Education system in Singapore

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University education in Singapore

A guide to universities in Singapore

This section aims to give Indian students an overview of the education system in Singapore. It also discusses about the various avenues of education open to an international student in Singapore with an emphasis on university education.

Education in Singapore

The Ministry of Education in Singapore controls and directs the education policy in Singapore. The development and administration of state schools which receive government funding is part of the Ministry's responsibilities along with being in an advisory and supervisory role for private schools.

The Ministry also partially funds SPED schools (special education schools) which are run by the VWOs (voluntary welfare organizations). Children with disabilities attend these schools.

Singapore has placed an essential emphasis on education. This can be seen from the fact that education spending forms at least 20% of the budget of Singapore. Primary education has become compulsory for all the citizens of Singapore and if parents fail to enrol their children into school, it is considered a criminal offence.

English has been adopted as a first language and is the primary medium of instruction in most institutions. At school level however, Singapore follows the bilingual system of education with English being complemented by a mother tongue language. This system has proved to be extremely fruitful for the overall development of a student's abilities. This has managed to cross the ethnic and languages based borders amongst the citizens, and connect Singapore to the rest of the world.

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Structure of the education system in Singapore

The education system in Singapore is based on the age of the student. Indians students intending to study in Singapore normally apply to Junior colleges or pre-university. There is a belief that the admission process to universities in Singapore is eased if students complete their pre-university education in Singapore. The National Junior College (established in 1969) is the oldest Junior college in Singapore. This trend is changing slowly and a large number of Indian students are now beginning to apply directly for both undergraduate and postgraduate programs at universities in Singapore.

When international students apply for admission in Singapore, they have to provide documentary proof of having completed the age-based education level in order to gain admission.

Apart from this proof, institutions will normally conduct entrance examinations for international students in the subjects of English, Maths, Science and their mother tongue language when they apply for admission.

At the end of the Pre-University levels the student has to appear for the GCE 'A' Level exams.

The system of education has come under some amount of criticism because it is held to be very specialised and rigid and that there is not much emphasis placed on creative thinking. The Ministry of Education has recently introduced some changes in the curriculum which have created an increased focus on creative independent thinking and development of real-life skills.

That being said, students from Singapore continue to rank at the top in different competitive exams held at international levels in subjects like Mathematics and Science.

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Graduate education in Singapore

After completing pre-university, students can opt for 3 year diploma courses offered by the polytechnics in Singapore, enrol for undergraduate programs at one of the universities or study at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE).

Courses offered at the polytechnics are more industry oriented. Singaporean students at times apply to these institutions after completing 'O' levels and hence these become alternatives to junior colleges. There are 5 such Polytechnics in Singapore.

Students can also apply to the Institute of Technical Education (ITE). These institutions offer two year programs leading to a locally recognized "National ITE certificate".

The third channel which students can choose is to apply to the universities in Singapore to pursue a variety of undergraduate, graduate, post graduate and doctoral programmes. There are 4 Universities and more than 10 Private Tertiary Institutions which offer these degrees to students.

Singapore has also attracted a variety of International schools due to its multi-cultural community base. These are more than 20 in number.

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Top universities in Singapore

The universities in Singapore have been regularly been featured in the list of top and best universities around the world.

Singapore has four main universities and there is a large population of Indian students in each of these Universities.

The table below gives the pertinent information about main universities in Singapore.
Name of University Type Known as Year of establishment
National University of Singapore Public NUS 1905
Nanyang Technological University Public NTU 1991
Singapore Management University Private SMU 2000
SIM University Private UniSIM 2005

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International universities in Singapore

Several overseas institutions establishing satellite campuses and research centers have enhanced levels of education in Singapore. INSEAD, one of the leading business schools in the world opened a second campus in Singapore in 2001, which offers an opportunity for students to study abroad at a prestigious institution. This runs parallel to the campus in France and offers MBA and Executive-MBA courses. Other examples are the University of Chicago graduate school of business and the James Cook University further enhancing the belief that education in Singapore is top class and to study in Singapore is the way to go.

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