Singapore’s education system is amongst the best in the world and lauded globally. It produces top scorers in math and science, and many countries have adopted their math teaching methodology. Local schools mostly teach in English and appeal to a large number of expat parents as an attractive option for their children. But the fact is that the majority of expats continue to enrol their children in international schools.
So why are private schools in Singapore more popular than local schools amongst expats?
While both local and international schools impart high levels of education, they differ in some fundamental ways.
Let’s see what these differences are:
- Curriculum – International schools offer globally recognised IGCSE and IB qualifications that focus on the holistic development of students. Some offer the curriculum of their home country, which makes the transition during relocation easier. Local schools follow the national curriculum laid down by the Ministry of Education and that has a strong emphasis on math and science.
- Teaching methodology – Application-based learning is the norm in international schools, with a focus on developing creative, critical thinking and problem-solving skills in their students. On the other hand, local schools are more structured and believe in rote-learning and memorisation.
- Exams and streaming – Local schools stress on grades and segregate students into classes based on performance, as well as a multitude of exams at each level. International schools assess students on other criteria besides exams.
- School culture – International school students study in an open, culturally diverse environment, but can also be in a bubble from Singaporean society. Local schools encourage self-discipline and respect for elders and also help students immerse in the local culture.
- Sports, the arts and other extracurricular activities – International schools lay great emphasis on these and offer a vast variety of extracurricular activities to choose from. They also have excellent facilities to support these activities.
- Foreign language learning – While international schools teach Mandarin, they also offer the language of their origin as well as other foreign languages as part of their curriculum. Local schools only offer mother-tongue as a language option.
- Cost – This can be a major factor. While local school fees are subsidised and quite affordable, international schools are very expensive and cost several thousand dollars annually.
- Ease of admission – Due to frequent relocations, admissions in international schools are open through the year and expat students get priority. Foreigners are low on the list of selections for local schools though, and school spots are very difficult to come by.
So is it worth it to put your child in an international school in Singapore?
There is no right or wrong choice when it comes to choosing schools. You need to decide what your priorities are and what best suits your child’s needs. Admitting your child in an international school is totally worth it if you want:
- An international curriculum that helps your child move to any other country in case you relocate, especially if you’re going to be in Singapore for a short duration
- Qualifications that are recognized by universities all over the world
- Your child to continue with your home country curriculum and be in touch with your native language and culture
- A curriculum that is not overly competitive, stressful and absolutely exam-and grade-focused, and more focused on developing social and soft skills
- Non-traditional teaching styles and all-round development through creative and extracurricular activities
- A school with modern classrooms using the latest technology, state-of-the-art facilities, and international teaching staff
- An open environment that welcomes parent involvement
Once you are clear on what you want from a school, the selection process will be relatively simpler and more focused.