Can Singaporeans do IGCSE and A levels instead of Singapore Cambridge GCE O levels and A levels?

IGCSE and A level Singapore

Can Singapore citizen children take the IGCSE and A Level Singapore after their primary education? Here’s all you need to know about the education system in Singapore.


The answer is Yes. And here’s why!

Compulsory Education is an Act passed by the Singapore government which is defined as education in national primary schools for Singapore citizens residing in Singapore is compulsory. The main objective of this act is to help every child attain common knowledge that will provide a firm foundation for further education. Additionally, common school experiences will help build national identity and encourage social cohesion. 


Non-compliance to the act will result in parents being guilty of an offense. If convicted, a parent shall be liable to a fine not exceeding $5,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or to both. 


Many Singaporeans may not be aware that ONLY primary school education is compulsory under this act. Education after primary school is free will. This also means that children can choose to sit for other curricula other than the GCE N or O Levels after PSLE. Alternatively, students are also allowed to sit as a private candidates without attending a government secondary school after primary education. 


The only requirement under the act is for children to attend local primary schools and pass the PSLE for citizens. However, thereafter, students are not allowed to choose their own route, take the IGCSE, sit as a private candidate, etc. 


Hence, in this article, we explore which curriculum after primary education in Singapore is desirable for students, IGCSE or GCE O Levels. 


IGCSE and A Level Singapore or GCE O Levels and A Level



IGCSE or GCE O Level 

Students are free to choose their secondary curriculum after their primary education in Singapore. 


International General Certificate of Secondary Education - Wikipedia


The International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) is a popular and worldwide recognized qualification at the secondary level. The IGCSE curriculum is specifically designed for international students whose first language is not necessarily English. It is a two-year course, and students get a certificate for every subject they sit for in the IGCSE. 


Students who are looking to take the IGCSE curriculum can choose to sit as a private candidate or they can choose to enroll in an international school that offers the curriculum. 

Read also: IGCSE Singapore Private Candidate: Here’s What You Need To Know! 


Ministry of Education (MOE)

GCE O Level

The GCE O Level in Singapore is designed and curated by the Ministry of Education 

of Singapore for Singaporean students. It is a 4-year secondary school journey, however, only the last two years are the official study for their GCE O Levels. Students also subsequently stay in their chosen secondary school for 4 years. 


The two curriculums differ in the content, syllabus, and subjects offered. For instance, in the GCE O Level, during the first two years of secondary education, students will take Social Studies as a subject, which educates students about the history and culture of Singapore. Additionally, students who are enrolled in mainstream secondary schools in Singapore are required to take their mother tongue language as a subject. The three main mother tongue subjects that are offered are Chinese Language, Malay Language, and Tamil Language. Students who wish to be exempted will need to seek approval from the Ministry of Education. 


In comparison with the IGCSE, second languages are not compulsory and not limited. Students can choose from a variety of second language subjects such as French, Spanish, Japanese, and more. Moreover, the IGCSE offers languages on three different levels, First Language, Second Language as well as Foreign language. 


In terms of grading systems, the IGCSE and the GCE O Level are graded with different grading systems. 


In short, the IGCSE curriculum is designed for a more generic profile of students, whereas the GCE O Levels in Singapore, it is designed for locals. 

Before making a decision about choosing either of these curricula, parents and students should also have a glimpse of what the path after the respective curriculums looks like. 


student sitting on chairs in front of chalkboard

After IGCSE or GCE O Levels

After completing IGCSE or the GCE O Levels, learners can choose several paths in Singapore and abroad. 

1 – Continuing to take the GCE A Levels/ Cambridge A Levels 

It is a typical route for students to proceed to take the A Levels after IGCSE or GCE O Levels.

The GCE A Level is offered in a local junior college or as a private candidate. Alternatively, students can choose to take the Cambridge A Levels as a private candidate or be enrolled in an international school that offers the curriculum. Just like the GCE O levels, GCE A Level is also designed specifically for local students. 


2 – Enroll in Polytechnics in Singapore 

This is similar to the students who sit for the GCE O Levels, students are open to the option of enrolling in a Polytechnic in Singapore. All of the polytechnics in Singapore allow students with IGCSE to apply. IGCSE students will apply under the Direct Admission Exercise, similar to those who took the GCE O Levels in Singapore. 


3 – Take IB MYP 

It is typical for students to jump to the International Baccalaureate curriculum after the IGCSE in other countries. It is also because the IGCSE curriculum is extensive and allows students to smoothly transition to other curriculums. 


4 – Go overseas to continue their international studies 

The IGCSE is a world-recognized certification and can be used as an entry qualification for many schools overseas. 


IGCSE AND A Level Singapore OR Cambridge A Levels 

Similar to the IGCSE and GCE O Levels, the GCE A Levels are designed specifically for local students. The subjects offered are also based on local standards, such as mainly offering the three mother tongue languages. Additionally, there are two main streams offered to students in the GCE A Level. They are the Art and Science stream. Subjects are also classified into three different levels of difficulty, H1, H2, and H3. These are then used to calculate their final scores (also known as Rank Points) at the end of their studies. 

Read also: GCE A-Level Singapore – H1, H2, and H3 Explained


Whereas, the Cambridge A Levels are generic as it targets international students. There are no specific streams and students only need to meet the subject requirements. 


After GCE A Levels or Cambridge A Levels 

Students that either take the GCE A Level or Cambridge A Level are able to enroll themselves into a Singapore local university.


The only determining factor for university courses is the entry requirements. Regardless of the Cambridge or GCE A Level, students are recommended to look into the entry requirements of their desired university so it does not hinder their selection. Although both curricula require students to pay more attention to the entry requirements. 


IGCSE and A level Singapore

IGCSE and A Level Singapore

Students who take the GCE A Levels are recommended to research their course requirements before the start of their tertiary studies. This is because, there are two main streams in junior college, the Art and Science stream. The Science stream will require students to take more Science subjects than the Art stream students. Art stream students have to choose humanities subjects such as History, Economics, etc at Higher 2 (H2) level. 


Therefore, if you are intending to pursue Medicine in the future, choosing the Science stream in Junior College will be preferred. This is because, entry requirements for fields like Medicine require students to possess a strong foundation in their Science subjects, such as Chemistry and Biology. It is also unlikely that students can enter a Medicine field if they do not take Chemistry or Biology at the H2 level. 


IGCSE and A level Singapore

IGCSE and Cambridge A Levels

Similarly, candidates will be required to possess a certain grade for a specific subject for the course they wish to be enrolled in at the university. Unfulfillment of the requirements will deny students entry. Students can find out more about the syllabus, content, and overall assessment for the Cambridge A Levels at their official website. 


In a nutshell, Singaporean children are only required to attend local primary schools under the Compulsory Education Act. Thereafter their primary education, students are free to choose to take any curriculum. 


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