Singapore education system: Know all about the learning structure
Updated on Apr 26, 2016 - 12:16 p.m. IST by Bedasree Das #Singapore
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Singapore education system:
With a distinct education system focusing on a technology based instruction form of teaching; Singapore has created a name for itself as the most sought after education hub of Asia. One of the interesting elements of Singapore’s education system is that it offers a flexible learning approach while accommodating global programmes. For instance, Singapore education institutes also accept the International Baccalaureate programme as well as intergrated programmes.

Here we bring you a comprehensive structure of the Singapore education system right form primary to university level along with the eligible qualifications.

Primary Education:

Primary education in Singapore includes a 4-year foundation stage and a 2-year orientation stage. Primary education in Singapore is centered on the English language, mothertongue and Mathematics.


Qualification exam:

Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE)- Conducted annually by the Ministry of Education, the Primary School Leaving Examination is taken by students at the end of their primary level education i.e., the sixth year of education. Taking the PSLE is essential for students to move to the secondary level education in Singapore.


Secondary Education

Once the students are through with their PSLE, they can start their secondary education. Students can take up Express, Normal (Academic) or Normal (Technical) education depending on their performance in the PSLE. Secondary education includes 4-5 years of education.

Qualification exams:

  • General Certificate of Education, N Level Examination- The General Certificate of Education, Normal Levels Examination or GCE N level exam are conducted annually by the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) after 4 years of study in Normal Academic -GCE N(A) or Technical –GCE N(T) streams. Usually, GCE N levels are taken by students in preparation for the GCE O level exams in the fifth year.

  • General Certificate of Education, O Level Examination:  The Singapore GCE O level exams are held annually after students complete 4 or 5 years of secondary education. GCE O levels can be taken after 4 years for express or special courses and 5 years for students who have taken GCE N (A).

Pre-University education:

Pre-University studies are taken up for 2- 3 years, usually in preparation for the GCE A level exam. It includes 2-year junior college or a 3-year centralised institute course. Pre –university also includes the IB diploma programme, High School diploma and Integrated Programme.

Qualification exams:

a. General Certificate of Education, A Level Examination: The Singapore GCE A level examination is taken after completing 2 years of Junior college or 3 years of centralised institute course. It is conducted by the SEAB, MOE and University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate. Candidates are usually 18 or 19 years of age at the time of examination.


b. IB Diploma- The IB Diploma Programme is a comprehensive 2-year international curriculum, available in English, to be taken by students after the successful completion of secondary education i.e., after GCE N or O level. The IB diploma follows an international curriculum and is made up of six subject groups.


c. High School Diploma- The High school diploma is similar to that offered worldwide.In Singapore it is offered by select high schools and the duration of the programme is 6 years. Students can take up the High school diploma programme after achieving their PSLE.


d. Integrated Programmes (IP) - As the name suggests, the integrated programme is a six-year integrated programme where secondary students can directly join junior college without appearing for GCE O level. Generally, the IP leads to a GCE A level certificate or an equivalent qualification.


Undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Singapore – Post Secondary

The duration of an undergraduate course in Singapore is three to four years. The degrees awarded after completing the undergraduate courses are Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BS) and specific degree fields such as Bachelor of Science (Business Analytics).

The duration of a postgraduate full time course is one to two years. The duration of a PhD programme is from two to five years.

Types of educational institutions in Singapore

There are various types of higher education institutions in Singapore based on which the students can choose their area and subject of study.

Institute of Technical Education

Established in 1992, Singapore's Institute of Technical Education provides courses which are technical in nature such as applied sciences, design and media, business, electronics and information communications technology, hospitality and engineering. The Institute of Technical Education is the national authority for setting skills standards for the certification of skills in Singapore. The students can choose between full or part-time educational or traineeship courses in the institute of technical education.

It offers the following qualifications:

National ITE Certificate- The National ITE certificate or the Institute of Technical Education certificate is awarded for vocational training of 2-3 years at one of the ITEs in Singapore. Students can study at the ITEs after the GCE N or O level examination.

Higher National ITE Certificate- The Singapore Higher National ITE Certificate can be received after one more year of study than the one awarded for National ITE certificate. Awarded by the Institute of Technical Education, students with GCE O certificate or National ITE Certificate can apply for Higher NITEC leading to the certificate.


