7 considerations when choosing a school

There are ups and downs when integrating into a new country and culture. That doesn't change whether it's your first move or you find yourself in a new community every two years. Even seasoned expats have a lot to consider.

As a parent, one of your top priorities might be how your kids will adjust to Singapore and its education system. Fortunately, the country has plenty of excellent schools to choose from. Narrow your options by considering your priorities with this checklist of what to consider when applying for schools in Singapore.

Cost

There's no point in applying for a school if you can't pay for tuition. Annual international school fees can range from SGD17,800 to a whopping SGD46,000 (USD33,000) once you factor in uniforms, schools trips, lunches and a ton of other incidentals. Local schools are more affordable, but there's a caveat: Singapore citizens and permanent residents are given priority over international students.

Curriculum

Start with the basics. Do you want your child to start with Montessori, study in an International Baccalaureate Programme (IB), or take their A-levels? Make sure the curriculum fits your child's educational needs and your future plans; the right fit may minimise the disruption caused when you move back home.

Location

Local schools offer places based on residential catchment areas. So the closer you live to a particular school, the more likely you'll get a place there. This is not the case for international schools, however. If that's what you're leaning toward, then you'll need to consider your child's commute and transport options, and whether the school bus will pick up in your neighbourhood. We've compiled a list of public transport apps that will make your commuting life easier in Singapore.

Language

Moving to Singapore gives you and your child a great opportunity to learn another language (or four). English is the primary medium of instruction but many schools offer strong bilingual programmes. The Lycée Français de Singapour (French School of Singapore) supports a bilingual IB programme; the Canadian International School offers Chinese, Spanish, French or Japanese; and the Chinese immersion programme at the Singapore American School gives students a good foundation in Mandarin.

Co-education or single-sex

Studies show that single-sex schools in Singapore do better in academics than their co-ed counterparts. Some people believe it's because their children can flourish with their peers without distractions – ask the parents of any teenager – and some hypothesise that the method of instruction changes to suit the students. For others, it's purely a preference.

Holiday and term dates

Local schools have month-long breaks in June and December but international schools operate on a different schedule. For example, if you follow the Australian International School in Singapore's calendar, your Christmas is really a "summer" break. This might be very handy if you're actually going Down Under for the holidays, but otherwise it could leave you with a long vacation at the wrong time. Have children in different schools? Prepare to put your multitasking and travel-booking skills to work as you attempt to juggle multiple school calendars.

Your child's interests and academic abilities

What works for one child may not work for another, when it comes to settling in to a new school. Things to consider include sports programmes and facilities, learning support, pastoral care and extracurricular activities. The Singapore Sports School aims to be an Olympic champion spawning ground – if your child is a talented athlete, this could be where to start. United World College of South East Asia (UWCSEA) is a top-ranking school when it comes to academics. Other schools put the focus on performing arts, so there really is something for everyone.

If you haven't done so already, maybe now is a good time to give your child a bit of financial independence. Students below the age of 18 can open an HSBC Premier Lite Savings Account, with the help of a parent who's already an HSBC Premier customer. This savings account offers exclusive HSBC Premier interest rates and global support at any HSBC Premier Centres worldwide.