The Right Fit: Choosing a Secondary School

Choosing the right secondary school

After the release of PSLE results, the next step is the Secondary One Posting Exercise. With an overwhelming number of choices to consider, this exercise can be almost as stressful as the PSLE. It is essential for parents to include their child’s opinions in this process. After all, they are the ones who will be attending school. Other than the secondary school cut-off points, parents should look at whether the school has an ideal environment to develop their child’s strengths. There are also different routes to consider based on the child’s abilities. Here are a few factors to consider during the selection process.

Academic Fit

Both parents and students hope for a place in a “top” school. However, secondary schools with higher cut-off points may not be the most suitable for your child. Some students are more motivated to study when their grades are better than their peers’, due to an increase in self-confidence. It may be better to select a secondary school where students are of a similar or lower academic level in this case.

Academic Route

Academically strong students can opt for the Integrated Programmes (IP). The IP allows students to bypass the ‘O’ Levels. Students will instead take either the ‘A’ Levels, International Baccalaureate or NUS High School Diploma at the sixth year of study from Secondary one. The IP has a more independent learning style. Hence, some students may prefer the structure of the ‘O’ Level route despite meeting requirements for the IP.

School Programmes and Culture

Student development programmes offered by schools are usually aligned with their vision, mission and values. They influence leadership programmes, opportunities for overseas trips and school camps. Many secondary schools also have their Learning for Life or Applied Learning Programme. Find out if the school’s programmes allow your child to excel not just academically, but develop as a well-rounded person.

Special Programmes

Students with a strong aptitude for music and art and a solid academic record can apply for Music or Art Elective Programmes. Students who scored well in their Mother Tongue can participate in language programmes, like the Bicultural Studies Programme or Third Languages. These programmes are only offered in some schools. It is good to read up on them and the institutions that offer them to see if it is suitable for your child.

Co-curricular Activities (CCA)

Every school has a range of CCAs to meet the interest of every student. Most schools also have niche programmes. While a school may have a CCA that matches your child’s interests, do note that schools sometimes have a selection process especially for niche programmes or popular CCAs.

Proximity to Home

Consider peak-hour traffic and the crowd on public transport when travelling to and from school. A school closer to home means less travelling time. The minutes saved provide extra precious time for studying, CCAs and most importantly, much-needed rest.

Students with Special Needs

Some schools have Allied Educators (Learning and Behavioural Support) to provide support for students with mild special educational needs like Dyslexia, Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Facilities and resources are also available for students with visual and hearing impairment and physical disabilities in a few schools. Students who require additional support may like to consider these schools.


Get a feel of the school by actually being there, although you have read some necessary information from the “Choosing Your Secondary School Booklet.” Schools usually conduct open houses from mid to end November where you can receive first-hand information about the student experience from current students and teachers. The school should have programmes that match and develop your child’s strengths and interests and also be a good academic fit. No matter how the PSLE results are looking, supporting and guiding your child through this process will allow them to make an informed choice about the next step of their education journey.

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