One of the reasons expatriates want to settle in Singapore long term is the world-class education system available. In 2020, Singapore students took the top spot in mathematics and science for the second consecutive edition of The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (Timss). Singapore students who took the IB exams in November 2021 outperformed globally, with 133 out of 238 perfect scorers. Recently, National University of Singapore (NUS) has been named Asia’s best university in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) annual higher education ranking. Seeing a bright future for their children’s education, expatriates are attracted to stay long-term in Singapore. However, with a low annual approval rate of 30% for Singapore PR applications, these plans often remain elusive.
Competition to enrol in public schools is very high and as an expat, there is a very slim chance of enrolment. This is because public schools give priority to Singapore citizens first, then Singapore permanent residents, therefore limiting chances for expatriate children. Expatriates are then left with little choice to enrol their children into private or international schools. These schools obviously come with significantly pricier school fees and a different education system altogether.
Regardless, the majority of expatriate families maintain their interest to pursue their Permanent Residency in Singapore. By becoming a Permanent Resident of Singapore their children will enjoy educational priority and they will have the flexibility in seeking alternative employment as they are no longer bound to a work pass.
Education in Singapore – A Holistic Approach
The Ministry of Education (MOE) stated on its website that the aim is to “help our students discover and make the best of their own talents, to help them realise their full potential, and develop a passion for lifelong learning.” Singapore does this via various techniques to bring out the best in each student such as academic streaming and co-curricular activities. While the curriculum focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem), teaching methods help students develop their critical thinking and problem solving skills.
However, Singapore’s education system evolves with the times. In the 1990s, concerned that their approach to education might be overly focused on Stem, began to provide avenues for excellence in the humanities, arts and sport. This holistic approach is in line with its main purpose of creating a pool of skilled workers to support the economy once they enter the workforce.
Apart from the government’s efforts to create the best curriculum for students, teachers play a big part as well. Only the top 5% of graduating students qualify to enter teaching, and the training is delivered centrally by the National Institute of Education. With starting salaries above the national median, the teaching profession attracts, develops and retains some of the best graduates. To ensure that the teaching quality maintains and improves, teachers receive about 100 hours of training every year.
Parental engagement and involvement is important in developing and tracking the progress of students. Without the support of parents at home, students will not achieve a well-rounded learning experience.
In Singapore, parents are expected to attend school orientations, parent-teacher conferences, and volunteer at their children’s school. Teachers also communicate with parents daily via group chats and update them on their kids’ activities in class.
The Education System
Every child in Singapore starts at Pre-School and proceeds to 6 years of compulsory Primary education, 4 to 6 years of Secondary education, and depending on their specialisation, at least 3 years of tertiary education.
Skillsfuture for Adult Learning & Re-Skilling
Singapore’s founding father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, said in a speech in 1977: “My definition of an educated man is a man who never stops learning and wants to learn.” In Singapore, learning simply does not stop.
For adult learners, there are courses to upgrade their skills to help them progress in their career or learn a new skill for a career change. This ensures a constant supply of relevant talent pool for the job market.
What does this mean to potential applicants of PR / Citizenship?
Singapore’s education system does not just benefit the young but it helps working professionals upgrade themselves as well. However, it would be difficult for foreigners to have access. This is where living in Singapore long-term would help. Only Singapore citizens and permanent residents are granted access to public programs such as education. Expatriates would be eligible for this once they become a Singapore permanent resident.
For expatriates with families, providing the best education to their children is a high priority, so applying for the Singapore PR/Citizenship makes sense. However, because of the high number of applicants and low approval rate (about 30% PR approvals annually), it is best to apply via an immigration consultancy firm like Immigration@SG (IASG). Every applicant is unique and different so every application should be customised and able to stand out from the competition. IASG’s expertise and industry knowledge will help expats get a higher chance of PR/Citizenship approval.