How to Set Up a Private Commercial School in Singapore

Published on October 16th, 2015 by in Blog

Singapore’s private education industry (PEI) is on the rise. There are over 1,200 private education outfits in the country, allowing for a diverse range of higher education and related services.

Academic education is the most popular option, but a rise in specialty schools and skill-based courses are also in demand.

Academic and non-academic schools are on the rise in the country, with both local and foreign entities establishing private commercial schools around the country. The first step in offering private education is to understand the different classifications of educational institutes within Singapore.

Singapore’s Classification of Educational Institutes

Most entities will be classified into one of the following educational institutes:

Childcare Centers

Schools that aim to teach children basic activities may fall within the childcare center definition. Any school that will supervise more than 5 children that are under the age of 7 at one time will be considered a childcare center.


A structured preschool that consists of a 3-year education. These schools are meant for children ages 3 – 6, and start with nursery school, kindergarten 1 and kindergarten 2.

Schools can also be classified in two other manners and are geared towards older attendees.

Academic Schools

Many private commercial schools will be academic schools. These schools offer a degree or diploma to all students that successfully conclude their courses. Schools that fall under this classification are:

  • Educational establishments
  • Business schools
  • Language schools
  • Adult education
  • Distance learning centers
  • Tuition schools

Academic schools are meant to help a person advance in a specific field, such as language or computer education. Educational establishments may also offer a traditional school setting where many subjects are taught.

Non-Academic Schools

Institutes that teach a specialization and offer hands-on experience will normally fall under the non-academic classification. Examples of these schools include:

  • Cooking school
  • Pet grooming school
  • Driving school
  • Hair styling school

These schools provide a hands-on experience that allows students to enter into a career.

Incorporate the Business

Classification will allow you to proceed into the incorporation process of starting a private commercial school. Before incorporation, there is a lot of research that needs to go into the planning phase of a business. This research allows you to understand the current market demand for your business, and if a business will be viable and ready for incorporation.

A few tasks that should be undertaken prior to incorporation include:

  • Market: Is there a demand for the business?
  • Location: Optimal locations should be mapped out with current rental prices.
  • Staffing: Who will teach the courses offered, and what are the market salaries in the field?
  • Risks: What risks need to be mitigated for the business to succeed?
  • Financials: A complete forecast of financials should be projected to determine best and worst case income estimations.

Answering all of these questions and conducting proper research will allow you to have a better understanding of your business and the viable options available to you. You’ll also know if you need financial assistance to help get your business up and running properly.

Incorporation can be done through the Singapore Registrar of Companies. A completely online process, you can have your business fully incorporated in 1 – 2 days on average. You’ll need the following documents to get started:

  • Company name
  • Memorandum and Articles of Association
  • Short description of the business’s activities
  • Shareholder, director and secretary particulars
  • Registered address

Further paperwork is needed to fulfill the incorporation process:

  • Singapore Residents: A copy of the owner’s Singapore identity card.
  • Non-Residents: A copy of the owner’s passport, residential address proof, bank reference letter and other documentation.

All of this documentation will be needed to proceed with incorporation.

Several business types are available for incorporation, but most schools will register as a Private Limited Singapore Company. This allows for a fast registration and is a straightforward process. Foreign entities incorporating in the country can view this entity type as an LLC. Liabilities are limited to the amount of share capital of the business, and the business must have less than 50 shareholders.

The majority of privately owned businesses in the country are Private Limited Companies.

Licensing Requirements

Licenses will be required for different aspects of the business. The following will need a license to conduct business:

  • Childcare centers will need to become licensed.
  • Food courts or coffee shops in the school will need a license.
  • Televisions on your premises will require a license.
  • Publishing magazines in the school requires licenses.
  • Importing any educational materials requires a license.
  • Advertising will require a license.

Registering with the Ministry of Education will be required for most entities. Several licenses will need to be obtained to run in accordance to Singapore law. It’s best to consult with a specialist to ensure that your school has all of the licenses needed to legally operate.

Accreditation Options

After incorporation and licensing, you’re free to open your school up to the public. Many schools have accreditations that show the school’s professionalism and is ideal to gain trust in the community.

New schools are not required to get accredited, but it’s recommended.

There are two main accreditations that you’ll want to consider when operating a school in the country:

  • EduTrust: An accreditation required before any international students are enrolled in a school. Under the EduTrust Support Scheme (ESS), private education institutes can obtain a grant of SS26,500. This will allow the school to upgrade their capabilities and offer courses to international students.
  • Singapore Quality Class (SQC): A certification that is especially important for any school that accepts international students. The SQC adds credibility to an educational institute and also expedites the visa application process.

If your school will accept international students, it’s highly recommended that you receive both of these accreditations prior to opening the facility.

Private commercial schools in Singapore are on the rise. Most entities will form under a Private Limited Company, and accreditation is optional, but highly recommended. The classification and licensing process are the timeliest, while incorporation can be done within 1- 2 days under normal circumstances.

With a growing trend of private educational institutes, many schools are offering niche classes or specializations to lure in prospective students.

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