Are you choosing a school for your child but feeling confused about which curriculum to choose? This one-stop guide will help you decide!
When you’re choosing an international school in Singapore, it can be a difficult decision. Not only do you have to consider location, languages and what it costs, you also have to choose between the variety of school curricula. All those tongue-tripping acronyms – it can be confusing! To help you out, we’ve compiled a guide to the school curriculums on offer here in Singapore. Once you’ve worked out what’s right for your family, trot on over to our School Selector online comparison tool. It’s your one-stop shop for real research, testimonials and essential insights that will help you find the best school for your family.
Which school curriculum is right for my child?
Consider how your child learns best, or whether you plan to move to your home country or elsewhere abroad further down the line. If you all have key aspirations for a chosen career path or higher education institute, that can all affect your decision, too! Don’t forget to make use of the advisors at international schools too for handy insights and advice – they are the exerts, after all.
Preschool and early childhood
Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)
The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is a set of standards for early learning, development and care of children from birth to five years old, as set by the UK government. There’s a focus on three key areas of learning: personal, social and emotional development; communication and language; and physical development. The four specific areas of learning are literacy, mathematics, expressive arts and design, and understanding the world. EYFS has a strong focus on interaction with children to advance creative and critical-thinking skills, as well as the early adoption of language. Parents with children in the EYFS curriculum enjoy high levels of parental interaction and involvement.
For more information on EYFS visit: www.gov.uk/early-years-foundation-stage.
Some schools and preschools offering the EYFS curriculum:
Montessori is a method of education developed by Italian physician and educator Dr Maria Montessori. This school curriculum is based on independence, hands-on play and learning through experience. Specialised Montessori materials support children to learn – the idea being that at each age the available activities should match natural interests. Students are allowed freedom to choose their preferred activity, thereby learning free from strict instruction. Children are encouraged to explore, be creative and to work alone and in groups to acquire language, science, maths, communication, art, dance and music.
Montessori-inspired educators follow the general principles of the Montessori approach (self-directed learning through a choice of activities matching kids’ innate interests) but have not been accredited by the International Montessori Council. Montessori-inspired schools therefore have freedom to adjust their framework to meet the needs of their student population, and are not required to use approved Montessori materials or methods.
Some schools offering the Montessori and Montessori-inspired curriculum:
The Reggio Emilia approach is a preschool and primary educational philosophy developed by teacher Loris Malaguzzi in Reggio Emilia in Italy. The ethos of Reggio Emilia is that young people form lifelong personalities during the early years, during which they are endowed with “a hundred languages” for self-expression. The program is very much hands-on and aims to inspire students to use symbolic languages (such as painting and sculpture) to learn day-to-day. Reggio Emilia focuses on values of community, responsibility, and respect by providing an encouraging and inspirational environment.
Reggio Emilia-inspired schools follow the Reggio Emilia theory of education, but have not been officially accredited. As detailed above, the Reggio Emilia curriculum is at its core a hands-on, project-based group learning approach, which Reggio Emilia-inspired educators use as a basis for their programmes.
Some schools offering a Reggio Emilia-inspired curriculum:
Blue House Nursery & International Pre School
EtonHouse International Preschool
Odyssey, The Global Preschool
Singapore American School
The Winstedt School
White Lodge Preschools
UWC South East Asia
The Ministry of Education (MOE) has developed a Nurturing Early Learners Curriculum for children age four to six. It aims to nurture children’s curiosity so they can explore and discover the world, encourage active learning and foster their competence so they can develop their thinking and reasoning skills. You can find out more in this parent’s guide.
Some preschools offering the Singapore National curriculum:
The following curriculums also offer a preschool element:
IBPYP from age three
IPC from age three (The Windstedt School)
The American curriculum is an obvious choice for US expats with children already in the American education system. It’s also a good option if you’re intending to return to the US or want to send your kids to top American/international universities. Kids adjust more easily to a familiar teaching style. Each state in the US has slightly different standards; however there are common themes and methods such as enquiry-based learning and student-centred planning.
The US State Department’s Office of Overseas Schools and the Overseas Schools Advisory Council supports schools in the implementation of American Education Reaches Out (AERO) Standards. AERO provides a framework for curriculum consistency from Kindergarten (age five) to Grade 12 (age 17). Students finish school with the American High School Diploma, which is recognised by US and Canadian universities. American schooling is directed towards achieving good results in the standardised SAT Reasoning Test of general aptitude for college admission focused on math, reading and writing.
The American curriculum offers an ‘a la carte’ versus a ‘set menu’ approach to education at the high school level, through the choice of individual college level classes called Advanced Placement or AP courses. The American program allows students to continue making course choices reflecting their unfolding interests and strengths through graduation without locking into set courses in Grade 10.
