International schools typically serve expats who want their children to receive the same education offered in their origin country. But it is interesting to note that more Malaysians are also sending their children to international schools so that they can get a foreign-based education.
This will better prepare the children for a higher education and career overseas in the future. Statistics reveal that international school students in Malaysia have increased by 13% from 2018 to 2023, according to ISC Research.
For foreigners living and working in Malaysia, international schools may be a natural pathway for their children. Parents might want their children to learn a syllabus that’s compatible to their origin country so it’s easier for them to adapt and study in an overseas university.
International schools in Malaysia teach students a curriculum that is based on the education system of a foreign country and the students get a schooling experience that closely resembles that of studying in the country. International schools are also known to incorporate soft skills development activities in the curriculum.
For example, a British international school teaches students the Cambridge International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) curriculum and uses English as medium of instruction.
This is different compared to public schools in Malaysia that teaches the local Secondary Schools Standard Curriculum (KSSM) and use the national Malay language.
Types Of International Curriculum In Malaysia
#1 British – Cambridge IGCSE/O Level & A Level
The Cambridge curriculum is one of the most common international education programmes in Malaysia.
It is a comprehensive British curriculum that covers students from ages three to 16. The Cambridge education pathway is divided into five phases: Early Years, Primary, Lower Secondary, Upper Secondary and Advanced.
Students study the Cambridge IGCSE or O Level at 14 years old and will later take the A Level examinations at 16 years old. There are a total of 70 subjects to choose from the Cambridge IGCSE.
The Cambridge qualifications are recognised by universities in countries like the United Kingdom, United States and Australia. Some of the schools offering a British education are the Prince of Wales Island International School, Alice Smith School and British International School Of Kuala Lumpur.
The school fees for British international schools are progressive with student’s age. Below is the fee table for the Prince of Wales Island International School in Penang. School fees are collected every term with three terms for 2023/2024.
At the Prince of Wales Island International School, there are three terms per year:
|1st Term||August 2023||December 2023|
|2nd Term||January 2024||April 2024|
|3rd Term||April 2024||July 2024|
#2 Swiss – International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma
The prestigious IB Diploma is offered only by schools that were approved by the IB organisation based in Switzerland. There are currently over 5,000 IB schools worldwide that focuses on providing an education that is unique to the students’ culture, needs and ability.
The IB Diploma programme is a two-year course for students aged between 16 and 19. The programme has three core features:
- Theory of knowledge
- Research and complete an essay of 4,000 words.
- A project related to creativity, activity, and service.
Students of the IB Diploma programme get to choose one subject from each of the groups below and create their own syllabus that consist of subjects that they are personally interested in.
|Studies in Language and Literature||Malay|
|Individual and Societies||Economics|
|Business and Management|
|The Arts||Visual Arts|
There are only two schools in Malaysia offering the IB Diploma qualification which are the Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK) in Perak and Tunku Kurshiah College (TKC) in Negeri Sembilan.
There are four semesters spread over the two-year programme. Each semester comprises of 20 full weeks.
#3 Australian – Higher School Certificate
Australia is geographically closer to Malaysia compared to other Western countries and is only a six-hour flight away. So, many Malaysians might be interested in furthering their studies in Australia and an Australian pre-university education can be useful.
The number of Malaysians studying in Australia from January to June 2023 has grown by 10% compared to last year, but some consider pursuing an education in Malaysia due to accommodation costs, lodging costs so they opt for an international education certification without leaving the country.
The Australian curriculum is offered to students from nursery to Year 12 and sectioned into Junior School, Middle School and Senior School. Half of the curriculum focuses on assignments, projects and exams and another 50% of the curriculum focuses on external exams.
The Australian International School Malaysia (AISM) employs the Australian curriculum and the university ranking score Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) which is accepted globally.
Tuition fees at the AISM are collected at the beginning of the term for four terms per year:
- Term 1: January to March
- Term 2: April to June
- Term 3: July to September
- Term 4: October to December
Tuition fees increase with the level of education. For early education i.e. nursery and preparation years, tuition fees are RM10,338 per term. Meanwhile, tuition fees for junior school students from foundation level to Year Five cost RM13,108 to RM16,817 per term.
In middle school which spans from Year Six to Year Eight, tuition fees are from RM17,864 to RM19,060 per term. Senior school fees from Year Nine and Year 10 are RM20,565 and RM21,246 per term respectively.
Lastly, term fees for pre-university years 11 and 12 students are RM21,443 and RM28,590.
#4 American – American High School Diploma
The American curriculum consists of early childhood, elementary, middle school and high school (Pre-K to Grade 12) for students aged 3 to 18.
Upon graduation, students will receive the American High School Diploma, which is accredited by US education bodies.
Students may choose their own subjects and the subjects offered by the American curriculum include the following:
|Early Childhood||Pre-K to Kindergarten||3 to 5 years old||Citizenship and Character Education, English, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies
|Elementary||1st to 5th Grade||6 to 10 years old||Citizenship and Character Education, English, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies and Technology
|Middle School||6th to 8th Grade||11 to 13 years old||Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, World Languages, English Language Learners, Electives and Physical Education|
|High School||9th to 12th Grade||14 to 17 years old||English, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, World Languages, Physical Education, Fine Arts, Technology, Health, Electives, English Language Learner, English Immersion Programme and Graduation Requirements|
The Mont Kiara International School (MKIS) offers the American curriculum in Malaysia. There are two semesters per year and fees increase with age. From Pre-K3 to high school, school fees range from RM16,000 per semester to RM57,200 per semester.
|Semester 1 (Aug to Dec)
|Semester 2 (Jan to Jun)|
#5 French – French Baccalaureate
The French curriculum is also internationally acclaimed and recognised by schools in countries under the European Union, the UK, Australia, Canada and the US.
It caters to students from age three to 18 and is divided into primary school, middle school and high school.
In Year 10, students complete three written exams on French, Mathematics, Civic Education, History and Geography. Students will also be tested orally on certain subjects such as art history, academic guidance, civic education, health and prevention. Upon graduation, they will receive the Diplôme national du brevet (DNB) and go on to study for the French Baccalaureate.
The Lycée Français de Kuala Lumpur is a non-profit organisation that offers a French curriculum. School fees are to be paid every trimester per year. The education levels include kindergarten, elementary school, middle school and high school. Annual tuition fee for kindergarteners is RM28,300. Student fees per year for elementary, middle and high school are RM34,000, RM 41,100 and RM45,400 respectively.
International Education As An Option For Students In Malaysia
Some of the popular types of international schools in Malaysia teach the British and American curriculum. Most of the schools are open to students from the ages of three to 19 both locals and foreigners. The Swiss IB Diploma programme is only applicable to students aged 16 to 19.
Application criteria to enter international schools in Malaysia vary according to the different schools and levels of education. Usually, academic transcripts and curriculum reports are required. You don’t necessarily need to speak a foreign language to enter an international school. For instance, the Lycée Français de Kuala Lumpur accepts non-French speaking students. So, it’s best to check the criteria for each school and programme.
International schools in Malaysia are private organisations that employ foreign methods and staff. So, they tend to charge a significantly higher fee compared to public schools. However, some schools may have assistance from private organisations such as the Lycée Français de Kuala Lumpur, a non-profit school that charges lower tuition fees compared to some international schools.
Featured Image Credit: Malay College Kuala Kangsar
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