Compulsory Education


Compulsory Education (CE) was implemented in Singapore in 2003. The first cohort of pupils coming under CE are Singapore Citizen children born between 2nd January 1996 and 1st January 1997 who are residing in Singapore.

The two key objectives of CE are to give our children:

  • A common core of knowledge which will provide a strong foundation for further education and training to prepare them for a knowledge-based economy; and
  • A common educational experience which will help to build national identity and cohesion.


Singapore has achieved almost universal education at the primary and the secondary levels through years of effort. Today, children who are not enrolled in national schools form only a small percentage of the cohort. The Government is however concerned that they are not being equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to be productive citizens in a knowledge-based economy. Hence, the Committee on Compulsory Education in Singapore (CCES) was formed in December 1999 to review whether compulsory education should be introduced in Singapore, and if so, the form and duration it should take.

CCES completed its work and presented its report (352kb .pdf) to the Minister for Education. The key recommendations are summarised as follows:

  • Compulsory education should be introduced.
  • Responsibility for sending children to school and ensuring that they attend school should still remain with the parents.
  • Compulsory education should be up to Primary 6 as this is considered the minimum period of education for all Singapore children.
  • Certain categories of children, e.g. those with special needs will be exempted from compulsory education.


The Compulsory Education Act (Cap 51) was passed by Parliament on 9th October 2000 and assented to by the President on 16th October 2000. It provides for compulsory primary education in Singapore and related matters.

Compulsory School Age

According to the Compulsory Education Act, a child of ‘compulsory school age’ is one who is above the age of 6 years and who has not yet attained the age of 15 years.

A child of compulsory school age born after 1st January 1996, and who is citizen of Singapore residing in Singapore, has to attend a national primary school1 as a pupil regularly, unless he/she has been exempted from compulsory education, e.g. a child with special needs, a child attending a designated school, a child receiving home-schooling, information on exemptions).


According to the Compulsory Education Act (Cap 51), where a child fails to attend regularly as a pupil at a national primary school or a designated school/be home-schooled (where exemption is granted), the parent/guardian of the child may be guilty of an offence. The penalties provided in the Act for a person convicted for the offence are a fine not exceeding $5,000, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or to both.


Enquiries can be made at:

Compulsory Education Unit
1 North Buona Vista Drive
MOE Building, Tower Block Level 15
Singapore 138675
Tel: (65) 6879 6458/9
Fax: (65) 6778 9356


  1. A ‘national primary school’ refers to an institution for the provision of full-time primary education2. Presently these refer to government schools and government-aided schools.?
  2. “Primary education” means a 6-year course of education normally commencing when a child has attained the age of 6 years. For instance, a child whose birth date falls between 2nd January 2007 and 1st January 2008 (both dates inclusive) would have to commence primary education at Primary 1 for the academic year commencing 1st January 2014.?