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The Singapore Education System

The Education System in Singapore is a mixture of the education systems in the UK and the US and is quite different from what you would be used to in India. In the Singapore education system, you will come across a wide range of courses in different academic and professional fields. Some courses focus on academics whereas some are more practical knowledge – oriented.

The Singapore Education System also offers a much greater level of flexibility as compared to the Indian Education System. Students are allowed to choose their own subjects as per their interests, although there are conditions.

Some of the main features of Singapore’s Education System are discussed below.

Secondary, Pre – University and Post – Secondary Education

Students in Singapore pursue their college studies as a part of their Post – Secondary education. By the time they enter college, they have completed 6 years of Primary school, 4 – 5 years of Secondary education and 2 years of Pre – university education.

Secondary education in Singapore involves students being placed in either one of 3 broad streams that namely include: Express, Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical). To complete these courses, students are required to qualify in the GCE ‘O’ Levels (for Express course) and GCE ‘N’ Levels (for Normal course). Students who perform well in their GCE ‘N’ Levels can also opt for an additional 5th year leading to the GCE ‘O’ Level examination.

Before joining college, Singaporean students have to complete their ‘Pre – University’ education, much like Class 11th and 12th or junior colleges in India. The pre – university education comprises of 2 – 3 years of education leading up to the GCE ‘A’ Level examination.

Post – Secondary education in Singapore comprises of College/University level studies. This includes Government Universities, Private Universities, Polytechnics, Institutes and Art colleges. Unlike the U.S, you can choose to pursue professional courses like Law and Medicine as a part of your post – secondary education undergraduate degrees in Singapore.

Colleges and Universities

Singapore is home to a number of reputed and well – known colleges and universities. There are a total of 5 autonomous universities in Singapore – National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore Management University (SMU), Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) and Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT). Out of these, NUS and NTU are highly reputed and regularly feature in the top 50 universities of the world.

Additionally, Yale – NUS College is a liberal arts college in Singapore that is a joint venture between the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Yale University.

Apart from the above mentioned universities, Singapore is also home to several ‘Polytechnics’ that focus on imparting profession – oriented education. They normally provide Diplomas instead of Degrees.  There are a total of 5 Polytechnics in Singapore – Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP), Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP), Republic Polytechnic (RP), Singapore Polytechnic (SP) and Temasek Polytechnic (TP).

There are several reputed Art Colleges in Singapore as well. Two of the most popular ones are LASALLE College of the Arts and the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA).

Apart from the above mentioned institutions, many of the world’s most reputed private universities and institutes have their campuses in Singapore including the James Cook University, University of Adelaide, and Curtin University etc. Course structures and durations vary from university to university.

Courses and Degrees

The Singapore Education system offers students to pursue various types of courses and degrees at both, the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The standard duration of a Bachelors degree is 3 years, and the duration of a Bachelors degree with Honors is 4 years.

Some common degree qualifications that are offered at the Bachelors level include B.A (Bachelor of Arts), a B.Sc. (Bachelor of Science), a B.Arch (Bachelor of Architecture), B.Eng. (Bachelor of Engineering), B.B.A (Bachelor of Business Administration), B.Comp. (Bachelor of Computing), MBBS etc.

Apart from the above degree courses, students can also pursue Diplomas and Certificate courses. Although some colleges do conduct such courses, they are primarily offered by the various Polytechnics in Singapore. As an Indian student, you will generally be eligible to join a Polytechnic Diploma course right after your Class 10th (CBSE, ICSE and some State Boards) even though there are some exceptions. The duration of most Polytechnic Diplomas is 3 years.

Upon the completion of your 3 year Polytechnic Diploma, you will be eligible to join a Bachelors degree course in the same/related field and will get an advance placement of 1 – 1.5 years in most cases. This means that you will directly be enrolled in the 2nd year (1st/2nd semester) if you choose to pursue a Bachelors course at a Singapore university after a 3 year Diploma from a Polytechnic in Singapore. Do keep in mind that there are exceptions.

Art colleges in Singapore offer Diplomas, undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. These courses offer specializations in particular art forms like Theater, Dance, Music, Film, Fashion etc. The entry requirements and duration of the course differ depending upon your college and course.

Course Structure

Courses in Singapore are generally divided into ‘Modules’ of different subjects. Students are allowed to select the modules they wish to study, subject to limitations. In order to graduate or progress in the course, you will be required to complete a particular number of modules. By pursuing extra modules in a year, you can complete your degree in a shorter duration of time.

