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close this bookTrends in Articulation Arrangements for Technical and Vocational Education in the South East Asian Region (RMIT, 1999, 44 p.)
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View the documentSingapore
View the documentThailand
View the documentConclusions
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View the documentInterviews


The Republic of Singapore is an island state. The small land area precludes an agricultural sector of any significance. The population of about 3 million is mainly employed in service industries and in particular financial services.

The focus of manufacturing in Singapore is directed towards high technology areas including electronics/computing, petroleum refining, industrial chemicals, etc.

Gross Domestic Product


Singapore 1995




Financial services








Singapore has been able to exploit its geographic location, not only in the provision of transportation services, but also acts as a provider of services to the region.

The state of economic growth in Singapore is quite different to that applying in surrounding countries, and this is reflected in a comprehensive system of education. The quality and relevance of education and training in Singapore is considered to be an important factor in the economic growth of Singapore.

Of countries in the immediate region, Singapore has the best developed provision of articulation pathways, between the various segments of the education system. Graduates of vocational education, in both technical institutes and polytechnics have significant opportunities for higher level studies.

In Singapore, the primary/secondary system of education is based on a 6 + 4 or 5 year cycle of schooling. The Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education (GCE) Normal (N) level examination is undertaken after four years of secondary education. The GCE O level examination requires another year of study.

High achiever students may undertake the four year postprimary express/special stream after which they may sit for the GCE O level examination.

Students with high achievement at the GCE O levels may enter a junior college and undertake a two year pre-university program leading to the GCE A level examination. (2)

About 80% of GCE O level graduates go on to further study. Approximately 20% of school leavers will transfer to junior college/university, 40% will enter polytechnic diploma courses, and 20% will undertake Institute of Technical Education programs. Those who opt for employment at this stage find widespread provision of in-house training. (3)

Singapore has been able to achieve a well balanced and appropriate system of education as a consequence of considered development and implementation of policy. (4).

The New Education System in 1980, introduced ability based streaming from primary school. (5) Another driver of education policy was the report of the 1986 Singapore Economic Committee entitled, The Singapore Economy: New Directions, which made a number of recommendations including:

· Upgrading the median level of education of the Singaporean workforce.
· Provision of ongoing training and retraining for the workforce.
· Expanding and improving all levels of postsecondary education. (6)

Over the last decade these objectives have been met with great success.

Technical and vocational education

Those students who do not gain a place in a junior college have a number of options available for further study at government polytechnics, private postsecondary institutions, the Institute of Technical Education and other entities.

· Polytechnics

Singapore has four well equipped government funded polytechnics that offer 3 year diploma courses in a wide spectrum of disciplines including business studies, information technology, engineering, biotechnology, interior design, multimedia, nursing and shipbuilding. Entry to polytechnic diploma courses is based on completion of the GCE O level certificate. Students with GCE A level may enter the second year of diploma programs.

· Institute of Technical Education

The Institute of Technical Education (ITE) is a multicampus government institution that offers a wide range of vocational certificate courses to school leavers and working adults.

ITE is also the skills standards certification authority for Singapore.

Courses provided by ITE include studies in automation, automotive, business studies, building services, electrical, electronics, mechanical, precision engineering, and travel services. Most full time courses are of 2 years duration.

Entry to ITE courses caters for both GCE N and O levels graduates.

Apprenticeship training is an important facet of ITE activity with 48 apprenticeship programs being offered. Early school leavers with no formal qualifications are catered for through basic vocational training programs.

Other facets of ITE include a Basic Education for Skills Training (BEST) program for working adults which provides basic literacy and numeracy courses, and the Worker Improvement through Secondary Education (WISE) program for adults to improve their competency in English and mathematics to GCE N level. These programs are offered to improve the workforce skill and productivity capability. ITE also offers basic skills training to working adults through several programs including a six month part-time Modular Skills Training (MOST) program for working adults, an Adult Cooperative Training Scheme (ACTS) scheme directed at workers aged between 20 and 40 years of age and conducted in the apprenticeship format, and a Training Initiative for Mature Employees (TIME) modular training program for adults over 40 years of age. The ACTS and TIME programs may be undertaken in English, Mandarin, Malay or Tamil.

ITE programs have been designed so that they are interlinked and provide the opportunity for articulation to higher level courses. (7)

· LaSalle SIA College of the Arts

Offers 3 year diploma courses based on completion of CGE O level, in fine arts, design, multimedia arts, drama, dance and music. Part-time students are also able to undertake the diploma courses.


The Singapore Hotel Association Training and Education Centre (SHATEC) which is under the control of the Singapore Hotel Association offers a number of diploma and skilled worker training courses for the hospitality and tourism industry.

· Singapore Institute of Management

The Singapore Institute of Management (SIM), which is a professional body offers a range of certificate and diploma courses, mainly in the field of management.

· Private business and computer colleges

There are a significant number of private colleges in Singapore that offer courses in secretarial training and office administration, computing and business studies.

