Different Syllabus Options in Malaysia

Those looking to study in Malaysia have numerous curriculum options available to them, but understanding what is out there for the picking is the first step towards choosing the right options.

In a country as diverse as Malaysia, it would be fair to expect there to be an assortment of education options on offer. Fortunately, Malaysia does not disappoint. With so many different syllabuses available, understanding what the options are is the first step towards making the right choice for your children. As the development and quality of schooling in Malaysia continues to grow, the ability to find a school that suits your children becomes increasingly possible. Whether you are looking for a school that offers the same syllabus and approach as home or are weighing up all the alternatives, there is certainly something available that will fulfill your wish list. The schools in Malaysia primarily fall into a few syllabus categories: British, Australian, International Baccalaureate and American. Under each curriculum are a range of schools offering different approaches, each with their own attributes.

The British National Curriculum, used in state schools across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, is offered in British schools around the world. This is one of the reasons why it is a popular education choice. This is an idea that Mr. Jeremy Townend, a Year 3 teacher and year level leader at The British International School supports, saying, “Perhaps the most important aspect for expat parents is the fact that a British education is easily transferrable. The use of the ‘National Curriculum’ allows students to move easily between ‘British schools’ in various countries”. The curriculum covers the education of children aged 5 to 16, and requires schools to teach a range of subjects at a set standard of teaching and learning. The curriculum is organised into four Key Stages. At the end of each stage, a student’s performance is formally assessed to measure progress. There are a number of statutory subjects taught across the Key Stages including English, mathematics and science.

Students following the British National Curriculum undertake GCSE’s during their final Key Stage, which allows them to choose from a number of optional subjects to study alongside the three aforementioned compulsory subjects. Students also partake in compulsory work-related learning which takes them, temporarily, out of the traditional school setting into the working world. Following Key Stage 4, students then enter sixth form where they undertake AS and A level’s offered at most British Curriculum schools in Malaysia. As Mr. Townend explains, “British qualifications such as GCSE’s and A level’s are recognised and respected around the world and can be used as a key to unlock many advantageous doors.” The Alice Smith School, which also follows the British curriculum, offers the AQA Baccalaureate in addition to A-Levels; it is one of the first schools in Asia to do so. Mrs. Valerie Thomas-Peter, their Director of Schools states that “the AQA Baccalaureate is an academic qualification which builds on a student’s core A Level subjects, adding value through wider learning and enrichment activities.” Its value cannot be understated as she further explains that “this will enable the scholars to be well prepared in gaining entry to top notch universities worldwide.”

The Australian International School Malaysia holds a unique position as the only school in Malaysia to offer a full Australian curriculum. The Australian curriculum educates children from the age of 5, where they enter Kindergarten, to 18. Students will receive a Year 10 Graduation Certificate and undertake a Higher School Certificate (HSC) in Year 12. The curriculum is divided into Key Learning Areas (KLAs): 6 at Primary level and 8 at Secondary. The core subjects at senior school include English, mathematics, science, geography, history, personal development, health and physical education. The Australian curriculum strives to help students become “successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens”.

International Baccalaureate
The International Baccalaureate (IB) is an educational syllabus whose programmes are available to students aged 3 to 19 years; it is currently being used in schools worldwide. In Malaysia, there are many schools offering some or all of the IB system including the Primary Years Programme, the Middle Years Programme and the Diploma Programme. One positive quality of IB is the emphasis the syllabus places on the education of the whole person, which Fairview International School further explains: “[The IB programmes employ] a constructivist approach as a base, the education process is seen through a whole new lens rendering it a relevant and practical approach to equip the 21st Century learner with a ‘whole new mind.’” Mr. Rami Madani, the Director of Curriculum and Professional Development at the International School of Kuala Lumpur agrees: “The International Baccalaureate program (IB) provides students with a balanced, holistic education.” The Diploma Programme, is the most widely available in Malaysia, and requires students to complete three core requirements and six subjects. Choices are made from 6 groups: language, second language, individuals and societies, experimental sciences, mathematics and computer science and the arts. The IB diploma is recognised by universities in 75 countries around the world and as Fairview International School highlights, “Participation in the IB diploma Programme shows that students have excelled in multiple and diverse academic challenges and is a strong predictor for success in university.” Mr. Rami Madani also emphasises the transferability of the IB syllabus: “It facilitates geographical and cultural mobility, as the IB Organisation is well-regarded for academic integrity by colleges and universities worldwide.”

An American Syllabus is also available in Malaysia. The American system awards students with a High School Diploma or Advanced Merit High School Diploma. Using a credit system, students are given a wide foundation in general education and are taught a broad range of subjects including maths, science and English. Some schools also offer the Advanced Placement Programme (AP), the International School of Kuala Lumpur being one. Mr. Rami Madani explains that “The American Advanced (AP) offers ISKL’s students the opportunity to do college-level work while still in High School.”

Whilst the majority of schools in Malaysia follow one of the aforementioned educational systems, the German, Japanese and Malaysian National School Syllabuses can also be found in Malaysia although not as widely available. When considering the curriculum options available, taking into account what extra features schools offer is also important as extra-curricular activities vary from school to school. Mrs. Thomas-Peter highlights this saying, “At the Alice Smith School, among the elements that determine quality is providing a holistic education experience for every child emphasising not only on academic achievements but co-curricular activities and social responsibility.” With the extensive range of educational options available in Malaysia and the numerous schools offering them, finding exactly what you are looking for won’t be as challenging as you may think. For further information on education in Malaysia, be sure to get a copy of Essential Education 2013 which provides more in-depth details on schools in Malaysia.

The Alice Smith School
2, Jalan Bellamy, KL
Tel: 03-2148 3674

The Australian International School
22, Jalan Anggerik, The MINES Resort City, Sri Kembangan, Selangor
Tel: 03-8943 0622

The British International School
126, Jalan Jalil Perkasa 19, Bukit Jalil, KL
Tel: 03-8656 7228

Fairview International School
4178, Jalan 1/27D, Section 6, Wangsa Maju, KL
Tel: 03-4142 0888

The International School of Kuala Lumpur
PT3350, Jalan Melawati 3, Taman Melawati, KL
Tel: 03-4104 3000


Tags: Features, Curriculums, ISKL, AISM, BSKL, FIS
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