While the earliest known historical records of Singapore are shrouded in the
mists of time, a third century Chinese account describes it as "Pu-luo-chung", or the
"island at the end of a peninsula". Later, the city was known as Temasek ("Sea
Town"), when the first settlements were established from AD 1298-1299.
During the 14th century, this small but strategically located island earned a new
name. According to the legend, Sang Nila Utama, a Prince from Palembang (the
capital of Srivijaya), was out on a hunting trip when he caught sight of an animal he had
never seen before. Taking it to be a good sign, he founded a city where the animal had
been spotted, naming it “The Lion City” or Singapura, from the Sanskrit words
“simha” (lion) and “pura” (city).
At this time, the city was then ruled by the five kings of ancient Singapura.
Located at the tip of the Malay Peninsula, the natural meeting point of sea routes, the
city served as a flourishing trading post for a wide variety of sea crafts, from Chinese
junks, Indian vessels, Arab dhows and Portuguese battleships to Buginese schooners.
Land Area: 241 sq mi (624 sq km)
Total Area: 267 sq mi (692.7 sq km)
Capital: Singapore, 5,183,700.
Population: (2012) 5,353,494 (growth
rate: 1.993%); birth rate: 7.72/1000;
infant mortality rate: 2.65/1000; life
Religion: Buddhist 43%, Islam 15%,
Taoist 9%, Hindu 4%, Catholic 5%, other Christian 10%, none 15% (2000)
Languages: Mandarin 35%, English 23%, Malay 14.1%, Hokkien 11.4%, Cantonese
5.7%, Teochew 4.9%, Tamil 3.2%, other Chinese dialects 1.8%, other 0.9% (2000)
Ethnicity/race: Chinese 76.8%, Malay 13.9%, Indian 7.9%, other 1.4% (2000)
Transportation: Railways: total: 38.6 km. Highways: total: 3,356 km; paved: 3,356 km
(including 161 km of expressways). Ports and harbors: Singapore. Airports: 9 (2012).
Monetary Unit: Singapore Dollar
Type of Government: Parliament
President: Tony Tan Keng Yam (2011)
Prime Minister: Lee Hsien Loong (2004)
Economy: GDP/PPP (2011 est.): $318.9 billion; per capita $60,500. Real growth rate:
4.9%. Inflation: 5.2%. Unemployment: 2% (2011). Arable land: 1.47%. Agriculture:
rubber, copra, fruit, orchids, vegetables; poultry, eggs; fish, ornamental fish. Labor
force: 3.075 million (2010 est.); agriculture .1%; industry 30.2%; services 69.7 (2010).
Industries: electronics, chemicals, financial services, oil drilling equipment, petroleum
refining, rubber processing and rubber products, processed food and beverages, ship
repair, offshore platform construction, life sciences, entrepôt trade. Natural resources:
fish, deepwater ports. Exports: $414.8 billion (2011 est.): machinery and equipment,
mineral fuels, chemicals, foodstuffs. Imports: $366.3 billion (2011 est.): machinery and
equipment, mineral fuels, chemicals, foodstuffs. Major trading partners: U.S.,
Malaysia, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan (2010).
Universal Studios Singapore, Singapore Zoo, Singapore Botanical Garden, Boat Quay
and Clarke Quay, Singapore Flight Experience, Singapore Science Center, National
Museum, Little India in Singapore, Marina Bay Sands.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND IN TERMS OF THEIR DEVELOPMENT
ABOUT EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM
Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles founded the Singapore Institution (now known as
Raffles Institution) in 1823, thereby starting education in Singapore under the British
rule.Later, there were three main types of schools appeared in Singapore: Malay
schools, Chinese and Tamil schools and English schools. Malay schools were provided
free for all students by the British, while English schools, which used English as the
main medium of instruction, were set up by missionaries and charged school fees.
Chinese and Tamil schools largely taught their respective mother tongues. Students
from Chinese schools in particular were extremely attuned to developments in China,
especially in the rise of Chinese nationalism.
The years 1959 to 1965 were significant or even epochal in the history of
Singapore’s educational transformation. In May 1959,Singapore was given selfgovernment status and a Five-Year Plan (1961-1965) to boost the educational
standards of the people was implemented. The priority at this point of time was to
provide universal free primary education. It consisted of three main features:
• Equal treatment for the four streams of education – Malay, Chinese,Tamil and English.
