Education System in Singapore

Education In Singapore

A child in Singapore undergoes six years of compulsory primary education, comprising a four-year foundation stage from Primary 1 to 4 and a two-year orientation stage from Primary 5 to 6.

At the foundation stage, the core curriculum comprising English, the mother tongue, and Mathematics are taught, with supplementary subjects such as Music, Art & Craft, Physical Education, and Social Studies.

Science is included from Primary 3.  To maximize their potential, students are streamed according to their learning ability before advancing to the orientation stage.  At the end of Primary 6, students sit for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).

Singapore's primary school curriculum has been used as a model internationally, especially its teaching methods in mathematics. Foreign students are accepted at primary schools subject to availability of vacancies.

Secondary Schools in Singapore

Secondary Schools in Singapore can be government funded, government aided or independent. Students attend four or five years of secondary education under the Special, Express or Normal Course.  The Special and Express Courses prepare students for the Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education 'Ordinary' (GCE 'O') Level examination in four years. 

Students in the Normal Course can opt for the Academic or Technical stream, both of which prepare students for the Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education 'Normal' (GCE 'N') Level examination after four years of study and upon satisfactory completion, the GCE 'O' Level examination in the fifth year.

Secondary education curriculum includes English, the Mother Tongue, Mathematics, Science and the Humanities.  At Secondary 3, students can opt for electives of their choice, depending on whether they are in the Arts, Science, Commerce or Technical stream.

Singapore's secondary school curriculum is recognized worldwide for its ability to develop students with critical thinking and intellectual skills. Foreign students are accepted at secondary schools subject to availability of vacancies.

Two private academic institutions in Singapore also offer international students a unique and alternative opportunity to pursue their primary, secondary and post-secondary education. San Yu Adventist School operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Mission (Singapore), provides primary, secondary, and post-secondary education to students of diverse culture and nationalities.

St. Francis Methodist School is affiliated to the family of Methodist Schools in Singapore and offers secondary and post-secondary courses to local and international students. Both schools are registered with the Ministry of Education and offer their students an academic curriculum that is flexible, broad-based yet rigorous.

Junior Colleges/(Pre) Universities

Upon completion of the GCE 'O' Level (General Certificate of Education ‘Ordinary’) examination, students may apply for entry to a junior college for a two-year pre-university course or a centralized institute for a three-year pre-university course.

Junior colleges and centralized institutes prepare students for their entry to the university and lay the foundation for tertiary education.

The curriculum of junior colleges comprises two compulsory subjects, namely General Paper and the Mother Tongue, and a maximum of four Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education 'Advanced' GCE 'A' Level subjects from the Arts, Science or Commerce Courses.  At the end of the pre-university course, students sit for the GCE 'A' Level examination.

Foreign students are accepted at Junior Colleges and Pre-Universities subject to the availability of vacancies.

Universities in Singapore

If you are planning to study in Singapore, there are several options that you have. The country is known not only for its home-grown universities, but also universities that have been set up there in collaboration with renowned international universities.

There are three local universities in Singapore.

  • National University of Singapore (NUS)

  • Nanyang Technological University (NTU)

  • Singapore Management University (SMU)

They mould outstanding graduates with internationally recognized degrees. Research and scholarship opportunities are also available to post-graduate students at the three universities.

National University of Singapore (NUS)

Since its founding in 1905, NUS has since evolved into a comprehensive university offering courses in major disciplines such as the Sciences, Engineering, Technology, Law, Arts & Social Sciences and Medicine.

Nanyang Technological University (NTU)

NTU was set up in 1981 to provide facilities for tertiary education and research in engineering and technology. It has since incorporated the National Institute of Education (NIE) "the teachers' college" and expanded to include Accountancy, Business and Communication Studies.

Singapore Management University (SMU)

SMU was established in 2000 as the first publicly-funded private university with a focus on business and management programs.


International Universities in Singapore

In addition to local universities, many of the world's leading foreign universities have also established their presence in Singapore. These leading foreign universities have either set up a physical campus (institutes of higher learning) or have joint collaborations/programs with local universities (local tie-ups).

Some leading international institutions with Asian campuses located in Singapore are:

No. University
1 INSEAD Business School
2 University of Chicago - Graduate School of Business
3 Duke University
4 SP Jain Centre of Management
5 ESSEC Business School
6 Digipen Institute of Technology
7 University of Nevada (LA)
8 New York University - Tisch School of Arts (Asia)

Leading international universities that have collaborations with universities in Singapore are:

No. University
1 John Hopkins University
2 Georgia Institute of Technology
3 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
4 The Wharton School - University of Pennsylvania
5 Design School Institute
6 German Institute of Science and Technology
7 Shanghai Jiao Tong University
8 Stanford University
9 Waseda University
10 Indian Institute of Technology - Bombay
11 New York University - School of Law
12 Cornell University

In addition, the country's local universities, the National University of Singapore and the Nanyang Technological University also have joint programs with more than 16 other institutions around the world.

