Thinking of continuing your studies with a private school?
If you are, it is important to spend time researching on the school and course that you are interested in. To help you along, here is a list of questions to ask yourself as you research your choices.
Selecting a private school
1. Is the private school registered with CPE?
The Private Education Act requires all private schools to be registered with CPE and meet basic requirements on information disclosure, academic processes and corporate governance. Visit this link for a list of all registered private schools, and check if the school of your choice is registered. Do also take note of the school’s registration period, its registration expiry date and its overall registration track record as part of your research.
2. Is the private school EduTrust-certified?
The EduTrust Certification Scheme (EduTrust) is a quality assurance scheme. It assesses a private school’s academic processes, corporate governance and administration, quality management and the protection and welfare of students; and aims to recognise private schools that are able to consistently maintain a high standard of quality in the overall provision of education services and make continual improvements that lead to positive student outcomes. However, EduTrust does not assess the content of the course. Visit this link for a list of EduTrust-certified private schools.
3. Am I satisfied with the premises and facilities provided by the private school?
Visit the private school’s actual premises and observe the study environment for a more accurate assessment of what the school has to offer.
4. Will my course fees be protected?
CPE administers two insurance schemes – the industry-wide course fee insurance scheme and the fee protection scheme – to protect unconsumed course fees paid by students should a private school close down. Private schools who do not subscribe to any of these schemes are not allowed to collect more than two months of course fees in advance from their students. Find out more about how your course fees are protected here.
5. Are there any claims made by the school that seem too good to be true?
Be wary of exaggerated claims. Always verify if such claims are true or ask the school to justify its claims. Read more here.
6. What if I am not able to cope with the demands of school?
Check if there will be any remedial classes or additional support provided. You should consider very carefully if you are able to cope with the demands of a course before signing up.
7. How are complaints handled? Who can I approach if I need to raise any administrative or academic issues, e.g. appeal of grades or request for a review of examination papers?
Check if the private school has an internal feedback channel for you to highlight your grievances.
Different schools may have different policies on appeal procedures. However, note that most schools do not disclose students’ exact marks nor allow students to view their examination papers after they have been graded.
Selecting a course offered by a private school
8. Is the course permitted by CPE?
Private schools offering courses such as diplomas, degrees and full-time certificates or preparatory courses, are required to be registered with CPE. The type of courses that require permission under the Private Education Act is described here. Visit this link for a list of all permitted courses.
*Note: While CPE oversees the registration of courses offered by private schools, it does not endorse or accredit the courses. Do find out more about the private school and its courses before you sign up.
9. Are the qualifications recognised?
The decision to accept your qualifications lies with your prospective higher educational institutions or employers. There is no central authority in Singapore that accords recognition to certificates and/or qualifications.
10. How is the course structured and what are the graduation requirements?
Find out what is needed to complete the course and assess if you can cope with the academic rigour of the course.
In addition, consider other factors such as the frequency of classes, proportion of assignments and examinations, maximum completion time of the course and if there are any compulsory modules that you need to pass before you can advance to the next module or level. Failure to pass the compulsory module and move on to complete other modules may cause you to exceed the maximum completion time of the course. Should that happen, you may not be allowed to graduate or even re-enrol in the course.
11. What is the maximum number of re-examinations granted for a module?
Ask yourself if you are confident in meeting this requirement. Should you reach the maximum number of re-examinations, you may have to re-do the entire module. This may also mean incurring additional fees and time, and also delaying your graduation.
12. Does the course that I am interested in articulate to a higher level programme?
If it does, check if the school has alternative arrangements should the higher level programme become unavailable.
13. Are the teachers qualified?
Do check the teachers’ credentials and whether they are qualified to teach the modules or subjects of the course.
Prior to signing up, you may also ask the school if you could sit in on a few classes to get a sense of how lessons are conducted.
14. What is the graduation rate and employment prospects of graduates from the course?
Approach the school to ask for the number of batches of students that have graduated and their employment record. You may also ask to speak to some of the alumni to find out more from them.
15. Is industry attachment or on-the-job-training (OJT) offered as part of the curriculum?
If industry attachment or OJT is included, clarify with the school in writing:
- if the OJT component is compulsory;
- the minimum requirement for attendance or any other requirements (such as completion of coursework or interviews with the organisation offering the OJT) before you are eligible for OJT;
- the period of attachment;
- the alternative arrangement if the OJT is subsequently not available (some private schools may require students to complete a project in replacement of OJT); and
- the allowance you will be getting
You may also want to verify the information with the organisation hosting the attachment.
If you are looking to enrol in a programme offered by a foreign university in partnership with a private school in Singapore, consider asking these additional questions:
16. How does the foreign university ensure quality of their programme offered through private schools in Singapore? How does the foreign university ensure their programme in Singapore is equivalent to that offered by its home campus?
Check with the private school or directly with the foreign university on the type of measures put in place to ensure quality of the programme offered in Singapore. You may raise questions such as:
- Does the foreign university routinely check and audit its partners in Singapore through on-site visits; or
- What kind of support is provided to lecturers in Singapore to ensure quality in their course delivery?
In addition, most foreign universities conduct benchmarking studies to compare between students from their home campus and students from private schools that they partner in Singapore. Hence, ask for information such as graduation rates, drop-out rates and student satisfaction rates of the course that you intend to enrol in. Assess if students here fare as well as those from the foreign campus.
17. What is the proportion of lessons that will be taught by lecturers from the foreign university and lecturers from the private school?
Generally, only a quarter of foreign universities offer programmes that are fully taught by their own academic staff. Close to half of the foreign universities offer programmes that are taught by lecturers locally hired by private schools in Singapore.
Do also take into consideration that foreign lecturers may only fly into Singapore for a short period. Lessons may be compressed and accelerated so as to cover the necessary curriculum in a short span of time.
18. Does the foreign university review the deployment of teachers in Singapore?
Check if the teachers teaching the programme have been approved by the foreign university. You may ask the private school to show you approval or permission letters from the foreign university. In addition, find out if and how the foreign university monitors the performance of teachers in Singapore.
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