The Development of Private Education Organizations in Singapore

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Singapore education systems have developed quickly over the past two decades. The focal points of the education reform have been researched to gain the overall quality of education. It created more choices for parents and students. Furthermore, the new education systems gave schools more autonomy and established a more diversified education system. The Singapore government has had a lot of policies such as, the independent and autonomy schools, school ranking system, and the quality school awards between the late 1980s and early 1990s. Education in Singapore is managed by the Ministry of Education (MOE) and Ministry of Education (MOE) controls the development and administration of state schools. Besides, Ministry of Education also controls state schools receive funds from the government and they have an review and decision-making role in private schools. For both private and state schools, there are variations in autonomy in their curriculum, scope of government funding, and admission policy.

There are in total four sections. The first section is overview of development of private education system in Singapore and the reasons cause the development of private education organizations in Singapore It then turns to the third section which government policies, social demands and globalization. The second section includes the previous literature and limit of previous literature. The third section reviews the advantages and disadvantage of development of private education organizations and development of private education organizations strategy to get competitive advantages with public schools. Finally, make a brief summary regarding the developing of private education organizations in Singapore in relation to Singapore education policies


Definition Of Private Education Organizations

In this paper, we will limit of definition of private education organizations as those incorporated schools, many of which are companies limited by guarantee with all the assets owned by individual, companies or religious institutions. The private schools in Singapore cater to both local and international students as well as working adults (Victor Yo,S.O., 2009)

1.2 The Background the Development of Private Education Organizations

This section reviews the development of private education in Singapore. A brief description of the historical background of private education in Singapore is given.

The population of Singapore is comprised of Chinese, Malay, Indian, and European immigrants and was a British colony for more than 140 years from 1819. In 1959, Singapore attained a self-government status with the People's Action Party (PAP) and was under the leadership and premiership of Lee Kuan Yew. It improves power to rule. Following a two-year merger with Malaysia from 1963, Singapore eventually became an independent nation on 9 August 1965. Over the 50 years, Singapore has developed quickly and significantly about social and economic. Now, Singapore becomes one of the most developed countries in Asia. For a tiny multi-people and small island-state without any natural resources, the education becomes very important to preserve racial and social harmony. Furthermore, education is also to provide to the country quality human resources to deal with the demands of social and economic developments. The government of Singapore was built up a lot of schools and allowed many private education organizations establish private schools, with a purpose to ensure all children in country get opportunity to be educated and developed with an emphasis located on mathematics and science education. In fact, education is always a priority of the Singapore government and spends more than 20 per cent of the annual nation budget (Ministry of Finance, 2004). What's more, we said that the Singapore education system is controlled by the government in both terms of regulation and finance. According to Singapore Department of Statistics 2002, is given


Length of Operation






Less than 5 Years



5 - 9 Years



10 - 19 Years



20 - 29 Years



30 - 39 Years



40 - 49 Years



50 Years & Above



Sources: Singapore Department of Statistics 2002

In the last twenty years, it has 36 new private education institutions offer courses at the certificate, diploma, bachelor degree, postgraduate and professional have been set up to provide this demand. In 2002, the total number of private education institutions is 148 and offer similar types of courses. There are some institutions very good and these institutions have been operation for more than 50 years such as Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, the Singapore Institute of Commerce, etc. A lot of private education organizations operate in central business district (CBD) get 83 and more than those outside get 65.




Inside CBD


In Shopping Malls


Outside Shopping Malls


Outside CBD


In Shopping Malls


Outside Shopping Malls


Sources: Singapore Department of Statistics 2002


Average Employment


Average Operating Receipts


Profitability Ratio


Proportion of Profitable Firms


Earnings-Expenditure Ratio


Private Institutions, 2002






< 10 Workers (Small)






10 - 99 Workers (Medium)






≥ 100 Workers (Large)






Overall Private Education Industry, 2001






Sources: Singapore Department of Statistics 2002

The private education organization offer a lot of courses operated on a larger scale than an average in the whole private education industry. In 2002, the average employment is 31 workers per organization and the average operating receipts collected approximately $2.7 million. The private institutions' profitability ratio is 11.7 per cent and earning-expenditure ratio is 12.5 per cent were below in 2002 compare to those of the overall private education industry in 2001.

