Parents’ Ultimate Guide to Middle School in Singapore
Middle school is a time of significant change and exploration for kids. As they explore who they want to be when they grow up, they also learn about the world around them, and how to take care of themselves and others by becoming empathetic and responsible members of our society.
When it comes to middle school education, the education system in Singapore is second to none. For parents who want their children to pursue a challenging, high-quality middle school education that prepares them for university or postgraduate studies; this country has a lot to offer!
But why Singapore? Singapore’s education system has been consistently ranked as one of the best in the world and is known for being highly effective, with an emphasis on academic rigour. At the same time, the international schools in Singapore provide students with a well-rounded curriculum and prepare them to lead tomorrow’s world – both at home and abroad!
We’ve developed this useful Parents’ Guide to help you find the right middle school for your child in Singapore.
By its simplest definition, middle school is the school in the secondary years educational system that usually bridges the gap between elementary/primary school and high school.
In some countries, a middle school is called an “intermediate” or “lower secondary” school. The classification may vary from culture to country, but they are all designed to provide students with an opportunity to improve their academic and social-emotional outcomes and create unrivalled opportunities for them to learn, grow and develop.
Most students are undergoing the transition from children to young adults (with associated changes in hormones), and this can dramatically affect their physical, mental and emotional state. Middle school teachers are trained to handle these change-in-life conditions.
Middle Schools in Singapore
In Singapore, middle school is also referred to as secondary school. Secondary school is compulsory for Singaporean children aged 12 to 16. Depending on the child’s Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results, they may take the Express, Academic or Technical secondary school pathways.
Secondary School Pathways
All secondary school pathways offer the same course of study with some nuances: Express is considered as an accelerated pathway, and a Technical pathway offers more applied work.
After completing the mandatory secondary school, students who want to progress to university attend a ‘pre-university’ program for two to three years of further study. Vocational training is also offered as an alternative.
Singapore Education System
An optional program for children aged 3 – 6. Run by companies, community groups and charities, fees may be payable.
A compulsory program for children aged 7 and above. Education at primary level is free for all Singaporeans.
Middle School or Secondary School
A mandatory program that runs for five years, and designed for children aged 12 to 17.
Post Secondary (University preparation or vocational training)
After completing the mandatory secondary school level, this ‘pre-university’ program helps middle school students prepare for university. For middle school children who are not planning to attend university yet, a vocational program can be a great option.
International School Programs
At international schools, however, the beginning of secondary school depends on the curriculum offered by each school.
For example, schools that follow the British Curriculum will have students starting on Key Stage 3 (KS3) for ages 11 to 14, and then move on to the 4th year of secondary school or KS4. Then, students will sit for the GCSE examinations at the end of KS4, of which most of the secondary students at that time will be at 16 years of age minimum. By then, they can also go through KS5, which is a pre-university education program that runs for two or three years.
For the American Curriculum, students aged 11 to 14 progress to secondary school, which covers Grade 6, 7 and 8. Then, they move on to High School to complete Grade 9 to Grade 12.
After Middle School
After middle school, they have several options to secure subject-based qualifications conferred as part of the General Certificate of Education.
For example, middle school students who took the Special and Express courses can take the GCE ‘O’ Levels.
Middle school students from the Normal (Academic and Technical) courses take the GCE ‘N’ Level examinations.
And lastly, Normal Academic students have the option to continue for the O Levels.
From secondary school, they move on to pre-tertiary education in institutions such as Polytechnics, the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), Junior Colleges, Polytechnic Foundation programs or Arts Institutions.
Studying in Middle School
Secondary education in Singapore is a mix of English language arts, mother tongue languages (including Mandarin), mathematics and science subjects.
Subjects in a typical Middle School in Singapore
In a typical middle school in Singapore, students are introduced to citizenship education, humanities (geography, history and literature in English), design and technology, food and consumer education, physical education and project work.
In some secondary schools, students take character development courses that teach them how to be well-rounded individuals with a good attitude towards life. Middle schoolers also learn about world cultures through art and music appreciation programs.
Middle School Fees
Education in Singapore is free for all Singaporeans, but parents may still be required to pay for miscellaneous fees. These fees tend to vary depending on the school and which secondary school pathway is selected for your child.
