Singapore - Country Commercial Guide
Education

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data

Last published date: 2021-01-15

Capital:  Singapore
Population:  6,209,660 (July 2020 est.)
GDP:  $555.648 billion (2019 est., Purchasing Power Parity)
Currency:  Singapore Dollar (SGD)

Language:  English (official), Mandarin (official), and other Chinese dialects

UNESCO Student Mobility Number:

Singapore has 23,752 students studying abroad according to UNESCO.

CIA World Factbook:

27.81% of the population in Singapore is under 24 years old.

Overview

Singapore is recognized as a global education leader and ranked as one of the finest in the world for its quality and consistency in producing students who are rated among the best in literacy, reading, mathematics, and science.  As such, Singapore, with a population of 5.7 million, has been the choice destination for around 50,000 foreign students from around the world.  Singapore’s education system is in sync with the job market and stays current to ensure relevance to the local economy.

To further sustain growth and maintain a reputation for top quality education, Singapore has attracted various leading international institutions.  Partnerships such as research collaboration, joint degree, or exchange programs are popular among local universities and colleges.  However, due to the competitive nature of higher education in Singapore, around 23,000 Singapore students travel overseas to further their studies.

The U.S. is a popular destination for these students due to the strong liberal arts education track; however, the strengthening of the U.S. dollar and a perceived less welcoming environment in the U.S. is causing student numbers to remain flat compared to other countries such as Australia, Britain, Canada, and New Zealand.  Despite this, U.S. higher education providers can expect favorable recruitment figures from Singapore for institutions that are internationally well-ranked and/or strategically marketed.

Sub-Sectors

Based on International Student Data from the 2020 Open Doors Report, Singapore has 4,504 students studying in the U.S. which is around a fifth of the total Singaporeans studying overseas.  This number has decreased to 2.8% compared to the previous year and corresponds to the increased student visa numbers being issued to Singaporeans.  See figures below at each September for the 10-year period ending 2019:

  • 2009: 2588 (3.6% increase)
  • 2010: 2814 (8.7% increase)
  • 2011: 2875 (2.2% increase)
  • 2012: 3109 (8.1% increase)
  • 2013: 3253 (4.6% increase)
  • 2014: 3038 (6.6% decrease)
  • 2015: 3117 (2.6% increase)
  • 2016: 2846 (-8.7% decrease)
  • 2017: 2747 (-3.5% decrease)
  • 2018: 2853 (3.9% increase)
  • 2019: 2859 (0.0% increase)
  • 2020: 1131 (-60.4% decrease)

Out of the 4,504 students, slightly above 40% are pursuing undergraduate courses and 30% are pursuing graduate courses, while the remainder are mainly undergoing practical training.  There is practically no demand for secondary or high school education, while online programs are mainly taken up by adult students who do distance learning or skills upgrading.  Several degree programs have become increasingly important and are expected to see increased demand from Singaporean and third-country students studying in Singapore.  These include:

  • Cybersecurity
  • Media and animation
  • Hospitality and tourism 
  • Sports science and medicine
  • Business Analytics and Digital Economy
  • Logistics and Supply Chain Management
  • Advance Manufacturing & Engineering

Singapore’s education market emphasizes, supports and values higher education and skills upgrading.  The government awards funding for Singaporean workers to continually receive training to upgrade and sharpen their skill sets and be more knowledgeable in a globalized economy.  Many government agencies and private sector companies offer full scholarships for top students to pursue their undergraduate and graduate studies in foreign universities, including in the United States.  In line with the long-term commitment to continuing education and training, the government has topped-up the Lifelong Learning Endowment Fund by USD 357 million, bringing the total fund size to USD 3.3 billion.  A credit of S$500 (around US$370) per Singapore citizen with a periodic top up is also given by the Singapore Government for Skills Future development and training.

The mandatory school age for Singaporeans begins at 7 years.  A pre-school education is catered for children under 6 years to prepare them for formal schooling.  There are more than 1,800 pre-schools and the Ministry of Education plans to increase more new establishments.  This is to emphasize the importance of starting a child’s learning journey early, so they have a head start when they begin mandatory school.  

For boarding schools, there is limited interest from Singaporeans since parents are not as keen to have their children leave home for an extended period at such a young age.  Moreover, Singapore male citizens must do compulsory National Service and if they are out of the country from 13-14 years old onwards, they must apply for an exit permit which comes with a financial bond.  U.S. boarding schools can instead tap the expat students studying in Singapore, some of whom have expressed interest in attending boarding schools.