Some schools offering the American curriculum:
Like other country-specific curriculums, the Australian curriculum is suited to expats from and/or returning to Australia. The curriculum runs from Foundation to Year 10. Disciplinary knowledge is found in the eight learning areas of the Australian Curriculum: English; Mathematics; Science; Health and Physical Education; Humanities and Social Sciences; The Arts; Technologies and Languages. The seven general capabilities are Literacy; Numeracy; Information and Communication Technology Capability; Critical and Creative Thinking; Personal and Social Capability; Ethical Understanding; and Intercultural Understanding. Students are graded using levels A-E. Every year students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 sit the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy tests (NAPLAN).
The end of senior secondary education (leaving school) exams for entry into tertiary education institutions (universities, TAFE) have different names in each state, but in international schools in Singapore students predominantly sit the Higher School Certificate (HSC) (New South Wales).
For more information on the Australian curriculum, visit www.australiancurriculum.edu.au.
Schools offering the Australian Curriculum:
The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) – India
The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) is the board of education for the Union Government of India. It carries out final exams for Indian schools in Years 10 and 12. Assessment for CBSE classes is based on the Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation system.
The CBSE International programme (CBSE-i) extends learning opportunities and emphasises research orientation while helping students develop a global perspective. Skills fostered throughout the programme include critical and creative thinking, life skills and effective interpersonal and collaborative communication.
While CBSE-i is based on guidelines of the National Curriculum Framework and the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT), the curriculum takes a flexible approach to coursework covering regional issues and world geography. Students are required to perform community service (Social Empowerment through Work and Action program (SEWA)) to develop a sense of responsibility and commitment to improving the world around them and the wellbeing of others.
For more information on the CBSE curriculum in Singapore, visit: www.globalindianschool.org.
School offering the CBSE curriculum:
The French curriculum is arguably more popular with French expatriates in Singapore than say the Australian or American curriculums for their foreign nationals largely because of the language factor. The system is secular and is split into two levels: Level 1 (nursery and elementary school) and Level 2 (lower secondary and upper secondary).
During Level 1 (before age six) there is an emphasis on the acquisition of the common core of knowledge and skills based on key competencies for education, lifelong learning and success in later life. Priority is given to learning French and mathematics. Other key subjects are history and geography, science and information technology, art, sport and foreign languages.
Students enter Level 2 at age 11 in Le Collège (Lower Secondary School), where the aim is that all students become proficient in the common core of knowledge and skills. Once students reach Le Lycée (Upper Secondary School) they may either follow the voie générale et technologique (general and technological path) or the voie professionnelle (vocational path).
For more information on the French system, visit: www.eduscol.education.fr.
Some schools offering the French curriculum:
Once again, the German curriculum is favoured by German nationals not only because of the foreign language element, but also because of ease of transition from German schooling to Singapore and re-location to German university post-school. The education system varies from state to state.
Kindergarten (ages two to six) is optional, after which comes compulsory Grundschule (ages six to 10). Secondary education in Germany is relatively complex – involving five different types of schools: the Gymnasium (final exam, Abitur, is sat in Year 12/13), the Realschule, the Hauptschule (vocational education), the Gesamtschule, and Förderschulen/Sonderschulen. German universities as a general rule require students to have sat the Abitur examination. For those students favouring a vocational or apprenticeship route, the Duale Ausbildung is the preferred option. It is a relatively complex system.
Some schools offering the German curriculum:
The National Curriculum has five Key Stages:
- Key Stage 1 – Foundation year and Years 1 to 2 (ages five to seven);
- Key Stage 2 – Years 3 to 6 (ages eight to 11);
- Key Stage 3 – Years 7 to 9 (ages 12 to 14);
- Key Stage 4 – Years 10 to 11 (ages 15 to16) (I)(GCSE)(IGCSE); and
- Key Stage 5 – Years 12 to 13 (ages 17 to 18) (A levels).
Core UK school subjects are English literacy, mathematics and numeracy, science, art, music, drama, and physical and religious education.
General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE)
At the end of Key Stage 4, students sit the UK based General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). GSCEs are for students who are preparing for UK leaving exams, A Levels. Most schools offering A Levels will offer GCSE courses as these are the best preparation for these next stage exams. The curriculum offers nine subjects including English Language, Mathematics and Science (Biology, Chemistry and Physics) (core) and other subjects, which may vary including Geography, History, German, Business Studies, IT, and English Literature.
IGCSE (see International Curricula below for information) is also becoming more popular in England and some schools opt for IGCSE courses to provide more options for their students at the next stage of schooling.
Key Stage 5 is a two-year course, after which students take advanced level exams (A levels). A Levels are not compulsory, but are taken by a high percentage of the student population (especially in international schools in Singapore). An alternative to A level exams for international students at an IB school is the IBDP.
Some schools offering the UK curriculum:
Australian International School
Dover Court International School
Dulwich College (Singapore) (curriculum up to IGCSE is an Enhanced English National Curriculum)
EtonHouse International Schools
Marlborough College Malaysia
One World International School
Tanglin Trust School
The Winstedt School
International General Certificate of General Eduation (IGCSE)
IGCSE are internationally adapted certificate courses for high school age students. Originally based on the UK GCE O Level examinations, the content of the course has been adapted to suit the needs of international students who are not studying in the UK, or will be taking a different course in their final years of school. IGCSE are considered to be excellent preparation for A Levels and IBDP subject courses, which is why so many schools in Singapore offer them (as an alternative to the IB MYP).
