What makes international schools so popular all of a sudden? Or at least, what has spiked their popularity in the past 5 – 8 years?
In April, a report by the Ministry of Education shows that there are 39,460 students who are studying in international schools in Malaysia. Out of this number, 19,867 are Malaysian students.
That’s about 50.3% out of the total students who are currently studying in international schools all across Malaysia.
When interviewed, most of the Malaysian parents who enrolled their children in international schools said they made this decision mainly due to the deteriorating quality of Malaysian education system as well as the declining quality of teachers in public schools.
While many of our teachers in Malaysian public schools still have the altruistic spirit of teaching, the demands of Malaysia’s jam-packed syllabus often causes the teachers to not be able to perform their duties as teachers should. Students are made to learn as many subjects as possible in public schools, some of which many parents feel unnecessary given the age of the students, that the teachers often spend more time on administrative tasks to organize their teachings compared to spending time focusing on the students in the classes they teach.
A teacher who only wants to be known as Nazita said, she often feels extremely sorry for her students for having to cram many subjects in one day, which she knows most of them don’t really understand what they have learnt. On top of that, the high number of students in each class often leaves her feeling helpless, as she knows she’s not able to focus and help each and every student as they deserve to.
Not only that, many parents also note the current situation of Malaysia’s political state has an impact on how Malaysian public schools are run. Because parents believe politics and education should be kept clear of one another, many parents are choosing to send their children to international schools, where the environment is more neutral and they place strong emphasis on the child, rather than the school or who runs it.
The hefty fee of international schools is one of the main reasons why many Malaysian parents are hesitant to enroll their children. Public schools’ fee, although not as cheap as it was before, is still a mere fraction of how much international school can cost a parent. A top tier international school such as Garden International School or Mont Kiara International School can charge up to RM75,000++ annually and even low tier international school, which is something many Malaysian parents feel as an affordable and reasonable fee for an education, still charges about RM 23,000++ (for Fairview International School).
Due to this, those who send their children to international schools are deemed very well to do, as they can afford to fork out a huge amount of money for their kids’ schooling.
High Price of Education?
But how do you put a value on education?
For some parents, it’s sufficient that their children go to school because the most important education is what they teach their kids at home. But for some parents, education is about the wholesome aspect of character building that will shape who their children will be when they grow up into adults.
The latter is international school’s backbone and pride.
They pay close attention to building a child’s mind and character by not showing him or her the answer, but rather the way to find the answer. The children will then discover for him or herself what it takes to learn something and make up a mind of their own as to how they learn it. This holistic approach to education is something many parents agree with, as it molds a person and not a robot that gobbles up information or subject upon subject.
International schools emphasize on artistic values that challenge a child to think and be creative in finding solutions. Children are allowed to make mistakes and taught the important lesson that there is nothing wrong to be wrong. Classroom environment is often productive and interactive, allowing not only the children to effectively communicate with his or her classmates, but also to have a healthy relationship with the teachers where a heated discussion with the teachers is not something that is viewed negatively, but rather is encouraged.
This nurturing is often absent in public schools.
Children often feel left out or clueless about what is happening in class and resort to acquiescing to whatever the teacher says. The pressure to score an A in exams has caused students of public schools to pay full attention to studying and studying alone, rather than deciding what they want for themselves. Even with dignified ambitions, many of our public school students are drown in seas of homework and tuition classes. Their minds are not fully allowed to expand as young minds should.
Many parents who send their children to public schools feel their children are pigeonholed into an assembly line of grade-oriented school leavers. Because of this Malaysia is having less and less quality public university graduates, as the mentality of being book-smart has been drilled into our public school students as early as Standard One.
Having said that, while the access to international schools has been opened to Malaysians, many parents aren’t enrolling their children because of the steep fees. Had international schools been as affordable as public schools, it’s safe to say that probably the majority of Malaysian parents wouldn’t have to think twice about sending their children to international schools.
Does this then mean quality education is only accessible to the wealthy?
It may be a vicious statement to proclaim, but for the time being, it does seem that way. With the government putting a limit to the number of international schools being opened in Malaysia, this education system will seem to stay exclusive for quite some time.
What can I do if I can't afford international schools?
However, for parents who can’t afford to send their children to international schools, it doesn’t mean at all that their children’s future is bleak. There are many ways for parents to be actively involved in their children schooling years to make sure that their kids are getting the right kind of education.
Encouraging your children to always tell you what’s happening in school and share stories of what they did in school that day will go a long way in ensuring that your children are not influenced by anything you feel unnecessary or inappropriate. If you do, you can and should instill the right values in your children, so even with the influences they’re facing at school, your children are able to have a mind of their own and be independent as you want them to be.
Parents who send their children to public schools may not have the luxury of nurturing and care from the teachers as children in international schools do. But parents are always the first teachers a child has, so even without what many deemed “quality” education, you can still very much ensure your child get the right kind of education from you because that’s more important than any money-can-buy education system or tool there is out there.
The decision to send your child to an international school is absolutely personal and shouldn’t be mocked or condemned by anyone.
And parents who don’t have the opportunity to expose their children to international school education system shouldn’t feel as though it’s the end of the world for their children, because if parents take complete interest in their children’s education, it doesn’t really matter if they’re in international school or public school.
Granted, you may have to work harder if your child is in public school, but at least it gives you the wonderful opportunity of being involved in your children’s schooling years from Standard One all the way to Form Five.
And that often costs and means more to your child than it is to you.