An Overview of the Main Types of Programmes offered in Singapore Secondary Schools

Singapore schools offer a variety of programmes and educational paths to maximise the learning potential of every child, discover his/her talents and develop his/her passion for lifelong learning. Depending on your child’s Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) score, abilities and interests, he/she may be placed in a school that best supports his/her learning pace and style. When choosing a school, consider your child’s strengths, interests and abilities. Based on these strengths, interests, abilities and also the PSLE score, you may also want to think about the school culture, environment, and the programmes offered. Here is an overview of the main types of programmes offered in Singapore Secondary Schools.

Integrated Programme

The Integrated Programme, also known as the “Through-Train Programme”, enables the high performing students to bypass the O Levels and take the A Levels, International Baccalaureate (IB), NUS High Diploma or an equivalent examination directly after six years of secondary education. With the time saved from preparing for O Levels, students immerse themselves in broader range of learning experiences in both academic and non-academic areas.  A lot of emphasis is placed on developing students’ intellectual curiosity, encouraging them to undertake research work and providing education that is in-tune with real-world competencies. Students who are currently in Gifted Education Programme (GEP) at the primary level can opt to attend IP schools that offer School-Based Gifted Education (SBGE). In my next blog post, I will explore the key differences among the different IP programmes. 

O Level Programme

The GCE O Level Programme is a 4- or 5-year course, depending on the stream the student is in: Express, Normal Academic (NA) or Normal Technical (NT). Students will be exposed to a wide range of subjects (Languages, Humanities, Mathematics and Sciences) to prepare them for the next educational level in Junior Colleges, Polytechnics or Institute of Technical Education (ITE). Admissions to these institutions are determined by the aggregate L1R5 score for Junior Colleges or the ELR2B2 score for Polytechnics. 

The secondary school streaming will be scrapped by 2024 and replaced by the new subject-based banding system. A new common national examination will also be introduced in 2027 to replace the current GCE O- and N-Level examinations and this will complement the subject-based banding system that is set to replace streaming in secondary schools.

Specialised Programmes Offered by Specialised Independent Schools (SIS)

Specialised independent schools offer specialised education catering to students who have an aptitude for or a strong interest in a specialised field, such as mathematics and science, the arts, sports, and applied learning. 

The Specialised Independent Schools are:

  • NUS High School of Mathematics and Science
  • School of Science and Technology, Singapore
  • School of the Arts, Singapore 
  • Singapore Sports School

Do note that IB Diploma programmes are also offered in the School of the Arts and the Singapore Sports School.

Customised Programmes Offered by Specialised Schools

Specialised schools offer customised programmes to students who are inclined towards hands-on and practical learning. NorthLight School and Assumption Pathway School are suitable for students who do not qualify for a secondary course of education after the PSLE. These students will graduate with an ITE Skills Certificate (ISC), which they will use for job applications or admissions into ITE. Crest Secondary School and Spectra Secondary School, on the other hand, are for students eligible for the Normal Technical (NT) stream (SSNT). Students will read modules that are developed in conjunction with the ITE and the industry. 

With effect from 2021, the Secondary 3 SSNT students will offer the ITE Skills Subject Certificate (ISSC) instead of ISC. The ISSC will provide SSNT students with a more broad-based curriculum that widens their exposure to different industry growth areas. This will provide students with more opportunities to discover and develop their strengths and interests, and support them in making more informed choices about their post-secondary education progression and future career pathways.

I hope the overview above can help both your child and you make a wiser and more informed decision. Do check out our blog regularly for more information about Secondary School Programmes.

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