There’s a wide range of schools in Singapore offering various secondary school programs, and an extensive list of schools can be found on Singapore’s Ministry of Education (MOE) website.
School fees is a key differentiator between local and international schools in Singapore.An international school follows a unique tuition and fee structure to offer high-quality educational programs and world-class facilities. Parents typically spend around USD15,000 to USD 30,000 annually, plus extras such as registration and enrolment fees, facility fees, technology fees, and other miscellaneous costs.
How to choose a Middle School
When deciding which middle school is right for your child, many factors must be considered beyond just the fees, learning pathways and facilities. For example, where will your child feel the happiest for the next few years? Is the popular public middle school near your home going to prepare your child well enough when he or she gets into their later years of education?
Here are five tips to help you choose the right middle school for your child:
Ask the school to share examples on how they can support your child’s social and emotional development.
Children thrive in an environment that offers both academic and emotional support.
Does the school have a counsellor or a mentor program?
Does the school separate middle schoolers according to grade?
Does the school have programs in place to help new middle schoolers adapt to the transition?
A school that offers the right support from peers and teachers will help your child not only get through this time of growth both academically as well emotionally but also thrive despite the many changes that happen in their lives.
Visit the school more than once.
A school visit allows you to check out the school’s facilities, and validate what they can offer to your middle schooler. Parents can book a physical tour, which may be conducted by the school’s head or a representative.
During the tour you will have the opportunity not only to see their facilities, but also learn about the school’s values, future plans, curriculum, safety & security measures, and their enrichment programs.
Some schools offer a virtual tour for families who are eyeing a middle school program for their child before their relocation to Singapore.
If you shortlisted the school after the virtual tour, we highly recommend visiting the campus in real life as well to ensure that the school is the right one for your child.
Ask the right questions.
Are the school fees for an international school within my budget?
Questions like those found above are very important, especially if you raise them during a school tour. Try to frame your questions in a way to encourage the school to provide more specific answers.
Look beyond the impressive school campus for what really matters
World-class facilities are great, but how will all of this help your child in their learning journey? Ask the school to share more information on how the school’s facilities are used, how often and the main purpose.
Furthermore, it is important to understand if the teaching staff are enthusiastic and engaged.
Are the students exposed to extracurriculars that give them a well-rounded middle school experience?
Does the school seem like a place where kids would thrive academically as much as they can socially and emotionally too?
Will your child be well-prepared for the rigours of high school if enrolled in the school of your choice?
These answers may not show up right away, but they’re key in finding a school where
your child will have the opportunity to thrive.
Testimonials are a great way to gauge whether your concerns about a school of your choice are something to take into consideration or not. Testimonials are not sales pitches – rather they belong to real people who have an unbiased opinion about a service that they have and continue to experience. They are easy to trust, especially those with whom you share similar values and family background.
XCL American Academy – Discover A New Affordable International School In Singapore
This new American international school is now open and ready to welcome new students with rolling enrolments throughout the year.
XCL American Academy (XAA) provides a rigorous and high-quality American education at an affordable price, with an enhanced curriculum that includes internationally recognised programs such as Everyday Mathematics, Inspired Science, and a balanced approach to literacy with materials from Scholastic.
Access to world-class facilities is assured, being co-located on the same site as the prestigious XCL World Academy. As for character development, the school has its unique Pioneer Spirit program that’s based on the Second Step program as well.
XAA’s Middle School program ensures that its students are exposed to a variety of learning experiences, including classroom learning, project-based and experiential (hands-on) learning, team collaboration and opportunities to learn outside the confines of the classroom walls.
Aside from having a rich curriculum focused on the development of a deep and meaningful understanding of specialist subject areas, XAA creates an academic environment where students are encouraged to think critically, question various concepts, express their thoughts, create and transform their ideas into action. They are also coached to become mature, independent and empathetic learners.
XAA offers prospective parents to schedule a personalized tour (virtual or real-life) or join their group Open House Session to gain more insights about American education and how to choose the right middle school for your child in Singapore.
Your child’s education is the most important thing in his or her life, and you need to make sure they get a good one. Focus on what kind of school would be best for your child, and whether the academic and social environment will not only help them learn but also thrive to the best of their abilities.