· Industry Training Centres

Companies and industry groups in Singapore are encouraged to establish training centres to meet their own needs. Centres that meet Institute of Technical Education requirements are granted Approved Training Centre status, and receive ITE support with curriculum development, training materials and skills training.

The extensive provision of education and training opportunities in Singapore ensures that few individuals leave school and enter the workforce without the chance of some pre-employment education and training.


The Singapore system of education in clearly focused on the world of work, and is continually evolving to assist the upgrading of workforce skills at all levels, to meet both the immediate and long term needs of the Singapore economy and social objectives.

As a consequence, the notion of articulation to further programs of study is well entrenched, reflecting the needs of individuals to advance to higher levels of academic attainment, and other forms of education as they progress through their career. This situation has evolved over several decades and reflects the mature nature of the Singaporean economy which is heavily dependant on high technology industries and the provision of services, which in turn encourages upgrading workforce capability.

The compact geographic nature of Singapore, coupled with an excellent public transport infrastructure, has assisted in making it possible for working students to integrate work and further study, something that is quite difficult in a number of other countries in the region. In addition, opportunities exist for participation in flexible course delivery arrangements.

There are many opportunities for further study for TVE graduates from Singaporean polytechnics, the Institute of Technical Education, and other bodies.

Singapore polytechnics will admit ITE graduates to diploma programs related to their ITE studies. Admission is based on meritorious ITE results. Depending on the level reached in an ITE program, it is possible for advanced standing to courses in some cases. For example, an ITE graduate with a 2 year Certificate in Business Studies post GCE O level, could be offered entry to the second year of a related polytechnic diploma.

Polytechnics in Singapore offer a range of advanced diploma courses. Entry to these courses are based on completion of a related diploma course. Advanced diploma courses are usually offered on a part-time basis over two years and are available in a number of fields including computer & communication systems, multimedia, building services, management, mechatronics, food technology, nursing specialisations and contract administration. Advanced diplomas were developed originally in response to a demand for further education from diploma graduates who desired higher level studies in a particular field. (8)

The polytechnics also have strong involvement in continuing education by the provision of short courses, which are directed at upgrading of those currently in the workforce. ITE also provide customised and short skills courses.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) both admit limited numbers of polytechnic diploma graduates to degree courses with advanced standing where appropriate. For example, the NUS accepts about 300 graduates from polytechnics each year, with 70 odd entering undergraduate courses in engineering, and around 200 being admitted to science and computer programs. The NUS also offers part-time Bachelor of Technology (Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering/Electronics Engineering) courses specifically directed at polytechnic diploma graduates, to increase the stock of engineers with shopfloor experience to cope with duties of a higher technological nature. About 80 students are enrolled in this course each year. (9)

In addition to offering courses at the certificate and diploma level the Singapore Institute of Management has number of linkages with international universities to deliver selected programs at undergraduate degree, master and doctoral levels, in a number of fields including business, management, economics, mass communications, nursing, education, banking and finance. SIM’S international partners include the University of Strathclyde, University of Bradford, University of London, Nottingham Trent University and Henley Management College (UK), Syracuse University, George Washington University, Rutgers University, and State University of New York at Buffalo (USA), Monash University, RMIT University and the University of Sydney (Australia). A typical arrangement for entry into most undergraduate degree courses, with advanced standing, is that entry is based on completion of a polytechnic diploma (or equivalent) in field related to the degree course.

In 1992, the Singapore Ministry of Education invited SIM to run the Open University degree program in Singapore, with an initial grant from the Singapore Government. This program is linked to the UK Open University. A number of BA and BSc degrees are offered. Entry to these courses generally requires academic achievement of at least two GCE A level subject passes, a SIM or polytechnic diploma, or equivalent. The courses offered under the Open University program adopt a flexible learning approach, so that students can organize study around employment and other activities. Nevertheless, there is strong support provided for students, including regular tutorials. Degrees under this program are awarded by the UK Open University.(10)

LaSalle SIA College of the Arts has arrangements with Queensland University of Technology and RMIT University in Australia to deliver certain degree courses. Entry to these programs is based on completion of LaSalle diplomas. For example, LaSalle has collaborated with Queensland University of Technology to offer a Bachelor of Arts in Drama. Similarly, the RMIT University Bachelor in Fine Arts course is offered through LaSalle, with advanced standing into the RMIT course based on completion of the LaSalle Diploma of Fine Arts. (11)

In addition to articulation arrangements already cited, there are a many other instances of degree level programs, including distance education programs, being provided by international universities in association with professional bodies and other entities. (12)

There is also considerable traffic from Singaporean polytechnic diploma graduates undertaking degree level studies abroad, frequently with significant advanced standing.

Extensive articulation possibilities exist in Singapore, for technical and vocational education students. These arrangements have been described as ‘a multi level matrix of programs that provides linkages between the school system postsecondary technical and vocational education and training and polytechnic education through a system of bridges and ladders’ (13)