Ministry of Education in Singapore
Ministry of Education is the body in Singapore, which manages education across this Island State. It controls not only the government schools that receive funding, but also the private schools. Therefore, it provides different levels of autonomy to the schools in terms of tuition, fees, admission policy and government funding. Singapore is a state, where a hefty 90% of annual national budget goes towards education. It means that the government gives extreme importance to education and is committed to education for all.
Education for all
It also offers subsidized education and ensures primary education for all Singaporeans through different programs such as Edusave. It has also passed the Compulsory Education Act, according to which if the parents fail to enroll their kids in school, then it would be cited as a criminal offense on behalf of parents. However, there are certain exemptions such as enrolling for full-time religious education, but the citizens have to file the report to the Ministry of Education that they are exempted from this Act.
Medium of Instruction
The official language and the medium of instruction in Singapore is English, which is considered to be the first language and the official language of the state as well. Almost 50% of children learn English by the time they get to the preschool, because English is used as the medium of instruction in all the primary schools. The other official languages include Malay, Mandarin and Tamil, which are taught separately. However, under the Special Assistance Plan (SAP), subjects are taught at some of the secondary schools in the native languages such as Mandarin.
Education that is employment oriented
Singapore’s education system is highly rated in the word and in 2010 it was described as “the leading education system in the world” by the British Education Ministry. The annual budget of education in Singapore is 7 billion Singaporean dollars. The overall literacy level is 96%, out of which 98% are males. The percentage of secondary diploma holders is 67% and that of the post secondary diploma holders is around 50%. In the 1960s, Singapore education system was redesigned to produce skilled workforce. It was survival driven and was aimed to minimize unemployment.
Emphasis on quality
In the 1980s, when Singapore started moving on the growth curve, the government started to emphasize on quality more than quantity. Various programs and courses were introduced, according to the individual abilities and more opportunities for vocational education were offered by the government. Academic and technical streams are separated to facilitate students. In 1997, Singaporean government launched the vision, “Thinking Schools, Learning Nations”. This vision became the driving force behind the Ministry of Education’s drive for greater autonomy to the institutes and schools as far as designing the curriculum and the development of niche areas is concerned.
The elementary and primary education in Singapore
Kindergartens are the schools, which are meant for children below six. The primary education starts from age 7, with two main stages; “Primary and Orientation”. Primary education is made compulsory by the government. The “Orientation” stage lasts at 6th standard. After primary education, secondary education begins.
In order to get admission in international schools in Singapore, the citizens have to take permission from the Ministry of Education. Various names are given to secondary education tracks/streams such as “Express, Special and Normal”. “Normal” includes technical education as well.
Singapore government gives emphasis to co-curricular activities and has made it compulsory at the primary and secondary levels. It arranges activities such as Performing Arts, Clubs, Uniformed Groups and Sports Competitions.
Admission procedure for secondary education
The secondary education is conducted through GCE ‘O’ level exam, which determines the institution you are going to get admission in. It is followed by a two years course leading to ‘A’ level exam. For technical education, you are several polytechnics in Singapore, along with the Institute of Technical Education (ITE).
Education with commercial perspective
Singapore government has always considered education as the driving force for its economy. Skilled workforce compensates for lack of natural resources in Singapore. Moving over producing qualified workforce, Singapore government is now taking education as a source of revenue and foreign capital inflow. Thus government is poised to make Singapore a “Global Schoolhouse”, attracting international students to supplement its foreign currency requirements. The education sector is responsible for around 5% contribution towards Singapore’s economy.