Why Are Many Malaysian Parents Opting for International Schools Instead of National Schools?
Choosing a school for your child isn’t an easy decision but a critical one that needs sobriety. There are many factors that parents have to grapple with including the kind of experience one would want the children to have and also the educational environment they will be exposed to. In addition, long-term goals also play a very important role.
Choosing can be perplexing whether one is dealing with preschool years or primary and secondary school levels especially with a wide range of public, international, private and vernacular schools available in Malaysia. Although in the past parents only had national schools to consider, the paradigm has shifted with the entry of international schools into the fray.
There has been a rise at the rate in which students are enrolling in international schools throughout Malaysia. But the question is, why are we seeing more Malaysian parents choosing international schools over national schools? Is it a question of lack of confidence in the national education system? Is it that the national education system is deteriorating in quality and registering poor performance? Let’s look at the comparison between international schools and public schools in Malaysia.
Public vs. International schools in Malaysia
There are so many national schools in Malaysia and these are funded by the government only requiring parents to pay a minimal fee. This makes sure that children have access to the necessarily education. However, the central curriculum in the national schools emphasizes more on Bahasa Malaysia which is national language and teaching all other subjects which should also be done in Bahasa Malaysia except when students are in vernacular schools. The education system in Malaysia focuses more on independent learning and continuous assessment as opposed to rote learning and examinations. It also aims at promoting nurturing well-rounded individuals and active learning. Although this move is plausible, in reality it means that students cannot seat for centralised exams or go through a centralised assessment until they are in Form 5.
On the contrary, international schools are more populated by children from expatriate communities. Initially, students enrolling in the schools in Malaysia were limited to a certain quota. However, the restrictions were lifted thus making is possible for any international and Malaysian students to enroll. The number of international schools in Malaysia has grown as more Malaysians become interested in international education system.
International schools simply refer to the institutions promoting international education under an international environment. This is done by either adopting a curriculum like Cambridge International Examinations, Edexcel, or International Baccalaureate or pursuing a national curriculum that is totally different from that of the country where the school is operating.
There are international schools in Malaysia which use English to teach and these are distinguished for offering different curriculum options ranging from UK to American curriculum to International Baccalaureate to New South Wales syllabus among others. Some of the popular choices include Matrix Global Schools, Taylor’s International School, City Harbour International School, Australian International School Malaysia, Fairview International School, Alice Smith School, MAZ International School, and Cempaka International School among others.
Image Credit: Matrix Global Schools
International schools – Care about the outcome?
Although both international and national schools in Malaysia have contributed in providing the most valuable and top quality of education structure in the country to produce a holistic generation, efforts of the latter seem to be falling out of favour with Malaysians considering that many are opting for international schools offering English form of education.
Many consider international curriculum to be the best placed when it comes to opening doors for students who wish to join a foreign university. In fact, the path towards such a dream has fewer obstacles as opposed to what students who go through national schools have to contend with. Students who attain degrees from universities and colleges in Canada, the USA and Britain find it easy to land well paying jobs once they return to Malaysia. International schools are considered to be offering high quality preparations to the young people making them ready for world realities.
Additionally, international schools in Malaysia are known to have smaller classes when compare to their national counterparts thus making it easier for teachers to focus on each student more. By providing individual attention to each student, teachers can be able to help them sharpen their skills and abilities especially in subjects such as Drama, Visual arts, Design and technology, foreign languages and Music
Curriculum such as Cambridge IGCSE, International Baccalaureate are designed to stimulate their critical and thinking skills while at the same time encouraging independent thinking. Additionally, international curriculums usually incorporate coursework into their final assessments.
International schools seek to teach transferable capabilities aimed at helping the graduates to be effective and confident for successful contribution to the society. Most international schools are not required to teach openly for an exam since they use a teacher-guided methodology to learn therefore creating an stimulating learning experience.
Advantages and disadvantages based on parents sentiments
Parents’ opinions are critical when considering why they choose international schools and how they think about their choice of education platform.
First, some students appreciate the fact that most international schools based in Malaysia have a student population from around the world with different student bodies as opposed to public schools. This, they say helps expose their children to diverse cultural environments thus helping them broaden their perspectives. Although some parents do not deny that public schools could be providing good quality education, they say that international schools have better quality teachers who are more experienced and qualified to handle the children. They point out that these teachers are also passionate about their work considering that they are hired through international platforms.
Parents also believe that the fees charged by the international schools are hefty but this does not deter them as they are more interested in the bigger picture. The curriculum offered by both national and international schools differ greatly with international schools offering something superior and this attracts the parents more and thus are not afraid of paying the hefty fees.
The use of English as the medium of communication also plays an important role for many Malaysian parents. They consider English to be an important language, in fact the most important in the world and would like their children to be exposed to it at an early age thus giving them a competitive edge.
The student-teacher ratio is also an important factor among many parents. This they say helps their children get the required attention to help them succeed. This also produces healthier communication between students and teachers unlike in public schools whose system is considered to be less personal.
International schools are also favoured by many parents since most of them use curriculum which is more focused on the development of critical and creative thinking. This approach helps the students to prepare their academic performance in addition to participating in extracurricular activities.
Those who do not support international schools say that they do not encourage much cultural immersion considering that most of them are comprised of students from many other parts of the world. Many also point to the high cost associated with the international schools noting that most of them cannot afford the high tuition fees noting it is more that what is required to send students to the universities or colleges.
Others complain that with the use of English as the medium of communication in the International Schools, the Malay Language, the mother tongue is being marginalised. This has also happened to other languages such as Tamil and Mandarin.
Image Credit: City Harbour International Schoo, Seri Manjung, Perak
You are the one to choose
The question in many people’s lips is whether it is worth taking a child to an international school especially with the high cost associated with the system. The answers however vary depending on a number of factors and the choice flatly lies with you as a parent. It will depend on what it is that you are seeking to give your child and the goals you want achieved at the end of the day.
It is good to know that there are many factors that determine anyone’s success in this competitive world and education is just a part of what is required. The personality of the child is very important and needs to be developed and this cannot be done in the school alone. Other external factors such as friends, schooling environment and home surroundings need to be considered if the child is to become an all-rounded person. What is required primarily is not the school one attended but how well one is able to communicate, solve problems and be a team player.
As a parent, the choice of school between the international and national schools is purely yours. But always make it with an open mind and in consideration of all the important factors.