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Education Costs In Singapore

Raising children in Singapore can be challenging.

Notwithstanding the discipline and time needed to spend nurturing them, there are also financial or monetary challenges when planning for your children to enter a good school.

Of course, depending on your legal residence status (PR, on a work visa or Singaporean), the prices and costs of education for your children can also vary greatly. For example, Singaporean students entering primary school do not need to foot any school fees, while international students would pay about $550 monthly. Even Permanent residents (PR) pay around $110 per month, so there are pretty good benefits to being a Singaporean!

In the interest of simplifying the article and in terms of price, I’ll be comparing three groups: Singaporeans, Permanent Residents and lastly the international students.

There will be a few categories of schools here: there are the independent schools (like ACS Independent) as well as the government-backed schools. In this article, we’ll be comparing on kindergarten, primary and secondary school levels.

Education Costs In Singapore For Singaporean

Due to recent dissent against the government for somewhat favouring the foreigners more than the locals who live here, the Singapore government has made it very clear cut to show that Singaporeans are still first in the priority of applicants in terms of education and subsidies.

Preschools

As such, PCF (PAP Community Foundation) which is the largest pre-school operator in Singapore has quite significant subsidies for parents who wish to enrol their children in PCF child care centres and preschools all over Singapore.

Typically for a Singaporean student, the average cost of a preschool term is around $620, and infant care (or child care centre) would be around $1250.

Of course, there will be parents who opt to send their young children to private kindergartens because of better resources or facilities for their children to learn and grow. Typically, these cost much higher as they are not covered by any government subsidy. Rather, these private kindergartens are fuelled by market demand for their services rendered to more well-off parents.

Typically, the cost of these private kindergartens ranges anywhere from $2000 to even $3000 plus, depending on the status of the school (i.e. a Montessori kindergarten can come close to $3000, depending on the materials used and other miscellaneous fees added together.).

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How To Plan For Your Child's Education Costs In Singapore (1/2)

Primary Schools

While primary schools may be a sticky topic thanks to recent issues that the education minister raised, for Singapore citizens it is relatively straightforward: for normal neighbourhood schools (i.e. public schools), there is no monthly fee to pay for school, save the miscellaneous fees (which amounts to about $6.50 per month)

Of course, while this is pretty good news for most parents (actually, which parent will object to an almost free education?), one must not forget that in addition to entering the primary schools, the current competition between the children is massive; many are currently attending tuition after class, some are taking piano or violin lessons outside, etc.

While the piano, violin and guitar classes can be classified as optional, tuition can be considered almost mandatory, simply due to the fact that most students are already getting tuition lessons. The truth is – tuition centres and after school learning has become necessary for most children today.

Tuition centre fees don’t come cheap either – they range anywhere from $30 to $50 or more. This pricing is for primary school students only. As your child enters secondary school, it gets pricier. So, if your primary school child is being tutored, be prepared to set back at least $500 to $800 in fees monthly for tuition (this is based on 4 subjects with 1-hour time slots per week every week).

There are also the more elite primary schools that offer a Gifted Education Programme (GEP) but only if a student actually passes the extremely difficult test (for their age) and be accepted into the programme.

Again, with an elite primary school, the stress is a lot more considerable as when compared to the normal government schools. As such, tuition fees will also rise significantly if your child is unable to cope with self-studying. Also, on occasion, these elite schools have your child learn an instrument as part of the curriculum. This would also incur more fees and costs of raising your child in a more stressful (yet elite) background.

When your child has cleared the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), he or she will be posted to a secondary school. Once again, government secondary schools have very low fees per month – $5 monthly, plus about another $10 monthly for miscellaneous fees.
How To Plan For Your Child's Education Costs In Singapore (1/2)

Secondary Schools

However, in the realm of secondary schools, it gets a little different: The elite secondary schools like Raffles Institution (RI), Anglo-Chinese school (ACS – both Barker Road and Independent), and Hwa Chong Institution are considered non-government and partially independent. Those school fees per month for these schools are significantly higher than any government school (typically it is around $300 across the board for these schools).

If your child is able to get into these schools, it means that your child is academically quite strong. Congrats! But the added stress of being in an elite school also has its downsides – a significantly higher amount of peer pressure to excel in both academic and non-academic areas, having a diverse portfolio of volunteer work or community work, amongst others. This can have a rather significant effect on any child who is undergoing puberty and hormonal changes in their lives.

Of course, for those who decide to enter the more humble government schools, the stress of excelling is usually a lot less apparent, and the students are more free to pursue their hobbies and desires as they please. At least there is a little more time for these students to explore themselves as they mature into young adults.

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Typically the stress usually comes from the student’s self-motivation to succeed and secure a place in the polytechnics or junior colleges. As such, to match up to the elite school students, these students usually take tuition externally (as with in primary school) to bridge the gap for their O-Level examinations.

