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2015 guide to Singapore local schools Primary One Registration Exercise for expat kids

By: Michelle Wonderland

In 2014, Singapore’s schools standards topped worldwide science and maths rankings, making our city-state one of the most sought after education hubs on the planet. As offers of full expat packages decline and the cost of living in Singapore continues to soar, many expats are seeking a coveted spot in Singapore local schools. Although the Primary One Registration Exercise may seem confusing at first glance, we’ve sorted through the steps and have done the research for you. Read on for our tips for expats on how to enroll your child in Singapore local schools.

Know your enrollment phase
The key to figuring out when to apply for Singapore local primary schools is to know what enrollment phase you fall into. Most expats fall under Phase 3, whereas Singapore Permanent Residents fall under similar phases to Singapore Citizens.  What this means is that expats other than PRs are the last phase considered in Singapore local primary schools enrollment. EPs (employment pass holders), DPs (dependent pass holders) and LTVP (long term visit pass holders) are not guaranteed a space in Singapore local primary schools, whereas PRs (permanent residents) will be guaranteed a space during that year’s primary schools enrollment period.

Choose a Primary school in Singapore
Whether your preference is choice of Mother Tongue language, location to home, past year’s PSLE scores, amount of homework given, choice of CCAs, religious school foundation, or academic subject focus, you’ll need to figure out where you’d like to enroll your children. When you’ve narrowed down your choices, look at the previous year’s acceptance rates for your enrollment phase, as this will be the best determining factor to where to focus your energy. Determine your first choice, and have a few “safety” schools in your back pocket if you don’t get a spot at your first option.

[ Read our story on this expat teen’s local school experience in Singapore ]

Schedule a school visit
Get a glimpse of where your young ’uns could spend their next six years by booking a school visit to your school of choice. Take a look at the facilities, the classrooms and teachers, and the school’s accomplishments to help familiarize yourself with the environment your child will spend their formative educational years.

Apply to volunteer (PRs only)
Many upper-tier Singapore local primary schools have a keenly competitive enrollment system. If you’re a Permanent Resident, you can opt to volunteer at your school of choice, earning priority status in an enrollment phase once your child is eligible for enrollment. Note that volunteer schemes usually begin when your child is 3- and 4-years-old, and volunteer hours must be completed usually 1.5 years ahead of enrolling in your Singapore local primary school of choice.

Chat with other expats with children enrolled in Singapore local schools
While many expats choose the international schools system for their education needs, there is a community of expat parents in Singapore that have already gone through the steps to earn a coveted space in Singapore local primary school. Reach out to these parents via various groups such as Singapore Expats in Local Schools and Kiasu Parents

[ Read our article on Four Education Options for Expats ]

Registration Day
Congratulations, now the day has arrived! Register at your school of choice on the date your enrollment phase opens, with all forms in hand (passport, vaccination records, visa pass, school records, etc.) Registration begins from 8:00 am to 11:00 am, and from 2:30pm to 4:30pm on the scheduled registration day. PRs also have the benefit of online enrollment for Phase 2C. In 2015, all foreigners in Phase 3 vie for their space on Thursday, August 27, with results acknowledged by November 30, 2015.

Get as much support as you can
Now that you have a spot, you can sit back and rest easy, right? Well, you might want to reach out to others who have already gone through the process, gaining advice from their own experience. Read up on factors such as school stress, check out supportive tuition centres and enrichment programs, and look into hiring afterschool tutors to help your little nugget shine in their new schools environment!

Balloting and appeals
If at first you don’t get a spot at your school of choice, there are options. PRs in any part of Phase 2 can opt to try again during one of the subsequent enrollment periods. Unfortunately, Phase 3 applicants have fewer choices. Phase 3 parents who didn’t get into their school of choice should consider international school or home school. Look to Sarah Bowler at JSJ Consulting or ITS Education Singapore for advice and support in schooling options.

[ Check out our tips on how to choose the right international school in Singapore ]

Consider Homeschooling
If Primary One enrollment in Singapore local schools didn’t quite go the way you’d hoped, you’re not alone! Form a collective and consider homeschooling. Reach out to expat parents in the same situation as you to set up a temporary solution, following the Singapore Primary schools curriculum set by MOE (Singapore Ministry of Education). You can usually find these books at Popular bookstores across Singapore.

Did you know?
Singapore’s Ministry of Education have their own YouTube Channel? Check out their ‘My School’ Series – Primary for highlights of some of Singapore’s primary schools.



Michelle is the Regional Online Editor for Expat Living Singapore, EX Magazine, Expat Living Hong Kong and LIV. A self-proclaimed Tiger Mom who is currently spending a month in Shanghai, China so that her six-year-old daughter is forced to speak only Chinese all summer at a Mandarin language immersion camp, Michelle has been on both sides of the educational system in Singapore, enrolling her daughter at both international school and local school.