In 2002, private education organizations had a total 114,500 student's enrolment and had 40,600 students graduated. The most popular courses that students enrolled in private education organizations were Business & Administration, Information Technology and Fine & Applied Arts and get a proportion approximately 81 per cent of the total student enrolment


Field of Study

Total (No.)


Per Cent Distribution


Architecture & Building


Business & Administration




Engineering Sciences


Fine & Applied Arts


Health Sciences


Humanities & Social Sciences


Information Technology




Mass Communication & Information Science


Natural/Physical/Chemical/Math Sciences




Other Fields


Sources: Singapore Department of Statistics 2002








Higher Degree































Sources: Singapore Department of Statistics 2002

The Ministry of Education ( MOE) classifies them under the following:

- Commercial Schools

- Foreign System School

- Islamic Religious Schools

- Private Kindergarten

- Private Regular Schools

- Privately Funded Schools

- Special Education Schools

1.3 The reason cause the development of Private Education organizations

1.3.1 From Government policy

Education is to provide to the country quality human resources to deal with the demands of social and economic developments. Furthermore, education enhances a strong sense of population. In order to create a diversified education system, the government have a lot of policies to encourage the development of Private Education. Singapore is one of the best growth countries in ASIA, and is a member of World Trading Organizations (WTO). Therefore, Singapore attracted many organizations to invest about a lot of fields such as finance, education, industry, etc. Besides, education was used as a social engineering tool such as: To create worker who work in machines industries, in the 1960s, all male student have to study technical subject, or in 1966, bilingual policy was applied including English as the first language and mother tongue as the second. The government aligns education with other sectors such as the economy, national defense, community support and the economy. To enhance human resources skills, Singapore education tend to new education changes and large investment in educational resources and infrastructures. In fact, government policies concentrate on education system and private education organizations have many opportunities to develop and gain their business in Singapore. Furthermore, the private education organization can not only attract local student but also international student. Private education organizations take part in increasing GDP (Gross Domestic Product) through tax, and create diversified and competed in education system. In next few years, Singapore leads to one of the countries with a vibrant economy and high educated population. Singapore government is viewed education as an engine of economic growth. Based on the Department of Statistics Data (2000), the education services sector contributes 1.9 per cent of Singapore's Gross Domestic Product. With an invested long-term approach in gaining the education in Singapore, the education industry hopes to contribute 3 to 5 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product. This growth comes from the increases in spending full-fee paying international students. Besides, Singapore government strategy is to become a global schoolhouse and develop capability through education. Singapore attracts top talent from around the world through scholarship and incorporation to a lot of famous universities. As a result, a significant number of international talent students supplement Singapore manpower needs and a lot of the graduates of these institutions are international students and are working in Singapore.

From Globalization

With developing globalization, education is very important and relates advanced scientific knowledge and information communication technology. Education provides basic information and technique to develop technology in many differentiation areas such as transport, communication, industry, etc. Therefore, the students get more opportunities to study in environment well relate to the school program, teaching, research and service functions. With the internationalization, the education can contribute to a more democratic, fair and equal world. When people, idea, capital, culture, traditional and media images can catch and signs around the world more quickly and efficiently through internet and communication. Globalization has caused changes to functions of education system in most countries in the world and creates high pressures for education system to suit for expectations and demands of society and has a competition in the global marketplace. A lot of people begin to concern about quality, funding, certificate, management related to education system. The Singapore Government has a lot of changes in education system to suit for globalization. Therefore, a lot of private organizations and institutions invest on education in Singapore. These organizations and institutions bring to technology, school curriculum, organization and management, etc to attract population in countries investment. The private education organizations incorporate both international and local elements to create competitive advantages

From Social demand

In Singapore, education is very important to improve social and economic. Therefore, the demand for education is high and if government can not satisfy demand and investment all the education, the parents will find private supplier and their children will get an education different from in public schools. For example, as the workers get a high education, they will get high-paying job; other worker will get low paying job if they are not from university. Therefore, as education rose quickly, a lot of people go to school. Government education systems are unable to cope with these increases in a lot of people enrollment and education system can develop in response to grow demand. In some case, some parents are not dissatisfied and see an alternative of education system. Some parents said that the public schools offer education very standardized or uniform. Furthermore, the other reason may be that some parent thought economies and societies have become more specialized. When the trades and occupations changes, education system have to changes to these. What's more, with developing population rapidly, the public schools become overcrowded. Moreover, in order to get competitive advantages, the workforce have to gain their skills and expertise through courses offered by private schools. Therefore, private schools providers are very necessary.


