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In Pursuit of World Class Education in Malaysia

by on 08/05/2017 3796

The curriculum in an international school is usually different from the country the school is in. An international school usually adopts international curricula like those of International Baccalaureate (IB) or Edexcel and others. They also espouse home-country curricula like those of British, American, or Australian curricula, depending on the school itself.



These days, the world is becoming more globalized and complex than ever. The work market gets more and more aggressive and expectations are high in the corporate world. This means that a good education is crucial to be able to better identify with the rest of the world. Students who have a good education have more advantages of success when they step out of school. That is why parents strive to provide the best education for their children and placing them in an international school is always a good move. International schools have always been known for their top-notch education. It used to be that only expatriates and a handful of the influential that can place their kids in international schools, but now, practically anyone who can afford it may enroll their kid in one.



Although the curriculum at international schools may vary from school to school, they are however, practically worlds apart from the curriculum offered at public schools. Whether or not this is a good thing depends on what you’re looking for in terms of your child’s education and future. At in international school, the curriculum can be exam-oriented or even coursework-oriented, depending on the school itself. Some international schools may even provide more than one type of curricula. For instance, in Cempaka International Ladies College, both the British Curriculum and the International Baccalaureate are offered. At international schools, classes may begin as early as three years old, by means of preparatory class, and this prepares very young students for their journey into school and tertiary education beyond that.


These are the two categories of curriculum that are provided at international schools:


Exam-oriented curriculum:

  • International General Certification Secondary Education (IGCSE)
  • EdExcel (Pearson)
  • International Baccalaureate (IB)


Coursework-oriented curriculum:

  • American
  • British
  • Canadian
  • Australian



Malaysia is by far one of the best places to live in and of course, to study in as well! Our climate for instance, which is basically warm and sunny, is a plus point for those who do not particularly like to go through seasons such as winter, where activities may be limited. Hence, parents too can expect their children to make the most of their time at school, and also during extra-curricular activities, without having to worry about their kids dealing with extreme climate conditions. Not to mention too that Malaysia is basically free from natural disasters. Studying in Malaysia is a good way to expose kids to multicultural elements such as a variety of cultures, traditions and ways of life, to name a few. Our multiracial community which radiates peace and harmony within its people may serve as a powerful example for students who wish to become global citizens. Many international school brands are expanding their wings to Malaysia because it offers them great prospects. Our community is generally able to communicate in English. To some extent, this can help ease the communications dilemma of foreign students. Plus, they will also have a chance to learn the national language of the country too. Consequently, Malaysia offers a great environment for children to learn and thrive.



Today, international schooling is no longer a novelty in Malaysia and the numbers of international schools are increasing due to factors such as government incentives, local progressive developments, the rise in the standard of education as well as a middle-class boom. Currently, Malaysia has over 90 international schools with dozens more which have already been approved but have yet to operate! Nevertheless, these numbers will inevitably keep rising with the ongoing demand. Presently, international schools in Malaysia cater to over 38,000 students, a number which is expected to increase rapidly and thus create a greater demand for even more schools.



Foreign parents stand to gain a lot by choosing to school their kids in Malaysia. They may even choose to reside in Malaysia and this is made ever so convenient under the “Malaysia, My Second Home Program” (MM2H). Under this program, a foreign family may reside here without having to obtain a student visa for their child or children who are studying here in Malaysia. Ultimately, through this program, parents are able to stay close with their children who are studying here and have many advantages in doing so too! For example, families may run their own businesses here if they wish to, or just work here while their kids go to school. They are also allowed to invest in mutual funds, business stocks and the likes. Parents who are MM2H pass holders are also eligible to be considered for application of housing or car loans by banks in Malaysia. Ultimately, if parents wish to have a permanent residence here in Malaysia, they may purchase properties that are priced at a certain amount. These are the factors that basically make Malaysia the popular choice of parents who wish for their kids to study abroad. The whole family get the benefits of having a second home too!



Just because a school is an international school, it should not be taken for granted that it is automatically a good choice. When checking out a school, do some background research as well, as in when was the school established and who operates it. Parents should be clearly informed on who owns the school, or which organization runs it, how is it managed, what kind of education system do they implement and also the credentials and licensing of the school.


All international schools in Malaysia have to be recognized and accredited by our Ministry of Education (MOE). An unlicensed school will greatly affect your child’s applications to colleges and universities. Other than being recognized by our MOE, other accreditation parents need to look for are from Council of International School (CIS), Western Association of Schools & College (WASC), and New England Association of Schools and College (NEASC).


Another important indicator of a good school is the school’s exam success rates especially in the international papers. This speaks volumes about the effectiveness of the syllabus that is being taught in the school as well as the quality of teaching that the school offers. This information can be obtained easily from the school itself. Not only this, parents should also be well informed about the class size as well as other crucial information as well.


Generally, the class sizes in international schools are maintained at a ratio of 1 teacher to 15 to 20 students only. Some schools allocate two teachers per class, usually the head teacher and the assistant. This allows for more effective teaching. Many international schools offer mock classes for parents who are concerned about the quality of the teachers. In these mock classes, teachers will be teaching normally and their skills or methods of teaching will be evaluated by the parents themselves. This can help parents in deciding whether a school is appropriate for their child or not.



The curriculum of international schools are one of the main factors which sets them apart from public and private schools. International schools provide education to children as young as three years old up to their tertiary level and English is the main language or medium language used. Additionally, international schools provide subjects that are diverse and they place utmost importance on subjects related to humanities and social science, as in the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), which contribute to an all-rounded education.


An international school may adopt either an exam-based curriculum like International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), a UK program; or a more coursework-focused curriculum like the American, Canadian, Australian programs and/or the International Baccalaureate (IB). Parents should consider wisely which program compliments their children’s abilities and skills.