• The establishment of Malay as the national language of the new State.
• Emphasis on the study of Mathematics, Science and technical subjects.
Primary education was freely made available to all. In 1962, out of a population
of 1.7 million, the student population stood at nearly 400,000. This led to a period of
rapid construction of schools. Under the British rule, government English schools and
missionary English schools had good buildings. However, in mainly the rural areas,
vernacular schools, built and supported by private organizations or individuals, were
wooden-type of schools. Beginning in 1959, the responsibility of building all new
functional schools was passed on to the primary and secondary education finishing at
the minimum age of 16”.8 Due to the rapid construction of schools, universal lower
secondary education was achieved as early as 1970. There were places in secondary
schools for all those leaving the primary school system and qualifying for another four
years of secondary education.
The Government accelerated the plans for the expansion of technical education.
A Technical education Department was set up in the Ministry of education in June 1
secondary pupils were required to have two years of exposure to technical subjects
while girls were given a choice between technical subjects and home
The Technical education Department made use of all available training facilities
(located in four newly-built vocational institutes) to turn out skilled workers, such as
welders and machinists, to service the shipbuilding, oil refinery, electro-chemical,
electro-mechanical, precision engineering, metalworking and woodworking industries.
13 From 1970 to 1973, for example, 1,789 trainee welders received formal technical
training. It must be noted that, while Singapore succeeded in attracting a wide range of
foreign-owned new industries, the industrialization effort benefited immensely from
technical and financial assistance from a number of foreign governments and from the
Singapore ranking in the world
National University of Singapore
Nanyang Technological University
National University of Singapore
Nanyang Technological University
Singapore ranking in the Asia
National University of Singapore
Nanyang Technological University
National University of Singapore
Nanyang Technological University
EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM AT PRESENT
Kindergartens in Singapore provide up to three years of pre-school for children
ages three to six. The three years are commonly called Nursery, Kindergarten 1 (K1)
and Kindergarten 2 (K2), respectively.
Kindergartens provide an environment for children to learn how to interact with
others, and to prepare them for formal education at Primary school. Activities include
learning language - written and oral - and numbers, development of personal and social
skills, games, music, and outdoor play. Children learn two languages, English and their
official Mother Tongue (Chinese, Malay, or Tamil). Many private or church-based
kindergartens might not offer Malay or Tamil, so non-Chinese pupils might also learn
some Chinese in these kindergartens.
The kindergartens are run by the private sector, including community
foundations, religious bodies, and civic or business groups. There are more than 200
kindergartens registered with the Ministry of Education. Kindergartens are also run by
child care centres as well as international schools.
Primary education, normally starting at age seven, is a four-year foundation
stage (Primary 1 to 4) and a two-year orientation stage (Primary 5 to 6). Primary
education is compulsory under the Compulsory Education Act since 2003. Exemptions
are made for pupils who are homeschooling, attending a full-time religious institution or
those with special needs who are unable to attend mainstream schools. However,
parents have to meet the requirements set out by the Ministry of Education before these
exemptions are granted. Primary education is free for all Singapore citizens in schools
under the purview of the Ministry of Education, though there is a fee of up to SGD 13
monthly per student to help cover miscellaneous costs.
The foundation stage is the first stage of formal schooling. The four years, from
primary 1 to 4, provide a foundation in English, mother tongue (which includes Chinese,
Malay, Tamil or a Non-Tamil Indian Language (NTIL)) and Mathematics. Other subjects
include Civics and Moral Education, arts and crafts, music, health education, social
studies, and physical education, which are taught throughout Primary 1 to 6. Science is
taught from Primary 3 onwards.
Gifted Education Programme
The Gifted Education Programme (GEP) was set up by the Ministry of Education
in 1984 to cater to the intellectually gifted students. This programme aims to develop
gifted children to their top potential and it places a special emphasis on higher-order
thinking and creative thought. There are currently 9 primary schools offering the Gifted
Education Programme: Anglo-Chinese School (Primary), Catholic High School
(Primary), Henry Park Primary School, Nan Hua Primary School, Nanyang Primary
School, Rosyth School, Tao Nan School, St. Hilda's Primary School, and Raffles Girls'
Primary School. The Secondary School Gifted Education Programme was discontinued
at the end of 2008 as more students take the Integrated Programme (IP); this has been
replaced by a "School-Based Gifted Education" programme.
