Local vs International: How to Choose the Best School for Your Child in Singapore (Part I)

Have you been dreaming of a vibrant and multicultural environment for your child’s education? Are you seeking a world-class curriculum that consistently ranks at the top of international assessments? Look no further than Singapore, a global powerhouse in education, where your child will flourish in a nurturing and diverse environment.

So, if you’re seeking an education that transcends borders and cultivates lifelong learners, consider Singapore as the ideal destination for your child’s educational journey. Let the country’s vibrant learning environment, coupled with its dedication to excellence, unlock your child’s full potential and pave the way for a fulfilling and successful future.

Local vs. International Dilemma

Parents considering Singapore’s education system face a central dilemma: choosing between local schools known for their rigorous academic focus and international schools offering a more holistic approach. This decision can feel overwhelming, as each path offers unique advantages and drawbacks.

Local schools boast a proven track record of academic excellence. Their curriculum emphasises strong foundations in core subjects like maths, science, and languages. This approach has consistently ranked Singapore at the top of international assessments, demonstrating its effectiveness in preparing students for academic success. 

However, the focus on academic achievement can sometimes come at the expense of holistic development, with less emphasis on creative exploration and social-emotional well-being.

International schools, on the other hand, prioritise a more balanced and well-rounded educational experience. Their diverse curriculum incorporates a wider range of subjects, encouraging students to explore their interests and develop critical thinking skills. 

Additionally, international schools typically offer smaller class sizes and a more personalised learning environment, allowing teachers to cater to individual needs and learning styles. However, the tuition fees at international schools can be significantly higher than those of local schools, and the academic rigour may not be on par with the local system.

8 Factors to Consider

So you’re thinking about schooling in Singapore? Awesome choice! But now you’re staring down the barrel of a big decision: local or international school? Let’s break it down, no fancy jargon or stress-inducing acronyms.


  • Local: Think wallet-friendly. Singapore citizens and permanent residents get a sweet deal with minimal fees. For foreign students, the fees differ, but still nothing compared to international schools!
  • International: Buckle up for tuition fees that could make your eyes water (think tens to hundreds of thousands a year!). Add in application fees, uniforms, and activities, and you have a hefty investment. 


  • Local: It’s a competitive game, with Singapore citizens and permanent residents getting first dibs. Academic merit and proximity play a big role. 
  • International: Every school’s got its own process, so be prepared for assessments, interviews, and showing off your skills to stand out. International schools usually accept applications all year round. 


  • Local: It’s all about mastering the basics – maths, science, language, and more. Standardised tests are like mini-bosses you gotta conquer.
  • International: Think buffet-style learning! IB, American, British, you name it. Flexibility and customising your learning are key ingredients.


  • Local: Dive headfirst into Singaporean culture! You’ll mostly be surrounded by locals, making it a great way to immerse yourself.
  • International: A global melting pot! Get ready for friends from all over the world, broadening your horizons and learning about different cultures.

School Hours:

  • Local: Think longer days, starting earlier and ending later than international schools. It’s a marathon, not a sprint!
  • International: Shorter days mean more time for fun stuff like extracurricular activities and family time. Who doesn’t love a shorter workday?

School Activities:

  • Local: It’s all about academics and sports. Creative arts and performing arts might take a backseat.
  • International: The sky’s the limit! Sports, arts, clubs, community service – there’s something for everyone to explore their talents and interests.

Academic Year:

  • Local: January to November, with school holiday in March, June, September and December. Time to recharge!
  • International: It’s more flexible, depending on the curriculum. Most international schools start in August, some in January. 

Bonus Round:

  • Languages: Local schools primarily use English, with some Mandarin or Tamil sprinkled in. Internationals offer a smorgasbord of languages, from Mandarin to Spanish to French.
  • Location: Think about your commute and where you want your kid to be. Convenience is key!
  • Special Needs: Does your child need extra support? Check out each school’s resources and see if they’re a good fit.

Remember: Don’t just pick a school based on its fancy name or shiny brochures. Visit, talk to teachers and parents, and ask questions. It’s like trying on clothes – what fits one kid might not fit another! So, take your time, weigh your options, and choose the school that feels like the perfect fit for your child. After all, this is about setting them up for success and happiness!

Local Schools: A Closer Look

For families opting for the local school route, understanding the structure and intricacies of this system is crucial.

Overview of Local Education:

  • Primary School (6 years): Focuses on foundational skills in English, Mother Tongue Language (Chinese, Malay or Tamil), Mathematics, Science, Art, Music and Social Studies.
  • Secondary School (4 years): There will be three levels for each subject, namely G1 (General 1), G2 (General 2) and G3 (General 3). The levels are equivalent to the existing Normal Technical, Normal Academic and Express streams. 

