Education System in Singapore
The education system in Singapore is split into four main parts: Primary School, Secondary School, Pre University and University. However, there are many other branches of education which are catered to the needs of different students. These openings for students will be further elaborated later. Firstly let us get to the major examinations. After each mode of education (primary school, secondary school etc.), there is a major examination. These examinations usually decide which school one would then proceed to in order to move on to their next mode of education. Once again, there are always a few choices which a student can make as to where and how their next mode of education will be like.
Through every stage of education, the students are able to find out and explore their own interests or favorite subjects, allowing them to expound on their personal interests, allowing them to work better. The education system tries to provide the students with an all-rounded education to allow students to explore their own interests, at the same time to see if they can be interested by other subjects or topics. Through this, they would be able further nurture themselves for the future. The course of the education will also prepare them for the working world in the years to come.
In the following paragraphs, the education stages and avenues will be explained at explored.
Most people in Singapore start their education at a relatively tender age of five years old. The children will start their official education after the parents have brought them up in the early years of a child's life. However, much of the child's basic knowledge will have to depend on the parent's responsibility to teach their child. Basic commands of 2 languages, namely English (which is compulsory in all schools) and either Chinese, Malay or Tamil (the mother tongues of the three main races in Singapore). They will begin their education officially in the many kindergartens in Singapore. There is also an option before kindergarten where children can go to Nursery. So, in kindergarten, children learn much about simple things, and how to use and recognize the different languages they are brought up to use.
Modes of education are usually mostly pictorial, letting the children absorb as much as they can through objects they can remember easily and match them with English words. As for their Mother Tongues, it is usually about the same, with pictorial references and the respective matching words. The kindergarten educations lasts two years, the standard of education being abbreviated as K1 and K2. Throughout their two years, they will learn the foundations and basics of the languages they were brought up to use, and perhaps a little bit of mathematics (e.g. Addition, subtraction).
The primary school education usually starts at the age of 7, lasting 6 years and abbreviated as P1, P2, P3 and all the way up till P6. In this time, is where the 'real' education starts, in which the students' parents sign them up for a primary school, usually the one closest to their homes. As Singapore is a small island state, primary schools have been situated in every major neighborhood, allowing maximum convenience for the parents.
Everyday working day (Monday through Friday), the students will spend roughly about 4-5 academic hours in school, with the exclusion of extra curricular activities. They are given a specific time table and have to follow through. Throughout the 4-5 hours of academic lessons, students are given about half an hour's break time. Most schools usually have canteens in which students can buy food. This period is always, if not mostly, called recess. A very well liked period of time, according to the opinions of most students.
As the Primary education is a long period of 6 years, the students are usually broken into two main groups: Upper Primary (P4-P6) and Lower Primary (P1-P3). In the lower primary, students learn mostly the foundations of education and general knowledge. The main subjects, which are usually considered much more important, are as follows: English, Mathematics and Mother Tongue. There other subjects too, which all students have to learn, but are not counted in their overall results. Such subjects include Social Studies, Civics and Moral Education, National Education, Physical Education, Arts and Craft, Music and other miscellaneous subjects. In their third year of their primary education, Science is also added to their curriculum. On their third year, they also go through a test to separate out 'gifted' students, one of the other avenues of education which was mentioned earlier.
In the students; fourth year of primary education, they move on to Upper Primary, where they continue to advance in thee subjects which are compulsory to their studies in that point of the curriculum. At the end of their fourth year in primary school, they usually take another test, the streaming test. This test sorted out the students according to their academic abilities, allowing them to cope with competition from similarly capable students. Most of the time, the competition spurs the students forward and further increases their academic capabilities. Finally, at the end of their 6 years in primary school, they have to take the first of their major examinations: the PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examinations). This marks the end of their primary school education and also decides the next school in which the student would study.
As mentioned earlier, some of the students are sieved out at P3 to take on an advanced curriculum out of the usual syllabus, allowing the students to advance further and deeper in their studies, as they should be capable to, having passed the gifted streaming test. The gifted pupils do follow the normal MOE (Ministry of Education) syllabus but given a different method of teaching. The gifted pupils are also given the option of entering the desired school of their choice, regardless of their PSLE results, hence, giving the gifted pupils an edge as to Secondary School (the next stage of education) choices.