The Ministry of Education Language Centre.
Based on results of the PSLE, students are placed in different secondary
education tracks or streams: "Special", "Express", "Normal (Academic)", or "Normal
(Technical)". Singaporeans are forbidden to attend international schools on the island
without Ministry of Education permission.
"Special" and "Express" are four-year courses leading up to the SingaporeCambridge GCE "O" Level examination. The difference between these two courses is
that in the "Special" stream, students take 'Higher Mother Tongue' (available for
Chinese, Malay and Tamil only) instead of 'Mother Tongue'. A pass in the Higher
Mother Tongue 'O' Level Examination constitutes the fulfilment of the Mother Tongue
requirement in Singapore, whereas Normal Mother Tongue Students will have to go
through one more year of study in their Mother Tongue after their 'O' Levels to take the
'A' Level H1 Mother Tongue Examinations and fulfil the MOE's requirement. A foreign
language, either French, German, or Japanese, can be taken in addition to the mother
tongue or can replace it. This is especially popular with students who are struggling with
their mother tongues, expatriates, or students returning from abroad. Non-Chinese
students may also study Chinese and non-Malay students Malay as a third language.
This programme is known as CSP (Chinese Special Programme) and MSP (Malay
Special Programme). Mother Tongue teachers conduct these lessons in school after
usual hours. Students of Higher Mother Tongue languages are allowed to have up to
two points taken off their O-level scoring, unless the student's Higher Mother Tongue is
used as their L1 in computation of L1R5. a scoring system discussed below where a
lower value is considered better, if they meet set benchmarks. The Ministry of Education
Language Centre (MOELC) provides free language education for most additional
languages that other schools may not cover, and provides the bulk of such education,
admitting several thousand students each year.
Normal is a four-year course leading up to a Normal-level (N-level) exam, with
the possibility of a fifth year followed by an O-level. Normal is split into Normal
(Academic) and Normal (Technical). In Normal (Technical), students take subjects of a
more technical nature, such as Design and Technology, while in Normal (Academic)
students are prepared to take the O-level exam and normally take subjects such as
Principles of Accounting. In 2004, the Ministry of Education announced that selected
students in the Normal course would have an opportunity to sit for the O-level exam
directly without first taking the N-level exam.
Co-curricular activity (CCA) are compulsory at the primary and secondary levels,
where all pupils must participate in at least one core activity. CCAs offered at the
secondary level are usually categorized as Uniformed Groups, Performing Arts, Clubs &
Societies and Sports & Games Competitions. There are many CCAs offered at the
secondary school level, however, the exact offering differs from school to school.
Students may choose participate in more than 1 CCA.
Hwa Chong Institution was one of the first four schools in Singapore to offer an
The Integrated Programme, also known as the "Through-Train Programme" is a
scheme which allows the most able secondary students in Singapore to bypass "O"
levels and take "A" levels, International Baccalaureate or an equivalent examination
directly at the age of 18 after six years of secondary education.
The programme allows for more time to be allocated to enrichment activities. By
bypassing the GCE "O" level examinations, the students are supposedly given more
time and flexibility to immerse them in a more broadly based education. In addition, the
students enjoy more freedom in the combination of subjects between Year 1 - 4 as
compared to their non-IP counterparts. Generally, only the top performers (usually from
Special, and sometimes Express, stream) are eligible to be part of the IP programme.
This will ensure that the main body of the students pursue their secondary education at
their own pace by first completing a 4-year "O" level course before going on to a 2-year
"A" level education.
Admission to post-secondary institutions
Admission to a two-year pre-university course at junior colleges after graduating
from secondary school is determined by the L1R5 (first language + 5 relevant subjects)
scoring system. This scoring system is based on the 'O' Level subject grades, which
range from A1 (best) to F9 (worst). The candidate adds the numerical grades for six
different subjects: English (or another language taken at the 'first language' level), a
Humanities subject, a Science/Mathematics subject, a Humanities/Science/Mathematics
subject, and two other subjects of any kind. The best L1R5 unmodified score is
therefore 6, for a student with A1 grades in six subjects which meet the criteria.
