How Much Education Actually Costs In Singapore and How You Can Afford It

Raising children often represents a new form of financial stress for young parents. One of these is the cost of education, especially in a highly competitive nation like Singapore.

Long-term financial planning is essential to ensure that your family is able to handle this cost while providing the best you can for your household.

Cost of education at different points in your child’s life

Affording a quality education is expensive — experts say that one can expect to fork out up to $100,000 on a single child’s whole education journey in Singapore.

Fortunately, Singaporeans and Singapore Permanent Residents are entitled to a range of subsidies based on your eligibility and household’s income. There’s also other financial support schemes offered by the educational institutions themselves or other organisations should you require aid.

Here’s a summary of the expected education costs from preschool to tertiary education.

Preschool and kindergarten

The early stages of your child’s education are particularly crucial because the environments that they are exposed to exert significant influence on their development.

Singapore offers a variety of early childhood education options. These can be generalised into government and private childcare, with the former being a more affordable option.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but neither outweigh the other — it all depends on your personal preference (e.g., location, income, type of care or curriculum offered).

Consider the school’s history, facilities and what you hope to achieve from enrolling your child there, to aid you in making a decision. Let’s begin with government facilities.

Government childcare costs

Government childcare centres offer a larger classroom setting with standard school facilities.

The cost generally depends on your child’s age upon enrolment and the services you require from them. For Sparkletots, the price also varies based on the branch.

Below are the pre-subsidised price ranges for the top three childcare centres on the island. Feel free to visit the linked websites of each centre to learn more:

Childcare centreFees range per month
PAP Community Foundation (PCF) – SparkletotsChildcare:

  • For infants: $1,364.20-$2,046.30
  • For children: $770.40-$1,155.60

Kindergarten: $171.20-$342.40

MOE Kindergarten (K1 and K2 only) 4-hour programme$160 for Singaporeans and $320 for Singapore PRs
NTUC My First Skool For infants: $1,364.25-$2,046.38

For toddlers, playgroup, nursery and kindergarten: $770.40-$1,155.60

Keep in mind that these fees do not include miscellaneous fees for registration, annual insurance and uniforms.

Private childcare costs

While private childcare is more expensive, parents may choose to register their children at such schools for different reasons like a smaller student-to-teacher ratio or the specific methodology some private centres use to teach their kids.

On average, private childcare fees range from $1,000 to over $3,000 each month, depending on the school. Some full-time private childcare centres in Singapore include Mindchamps, Odyssey, Pat’s Schoolhouse, House on the Hill and EtonHouse.

Primary School

The next stages in your child’s learning journey will be primary, followed by secondary school.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) has made it compulsory for all Singapore citizens to complete their primary school education unless granted an exemption. Hence, you’ll have to start considering your child’s school fees in your annual expenses.

Luckily, primary and secondary school education in Singapore is heavily subsidised. In fact, primary school is free for Singapore citizens. You’ll only have to pay miscellaneous fees which schools use to maintain their facilities. Normally, such extra fees are estimated to rack up to $13 a month.

For Singapore Permanent Residents (PR), primary school costs about $205 per month. Foreigners, on the other hand, have to pay a little more — $465 a month for international students from ASEAN countries and $750 a month for their non-ASEAN counterparts (as of 2020).

Besides these, don’t forget other costs such as textbooks, uniforms and other school necessities.

Secondary School

Again, how much you’ll have to pay for secondary education depends on your child’s nationality and the type of school they’re attending.

In general, government secondary schools cost $5 per month for Singapore citizens. For Singapore PRs, it costs $380 per month (as of 2020).

Aside from your usual government, government-aided and independent schools, there’s also autonomous, special assistance plan (SAP), specialised independent (SIS) and specialised schools:

  • Autonomous schools: Follow the national curriculum but offer more programmes to further hone your child’s talents and development. Students who study there are subject to paying extra Autonomous School (AS) fees of $3 to $18 a month.
  • SAP schools: Aim to nurture bilingual and bicultural students who appreciate the Chinese culture and harbour a global outlook.
  • Specialised independent schools (SIS): Offer unique curriculum structures for students with a flare for Mathematics and Science, Sports, the Arts and applied learning.
  • Specialised schools: Provide tailored programmes for students who are inclined towards hands-on and practical learning.

If you’re interested to find out more about the monthly fees for the other categories of schools, try out the MOE website which has an easy-to-use calculator pertaining to such fees.

Additionally, to further support needy families and encourage students to work hard, MOE also provides a slew of financial aid schemes and bursaries at all levels of primary and secondary education. So, you and your child are all set!

Pre-University Education

After finishing secondary school, your child will move onto pre-university education. Here, people generally choose between attending a junior college (JC), polytechnic or Institute of Technical Education (ITE).

