A Comparative Analysis of International Schools and Local Primary Schools in Singapore

Deepika Sodhi
May 21, 2021
Education Tips

Education in Singapore is an expensive affair, but with that expense also comes the world’s best quality education. Expat parents can either send their children to local school or to an international school. As young parents, we have spent hours on the internet reading about primary schools in Singapore. After all the extensive research on schools, GIIS, primary school in Punggol seemed to suit our needs the best. I am sharing findings of my research to save young parents like us some time and effort. Go ahead and read all the information that helped us make this big decision for our child and hopefully it will help you choose too.

Comparative Analysis of Local V/S International School  

1. Curriculum 

Schools in Singapore offer academically excellent curriculum. Both the schools have a curriculum which is exhaustive, which is to ensure a strong foundation and better understanding for the higher studies.

Local Schools in Singapore :

● Rigorous curriculum, particularly in maths and science

● All the schools follow the same curriculum set by the Ministry of Education

● Results-driven approach to teaching

● Although encourages bilingualism, yet focuses on Mandarin

International Schools in Singapore:

● Strong focus on global learning with a flexible curriculum

● Holistic and international curriculum

● Focus on extracurricular activities, sport and visual arts 

● Wider choice of learning second and third languages 

● Their approach towards education is based on  “learning through experience” 

2. School Fees

School fees are one of the major factors that varies greatly when it comes to local and international schools in Singapore. Although the school fees are likely to rise in the following years, this increase is likely to vary depending on the schools.  

Local Schools in Singapore

● Low tuition fees 

● School fees in local primary ranges from $13per month to $650 per month for foreigners

International Schools in Singapore

● Higher tuition fees 

● School fees in International primary schools varies from $13,000 to $47,000

● Additional one time fees like application and registration fees

● Fees varies depending on the school and curricula they follow


3. Culture  

School is where children experience cultural differences hands on for the first time. They are exposed to different beliefs, values, accents, eating habits and even language. This experience teaches them to respect diversity from an early age. 

Local Schools in Singapore

● Immerses students in Singaporean culture

● Promote strong bonds between students, their families and the nation

● Expatriate children might find it difficult to adjust initially

International Schools in Singapore

● Give an opportunity to stay connected with students of different nationalities

● Expatriate children likely to find friends from home country 

● Chance to stay connected with the language and customs of the home country 


4. Competition 

Healthy competitiveness and sportsmanship is something every parent wants to inculcate in their offspring. School is the place where students get a fair ground to compete in academic and extracurricular activities  Local and International schools in Singapore are known to be competitive. 

Local Schools in Singapore

● Can be fiercely competitive

● High emphasis on academic achievement

● Best students are streamed into rigorous academic levels with multiple subjects

International Schools in Singapore

● Although competitive yet focus on individual strength of a student

● Prepare student with skills to compete in the real world

● Personalised development plans to help each student explore their innate abilities

● Encourage students to think outside the box and donate time to extracurricular activities


5. School Hours 

The hours spent at school vary across  local and international schools. 

Local Schools in Singapore

Most of the  local schools start early at around 0720 hours and finish at around 1340 hours, including a 30 minute recess . The early start for the local system might seem a problem for children who are not early risers, but the early finish makes for an afternoon that can be spent playing or making time for hobby classes outside the school.

International schools in Singapore

International schools tend to engage students for longer hours along with long and frequent breaks in between. They are a perfect choice if your child is not an early riser as most of them tend to start somewhere around 0900 hours and end by 1530 hours in the day. This time is inclusive of a snack break and a recess of 60 minutes.

6. Academic Year  

Academic year for international and local schools hardly matches up. So if you are a parent to more than one child, then it will be impossible to plan your holidays if your children are not in the same school.

The local schools in Singapore run from January to mid November and their school calendar and list of holidays is available on the Ministry of Education’s website.

Whereas, the international schools typically run from August to mid-June in Singapore. The calendar for academic terms in International schools is available on every school's website.


I hope this article gives you a fair idea of the basic difference in local and international primary schools in Singapore. Where local schools focus on developing a strong sense of community, on the other hand international schools focus on providing global exposure to the students. 

There is no right or wrong when it comes to choosing a school for our children, rather it is only a matter of aligning the educational needs with what we think will better equip them for the future. They will eventually grow up and make their own decisions regarding subjects they like or interests they want to pursue. As a parent we only need to do a thorough research of the available options and pick what we think will be most relevant in facing the challenges of the 21st century. Believe in your choice and always have an open mind to accept and let the child pursue his/her passion.

Deepika Sodhi

Ms Sodhi Is the Academic Supervisor for International Curricula at GIIS SMART Campus in Singapore. She has been teaching Physics for the past 22 years and has a great ability to help students relate to scientific principles in everyday life. She is also actively involved in helping GIIS smoothly transition to Digital Pedagogy in teaching, assessments etc

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