Masters Higher National ITE Certificate- The Masters Higher National ITE Certificate is one of the highest degrees offered by the Institute of Technical Education. Students who have received the National ITE certificate are eligible to apply for Masters NITEC. Work experience is also required in some cases.



The polytechnics provide practice oriented skills and training that are needed at the work place. The polytechnics in Singapore offer training at degree and diploma levels. Currently, there are 5 polytechnics in Singapore are:

  • Singapore Polytechnic

  • Nanyang Polytechnic

  • Republic Polytechnic

  • Temasek Polytechnic

  • Ngee Ann Polytechnic

Polytechnics offer the following qualifications:

Polytechnic Diploma- Offered by the Polytechnics in Singapore, the Polytechnic diploma programs require three years of full-time study after the GCE O-levels or Higher National ITE Certificate. Polytechnics are usually for students who want to take up technical or vocational studies.


Polytechnic Advanced Diploma: The advanced diploma courses are designed to deepen the knowledge of the student in a specific programme. Advanced diplomas can be received by pursuing about a year and a half to two years of studies after receiving the Polytechnic Diploma. Advanced diplomas have three to four 6-month semesters.

Polytechnic Specialist Diploma- The Polytechnic Specialist Diploma offers further specialization in a programme beyond the Polytechnic Diploma. Students can be awarded as many as two post- diploma certificates. This Diploma can be completed in a year i.e in two 6- month semesters.


There are mainly 2 types of universities in Singapore. They are private universities and public funded universities. These universities offer a range of courses for undergraduate and postgraduate studies. There are four government-funded universities in Singapore:

  • National University of Singapore

  • Nanyang Technological University

  • Singapore Management University

  • Singapore University of Technology and Design and

  • Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT)

Apart from the above, Singapore has one private university- SIM University which is also partly funded by the government.


Besides, there are campuses of various foreign universities from numerous countries in Singapore. The major foreign universities with campuses in Singapore are:

  • James Cook University Singapore

  • Curtin University Singapore

  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

  • University of Nevada Las Vegas Singapore

  • Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh


Bachelors Degree: Universities in Singapore offer Bachelor or undergraduate programmes for three to five years depending on the subject. So, a Bachelor Degree in Dentistry, Law, Engineering, Architecture Music etc require four years, while Medicine requires five. Students are eligible for the Bachelor’s degree after GCE A level, an IB diploma or a Polytechnic degree. Bachelor’s degree in Singapore is offered in Pass or Pass with Merit and Honours Degrees.

Masters- Like anywhere else, the Masters or Post-graduation degree is obtained after 2- 3 years of specialized study in an area of study. Students require a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent to pursue a Master’s course.

Doctor of Philosophy Degree- A doctoral programme can be taken up after a student has completed both his Bachelors and Masters programme.  It is awarded after a minimum of 2 years of research or study in a specific area and can go up to 5 to 7 years depending on the study the student has taken up.

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Questions related to Singapore

Showing 15 out of 15 Questions

What is the Working time of Neurosurgeons in Singapore and Hong Kong?

Ina 17th Feb, 2020

Hello Raja,

As Neurosurgeons are also doctors, so there is no any specific scheduled time for a doctor. Yes, there is maximum 8 hour schedule timing for every profession and even it applies for doctors. But being doctor is not just a profession but also an responsibility of service of saving life, So whenever duty calls, they need to attend the patient immediately.

Hope you get my point.

Thank you. GOOD LUCK!!


hi Im Indian citizen I want to study in Singapore but I had work permit of Singapore. Can I get student pass?

Yastika Kumar 10th Feb, 2020

Hi Komal,

Yes you are eligible to get student pass only if you have admission notice from a university in Singapore. Working pass is not a big issue while apply to study there as most of the students who go there to study wishes to have one as it helps them to work and earn extra money because student pass only permits you to work only 16 hours in a week.


I want to study English Litreaure. Which college is best suited for it in Singapore?

Aishwarya Bp 26th Jan, 2020


PSB Academy

NIE singapore (NTU)

Nanyang Technological University (NTU)

National University of Singapore (NUS)

These are the top Universities which provides English Literature Course.

Hope it helps

Thank you

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