International Schools: Education can be an expensive affair

AINA NASA and SUZANNA PILAY


IT is every parent’s wish to find the best education system for his or her children. But at what cost? Here, parents share their experience on what they think best suits their children.

HIGHER-ORDER THINKING SKILLS

Farah enrols her son in a private school, which follows the national syllabus, and pays RM12,500 per year for his primary school fees.

“If I had sufficient funds, I would have sent him to an international school, but I am saving it for his tertiary education.

“My son is playful and needs a push to learn.

“He is getting better attention from his teachers now because the class size of 20 students is smaller than that in public schools.

“I believe the teachers in national schools have too many pupils to look after and tend to focus on the fast learners in their classes.

“I note that education in public schools is very textbook-oriented and doesn’t encourage critical thinking skills in students.

“Last year’s Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah exam results reflected this when there was a drastic drop in the number of students who scored straight As because questions were based on higher-order thinking skills (HOTS).

“Only 1.11 per cent of the total number of students who sat the exam achieved this.”

FINDING THE RIGHT SCHOOL

Mother of two Jessica is paying about RM39,000 per year to educate her children, aged 9 and 14, in an international school.

In her quest to find the best private school for her children, she said she had encountered schools with no principals, underqualified teachers and a poor teaching system, which forced her to change schools for her children a number of times. A teacher in one of the schools, she said, was also accused of sexual grooming.

“My children have been wearing different school uniforms over the last few years and I hope this time they get to wear the uniform until they finish school.

“Although I went to a Chinese school, I want my children to be taught in English because I believe it is important for their future.”

SPM QUALIFICATION

After returning to Malaysia from a job posting in Sudan in 2015, Suriyana was faced with the difficult task of finding the best school for her children.

“When my husband and I were working in Sudan, all three of our children attended an international school.

“When we returned home, my eldest was 15 at the time, so it made sense to let him finish his education in an international school.

“He had the advantage of finishing a year earlier than his friends who were in public schools.

“We placed our other two children in a public school.

“Although international schools have a good reputation, we wanted our children to do their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) because it would be better for them to get enrolment at higher learning institutions. It is also harder to obtain scholarships without SPM qualifications.

“My children have adjusted to life in a national school because we enrolled them in an institution that allows them to answer exams in either Bahasa or English. However, they are struggling with their Bahasa.”

SCHOOL LICENCE

Cammile decided to move her child from a local Chinese school to an international learning centre when she discovered that her child had difficulties coping with the subjects taught in Mandarin. The fees cost RM14,400 per annum.

“The learning centre is generally good. There is less homework and pressure on performance, plus the teachers are friendly and give a lot of encouragement to students.

“It also offers students a good selection of extra-curricular activities like music and sports.

“The downside is that students’ homework is not diligently marked and many mistakes in school work are overlooked.

“There is also very little emphasis on Bahasa Malaysia and Mandarin.

“My child, who is a competitive swimmer, could not participate in events organised by the Education Ministry because the learning centre only had a tuition centre licence and not one which was accorded school status.”

MEDIUM OF INSTRUCTION

Lim and his wife, who went to national schools with Bahasa Malaysia as the medium of instruction, found it difficult at tertiary level where lessons were conducted in English.

“My eldest son was lucky as he is one of the first batches of pupils to undergo PPSMI (The teaching of Mathematics and Science in English), which required pupils to study Maths and Science subjects in English.

“My other son, who is five years younger, was not as fortunate as this education policy was abolished in 2012.

“So, we decided to place him in an international school from Form One.

“We would be happy to let our son finish his education in a national school if the Education Ministry had retained the PPSMI policy.

“I also noticed that a lot of unnecessary subjects are being taught in public schools which children are expected to be tested on, for example, moral education.”

Additional reporting by Audrey Vijaindren