Singapore: NorthLight School is established


NorthLight School was established in March 2006 by the Ministry of Education and commenced operation in January the following year.[1]  NorthLight aims to provide a customised practice-based curriculum for primary school students who have difficulties keeping up with mainstream education and who are at risk of dropping out from the education system prematurely.[2] The school admits students who have sat for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) but whose grades did not allow them to proceed on to secondary education.[3] The school admitted its first batch of students in January 2007.[4]

Before the formation of NorthLight, most students who failed their PSLE went on to enrol at the Vocational Training Centres (VTCs). However, the attrition at the VTCs was high; 60 percent of the students dropped out of the programme in 2005. Of the remaining 40 percent, less than half progressed on to the Institute of Technical Education (ITE). Moreover, the VTC’s minimum enrolment age of 14 years meant that there was a two-year time lag from leaving primary school to entering the VTC. To address the educational needs of this group of students, NorthLight was developed as a specialised school to cater to the different learning styles and abilities of students, as well as to prepare them for a further education at the ITE or industry apprenticeship.[5]

The three-year curriculum at NorthLight is organised around three core areas: Character Education, Instructional Education and Vocational Education. In Character Education, emphasis is placed on personal mastery. Students are taught emotional resilience so they can overcome difficulties in life, values of honesty and sincerity, as well as interpersonal skills. In Instructional Education, an experiential approach is adopted in the teaching of language, mathematics and IT literacy as most of the students are kinaesthetic learners who do better in non-traditional classroom settings. In Vocational Education, students are trained in a specialised skill such as mechanics or hospitality, and these skills are put to practice through industrial attachment programmes.[6]

1. Ministry of Education. (2006, September 15). NorthLight School – Appointment of Board of Governors. Retrieved May 30, 2014, from Ministry of Education website:
2. Leong, L. (2009, August). The story of NorthLight: A school of opportunities and possibilities, Part I. Retrieved May 30, 2014, from Civil Service College website:
3. NorthLight School. (2013). Admission requirements. Retrieved May 30, 2014, from NorthLight School website:
4. School designed to prevent drop outs opens its doors. (2007, January 3). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva.
5. Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary Debates: Official Report. (2006, March 8). Estimates of expenditure for the financial year 1st April, 2006 to 31st March, 2007 (Vol. 81, col. 1352).Retrieved May 30, 2014, from Parliament of Singapore website:
6. Leong,  Aug 2009; NorthLight School. (2014). Curriculum framework. Retrieved May 30, 2014, from NorthLight School website: