It’s one of the very first concerns for parents on hearing of a new overseas posting: what will we do about schooling? At key stages in a child’s life, switching school systems can be highly disruptive, so the more curricula available in a country the better for expatriates.
Malaysia is fast becoming a centre for global education systems with curriculums from Europe, the Americas and Asia all well represented. We look at how international approaches arrived in Malaysia.
Given the close nature of Malaysia-Britain ties, it’s unsurprising that the first international schools in Malaysia offered a British-type education.
Beginning with the Alice Smith School and Garden School, opened in 1946 and 1951 respectively, children of British expatriates in Malaysia were able to attend a school designed for them, with expatriate teachers and methods more like those they would find at home.
Similar schools opened in Penang and Ipoh, where a safe education was offered typically to the children of expatriate planters based in Malaysia.
Led mostly by the global success of Cambridge International Examinations’ (CIE) IGCSE programme, the vast majority of international schools in Malaysia now follow a largely British-based curriculum.
Though CIE’s primary Checkpoint programmes are popular, it is the secondary learning leading to the IGCSE exams that many parents look for in an international school here.
Recognised around the world, the IGCSE system is a solid choice for students and parents looking overseas for further education, and with a huge number of schools in Southeast Asia offering CIE programmes, the options and choice of schools is very good.
In Malaysia, this British education can be found across the country, from schools in Sabah and Sarawak to Johor, Kuantan, KL, Ipoh and Penang, meaning expatriates and Malaysians looking for a good international footing have plenty of institutions to choose from.
If British education was the first system to take hold in Malaysia’s international schools, the American curriculum wasn’t far behind.
The two oldest American-style schools, ISKL and Dalat, arrived in Malaysia in 1965, with ISKL establishing itself in Kuala Lumpur and Dalat moving initially to the Cameron Highlands (from Vietnam, via Bangkok) before eventually settling in Penang.
Today the two schools are considered among the top international institutions in the country, offering a strong, all-round education that prepares students not just for colleges in the United States but for higher education around the world.
While Dalat School follows an American-style college-preparatory curriculum that leads to the Advanced Placement (AP) programme, ISKL’s curriculum culminates in a choice between the International Baccalaureate Diploma and the AP.
Mont Kiara International School, meanwhile, has offered an American education taught by American teachers since 1994.
In early 2008, Canada’s Ontario curriculum was perhaps the best-known education system still missing from the Malaysian learning landscape.
Earning many advocates and ranked among the top five schooling systems in the world, it was perhaps only a matter of time before a school decided to implement it in Malaysia.
That school was Sunway International School (SIS) and from 2008 the institution has offered the Ontario curriculum to students at its middle and high schools in Bandar Sunway.
Today, the school plays host to a wide range of nationalities, with students having the choice of moving onto the Canadian International Matriculation programme, the Australian Matriculation, Cambridge A Levels or the Monash University Foundation Year at various Sunway Group schools and colleges.
SIS is no longer the only education provider offering a Canadian system though. While Sunway remains the sole school offering the curriculum to middle and high school students, in 2009 the KL International Kids Club opened with a curriculum based on the Alberta Education Kindergarten programme that ensures children form experiences in collaboration and that knowledge, skills and attitude are all developed in preparation for later learning.
The Klang Valley, therefore, is covered when it comes to a Canadian education. Now the attention turns to other parts of Malaysia, and specifically Johor where Sunway International School plans to open its Iskandar campus in 2017.
The influence of Australian learning on Malaysia’s higher education landscape is clear. The likes of Monash, Swinburne and Curtin universities all have presence here and have attracted both Malaysian and international students for many years.
Indeed, Australia has become a very popular destination for Malaysian students hoping to study overseas. Those looking for an Australian-style education don’t have to hold out for university though.
Opened in the year 2000 the Australian International School Malaysia at The Mines Resort City in Seri Kembangan follows the Australian curriculum from its Early Years Centre all the way up to the Higher School Certificate, or HSC, for students in Years 11 and 12.
AISM offers much more than just an Australian curriculum, however. Embracing Australian culture across the campus, students and parents here experience life as it would be at a top Australian school — from the sports and team spirit to the relaxed environment and the encouragement of inquisitive minds.
Mainstream French education is represented by just one school in Malaysia, but the growth of that school in Kuala Lumpur has been nothing short of impressive.
Opened to a handful of students in 1962, Lycée Française de Kuala Lumpur has developed from a modest centre housed within Alliance Française to a kindergarten, elementary, primary and secondary school hosting 850 students in a purpose-built building in Segambut near Mont Kiara.
Licensed by the Agency for French Schools Abroad, LFKL follows the French national curriculum, teaching in French and preparing students for further education in France or at other international institutions with the Baccalauréat programme.
Supported by the Central Organisation of German Schools Abroad and offering education certificates that are recognised just like those from public schools in Germany, the Deutsche Schule Kuala Lumpur is a popular choice for German-speaking expatriates that know they will return to Germany after their posting in Malaysia.
Located in Petaling Jaya, the school takes students through three certificates — one each at Year 9 (Hauptschulabschluss) and Year 10 (Realschulabschluss, Mittlere Reife) as well as the German University Entrance Qualification, or DIAP.
One of the older international schools in Malaysia, the Japanese School of Kuala Lumpur dates back to 1966, when it opened with just 14 students in the Japanese Embassy building.
That history, plus some very good facilities, including two swimming pools, means it is a popular choice for Japanese nationals living in the Klang Valley.
The school has moved campus three times since its establishment but its current home at the Saujana Resort in Subang has served JSKL well since it was opened with a visit by the Japanese prime minister in 1993. With JSKL celebrating its fi ftieth anniversary next year, it is the fifth oldest overseas Japanese school in the world — a fact that speaks volumes for the breadth of international education in Malaysia.
#8 INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE
Once the preserve of one or two international schools, the International Baccalaureate is now offered by 18 institutions in Malaysia, from Uplands in Penang all the way down to Marlborough College in Johor.
Schools such as ISKL and Uplands have long offered the qualification at an IB Diploma level but students in 2015 have the option of following the IB from a much younger age with the Primary Years Programme, available at Uplands as well as the Fairview International School campuses across the country, and the Middle Years Programme at Fairview and UCSI International School.
Highly regarded for its breadth at a diploma level and considered to offer truly holistic learning to all ages, the International Baccalaureate is recognised around the world as a leading education system and an excellent qualifi cation to have for entrance into top global universities.
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