C is for Curriculums

Step into the classroom for a full-on lesson on the many international high school curriculums available in the country and how each is unique.

High school can be a tough place primarily because it is no longer just about going through the motions. The secondary environment is such that a student is forced out of his comfort zone and into a transition which involves an evolution into his own person.

The parents help in shaping their child’s future and eventual career, and a big part of that process is settling on a curriculum which will set the wheels in motion toward the desired goal. But with a myriad of options available out there, how does one choose what’s best for their son or daughter and more importantly, how do they know it’s the right choice?

A good place to start would be to take a look at the different curriculums and understanding what each one has to offer and then factoring in the direction your child wishes to take in terms of his or her professional aspirations.

“The most crucial consideration is the range of subjects available in relation to the student’s relative strengths as a learner. During the senior years, the emphasis is on excelling in academics so as to get the score required to maximise on the opportunity in taking on the university courses of their choice,” advises David Stuart Kilpatrick, high school principal at the Australian International School Malaysia (AISM).


Dalat International School

According to Dalat International School’s high school principal, Brian Brewster, an American high school curriculum is four years of study, involving Grades 9 to 12 (usually age 14 to 18) that culminates in a graduation diploma allowing holders of the diploma to move directly to university and study at prestigious universities worldwide.

“The American curriculum requires a broad range of study that includes English, Math, Science, Social Studies, and numerous elective courses, rather than just focusing on two or three key subjects”, he suggests adding that the school year begins in August and ends in June with two academic semesters in play: August to December and January to June.

In essence, the American philosophy is that students in their late teens exposed to many different areas gives them the opportunity to experience and grow in multiple subjects to prepare them for the various situations life will throw at them. It also allows students to discover areas of interest and skills that they would want to pursue as a career.

The above approach supports and clearly defines the “student-centred” concept which many other international schools in Malaysia also subscribe to; that performance is based on an accumulation of and variety of work throughout the school year including projects, participation and exams, as opposed to just one big exam; the very element which describes a “teacher-centred” mentality and culture.

This gives students the incentive to work hard throughout the entire academic year and an opportunity to build teamwork skills as they work together to solve problems and create projects.

“Success is how you work with and treat others and impact the world around you. An American education also encourages extracurricular participation in sports and the arts. We believe this makes more well-rounded, satisfied, and healthy students,” Brian says.

The International School of Kuala Lumpur

Offering an equally interesting take on how the American curriculum differs from other programmes is Grant Millard, high school principal of The International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL).

He explains that the American curriculum provides a framework enabling students to gain a broad-based education in all areas of study while also giving them a degree of flexibility to manage their course selections based on personal interests and future advanced academic study plans.

“We promote a balance between academic study and participation in an extensive range of co-curricular programmes which might entail the arts, sports, and community service. Our focus is very much on the development of the whole child in a safe, supportive and stimulating learning environment”.

ISKL requires its students to take classes which cover all basic areas of study encompassing English, Mathematics, the Sciences, the Arts, world languages, technology, and Physical Education, whereby each student is expected to accrue 22 credits in order to be eligible to graduate. Those who do make it are granted a high school diploma which will enable them to gain entry into US-based colleges and universities.

When choosing a school, Grant stipulates that a fair amount of consideration should be given to aspects such as quality, diversity, the qualifications of the faculty, range and structure of programmes, facilities, university and college placements of graduating students and opportunities for parental involvement among others.

Summing it up, he says: “Once a student enters our programmes, his or her academic and personal development and performance is closely monitored by teachers, counsellors and administration, to ensure that they are making the desired academic progress”.


Australian International School Malaysia

The Australian curriculum places great emphasis on explicit instruction in learning skills, high-order thinking, problem solving and the general capabilities, behaviours, values and dispositions that are essential for success in a complex, information-rich, globalised world.

Operating upon this fundamental value, the Australian International School Malaysia (AISM) provides a high quality internationally recognised curriculum for students from preparatory class until graduation in Year 12.

Here, graduates are afforded a Higher School Certificate (HSC); a qualification granting them entry into the best universities around the globe.

Across this academic period, students study a breadth of subjects with English being mandatory. AISM offers a choice of three Sciences, four levels of Mathematics, three Business courses, Performing and Visual Arts courses, practical courses, Physical education, language and technology courses. Its extension courses permit students to pursue particular areas of interest in greater depth.

“Students are assessed on content knowledge, their ability to analyse, synthesise and interpret information in a subject area as well as their ability to demonstrate a range of work and personal capabilities that are important in their subject area,” AISM’s principal, David Kilpatrick points out.

Basically, the curriculum relies on continuous competency-based approaches to evaluate mastery of a subject area, enabling students and teachers to use assessment as a means to learn rather than solely as an end-point.


elc International School

“Within the international school context when you hear the term British Curriculum, it more than likely refers the National Curriculum of England and Wales. The Scottish follow their own system and that is rarely seen outside the British Isles, whilst the Northern Irish have a slightly different emphasis placed on their national curriculum, although it does closely resemble that of the English and Welsh,” highlights Rajan Kaloo, director of services at elc International School.

Elc believes the system by itself matters very little but that a truly gifted teacher can achieve phenomenal results with passion and knowledge.