Previous Researches

2.1.1 Summary of previous researches

Research paper 1

Title: "COMPARING SCHOOL-LEVEL TO PRIVATE HIGHER EDUCATION: Using the Dominican Republic as a Pioneer Study"

Publish: Program for Research on Private Higher Education, Vol. 8

Author: Ancell Scheker Mendoza (2007)

Summary: This working paper not only reviews concepts and categories developed in private higher education research, but also analyzing their applicability to lower levels of education. In the Dominican Republic, in order to analyze the development private in primary and secondary school, we need to consider three sector such as Catholic, elite, and demand-absorbing and categories of finance, governance and function

Research paper 2

Title: "Education privatization: causes, consequences and planning implications"

Author: Clive R. Belfield and Henry M. Levin

Summary: The paper research two types of customers: those engaged in educational planning and administration not only in developing but also developed countries. Moreover, in developed countries, education privatization needs to get planning and administration. The government officers and policy-maker have a general understanding about education planning and administration in relation to development overall national education.

Research paper 3

Title: "Asian Higher Education and the Challenges of Globalization"

Publish: Global Institute for Asian Regional Integration, (2009), Vol. 2008-E-20

Author: Piniti Ratananukul,

Summary: This research said that we have to build and concern a vision Asian regional education and integration. Besides, it need to enhance and strengthen trust and a concept of people's Asia, the competitiveness of Asian human resources in the world. This research suggests that we need to get varied views through discussing and cooperating. We should not base on a single model or ideal, we need to build an education framework in Asia regional in order that we can contribute significantly to the formation of an Asian Community, and to peace and prosperity in the region.

Research paper 4

Title: "The Development of Private Education in Hong Kong and Singapore: A Comparative Study"

Publish: Education & Society; (2006), Vol. 24 (2), pp. 25-48

Author: Lee, M. H.

Summary: this research reviews both Hong Kong and Singapore Government examine and compare the development of private education in two countries.

Research paper 5

Title: "Independent schools and autonomous schools in Singapore: A study of two school privatization initiatives aimed at promoting school innovation"

Publish: USA: Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1996

Author: Tan, E. T.

Summary: This is a depth research to examine and evaluate the role and innovation in autonomous and private schools in Singapore The research also has six-teen interviews in school heads, Minister of State and the director of education.

Research paper 6

Title: "Principal Leadership for Private Schools Improvement: The Singapore Perspective"

Publish: European Journal of Social Sciences, Vol. 8, No. 1 (2009)

Author: Victor Yu S.O

Summary: This paper examines leadership qualities among private school principals in Singapore. In the private schools, the leadership qualities are very important. It pointed out that effective leadership may be establish trust and encourage principal-teachers communication and maintain a high level of ethical values. Furthermore, it has collect the result from ten private schools in Singapore. The roles of the principals in schools and the community has examined and evaluated through incorporate a discussion and question of study. Moreover, as a results, the private school industry has brought a balancing sector to the traditional school sector as well as a profit-making industry. Therefore, we are very serious about the "profit-making" objectives. From the profits, a lot of school principals have not been honesty as well as academic values

Research paper 7

Title: "Independent schools in Singapore: Implications for social and educational inequalities"

Publish: International Journal of Educational Development Vol. 13 No.3, 1993, pp 239-251

Author: Jason Tan

Summary: this research review the independent schools scheme that it was introduced in Singapore in 1987, the government did not control all schools and has allowed a lot of schools can turn independent . While the government is continuing to get pleasure from financial support, these schools do not control in finance, staff deployment, management, salaries, and curriculum. This research built a background framework to examine and evaluate the independent schools and their organizational. The purpose of this is able to reinforces social and educational inequalities. Besides, it also said about the role of government in encouraging education privatization policies in relation to private schools, social and education inequalities

