How to Choose a Primary School

Your choice of primary school will not only need to suit your children's needs, but support your family's practical circumstances too.

Photo: iStock

Choosing a primary school for your child in Malaysia is not much different from choosing a preschool – there are the matters of location, kind of school and learning programme, and cost to take into account.

What sets the two apart is the importance of educational philosophy and school system selection.  This decision is crucial particularly for expatriate families as the nature and length of expatriate contracts may necessitate a move or repatriation, and scholastic continuity will help to provide stability.

Most expatriates will opt for an educational system that mirrors that of their home country: British expats for a British system, Northern American expats for an American curriculum, for example. Where that is unavailable, the next best option is to consider one that is closest to your home country’s system.  Fortunately in Malaysia, there are international schools offering French, German, Australian or Japanese curricula. 

For long-term expats and Malaysia residents, a primary school education paves the way for children to choose a secondary education program, be it American style SAT preparation, International Baccalaureate or A-levels.  To make this transition seamless, it is ideal to choose a primary school curriculum that supports those plans.

Photo: iStock    

TYPES OF CURRICULUM

International Primary Curriculum (IPC)

According to the World Education News and Reviews (WENR), an authoritative news and information source for professionals in international education,  “the most widely used curriculum at the primary and middle school levels is the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) for ages 3-11.”  

Currently offered in more than 65 countries globally, its provider, Fieldwork Education, describes it as “a comprehensive, thematic, creative curriculum for 3-12 year olds, with a clear process of learning, and with specific learning goals for every subject, for international mindedness and for personal learning”.  

Subject goals cover facts and information in the areas of Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, ICT & Computing, Technology, History, Geography, Music, Physical Education, Art, and Society.

Personal goals focus on developing the learners’ dispositions like enquiry, resilience, morality, communication, thoughtfulness, cooperation, respect, and adaptability.  These are built into learning tasks for students to experience and practice.

International Learning goals aim to “help children start developing a global awareness and gain an increasing sense of themselves, their community and the world around them, as well as inspiring positive action and engagement with global issues”.

Some international schools offering IPC in Malaysia are Garden International School (GIS), Nexus International School in Putrajaya; International School at Parkcity (ISP), and Tenby International School (TIS) among others. 

International Baccalaureate

The IB program builds on the tenets of inquiry, interactivity, cross-disciplinary connections and international awareness.  It is offered in three separate curriculums: the Primary Years Program (3-19), the Middle Years Program (11-16) and the Diploma Program (16-19).

When choosing this curriculum for your child, it is important to note that the programs, while separate, build upon each other.  According to WENR, they are also designed “to be flexible enough to accommodate national or local curriculum requirements.” 

There are a limited number of international schools that offer the IB program at primary school level, namely IGB and Fairview International School.  Most international schools offering the IB program in Malaysia cater to the IB Diploma Programme for higher years. 

Mixed Curriculum

Some international schools may offer an American curriculum, for example, but will supplement this with IB or A-Level classes at the secondary level.

Photo: iStock 

SCHOOL FEES AND OTHER CHARGES

International schools

The top international schools come with state-of-the-art facilities and mostly cater to a well-rounded development program covering academics, creative arts, sports and recreation, and digital programs.  With digital learning and technology at the forefront of today’s education, some schools provide students with iPads or laptops, while others require this as a compulsory learning tool for students to have upon the start of classes.  It is no surprise that these types of schools come with a higher price tag. 

However, not all international schools are built the same when it comes to fee structures.  A quick glance at the table below, data lifted from each school’s individual website for the school calendar year 2016-2017 yields the following comparison on one term’s fees (in Ringgit).  Note that these schools have three terms in one school calendar year.    

 

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

Year 5

Year 6

British School Kuala Lumpur (BSKL)

18,750

24,280

24,280

24,280

24,280

24,280

Alice Smith

17,250

17,750

17,750

17,750

17,750

17,750

Nexus IS Putrajaya

15,010

15,010

17,289

17,289

17,766

17,766

International School @ Parkcity (ISP)

14,500

14,500

16,510

16,510

16,720

16,720

Fairview KL

12,960

13,740

14,715

15,300

17,250

19,200

ELC, Sungai Buloh

4,800

5,450

6,150

6,800

7,450

8,150


These do not include admissions fees which are more or less equivalent to a term’s fee, a non-refundable enrolment fee and a refundable deposit equivalent to one terms’ fee in accordance with your child’s year level, which are all required payments once your child has been accepted to the school.

Except for ELC, the fees above cover the cost of school supplies, books and reading materials.  The International School at Parkcity (ISP) for example, provides iPads as learning tools for all their students from Year 3 onwards, at no additional cost to the parents.   

Sibling registration and term fee discounts also apply and may vary.  Registration fee discounts on siblings can range between 25 per cent to 50 per cent on the third, fourth and subsequent siblings. Term fee discounts may range from 6 per cent to 10 per cent, as in the case of Alice Smith School.

Once you have singled out the international school of your choice, check their website for the fine print and other conditions, as each school has its own fee structures.  

Other costs to factor in are transportation, uniforms, meals and snacks, school trips and specialist extra-curricular activities not covered by the school, like taekwondo, musical instruments, ballet and dance classes, sporting event participation and other activities outside of the school. 

Private schools

Private schools are an option for those with more conservative budgets. The Sekolah Sri KDU in Kota Damansara and Rafflesia Private School in Puchong are two examples.  Both offer the local primary curriculum and annual fees range from RM15,000 to RM25,000. 

Taking your children with you on a foreign assignment is no easy feat.  The kind of school they will attend plays a big role in how they will adapt to a new country, and will impact their lives in a big way.  It is necessary therefore to make the right choice that best suits your children’s needs, as well as support the family’s practical circumstances. Check out our primary school listings here for more information.


Tags: Features, Curriculums, NISM, TIS, ISP, BSKL, ELC
What You're Reading