An American curriculum encourages students to pursue an education in all of the major academic disciplines, rather than specializing in any particular one too early. At high school level, students must earn credits (one credit per course per year) in English, Mathematics, Sciences, Social Sciences and World Languages. They also get to choose from a wide variety of courses in fields such as the Arts and Technology. Courses in Physical Education and Fitness for Life are also required.


Students work towards earning the High School Diploma, and they can choose to meet credit requirements for graduation through regular High School courses, Honours level High School courses, AP, and/or IB courses. The curriculum is designed to support preparation for colleges and universities around the world. Students will acquire skills in speaking, listening, literacy, and numeracy.


The American curriculum may use a variety of means to meet the needs of all students so that they have the best opportunity to learn and make exceptional progress.


Values of an American curriculum include:


  • Differentiating instructions
  • Benchmarking developmentally appropriate standards
  • Providing personal and academic counselling
  • Assessing individual student needs (e.g. Child Study Teams)
  • Providing specific programmes (e.g. English as an Additional Language (EAL), Native Language Enrichment (NLE), advisory, student leadership, community service, and health education)




The International Baccalaureate® (IB) is a non-profit educational foundation which utilises four programmes for students aged 3 to 19. These specially designed programmes help develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills of students in preparation for what the future may hold for them. Ultimately, it prepares students for a working life in a rapidly globalizing world. This program is based on the prospect of a continuous international educational experience from early childhood to pre-university age. The IB program intends teachers, students and parents to draw confidently on a recognizable common educational framework, a consistent structure of aims and values and an overarching concept of how to develop international-mindedness. 



This curriculum follows the education system and standards of the United Kingdom. They consist of:


  • Key Stage 1: Years 1 and 2 – age 5 to 7
  • Key Stage 2: Years 3, 4, 5 and 6 – age 7 to 11
  • Key Stage 3: Years 7, 8 and 9 – age 11 to 14
  • Key Stage 4: Years 10 and 11 – age 14 to 16


 Certain subjects are statutory parts of the National Curriculum at certain Key Stages. English, Maths, Science and PE are compulsory at all four Key Stages. Art and design, design and technology, geography, history and music are compulsory up to the end of Key Stage 3, when pupils pick their GCSE subjects. Citizenship (covers topics such as democracy, justice, diversity and rights and responsibilities) is statutory at Key Stages 3 and 4. ICT (Information and Communication Technology) is compulsory at all four Key Stages. Some schools with UK curriculum have Personal, Social and Health Education classes (topics include drugs and alcohol, emotional health, safety, sex education, nutrition, personal finance and careers) although these aren’t statutory.


  • At the end of Key Stage 1 (Year 2, age 7) :
  • the teacher makes informal assessments in reading, writing, listening and speaking, Maths and Science.
  • At the end of Key Stage 2 (Year 6, age 11) :
  • formal tests in English, Maths and Science, plus informal teacher assessments.
  • At the end of Key Stage 3 (Year 9, age 14) :
  • Informal assessments are made in all subjects.
  • At the end of Key Stage 4 (Year 11, age 16): 
  • GCSEs




One of the core functions of the Australian Curriculum is to provide leadership and advice in a number of curriculum-related policy areas. There are a few facts that make this curriculum stand out. The Australian curriculum aims to provide support in specific cross-curriculum policies and priorities such as: 

Curriculum planning. This planning will provide a systematic approach to covering outcomes and content areas across years and stages. Curriculum planning enables a school to monitor the coverage, continuity and development of desired knowledge, skills, understanding and values across the stages of schooling. 

Literacy. Identifies literacy skills and understandings which are regarded as critical components of doing well in school. This strong focus on literacy enhances learning opportunities and helps build and nurture self-esteem and confidence in students. Teachers are expected to integrate literacy into all key learning areas. 

Environmental education. The incorporation of environmental and sustainability education into the school curriculum help students to learn about the environment, develop skills to investigate and solve issues in the environment, acquire attitudes of care and concern for the environment, adopt behaviours and practices which protect the environment, and understand the principles of ecologically sustainable development. 

Support for school libraries and librarians. This educational policy summarises the functions and integral role of the school library including collaborative teaching support; information service; personnel; materials and equipment and systems. 

Numeracy K-12 Policy. Refers to the role of teachers in developing students’ numeracy skills to support specific numeracy demands across key learning areas. The educational policy outlines how assessment data guides the development of numeracy programs and provides information to parents, caregivers and communities. 



This curriculum, should it be your choice, provides a dynamic, creative, challenging and innovative inquiry – based learning environment aimed at producing a global graduate. The Canadian curriculum reflects educational best practices and aims to empower students with the desire to engage in learning throughout their lives thus resulting in true lifelong learners.


In Malaysia, The Canadian International School observes The ECE to Grade 6 programme which is based on the Primary Years Programme (PYP) framework of essential elements – knowledge, concepts, skills, attitudes and action; and the development of The IB Learner Profile throughout. Each child is understood as a unique learner on a developmentally appropriate continuum. The well-rounded curriculum sees that the academic, social, emotional, physical, and cultural needs of its students are met.


Through the Canadian curriculum, teachers and students generate questions to guide their inquiries into a variety of significant topics of study. By learning to ask relevant questions, students connect what they are learning to what’s going on around them. They are not limited by only certain skills but acquire all-around knowledge through an interdisciplinary, true-to-life approach. As they develop their abilities as inquirers, students gain essential knowledge and skills, and are encouraged to engage in responsible action. Their work is supported by a school climate that fosters positive attitudes and develops children’s capacity to be internationally-orientated and minded.


Students’ curiosity plays a fundamental role in guiding the curriculum, thus making the whole teaching and learning experience authentic.



References :


This article is taken from SmartKids Vol. 7