Some of these include:

No. University
1 University of St. Gallen - Switzerland
2 Beijing University for Chinese Medicine - China
3 ESIEE - France
4 Australian National University - Australia
5 University of Melbourne - Australia
6 University of Illinois (Urbana - Champagne) - USA
7 UCLA Anderson School of Management - USA
8 Peking University - China
9 Karolinska Institute - Sweden
10 University of Basel - Switzerland
11 Technical University of Denmark
12 King's College London - UK
13 Tsinghua University - China
14 Universite Pierre et Marie Curie - France
15 University of Paris - France
16 French Grand Ecoles - France

There are also foreign specialized institutes in Singapore that have either set up campuses in the country or have tie ups with the local polytechnics. Many international students opt to study in the many famous MBA colleges in the country. These enable polytechnic students to pursue a degree in related courses after they have completed their diplomas at the polytechnics.

Grading/Marking System in Singapore

The grading system in Singapore depends upon the type of the institution and the level of studies. At the primary, secondary and junior college level, local system is generally preferred.

Singapore-Cambridge GCE "O" Level Examination

Grade Grade Description US Grade
A1 Distinction A+
A2 Distinction A
A Distinction A
B3 Merit B+
B4 Merit B
B Merit B
C5 Credit C+
C6 Credit C
C Credit C
D7 Sub-Pass/Fail D
D Sub-Pass/Fail D
E8 Fail F
E9 Fail F

Secondary 9-point

Grade Scale Scale 2 US Grade
A1 1.00 - 1.99 75.00 - 100.00 A+
A2 2.00 - 2.99 70.00 - 74.99 A
B3 3.00 - 3.99 65.00 - 69.99 B+
B4 4.00 - 4.99 60.00 - 64.99 B
C5 5.00 - 5.99 55.00 - 59.99 C+
C6 6.00 - 6.99 50.00 - 54.99 C
D7 7.00 - 7.99 45.00 - 49.99 D
E8 8.00 - 8.99 40.00 - 44.99 F
F9 9.00 0.00 - 39.99 F

Secondary Letter Grade

A minimum GPA of 2.0 is usually required for promotion

Grade Scale US Grade
A+ 80.00 - 100.00 A+
A 70.00 - 79.99 A
B+ 65.00 - 69.99 B+
B 60.00 - 64.99 B
C+ 55.00 - 59.99 C+
C 50.00 - 54.99 C
D 50.00 - 54.99 D
E 40.00 - 44.99 F
F 0.00 - 39.99 F

Junior College

Grade Scale Grade US Grade Notes
A 70.00-100.00 - A -
B 60.00-69.99 - B -
C 55.00-59.99 - C+ -
D 50.00-54.99 - C -
E 45.00-49.99 Passing Grade C- -
O 35.00-44.99 Conditional Pass D Denotes standard is at AO level only, grade N in the British A Levels
F 00.00-34.99 Fail F -

Most Common

Grade Scale Grade Description
US Grade
A+ 95.00 - 100.00 Distinction A+
AD 95.00 - 100.00 Distinction A+
A 90.00 - 94.00 Excellent A
A- 80.00 - 89.00 - A-
B+ 75.00 - 79.00 Very Good B+
B 70.00 - 74.00 - B
C 65.00 - 69.00 Good C+
C+ 60.00 - 64.00 - C
D 55.00 - 59.00 Pass C-
D+ 50.00 - 54.00 - D
F 0.00 - 53.00 Fail F

International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma

A student's examination performance in individual subjects is scored on a scale of 1–7 points with a further 3 points available based on a matrix of performance in the theory of knowledge (TOK) and the extended essay components. Students who display satisfactory levels of performance across all subject areas and achieve a minimum of 24 points (out of a possible 45) are awarded the IB diploma. All others receive a certificate of results for the subjects examined.

Grade Grade Description
US Grade
7 Excellent A
6 Very Good A
5 Good B
4 Satisfactory C
3 Mediocre D
2 Poor F
1 Very Poor F
N No grade -

University Level

Scale Grade Description
US Grade
I 70.00 - 100.00 First Class Honors  A
II 60.00 - 69.99 Second Class Honors | First Division A-/B+
II 50.00 - 59.99 Second Class Honors | Second Division B
III 40.00 - 49.99 Third Class Honors C
IV 0.00 - 39.99 - F


Grade Scale Grade Description
US Grade
AD 95.00 - 100.00 Distinction A+ Top 5% score in the subject
A 80.00 - 94.99 Excellent A  
B+ 75.00 - 79.99 Very good A-  
B 70.00 - 74.99  Good B+  
C+ 65.00 - 69.99 Above Average B  
C 60.00 - 64.99 Average B-  
D+ 55.00 - 59.99 Pass C  
D 50.00 - 54.99 Borderline pass C-  
F 0.00 - 49.99 Fail F  

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