The Ringgit of Private Education

The cost of a private school education in Malaysia depends on several factors curriculum, location, facilities and accreditation.

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‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ – Nelson Mandela 

One of the most famous quotes about education was from Nelson Mandela and he was right on every level. The level of education in a country not only affects the individual, but also on a national level. An educated population enhances economic growth, political stability and ensures society runs smoothly – which is why national education systems must attain a certain level of proficiency and offer students the best scholastic opportunities. 

In the event that parents choose to go private, much thought and planning must be put into it. Starting a family is a wonderful experience, but unless you’re financially very comfortable or already have funds put away for education, preparations must be made. A ballpark figure of how much it costs to feed, clothe, house and educate a child till university is between RM500,000 and RM1,000,000 depending on what you can afford. Take a moment to digest that figure because it increases annually! The amount is dependent on what your educational plans are and what your monetary situation is.

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Pregnancy, baby and toddler years 
As soon as you get pregnant, the expenses begin with regular prenatal check-ups, medical tests, maternity clothes and pregnancy supplements. Then there are the antenatal classes and the decision of whether you are going to give birth in a government or private hospital, and whether it’ll be a natural birth or caesarean. These are the easy years before they go to kindergarten so most of your expenses will be for necessities. For families where both parents work, money will also be spent on day care or a live-in nanny. 

This is where the real fun begins. The national school system in Malaysia is free with parents paying approximately RM250 per year for uniforms and books. The reality is that an increasing number of Malaysian parents are choosing to enter the private or international school system. Malaysia is presently one of the top 10 countries with the most international schools in the world. This equates to over 72,000 students enrolled in 170 mostly English-medium international schools nationwide, of which 60 percent are Malaysians. 

This trend shows no sign of slowing down and many parents start planning an education fund from the moment they find out they’re pregnant. Depending on the curriculum and school you choose, prices can differ drastically. For the top-tier international schools especially those following American or British curriculums, expect to pay between RM60,000 and RM100,000 per year. Realising how positive (lucrative) the international school market has become, there are now many affordable choices which will set you back between RM120,000 and RM200,000 for primary though to secondary (Y1-Y11). Once they begin secondary school expect to put aside a further RM10-15,000 for extracurricular activities, exam fees and school trips. 

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Education, particularly in this part of the world, is such an important aspect of life, which is why parents are willing to forego everything else to ensure their child receives the best they can offer. After the hard grind of the last two years of secondary school, they will attain the grades needed to attend pursue the course that will lead to the beginning of their career. Depending on where they’re heading, prices will differ as well.

Most Malaysians who go abroad opt for Australia, the USA, Canada and the United Kingdom. Unless they’re on a full scholarship, parents will have to spend approximately RM150,000 per year for a degree. This figure changes depending on currency exchange, inflation, which course they want to take and their living arrangements. Remember that studying in a capital city or attending an elite school will cost more. Here’s a tip to spend less on university education – countries like the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany offer university courses in English for a much lower price than the UK. In Germany, France and Belgium, university is free and all you have to pay for are living expenses and school materials, and speak the local language. 

Plan ahead, be prepared 
Once you’ve digested all those crazy figures and still want to proceed with private or international schooling, do some research into the specially created plans insurance companies and banks have developed to help you invest and save. Putting a little something aside each month just isn’t going to cut it, and unless you’re an heir to a fortune or have an incredibly high-paying job, investing wisely is the only way to go. 

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Plan early: Decide what you need to pay and when. Will you be sending your child to international school from Year 1 or just for secondary? Once you figure this out, make a calculation about how much is needed. 

Invest carefully: Have a diversified portfolio or find out about plans that combine monthly savings, investment, and insurance coverage and protection. 

Pay upfront: If you can have the cash, put fees upfront as all schools offer discounts for paying annual fees in full and the beginning of the school year. 

Bursaries and scholarships: Find out what kind of bursaries (grants) and scholarships are available and if you qualify for it. This is especially useful if you have a child who is a talented musician / sportsperson / academically inclined.

Tags: Features, Money
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