Do you know that Singapore is among the 20 smallest countries in the world? Well, while the country is small in geographical size, its potential in business, education, and tourism is big enough to compete with other top countries in Asia and the world. When it comes to higher education, Singapore’s education system is globally renowned for its efficiency, academic rigor, and emphasis on excellence.

However, like any educational framework, it has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. Understanding the pros and cons of the Singaporean education system is crucial for evaluating its effectiveness in nurturing talent, fostering innovation, and preparing students for the challenges of the modern world.

This article will explore the advantages and disadvantages of the education system in Singapore, to help you make an informed decision about pursuing higher education in the country.

Pros / Advantages of the Singaporean Education System

Let us look at some of the top advantages of the Singaporean education system.

1. Bilingual Education

Bilingualism is a key feature of Singapore’s education system. The majority of Singaporean schools offer their programs in the English language, however, students can also study a second language (usually Mandarin, Malay, or Tamil) to foster cultural appreciation and communication skills. Singapore’s education system reflects the country’s multicultural society, with a strong emphasis on bilingualism and multicultural education.

Having English-taught programs at all levels is attractive to so many international students proficient in English, unlike countries like Germany or China which require one to learn their native language to pursue some programs.

2. Lifelong Learning

Singapore encourages lifelong learning through Continuing Education and Training (CET) programs. These programs provide opportunities for individuals to upgrade their skills and stay relevant in the rapidly changing job market. Ireland has a similar program called Further Education and Training for adults and people over 16 years to engage in programs like apprenticeships and traineeships.

3. Scholarship Opportunities

Another great advantage to studying in Singapore is the availability of scholarships and other financial aid opportunities. There are numerous partial and fully-funded scholarship opportunities for domestic and international students to study at various Singaporean universities and colleges. For example, the famous Singapore International Graduate Award (SINGA) is available at select Singaporean universities for Ph.D. studies.

Additionally, there are several university-specific scholarships like the NUS International Undergraduate Scholarships for international students and Singapore permanent residents.

4. Diversity

If there is one fear international students have when studying abroad is feeling alone or odd-one out. In Singapore, you do not have to worry about that as several universities have opened their doors to international students, creating a diverse academic environment. With over 55,000 international students enrolled at various Singaporean schools, you are likely to find a racially and culturally diverse student body to welcome you at your chosen institution.

Cons / Drawbacks of the Singaporean Education System

While Singapore’s education system is widely regarded for its strengths, it also has some disadvantages that hinder it from offering a seamless educational experience. Here are some potential drawbacks of the Singaporean education system:

1. Emphasis on Examination Performance

Singapore’s education system is often criticized for its heavy emphasis on academic performance and standardized testing. You will find students focusing on achieving high scores in examinations which promotes a culture of rote learning and memorization, rather than fostering critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving.

This is unlike Finland which has done away with standardized tests apart from the National Matriculation Exam which is voluntary.

2. Lack of Flexibility in Curriculum

Singapore’s education system is also often criticized for its rigid curriculum and limited flexibility in course offerings. This means that students focus on core academic subjects hence leaving little room for them to explore their interests or pursue alternative pathways, such as vocational training or specialized programs. This is the same case with the Australian education system. Having a flexible curriculum will ensure that students can adapt to various learning pathways that fit their abilities and interests.

3. Limited Opportunities for Non-academic Pursuits

Singapore has put intense emphasis on academic achievement for students, hence they may have little to no time to pursue non-academic interests, hobbies, or extracurricular activities. This may obviously hinder the development of well-rounded individuals with diverse talents and passions. There is a need to promote holistic learning so that students can put more emphasis on what they excel at.

4. Heavy Reliance on Tuition

Since academic achievement is emphasized in Singapore, many students have to take up extra learning lessons through private tuition. Not only does it put extra pressure on them, it also adds an extra financial burden on their families. Additionally, this eats into the time they should be having for independent study and other activities to improve their physical and social life.

FAQs Higher Education in Singapore

How Is the Education System in Singapore Different from Other Countries?

Singapore’s education system is among the best in the world as it places a strong emphasis on vocational and skills-based education to meet the demands of the workforce. However, the education system is highly centralized, as it is run by the Ministry of Education which has set up a standardized national curriculum and assessment framework. This is unlike the USA’s decentralized education system, with each state setting its curriculum standards.

Additionally, Singapore like many other countries in the world puts much emphasis on standardized testing to measure the academic performance of students. For example, students in primary school have to sit for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) to proceed to the next level upon successful completion. There are also other tests at the A-level and O-level that determine whether you graduate or not.

Do International Students Face Extreme Challenges While Studying in Singapore?

International students anywhere in the world are bound to experience challenges ranging from cultural, financial, or emotional among others. While studying in Singapore can offer numerous benefits, international students may encounter certain challenges. However, these challenges are typically manageable with proper preparation and support.

First of all, being in a new country away from your family and friends can feel very lonely. It might take you some time to build social connections and form friendships with local or international students. However, you can go around this challenge by engaging in activities that help you interact with others and occupy your mind like actively engaging in campus activities, clubs, and cultural events.

Another huge challenge that international students face is financial-related. With Singapore being among the most expensive places to live, the cost of living can be relatively high compared to other countries in the region. You can expect to spend around S$3,500 per month on living expenses. The cost can be relatively higher if you do not have access to scholarships or financial aid. You have to learn how to manage expenses and budget effectively to reduce the financial burden.

 

It is obvious that Singapore’s education system stands as a testament to the nation’s unwavering dedication to academic excellence. That’s why it’s among the best in the world as it equips students with the knowledge, skills, and values needed to thrive in an increasingly interconnected and rapidly changing world. While the education system offers numerous advantages like diversity and bilingual education, there are also drawbacks, such as high pressure on students and limited opportunities for non-academic pursuits.

 

We hope this article will provide the information you need. If you are currently searching for courses abroad, check out our Available Programs for International Students! You can also find insightful articles on our Study in Singapore Page if you are planning to study abroad!

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hi! I am Hyun, and I am the founder at Global Scholarships. I've received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College and a $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for my undergraduate degree and was offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. You can read more about my scholarship journey here. If you are interested, you can follow me on Linkedin where I regularly write about scholarship opportunities.

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