Blog Parents Key Decisions Local vs International Schools in Singapore: Pros and Cons

Local vs International Schools in Singapore: Pros and Cons

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Nowadays, international schools in Singapore are becoming very popular and offer something different to students. International schools promise a well-rounded and global education local schools could not offer easily, causing parents to prefer it for their children.

However, international schools can be very daunting considering the differences it has with local schools and the fees that has to be paid for unless you have deep pockets. I know for a fact that expensive schools are not a guarantee it is the right school for our child.

So, what exactly are the pros and cons of enrolling your child in an international school in contrast to local schools?

#1 Mingling with fellow foreign children

I remember during my schooling days, making friends is my top priority. Nothing beats going to school with my best buddy.

For expats who want their children to stay connected with their fellow peers, going for international schools are the way to go. The student population of international schools are a variety so your child will feel right at home even if they are in a foreign land.

However, kids in international schools will return to their home country or have a higher tendency to move to other countries after a while, making it harder to form lasting friendships.

In local schools, it is rare to see foreign children enrolled in them unless the family decided to stay in Singapore permanently. With local schools, it is easier for expatriate students to learn multiple cultures and pick up different languages from their host country. Admission is so much harder for foreigners!

Some international schools do have local students in their roster, but it is rare considering the fees and admission criteria of these schools.

#2 Hefty School Fees Vs. Affordable School Fees

School fees is a major factor that differentiates both local and international schools. Local primary school fees often start from $13 per month and may reach up to $650 per month for foreigners. The fees are expected to rise in the next few years and it may vary depending on the school.

International school fees vary depending on the school and the curriculum it follows, but it can start from $13,000 to $47,000. It will even come with additional one-time fees like application and registration fees.

International schools also come with their own fee structure, which changes as your child moves up another level.

So unless you have school fees worked into your relocation package, you may want to think hard on the choice of school. It can be rather drastic if you have to pull your child out of school due to the heavy financial burden.

#3 Different School Calendar and Holidays

The school calendar and the holidays followed by international schools and local schools vary. For local schools, they follow a fixed calendar set by the Ministry of Education and it does not change drastically in the middle of the school year. School holidays are March, June, September and December.

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International schools, meanwhile, have different school calendars depending on what curriculum they follow. For example, if they follow the American curriculum, school starts either in August or September. The IB program also follows a September school opening.

This will mean that children going to Singapore international schools will probably match up with summer and winter holidays that allows the expatriate parents to travel to their home countries for a longer period.

With expensive air fare, it is only wise to travel once a year but stay in your home country for a month or two for extended family bonding.

#4 Different School Curriculum

All local schools in the country follow the same curriculum set by the Ministry of Education. This means that all the subjects local schools offer is the same regardless of what the student’s chosen field will be or where they are located.

International schools, meanwhile, have a more flexible curriculum depending on where you wish your child to study in the future or what fields they wish to focus on.

Some international schools can focus on vocational courses, while others offer country-specific education. This is crucial if you are thinking of repatriate eventually and it will be easier to relocate to a school with a similar system back home.

#5 Stress Levels

School work is another sticking point when it comes to deciding if your child should go to a local school or an international school.

Local schools tend to have a very rigorous system, filled with crucial exams like the PSLE, N levels and their O levels. Failing one of these critical exams would push the child further from graduating early and can pressure students to do well. I have seen too many of such examples where students are overwhelmed and overload.

Mathematics and the sciences are also given immense focus by local schools. Some parents even go for these schools because the framework of the school may help their children become disciplined.

International schools also have a rigorous curriculum that may challenge students, especially if it will come with hard subjects like languages. International schools are also competitive, especially for admissions.

However, once students manage to get accepted, the curriculum of international schools are flexible and students can select the subjects they wish to focus on.

As a result, students can relax and study what they love without worrying about their course work.

That’s good news to the kids!

#6 Language

If you like your child to learn new languages, local and international schools do offer second language options.

Local schools offer a variety of second languages to choose from; like Chinese, Hindi, Tamil and Malay. However, the non-language subjects will be taught in English.

International schools, on the other hand, can help students become proficient in their secondary language of choice. These schools are also perfect to help your child gain native fluency in English, French, German and many others.

That way your child can easily integrate into a school in your home country should you ever go back for good, and not have to struggle in their native language.

#7 Culture

In terms of culture, local schools are better if your child will remain in Singapore. Local schools often have social studies classes that would help children understand the local culture, tradition and history of the country.

International schools, on the other hand, tend to focus on a global scale. As a result, students will be more inclined to foreign cultures rather than their own heritage. It can get all over the place and confusing for kids.


There is no right or wrong school system for our kids because each child will respond differently when placed in a new environment. It is up to us parents to help our children prepare for the future and pick the school we believe would help them.

Rum Tan

Rum Tan is the founder of SmileTutor and he believes that every child deserves a smile. Motivated by this belief and passion, he works hard day & night with his team to maintain the most trustworthy source of home tutors in Singapore. In his free time, he writes articles hoping to educate, enlighten, and empower parents, students, and tutors. You may try out his free home tutoring services via or by calling 6266 4475 directly today.