Junior College (JC)

The junior college route offers a faster way to university, and similar to secondary schools, such institutions can be loosely divided into government and independent schools.

Singapore citizens who attend government schools can expect to pay about $6 per month while PRs, about $460 a month. International kids from ASEAN countries and non-ASEAN countries will pay around $1,050 and $1,750 a month respectively.

In the case of independent schools, fees vary but average to about $300 to $450 a month for Singaporeans and $600 to $950 a month for PRs. International students will be charged around $1,200 to up to $2,500 a month.

Examples of independent schools are Anglo Chinese Independent, Hwa Chong Institution and Raffles Institution, all of which offer the Integrated Programme (IP) or the IB Diploma Programme (IBDP). Do check out the individual schools’ websites for a more accurate cost breakdown.

Polytechnic

If your child is keen on pursuing a diploma after their secondary studies, they’ll likely be attending one of the five local polytechnics.

The polytechnic route, however, may be your first encounter with potentially shocking numbers.

Hence, Singaporeans, PRs and foreigners alike are welcome to apply for the tuition grant scheme to bolster their polytechnic education. However, if you and your child are PRs or foreigners, taking up the grant would mean that your child will be bonded to work in Singapore for three years after their graduation.

The fees for each polytechnic in Singapore are standardised. Here are the annual fees for the different nationalities:

  • Singapore citizen: $2,900
  • Singapore PR: $5,800
  • International students: $10,400

Institute of Technical Education (ITE)

ITE schools offer over 90 full-time courses to potential students. These students can choose between the NITEC and Higher NITEC tracks, with the durations of study ranging from two to three years long.

The table below summarises the monthly expected fees of ITE students in the respective tracks:

NationalityCost per year
Singapore citizen
  • NITEC: $426
  • Higher NITEC: $626
Singapore PR
  • NITEC: $5,328
  • Higher NITEC: $7,3838
International student
  • NITEC: $14,370
  • Higher NITEC: $20,480

Source: ITE.sg 

As usual, the above mentioned fees for all post-secondary tracks are not inclusive of other miscellaneous fees that may be incurred during your child’s school life. Hence, forward-looking and thorough planning is required should you wish to stay on your toes about your expenditures on your child’s education.

Tertiary Institutions

If a student wishes to obtain a degree next, they’ll be moving on to the tertiary phase of their education.

Here, they can choose between local public and private universities as well as overseas equivalents. Hence, the costs may vary according to your child’s future preferences in terms of school and course of study.

Courses like law, dentistry and medicine cost significantly higher than say, the social sciences or business.

You can also keep in mind that for local public universities, Singapore citizens will naturally qualify for the MOE Tuition Grant Scheme, hence making them a slightly cheaper option than overseas courses.

As parents, you can also opt to pay for your child’s university education via the CPF Education Scheme. That is, if your child is studying at a local university. Among all the education loans available locally, the CPF Education Scheme presents the lowest interest rates.

As a general guideline, here’s a summary of the estimated annual fees for a Singaporean student attending a local public university (excludes medicine, dentistry and law):

  • National University of Singapore (NUS): $8,200 – $9,600
  • Nanyang Technological University (NTU): $8,200 – $9,400
  • Singapore Management University (SMU): $11,450
  • Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD): $13,300
  • Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS): Varies greatly based on age and course
  • Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT): Varies greatly based on age and course

On top of these academic costs, you’ll also have to think about accommodation prices (if your child will stay on campus) as well as other transportation and living fees.

Tip: Cultivating good financial literacy in your child from a young age can help ease the expensive costs of university and teach them important life skills.

For example, pre-U and university students often have part-time jobs or internships so that they can shoulder miscellaneous fees by themselves. This teaches them financial responsibility and lets them familiarise themselves with the real working world.

Of course, every parent has their own expectations and parenting style. Hence, if you’d prefer to fully fund your child’s tertiary school life so that they can study a little more worry-free, that’s perfectly okay too!

Private and overseas education options

From international schools which operate in Singapore to universities located around the globe, there’s countless overseas education opportunities for your child at various stages in their education.

However, international alternatives for the earlier stages of education are costly as they’re not backed by government subsidies. This makes them an uncommon choice among Singaporean parents for their young kids.

More often, it is tertiary students and adults instead who enrol themselves at higher education private institutes to further their studies and get a diploma or degree. Private institutes like MDIS, Kaplan and Curtin Singapore offer courses locally and the annual fees vary greatly from $20,000 a course to $60,000.

Conversely, if you plan on sending your child to overseas universities, you’ll have to check out the schools’ official websites for a clearer picture of your expected expenditure. You can also do more research or drop the schools an email to discover if they offer any scholarships or financial aid to their international students.

Tuition and extracurricular programmes

If you grew up studying here, you probably know how competitive and rigorous Singapore’s education landscape is. Most Asian parents value a somewhat holistic education. Hence, scrambling to secure a position in a coveted tuition centre and signing up for various enrichment classes are commonplace in Singaporean culture.