The pre-university centres of Singapore are designed for upper-stream students
(roughly about 20%-25% of the cohort) who wish to pursue a university degree after two
to three years of pre-university education, rather than stopping after polytechnic postsecondary education.
There are 18 Junior Colleges (JCs) and a Centralised Institute (CI), the Millennia
Institute (MI, established 2004), with the National Junior College (NJC, established
1969) being the oldest and Innova Junior College (IJC, established 2005) the newest.
Junior colleges in Singapore were initially designed to offer an accelerated
alternative to the traditional three-year programme, but in recent years the two-year
programme has become the norm for students pursuing university education.
JCs accept students based on their GCE "O" Level results; an L1R5 score of 20
points or less must be attained for a student to gain admission. JCs provide a 2-year
course leading up to the Singapore-Cambridge GCE Advanced Level ("A" level)
examination. The CI accepts students based on their GCE "O" Level results; an L1R4
score of 20 points or less must be attained for a student to gain admission. The MI
provides a 3-year course leading up to the Singapore-Cambridge GCE Advanced Level
("A" level) examination.
All students are required to participate in at least one CCA (Co-Curricular
Activities) as CCA performance is considered for university admission.
The Centralised Institutes accept students based on their GCE "O" level results
and their L1R4 score (which must be 20 points or below). A Centralised Institute
provides a three-year course leading up to a GCE "A" level examination. There were
originally four Centralized Institutes: Outram Institute, Townsville Institute, Jurong
Institute and Seletar Institute. Townsville Institute and Seletar Institute stopped
accepting new students after the 1995 school year and closed down after the last batch
of students graduated in 1997.
Diploma and vocational education
The first polytechnic in Singapore, Singapore Polytechnic, was established in
1954. Ngee Ann Polytechnic, has roots that go back to 1963. Two other polytechnics,
Temasek Polytechnic and Nanyang Polytechnic were set up in the 1990s. The most
recent, Republic Polytechnic was set up in 2003.
Polytechnics in Singapore provide 3-year diploma courses. They accept students based
on their GCE "O" level, GCE "A" level or Institute of Technical Education (ITE) results.
Unlike polytechnics in some other countries, they do not offer degree courses.
Polytechnics offer a wide range of courses in various fields, including
engineering, business studies, accountancy, tourism and hospitality management, mass
communications, digital media and biotechnology. There are also specialised courses
such as marine engineering, nautical studies, nursing, and optometry. They provide a
more industry-oriented education as an alternative to junior colleges for post-secondary
studies. About 40% of each Secondary 4 cohort would enroll in Polytechnics.
Graduates of polytechnics with good grades can continue to pursue further
tertiary education at the universities, and many overseas universities, notably those in
Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, give exemptions for modules
completed in Polytechnic.
Polytechnics have also been actively working with many foreign universities to
provide their graduates a chance to study niche University Courses locally. For
example, Ngee Ann Polytechnic has engaged with Chapman University in the U.S. to
provide a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Producing for graduates of the School's Film
and Media Studies department. Nanyang Polytechnic, likewise, has tied up with the
University of Stirling in Scotland to provide a course in Retail Marketing.
Institute of Technical Education
The Institute of Technical Education (ITE) accepts students based on their GCE
"O" level or GCE "N" level results and they provide 2-year courses leading to a locally
recognised "National ITE Certificate." There are 10 ITE Colleges in Singapore. A few
ITE graduates continue their education at polytechnics and universities. ITE students
are sometimes seen as being less capable and possibly less successful than JC, MI
and Poly students. Recent speeches by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister of
Education Tharman Shanmugaratnam have pointed out that there can be different
definitions and types of success, in a bid to work towards a more inclusive society.
ITE provides four main levels of certification:
Master National ITE Certificate (Master Nitec)
Higher National ITE Certificate (Higher Nitec)
National ITE Certificate (Nitec)
Technical Engineer Diploma (TED) (from 2007)
There are also other skills certification through part-time apprenticeship courses
conducted jointly by ITE and industrial companies.