Compulsory Education


Compulsory Education (CE) was implemented in Singapore in 2003. The first cohort of pupils 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; and

  • A common educational experience which will help to build national identity and cohesion.


The Committee on Compulsory Education in Singapore (CCES) was formed in December 1999 to review whether CE 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:

  • CE should be introduced.

  • Responsibility for sending children to school and ensuring that they attend school should still remain with the parents.

  • CE should be up to a successful completion of 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 CE. [Note: With effect from the 2019 P1 cohort, children with moderate-to-severe special educational needs (SEN) will also come under the CE framework. Children with mild SEN, who are able to access education in mainstream primary schools, are already covered under CE.]


The CE 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 CE 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 a citizen of Singapore and residing in Singapore, has to regularly attend a national primary school as a pupil. A ‘national primary school’ refers to an institution for the provision of full-time primary education. Presently, this term refers to government schools and government-aided schools. The requirement applies to all Singaporean children, unless he/she has been exempted from CE. (Please refer to this page for information on exemptions.)


According to the CE 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.

Compulsory Education for Children with SEN with Effect From 2019 P1 Cohort

Since Singapore’s CE framework was implemented, efforts have been made to ensure that all Singaporean children with SEN who can access learning opportunities do so in an appropriate school. There is now a spectrum of differentiated support for SEN available across the education landscape to suit the diversity of needs.

With effect from 2019, children born after 1st January 2012 and with moderate-to-severe SEN1 will be included within the CE framework established by the CE Act. They will no longer be exempt from CE on the basis of their SEN alone. Parents of these children can fulfil their CE obligations by having their children regularly attend and complete their primary education2 in the “primary” or “junior” programmes3 of a Government-funded Special Education (SPED) school, unless the children have been granted exemption from CE. To support this change, the Government-funded SPED schools4 will be recognised as national primary schools.

An Implementation Advisory Panel (IAP) was appointed to study the implementation of CE for these children and it concluded its study in November 2017. The Ministry of Education has accepted the IAP’s recommendations, and will make more details available at a later date. The full report is available at the Special Education (SPED) webpage.


You may refer to the list of Frequently Asked Questions on CE for more information. For other enquiries, you may contact Compulsory Education Unit at:

Tel: (65) 6879 6458/9
Fax: (65) 6778 9356


  1. A child is deemed to have moderate-to-severe SEN when all the following criteria are met:

    • The child has a disability that has been diagnosed by a suitably qualified professional;

    • The child shows functional limitations that are significantly below other children his/her age in one or more areas of functioning, including but not limited to: language and communication, social-interactions, adaptive skills, emotional-behavioural, sensory, physical and mobility, cognitive and problem-solving, oracy and literacy skills; and

    • The child’s needs require greater customisation and intensive adaptations that are not conventionally available in mainstream schools, and the child’s needs are better met by provisions that are available in the Government-funded SPED 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 2012 and 1st January 2013 (both dates inclusive) would have to commence primary education at Primary 1 for the academic year commencing 1st January 2019.

  3. The ‘primary’ or ‘junior’ programme in SPED schools typically lasts six years, like the primary course of education in mainstream primary schools.

  4. Government-funded SPED schools with a primary-level section will also be prescribed as national primary schools where children with SEN born after 1st January 2012 will be able to complete compulsory primary education.