Kid's school fees for expats: Over $500k

Expatriates can send their children to international schools, such as (from far left) Tanglin Trust School, Singapore American School and United World College of South East Asia, or they can enrol them in a local school for about one-fifth of the cos
Expatriates can send their children to international schools, such as Tanglin Trust School (above), Singapore American School and United World College of South East Asia, or they can enrol them in a local school for about one-fifth of the cost. ST FILE PHOTOS
Expatriates can send their children to international schools, such as (from far left) Tanglin Trust School, Singapore American School and United World College of South East Asia, or they can enrol them in a local school for about one-fifth of the cos
Expatriates can send their children to international schools, such as Tanglin Trust School, Singapore American School (above) and United World College of South East Asia, or they can enrol them in a local school for about one-fifth of the cost.
Expatriates can send their children to international schools, such as (from far left) Tanglin Trust School, Singapore American School and United World College of South East Asia, or they can enrol them in a local school for about one-fifth of the cos
Expatriates can send their children to international schools, such as Tanglin Trust School, Singapore American School and United World College of South East Asia (above), or they can enrol them in a local school for about one-fifth of the cost.

12 years of private school fees here top among 5 Asian nations: Survey

Expatriates who send their children to an international school here can expect to pay more than $500,000 in school fees from Primary 1 to pre-university.

Such fees were the priciest out of five Asian economies and have risen 23.2 per cent in the last five years, according to a study by London-based Centre for Economics and Business (CEBR) Research.

The others were Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Hong Kong, which was almost as expensive as Singapore.

A child who starts at international school in Singapore today can expect to pay $528,700 over 12 years of schooling, from Primary 1 to pre-university, $99,900 more than a child who started just five years ago, said CEBR.

The survey examined fees at international schools in popular places for British expats in Asia. But fees here are still cheaper than in Britain. Annual tuition fees at British private schools are 30 per cent higher.

"The increase in fees is partially explained by high levels of spending on educational facilities and pursuit of academic excellence," said CEBR economist Nina Skero.

"In the five years to 2020, we expect fees to continue to go up in Singapore and elsewhere, and expats need to prepare for this."

Of the five Asian economies, international schools in Malaysia offered the lowest annual tuition fees. Fees there averaged $23,200. In contrast, the fees were $30,900 in Singapore and $29,000 in Hong Kong.

"School fees are becoming a bigger issue for expats, particularly as traditional expat packages are being replaced with local contracts," said Mr David Pugh, director for South-east Asia of The Fry Group, a financial advisory firm that commissioned the research.

"At a cost of over $500,000 in fees for each child, even before they reach university, it is vital for expats to plan how they are going to pay for their children's education.

"Employers also need to be mindful of the financial pressure that relocating and moving children to international schools can place on expats."

Headhunters here said expats are still drawn to Singapore despite the high education costs.

"With Singapore being one of the most favoured working destinations, it doesn't take much to attract them," said Mr David Leong, managing director of PeopleWorldwide Consulting.

Mr Toby Fowlston, managing director of Robert Walters South-east Asia, said: "In some cases, any increased educational costs are offset by appropriate salary levels and the favourable tax rates offered in Singapore."

But expat salary packages have also changed considerably in the past 10 years.

Gone are the days when the packages included numerous different allowances for education, rent, car, and a range of other things, said Ms Stella Tang, Robert Half Singapore managing director.

"Today's packages tend to be a lump sum figure and the expat chooses how it is spent. It is far more common today for expats and local managers to be on the same salary scale," she said.

She pointed out that, while high education costs may deter potential candidates, there is a wide selection of schools available to expats, including more affordable ones.

According to the fees listed on the Ministry of Education's website, an international student who starts at a local school next year, would pay only $108,144 over 12 years of schooling, one-fifth that at an international school.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 20, 2015, with the headline 'Kid's school fees for expats: Over $500k'. Print Edition | Subscribe