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Small Wonder Malaysia

Migration – Better Future for Your Children?

by on 28/04/2014 5421

There are more and more options available to families today for education. Take one look at Malaysia and you can see students from all over the world attend universities here. In the same manner, we see more and more Malaysians going overseas for their education. Many go to countries like Australia for their school education. Those who choose to complete their school education locally go off to the UK, USA or Australia for their tertiary education and look for better living opportunities there. Is it all worth it?

A few years ago, a family friend packed off his wife and three young children who were happily attending a local primary school in Damansara Heights, an affluent neighbourhood in Kuala Lumpur, to Australia so the children could get a better education. The wife left her high paying job in KL to become a full time housewife in Melbourne. The family purchased a lovely house and the children were enrolled in a reasonably good local school in the neighbourhood. Within a few months, the son was selected for a few sports teams, something he was not exposed to to his full potential back home. The daughters, who were not very strong academically in KL, flourished in their school in Melbourne for some reason. It could have been the change in curriculum, teaching methods or teachers. Whatever it was, it worked! The only thing that lacked in this almost perfect equation was the fact that the man of the house lived a life split between two homes. He would spend most of his time where his work was in KL, earning a living to support his family and spend a couple of weeks every now and then with the rest of the family. By sacrificing time with his spouse and children, he decided to give them a better head start in life – a good education.

This is the story of so many Malaysian families today. Families are either sending their kids to boarding schools or migrating themselves for a better future. There are obviously many pros and cons to this decision. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Families who move to countries like Australia when their kids are of a preschool age end up making a good decision. Firstly, getting a job may be easier because you are younger, provided you have the qualifications that are in demand there. Within a couple of years, your family would become permanent residences of the country and you get access to free education. Citizenship is also on the cards with a couple of more years.


Let’s take a closer look at the education system in Australia, since that is the biggest reason why families decide to partially or fully migrate to the island country. While Malaysia had a more international approach to primary and secondary education post Colonial Times, with English being the mode of teaching, it went through several bumps and U-turns over the years. With BM coming into the forefront as a means of education, English, a language you need all-over the world, took a backseat. All this knowing that English is still the mode of teaching in Pre-University and University. During one phase of change, English was brought back into the education system once again, only to realize that teachers lacked the skills to teach a language they did not learn in.

For families migrating to Australia, they can look forward to an education system that does not take its focus off the English language. The education system here is constantly upgraded and updated, but never wavering from the language of instruction. The reason this is such a big thing is because we are all witness to what the lack of English has done to Malaysia. In the working world, verbal communications and online communication in the country and all over the world requires a good level of English. Over tests held in various institutions all over Malaysia, it has been found that levels of English are way below average. Just last week, I attended a marketing seminar at a world famous office in KL and to my horror, I found myself correcting the grammar and pronunciation of all three presenters in my mind throughout the three hours there. At the end of the seminar, so engrossed and shocked at the number of mistakes the presenters made, I was not able to absorb most of what was presented.


I interviewed another young family of four who moved to Perth about four years ago. Having landed a great job at a leading legal firm, the husband and wife decided to make the move for greener pastures. Aside from the obvious positive education change, they found a lot of other benefits of migrating. The kids were exposed to many different cultures like in their home country, but there was a difference. Here, they became more open minded to the changes, more accepting to different people who come from various different countries and more aware of the open world around them. They felt that in Malaysia, plenty of things are shrouded in controversy, be it because of religion or government acceptance. In Australia however, being exposed to the world made the children more mature and more open minded.


One thing that stood out in stark contrast with Malaysia when I visited a few cities in Australia a few years ago was safety. While our kids in Malaysia are sheltered from abductors and rapists on a daily basis, children in Australia walk freely on the streets alone without any fear. You can see children walking home from school on their own, playing in the park alone and walking around in malls with their friends without adult supervision. Schools take safety and security very seriously. While there are random cases of child abduction, it is much safer than Malaysia. That is one big reason why many families are moving to this island country.


The other factor people are migrating for, of course, is better job opportunities for the future generations. Once your children are exposed to good international education, they have better job opportunities in Australia and other parts of the world. If you were to get a citizenship, your benefits are endless in these countries. From medical to education benefits, your advantages are plenty.

There are always two sides of a coin and where there is so much positive energy, there is bound to be some negative aspects to migrating for education.

The downside

As Asians living in the fairly conservative culture of Malaysia, the first and biggest adjustment to make in a country like Australia or any other Western country, is the stark change in culture. This is often something the older generation may not be comfortable exposing young children to. Often, many Malaysians enforce strict rules and regulations regarding attire, friends and other things on their children. This may be a difficult to enforce as children try to blend with the local children and environment. It becomes a big cause of conflict among parents and children. As kids grow up, these differences are manifested in situations such as partying and drinking. It is always best to have excellent communication with your child to ensure you both understand each other’s view point.

The one thing we are blessed with in Malaysia is domestic help. Often, this is one big worry for families who are migrating. Most Western countries do not have the luxury of domestic help and the ones that do, come at a price and with plenty of rules. Adjusting from an environment where cooking and cleaning is done by helpers to an environment where you have to do every single thing is a big adjustment.

Lastly, I would think that making a sacrifice where part of the family is left behind to manage finances while the children study abroad is the ultimate sacrifice. When spouses meet thrice a year compared to daily, it takes a toll on relationships. Families have broken up because of this. It takes great strength or plenty of money to be able to manage this situation.

After all that has been said and done, the grass is always greener on the other side. Today, Malaysia is home to thousands of international students and while many students come to our shores for a good education, we look for it elsewhere ... ...