By Nisshanthan Dhanapalan
Great Britain has always been the hallmark of internationally recognised education programmes. For years, the royals, elite and the wealthy have always prioritised their children’s future with a British education. Nowadays, there are opportunities for parents to provide for their children a British education at their doorsteps with only a fraction of the cost.
Paul Rennie OBE, Deputy British High Commissioner to Malaysia associates Malaysia’s long history with the United Kingdom as one of the driving forces for the rise in popularity for a British education.
Paul Rennie, Deputy High Commissioner, British High Commission Malaysia
“It is a cultural connection. A lot of Malaysians for many years were educated in the UK back 30 to40 years ago. There is an awareness in the British education brand especially among those who have parents and grandparents who were educated in the UK,” he says.
At the moment, Malaysia has more than 100 international and private schools which includes Alice Smith and Gardens International that use a British curriculum.
According to the World Bank, Malaysia has a population of 29.72 million people as of 2013. However, the British High Commission acknowledges that about 500, 000 Malaysians are British alumni as of now.
“It is a staggering number and people are not aware of that,” says Rennie with enthusiasm.
Rennie, who was the guest of honour at the International and Private Schools Education Forum (IPSEF Asia) held last month in Kuala Lumpur, believes that British education in Malaysia will benefit the students receiving the education and their career prospects in future.
He says, “I think what keeps it relevant now is the quality of people who have come back from a British education. For example, if you talk to some people who are from the legal profession, they say having passed the bar in the UK helped elevate the standards of law firms in recruiting new lawyers.”
Rennie recalls speaking to a local professional and former British alumnus from Aberdeen who vouch to send all three of her children to her alma matter as well.
“That is the best indicator of whether your product matters because parents are prepared to trust their kids’ future on that,” he adds.
To further boost British education in Malaysia, the British High Commission of Malaysia is currently running the “Education is GREAT” sub-campaign for over a year and half now as part of the global “GREAT Britain” campaign. Education is GREAT is aimed at promoting British education across early childhood to tertiary education and its benefits to people all over the word.
“When you talk about Malaysia, half a million of Malaysians are British alumni including students, people who have gone through the British Council and people who have studied in Malaysia at British education schools. Malaysia also became the second largest source country for students going to the UK, which over took the United States and India this year,” says Rennie.
On an individual level, the British High Commission is working closely with the Malaysian government to talk about the skills and opportunities that they have and a five-year education plan that both parties can collaborate on.
“We also talk to British companies here about the type of skills they need to keep investing in Malaysia. British companies employ about 80,000 to 90 000 Malaysians to work for them. They are in constant demand for more high-quality graduates. So, this is an effort on how the British government can help British companies find the relevant skills in Malaysia,” adds Rennie on how a British education can help impact the country’s development.
As Malaysia proceeds in its path to become a high-income nation, more parents would be able to make that financial decision in ensuring that their children receive the best education that they deserve.
I feel that the education market is expanding in all directions, so people see the value of British education. It is not only about international schools but many Malaysian schools conduct British examinations as well. Hence, there is a recognition for an international education here in Malaysia but parents also want and education programme with quality,” concludes Rennie.