Feeling confident that your child will do well in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE)?
Then it’s time to start getting acquainted with our local Integrated Programme (IP) schools for academically strong students! These schools provide a six-year through-train route to getting an A-Level or diploma certificate. The main advantage? IP students will not have to take the O-Levels in Year 4 (the equivalent of Secondary 4), and the time saved on exam preparation will presumably be put to better use.
There are currently 17 IP schools in Singapore. Of these, only NUS High School of Mathematics and Science does not participate in the Secondary 1 Posting process — those interested in NUS High should check the school’s website for admission details.
If the simulated PSLE Score projections by the Ministry of Education (MOE) are accurate, the first batch of students receiving PSLE Achievement Levels in 2021 will need a PSLE Score of 9 points or better to stand a chance of qualifying for an IP school. (Click here for a PSLE Score calculator that you can use to assess your child’s progress and set goals.)
However, do be mindful that meeting a school’s indicative score does not guarantee admission into a school.
You should also take note that from 2021, tie-breakers will be used if there is more than one student with the same PSLE score vying for the last available place in a school — in the order of Citizenship, Choice Order of Schools, and Computerised Balloting. (Prior to 2021, if students with the same score and citizenship status were vying for a place, a computerised ballot would determine the “winner,” and the choice order of schools did not influence this process.)
For those eying the IP schools, you might worry that there could be a higher frequency of tie-breakers occurring in the top-tier schools. Here’s what we know: the MOE has estimated that only about 10% of students in each cohort will need to undergo balloting. What we don’t know — and what the MOE has not provided details on — is how the balloting might be spread out over the different schools.
In any case, it’s best to avoid speculation, and instead, focus on what is within your control. To simplify the decision-making process, heed the MOE’s advice on school selection: Students will be able to choose up to six secondary schools during the Secondary 1 Posting exercise. Of these six schools, the MOE recommends that at least two or three of the schools should be ones that your child can easily qualify for — in other words, there should be a buffer between your child’s PSLE Score and the school’s indicative cut-off point (i.e. the score of the worst-performing student admitted). Therefore, your child will probably want to include the Express streams of IP schools, as well as non-IP schools, in his or her selections.
It is likely that risk-averse parents will also find themselves giving more thought to the first-choice school for their children. In fact, parents have already expressed concern about failing to qualify for a first-choice top school, and at the same time, losing the balloting advantage for subsequent choices.
To minimise stress, keep the big picture in mind: the MOE’s desire is for families to think more deeply about secondary school selection, by looking beyond cut-off points to gauge the quality of schools. They have encouraged parents to research a spread of schools within a comfortable commuting range, to find out about each school’s programmes, co-curricular activities, ethos, and culture.
As a starting point, you can connect with parents from the KSP community, by joining our “IP, IB vs A-Levels” chat. Or simply browse our parent networking groups for secondary schools to find out more about specific schools that you are interested in.
Finally, if you have concerns about the affordability of independent IP schools, you should be aware that there is an Edusave Scholarship for Independent Schools or ESIS, which is awarded to academically strong students who are Singapore citizens. The top one-third of students admitted to independent schools by PSLE Score will be eligible for this award, which provides up to S$2,400 a year to help offset independent school fees.
Students who have narrowly missed the ESIS cut-off score can still enjoy fee subsidies via the Independent School Bursary (ISB) scheme — check your family’s eligibility here. Some independent schools may have their own scholarship schemes as well, especially to help students who have narrowly missed out on the ESIS. Alternatively, students can try to qualify again for the ESIS at the end of Secondary 2.
For your convenience, we have provided a list of IP schools below, along with information that may be useful to you.
Please note that the letter grades in parentheses reflect the Higher Chinese (HCL) grades of the first and last student admitted into Special Assistance Plan (SAP) schools — (D) = Distinction, (M) = Merit, and (P) = Pass. If the first or last student did not take or pass HCL, no HCL grades will be shown.
Is it a no-brainer to pick the IP over the O-Levels, if your child makes the grade? Read our article on this. And if you’re fairly clueless about the International Baccalaureate or IB diploma, read our interview with an IB parent here.