Benjamin Franklin once said, “Investment in knowledge pays the best interest”. Although Benjamin Franklin lived in the 18th century, his words are still relevant today.
However, the total cost of investing in knowledge would look quite different in the 21st century.
How much should a parent expect to pay for one child’s education journey from preschool all the way to university?
We take a closer look at the true cost of education in Singapore in 2021, for both public (government schools, unless otherwise stated) and private schools (including international schools).
The Education System in Singapore
In Singapore, education is treated as a basic right that all children are entitled to, regardless of their social class.
The government goes to great lengths to ensure that all children are able to receive an education in order to thrive in the world. In fact, all parents are required by law to enroll their children into primary schools under the Compulsory Education Act.
Typically, this is the education journey of school-going children in Singapore.
Most of the children in Singapore go through this route. However, there might be certain variations.
For example, some children might not go to infant care or playgroup during the pre-schooling years. At the secondary school level, students can also opt to enroll in Integrated Programme (IP) schools where they do not have to sit for a national exam during their 4th year, and only take the A-Level exams in their 6th year. Others might enroll in International Schools that offer the International Bachelorette (IB) that also follows a 6-year programme. Finally, the post-secondary education route has the most variations depending on the students’ readiness levels.
Depending on your child and your family beliefs about education, you may be planning to set aside money for at least until your child’s undergraduate school fees, and/or only until they achieve a diploma at the Polytechnic level.
How do all these add up in actual figures?
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School Fees For Various Education Levels
With the increasing number of dual-income family models in Singapore, more and more Singaporean children are enrolled in preschool so that their parents can go to work in the day.
If this is a decision that you and your spouse make, be prepared to set aside a hefty sum of money for your child.
These are the school fees for the different grade levels – infant care, playgroup, and kindergarten – at the various ECDA-subsidised or private international preschools.
|Grade/Level||ECDA schools||Private schools||Average cost per month (after subsidies)|
$856 – $2,300
$1,275 – $2,700
Between $41 – $2,100
|Playgroup||$386 – $800||$1,369 – $2,300||Between $3 – $2,000|
|Kindergarten||$386 – $770||$800 – $3,008||Between $3 – $2,700|
If you have chosen to fully enroll your child in preschool since two months old, you can expect to pay a total of $818 (minimum after heavy government subsidies for low-income families) and $33,600 (infant care) + $60,000 (playgroup) + $64,800 (kindergarten) = $158,400 (high-end) for their pre-schooling years.
In comparison, if you have the means to provide caregiving to their child until they are 18 months old, you can expect to pay a total of $162 (minimum payment after heavy government subsidies for low-income families) and $124,800 (high-end) for their pre-schooling years.
The cost for preschool education is hefty. Choosing the schools wisely will help to ensure that you have enough money to pay for education in the latter years of your child’s life.
Thanks to the Compulsory Education Act, this is where many parents can heave a sigh of relief with regard to payment of school fees.
The cost is almost negligible as all Singaporean Citizens are entitled to free primary school education in Singapore. Parents will only need to pay a monthly miscellaneous fee (that goes to the school’s operating budget) of between $6.50-$13, depending on the school’s needs. You may check the school fees you are required to pay for each child on MOE’s website.
For PRs, the monthly school fees are set at $205. Miscellaneous fees are pegged at the same rate as Singaporean citizens. PRs can thus expect to pay a maximum of $218 per month. For international students, the cost for ASEAN-member students is $465, and $775 for non-ASEAN students.
The table below gives you the final sum of primary school fees for 6 years, assuming that these fees do not rise in the next few years.
|Residency Status||Monthly Fee||Total Cost for 6 years (60 months)|
|Singapore PR||$211.50-$218||$12,690 – $13,080|
Secondary schools in Singapore are split into 5 types: government schools, government-aided schools, independent schools, specialised independent schools (e.g. SOTA), and special education schools.
The amount of school fees payable depend on the type of secondary school your child is enrolled in. The table below presents the maximum monthly fee for 4 years of secondary school education. The fees for specialised independent schools and special education schools are not provided as these are dependent on the individual school themselves.
|Status||Government School [GS] (monthly fee)||Government-aided school [GAS](monthly fee)||Independent School [IS]|
|Total cost for 4 years (40 months)|
|Singaporean Citizen||$25||$43||$300-600||[GS] $1000[GAS] $1720[IS] $12,000-$24,000|
|Singapore PR||$400||$418||$600-$1000||[GS] $16,000[GAS] $16,720[IS] $24,000- $40,000|
|International (ASEAN)||$800||$818||$1000-$2500||[GS] $32,000[GAS] $32,720[IS] $40,000- $100,000|
|International (non-ASEAN)||$1470||$1488||$1000-$2500||[GS] $58,800[GAS] $59,520[IS] $40,000- $100,000|
Looking at the price difference, it might make sense for a Singaporean parent to choose government or government-aided schools for their child. The total difference in payment between these two types of schools and an international school is at a whopping $11,000. This is no small figure. Given the improving landscape of education in Singapore and the professionalisation of teachers across all schools, it would not make a huge difference to your child should you decide to enroll them in a government school. Furthermore, as our Education Ministers like to say, “Every school is a good school”.
