International or Local School – Which is Better Education Choice?

When it comes to education in Singapore, parents have a plethora of choices. They can choose to place their children in local schools or international schools (if they meet the criteria).

Singaporean kids can enroll in international preschools. However, they are not eligible to enter International schools during their formative studies (primary school) unless they have at least one parent who is a foreigner or non-Singaporean. After graduating from primary school, they are eligible for admissions to local international schools. These local international schools are Anglo-Chinese School (International) School, Hwa Chong International School (HCIS), ISS International School and SJI International School (SJII)

Expat families may choose to enroll their children in local primary schools. They can apply for admission to selected primary schools during Phase 3 of the application process (subject to availability of spots at the school).

There are over 50 international schools in Singapore. According to a survey by International Schools Database, Singapore’s international schools are among the most expensive in the world. Fees for these international schools range from $15,000 to $54,000 per year. While they may not be budget-friendly for everyone, they are very well established – Singapore’s international schools have a reputation internationally for producing high-achieving, Ivy League caliber students.

Local International Schools versus Local Schools

There are merits to the education provided by both international schools or local schools. Here’s a quick snap-shot comparing the offerings by international schools and mainstream local schools, and further below information on specialized independent schools in Singapore to help you decide which curriculum is most suitable for your child. 

School Curriculum  International schools have a more flexible curriculum
depending on your child’s interest or fields they wish to focus on.
The local school curriculum is structured according to
the Ministry of Education (MOE) guidelines. In primary school,
the subjects are English, Mathematics, Science and Mother Tongue.  
Education CertificatesInternational Baccalaureate (IB), Advanced Placement (AP)GCE ‘O’ level & ‘A’ level, Integrated Programme (IP),
International Baccalaureate (IB) in selected schools only.
Curriculum Activity (CCAs)Students are encouraged to take 3 different CCAs to explore interests.
Students are allowed to change CCAs every year.    
Students have to audition for CCA and submit their application
(3rd year primary school & 1st year secondary school). Limited to
only one CCA choice.   Students are allowed to change CCAs
but have to submit reason to change.  
School SemestersDifferent school calendars depending on the curriculum they follow.  

School holidays usually follows summer schedule
so expat families can head home for the break.
School year begins in January.

Local school holidays are in March (week), June (month),
September (week) and December (6 weeks).  
School Fees$15,000 to $54,000 per year  $156 to 2,400- $36,000 per year

$13 to $200-$300 per month
Depending on whether the local school
is a fully subsidized or partially-government school
School Hours8:30am to 3:30pm7:30am to 1:30pm (primary schools)

7:30am to 4pm
(secondary schools)
Class Size20 – 25 per class40 per class
1 Form teacher
Social Interaction (Friends)The student population of international schools varies,
depending on their country of origin.
Your child will feel comfortable among foreigners.  
There might be disruptions to friendships when friends
move away or back home to their native countries.  

Mostly Singaporeans, with a smattering of international students. Generally diverse due to the local ethnicity of Chinese, Malays, Indians, and Eurasians.

Your child can sustain long-term friendships.  

School Work + Stress LevelsSchoolwork is reasonably paced and manageable for the students.
Work pressures may occur for students at the higher levels.   
Schoolwork is demanding and might be stressful.
Tuition is an entrenched practice and can cost
between $200 to $1000 per month.
LanguagesInternational schools provide native fluency in English, French, German, and others.Dual Languages – mainly English and mother tongue
(eg. Mandarin, Hindi, Malay).
Third languages are optional but available only for IP students.

Local International Schools

Here is a list of local international schools for students who finished their grade six. Local students are eligible to apply to these schools. There is an interview process during the application, so do prep your children on how to ace the interview questions.

Anglo-Chinese School (International) SchoolYear 1 to Year 5
FIB / Pre IB /IB
$25,521.50 to $31,141.50

* not inclusive of additions
Hwa Chong International School (HCISIB and British Curriculum

(age 12 – 18)
$36,495 (first year fees includes
– acceptance fee – $5350
– registration fee – $535
+ security deposit & tuition fee.

$24,610 to $28, 890 (Year 2 to Year 5)
SJI International School (SJII)IB Diploma$29, 168 to $30, 960

*not inclusive of application, registration
& development fees.

Specialized Independent Schools

A good middle ground between local international schools and mainstream schools is specialized independent schools. These schools offer courses that are specially designed to help students reach their potential in areas like sports, arts, mathematics, or science.

These schools are Singapore Sports School, School of the Arts Singapore (SOTA) and NUS S High School of Mathematics and Science, and the School of Science and Technology. If your child has an aptitude for Mathematics and scientific inquiry, an inclination for applied learning and creativity excels in sports, or has a creative flair for the arts, you might want to explore enrollment in these Specialised Independent Schools.

The School of the Arts (SOTA)A public pre-tertiary specialized arts school with six-year integrated arts and academic curriculum
leading to the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma or career-related programs in Singapore

Interested applicants Primary 6 and older are welcome to apply
for admission and Sports Selection Trials by clicking here.
$350 to $2650 monthly
Singapore Sports SchoolSingapore Sports School’s sports programs aim to develop student-athletes optimally based on Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) principles while acknowledging their academic aspirations and building character. 

The Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) framework is widely identified as the optimal sport development model for student-athletes.

LTAD offers a pragmatic and scientific approach where a systematic, integrated system is built around developing student-athletes and identifying appropriate levels of competition at each stage.
$492.50 (sec 1 to 5) to $687.50 (year 5 & 6),
boarding fees ($492.50)
NUS High School of Mathematics and ScienceNUS High School admits 100% of students through the Direct School Admission Secondary (DSA-Sec) Exercise.

Interested applicants must register at the MOE Centralized DSA-Sec Online Portal. 
$320 per month
School of Science and Technology

School of Science and Technology, Singapore (SST) is a Specialized Independent School that offers a distinctive 4-year GCE O-Level programme with an integrated approach to applied learning.

SST provides a strong foundation of key academic concepts in Science, Technology, Engineering, Aesthetics and Mathematics (STEAM).
$330 per month

Best of luck with this year’s registration! Let us know your thoughts on the education options for your child in Singapore in the comments below. Remember to connect with Us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Meiling Wong

Meiling is a Singaporean mom who loves spending time with her 2 kids until they ditch her for slime-making and digital gaming. These days, she keeps herself busy trying to keep up with the social media while still contemplating if she should learn how to play "Clash Royale".

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