the GCE "A" Examinations held towards the end of the year.
Pre-U 3 No direct admission is allowed to this critical level as the students will not have sufficient preparation time for the GCE "A" Examinations held towards the end of the year.
Private Academic Schools

Established under the Private Education Act, the Council for Private Education (CPE) is a statutory board sanctioned with the legislative power to regulate the private education sector. In addition to its role as the sectoral regulator of private education institutions (PEIs), the CPE facilitates capability development efforts to uplift standards in the local private education industry. A full list of Private Educational Institutions can be found at

San Yu Adventist School

Address: 299 Thomson Road , Singapore 307652
Tel: 62566840 Fax: 62566842 Email:
Supervisor: Danson Ng Kim Yam

Returning Singaporeans

The Pupil Placement Section (PPS) of the Ministry of Education (MOE) advises Singaporean expatriates on matters relating to their children's education and assists them in the placement of their children in Singapore schools upon their return. As a returning Singaporean expatriate you could also apply directly to the principal of the school to which you wish your children to be admitted.

Rejoining your Child’s Former School

Students who are planning to go overseas but wish to rejoin their former schools upon their return to Singapore can apply for Leave of Absence.

The Leave of Absence scheme was introduced in 1999 assist in the re-entry of students who accompany their parents in their overseas postings. It is open to children who are Singapore citizens or Permanent Residents. Your child/ children would be allowed to apply for Leave of Absence from a primary school until the end of Primary 6, from a secondary school till the end of Secondary 4 or 5 (whichever is applicable) or a pre-university institution till the end of JC 2 or Pre-U 3 (whichever is applicable).

Once the student is granted the Leave of Absence, a placement in the school would be made available to him when he returns, provided that the Leave of Absence is renewed and payment is made yearly.

Admission / Re-admission to Primary Schools

There are two categories, as follows:

  • Singaporean expatriates with children who are due to enter Primary 1 should register their child/ children while overseas during the Primary 1 Registration Exercise opened July/August every year.
  • Once the child/ children has been allocated a place, parents may apply for Leave of Absence for their child if they are not due to return when school starts in the new academic year.

Parents can obtain such forms at the Singapore embassies, High Commissions, Singapore clubs overseas and MOE website.

Other Primary Levels

If parents require assistance with the school placement, they may submit the “Application form for school placement” 6 months in advance. The purpose of this application is to facilitate the PPS to process requests in time for the children to start school as soon as possible upon their return to Singapore.

Otherwise, parents could also approach the school of their choice directly to seek admission for their child/ children.

PPS will try to find the pupil a place in the school of choice. Should there be no allocation is the preferred school, it will do its best to place the pupil in other schools.

Admission / Re-admission to Secondary Schools and Junior Colleges

As returning students may possibly re-enter Singapore schools at different times of the school year, principals have the right to decide on a case-by-case basis if the pupils should be exempted from any examinations and put on a promotion to the next level.

  • Such admission will be subjected to the provision of documentary proof that the student has completed the previous level, and subjected to the student meeting the age criteria for that level.
  • Students seeking admission to a pre-university course should produce their GCE ‘O’ Level results transcripts or certificate or its equivalent for assessment of eligibility.
  • Admission is also dependent on the availability of vacancy in the school or the preferred junior college and MOE does not guarantee students in the placement of their preferred schools and institutions.

There are two categories of admission :

Admission to Top Secondary Schools or Junior Colleges

  • Returning Singapore citizens and Singapore Permanent Residents who would like to apply for the admission to any of the top 30 secondary schools and junior colleges will have to sit for a Centralised Qualifying Test (CQT). A list of the schools with this requirement can be found in the MOE website.
  • To qualify it also depends on the student’s performance in the CQT and the availability of placement in the school or junior college. On top of that, the school or junior college may want the applicant to sit for its own assessment tests in English, Mathematics and the Mother Tongue Language. The tests are to ascertain the student’s eligibility for the level, stream and class to which the student is requesting for entry.
  • Successful applicants will receive a Letter of Eligibility which then permit them to look for vacancies in the preferred top schools. Unsuccessful applicants could approach schools or junior colleges that are not in the top 30 list. This Letter of Eligibility will be sent out within 7 days after the student has sat for the test.
  • All applications for the test have to reach MOE at least 7 days in advance of the preferred test date. The application form can be found at its website. Applicants can complete the form and test fee and then have them submitted - with a copy of the student’s Birth Certificate or not, Identity Card, Entry Permit/Re-entry Permit to the MOE Customer Service Centre.

Admission to Other Secondary Schools or Junior Colleges

  • Students seeking entry to schools or junior colleges that are not in the top 30 list need not sit for CQT. They can approach these schools.
  • Otherwise, for admission to a secondary school, the parent or guardian could apply through PPS for school placement if they require any assistance.

Immersion Programmes

Provisions could be arranged for students return to Singapore during their holidays to attend classes in Singapore schools. This immersion program is to ease their re-entry into the school system. Parents who are working overseas and who would like to have their children to join in the immersion programs can contact the PPS for assistance or to the preferred school.

For more information, please contact:

Customer Service Centre
Ministry of Education
Ground Floor, Podium Block
1 North Buona Vista Drive, Singapore 138675
Tel : (65) 6872 2220
Fax : (65) 6775 4487, (65) 6776 8616
Email :

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