Schools around the world: how is education in Singapore?


Singapore gained independence and formed as an independent state not so long ago — in the middle of the 20th century. At that time, it was a rather poor country, which had to import even such basic materials as fresh water and building sand. However, by the 90s, Singapore managed to become one of the most successful world powers in the field of economy and enlist the partnership and support of other countries.

The modern education system in this city-state also exists for no more than a hundred years. And yet, according to the PIRLS research center, the level of general erudition of the population is one of the highest in the world. In addition, students from Singapore do internships in Cambridge, and educational institutions receive funding from the world’s leading investors.

Naturally, the entire education system contributes to this state of affairs. What approach is taken in relation to school education in Singapore — today we will talk about it.

Basic part

School education in Singapore consists of two stages: primary and secondary levels. Primary starts for children from the age of six and lasts until their 12th birthday (a total of six years). The second stage, the middle classes, takes an average of four years.

Primary education for Singaporeans is free. Parents do not have to pay for repairs or any major acquisitions. However, they must make a nominal $13 monthly contribution to cover incidental expenses.

The first part of the education of primary school students is a fundamental stage. It is common to all and lasts 4 years. It includes English and native languages, mathematics for the development of logic, ethics, artistic work, music and physical education.

An interesting fact: Singaporean schoolchildren do not have seasonal holidays.

Cultural diversity

The school education of this country combines the traditions of both Asian and Western countries. In Singapore, in principle, it is difficult to single out the titular nation. The majority are Chinese, Malays and Tamils, as well as immigrants from India. A small percentage are also British, Arabs, Jews, Armenians, Japanese and mestizos. It is easy to assume that there are also several variations of the native language for schoolchildren: Chinese, Malay and Tamil.

Exam questions

Although exams are the final stage of school life, we will mention them at the beginning because it allows you to immediately understand the Singaporean education system. The fact is that school years in this country are a purposeful path to the final test, and therefore to the rest of life.

It is important to note that the final exam is not the same for everyone, but is divided into 3 levels: A (advanced), O (regular) and N (satisfactory). Level BUT gives the right to enter the university, O— and N— allow to receive secondary special and technical education.

Everything on the shelves

If for most Western countries, and even for Russia, the education system is characterized by the presence of a certain general level among schoolchildren, then in Singapore, from the primary grades, there is a division into successful students and lagging behind. Already in the fourth year, the children are divided into classes, depending on their level of knowledge, the intensity of training and interests. Which subjects the child develops a predisposition to — on those preparations are being made for the mandatory exam from elementary school, PSLE ​​(Primary School Leaving Examination), which already contributes to the further educational path of the student.

In high school, there are several different courses, each corresponding to certain results of the exam at the exit from the elementary.

standard course includes mainly technical disciplines. Until 2004, it gave the right only to receive the N-level, but later the government decided to allow graduates to take tests at the O level.

Special Course provides for an in-depth study of the native language. Otherwise, it has much in common with the express course.

Express course lasts 4 years and gives the right to receive level O. This includes the mediocre study of Creole, English and the native language of the inhabitants of the country.

Normal academic course contains part of the subjects from the standard, but it also includes, for example, disciplines such as accounting. Unlike other courses, its duration is five years.

Pre-professional course gives students the opportunity to choose from 6 to 10 subjects and subsequently take an O level test. The compulsory subject on this list is mathematics, as well as one science and humanities discipline, plus native and English languages. All others are optional.


Despite the high level of training of specialists in such areas as higher mathematics, natural and technical sciences, the Singaporean education system is often criticized for excessive rigidity and a kind of «caste».

Firstly, the criticizing side often argues his point of view by the fact that in local schools there is almost no emphasis on creative thinking and creative subjects. Defenders of the current system offer in response the fact that Singaporean students and graduates are among the most advanced in the world in the scientific field. But their opponents dispute this by saying that teenagers are simply purposefully prepared for certain exams and olympiads, and their success does not show the real level of knowledge.

Not so long ago, the local Ministry of Education nevertheless responded to criticism and made significant changes in order to develop creative and critical thinking in the younger generation.

Secondly, the opponents are in an excessive obsession with the distribution of levels. In Singapore, children are “sorted” by ability starting from the elementary grades, when in principle it is difficult to predict their performance in the future. An example is the popular local film I’m Not Stupid, which highlights this idea.

And yet, despite the unusualness of some moments for our mentality, one cannot but admit that Singapore, the youngest state in the world, in less than a century has reached almost the very center of the world economic arena and has reached a high bar in terms of living standards. One of the decisive factors in this is competent specialists. And this, in turn, is the merit of the educational system.

Despite the fact that this city-state does not seriously emphasize the humanities and arts, schoolchildren and students from Singapore have carved their niche as the best in the exact and natural disciplines. This proved that they certainly know how to learn.


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