Typically, a Singaporean student goes through ten years of formal education. However, primary school education of six years is compulsory for all children aged 7 to 12 in Singapore. As of 2018, there were over 300 schools for primary, secondary and post-secondary education. The main language of instruction in Singapore is English, which was officially designated the first language within the local education system in 1987. All Singapore students are also required to study their mother tongue, which is usually either Chinese, Malay or Tamil. It is an examinable subject for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), as well as the General Certificate of Education (GCE) N-, O- and A-Level examinations.
In 2018, government expenditure on education was approximately 13 billion Singapore dollars. Besides primary, secondary and tertiary education, more focus has also been given to Special Education schools with initiatives such as peer support programs, increased state funding and lower fees.
Singapore’s education system has consistently been ranked as one of the best in the world by the OECD. In 2019, the National University of Singapore was ranked the second-best university in Asia and 23rd worldwide by Times Higher Education world university rankings. To accommodate demand for higher education, several new universities were set up in Singapore in the past decade, including two with a focus on technology: Singapore University of Technology and Design, and Singapore Institute of Technology. In 2018, the number of students enrolled in universities in Singapore was approximately 103.75 thousand.
Despite topping world rankings, the educational system’s focus towards high achievement in exams has placed mental and emotional stress upon its students. In response, MOE facilitated the deployment of school counsellors to assist with such needs. The ministry is also tweaking the PSLE scoring system, to come into effect from 2021, and has stopped naming top scorers in an effort to reduce competitive pressure amongst students.