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How can foreign students enrol in Singapore Primary Schools?

Recently it has become quite hard for foreign students to enrol in a Primary School in Singapore.

Primary School registration usually starts in June each year, and the child should be 6 years old to be enrolled there. From 2021, registration will be completely online due to the Covid-19 situation, the Ministry of Education said on Wednesday 27 May 2020.

Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents are permitted to apply during Phase 1 and Phase 2, whereas the international student registration begins during the very last phase (Phase 3). 

Refer to MOE's website: Registration Phases and Key Dates.

So how can a foreign parent make sure that their child gets a place in school?

There are several ways to do that; let’s have a look at them.


1. Become a Permanent Resident

This is a major decision for any family, but especially for those families that include male children (since they will probably have to serve in the national service later on).

Also, keep in mind the deadlines.

The appointment you booked will most likely take place about nine months after the booking (in some cases, it may take a year).

The processing of the petition alone takes around six months. If you wish your child to have the same advantages, the children of other permanent residents have, then start taking care of the papers two years in advance.

Refer to the ICA's website for the documents, procedures and eligibility.


2. Wait for Phase 3.

Today there are two steps that constitute Phase 3. This happened as a result of the recent procedure introduced by the Ministry Of Education.

Firstly, you need to enter the MOE P1 site in June and present an indication of interest. This is Step 1.

Next, the children who do not hold the Singaporean citizenship will get a notification from the MOE in October and will be able to register at selected schools in late October.

Due to these changes introduce by the MOE, the non-citizen parents will not be able to choose schools for their children.

The name of the school will be indicated in the letter you receive when the child gets a place offer.

Because of this, your child may be assigned to the school that happens to be far away from your home. In this case, there is nothing you can do.

Either you have to move somewhere nearer to the child school or be prepared for the daily commute.

There are updates to 2020's Primary One Registration Exercise - read the press release on MOE's website.


3. International schools in Singapore.

There are some international schools in Singapore as well that may be a bit easier to get into and relatively budget-friendly.

The annual tuition fee for such schools is typically around $15,000 (for example, the Invictus School that opened its doors in 2016, Global Indian School and DPS International School).

Some schools may charge slightly less (for instance, the One World International School charges $17,000 per year).

We have a detailed guide to international schools in Singapore, complete with fees, location and specific traits of each school.

Some schools may require the child to take a placement exam, so make sure to find out more about the school you are interested in.

It may be wise to take the precaution of reserving a place in one of these schools while you are waiting for the Phase 3 results. They can act as your plan B should Phase 3 results turn out to be unsatisfactory.


4. Homeschooling.

If none of the aforementioned options is acceptable to you, then you may consider homeschooling. There are even some foreign countries that offer online education programs.

Of course, for homeschooling to count as genuine education, it has to be done in accordance with the MOE curriculum and to a high standard. There are some exemptions from compulsory education, read about it here.

You may homeschool your children to prepare them for the Admission Exercise for International Students (AEIS).

The AEIS includes centralized English and Maths tests (this has been determined by the MOE) that assess the child’s numeracy and literacy skills.

The admission after taking this test is not guaranteed; it all depends on how well the child performed during the test. If the test has been passed successfully, the applicant will offer one of the vacant places.

It is currently not known how many children manage to pass the test and gain admission into the local educational institutions. Many foreign students hire private tutors to help prepare for the AEIS exams as they are usually more familiar with the local syllabus.


MOE International Students Admissions in 2020.

In 2020, the AEIS exam will be held on the 22, 23, 24, and 25 September.

You can apply until the 28 of August, and the registration process will be closed as soon as all of the available slots for the test have been filled.

Due to the 2020 coronavirus global pandemic, there will be no cash collection for the fee, so for safety reasons, the applicants have to make the payments using either a debit or credit card.

The MOE does not plan to issue any approvals for the applicants to enable them to sit the exam in person. It is also essential to keep yourself updated on all the current or upcoming travel restrictions that may happen because of the pandemic.

You can do that by visiting the ICA (Immigration & Checkpoints Authority) website, or the website of the Ministry Of Health (MOH).

All international students who want to be admitted to mainstream schools at the secondary 1-3 or Primary 2-5 need to take part in these exams.

By doing so, the international students will prove that they are able to cope with the rigorous Singaporean curriculum.

In order to get more information about this topic, you can visit the Ministry Of Education’s website.


To conclude, it is indeed more difficult for foreign children to get into the Primary Schools in Singapore than it is for local children.

But that does not mean that their parents need to be worried. All of the aforementioned options are available to foreign families, and they can give the child a high-quality education.

You may find these information helpful too:
Ultimate Guide to English Tuition in Singapore - 38 listings

Ultimate Guide to Maths Tuition in Singapore - 42 listings

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About Author

Tutor City's blog focuses on balancing informative and relevant content, never at the expense of providing an enriching read. 

We want our readers to expand their horizons by learning more and find meaning to what they learn.

Resident author - Mr Wee Ben Sen, has a wealth of experience in crafting articles to provide valuable insights in the field of private education.

Ben Sen has also been running Tutor City, a leading home tuition agency in Singapore since 2010.