Literature review

Education operation market is founded on the interactions between parents as consumers and schools as service providers. While parents choose high quality schools for their children, both public and private schools try to gain competitive advantages in the education market and more importantly, the growth of administration sector in competition is very important to retain resources and students (Goral, 1997). The role of government in education system is very important to control and supervise education efficiently in the marketplace. The research of Levin (1987) said that when the school sector is applied as market-oriented approach to respond to social needs and enhance their operation. In Singapore, a lot of private schools are established by private education organizations. Therefore, in the private schools, the leadership qualities are very important. It pointed out that effective leadership may be establish trust and encourage principal-teachers communication and maintain a high level of ethical values (Victor Yu S.O, 2009). Besides, many sector need to consider to develop private school. For example, in the Dominican Republic, in order to analyze the development private in primary and secondary school, we need to consider three sector such as Catholic, elite, and demand-absorbing and categories of finance, governance and function (Mendoza, 2007). Moreover, in developed countries, education privatization needs to get planning and administration. The government officers and policy-maker have a general understanding about education planning and administration in relation to development overall national education (Belfield & Levin, 2002). Therefore, Singapore has developed the diversified education system. The emergence of private educations has led to more competitive environments in the education systems (Foskett, 2002). In 1987, the Singapore government has not control of all schools so that it creates education inequalities. The government corrects private school policies in relation to private schools, social and education (Tan, 1993). The private schools are established to diversified education system and stimulate market education in order to be able to increase competition between the public schools and the private schools (Adnett & Davies, 2002). The purpose of core competition in education is not only to enhance their teaching and learning environment, but also to gain the education quality to suit for the demand of social, parent, etc as well as customer can select and pay for education services (Smith & Meier, 1995). In some developing countries, the government can not be invest all the education demand because this government do not have enough financial and administration abilities. As the public school is insufficient education services, the private schools is set up and the development of private schools are rapidly. In education system, the education quality and social prestige in private schools are always less than the public schools. However, in developed countries, for example Singapore, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, the public education services are sufficient. These countries applied universal or compulsory education policy. In Singapore, the private schools do not receive government funds and have competitions from public schools such as National Technological University, National Universities of Singapore, etc. Therefore, the private schools need to have a good strategy, it include: diversity of courses, competition among education providers and demand-driven funding. Schools operating in competitive environments are used to incorporate many marketing strategies to recruit students in the future (Foskett, 2002; Oplatka & Hemsley-Brown, 2004). Moreover, the private schools have to get marketing strategy well such as to enhance the school image, recruitment and retention students (Levin, 1997). The survival of many private schools depends on their ability to recruit new student, to make program attractive, diversified of resources. In some develop countries, for example, United States and United Kingdom, instead of performing a compulsory education, the parents' attention is opportunities available so that their children can receive the best education quality. Therefore, the private schools are more welcomed than public school. The private schools can gain the quality of education rapidly and get more social prestige. As a result, the private schools may get more competitive advantages as compared with public schools in those developed countries (Bray, 1995). From the public school competition sector, private schools have to improve the quality of teaching and learning and academic achievements to attract international and local students. Nevertheless, the education voucher system still has its negative impacts. The high income parent will get a lot of choices to select schools with good academic achievement and high social prestige for their children. Private schools quality is very important and it is measured in terms of educational inputs and education outputs. Educational inputs are student and other material resources such as teacher qualification, teacher-student ratio, etc. Educational outputs are the number and type of students graduated and number of achievement tests of students (Tsang, 2002). Teacher quality is very important impact on student's academic performance. Private schools have a higher operation cost to get score better such as they employ more teachers per student, the teacher get good qualified and spend more time per student. Private schools can satisfy the demand of their customer with a strong academic. The students and their parents often consider when students graduate with academic subject; they will get more opportunities to work or following a non-manual career. The students and their parents have a lot of choices through the fees they pay, and they concern academic subject matter and they obtained what they want (Bashir, 1997 and Prsachropoulos, 1987). With effectiveness of private schools programs, and control administration and policies efficiently, the private school will attract good student, gain school program easily and attract good quality teacher. Private schools view to gain opportunities to educate children from background and have to receive inequity and inequality in the provision of education. In Singapore, the public schools have a higher quality than the private schools because they have limited enrollment capacity and limited student through entrance tests. In Singapore, from the past to 2002, there are 148 private education organizations is set up. It include four private education organizations have operated for a long time (50 years and over) such as Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, the Singapore Institute of Commerce, etc. Besides, Singapore also has 38 organizations operation less than five year, 33 organizations operation from five to nine years, 41 organizations operation from ten to nineteen years, 18 organizations operation from twenty to twenty-nine years, 12 organizations operation from thirty to thirty-nine years and 2 organizations operation from forty to forty-nine years. In other the hand, the student graduates from private schools offering certificate, diploma, degree, higher degree and professional in 2002 were total 40,600 students including 7,141certificate, 5,900 professional, 16,938 diplomas, 7,994 degrees and 2,594 higher degrees (Lin, 2002). The students graduated from private schools also contribute a large number of employ manpower into Singapore workforce and associated with multinational corporations. The development of private education organizations help to build an important urban-development function. The government will consider many urban-development tools and tax incentives to enhance quality private schools.

