Education in Singapore is managed by the Ministry of Education (MOE), which controls the development and administration of state schools receiving taxpayers’ funding, but also has an advisory and supervisory role in respect of private schools. For both private and state schools, there are variations in the extent of autonomy in their curriculum, scope of taxpayers’ aid and funding, tuition burden on the students, and admission policy.
Education spending usually makes up about 20 percent of the annual national budget, which subsidises state education and government-assisted private education for Singaporean citizens and funds the Edusave programme. Non-citizens bear significantly higher costs of educating their children in Singapore government and government-aided schools. In 2000 the Compulsory Education Act codified compulsory education for children of primary school age (excepting those with disabilities), and made it a criminal offence for parents to fail to enroll their children in school and ensure their regular attendance.Exemptions are allowed for homeschooling or full-time religious institutions, but parents must apply for exemption from the Ministry of Education and meet a minimum benchmark. The education system in Singapore is consistently ranked as one of the highest in the world by the OECD. It is believed that this comes from the style of teaching that is implemented in Singapore. Teachers focus on making sure that each of their students thoroughly move through the syllabus before moving on. By doing this teachers in Singapore teach a much more narrow but deeper type of instruction.
The main language of instruction in Singapore is English, which was officially designated the first language within the local education system in 1987. English is the first language learned by half the children by the time they reach preschool age and becomes the primary medium of instruction by the time they reach primary school. Although Malay, Mandarin and Tamil are also official languages, English is the language of instruction for nearly all subjects except the official Mother Tongue languages and the literatures of those languages; these are generally not taught in English, although there is provision for the use of English at the initial stages. Certain schools, such as secondary schools under the Special Assistance Plan (SAP), encourage a richer use of the mother tongue and may occasionally teach subjects in Mandarin Chinese. A few schools have been experimenting with curricula that integrates language subjects with mathematics and the sciences, using both English and a second language.
Singapore’s education system has been described as “world-leading” and in 2010 was among those picked out for commendation by the Conservative former UK Education Secretary Michael Gove. According to PISA, an influential worldwide study on educational systems, Singapore has the highest performance in international education and tops in global rankings.