International Schools Continue to Grow in Malaysia

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The latest figures published by ISC Research, the premier international education organisation, show that the number of children attending the world’s international schools has passed three million. This is phenomenal growth in just ten years, as in 2002 there were one million international school students. This increasing demand for places at international schools is driving the rapid expansion of these schools worldwide, a trend that ISC Research predicts will continue for the foreseeable future. In Malaysia, the growth has also been phenomenal, with the number of schools opening in the past five years (plus the projected opening of many more by 2014) standing at triple the amount of schools here in the prior 50 years.

Ten years ago, the typical international school student was from an expat family. Today, that student is from a local family. The number of expat children attending international schools has not decreased, indeed there are many more than previously, but what has changed is the recognition by local families that international schools are a means of advancing to further education at some of the world’s best universities. “Parents of the next generation are looking towards international schools to satisfy the need for critical thinking rather than learning by rote,” says Clive Pierrepont, Director of Communications at Taaleem, which owns and manages 13 schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. “The parents clearly see international schools as a route through for university opportunities.” It is this recognition, coupled with increased income, which is making attendance at an international school a real possibility for the wealthier local families. Today, 80% of students at international schools are local children.

In previous years, there had been a quota limit of up to 40% of local students offered places at any international school in Malaysia. Recently, this quota has been eliminated; therefore, local Malaysian students are able to attend any international school they wish, if they can afford the fees. However, in Malaysia, the prominent international schools, such as Prince of Wales Island Penang, The Alice Smith School, Nexus International, Australian International, The International School of Kuala Lumpur, and International School of Penang at Uplands all offer generous scholarships and grants to deserving local children.

In a number of cities, this demand from both expat and local families, is outstripping supply. Hong Kong, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Doha all have significant problems, so much so that many relocating expats with families are now demanding security of their school places before accepting new work placements. In certain locations, it is the availability of good school places that is driving job decisions by expats rather than salaries and destinations. As a result of this demand, a number of countries, including Malaysia, are actively encouraging the growth of international schools.

International schools are typically feepaid schools that deliver the curriculum wholly or partly in English (outside of an English-speaking country). The good quality of learning at international schools is recognised the world over. Many of these schools follow, to a large extent, the English National Curriculum. Others deliver such highly respected international curriculums as the International Baccalaureate and the International Primary Curriculum. Others deliver alternative national curriculums such as American, French, German, or Dutch. The majority of UK based international schools in Malaysia belong to FOBISSEA, the Federation of British International Schools in South East Asia, which advocates contining faculty education, community service responsibility to the host country, and encourages interaction between the international schools in the 10 countries it represents. The Alice Smith School will be this year’s host of the annual FOBISSEA Conference in November.

The best international schools have extremely good reputations, are accredited, and are used as models by national schools the world over.

Managing Director of ISC Research, Nicholas Brummitt, says, “The international school market has become big business.There are now a number of highly respected, multinational groups of schools driving growth forward. Most of these groups are expanding aggressively, either by buying existing schools, expanding current operations, or building new schools. There are also schools with campuses in several countries. These include a number of UK private schools with international operations such as Epsom College and Marlborough College, slated to open in September 2012.”

For more detailed information regarding all international schools in Malaysia, numbering approximately 56 as of this printing, please go to, and read The Expat Education Supplement or contact Marybeth Ramey at [email protected] for your own print copy.

Kindly contributed by- ISC- Research, London

For more detailed information regarding all international schools in Malaysia, numbering approximately 56 as of this printing, please go to , and read The Expat Education Supplement or contact Marybeth Ramey at [email protected] for your own print copy.


This article was written by Marybeth Ramey for The Expat magazine.
Source: The Expat August 2012

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