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Singapore Education Overview


Pre-school education in Singapore serves to provide a good foundation for a child's intellectual and social development. The pre-school education is a structured 3-4 year program encompassing language, basic mathematics, simple science, music and play-learning.There are 2 years (N1 and N2) of nursery school, followed by 2 years (K1 and K2) of kindergarten.

Primary School

Primary school students receive a six-year education from Primary 1 when a child is 7-years old and ends at Primary 6 when he or she turns 12. The primary school curriculum focuses on the English language, a second language, Mathematics and Science. To supplement the core curriculum, there are non-examination subjects like music, physical education, art & craft and social studies.

At the end of Primary 6, students will sit for an important examination called the PSLE or Primary School Leaving Examination which determines where he or she will go for his or her secondary education. Typically, the top PLSE students will gain admission to top secondary schools in Singapore like Raffles Institution , Hwa Chong Institution , Raffles Girls'; Secondary School or Nanyang Girls'; High School which have integrated 6-year programs leading to junior college. Nanyang Girls's High School has the highest PSLE cut-off points in Singapore. It was 264 points for 2016 secondary school admission.

Secondary School

Secondary school education will take either 4 years or 5 years depending on the academic abilities of the student. The secondary school curriculum is broader and offers a comprehensive array of subjects which include English, a second language, Mathematics, Science, History, Geography, Philosophy and even Physical Education. Some schools offer Music Elective Program and Art Elective Program from Secondary 1. In addition to the traditional secondary schools, there are also specialized schools like the Singapore Sports School, NUS High School of Mathematics and Science and the new Singapore School of the Arts.

At Secondary 3, students can opt for Arts, Science, Commerce or Technical streams. Secondary school education will take four years leading to the GCE "O" level examination or 5 years leading to the GCE "N" level examination. The duration of the secondary school education will depend on the student's academic abilities.

Junior College

The junior college education prepares a student for university. There are 2 options in Singapore comprising a 2-year junior college education or a 3 year pre-university course at the Millenia Institute. There are 19 junior college level institutions in Singapore as of 2017 and some of them are merging by 2019.

The new GCE A-level curriculum introduced in 2006 comprises H1, H2 and H3 subjects across a variety of disciplines. H1 are former AO subjects, H2 are normal A level subjects and H3 is similar to the S-paper in the past.

Most JC-level institutions in Singapore offer the GCE A-level, except ACS Independent , St Joseph Institution and The School of Arts (SOTA) which offers the International Baccalaureate (IB)

The top JC institution in Singapore is Raffles Institution - alma mater of Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong. The top 7 junior colleges or JCs in Singapore are: Raffles Institution, Hwa Chong Institution, Victoria Junior College, ACS Independent, National Junior College, St Joseph Institution and Anglo-Chinese Junior College. Collectively, they are known as the Group of Seven ( G7)

The IB Programme:-

In Singapore and elsewhere in the world, students take 6 subjects, 3 at standard level and 3 at higher level. The IB program is offered by Anglo-Chinese School ( Independent) and St Joseph Institution, School of the Arts besides the various international schools such as Hwa Chong International.

They choose from one from each of the following 6 groups:

1) Language
2) Second Language
3) Individual & Societies
4) Experimental Sciences
5) Mathematics
6) The Arts

Additionally, they also have to take a subject known as Theory of Knowledge, a course which combines philosophy, religion and logical reasoning.

Further, IB students have to write a 4000-word essay and carry out a community service project.

How IB students are assessed and graded:-

They are assessed via their portfolios, essays, practical work, presentations and written tests.

The final exam generally takes up 70 to 80 per cent of their final grades.

Each subject is marked out of 7 , with 4 as a pass

The 6 subjects yield a possible maximum of 42 points and students can score another 3 bonus points for their Theory of Knowledge and the 4000-word essay.

To earn the IB diploma, a student need to score at least 24 out of 45.

Institute of Technical Education ( ITE )

The ITE curriculum aims to develop technical skills and knowledge for the various industry sectors in Singapore. There are a broad range of institutional training and traineeship programs for students of all inclinations. The ITE education emphasizes practical, hands-on learning and is suitable for students who like to take up on more practice-oriented courses.

Top ITE graduates can proceed to the polytechnics to advance their studies.


The 5 polytechnics in Singapore have established a good reputation for providing highly valuable practice-oriented courses at diploma level. Courses provided range from engineering, info-comm, film & media studies to nursing and early childhood studies. There is a broad gamut of choices for all students. This is a popular route for students who favour a more practical learning experience over the more traditional academic learning approach.

Many polytechnic graduates proceed to local and overseas universities to take up degree studies. The Singapore government sets up the Singapore Institute of Technology to bring overseas university programs to polytechnic graduates.

The five polytechnics in Singapore are (in order of rankings): Singapore Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Temasek Polytechnic, Nanyang Polytechnic and Republic Polytechnic.


There are 6 universities in Singapore to cater to the demand for tertiary education.

The National University of Singapore ( NUS ) is the biggest university in terms of enrolment. It is a comprehensive university offering programs in major disciplines, including medicine, engineering, humanities and business administration, amongst others.

The Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is known for its strong technological background and engineering alumni. It is also well-known for its training programs for civil servants from developing Asian countries. NTU offers a joint medical degree program with Imperial College UK beginning 2013.

The Singapore Management University ( SMU ) is new university with a fresh perspective. It specializes in business and management programs and aims to produce graduates who can thrive in a dynamic, global environment. Due to its strategic location in the heart of the city, it has become a university of choice for most aspiring business students.

The fourth university is Singapore University of Social Sciences ( SUSS ) formerly known as SIM University.

The fifth university is the Singapore University of Technology and Design ( SUTD ) When it first started, this university partners America's MIT and China's Zhejiang University in research, curriculum development and faculty exchange.

The sixth university is the Singapore Institute of Technology or SIT. Unlike other local universities, It offers mainly degrees from foreign universities.




How are Singapore GCE A-level graduates considered for university admission?

Admission of Singapore-Cambridge GCE A-level graduates to the University is based on an applicant’s University Admission Score (UAS) comprising the grades of six A-level subjects as follows:

• Best three H2 and one H1 content-based subjects, with at least 1 content subject from a contrasting discipline
• General Paper (GP) or Knowledge and Inquiry (KI)
• Project Work (PW)

The best Mother Tongue Language (MTL) subject grade (e.g. H1 MTL or O-level higher MTL) will be considered only if the candidate provides the result for the University’s consideration. The University will include the MTL subject grade in the scoring only if it raises the competitiveness of the candidate. (http://www.nus.edu.sg/oam/apply/local/alevel1/BYA-alevel1.html)

The maximum university admission score is 90 points. Applicants may use the UAS calculator table below to calculate their points.

3. How are polytechnic graduates considered for admission?

For the admission of polytechnic graduates to the University, the Singapore-Cambridge GCE O-level examination results and the polytechnic’s semester GPA are both taken into consideration. These grades translate to the University Admission Score (UAS) which is used to evaluate the applicant for admission. Some NUS undergraduate courses will only consider polytechnic graduates with accredited diplomas. Please refer to the list of accredited diplomas at: http://www.nus.edu.sg/oam/apply/local/prerequisites/BYA-prerequisites.html.


UAS Calculator Table for Singapore Universities


Grade H2 Equivalent H1 Equivalent
A 20 10
B 17.5 8.75
C 15 7.5
D 12.5 6.25
E 10 5
S 5 2.5
U 0 0





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