Foreign Students: How to get into Singapore Primary School?
[Updated March 22 2018 to reflect the recent Phase 3 registration changes]
These past few years, it’s getting harder for International Students (foreigner students) to get into Singapore Primary School. It seems very random who gets a place and who doesn’t. Hence, it is a must that all families whose children are non Singapore Citizens or non Singapore Permanent Residents at least have a plan B.
Singapore Primary School registration takes place during the year your child turns 6. If he/she is in preschool, that’s the year when he/she is in K2. Registration starts at June of each year. There are 3 Phases (Phase 1, Phase 2A1, Phase 2A2, Phase 2B, Phase 2C and Phase 3). Only Singaporeans and Permanent Residents are allowed to apply on Phase 1 and Phase 2. International Students are only allowed to register at the last phase which is Phase 3.
For International Students, below are some options to consider:
1. Applying for Permanent Residency
This is a major decision for families especially those with boys. Once their application gets approved, they are liable to serve National Service(NS). If you have decided as a family to apply, do note that the earliest available appointments slots are probably 9 – 12 months from time of booking. It also generally takes about 6 months time or more for application to get processed. For families going thru this route, I would advise to apply at least 2 years ahead of time.
Example: If your child was born in 2015, this means Primary School Registration will be on June 2021. Ideally by Jan 2019, you should have booked your appointment slot for Permanent Residency application. Then year 2020 will be waiting time to hear back from ICA on your application status.
Applying as soon as possible could prove advantageous especially if outcome is unfavorable as it gives you more time to make your plan B, C and so on.
2. Applying under Singapore Primary School Phase 3
For many families, Plan A is to proceed with applying for a local primary school under Phase 3. MOE has recently introduced a process change Phase 3 registration.
There are now 2 steps involved for Phase 3.
Step 1: Submit an online indication of interest form via the MOE P1 website, from 5 to 11 June 2018, and
Step 2: Non-SC / non-PR children who have submitted the indication of interest form and are notified in October by MOE that they can be offered a P1 place in the school, must register in-person at the designated schools during Phase 3 of the 2018 P1 Registration Exercise (in late October 2018).
With this new change, parents of international students no longer need to choose what primary school to apply into. If a child is offered a place a P1 place, the letter will also include the primary school that he/she can register into. All applicants will know the outcome as early as October (as opposed to November in previous years). Lastly, as it is online submission of ‘interest form’, there is no need to be physically present in Singapore.
MOE does not reveal the criteria who gets allocated a place and who doesn’t. And favorable outcomes could mean that your child gets posted to a school more than 1 hour away from home.
Point to ponder – If you stay in Pasir Ris, and your child gets posted to a school near Woodlands. Are you able to move nearer to the school? If not, is there school bus option available? How about mother tongue availability? There are many factors to consider. Thus, it is important that plan B (and/or plan C) are reviewed and/or actioned whilst waiting for Phase 3 results.
It is also important that both parents’ passport and passes are available during the Phase 3 registration. Best to avoid travelling around the registration date.
3. International School Options in Singapore
It is never too early to review available international schools that fit your family’s values and budget. There are a number of international schools with annual tuition fees of about $15k -$17k. Invictus School opened August 2016 and fees are SG$15k per year. One World International School (OWIS) opened another branch in Jurong this January 2018. Their fees are SG$17k per year. DPS International School and Global Indian International School (GIIS) are 2 other options with approximately the same annual fees of SG$15k. It is important to check the registration timelines and/if there are placement exams. It might be prudent to reserve a slot in one of the international schools (if this is your plan B) whilst waiting for Phase 3 results.
The pass that your child holds matters – whether it is dependent pass or LTVP. Children on LTVP (likely children of SC or PR) would need to apply a Student Pass. Only schools who are EduTrust-certified would be eligible to apply a student pass for your child. There are some schools who are exempted by this rule (like SAS and UWC). One would think it is ‘disadvantage’ to be holding an LTVP as it further limits your school options.
San Yu Adventist school is a popular option for many. Annual fees are about SG$14k per year. It also follows the MOE curriculum and calendar. It is likely easier for International students to shift to local schools if eventually they get their PR or get a slot thru AEIS. However, San Yu Adventist school also have religion as part of their curriculum (Bible studies, daily prayer and chapel service).
4. International School Options in Johor Bahru
Perhaps another option is to check out the available international schools in Johor Bahru. There are about 14 school options such as Paragon and Private International School, Sunway International School. The school fees are more affordable (less than SG$10k), however there are other factors to consider in attending a school in JB due to the commute between Singapore and JB. Some families fully relocate to JB and parent/s commute to Singapore for work.
Parents can consider to homeschool their child at home. There are also distance education programs being offered in some countries. Some families choose this option and homeschool their children (by following MOE curriculum) to prepare for AEIS (Admission Exercise for International Students). MOE states that “The AEIS consists of a centralised test on English and Mathematics that will assess the applicants’ English literacy, numeracy and reasoning abilities. Admission is not guaranteed, and is subject to the applicant’s performance in the test. If successful, placement will depend on available vacancies and the applicant’s declared residential area in Singapore.” We do not know how many ‘pass’ AEIS. The only factual figure that we get from MOE is that International Students make up about 5% of the entire student population in Singapore.
For some if Plan A and Plan B do not work out, the only other option left is to relocate to another country. This could be their home country or another country where getting into a local school is easier or international school fees are more affordable. Some families are forced to be separated due to child’s schooling. The father continues to work here in Singapore while the mother and child are in another country to complete schooling. For some families, this setup works. For some, it doesn’t. There is no right or wrong decision. Each family decides based on their values and priorities.
Some other useful Information:
Below are the monthly fees for Singapore Primary School starting this year 2018 up to 2020. It has increased from 2017 and the 2 year subsidy has been removed. For non-ASEANs, the total annual school fee for 2018 is SG$7800. This is still cheaper than international school fees. However the gap is getting narrower. An Indian (non ASEAN) might be more inclined to enroll in GIIS or DPS instead of local primary school.