Students will study subjects appropriate to their ability, and those entering secondary school in 2024 will be the first group of students to make use of the subject grouping system, and they will sit for the new examination system corresponding to the subject grouping system – the National Examination in 2027, with no distinction between N and O levels. Their transcripts will reflect the results of the G1/G2/G3 subjects they have taken, and they will be awarded the Singapore-Cambridge Secondary Education Certificate.

  • IP Programme (6 years): Certifications offered varies across schools (GCE A-Level, IB Diploma, NUS High School Diploma). Students’ next education level will be university.
  • Tertiary Education (2-3 years): Students may choose to enter Singapore Junior College, Polytechnic, Institute of Technology Education (ITE), private universities or apply directly to universities in other countries based on the results of the National Examinations.

Bilingualism Takes Center Stage:

Local schools emphasise bilingualism, with English as the primary language of instruction and Mandarin Chinese as a core subject. Students also learn their Mother Tongue Language (MTL), which can be Malay, Tamil, or Mandarin depending on their ethnicity. This unique approach fosters multilingualism and cultural appreciation.

Navigating Enrollment:

Priority is given to Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents (PRs), with limited slots available for non-citizens. Meritocratic factors like academic performance and proximity to the school play a significant role in the selection process.

Understanding the Cost:

Tuition fees vary greatly depending on residency status:

  • Singapore Citizens: Enjoy heavily subsidised fees, ranging from S$6.50 to S$33 per month across all levels.
  • Permanent Residents: Pay significantly higher fees, ranging from S$230 to S$607 per month.
  • Non-Citizens: Face the highest fees, ranging from S$490 to S$2,127 per month, depending on their nationality and school level.

Additional Considerations:

  • Extracurricular Activities: Local schools generally offer a range of sports, clubs, and uniformed groups, although the selection might be smaller compared to international schools.
  • Academic Rigour: The emphasis on core subjects and standardised tests can be challenging for some students, requiring strong academic discipline and consistent effort.
  • Cultural Immersion: Choosing a local school offers a deeper immersion into Singapore’s culture and way of life.

Choosing a local school requires careful consideration of both its strengths and challenges. By weighing your priorities and understanding the unique aspects of this system, you can make an informed decision that best suits your child’s educational needs and future aspirations.

International Schools: A Global Perspective

Diverse Curricula:

International schools offer various educational choices, boasting diverse curricula from various countries. Popular options include:

  • International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme: Focuses on inquiry-based learning and fostering global citizenship. The IB Diploma Programme is a rigorous two-year program recognized worldwide for its interdisciplinary approach.
  • American Curriculum: Emphasises critical thinking, problem-solving, and student-centred learning.
  • British Curriculum: Offers a strong foundation in core subjects and diverse electives.

Accessibility and Diversity:

International schools offer a welcoming environment for foreign passport holders, providing a familiar curriculum and cultural touchstone. However, restrictions exist for Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents, who, if they wish to continue their studies at an international school beyond the age of 7, must obtain a MOE exemption.

This unique blend of cultures creates an enriching and diverse learning environment, allowing students to interact with peers worldwide and develop a global perspective.

Financial Considerations:

The cost of attending an international school is generally higher than local schools, ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. However, this investment comes with several unique benefits:

  • State-of-the-art facilities: International schools often boast modern infrastructure, including advanced technology, well-equipped classrooms, and extensive sports facilities.
  • Highly qualified teachers: International schools attract experienced and diverse educators worldwide, offering students exposure to various teaching styles and perspectives.
  • Smaller class sizes: Smaller classes allow for more personalised attention and tailored learning approaches, fostering student engagement and individual growth.

Beyond the academic benefits, international schools offer a vibrant community and a valuable network for students and families. This can be particularly beneficial for families relocating to Singapore, providing a smooth transition and a strong support system.

Beyond Academics: Holistic Development

While academic excellence remains a core focus, international schools in Singapore go beyond mere knowledge acquisition. They prioritise holistic development, nurturing well-rounded individuals equipped to thrive in a complex and interconnected world.

Comprehensive Support Programs:

International schools implement robust support programs to ensure the well-being and success of their students. These programs typically include:

  • Homeroom teachers: Act as mentors and advisors, providing personalised guidance and emotional support to students.
  • Pastoral care teams: Comprised of counsellors, psychologists, and social workers, they offer emotional and mental health support to students facing challenges.
  • Anti-bullying initiatives: Promote a safe and inclusive environment where students feel respected and valued.
  • Career counselling: Guides students in exploring their interests and aptitudes, helping them make informed decisions about their future careers.

Academic, Social, and Emotional Development:

These support programs work in tandem with the academic curriculum to ensure a balanced and holistic educational experience. International schools strive to:

  • Nurture critical thinking and problem-solving skills: Encourage students to think creatively and independently, preparing them for the challenges of the 21st century.
  • Develop strong communication and collaboration skills: Foster teamwork and collaboration through various activities and projects, preparing students for success in a globalised world.
  • Promote self-awareness and resilience: Help students develop a strong sense of self-identity and build resilience to overcome challenges and setbacks.
  • Encourage empathy and global citizenship: Cultivate an understanding of different cultures and perspectives, fostering responsible and compassionate individuals.