But tuition for academic purposes in Singapore is costly, increasing in price based on your child’s education level, the subject to be taught as well as the tutors you choose to engage with.

Whether it is private tutors or tuition centres, they vary in the frequency of their lessons as well. This factor will also affect the total amount you have to pay for their services each month.

Usually, tuition rates for primary school children amount to $20-70 an hour and for secondary school students, $25-90 an hour. For higher level students in JC or IB, the tuition fee range is around $40-$130 an hour.

Singapore also offers a wide range of after-school enrichment classes to further hone your child’s niche talents. This could be in music, sports, ballet, the arts and more. Depending on the activity, course fees vary as well. The fees for piano lessons, for example, can be calculated by hour or number of lessons and can range from $25 to over $100 an hour based on the lesson provider.

Hence, if you’d like to invest in extracurricular programmes to support your child’s development, you’ll have to be ready to set aside even more funds to afford them.

When should you start saving and how?

Now that we’ve mapped out a typical Singaporean child’s education pathway and its estimated total costs, you’re probably wondering or even worrying about how you might go about affording it.

Many Singaporean parents tend to make the mistake of keeping the financial planning of their child’s education on the back burner, choosing to focus on other seemingly more urgent demands like the cost of daily necessities, car loans and more.

This often results in the child having to take up numerous education loans, especially for their hefty university fees. This in turn places an additional burden on the parent and child’s future fiscal positions.

Start saving as early as possible and be realistic. 

The secret to avoid this would be to start saving as early as possible and be realistic.

We all know that education costs are rising and in twenty years down the road, you can only expect it to be even higher than it is today.

Try to set a rational end goal for your child’s education fund and move towards it at your own pace, with discipline. Remember, the road to financial security is different for everyone. But the earlier you start, the smoother it will be.

To encourage a debt-free pursuit of education, you can start with investments, insurance and savings plans. These are most popular products in the market that parents these days are turning to in regards to affording their child’s education in Singapore.

As with any financial portfolio, diversifying your assets is recommended. So, start looking into the various insurance policies, savings, investment and endowment plans that align with your predicted financial needs for your child’s education and see how you can effectively combine them.

Read more: Our companion article on how to seamlessly plan for your child’s future education with investing. 

Financial support available

The Singapore education system also offers a diverse selection of monetary aid to students who need them based on eligibility.

Do note, though, that most scholarships and loans offered to local students will be more relevant to your child’s tertiary education instead of their early education.

Below are the various kinds of financial assistance available to Singapore citizens:

1. MOE’s Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS)

Singapore Citizens who fall within a certain income bracket can apply for this scheme. All you’ll need to do is to submit the application form which can be obtained from your child’s school or downloaded via MOE’s web portal.

The funds provided by MOE’s FAS will cover all miscellaneous fees as well as other schooling costs like uniforms, school shoes and transportation.

2. Edusave scholarships and bursaries

MOE also rewards Singaporean students who have performed well academically and/or shown excellence in their character.

Compared to FAS, the eligibility bracket is wider for Edusave scholarships and bursaries. Thus, most middle-income students will be entitled to receive them.

No application is required for this particular monetary aid and recipients are typically informed of their awards at the end of the year.

3. Tuition grant

As mentioned earlier, the tertiary education costs of all Singaporean students will be automatically subsidised by the tuition grant scheme. There is no need to apply for the scheme if your child is a Singapore student.

On the other hand, Singapore PRs and international students are welcomed to apply for the grant but upon approval, they’ll be bonded to work in Singapore for three years after they graduate.

4. Internal and External scholarships and bursaries

Students who have shown potential in their studies, leadership and extracurricular activities can also apply for various scholarships offered internally by their schools or by external organisations like companies, self-help groups or financial institutions.

Aside from schools’ financial assistance portals, Brightsparks is a great platform to get connected with local sponsoring organisations and apply for their seasonal scholarships.

Overall, encouraging your child to healthily develop their personal interests and getting them to appreciate volunteer work can help build up their future scholarship portfolio.

5. Study loans

There are also a slew of education loans offered by banks and universities in Singapore.

But do be cautioned to do your research and only take up the loans your child will really need. This is because over-applying for loans can cause you and your child to be buried in debt.

Before signing the loan agreements, you should take note of the repayment schedules and be very familiar with you and your child’s predicted financial capabilities, so as to avoid penalties and poor credit scores should you fail to pay up on time.

Hence, to steer clear of more stress, study loans should ideally be the last resort when it comes to funding your child’s education.

Caring for children requires maturity and courage to face unfamiliar challenges. But, while daunting at first, it can prove highly rewarding. It’s time to start investing meaningfully into your shared future.

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