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Education in Singapore - statistics & facts

Singapore’s education system is among the top-performing globally, with its students consistently scoring high in the OECD PISA rankings. Under the purview of the Ministry of Education (MOE), the education system in Singapore aims to equip students with the skills and competencies to face the challenges of a fast-paced, globalized, and digitally driven economy. The government expenditure on education had been increasing year-on-year to achieve this goal.

The Singapore education system

The education system is divided into three stages: primary, secondary, and post-secondary. Primary education, which typically lasts for six years, is compulsory for all children aged seven to 12. This culminates in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). The results of this nation-wide examination would determine whether a student can progress to secondary school, where they would sit for the General Certificate of Education (GCE) N-, or O-level examinations. Passing these examinations would allow students to move to post-secondary education, and they could either obtain a university entrance qualification or attend a technical vocational school. The mean years of schooling received by a Singaporean adult indicated that the majority have at least a secondary school qualification.

To ensure that the students receive adequate instruction and attention when in school, the ratio of teaching staff to students in primary schools as well as teacher-student ratios in secondary schools have decreased over the years. However, teaching in Singapore is a demanding calling, with many teachers working long hours and dealing with the dual stresses of both ensuring the academic performance of their students, as well as the ad hoc duties required of them for the extra-curricular activities such as student groups. The number of teachers in secondary schools and pre-university teachers, both deemed more demanding levels, have seen a decline over the years. Many teachers do not stay long in the profession, with the length of service for primary and secondary school teachers averaging between five to nine years.

The pressures of achieving academic excellence

The pressures of achieving academic excellence affect not just educators, but students as well. Learning does not stop once the school bell rings for the day – many Singaporean students are enrolled in after-school enrichment and tuition classes. While public education is affordable, private tuition can cost in the hundreds per hour of instruction. Private consumption expenditure on education in Singapore had been increasing over the years, and both students and parents alike view tuition as a necessity to succeed.

The educational system’s emphasis on high achievement in exams places significant mental and emotional stress upon students. In response, MOE facilitated the deployment of school counselors 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 to reduce competitive pressure amongst students.


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