How to Choose Between International and Public Schools in Singapore

07 October 2019
<p>International vs. Public School</p>

International vs. Public School

Two parents share their opposing views, plus expert advice on finding which will play best to your child’s strengths.

If you’ve been in Singapore for more than 45 seconds, then you know it is expensive here. In many cases, you can adjust accordingly – drink less, eat in more, travel less, but one area parents are reluctant to skimp on is education.

With the cost of international schools reaching $30,000 or more, many expats are considering navigating the local school system. But not all parents want to make such a big decision about their children’s future based on cost alone. So what should you consider before making this decision?

Dr N Varaprasad, Partner and Principal Consultant of Singapore Education Consulting Group suggests looking to your child first. What kind of learning style best suits your child?

Sharon Yee, recently moved her two children, Kristy, age nine, and Kyle, seven, from an international school to a local school. “I felt that my kids would do well in a more structured environment.” Sharon, who’s from Malaysia, liked the discipline she saw at the local schools, the consistency of homework and the focus on academics.

Conversely, Megha Biyani, who grew up in Singapore and India, chose an international school for her three year old son, Aarav, because she “liked that there was less academic pressure at the international school. I wanted my son at a school that encourages creative play and problem solving.” Megha likes that there are no high stakes exams at international schools until much later.

Sharon noted the perception that there is less focus on creativity at local schools but said, “I believe this really depends on the child and can be fostered at home.” Sharon also felt local schools would provide a stronger foundation in Mandarin which was vital to her.

For Megha, the diversity of the student population at the international school was more important. “Aarav is exposed to so many other cultures and beliefs.” While perhaps not as culturally diverse, many expat parents are beginning to choose local schools so that their children can truly assimilate into Singaporean culture.

Megha was also impressed with the world-class facilities at the international school. Sharon, on the other hand, placed greater emphasis on the well-organised co-curricular activities (CCAs) and enrichment programmes that are offered and encouraged at local schools. Both women agreed that while cost was a factor, it was only a small part of a bigger decision.

Dr Varaprasad encourages parents not only to visit each school, but to also spend time with other parents in each school in order to gain an unfiltered opinion of the school. Both mothers visited schools, spoke to counsellors, teachers, support staff and other parents, and agree that this is essential. Taking the time to visit each school when they are in session will give you a real sense of the school’s community. On a more practical level, the distance to school can also be a significant factor.

There are many factors to weigh when considering where to send your child to school, so take the time to research and focus on both your child’s and your goals and strengths. Check with the school on whether its methods fit well with your child’s primary learning style. You may also want to ask about class size (lower levels should have lower teacher-student ratios), teacher quality, as well as the school’s reputation in academics and CCAs. Most importantly, Dr Varaprasad warns, “don’t assume one system is always better than the other”.


Dr N Varaprasad of Singapore Education Consulting Group shares his views:

International Schools

1. Lower teacher-student ratio.

2. National and/or international curriculum (easy to transition globally).

3. High school fees.

4 Limited choices (for example, there’s only one German school, and one Jewish school).

Local Schools

1. Wide range of CCA, enrichment and academic programmes (with a standardised curriculum and testing).

2. Better integration or assimilation into Singapore culture and life.

3. A very strong focus on academics.

4. Should a school have a smaller enrolment, it may not be able to offer students the full suite of CCA or enrichment activities.

For a list of Singapore’s international schools, click here.

By Kathleen Siddell, The Finder, June 2015, photos:  / Updated October 2019 

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More on The Finder:

The Expat’s Ultimate Guide To Choosing An International School In Singapore For Your Child

The Finder Kids’ DEFINITIVE Guide To Top International Schools In Singapore

On Your Mind: How Do I Help My Child Adjust To Her New School Life In Singapore?

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