Top secondary schools in Singapore


The top secondary schools in Singapore: RGS, TJC, Dunman, St Nicks
Top secondary schools in Singapore
Image adapted from (clockwise from top left): Raffles Girls’ School, Temasek Junior College, handsomebobby8, Dunman High

After the hurdle of PSLE comes another thing to crack your brain over: Selecting a secondary school. Naturally, people try to pick schools with a higher cut-off point, as those are thought of as the “top” institutions with quality education. And as with any kiasu parent or student about to enter secondary education, everyone’s just curious about the yearly rankings of each school.

But before we delve into that, here are the various types of programmes offered by the top secondary schools in Singapore:


O-Levels


O-Levels is something most of you are familiar with, as it’s the most commonly taken secondary qualification in Singapore. It gives you the option of going to either polytechnics or junior college – which is great for students who are still exploring potential career options or are already set on pursuing a particular specialised course in poly.

There’s still the possibility of entering an IP junior college at the tertiary level if you do well for your O-Levels. However, note that these IP schools already have a good number of spaces reserved for their own students who did IP at the secondary level, so it might be tough to get in unless you score extremely well for your “O”s.


Integrated Programme (IP)


Integrated Programme

Only offered in top schools, the Integrated Programme (IP) is a 6-year “through-train” course, that gives you direct admission to junior college after Secondary 4 – all without having to take -O-Levels. Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it!

Well, on one hand, you have a safety net of sorts, with a guaranteed spot in a top JC  – unless you fail a couple of subjects and don’t hit the minimum mark. Most top students who are naturally gifted and/or book smart thrive in such a system.

On the other hand, you have to be very sure that the A-Level route is something you’re prepared to take. Otherwise, you’ll have a hard time getting out of the programme and transferring to an O-Level school or polytechnic.

Read our writer’s recount about her struggle in a top IP Secondary School and JC.


International Baccalaureate (IB)


You’ve probably heard of the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme before, but don’t exactly know what it entails. While they may sound phonetically similar – and thus often confused with each other – the IB offers a different syllabus from the IP altogether. The programme is claimed to have more of a “global outlook”, so it’s something you’d want to consider if you’re looking at studying overseas in the future.

The course focuses more on “inquiry” rather than the drilling of subjects. Expect more hands-on projects and a mix of Science, Arts, and Philosophy. More subjects offered means a more well-rounded education, giving you more options when it comes to picking a university course.

There are no O-Levels involved, but they do have their own form of grading, where daily homework assignments can also hold weightage. Those who take on the IB at Secondary level often go on to take the IB Diploma, an A-Level equivalent.

As far as local universities are concerned, A-Levels and IB qualifications are equally recognised.


Special Assistance Plan (SAP)


SAP school
Image credit: Shopee

Special Assistance Plan (SAP) school is meant to “preserve bilingualism” and “traditional Chinese values” – and as such, they’re informally referred to as “Chinese schools” by the public. A school can offer the SAP in conjunction with the IP.

To get in, you must have scored at least an “A” grade in both English and Chinese for PSLE. SAP schools only offer Chinese as a mother tongue, and you’ll have to take Higher Chinese instead of Chinese language at the regular level. Students from other race groups are welcome to join, but have to fulfil all the Chinese language requirements.

If you would prefer your child to mix around with a more racially diverse range of friends, you might want to enrol him in a non-SAP school.


Top schools in Singapore based on 2019’s PSLE scores


Below are the top secondary schools in Singapore with the highest cut-off points of 250 and above, based on 2019’s PSLE scores.

Do note that the purpose of this article is not to promote elitism, but rather to let parents and students make an informed choice should they be considering such schools – especially with the interest of IP and IB in mind. “Top” is also subjective, and these school rankings are based solely on academic scores. There are other schools not on the list who also offer a well-rounded education with dedicated teachers and a nurturing environment.


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1. Hwa Chong Institution


Hwa Chong Institution
Image credit: handsomebobby8

Type: Boys
Programme: IP, SAP
Location: Bukit Timah

It’s no surprise that Hwa Chong Institution has made the list, as they’re one of the top secondary schools in Singapore every year. It’s a popular choice among high-scoring males who come from Chinese-speaking families, due to the school’s Chinese history and SAP. Students here get direct entry to the eponymous junior college section of the school.

They offer a myriad of special programmes and electives beyond the curriculum, with a mix including Arts, Humanities, Sciences, and Research Studies.


