International Schools: A costly yet worthwhile investment


PARENTS these days are not necessarily more affluent, but they have learned to prioritise their children’s education, said Idrissi School chief executive officer Zaliza Alias.

“For many parents, it’s important for their children to be evaluated and measured by international examiners.

“International exams provide students with detailed description of their weaknesses and strengths for them to improve on rather than just knowing their grades.

“Parents who have these concerns will see the need to invest in education.

“These parents are generally more participative in deciding the learning pathways together with their children, rather than just accepting the norm.

While most international schools had a yearly increase in fees, she said, Idrissi capped their fees throughout primary and secondary school levels.

As to why international schools are becoming popular, she said parents today looked for alternatives in understanding and measuring their children’s capability, other than through the public exams at national schools.

“International school exams provide alternatives for parents such as Cambridge, Edexcel and International Baccalaureate (IB).”

The International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL) strategic development director Charles Davis III agreed on the need to start investing in children’s education.

“Money is best invested in tertiary education.

“We know that younger learners from as young as 3, enter critical years in brain development and represent foundational years for future academic success.”

He believed it was important to evaluate what really happened in the classroom in those primary years.

“When looking for an investment in primary school education, parents should find out how a student’s progress is measured and assessed — even for the youngest students.”

On the rise in students enrolling in international schools, he said while it could be an indication of affluence, Malaysian parents only wanted to give their children the opportunities that they did not have.

“It is our responsibility, as a school that charges those fees, to be accountable for results and for delivering on that which we promise.

Davis said their school fees varied from school to school.

“Our school, which is at the top range of fees in the area, is very focused on hiring the best faculty from around the world.

“Many of our faculty hold a masters or even doctorate degree, and remain here at our school for a longer period of time than in many other schools.”

He said annual increases between three and six per cent seemed to be the norm “for schools in our conference around the region”.

“We look carefully at fees each year and do our best to mitigate large annual increases.”

Fairview International School (KL Campus) principal Dr Vincent Chian said a child who had received a good foundation in the primary years would be better prepared for future education.

“Early education would enable a child to become a self-regulated learner, where the child is able to determine what he or she wants to learn, has the skills to learn and is able to self-motivate and reflect on his or her learning.

“Eventually, the child will succeed in life no matter which university the child eventually ends up in.”

On school fees, he said they ranged from RM20,000 to RM120,000 a year.

“The cheapest school and the most expensive school can offer the same curriculum, but vary in other features like teacher quality, facilities and value-added products.”

Parent Anne Ng said international school fees for Year One could range from RM8,000 per annum in a more “affordable” school to RM90,000 per annum in a first-tier international school.

“Annual increase fluctuates from zero per cent to 50 per cent per annum.

“Generally, fees increase by five per cent to 10 per cent annually.

“As parents, we are often caught off-guard when a school raises its fees drastically.

“Hopefully, with the rise in the number of international schools, the law of supply and demand will bring an equilibrium to the international school fees structure.”

She said many parents were making cutbacks on spending to provide better education for their children due to the current economic headwind.

“Some parents I know had to move their children to a more affordable international school to allow their children to continue receiving the education they are familiar with.”

A father of two, who only wanted to be known as Sam, said the unregulated fee increase in international schools often left parents at the mercy of the schools.

“My son, now 21, switched from a local curriculum-based private school to an international curriculum-based private school during Form Four and Five (Year 10 and 11).

“We had no option as his school dropped the local curriculum in favour of the international curriculum. We were given a discount in fees during the transitional years.

“My daughter, now 17, spent her entire high school life (Year 7 to 11) in an international curriculum-based private school.

“She was under the local curriculum in a private school during her primary school years.”

He said the schools his children attended increased their fees from time to time.

“We are just ordinary middle-income folks, who want the best education for our children.”