In Singapore, English is the first language learned by half the children by the time they reach preschool age and becomes the primary medium of instruction by the time they reach primary school.
Most schools commonly follow the kind of grading system awarded at the Singapore-Cambridge GCE “O” level examination, which a student sits at the end of four or five years of secondary education, taking at least 6 subjects. The level of achievement in each subject is indicated by the grade obtained, with A1 being the highest achievable grade and F9 the lowest:
* A1/A2 (Distinction)
* B3/B4 (Merit)
* C5/C6 (Credit/Pass)
* D7 (Sub-Pass/fail, that is, passing at a lower standard in the exam or fail)
* E8/F9 (Fail)
A student’s overall academic performance is measured through several points scoring system (such as the L1R5, L1B5 and L1R4 scoring system) depending on which type of post-secondary institution a student is intending to apply for. Each grade has a point value respective to it, for example, with grade A1 being 1 point, A2 being 2 points, and B3 being 3 points. Thus, the fewer the points obtained, the better the score.
Singapore currently has two full-fledged public universities (National University of Singapore & Nanyang Technological University), and two full-fledged private universities (SMU & UniSIM). However, UniSIM accepts only adult learners in general, so A-level and Diploma students may apply only to SMU, NUS, NTU, several foreign university offshore campuses, and more than ten other private tertiary institutions offering undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.
Parents are seeking additional help at home to improve their children’s grade and to empower them with the latest practical education strategies to achieve their full potential academically.
Meritocracy is a basic political ideology in Singapore and a fundamental principle in the education system which aims to identify and groom bright young students for positions of leadership. The system places a great emphasis on academic performance in grading students and granting their admission to special programmes and universities, though this has raised concerns about breeding elitism. Academic grades are considered as objective measures of the students’ ability and effort, irrespective of their social background. Having good academic credentials is seen as the most important factor for the students’ career prospects in the job market, and their future economic status.
Education policy in Singapore is designed to ensure that no child is left behind in education even if they do not have the financial capacity to pay school fees. Therefore, school fees in public schools are heavily subsidized, so that students pay as little as SGD 13 for fees. In addition, there are many possible assistance schemes from either the government or welfare organizations to help students cope with finances during their studies. Some of these are listed below.
Critics of the education system, including some parents, state that the education system is too specialized, rigid, and elitist. There have also been complaints about excessive educational streaming at a young age. The best students are streamed into the best and normal classes, while the others are streamed into the foundation class, where teachers usually allow them to get worse, since they are part of the “ungifted” class. This ability-driven education has since been a key feature behind Singapore’s success in education, and was responsible for bringing drop-out rates down sharply.