Limitation of previous researches

The major previous researches are conducted the qualities of education and policies that are not examine the enrollment decisions of applicants to select public schools or private schools. Singapore is recognized as a develop country with a vibrant economy and high education system. However, there is little analysis shows that the student have to affect include race and financial aid as well as many effects are not good from private education systems. Besides, a lot of previous researches do not analysis about a framework for evaluating the private education organizations and ranking factors systems to increase more competitive advantages in private education systems in Singapore. In the future, the research can concentrate on the interview students and parents about the development of private education organizations to get more insight and evaluation efficiently.


The advantages of private education organizations

Firstly, the private education organizations are innovation and flexibility. When they do not receive any funding, they have more flexibility to improve programs and practices efficiently to suit for their students. Besides, most private schools design small classroom sizes so that the student can receive more individual attentions from teacher. It will help student can study and ask teacher easily. Normally, students come from different countries so that they bring along with them the culture and traditional of their countries. The student can study and improve a lot of skills, experience and communications from international student. Further, private school view student as customers. Therefore, they always concern to student needs and have a lot of actives to meet student needs and concern. In addition, private schools offer a class with various in age groups. The younger students have the chance to catch the experience of older student. Private schools are where lifelong learning process. Working adults or old student find private schools to study what they need their job. Private schools offer a lot of different courses with the certificate, diploma, bachelor and postgraduate levels and through co-operation with international universities in the world, the student have a lot of opportunity to get international certification from private schools.

The disadvantages of Private Education organizations in Singapore

In Singapore, private schools have to face a lot of disadvantages low image with local students, lack of funding, regulatory environment and policy is very strict. Besides, parents are more confidence to send their children to public schools than private schools because they are believable in the teachers, curriculum and facilities of public school. Therefore, they do not have a lot of values, for example, they do not have equality of opportunity to give all children to a high-quality education as well as respect of local population. In Singapore, only the government universities have the license to issue degrees and the government does not allow private schools to issue their own degrees. Furthermore, it is not like Australia or Canada countries, private schools do not receive any Singapore government funding. In Singapore, the government encourages a lot of international universities to set up operations in the country but the government has not change policies and it is not also allow local private schools to issue their own degrees. The Singapore government is much concern that if they allow private school to issue their own degrees, many private schools and organizations may be run for high profit and offer bad education. This affect and damage the government mission to put the country position as a hub of global education.

3.3 The development of private education organizations strategy

In Singapore, there are more than 300 private schools and these private schools offer a diversified programs including information technology, business, language, etc to suit for strong demand from international and local students. Besides, private schools offer many courses with the certificate, diploma, bachelor and post graduate level through incorporation with large foreign universities from United Kingdom, United State, Australia, Japan, etc. Furthermore, private schools helps students the chance to give international certification in a comfortable and efficient environment. To enhance competitive advantages, private schools should gain courses offered, incorporate with a lot of popular foreign universities to give recognition of certification, improve school facilities such as classroom, library sources, computer, equipment, etc to create a comfortable environment, and provide international student services efficiently such as accommodation and visa facilitation, insurance, student counseling, student orientation, etc. Besides, private school in Singapore should get two certifications such as CaseTrust for Education and Singapore Quality Class for Private Education Organizations (SQC-PEO) to ensure high quality, regulatory standards and good business policies


In order to move head in economy and education, Singapore focus on developing human resource. It is very necessary to create high value for country image and enhance the nation skills profile through life science, technology, etc. Therefore, Singapore has been improving the education system. Singapore has changed a lot of strategies and policies to create a diversified education system to get competitive advantages and suit for globalization. Moreover, in next few years, Singapore would like become a global schoolhouse, so the private education organizations have a lot of opportunity to develop and contribute into Singapore education system. Besides, in globalization, the private education organizations have to face a lot of difficulties such as competitors, funds, human resources, facilities, curriculums, etc to get more prestige to international and local students. Especially, in multi-culture multi-region nation such as Singapore, the private education organizations get not only a lot of challenges, but also many opportunities. The private education organizations need to build a clear strategy to suit for developing Singapore education strategy.