Local Versus International Schools In Singapore

Which Is Better Choice For Your Child & Why?

Local vs International Schools in Singapore

The local vs international schools debate is a forever-burning topic among expat parents in Singapore. We’ve been there ourselves (still are!) and we’ll let you know right away that there is no definitive, one-size-fits-all answer – no one can make the decision for you.

However, we’ve done what we could do for you and broken this overwhelming dilemma down to its constituent parts. Find out about the difference in culture & language, curriculum, values & approaches, costs & admissions processes, hours, and the pros, cons, and open questions that will help you reach a decision – for each one of your kids!

  • Local vs International Schools in Singapore Language and Culture


    Attending a local school can be a unique opportunity for your child to immerse themselves into Singaporean culture in otherwise unattainable ways. It can provide them with a sense of belonging in a foreign country and a chance to be embraced into the local community as a peer. Not to mention the deep immersion in terms of language – Singapore embraces an English-based bilingual education system in which English is a medium of instruction and the official mother tongue is taught as a compulsory second language.

    However, choosing an international school won’t automatically deprive your kid of bilingualism, or a sense of community for that matter, on the contrary. International schools will help them retain and embrace their “foreign” identity, albeit, beautifully, within a community of other “foreigners” from different parts of the world. Besides, some international schools emphasize involvement in the local community through various programs, and, in general, offer Mandarin and a language associated with the school’s origin, which may be especially worth considering if this is also your child’s mother tongue (eg. French or German).

  • Local vs International Schools in Singapore Curriculum and Values


    International schools in Singapore offer a variety of school curriculum options, including the British, American, Australian, German, French, IB curricula, and more, some blending various internationally recognized curricula into a hybrid (read our  Guide to Curriculum Options in Singapore for more info!). International schools also emphasize and nurture different values, which you can learn more about by checking the vision, mission, philosophy, and/or core values sections on each school’s website. Many international schools develop personalized learning plans for each student, offer learning support for those who are struggling, and encourage thinking outside of the box.

    Local schools share a more uniform and academically rigid approach, though recent developments from the Ministry of Education (MOE) have made it more holistic and values-based than ever before. A strong foundation in literacy and numeracy is at the core of the Singapore National Curriculum alongside strong social skills and an emphasis on community and collaboration.

  • Local vs International Schools in Singapore Cost and Admissions


    The cost is the biggest difference between the two school systems that often, regrettably, ends up being the deciding factor – that is, if you don’t give up on local schools because you simply cannot secure a spot for your international student in one. It is notoriously hard for non-residents to get a spot at a local school, and for locals to get a spot at an international school (in both cases, the decision is ultimately MOE’s). You can read more about the application processes in our Guide to Applying to Schools in Singapore and on MOE’s website.

    Local school fees differ for Singapore citizens, permanent residents, ASEAN international students and non-ASEAN international students. The fees can slightly vary from school to school (especially in case of autonomous and independent schools) and from year to year. The gap between fee amounts for citizens (negligible) and international students is approximately $1,000, which is still significantly less than what your will pay for an international school. You can find official information for each type of government school on MOE’s website. International school fees can vary drastically from school to school and grade to grade, ranging from $5,000 (at the very least) to well over $50,000/year.

  • Local vs International Schools in Singapore School Day and Academic Year


    Finally, local and international schools also differ logistically, which affects the organization of the entire family's day-to-day lives and long-term plans. Local schools generally start at around 7:20am and finish around 1:40pm, while the academic year runs from January to mid-November. On the other hand, international schools start later, generally, around 9am and finish at 3:30pm. The international academic year varies from school to school but typically runs from August to mid-June.

  • Local vs International Schools in Singapore Final Verdict and Questions


    Naturally, it comes down to your individual circumstances and your child’s unique disposition. In short, both local and international schools in Singapore offer exceptionally high standards of education with English as the primary language. If your budget, the waiting lists at international school or the waiting times for applying at a local school don’t make your decision for you, you might want to consider the following questions:

    How long will you be staying in Singapore and at what point in your child’s education are you moving?

    – If Singapore is your home only temporary or your move is happening in the middle of your kiddo’s educational journey, your child may benefit from the same curriculum they had at home. For the same reason, if you know you’ll be staying in Singapore for the foreseeable future, a local school will provide a more predictable environment, long-term friendships, and a stable community.

    What are your values and what is/does your child like?

    – The school is a fundamental part of your kiddo’s upbringing, so you should share the values that the school promotes. Similarly, different schools emphasize different skills and approach their development in different ways, so the supported learning styles should ideally match your kiddo’s. For example, competitive or ambitious kids may thrive in local schools that are generally more rigid than international schools. Children who are paralyzed by pressure or need some accommodation will probably develop a life-long love of learning much more easily in an international school.

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