2. Raffles Girls’ School (Secondary)


Raffles Girls’ School
Image credit: Raffles Girls’ School

Type: Girls
Programme: IP
Location: Braddell

At long last, Raffles’ Girls School has finally shifted from Orchard to Braddell, to join its “brother school” RI and affiliated junior college, RJC. The new campus which opened in end 2019 has a massive open-air auditorium and is an easy 7-minute walk from Braddell MRT station.

RGS has consistently been one of the top secondary schools in Singapore that are girls-only, though they’ve lost out to Nanyang Girls’ High and Methodist Girls’ School a couple of times. Notable alumnae include singers Kit Chan, Corrinne May, and Stefanie Sun, as well as national swimmer Quah Ting Wen and actress Emma Yong.


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3. Methodist Girls’ School (Secondary)


Methodist Girls’ School
Image credit: Methodist Girls’ School

Type: Girls
Programme: IP, O-Levels
Location: Bukit Timah

Methodist Girls’ School is the only IP girls’ school with a programme that leads to the IB, with a partnership with ACS Independent. But should you prefer the O-Level route, and wish to go to poly, they do offer that as well.

To help students in character building, the school conducts weekly “Godliness, Excellence, Love” sessions where the girls will learn about leadership, pastoral care, and sexuality. Some of these may be taught in accordance with the Christian faith due to the school’s religious roots.


4. Nanyang Girls’ High School


Nanyang Girls’ High School
Image credit: Nanyang Girls’ High School

Type: Girls
Programme: IP, SAP
Location: Bukit Timah

One could say Nanyang Girls’ High School is the female counterpart of Hwa Chong Institution, which it is right across the road from. They, too, offer direct entry to the JC arm of Hwa Chong.

Right in front of the main building is a sprawling grassy field unlike any other where students can gather. But one of the most unique features of the school is the Makerspace, a workspace that’s equipped with a 3D printer, soldering machine, sewing machines, and more. These are typically utilised by students working on projects for various special programmes, but anyone in the school is welcome to use them.


5. Raffles Institution


Raffles Institution
Image credit: Raffles Institution

Type: Boys
Programme: IP
Location: Bishan

Goes without saying that this school offers a direct route to Raffles Institution Junior College. It’s pretty much the boys’ version of RGS. Many jokes have been cracked about the school’s white-on-white uniform bearing an uncanny resemblance to a certain political party’s – especially since many political figures are alumni of the school.

RI is a popular alternative to Hwa Chong for those who fare better in English than Mandarin, or those who do not speak Chinese.


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6. Dunman High School


Dunman High School
Image credit: Dunman High

 Type: Co-ed
Programme: IP, SAP
Location: Kallang

While everyone’s heard of Dunman High – one of the few co-ed top secondary schools in Singapore – perhaps not many know that it has its own JC equivalent, also known as the Senior High section of the school. Students will get direct entry there through the IP, and will proceed on to do A-Levels.

In line with its Chinese culture, it is interesting to note that the school has a Beijing Opera and Guzheng Ensemble CCA, among many others.


7. National Junior College


National Junior College
Image credit: Swee Life

Type: Co-ed
Programme: IP
Location: Bukit Timah

The name might insinuate otherwise, but National Junior College does have its own integrated secondary school. Fun fact: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is an alumnus of the JC side of the school.

The school offers a very holistic set of special programmes for Art, Music, and Languages, but perhaps most worthy of note is their multiple Science ones, which offer students the opportunity to embark on research projects large organisations like A*STAR.


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8. CHIJ St. Nicholas Girls’ School


CHIJ St. Nicholas Girls’ School
Image credit: handsomebobby8

Type: Girls
Programme: IP, SAP, O-Levels
Location: Ang Mo Kio

As far as convent schools in Singapore go, the CHIJ name is pretty established, as they’re the oldest convent school in Singapore with a history dating back to 1854. While they have a couple of branches across the island, the spots at CHIJ St. Nicholas Girls’ School are the most coveted due to the ranking of the school.


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9. Anglo-Chinese School (Independent)


Anglo-Chinese School (Independent)
 Image credit: Anglo Chinese School (Independent)

Type: Boys
Programme: IB, O-Levels
Location: Dover

Anglo Chinese School (Independent) gives students a choice between the IB and O-Levels. While years 1-4 are purely for boys, years 5-6 will include the girls from MGS who are pursuing their IB.

Here, all students in year 1-4 are required to take up 2 CCAs, with over 50 to choose from. Only those who enter through Direct School Admission (DSA) are exempted from this, and will only need to focus on their DSA CCA.


10. Catholic High School


Catholic High School
Image credit: My 公教. Our Home.

