New measures to raise standards of private education in Singapore

An O-level English preparatory class in session at Kaplan Higher Education.
An O-level English preparatory class in session at Kaplan Higher Education. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The private education sector is set for a major shake-up with new measures to better protect students and make information more transparent for them.

Among the new requirements are making it compulsory for private education institutions (PEIs) offering degrees to take part in an annual graduate employment survey run by the Committee of Private Education (CPE), as well as minimum financial standards.

The CPE, which regulates private education, has been part of the SkillsFuture Singapore, a statutory board under the Ministry of Education, since October 3. It was previously known as the Council for Private Education.

In a statement on Friday (Oct 21), the CPE laid out five broad measures.

First, PEIs that offer degree programmes will be required to take part in a yearly survey to track their graduate employment outcomes. The survey results, to be published on CPE's website, will show how each institution fares. It will be administered centrally by CPE.

Next, private schools that offer degrees or courses including diplomas that lead directly to degrees must first obtain a four-year EduTrust certification, a quality assurance award. Existing schools that offer such programmes and do not have this award must apply for it by June 2017 and attain it by June 2018.

Fresh school-leavers joining private schools will also need to meet minimum academic entry requirements. For instance, those applying for degrees must have at least an A-level certificate, the International Baccalaureate diploma or other equivalent pre-university qualifications. They could also hold a polytechnic diploma or a PEI qualification that provides direct entry into a degree programme.

To ensure new PEIs are properly resourced, a minimum paid-up capital of $100,000 will be required of them with immediate effect. Existing PEIs will also need to meet a minimum credit rating by June 2017.

Lastly, EduTrust criteria will be tightened. From now, only PEIs that are registered with CPE for at least a four-year period will be able to apply for EduTrust certification. Currently there are no such restrictions.

The EduTrust standards will also focus more on academic processes and student education outcomes. These revised requirements will be released in January 2017 and take effect in June 2017.

Mr Brandon Lee, director-general (private education) of SkillsFuture Singapore, said in the statement: "As the sector matures, we need to ensure that institutions continue to have sound foundations on which to operate and deliver the quality of training that students expect.

"The new measures are aimed at doing so, and will provide additional safeguards for students who choose to enrol with PEIs."

Students also need to "exercise due diligence by researching and assessing the suitability of the various education pathways available", he said. "We also hope that the enhanced information transparency will be useful in helping students make more informed decisions."