“When that is taken into consideration the question becomes where do we find such teachers and how do we assess them,” Rajan adds, explaining that it is the reason standardization is necessary.

The academic year begins around the end of August or early September and concludes in July the following calendar year. A year has three terms with a Christmas, Easter and summer break, allowing the students and teachers time to rest.

There are two aims set out by the national British curriculum:

Aim 1:
The school curriculum should aim to provide opportunities for all pupils to learn and to achieve.

Aim 2:
The school curriculum should aim to promote pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and prepare all pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of life.

These aims are in turn grounded by the four purposes:

1: To establish an entitlement
2: To establish standards
3: To promote continuity and coherence
4: To promote public understanding


Lycée Français de Kuala Lumpur

The advantages of the Baccalauréat are numerous. It is an entrance qualification to higher education recognised in a large number of countries and by most universities. It trains the whole person, with particular emphasis on intellectual, cultural, emotional and social development.

There are many schools offering this curriculum in Malaysia and Lycée Français de Kuala Lumpur (LFKL) is one of them.

“The French system develops skills of research and thinking as well as the ability to analyse and evaluate one’s actions critically; it offers at the same time a complete general training and, through its flexibility, specialization, enabling each student to find their own path,” Gilles Martinez, principal of LFKL explains.

According to him, the French Baccalauréat with the International Option, while a demanding diploma offers a plethora of benefits beginning with the allowance to take the French Baccalauréat in any stream; be it literature, economics or science.

Here, the school year begins on September 1 and ends on 30 June. Every seven weeks, the students enjoy a 2-week break. Privileged learning conditions are also granted—classes with very small numbers (below 20), language lessons by level, support groups in Mathematics, French and foreign languages, course guidance and more.

“The IB curriculum provides evidence not only of a double culture but also a remarkable work capacity and true versatility, resulting either in double certification or access to major foreign universities. These follow on from the repute of the diploma and the schools which prepare it,” Gilles observes.


Sunway International School

The Ontario High School Programme is based on curriculum documents developed in the province of Ontario, Canada which allocates four years for the high school programme, beginning with Grade 9. In Malaysia, the Sunway International School (SIS) recently launched its secondary-level programme and runs from Grade 7 to Grade 11.

Upon completion of this final level, students can carry on to the Ontario Grade 12 pre-university programme known as Canadian International Matriculation Programme (CIMP) or get admitted into other Pre-U programmes like A-levels, MUFY, Sunway University’s FIA and AusMat.

The curriculum offered at SIS ends with the completion of Grade 11 which is the equivalent of any Grade 11 programme—SPM or the O-levels. There are two intake dates for Grades 9 to 11 in January and July. Meanwhile, the Grade 7 and 8 are one-year programmes beginning in January.

“The most significant quality of this program is teaching. The student-centred learning concept actively promotes group work, student presentations and more. This type of teaching promotes social, personal and emotional growth,” says John Futa, SIS principal and CIMP programme director.

Swearing by the school’s high quality offerings, John explains that SIS is a ‘laptop’ school. Its classrooms are equipped with smart boards while both students and parents have access to E-learn (Blackboard) which permits them to follow daily lessons, note different assignments and various other assessments, contact teachers and so on.

The opening of a new school is scheduled for July 2012.


Many often wonder whether it’s possible to swap curriculums in the middle of the school year and if it is recommended and if it does happen, then how much of an impact the move will have on the student. John Futa addresses the issue, offering insightful advice on the factors to consider when faced with such a situation.

“I think this would be difficult transferring programmes. To go from the Ontario programme to A-levels or AusMat would be tough. Similarly, coming from one of the other pre-university programmes to CIMP would be difficult. I think it could be possible, but the student would experience some problems adjusting and catching up on lessons.”

According to elc’s Rajan, at the secondary level, it has more serious implications and considerable communication should be spent with teachers before any decision to move is made. Finally, the social impact on the student always needs to be evaluated. Moving them into what can be effectively viewed as an alien environment can have a negative impact on all but the most extroverted individuals.

“Obviously in many instances this cannot be avoided and change is necessary. But parents must bear in mind that once the physical move is complete there may be many more weeks or even months of support required to cope with the emotional costs incurred by the move,” the director concludes.


Australian International School Malaysia
22 Jalan Anggerik, The Mines Resort City,
Seri Kembangan
Tel: 03–8943 0622

Dalat International School
Tanjung Bungah, Penang
Tel: 04–899 2105

elc Cyberjaya
Lingkaran Cyber Point Barat,
Tel: 03–8319 1641

elc Sungai Buloh
Jalan Sierramas Barat, Sierramas,
Sungai Buloh
Tel: 03–6156 5001/5002

Lycée Français de Kuala Lumpur
34 Jalan Dutamas Raya, KL
Tel: 03–6250 4415

Sunway International School
3 Jalan Universiti, Bandar Sunway,
Petaling Jaya
Tel: 03–7491 8622

The International School of Kuala Lumpur
Jalan Kolam Air, Ampang, KL
Tel: 03–4259 5600

Tags: Features, Curriculums, SIS, ISKL, AISM, ELC, LFKL
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