Pros and Cons of Teaching in Singapore

Andrew Lynch

The prospect of teaching in Singapore can be exciting, as it opens up a whole world of new possibilities for your career. However, before making such a big change it is important to do your research so you understand if it will be a good move for you. 

To point you in the right direction, we’ve put together a list of pros and cons of teaching in Singapore so you can decide whether moving and working in another country is the right fit.

Pros of teaching in Singapore

Some of the best benefits of teaching in Singapore include:

Great rates of pay

Having the opportunity to earn a higher wage will be enticing to almost everyone and teachers will find that is the case in Singapore. For example, a secondary school teacher can receive an annual salary of around $69,000 (£53,000), while a primary school teacher can take home a yearly salary of almost $58,000 (£44,500), which also includes bonuses. Even inexperienced teachers in Singapore (known as Education Officers) have received significant salary increases over the past few years. Combined with the lower rates of tax that have to be paid (we explain this in more detail below), teaching in Singapore ensures you will be well rewarded for all your hard work. See our full guide for an in-depth breakdown of teacher's salaries in Singapore

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Job satisfaction

The education system in Singapore is widely regarded as one of the very best in the world. In global assessments carried out by the organisations such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Singapore has a history of either appearing at – or very close to – the top of the rankings. There has been particular success in subjects like maths, science and reading – with the average 15-year-old Singaporean 10 months ahead of students in the West when it comes to maths. 

This is great news for any teacher thinking of making a career move to Singapore. To be part of one of the world’s most successful education systems and to help children learn and excel to the best of their abilities is the goal of any teacher. 

Teacher to student ratio

One of the main reasons why education in the country has been so successful is due to the low ratio of students to teachers. In the West one of the biggest issues teachers have to contend with are the large numbers of students per class, which can make teaching more challenging. 

Class numbers in Singapore have continued to reduce over the past decade or so. The student-teacher ratio in Singapore secondary schools stood at an average of 11.6 students per teacher in 2018. The numbers in the UK for secondary schools in the UK stands at 15.9, as per 2019 figures. This means teachers in Singapore can provide more individual attention and accommodate various styles of learning under their tutorship. 

Student sat at desk

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Low tax rates

Compared to many countries around the world, Singapore workers enjoy lower rates of tax that allow you to make the most of your salary. If you work in the country for more than 183 days in a calendar year you are classified as a resident, which entitles you to the lower rate of tax. Anyone teaching in the country for a period of 60 days or less will not have to pay any tax at all. 

Using the salaries mentioned at the start of the article, a secondary school teacher earning $69,000 (£53,000) would be required to pay 11.5% tax, while a primary school teacher taking home $58,000 (£44,500) would have to pay 7% tax.

Cons of teaching in Singapore

We also want to highlight some of the cons of teaching in Singapore, such as:

Longer working hours

While teacher pay in Singapore is very strong, it does come at a price. Teachers are required by the Ministry of Education to work longer hours compared to many other educational professionals around the world. So while you will potentially earn more money than you would by teaching in the UK, you may also have to sacrifice more of your own spare time. 

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) global average is 41 hours, while teachers in England work an average of 46 hours per week. In Singapore, it has been reported that teachers can be required to work for as much as 52 hours per week. 

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High cost of living 

The high levels of pay afforded to teaching professionals in Singapore may be needed as the country often ranks as one of the most expensive places to live in the world. Renting a room or shared private apartment can cost anywhere between $700 (£500) and $1,500pm (£1,500). If you prefer a private studio or flat, you may have to pay between £1,500 and $4,5000pm (£3,450). HBD flats (public housing) are cheaper, but offer fewer amenities, while private apartments are more expensive but offer more luxuries. 

Travel costs will vary depending on how far you have to travel to work, while food prices may also be higher due to the amount of products imported into the country. However, due to the healthy salaries on offer, dealing with this sort of expenditure may not prove to be an issue. And it is worth remembering that living costs will vary from person to person, depending on your lifestyle requirements, so the above estimations should only be used as a rough guideline. 

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Rigid education system

While Singapore proudly boasts one of the best education systems in the world, it comes as a result of a very rigid infrastructure. A heavy emphasis is placed on grades and test results, which creates a very competitive environment. 

While teachers in the UK have to follow a curriculum, there is a certain amount of freedom allowed in how it is taught that they may not experience in Singapore. That said, education in the country has been an overwhelming success over the past few decades, so you may find that being part of this sort of the system is the right fit for what you want to achieve.