Modules are generally of 3 types: Core, Prescribed Elective and Unrestricted Elective. Core modules form the base of your course and are mandatory. Prescribed Elective modules are the ones that lead you towards your specialization, also known as your ‘Major’. Unrestricted Elective modules are additional modules out of which you are free to choose any, as long as you meet the minimum requirement.

Like the US, Singapore also follows a Major – Minor course structure. A Major is the main focus of your course. For example, you might be pursuing a Bachelor of Arts (B.A) course with a Major in Journalism, whereas somebody else might be pursuing the same course (B.A) with a Major in Philosophy. Along with pursuing a Major, you can also pursue a ‘Minor’ by choosing the required additional modules. The ‘Minor’ will be the secondary focus of your course. Students can also choose to pursue ‘Double Majors’ where they will be provided with a single degree but two majors.

Singapore’s education system also allows students to pursue Double Degrees, where a student pursues two separate degrees at the same time. These programs are generally of a longer duration and are offered in certain fields only.

Most universities in Singapore conduct degree courses in 2 near equal Semesters of 17 – 18 weeks each along with an additional short semester in some cases. The first semester generally begins in August and goes on till December. The second semester begins in January and goes on till May. Some institutions also follow the Trimesterly system which divides the year’s course load into 3 trimesters.

Modular Credits/Credit Hours/Academic Units

Singapore’s education system is based on a system of Modular Credits, also known as MCs, Academic Unit (AU) or Credit hours.  These credit hours denote the number of hours (including classes, self – study, field trips etc.) you will have to typically spend studying a particular module to manage your workload successfully.

Each Module is assigned an MC/AU or Credit value that denotes the amount of time a typical student will need to put in for that module to manage his/her workload successfully. For example, an important subject can be worth 3 MCs/AUs, whereas a less important subject might be worth 1 MC/AU.

Keep in mind that there is no standard conversion rate between Modular Credit value and hours in Singapore. At the National University of Singapore (NUS), 1 MC is equal to 2.5 hours of study per week (including classes, self – study, field trips etc). However, at the Nanyang Technological University, one MC (known as AU) is equal to 1 hour of lecture per week or 3 hours of laboratory work per week.

Your progress as a student depends on the amount of MCs you earn. Whenever you complete a module, these credits get added to your academic record.


Singapore uses a letter grading system to assess student performance, unlike India.

The standard practice in Singapore is to use the following letter grades: ‘A’ for excellent, ‘B’ for above average or good, ‘C’ for average, ‘D’ for below average and ‘F’ for failing. Most institutions also use grades like ‘A+’ or ‘A-‘. An ‘A+’ would represent an outstanding performance whereas an ‘A-‘would represent a very good performance which wasn’t excellent, but was much better than an above average performance. These letters are often used to represent numerical values as well, known as ‘Grade Points’.

The following rate is used to convert these letter grades into Grade Points:

A+ =       5.0 Grade Points

A =         5.0 Grade Points

A- =        4.5 Grade Points

B+ =       4.0 Grade Points

B =          3.5 Grade Points

B-=         3.0 Grade Points

C+=        2.5 Grade Points

C =          2.0 Grade Points

D+=        1.5 Grade Points

D =         1.0 Grade Points

F =          0.0 Grade Points

*Keep in mind that the above Grade Points are for one credit/MC/AU. If a module is valued at 5 credits, then the Grade Points will have to be multiplied by 5 to get the correct conversion. This is known as Weighted Grade point.


Students are assessed by using these letter grades to come up with a Grade Point Average (GPA), which is also known as CAP (Cumulative Average Point). This is basically an average of the grades that a student has earned throughout the semester. It is often also calculated for the whole Bachelor’s degree as well, quite like the percentage that is calculated in the Indian Education system.

The GPA or CAP is calculated by first adding the total number of weighted grade points earned by the student. This sum is then divided by the total number of AU/MC/Credit Hours attempted for that term (Semester/Trimester etc.) to calculate the GPA.


Sum of (Grade Point x AU for course attempted in the term)/Total AU attempted in the term of study

Consider the following example:


Credit Hours


Weighted Grade Points


English Literature


B (3.5)

10.5 (3 x 3.5 = 10.5)


Foreign Language


B- (3.0)

9 (3 x 3.0 = 09)


Prose and Verse


C (2.0)

6 (3 x 2.0 = 06)


Creative Writing


A (5.0)

20 (4 x 5.0 = 20)




D (1.0)

3 (3 x 1.0 = 3)






(48.5/16 = 3.03)


Most universities in Singapore would require you to maintain a GPA of 2.5 and above to be considered as making satisfactory progress, subject to limitations and exceptions.


Study in Singapore