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National or International School? Key Factors for Malaysian Parents to Consider

Author: Santhi Latha

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, this expectation has changed since the removal of the quota for enrollments of Malaysian students in international schools in 2012 by the Malaysian Ministry of Education. This easing of restrictions has resulted in a surge in enrollments in international schools and an increase of the number of such schools now available to cater to this demand.

Malaysian parents 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 taken into account in order to make an educated decision.
Before making the pivotal decision to enroll your child in an international school, consider the following seven factors:

Age of Commencement and Completion of Education

Most international schools allow children to commence the equivalent of Primary 1 in the public school system at the age of 6 instead of 7. This means that in the international school system your child will then complete the equivalent of Form 5 at the age of 16 instead of 17. 

If you intend to enroll your child into international school from Year 1, make sure that your child already has exposure to prior learning – meaning he or she is already able to read, write and count. This is to ensure that your child will be able to fit comfortably into an environment where, chances are, all the other children will be equipped with these skills already.
Also remember that every child is different, and not all children are necessarily ready to commence formal education at the age of 6. You must assess your child individually to determine when he or she is ready to start school at that age.


Medium of Instruction

The Malaysian national schools curriculum utilizes Bahasa Malaysia as the medium of instruction and English language is a compulsory second language subject, while the international schools’ curriculums are primarily conducted in English. 

Much has been said about the value of good English language skills in the higher education environment, and in the workplace. If you place great value on this, and expect to send your child abroad to university, then providing them with exposure to a curriculum that is mainly run in English will have long-term benefits.
The additional benefit is that if your child scores well on the English language assessments of the selected international curriculum, there is greater likelihood that he or she will not have to separately sit for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) assessments in order to gain entry into foreign universities.

The Dollars and Sense

Parents are often uncertain about whether to enroll their child in an international school and the primary deterrent is usually the cost of doing so. With the increase in the number of international schools in the Malaysia, however, fees have become more competitive as these institutions vie for increased enrollments. 

Before entering your child into an international school, you will need to evaluate how much you can afford to spend on your child’s education per year, and multiply that by the number of years you will expect your child to spend in an international school environment. This will help you decide on which international school will be affordable for you in the long term.


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This article originally appeared on Education Destination Malaysia. To read more about key factors for Malaysian parents to consider when choosing between a national or international school, please click here.