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How to choose the right school in Singapore

Narrow your options and find the best school in Singapore with this checklist of priorities.

The Singapore education system can be a little challenging to understand, especially if you're new to the country. 

So here are 4 schooling options in Singapore to consider and a list of factors that will help you determine your priorities.

4 options for educational places in Singapore

1. Local schools in Singapore for expats

Putting their children through the local education system seems to be a popular choice for expat families these days. There are a couple of reasons for this – the hike in education costs in Singapore and a cut-back in expat packages, as well as the desire to explore a more rigorous education system as compared to the curriculum at international schools.

This option is for you if you're looking for:

  • an excellent bilingual programme (English and Chinese)
  • a focus on mathematics and science
  • your child to master content and retention skills
  • a longer-term stay in Singapore and aren't too fussed about the ability to transfer educational qualifications

But take note: Spots in prestigious local schools are usually impossible to get. Also, the very important Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), taken at age 12, is a source of much stress among parents and students.

2. Singapore international schools

These schools contain no dominant culture or nationality group, and are a great fit for highly mobile expatriate families. One such institution is XCL World Academy (XWA), formerly known as GEMS World Academy. XWA offers both the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme and the Cambridge International Examinations (IGCSE).

This option is for you if you're looking for:

  • excellent learning opportunities for access to universities worldwide
  • diverse and extensive language programmes, as well as a commitment to community and service
  • curriculum development that allows students to join midway through, and to easily leave to join any other educational programmes
  • a balanced education (schools like XWA send graduates directly into Ivy League universities through their arts, sports and academics-based teaching methods)

3. National curriculum schools

These schools provide curriculum, values and cultures aligned with a specific nationality. Among them are Dulwich College and Tanglin Trust, which offer the UK national curriculum; the Singapore American School, which focuses on a US curriculum; and Lycée Français de Singapour (French School of Singapore), which offers the French Baccalaureate.

This option is for you if you're looking for:

  • a smooth transition back into your home country's education system
  • a little slice of home in Singapore
  • your child to attend a university back home

4. Blended schools

Examples of blended schools include the Canadian International School and Australian International School, which combine local and international programmes.

This option is for you if you're looking for:

  • a school that conducts dual programmes
  • more options as you're unsure of which education system is better for your child

How to choose a school for your child

Working with education consultants can be helpful. They'll guide you through Singapore's school system, help with assessing your child's needs and ultimately, determine which school would be a best fit.

If you're doing the research yourself, here are 7 factors to consider when looking at schools.


There’s no point in applying for a school if you can’t pay for tuition. Annual international school fees can range from SGD17,000 to a whopping SGD50,000 (USD34,850)[@dulwichcollege] 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. 

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Start with the basics. Do you want your child to start with Montessori, study in an IB Programme 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.


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.


English is the primary medium of instruction but many schools offer strong bilingual programmes. The Lycée Français 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.

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