PRIVATE SCHOOLS AND INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS
An Overview of the Malaysian School System
Education is the responsibility of the Government and it is committed to providing a sound education to all. The Malaysian education system encompasses education beginning from pre-school to university. Pre-school, primary and secondary education falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education (MOE) while tertiary or higher education is the responsibility of the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE).
The Education Act 1996 provides for pre-school education, and ensures that the National Pre-school Standard Curriculum is used, that teachers are trained in pre-school education and that physical facilities and equipment provided are of good quality.
In general, pre-school education aims to nurture students' potential in all aspects of development, to master basic skills and to develop a positive attitude as preparation to enter primary school. Its education objectives include:
In general, primary education takes six years, i.e. Standard One to Standard Six, and the typical starting age is seven.
In addition to reading, writing and arithmetic, children will be exposed to other subjects such as science, physical education, Islamic and moral education. At the end of their studies in year 6, they will sit for the Primary School Achievement Test (UPSR) which tests mastery of Malay and English, mathematical skills and science concepts.
Secondary education takes five years, and comprises Lower secondary education (Form 1 to Form 3) and Upper secondary education (Form 4 to Form 5). A wider range of subjects is offered and students can opt for a Science or Arts stream or a combination.
Private secondary schools prepare students for two public examinations, namely the PT3 (Form 3 Assessment), and the SPM (Malaysian Certificate of Education) at Form 5. All these examinations are conducted by the Malaysian Examinations Syndicate (Lembaga Peperiksaan Malaysia). Few private schools offer the Malaysian Higher School Certificate (STPM) in the Sixth Form, opting instead to offer the A Levels or other alternatives.
Private Schools: their edge
Private schools are open to both local and international students. Besides day school, some private schools also offer full residential facilities for students. Typically, private schools offer a wider array of elective subjects, comprehensive co- and extra-curricular activities, facilities for learning, sports, IT and the arts. Many have longer study hours and smaller classes, and more attention is given to the students. They also provide regular reports for parents and place greater emphasis on the English language, even though these schools follow the Malaysian national curriculum. To gain entry to a private school, a student may have to undergo an assessment and interview.
The Ministry of Education defines an International School as a private school which offers preschool, primary and secondary school education using an International Curriculum and English as the medium of instruction. These international schools are not governed under the Education Act 1996 but are subject to supervision by the Ministry of Education through its Private Education Division. Although these schools mainly cater for the needs of the international community, such as the children of the staff of foreign businesses, international organisations, foreign embassies and missions, up to 40% of students may be Malaysian and with the liberalisation of international schools, this number is on the rise each year.