Professional Training Services are getting to be popular especially with MNCs and larger companies in Singapore though competition is very great.  Courses such as leadership, project management, six sigma quality, digital transformation, and continuous improvement are the more common ones being offered by various local and even foreign companies who have a presence in Singapore.  SMEs who want to have their staff undergo such courses which lead to professional development units usually apply for government grants to cover the costs.  However, mentoring courses are not so widely subscribed to due to the Asian culture which is a more of a top-down command and control approach.

Opportunities

Singapore’s education system is well known for its quality, which is why there is a strong demand from students in the region to study here.  The estimated number of foreign students in Singapore is around 50,000 (mainly from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, China, India and South Korea) who are between the ages of 13-23 years old.  Hence, besides Singaporeans, U.S. universities and colleges should also take into consideration the large number of foreign students in Singapore.  In addition to recruiting full-time students (both local and overseas) to study in the United States, U.S. universities may want to consider offering their external degree and executive education programs in Singapore to international executives working in the Indo-Pacific region.

U.S. universities and colleges interested in offering courses in Singapore have various market entry options.  These include, setting up a physical campus, partnering with local universities, polytechnics and private education institutions, or partnering with an institution to offer on-line courses.  Having a local presence is beneficial in terms of creating visibility and being able to answer questions from prospective students face-to-face.  Many local universities and colleges welcome the various forms of partnerships, including R&D, exchange programs and the promotion of dual degrees.  Alternatively, U.S. universities and colleges can recruit students to study in the U.S.  Generally, there are Singaporean students who find programs that allow them to complete at least part of their course work in Singapore, a very attractive and financially viable alternative to completing their studies entirely in the United States.

Singapore schools are not new to digital learning, however given the pandemic situation much importance has been given to remote learning. The Singapore government is pushing universities and other schools to come up with innovative digital strategies to better prepare students for more digitized jobs in the future.        

Digital Marketing Strategies

What platforms do students in your country use most?

Google, Government Websites

What are the most popular social media sites for students in your country?

Instagram, Facebook

How do students in your country research information on any given topic?

Internet, Library

What platforms to students use to search for job opportunities?

LinkedIn, GlassDoor, Education Fairs

What platform is the most popular for streaming videos in your country?

Instagram, YouTube

What platforms do in-country schools and competitor countries use to reach students in your country?

Letters in Post, Emails, Education Fairs, Visits by University Staff

How do students and parents in your country receive information about educational opportunities?

Flyers, Education Fairs, Newspaper and Various Publications, Internet, Facebook, Blogs

Please provide recommendations for U.S. study state consortia and/or educational institutions as they build on their digital outreach strategies in your country?

Interactive Flyers, Digital Marketing, Alumni Videos

U.S. universities and colleges will find a receptive market in Singapore, provided they are willing to invest in long-term branding and marketing with accredited programs in disciplines that offer strong career growth and high-income potential.  Additionally, Singapore is also a gateway to the ASEAN region which makes it an ideal location for U.S. universities to enjoy the amplifying effect and reach to the ASEAN market.

Events

  • Jack Study Abroad

https://www.studyabroad.sg/global-university-expo-20200919/

  • International Education Specialists (IDP)

https://www.idp.com/singapore/study-abroad-education-fair-event/ January 2021 Virtual Fair

  • AEO Tour Fair

https://aeotour.com/tours/

Resources

  • U.S. Commercial Service – Singapore

https://www.trade.gov/singapore

  • U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service Global Education Team

www.trade.gov/education-industry

  • Industry and Analysis, Office of Supply Chain, Professional & Business Services

www.trade.gov/professional-and-business-services

http://www.cpe.gov.sg 

  • Ministry of Education

http://www.moe.gov.sg 

  • EducationUSA

https://educationusa.state.gov/centers/educationusa-singapore-advising-center

  • IIE

https://www.iie.org/opendoors/

  • UNESCO Institute of Statistics

http://uis.unesco.org/en/uis-student-flow

  • Central Intelligence Agency 

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ao.html


U.S. COMMERCIAL SERVICE CONTACT

Jayacely Joseph, Commercial Assistant

U.S. Commercial Service – Singapore
Email: Jayacely.Joseph@trade.gov
Phone: (65) 6476 9415

Chan Y K, Commercial Specialist

U.S. Commercial Service – Singapore
Email: yiukei.chan@trade.gov
Phone: (65) 6476 9037