Secondary School in Singapore: 5 Considerations for Expats Thinking of Choosing a Local school

When immersing themselves in the local culture, expat families may consider sending their children to a government-run secondary school in Singapore. Some expat parents perceive the cost of these schools to be lower, and they may also feel that their children have a better chance of getting into a Singapore university if they attend a local secondary school.

However, this is not entirely true as the costs of foreigners attending local government schools in Singapore have risen dramatically in recent years. Also, Singapore universities are more likely to consider a student’s academic achievements as well as their involvement in extracurricular activities rather than the secondary school they attended. Ultimately, parents should be searching for a secondary school in Singapore that offers a strong academic curriculum besides providing students with programmes in music, art, sports and languages. Pastoral care and support are also key at this stage.

A secondary school that offers all of the above at a reasonable cost is an attractive option for expat parents living in Singapore.

Secondary school curricula: Local Schools vs. OWIS

It can be hard to make a comparison between the curricula at local schools versus an international school like OWIS. This is because the local schools split students into streams based on their academic strengths and abilities.

Here is what you need to know about the curriculum in local secondary schools in Singapore:

  • Express Stream students take 6-10 Singapore Cambridge GCE or O levels.

  • Normal Stream students complete the Normal GCE-N exam prior to taking their O levels. They take 5-8 GCE subjects.

Here is what you need to know about the OWIS secondary school curricula:

  • All Grade 9 and 10 students take the extended IGCSE curriculum. This curriculum includes 9 IGCSE subjects, 6 of which are compulsory while 3 are electives. The IGCSE curriculum in Grade 9 provides students with a solid foundation for Grade 10, during which they will take the Cambridge IGCSE exams.

  • The Cambridge IGCSE programme, which is a two-year programme available in Grades 9 and 10, provides students with the foundation they need to continue with the IB DP offered during Grades 11 and 12. The IGCSE subject options at OWIS align with our IBDP subject options, which allows students to enjoy a natural progression from one curriculum to the next.

  • Both the IGCSE and IBDP are internationally-recognised curricula in universities around the world, including Singapore.

Secondary students at OWIS performing a lab experiment

Specialist Programmes 

The top local secondary schools in Singapore do offer select specialist programmes in art and music, but only for students who qualify for the Express Stream. In addition, students have to meet the credentials for the individual specialist course they are interested in taking.

OWIS, however, has an extensive specialist programme that includes music, performing and visual arts and sports. All students enrolled at OWIS have the opportunity to take part in these courses.

The arts programme at OWIS focuses on helping students develop an appreciation for art in all of its forms. It strives to help students recognise art in the world around them, and also encourages students to express themselves through art. The music programme, which includes instrumental studies, vocal studies and music history, combines the elements of skills-based practice, music appreciation and creative thinking to give students a well-rounded education. The sports programme includes athletic activities, sports teams, house teams and encourages students to live an active lifestyle.

OWIS Secondary School students enjoy specialist programmes, such as music

The Need for Pastoral Care

During their years at secondary school, students are growing, maturing and discovering who they want to be. This is why pastoral care is so critical during this pivotal stage of their development. At OWIS, we have a robust pastoral care programme and believe in creating a positive culture for our students. We promote kindness to foster a community of respectful, caring students and have a set of six qualities (the Secondary Six) that secondary students are encouraged to demonstrate during their time at OWIS.

As part of their pastoral programme, secondary students meet with their form tutor for half an hour each morning, giving the student and the tutor an opportunity to bond, share ideas and work through any challenges the student may be experiencing.

Christina O., parent of a secondary school student in OWIS, praises the school’s pastoral care system, “I think to have those values, to have an environment that’s trustworthy, that is familiar, that you hang out with your friends, but you get to talk about big ideas and big things, and then go into your everyday hectic lessons, I think that’s really, really good.”

Tuition Fees: How OWIS compares to Singapore schools

At the local secondary schools in Singapore, secondary education lasts from Grades 7-10. After completing Grade 10, eligible students may go on to Junior College in order to prepare for university. International students can expect to pay about $1,400 per month at a local secondary school. Junior College costs nearly $1,750 per month.

OWIS is a moderately-priced international school, and monthly tuition costs for Grades 7-10 is about $1,678. Monthly tuition costs for Grades 11-12 are the same.

Comparison of fees for different grade levels for students who are Permanent Residents (PR) and International students at local schools Vs. OWIS

The Importance of Diversity

Expat families who send their children to local schools provide their students with an opportunity to interact with local residents and immerse themselves in the local culture. At an international school, students will be able to meet new friends from all over the world and connect with people from a wide variety of cultures.

Both local and expat parents should be prioritising the secondary education of their children. However, it’s important to find a secondary school in Singapore that will offer a robust academic curriculum as well as a variety of secondary programmes while giving all students the support they need.

To see for yourself why our Secondary School at OWIS is well suited for your child, please schedule a virtual tour with us.

This blog was originally written in collaboration with Jasween Gill, former Admissions and Communications Director, OWIS Nanyang and Suntec. 

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