How To Pick An International School in Malaysia

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.

Outstation.my’s school search

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12 comments on “How To Pick An International School in Malaysia

  1. Hi there,
    Thanks for sharing such informative post….can you pls suggest me few islamic school names which are not very expansive have good record of accademic achievement?.. My daughter is 7…

    Best regards.

    Zubaida.

  2. Hi Zubaida,

    Thanks for writing in, I am glad you like the article!
    Which area are you looking to send your daughter to school at?

    There are quite a few options in the Klang Valley and Selangor areas for you to start your research at:
    Baseerah International School, Al-Noor International School, the International Islamic School (IIS) and Greenview Islamic School to name a few.

    If you are up north, you may want to consider looking at Ekhlass International School in Terengganu or the Wadi Sofia International School and Kelantan International School, both in Kota Bahru.

    Just click on our School Directory to search for the contact details of these schools.

    Good luck with your search and write back to let us know how it is going!

    With regards,

    Wei Kim

  3. Dear Mashitah,

    Thank you for writing in!
    Your question is exactly why we have Outstation.my’s International School Search Directory!

    There are several ways we can approach this:

    The first way is to use the “map” function. Just click on your area on the map and the locations of the international schools around you will pop up, marked with pins. Then it becomes a simple matter of looking through the pop-up list to find the school you want.

    The next way is to enter the word “islamic” into the Keyword section, and then choose “Selangor” in the dropdown Location list. This method will yield three schools, one each in the Ampang, Shah Alam and Subang areas. You may want to consider widening the search area to include “Kuala Lumpur”. Don’t worry, most international schools can pass you contact details of transporters who can service your area.

    Mashitah, this directory was put together by a small group of parents and it is still growing. So if you have heard of an international islamic school (or any other international school) near your area which is not in the directory, it would be so great if you can let us know so we can include the information. I would also love to hear your opinion of the search directory, all feedback is good feedback for us to improve the site!

    Good luck and I look forward to hearing from you.

    Warm regards,

    Wei Kim

    • Hi Umtaj,

      REAL International School’s Shah Alam campus is having an Open Day this coming Saturday, 16th May from 10am to 3pm. It is always good to visit to have a look at the campus and meet the people there. Get a feel of the outlook of the school and the way they deal with things. Nothing can beat your own gut feel and instinct!
      Call them at 03-78423228.

      Let me know what you think of the school. Good luck!

      Sincerely,
      Wei Kim

  4. I have got a new job in Kertih which I will join in coming August, and I am planning to get my family to Malaysia by coming September,2015 from Egypt. I want to know , Can I get a place for my kids in E.I.S (Ekhlass International School in Terengganu) (I have 4 kids , going next year to grades 8,6,4 and kG2 respectively) their ages are (14,12,9 and 5) and they are studying in private language school in Egypt now which is Egyptian english curriculum but not UK curriculum . How far is the school from kertih?? sorry as this will be my first time to come to Malaysia and I have no information about terengganu ..Also what about Malay language ,Is it essential for my kids in school as they were only studying English and Arabic in Egypt and have no idea about Malay language. please provide me all the available information that can help me so that I can take the decision to bring my family to Malaysia or keep them in Egypt???

  5. Dear Mashitah,

    Thank you for writing in. Your question is exactly why we have Outstation.my’s International School Search Directory!

    There are several ways we can approach this:

    The first way is to use the “map” function. Just click on your area on the map and the locations of the international schools around you will pop up, marked with pins. Then it becomes a simple matter of looking through the pop-up list to find the school you want.

    The next way is to enter the word “islamic” into the Keyword section, and then choose “Selangor” in the dropdown Location list. This method will yield three schools, one each in the Ampang, Shah Alam and Subang areas. You may want to consider widening the search area to include “Kuala Lumpur”. Don’t worry, most international schools can pass you contact details of transporters who can service your area.

    Mashitah, this directory was put together by a small group of parents and it is still growing. So if you have heard of an international islamic school (or any other international school) near your area which is not in the directory, it would be so great if you can let us know so we can include the information. I would also love to hear your opinion of the search directory, all feedback is good feedback for us to improve the site!

    Good luck and I look forward to hearing from you.

    Warm regards,

    Wei Kim

  6. Thank you for writing in Hany Saleh!

    Kerteh is in the lovely state of Terengganu, situated on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. It is a preferred destination for both Malaysians and foreigners alike when looking for a place to wind down and return to nature’s beauty. This website has a general introduction to the state –  http://www.terengganutourism.com/introduction.htm

    The Ekhlass International School address is listed as:
    Lot 4779, PT7227
    Taman Kijal,
    Meraga 24100
    Kijal, Terengganu

    Try contacting either Ms. Fariza at +6012 9572292or Ms. Sushee at +6017 9780317. The school’s general line is+609 8631136 (the area code for Terengganu is 09, Kuala Lumpur is 03). Their email address is [email protected]

    I had a look at the map and although I couldn’t pinpoint the school building exactly, I worked on the basis that Ekhlass International School is in an area called Kijal, which is about 30 to 40 kilometres away from Kerteh. So about 40 minutes by car without traffic? That is really just an estimate on my part.

    I believe the school offers a school bus option which, at that time, services Kerteh. Using a school bus is convenient but the travelling time will be increased as there will be other student pickups and drop-offs along the way.

    EIS follows the British national curriculum and runs the Cambridge Checkpoint exams, once in Primary school and the second time in Secondary.

    The school accepts children at Reception level (that’s Foundation 1 and 2 for ages 3 years to 5 years old) all the way up to Key Stage Four’s Year 10 and Year 11 (for ages 14 to 16 years old). Normally only Malaysian passport holders are required to take Malay as a second language.  But I daresay your children will pickup Malay quickly when they mix around and make new friends at Ekhlass!

    Some basics to learn:
    Welcome! – Selamat Datang
    Good morning – Selamat Pagi
    Thank you – Terima Kasih
    Eat – Makan (pronounced “maa-kan”)
    Drink – Minum (pronounced “mee-nom”)
    Water – Air (pronounced “aa-yir”)

    School days in Terengganu are from Sunday to Thursday, with the weekend on Friday and Saturday. This method of portioning the week is followed in the entire state of Terengganu as well as in the neighbouring state of Kelantan and down south in Johor. EIS school hours are from 8.30am to 3.30pm.

    Ekhlass starts Term 1 of the 2015/2016 academic year on 1st September 2015. So you may want to contact the school quite soon for more specific details.

    One more thing, because Terengganu is a coastal state on the South China Sea side of Malaysia, you may want to find out more about the monsoon season and its effects on the state. Monsoon on the east coast is generally from end October to end January – http://www.terengganutourism.com/weather.htm

    The distance between the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur and Kerteh is roughly 360km or so, which translates to under 4 hours driving time with easy traffic. One would use the E8 East Coast Highway (LPT Lebuhraya Pantai Timur) to commute. Anyone else on this thread who can suggest a quicker way between KL and Kerteh?

    Perhaps you might like to use Outstation.my ‘s school search directory to have a look at more international schools (boarding schools are available) nearer Kuala Lumpur? Just to explore more options for your older children.

    We are all parents here at Outstation and we understand what you are going through. Good luck with your move, please do drop us a line to let us know how you are doing.

    And Selamat Datang to Malaysia!

    Yours sincerely,

    Wei Kim

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