The parents of students from these schools often end up paying a little more than the elite school fees due to the increase in the price of tuition, as well as having many more classes to take. As a comparison, primary schools typically have 4 classes: English, Mathematics, Science and the mother tongue of the child (or five if you include higher mother tongue) Secondary school students take up to a maximum of 12 classes if they are able to cope.

These are: English, Elementary Mathematics, Advanced Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Geography, History, Social Studies, Literature, mother tongue and higher mother tongue. Yes, it is pretty insane. What would be more insane is: if your child were to take the maximum of 12 classes, what would the tuition fee costs be?

How To Plan For Your Child's Education Costs In Singapore (1/2)

It could be driven up to $1000, or even more than that. So this would be a pretty important sticking point. Of course, you can choose not to enrol your child in every single class, but this would be a relatively more accurate description of the fees and costs that can be incurred when raising a child through such an academically driven system.

That said, having a child in an elite school doesn’t necessarily mean that tuition won’t be necessary. While the resources of such schools are not inconsiderable, there are a sizeable amount of students within each cohort and only a limited number of teachers and tutors available at any given time. The only logical solution to that would have a private tutor for help, or to enter a tuition centre as above.

Prices would also vary accordingly, so this is also an important point to note: just because your child enters an elite school does not mean that tuition is rendered moot. Sometimes, your child may need that little extra push to excel further!

Education Costs In Singapore For Permanent Residents (PRs)

For Singaporean PRs, all the same opportunities are available to them as well. The key difference between them is mostly in terms of price.

For preschool and kindergarten education, PRs receive fewer subsidies: PRs will pay $765 instead of $617.90 (citizens) for preschool fees, and $1530 instead of $1235 for infant care.

The trend continues as well for PR children in primary and secondary school. For primary school, it is not free: rather, a fee of $110 plus a miscellaneous fee of $6.50 per month applies to children born to PRs in Singapore. That is a very steep increase in fees and costs (this is, in part, due to the fact that the Singapore government wants the PRs to be naturalised Singapore citizens, and what better way to entice eligible PRs into a citizenship than a free or deeply subsidised education for their children?) This is NOT even taking into account any possible external tuition centre fees or private tutor costs yet. The monetary strain would definitely weigh a lot heavier on the PR parents.

It gets even worse when the PR family’s children reach the secondary school level: there is also less subsidies from both government and elite schools. The government secondary schools goes up to $160 plus $10 per month, and for the elite schools, fees are raised typically by $150, which makes the monthly fees hit around $450. It can be seen that PRs are a little less favoured by the education system in Singapore (Yes, it means us Singaporeans really shouldn’t complain all that much!)

If you, dear reader are a PR in Singapore and considering having a family here, it would be very wise if you were to be naturalised to cut down all these unnecessary costs to your budget. Plus, it would also be easier for you to obtain a government subsidised flat (HDB flats)

How To Plan For Your Child's Education Costs In Singapore (1/2)

Education Costs In Singapore For Foreigners or International Students

It is interesting to note that there are two classes of foreigners – the ASEAN and non-ASEAN students. ASEAN students are those that come from South East Asia (i.e. Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Thailand etc.). The non-ASEAN students are basically students from everywhere else that isn’t in SEA.

The distinction between the ASEAN and non-ASEAN students is simple – ASEAN students pay a little less to study here compared to the non-ASEAN students. However, even ASEAN foreigners pay a very significant sum just to study here: Preschool costs would set them back close to $1000, primary school level fees would cost them $370 + misc. fees, secondary school would cost them $550 + misc. fees. It just gets worse for the non-ASEAN families who wish to study here.

It would be wise to set aside a fair amount of money to ensure that you’ll always have more than enough to raise your child and send them for tuition if necessary. Typically, having about 3 months extra money would be more than sufficient (so for example, if your child is in kindergarten, it would be good to have at least about $5000 in storage to be able to pay off the fees in case the economy decides to take a downswing and put everyone out of a job).

Stay tuned for post-secondary options: Junior college, polytechnics, and of course the coveted university spots.

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Anna Haotanto is passionate about finance, education, women empowerment and children’s issues. Anna has been featured in CNBC, Forbes, The Straits Times, Business Insider, INC and The Peak Singapore. She was nominated and selected for FORTUNE Most Powerful Women conference in 2016 (Asia) and 2015 (San Francisco, Next Gen). Anna has 10 years of experience in the financial sector and is currently a Director in Tera Capital. Her previous work experience includes positions at Citigroup, United Overseas Bank, a regional role in Business Monitor and a boutique private equity firm based in Shanghai. She graduated from Singapore Management University (Finance and Quantitative Finance).