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National or International School?

In the past, the simple and expected route for the vast majority of Malaysian parents was to enroll their children at the nearest government school and let the natural progression of the Malaysian education system take its course. However, since the Malaysian Ministry of Education made the decision in 2012 to remove the quota for local students, thereby liberalizing access and allowing Malaysian students to more easily enroll at international schools in Malaysia, this expectation has changed.

Malaysian parents who can afford it have to now grapple with whether to enroll their children at a local or international school and there are many factors that need to be considered in order to make an educated decision. The key considerations that may influence the decision-making process include:



Most international schools take children into Primary One or its equivalent when the child is six years old. This means that your child will gain a year compared to the Malaysian national school system (whether enrollment is at a public or private school) where your child can only commence Primary One at age seven. Long term, this will ultimately mean that your child will finish the O Level or its equivalent at the age of 16 and be able to move on to higher education immediately after that.

Whether you think your child is ready for formal education at the age of six is another question. Every child is different and there is no hard and fast rule dictating when your child will be ready to start school. You must assess your child individually to determine when he or she is ready to start.



The Malaysian national schools curriculum utilizes Bahasa Malaysia as the medium of instruction, and English Language is a compulsory second language subject. Your long-term goals and aspirations for your child (whether you anticipate sending your child abroad for higher education) will influence whether to send your child to an international school. The reality is that the standards of the English language in an international curriculum are commonly higher and if your child completes an international primary and secondary education, there may be no need to achieve additional English language qualifications such as the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) for entry into universities outside Malaysia.



Many parents face the dilemma of when to transfer their children to international school, if at all. For parents who have access to the necessary financial resources, ideally your child could enter international school at Primary One. However, if there are limitations on your financial resources, it may be possible to allow your child to complete their primary school education following the Malaysian Curriculum or the vernacular school curriculum and to transfer your child to international school when he or she finishes Primary Six. However, if this is not possible, the last option is to move your child into an international school environment so that they complete their final two years, the equivalent of Form 4 and Form 5, at an international school.

Most international schools are accustomed to recruiting students at these levels. Please note that your child may be required to pass an entrance test to gain entry.



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This article originally appeared on Education Destination Malaysia. To read about factors to consider when deciding between a national or international school, please click here.