After the students have received their results, they are given a chance to opt for the school according to their liking, on a list of 1 through 6. These 6 schools are ranked in order of how much a student would want to go to that particular school, number 1 being the most desired and number 6 being the least. The students are sorted out in the following format (ranked from highest to lowest in terms of academic results): Special stream, Express stream, Normal (Academic) stream, Normal (Technical) stream and ITE (Institute of Technical Education).
These are the many avenues for catered to students of diverse needs and talents, allowing them to choose a comfortable environment in which they can further their studies. Most students are eligible for the express and the Normal academic streams. However, these two branches of study are different. The Express (and Special) stream is a syllabus of 4 years in which students prepare themselves for their 'O' levels, which would come in their last year of Secondary School education. The Normal Academic stream, however, is about the same, but stretched out a period of 5 years (instead of 4) and makes it easier for the students to cope. In the fourth year of the Normal Academic stream, students also have to take an additional examination, the 'N' levels.
Hence, depending on the needs of every individual, with careful consideration of the student and his or her parents, a decision as to which schools they are interested in and in what order they would apply for the school.
During the 4 years in Secondary School, students go through the subjects they take with much more depth, coupled with increased difficulty. They are also given more specialized subjects to deal with, and to see which one they would best prefer to deal with in the future. For mathematics, there is the separation of A Maths (Additional Mathematics) and E Maths (Elementary Mathematics), these two being the most common classifications. There are other further specialized mathematics such as F Maths and C Maths, which are a much high standard, in terms of difficulty. As for the Sciences, students are usually given their first 2 years to explore the 3 branches of Science (Physics, Chemistry and Biology) before specifically choosing the subjects which greater calls for their interest.
As like Primary Schools, the Secondary Schools in Singapore also separate their students into two main groups: Upper Secondary (Sec 3 - Sec 4/5) and Lower Secondary (Sec 1 - Sec 3). In the lower Secondary, students are given time to adjust and get used to the much heavier and advanced workload in Secondary School and are given a wide range of subjects so as to spark their interest in other areas of academics. These subjects are usually branched out like this:
- Chinese Literature
- Social Studies
- A Maths
- E Maths
In secondary school, for the better students, there is also the option to take up a third language, where students can learn a foreign language that might better prepare them for the world at large. The MOE (Ministry of Education) provides 4 languages which can be taken up as a subject: French, Japanese, German, Chinese Special Programme (for non-Chinese taking students) and Malay Special Programme (for non-Malay taking students). Also, there are programmers like the AEP (Art Elective Programme), MEP (Music Elective Programme) and CEP (Computer Elective Programme), which are offered to only a few of the better schools. These are the more specialized subjects in which students with much interest in the subject take up.
At the end of their second year of secondary school, depending on their results, students are given the opportunity to choose the subjects they would want to further. The subjects they choose would later on determine the course they would likely take later on in their education. They are given a number of subjects, once again, depending on their results to choose from the list above. After the subject selection, the students would then study the subjects in their third and fourth/fifth year in greater detail. After the four or five years in Secondary school, students would then take their next major examinations: the 'O' levels.
Once again, there is more then one avenue after the 'O' level examinations have been taken. For most of the students who do a little better then the rest, they are eligible for the application to enter JC (Junior College), where the students finish the last two years of their education. For the students who do not do as well, they are also eligible for Polytechnics, where students choose already the profession they would likely want and hence take up a course for it.
This stage of education is the last of Singapore's official Education system, before the students move on to university. This last stage is the final threshold, the end of the long journey of education and the many years of hard work, as many students would picture it. In JC, the students, now mostly aged 17 and 18 are able to choose 3 or 4 subjects on which they would further their studies on. In JC, there is a diverse range of many subjects of different depths and difficulty levels. In the students' first year, they will learn much more of the subjects of their choice, which would also prepare them for their 'A' levels, which will be taken in J2. In J2, students will spend the time to prepare for their 'A' levels, the final major examination in the official education system.
After the 'A' levels are over, most males of Singaporean citizenship are then called to serve in the NS. This is compulsory for all male Singaporeans.
The education system in Singapore is very diverse and well planned, being able to cater to the needs of poorer students and able to give much of a challenge to students of great intelligence. It provides for almost every child in Singapore, letting them be able to get the necessary credentials to allow a place in the working world and also a place in Singapore's modern society. The examinations which are imposed also provide certificates most of which are internationally recognized, allowing the students a chance to fight in the global arena.