Secondary Education

Based on results of the PSLE, students are placed in different secondary education tracks or streams: "Express", "Normal (Academic)", or "Normal (Technical)". Singaporeans are forbidden to attend international schools on the island without Ministry of Education permission.

"Special" and "Express" are four-year courses leading up to the Singapore-Cambridge GCE "O" Level examination. The difference between these two courses is that in the "Special" stream, students take 'Higher Mother Tongue' (available for Standard Mandarin, Malay and Tamil only) instead of 'Mother Tongue'. A pass in the Higher Mother Tongue 'O' Level Examination constitutes the fulfilment of the Mother Tongue requirement in Singapore, whereas Normal Mother Tongue Students will have to go through one more year of study in their Mother Tongue after their 'O' Levels to take the 'A' Level H1 Mother Tongue Examinations and fulfil the MOE's requirement. A foreign language, either French, German, Japanese or Spanish can be taken in addition to the mother tongue or can replace it. This is especially popular with students who are struggling with their mother tongues, expatriates, or students returning from abroad. Non-Chinese students may also study Standard Mandarin and non-Malay students Malay as a third language. This programme is known as CSP (Chinese Special Programme) and MSP (Malay Special Programme). Mother Tongue teachers conduct these lessons in school after usual hours. Students of Higher Mother Tongue languages are allowed to have up to two points taken off their O-level scoring, unless the student's Higher Mother Tongue is used as their L1 in computation of L1R5. a scoring system discussed below where a lower value is considered better, if they meet set benchmarks. The Ministry of Education Language Centre (MOELC) provides free language education for most additional languages that other schools may not cover, and provides the bulk of such education, admitting several thousand students each year.

Normal is a four-year course leading up to the Normal-level (N-level) exam, with the possibility of a fifth year leading up to the GCE O-level exam. Normal is split into Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical). Normal (Academic) course are geared towards preparing students for the O-level exam in the fifth year, subject to good performance in the N-level exam in the fourth year, and students take academic subjects such as Principles of Accounting. In Normal (Technical), students take subjects of a more technical nature, such as Design and Technology, and they generally proceed to the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) after the N-level exam in the fourth year. In 2004, the Ministry of Education announced that selected students in the Normal course would have an opportunity to sit for the O-level exam directly without first taking the N-level exam.

With the exception of schools offering the Integrated Programme, which leads to either an International Baccalaureate Diploma or to an A-level exam, most students are streamed into a wide range of course combinations at the end of their second year, bringing the total number of subjects they have to sit at O-level to between six and ten, with English, Mother Tongue or Higher Mother Tongue Language, Mathematics, one Science and one Humanities Elective being compulsory. Several new subjects such as Computing and Theatre Studies and Drama are being introduced in tandem with the Ministry of Education's revised curriculum.
Co-Curricular activities

Participating in a Co-Curricular Activity (CCA) is mandatory at the primary and secondary levels, meaning that all pupils must participate in at least one activity. CCAs offered at the secondary level are usually categorised as Uniformed Groups, Performing Arts, Clubs & Societies and Sports & Games Competitions. There are many CCAs offered at the secondary school level, however, different schools may choose to offer different CCAs. Students may choose to participate in more than 1 CCA.

Participation in CCAs is graded together with other non-academic achievements throughout a student's secondary school education in a scoring system known as LEAPS 2.0. (LEAPS 1.0 was abolished and the cohort of 2016 taking the 'O' level examination would be last to use this system). Points accumulated in the areas of leadership, enrichment, achievement, participation and service will determine a student's CCA grade. Students may get up to a maximum of two bonus points for entry into a junior college depending on their CCA grades. LEAPS 2.0 is about leadership, achievement, participation and service. The method of calculating the 2 bonus points are very different, with LEAPS 2.0 making it harder to achieve the 2 bonus points.

Integrated Programme
The Integrated Programme, also known as the "Through-Train Programme" (直通车), is a scheme which allows the most able secondary students in Singapore to bypass "O" levels and take "A" levels, International Baccalaureate or an equivalent examination directly at the age of 18 after six years of secondary education.

The programme allows for more time to be allocated to enrichment activities. By bypassing the GCE "O" level examinations, students are given more time and flexibility to immerse themselves in a more broadly-based education. In addition, students enjoy more freedom in the combination of subjects between Year 1 - 4 as compared to their non-IP counterparts. Generally, only the top performers (usually from Special, and sometimes Express, stream) are eligible to be part of the IP programme. This will ensure that the main body of the students pursue their secondary education at their own pace by first completing a 4-year "O" level course before going on to a 2-year "A" level education.

As a result, schools with an IP allow their students to skip the "O" levels at Secondary 4 and go straight into junior colleges (JCs) in Year5/JC1. The Integrated Programme with the revised Singapore-Cambridge GCE "A" levels or the IB Diploma as a terminal qualification has become an increasingly popular alternative to the standard secondary education pathway. This is because it is perceived as having moved away from the usually heavy emphasis on the sciences, a phenomenon resulting from the post-independence need for quick and basic technical and industrial education; to subjects in the arts and humanities. Such programmes are more project-based and students are expected to be independent learners.

The first batch of IP students sat for the revised GCE "A" Level or International Baccalaureate Diploma examinations in 2007.

Admission to post-secondary institutions
Upon completion of the 4- or 5-year secondary school education, students (excluding IP students) will participate in the annual Singaporean GCE 'O' Level, the results of which determine which pre-universities or post-secondary institutions they may apply for. Pre-university centres include junior colleges for a two-year course leading up to GCE 'A' Level, or the Millennia Institute for a three-year course leading up to GCE 'A' Level. Junior colleges and the Millennia Institute accept students on merit, with a greater emphasis on academics than vocational technical education. Students who wish to pursue specialised education go on to pre-universities institutions such as the Polytechnics or Arts Institution where they receive a diploma upon successful completion of their courses.

Admission to a two-year pre-university course at junior colleges after graduating from secondary school is determined by the L1R5 (English + 5 relevant subjects) scoring system. This scoring system is based on the 'O' Level subject grades, which range from A1 (best) to F9 (worst). The candidate adds the numerical grades for six different subjects: English (or another language taken at the 'first language' level), a Humanities subject, a Science/Mathematics subject, a Humanities/Science/Mathematics subject, and two other subjects of any kind. The best L1R5 unmodified score is therefore 6, for a student with A1 grades in six subjects which meet the criteria.

Students scoring 20 points and below may be admitted for either a Science or Arts Course. In addition, a student must also achieve at least a C6 grade, which is 50% or higher, in the GCE 'O' Level English Language and Mathematics papers to qualify for junior college admission. Pre-university centres that are particularly associated with academic excellence, however, usually expect students to attain points in the single digits, to be admitted. This is because the system is merit-driven, with places given to those with lower scores first.

For admission to a three-year pre-university course at the Millennia Institute, the L1R4 (English + 4 relevant subjects) scoring system is used, and students are expected to score below 20 points to be admitted. Students may opt for any of the science, arts or commerce streams when pursuing a three-year pre-university course.