Public Schools vs. Private Schools

Singapore offers a multitude of options for world-class school education. On the one hand, there is a local public school system, which focuses on developing 21st century competencies in students from a young age. On the other hand, there are over 40 international schools in the country to cater to the diverse educational needs of the expat families that relocate here from across the world.

Broadly speaking, all parents want their children to experience a great education.But not everyone agrees on what a great education looks like. Is it creative and engaging?  Focussed and practical? Data-driven and futuristic? In Singapore, you will be able to find a school that is the right fit for your child’s personality and your family’s requirements.

Public School

About 250 + primary and secondary public schools in Singapore 

Only about 4% of Singapore's public school students come from the international community and another 9% hold permanent residence.

Majority follow a National Curriculum with rigorous academic focus

Different levels of extra-curricular activities and academic support

MOE offers preschools, primary schools and secondary schools

Private School

More than 40 private schools

Cater mostly to international families

They offer either a country-specific syllabus or an internationally recognised curriculum, which varies widely in theme and approach. 

Offer a wide range of additional activities and facilities

Most are all-through and run from kindergarten to Grade 12 within the same school

The Committee for Private Education oversees all private institutions under the Private Education Act to ensure quality and regulatory alignment.  

To give one example of our K-12 international school, OWIS provides expat families of all nationalities with an all-inclusive and welcoming school environment, affordable school fees, and internationally recognised IB PYP, IGCSE and IBDP curriculum.

Academic Excellence: is quality a concern?

Singapore's public schools frequently rank among the best in the world, especially on maths and science lists.

Their reputation for academic excellence springs from a robust commitment to competitive education. Teachers emphasise procedures and subject mastery resulting in overall excellent performance on standardised examinations and highly disciplined educational environments.

The curriculum for private schools in Singapore varies widely from school to school. Some institutions take the traditional school approach and focus on information recall. Others take the future-proofed approach to education, which is more broadly methodological.  With so much diversity in their curricular choices, Singapore's private schools also vary widely in quality and outcomes.  Simply put, if you've seen one private school in Singapore, you've seen that one school.  The international school nearby may offer a totally different approach and produce a different kind of graduate student.

At OWIS, for example, we have adopted inquiry-based programmes that foster curiosity, critical thinking and creativity in your child and place them on the path to lifelong learning. Each school day is an enjoyable balance of academics and holistic development through additional programmes, such as sports, the arts and languages.

Public and Private Schools in Singapore:  Benefits and Considerations

Choosing whether to go the local public school route or private school route means taking the following aspects into consideration:

Cost

Public Schools

Singapore's public schools welcome international students, but they do charge tuition for non-Singaporeans.  Citizens of ASEAN nations pay one fee, and citizens of other countries pay a higher one. 

Private Schools

Private school tuition can range higher than public school costs, starting at S$13,000 a year and topping out at S$50,000 a year.

Admission

Public Schools

As in most countries, citizens enjoy first priority for slots available in public schools.  Expat families who plan to enrol their child in public school should always have a backup plan in case they are waitlisted in favour of local families. Foreigners cannot request a school, meaning children can get placed in a school allocated by the Ministry of Education.  

Private Schools

Admission to private schools is often much more straightforward. Expat families can choose the right school for their child by researching school features, location, fees and parent testimonials and going for virtual tours or open house days. 

Academic Year

Public Schools

Singapore's public schools take holidays in September, December, March, and June. The Academic Year runs from January to December. Families from other countries may find this schedule inconsistent with their native calendar. 

Private Schools

Private schools choose their academic year for themselves. The most popular academic calendar is August - July which aligns with northern hemisphere schools.

Curriculum

Public Schools

Singapore has constructed one of the most admired public education systems in the world, and its maths curriculum, in particular, is second to none.  Most of Singapore's curriculum prepares students to pass levelled, standardised examinations.

Private Schools

International schools typically select the curriculum used in their home country, or they adopt an internationally-recognised curriculum, such as the International Baccalaureate approach.

Choose the right school for your child in Singapore’s diverse educational landscape.
Entrusting the education and holistic development of your child to the right school - public or private - takes careful thought and research.

Let us know what information we can provide you to make your choice a little easier. Our admissions team will be happy to guide you through the application process and answer any questions you may have about our academic approach, focus on all-round development and core values. Whether your family is new to Singapore or your child is transitioning from a local school to our private school, our experienced and caring teachers will ease the settling process. We will ensure that you and your child are welcomed into our vibrant and multicultural school community  and he or she loves to come to school every day.