Students sit exams in various subjects (see GCSE above) after a two year course of study and certificates are issued by a number of examination boards – the most well known in Singapore are AQA, Edexcel and Cambridge (who provide the Singapore GCE O Levels).
Schools offering the IGCSE and/or GCSE and/or (I)GCSE:
Australian International School
Dover Court International School
Dulwich College (Singapore)
GEMS World Academy (Singapore)
Global Indian International School
Marlborough College Malaysia
Nexus International School (Singapore)
One World International School
Tanglin Trust School
UWC South East Asia
(International) General Certificate of Secondary Education: (I)GCSE
(I)GCSE with a bracketed (I), means that the relevant school has cherry-picked some GCSE and some IGCSE certificates in a combination to best support the students and prepare for the final school leaving courses. Many schools in Singapore use the (I)GCSE as preparation for the IBDP.
International Baccalaureate (IB)
Founded in 1968, the International Baccalaureate (IB) is a highly regarded educational foundation (considered by many to be the gold standard). It aims to provide a truly international education by developing academic, personal, emotional and social skills students require for success in today’s increasingly interconnected world. The IB is the most widely offered school curriculum in Singapore. It receives high recognition among higher education institutions, often resulting in better chance of admission to high-ranking universities (and potential course credit and scholarships). Also, it has a focus on producing caring world citizens who are able to think independently. Therefore it’s a great choice for any family wanting a global education.
The IB Continuum has four programs:
- The Primary Years Program (PYP) for students aged three-12.
- The Middle Years Program (MYP) for students aged 11-16.
- The Diploma Program (IDBP) for students aged 16-19.
- The Career-related Programme (CP) for students aged 16-19.
International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (PYP/IBPYP)
The PYP is the first stage of the IB programme (but is not compulsory for entry to the MYP) designed for students aged three to 12. The PYP has the overarching IB directive of developing internationally minded, independent students with strong academic and social values. Subjects include maths, science, technology, arts, language (including a second language), social studies and physical education. Students benefit from the study of trans disciplinary themes: ‘who we are’, ‘where we are in place and time’ and ‘how the world works’.
International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (MYP/IBMYP)
The MYP is the second stage of the IB intended for students aged 11 to 16. The complete program runs for five years and can be carried out in a partnership between schools. Shorter programs (two, three or four year) formats are also available. The MYP is a challenging curriculum that inspires learners to make practical connections between theory and reality. The framework consists of eight subjects: language acquisition, language and literature, individuals and societies, sciences, mathematics, arts, physical and health education and design.
International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (DP/IBDP)
The DP is for students aged 16-19 and aims to produce students with exceptional breadth and depth of knowledge. The curriculum is made up of the DP core (theory of knowledge (TOK); a 4000 word self-directed extended essay (EE); and creativity, activity and service); and six subject groups: studies in language and literature, language acquisition, individuals and societies, sciences, mathematics and the arts. Most courses require written examinations at the end of the DP, but also involve internal assessment. Transcripts are provided for university applications.
International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme (CP/IBCP)
The CP is a programme of career-related education intending to lead to further education, apprenticeship or employment.
Some schools offering the IB curriculum:
Australian International School (PYP, MYP and IBDP)
Canadian International School (PYP, MYP, IBDP)
Chatsworth International School (PYP, MYP, IBDP)
Dulwich College (Singapore) (IBDP)
EtonHouse International School and Preschool (PYP)
GEMS World Academy (Singapore) (PYP, MYP, IBDP)
GESS (PYP, MYP, IBDP)
Global Indian International School (IBDP)
Hillside World Academy (MYP, PYP, IBDP)
ISS International School (MYP, PYP, IBDP)
Marlborough College Malaysia (IBDP)
Nexus International School (Singapore) (PYP, MYP, IBDP)
One World International School (PYP) (and from August 2016 MYP)
Overseas Family School (PYP, MYP, IBDP)
Stamford American International School (PYP, MYP, IBDP)
Tanglin Trust School (IBDP)
UWC South East Asia (PYP, MYP, IBDP)
International Primary Curriculum (IPC)
The International Primary Curriculum (IPC) is a rigorous, global-minded curriculum for three to 12-year-old students. It has a skills-based approach with specific learning goals for every subject. Many view IPC as having similar features to the PYP IB program. Students are supported to achieve strong research skills, interpersonal skills and adaptation skills, which are crucially important for international students (often moving home and country during their education).
Schools offering the IPC curriculum:
Right, got all of that school curriculums advice? Want to compare the schools on your shortlist and access all the info you’ve been wanting on fees, facilities and see what parents have to say about their schools? We’ve made it easier than ever for you at our dynamic preschool and international school comparison tool, School Selector.