Type: Boys
Programme: IP, SAP, O-Levels
Location: Bishan

Though Catholic High School offers O-Levels, students also have the option to take up the IP and gain easy entry to Eunoia Junior College nearby, Singapore’s newest JC that only opened its doors in 2017.

They’re one of the rare schools here where shorts are worn in all levels – typically, boys in Secondary 3 and 4 switch from shorts to long pants for a more “grown-up” look. Guess that gives them extra convenience and comfort in our humidity.


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11. Cedar Girls’ Secondary School


Cedar Girls’ Secondary School
Image credit: Which School Advisor

Type: Girls
Programme: IP, O-Levels
Location: Potong Pasir

Cedar Girls’ Secondary School offers the IP with direct entry to Victoria Junior College, alongside the boys from Victoria School. They seem to have a strong emphasis on leadership, with multiple student leadership boards including the Peer Support Leaders Board, Monitress Council, and Outdoor Adventure Leaders Board – on top of the usual Prefectorial Board.


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12. River Valley High School


River Valley High School
Image credit: Termi-mesh

Type: Co-ed
Programme: IP, SAP
Location: Jurong

River Valley High School is yet another rare co-ed IP school, and the only one that’s located in the far corner of the West. Students here will go on to take their A-Levels in the same school.

Another school with a strong Chinese background, RVHS is one of the few that offers the Bi-cultural Studies Programme. Character is of importance here, and students have to undergo the CHAMPS programme, an acronym for “Character Education; Health Education; Active Citizenry; Moral Philosophy; Physical Education; & Student Leadership Development”.

Under this, they will have to complete compulsory core modules and at least 1 elective.


13. Singapore Chinese Girls’ School


Type: Girls
Programme: IP, O-Levels
Location: Stevens Road

Singapore Chinese Girls’ School is one of the oldest girls’ schools in Singapore, built by Peranakan men who wanted girls – who were traditionally uneducated – to get an equal education to boys. They now have an IP programme which leads students to the recently opened Eunoia JC.


14. Victoria School


Victoria School
Image credit: Victoria School

Type: Boys
Programme: IP, O-Levels
Location: Siglap

Victoria School originally started out as a Malay school, but now has male students of all races. Like Cedar Girls’, this school offers direct entry to Victoria JC that’s located not too far away at Marine Parade.

They offer the Art Elective Programme and Regional Studies Programme, the latter of which is based on Southeast Asian culture. Those who have a special interest in sport can opt to take up Physical Education (PE) as an O-Level subject, where they’ll be learning about both theory and practical aspects of different types of sports.


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15. Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School (Secondary)

Type: Girls
Programme: O-Levels
Location: Kovan

As its name suggests, Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School has religious links to the Methodist church – similar to MGS and ACS. It’s one of the few top schools which does not offer either the IP or IB, and instead focuses solely on training its students for O-Levels. While there are no direct entry opportunities to JC, those who study here can get a 2-point bonus when applying for the affiliated Anglo-Chinese Junior College.


16. St. Joseph’s Institution


St. Joseph’s Institution
Image credit: St. Joseph’s Institution

Type: Boys
Programme: IB, O-Levels
Location: Stevens Road

St Joseph’s Institution is another top secondary school in Singapore that has an IP programme, leading to the IB in year 5 and 6. Students can also opt to go by the O-Level route, and enter a polytechnic, Junior College, or continue with the IB based on their scores and preferences.

As the school has Catholic roots, you can expect celebrations for certain religious events happening within the campus.


17. Temasek Junior College


Temasek Junior College
Image credit: Temasek Junior College

Type: Co-ed
Programme: IP
Location: Bedok

Like NJC, Temasek Junior College is another JC with a Secondary IP programme. This might be an option for those with aptitude in the arts, music, and the Chinese language, as they offer the Music Elective Programme, a Chinese Language Elective Programme, and their own Humanities Programme.


Top secondary schools in Singapore


Most of the top schools in Singapore are incidentally single-sex schools. We’re not sure why, but perhaps fewer distractions from possible puppy love relationships = better grades.

Parents who prefer their children to have co-ed schooling because they think it helps develop better social skills have 4 options from this list to choose from: NJC, TJC, Dunman High, and River Valley High School. Make sure your child picks their school with other considerations not limited to ranking. For example, are they set on a particular JC, or might want the option for poly?

At the end of the day, it’s not so much about the school you’re in, but rather the hard work you put into your studies. And even if your school isn’t on this list, it won’t necessarily determine your university and career prospects.

Check out our other schooling-related articles: