Public education at the primary and secondary levels in Singapore is almost entirely financed by the government from the general revenues. Families need to pay a nominal amount of school fees. The government offers a range of educational subsidies and grants available in mainstream and special education schools.
With the aim of maximising opportunities for all Singapore Citizen students, the Education Endowment and Savings Schemes Act (CAP 87A) was enacted in January 1993 and established the Education Endowment Scheme, commonly known as the Edusave Scheme. Under the Scheme, the Edusave Endowment Fund, a transfer of funds from the Government’s Consolidated Revenue Account, and Edusave Pupils Fund were established. An Edusave Pupils Fund account, commonly known as the Edusave Account, is opened automatically for each eligible Singapore Citizen child, to pay for approved miscellaneous fees and school-based programme charges. In January 2008, the Act was amended to incorporate the Post-Secondary Education Scheme to promote savings for post-secondary education.
While preschool education is not mandated by law, the Ministry of Education (MOE) runs a small number of kindergartens and government provides funding support to selected preschool operators under the Anchor Operator (AOP) and Partner Operator (POP) schemes. These supported preschools make up about 50% of the total number of preschool places.
Edusave Grants of Edusave Endowment Fund
All Government and Government-aided schools including government-supported special education schools receive annual Edusave grants for enhancing the quality of teaching and learning or purchase additional resources that benefit students. Grants are disbursed at rates based on enrolment and the academic level of the students (SGD 50 per student for primary level, SGD 90 for secondary level, SGD120 for pre-university level and SGD100 for the Institute of Technical Education in 2018).
Opportunity Fund Grants of Edusave Endowment Fund have been given to all the Government-supported schools including specialized and government-supported special education schools. The schools and institutions use the grants to level up co-curricular development opportunities for Singapore Citizen students from low-income households.
Young children attending preschool (age 0 - 6)
All Singapore Citizen children receive a universal Basic Subsidy of up to SGD 600 for full day infant care and up to SGD300 for full day childcare. Families with working mothers and gross monthly household income of SGD12,000 and below are eligible for an Additional Subsidy.
The Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme is also available to families with Singapore Citizen children attending kindergartens run by Anchor Operators or MOE and with gross monthly household income of SGD12,000 and below, with lower income families receiving more.
Children under the age of 7 with developmental needs can receive intervention through Government-funded Early Intervention (EI) programmes in a preschool setting. As of 2019, the DS-LS programmes have been rolled out to more than 500 preschools. one of the EI programmes The base subsidy for EIPIC is SG$500 (US$357) and the additional subsidies based on income include persons up to the 80th income percentile.
Edusave Pupils Fund account (Edusave account) of Edusave Endowment Fund
All Singaporean children aged 7 to 16 (in MOE-funded schools, madrasahs, privately-funded schools, as well home-schooled or residing overseas) are given an Edusave account and receive an annual Edusave contribution. This Edusave contribution is given over and above the government subsidy on public education.
The amounts of Edusave annual contributions for 2019 are SG$230 (US$169) for primary and SG$290 (US$213) for secondary per student. Those aged 7 to 12 receive the quantum applicable to primary level students, and those aged 13 to 16 receive the quantum applicable to secondary level students. During the fiscal year 2017, contributions were paid into the Edusave accounts of 380,027 children. The total contributions amounted to SG$82 million (US$60 million). The students in MOE-funded schools, including Special Education (SPED) schools, may use their Edusave account For MOE-funded non-SPED secondary schools, Singapore Citizen students have to pay school fees between SG$25 and SG$47 per month. Singapore Citizen children not studying in MOE-funded schools can also use their Edusave accounts to pay for approved programme charges.
Financial assistance for students from disadvantaged backgrounds
With the government heavily subsidising the cost of education, Singapore citizen students from primary to pre-university levels pay fees that are only a small fraction of the cost of education. Nevertheless, for those who need further assistance on top of the government subsidy, they can receive additional financial help on remaining fees payable and other school expenses. They include:
- MOE Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS): This scheme provides assistance to students in the government, government-aided schools and specialised schools. FAS is granted if a student’s household has a monthly gross household income of SG$2,750 or less; or a monthly per capita household income of SG$690 or less. Benefits include waivers of school and standard miscellaneous fees, free textbooks and school attire, transport and school meal subsidies. In 2018, the income eligibility cap for MOE Financial Assistance was raised by about 10%. FAS is funded through government funds.
- SPED FAS and Discretionary Financial Assistance (DFA): SPED FAS is granted to Singapore Citizens in MOE-funded SPED schools if a student’s household has a monthly gross household income not exceeding SG$2,750; or a monthly per capita household income not exceeding SG$690. Benefits include waiver of school fees, free textbooks and uniforms. SPED FAS students are also provided with school meals and for those who take public transport to schools, they are provided with public transport subsidy.
- MOE Independent School Bursary Scheme: This scheme provides fee assistance to students in the independent and specialised independent schools whose gross monthly household income is SG$9,000 or less or gross monthly per capita household income is SG$2,250 or less. Subsidies are differentiated by income groups.
- UPLIFT Scholarship: Provided to students in independent schools from families with gross monthly household income of up to SG$2,750 or gross monthly household per capita income of up to SG$690. The scholarship provides cash award of SG$800 per annum.
Students with Special Educational Needs (SEN) in schools and Institutes of Higher Learning
In mainstream schools, most specialised support programmes and services are provided to students with SEN at no additional cost and help students tap on available assistance schemes as needed.
The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) started the KidSTART programme in 2016 to provide support low-income families for child development. Currently, over 1,000 children are receiving support, which could include home visits, supported playgroups and enhanced support at selected pre-schools to families on KidSTART.
The Home Ownership plus Education (HOPE) Scheme aims to uplift young, low-income parent(s) to improve their financial and social situation for their children. The scheme offers annual education bursaries of SGD500 to SGD3,000 (US$357 – US$2,143) for each child attending pre-school to university to help pay for their educational expenses. The bursaries include savings to be provided into the child’s Child Development Account (CDA) and Post-Secondary Education Account (PSEA) for their future educational needs.
Supporting families with child-raising expenses
Families of Singapore Citizen children can use their Child Development Account (CDA) monies to pay for approved child-raising expenses, such as for preschool, early intervention, and healthcare. All Singapore Citizen children receive a SGD3,000 CDA First Step grant, which does not require any initial deposits from parents. Parents can double their savings when they save into the CDA, as the Government will provide dollar-to-dollar matching contributions, up to the child’s eligible contribution cap.