How to Start Private School in Singapore

The education sector being one of the potential developing industries in Singapore plays a significant role in pulling in and fostering talent from across the globe. The Global Schoolhouse initiative was rolled out by the Economic Development Board in 2002, with a goal of changing Singapore into an internationally-renowned educational hub. Currently, there are more than 1,200 private educational institutions and organisations that provide high-quality education services, thus making this country a top name in this sector. Besides academics, the demand is also rising for specific vocational and skill-based courseware in certain niches like grooming, culinary arts, fine arts etc.

This article will help provide a general guideline on how to start an educational institute in Singapore.

As this sector offers many attractive opportunities, the number of professionals and foreign companies who want to tap this market and establish an academic or non-academic private institution, kindergarten or nursery, daycare or childcare centre or other associated service is on a sharp rise. The Singaporean Government has set some guidelines and statutory requirements for the new bees in this sector with a goal of streamlining the education sector and the diverse participants in it.

Types of Educational Institutes

The schools in Singapore that offer private education are divided into the following categories:

Childcare Centres

A childcare centre is a place, which takes cares of over five children, who are below 7 years of age, at a time.

Preschools or Kindergartens

A kindergarten or playschool is an institute, which provides pre-school education in a structured three-year format including nursery, kindergarten 1, and then kindergarten 2. The children here are aged from 3 to 6.

Academic Institutes or Schools

Academic private institutes or schools typically provide theoretical, structured and formal education. The schools which offer certificates, degrees, and diplomas are known as academic private schools. Some examples are:

  • Educational institutes which provide academic classes leading to the GCE examinations
  • Foreign or international schools
  • Business schools
  • Language Institutes
  • Tuition institutes
  • Kindergartens or pre-schools
  • Centres for adult education
  • IT or computer education institutes
  • Fine Arts schools
  • Enrichment centres, which give diplomas or conduct certificate courses etc.
  • Distance learning centres

Non-Academic Institutes or Schools

Non-academic schools basically offer practical exposure and hands-on learning or experiences. Some examples are:

  • Cookery schools
  • Pet grooming classes
  • Driving schools
  • Hair styling institutes
  • Dressmaking classes or institutes
  • Sports institutes

Basic steps to set up a school

  1. A detailed plan

Before deciding to establish your educational institute, think through and ensure that you have understood what you are getting into. Review the regulatory necessities as per the type of school you are going to set up.  There are some other important things you need to complete so that your new business remains a financially-viable and gainful entity. These tasks are:

  • Study the market thoroughly including the target students
  • Identify tentative locations you would want to open your school in and find out their rentals
  • Calculate the staff requirements and start finding their availability and their salary slabs
  • Gauge the main success factors and potential risks and a plan to mitigate those risks
  • Chart out complete financial projections in best and also worst case scenarios
  1. Set up your business

Once your decision is final, you should go ahead and incorporate your school or institute. The best-suited legal entity is a private limited company in Singapore because it is comparatively simple and fast process although certain statutory requirements apply. For more details on how to start private education institutions in Singapore, do get in touch with us.

  1. Get ready for day-today operations

After your business is incorporated, just get to the grind. You need to complete many necessary tasks before you could start the enrollment or admission of students. These tasks are:

Looking for suitable premises

Remember that you are permitted to only utilize the premises, which are approved for educational activities by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). So, it is imperative that you check with the owner of the premises or building you have selected to ensure the same.

After signing the lease for the particular premises or space, it’s advisable to take the services of an experienced contractor for doing the renovations according to your requirements.

Employ the necessary staff and teachers

Make sure that the teaching staff you are planning to hire have the required experience and qualifications to teach the particular courses. If your institute plans to provide Government-subsidized training, you should first comply with the additional terms regarding this, which are imposed by the relevant departments and authorities.

Fill application for all necessary licenses

You will have to apply for some of the mandatory licenses that are needed as per the type of educational institute you are starting.

  1. Get the necessary accreditations

After your institute is operational, think of getting the accreditations to get more credibility and confidence from your potential student base.

  • EduTrust certification – This certification is needed to enable enrolment of any international students. Private education institutes and schools could get financial support for EduTrust certification under EduTrust Support Scheme (ESS). The ESS allows a grant of a maximum of S$26,500 to all eligible education institutes who want to upgrade their capabilities.
  • Singapore Quality Class (SQC) certification – This certification enhances the positive perception about your institute and also helps in expediting the managing of student’s visa applications that are submitted by SQC-certified educational institutes.

What are the licensing requirements?

The licenses needed completely depend on which type of education institute you are planning to start. The following table provides a clear view of which registration, licenses, and permits you need as per the type you choose.

The main regulatory requirement for organizations in the education sector is that all private companies or establishments giving education to 10 or more people (except non-academic schools) have to register either with the Council for Private Education (CPE) or the Ministry of Education (MOE), depending on the type of establishment. This registration gives the private institutes the right to function when they have met all the statutory requirements successfully.


  Childcare centre Pre-school/Kindergarten Academic Institute Non-academic Institute
Registration of business Required Required Required Required
Register with the Ministry of Education Required Required Required for some type of academic schools Not Required
Register with Council of Private Education Not Required Not Required Required for some type of academic schools Not Required
Childcare centre license Required If applicable NA NA
Canteen/Food court/ Stall/Coffee shop license If applicable If applicable If applicable If applicable
TV sets in the premises If applicable If applicable If applicable If applicable
Publishing a school or educational magazine If applicable If applicable If applicable If applicable
Importing educational material If applicable If applicable If applicable If applicable
Advertisement of the institute If applicable If applicable If applicable If applicable
EduTrust certification Recommended Recommended Recommended Recommended
Singapore Quality class Certification NA NA Recommended NA


Get expert assistance

If you have any queries around how to start private education institutions in Singapore, how to start a private industry in Singapore or need accounting services for small business in Singapore, do get in touch with us at IMC and we will be happy to assist you.