BY WONG WEI KIM
There are a mind-boggling 80 international schools in Malaysia…..and counting.
How to choose?
Let’s begin with the Curriculum + Price + Location Triumvirate, followed by a few other things to think about.
Curriculum - Malaysian international schools offer a whole buffet of curricula; from UK to US, IB to iCBSE, Australian, French, Indian, Islamic, German, Japanese … As someone wiser than us once said: “Malaysian education is like a food court.”
Whether you choose the chicken chop or the laksa depends on which country you think your child will end up for university and your family’s academic philosophy. Do you want academic rigor? Or a focus on the whole child? Do you want your child to have a religious education? Or to be fluent in a specific language?
Price – As parents, we will pay ANYTHING for good education for our children. BUT as “responsible adults”, you really have to check your numbers to make sure that whatever you commit to will be sustainable. Yes, it’s got to last over a decade, for each child.
Annual school fees can range from RM4,000 for the Saudi School in Malaysia – but you have to be a Saudi expat’s kid to go there – to upwards of RM80,000 for the likes of Marlborough College in Johor, a branch of the UK school (more if your kid is boarding).
Most schools are clustered in the RM20,000 to RM40,000 a year range.
When considering Price, remember to calculate both Tuition Fees as well as the “Other Fees”. Other Fees include registration fees, deposits, uniform and book costs as well as transportation and building fund contributions. Some schools have a lunch plan you may want to follow, add that into your calculations too. The list is not exhaustive and most schools will be upfront about these extra costs. Remember to ask about sibling discounts.
Worth noting are the non-profit international schools. There are a few around such as Alice Smith, the International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL), the French School of Kuala Lumpur (LFKL), the German School of Kuala Lumpur (DSKL) and more. This does NOT mean their fees are lower – in fact these schools are in the top band of our Outstation.my School Search – but it does mean that all fees are ploughed back into teacher training, the upkeep of the school, better equipment, student development and so on.
Location – It really helps when the school is located near your home, a family member’s home or workplace for less time spent in traffic and less stress all around. This also applies if you are going to use school buses. Also, look at where the school itself is located and at it’s surroundings, to see what environment – businesses, buildings, etc – your child will be spending 5 to 8 hours of their day in.
The schools are mostly in Malaysia’s business cities – with the vast majority in the Klang Valley, a few in Penang and Ipoh, and a growing number in Johor. Within the Klang Valley, the older schools tend to be close to the expat enclaves of Ampang and Mont Kiara, while the newer ones have spread into the newer suburbs in the south of the city.
Facilities – The better the quality and variety of facilities a school has, the more interesting your child’s school life will probably be. Also, the upkeep and quality of the school facilities will clue you in to the ethos of the school.
Most Malaysian international schools will generally have a multi-purpose hall serving as a venue for indoor games and school assemblies, a field, swimming pool, library, at least one canteen, WiFi reach across some parts if not all of the school and computer, science, art and music rooms or labs.
Some of the pricier schools even have climbing walls.
Accreditation – Accreditation is an act of regulating school programmes and its learning environment. Accrediting bodies are normally independent from the country’s education ministry. For example, schools which offer the IGCSE exams should really have obtained accreditation from one of three accrediting bodies – the Cambridge International Examinations board (http://www.cie.org.uk/), Edexcell (http://www.edexcel.com/Pages/Home.aspx) or AQA (http://www.aqa.org.uk/)
When you visit the school, it will be worthwhile asking after their accreditation, or if you fancy yourself a Nancy Drew or Hardy Boy, check with the accrediting bodies themselves on the schools’ status. Most established international schools will ensure their accreditation is up to date.
Class size – Government schools in Malaysia average about 30 to 40 students in a class. Most international schools halve that. You will want to look for signs of overcrowding, which may signal the school management is inclined to put monetary profit before student welfare.
To kickstart your search, go to Outstation’s schools directory – the only one out there searchable by price, location and curriculum. The Outstation School Search was designed and built by parents for parents.
This will help you shortlist schools, before you plan your visits. Nothing really can substitute a walk around to meet the students, teachers and management, ask questions and see for yourself how things work.
At some point, something will click and you will know which one is right for your family. Trust your instincts and your gut….but do your research first.
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