There are 3 different routes a student can take for post-secondary education: Junior College, Polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education (ITE). These are the school fees you can expect to pay for each different route.
At the Junior College level, education is still heavily subsidised. The monthly school fees for Singaporeans are set at $6 per month, while the monthly miscellaneous fees are $13.50. Most students spend 2 years at JC (with the exception of Millenial Institute students). The table below illustrates the total cost one can expect to pay if enrolling your child in a JC in Singapore.
|Residency Status||Maximum Monthly Fee||Total Cost (18 months)|
Students at the polytechnic will graduate with a diploma. The polytechnics adopt a “cohort-based fee structure”, and the government continues to absorb the GST chargeable on tuition fees payable by Singapore Citizen students. Students at the polytechnic typically spend 3 years on their full-time diploma course. The table below illustrates the total cost one can expect to pay if your child decides on taking the Polytechnic route.
|Residency Status||Annual Fee||Total Cost (3 years)|
Institute of Technical Education (ITE)
The third route that Singapore offers is a course at ITE. Students who are more technically gifted often choose to go to ITE to be armed with technical skills that would prepare them well for their vocation. At ITE, students will pay for the fees according to the courses they choose. These range from Nitec, to Higher Nitec and a Technical Diploma in the specialised field. The figures below exemplify the various fees at ITE College Central.
|Technical Engineering Diploma||$2,900|
|Technical Diploma in Culinary Arts||$3,210|
ITE Fees for AY2021/2022
Source: Taken from MOE’s website
Nitec and Higher Nitec courses are typically 1-2 years long. This means that a Singaporean parent can expect to pay between $820-$1180 for the 2 years that the child is undergoing the Nitec certification course. This is relatively cheaper than the polytechnic courses and provides the child with the key skills required for the vocation of their choice.
|Residency Status||Annual Fee||Total Cost (2 years)|
Every parents’ hope is to be able to send their child to university and allow them to graduate with a degree that would open the doors to many opportunities. In Singapore, there are 6 local universities (NUS, NTU, SUTD, SUSS, SIT, SMU) and private universities (SIM Global) that Singaporean students can pursue further studies. Local universities are relatively cheaper when it comes to tuition fees, and the degrees are recognized across the world. Each university’s tuition fees differ and are largely dependent on these two factors: 1) Type of degree (you can expect to pay more for medicine/dentistry/law) and 2) year of enrollment (fees typically increase every year). A study of the different tuition fees in Singapore revealed the following data – parents have to set aside an average of $37,850 for a four-year general undergraduate degree.
For Singaporean citizens enrolled in local universities for AY2021/2022, the table below depicts the total estimated school fees.
|School||Annual Course Fees||Total Estimated Course Fees||Average Course Fees|
|NUS||$8,200 to $9,600||$32,800 to $38,400||$35,600|
|NTU||$8,200 to $9,400||$32,800 to $37,600||$35,200|
|SIT||–||$22,500 to $36,960||$29,730|
|SUSS||–||$30,000 to $33,440||$31,720|
|Overall||$8,200 to $13,300||$22,500 to $53,200||$37,850|
For a more detailed breakdown of the cost of university education in Singapore, please click here.
If you’re an expat in Singapore, you are likely to have heard of familiar international schools that follow the curriculum in your country of origin. Some of the more well-known international schools are the Australian International School, Lycee Francais de Singapour (The French School of Singapore) and the German European School Singapore. These schools offer education from preschool levels all the way to pre-university level. However, be prepared to pay a high fee, with no subsidy from the Singapore government. A quick look at the German European School 2021 school fees reveals the following school fees for the different grade levels. The tabulated fees do not include miscellaneous fees,
|Kindergarten||$36,910 (inclusive of entrance fee)|
Receiving an education is one of the best gifts we can give our children. However, this also means that we need to plan our finances carefully to ensure that we can meet their needs and provide them with the best opportunities as they undertake their schooling years.
For a typical Singaporean child who starts their journey at the pre-school level, and completes the GCE O and A-level courses before undertaking a four-year degree at a local university, the entire 20- year journey could cost $73,424. Thus, it is essential to plan and set aside money for school fees, and additional cash for other materials like textbooks, uniforms, school excursions, etc.