Compulsory Education

Introduction

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.

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, unless he/she has been granted exemption. With effect from 2019, the CE Framework will also include children with moderate-to-severe Special Educational Needs (SEN)1 born after 1st January 2012.

A ‘national primary school’ refers to an institution for the provision of full-time primary education. This term refers to:

  • Mainstream Schools: For children with no or mild SEN and who have the cognitive abilities and adequate adaptive skills to learn in large-group settings.

  • Government-funded special education (SPED) Schools: For children with moderate-to-severe SEN who require more intensive and specialised assistance in their education. The Government-funded SPED schools have been recognised as ‘national primary schools’ with effect from 2 April 2018.

Background

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's key recommendations are summarised as follows:

Statute

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.

Penalty

According to the CE Act (Cap 51), where a child fails to attend school regularly as a pupil at a national primary school or a designated school, and he/she is not 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 imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or 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 a Government-funded-SPED school, and complete their primary education2 in the ‘primary’ or ‘junior’ programmes3 unless their children have been granted exemption from CE. To support this change, the Government-funded SPED schools4 are 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.

Enquiries

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
Email: moe_ce@moe.edu.sg

Footnotes

  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;

    • 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. For students with moderate-to-severe SEN offering a customised curriculum, the ‘primary’ or ‘junior’ programme in SPED schools typically lasts six years, like the primary course of education in mainstream primary schools. For students with moderate-to-severe SEN offering the national curriculum in a SPED school, compulsory primary education is complete when child attains PSLE results that would qualify him/her for secondary education, enrols in Assumption Pathway School or NorthLight School, is placed in an alternate educational pathway within the SPED system, or until he/she attains the age of 15, whichever is earlier.

  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.