The commitment to holistic development is what sets international schools apart. By nurturing not only academic skills but also social-emotional well-being, these schools equip students with the necessary tools to become confident, responsible, and successful individuals in a rapidly changing world.

Local vs International (PART II): Making the Decision (to be continued,,,)

Choosing the right educational path for your child in Singapore is a significant decision. Both local and international schools offer distinct advantages and challenges, making it crucial to carefully weigh all factors before committing. We will continue to analyse this in the next part of this series.

Local Schools:


  • Highly subsidised tuition fees for Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents.
  • Strong academic focus and emphasis on core subjects.
  • Immersion in Singaporean culture and language.
  • Competitive environment that can foster academic excellence.


  • Limited availability for non-citizens due to the quota system.
  • A more rigorous academic environment.
  • Less emphasis on extracurricular activities and social-emotional development.
  • Smaller school communities with less cultural diversity.

International Schools:


  • Diverse curricula and flexible learning options.
  • Smaller class sizes and personalised attention.
  • Strong emphasis on holistic development and well-being.
  • Multicultural environment fostering global perspectives.
  • State-of-the-art facilities and resources.


  • Significantly higher tuition fees.
  • Potential cultural and language barriers for non-native English speakers.
  • Limited availability for Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents and subject to obtaining MOE exemption.

Practical Tips:

  • Consider your child’s individual needs and learning style.
  • Research different schools and compare their curriculum, facilities, and support programs.
  • Visit shortlisted schools and meet with teachers and administrators.
  • Talk to other parents and students to get their perspectives.
  • Be open-minded and flexible in your approach.
  • Don’t hesitate to seek professional advice from educational consultants.

Additional Resources:

  • Sprouts Lab Singapore: Offers comprehensive support packages for parents navigating the school selection process, including school selection guidance, application process assistance, and financial aid consultation.
  • Ministry of Education Singapore (MOE): Provides information on local schools, including admission procedures, curriculum details, and school performance data.
  • Council of International Schools (CIS): Offers a directory of international schools worldwide and resources for parents considering international education.

Sprouts Lab Singapore: Your Partner in Navigating Educational Choices

Navigating the complexities of school selection is where Sprouts Lab Singapore steps in. We firmly believe that every child deserves access to a high-quality education that cultivates their unique talents and potential. Our dedicated team of experienced consultants offers a range of support services, including:

  • 🌱Domestic School Transfer Package

You would already be holding a Dependent Pass. We will be there to help you from the school selection process to application, up till preparation for the first day of school. For existing Student Pass holders, we can help you choose a new school and support the new Student Pass application to ensure a smooth transfer.

  • 💼Expatriate Package

Your company HR will help you handle the visa applications while we help you find the school that best fits your child. The basic support includes 4 campus visits. If you need help finding a new home, we can help, too!

  • 🌐Business Owner Package

Enrolling in an international school? If you’re moving to Singapore for business setup or investment, you’ll need an Employment Pass. We will take care of your family’s schooling needs so you can focus on other things.

  • 🎒Foreign Student Package

Planning to study in Singapore? You’ll need a Student Pass if you’re relocating for educational purposes. If you have an accompanying parent or female relative as a caregiver, they’ll require a Long-Term Visit Pass with a sponsor. Fortunately, we can provide most of the services (visa applications, homestay/guardian referral, etc)  required for you to do so smoothly or introduce our partners to you so you have little to worry about.

By partnering with Sprouts Lab Singapore, you can approach the school selection process with confidence and clarity. We will be your trusted guide every step of the way, ensuring you find the perfect educational home for your child and unleash their limitless potential.

Navigating Educational Horizons with Sprouts Lab Support

Selecting the ideal school for your child in Singapore demands meticulous consideration. Local and international options present distinct advantages and challenges, each catering to specific needs and priorities. Local schools shine with affordability and academic rigour, while international schools champion holistic development and diverse learning environments. 

Carefully analyse your child’s individual needs, your family’s aspirations, and your financial situation to make an informed decision. Embrace a thoughtful process, meticulously researching schools, visiting them firsthand, and engaging with other parents to gain invaluable insights. 

Partner with Sprouts Lab, your trusted guide in navigating the complexities of school selection. Unlock your child’s full potential by leveraging the expertise of our dedicated team of consultants. Within Singapore’s vibrant tapestry of educational options lies the perfect school waiting to nurture your child’s unique potential and pave the way for a bright and fulfilling future. Contact us today to know more.

Make an enquiry today!

For details on our range of support packages and options menu, please check out “Our Services” and feel free to make an inquiry.