January 16, 2017
One of the biggest dilemmas faced by parents is choosing the right education path for their children. In Malaysia, there are mainly two options a parent can consider: a public route or an international one.
With all the uncertainty surrounding the public education system, who can blame parents for thinking of an international education for their children? From the flip flops in deciding whether to retain Mathematics and Science in English and the controversial Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) score have prompted many parents to opt for a more stable and established education system.
We’re not saying that the public education system is all that bad — after all it has produced world-class leaders that includes our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and an acclaimed scientist Datuk Betty Sim Kim Lee who is saving the world through her work in malaria.
Dr Betty Sim Kim Lee with some of the local children as she works on clinical trials in Doneguebougou, Mali.
The Malaysian government has gone to great lengths in providing comfortable basic facilities for free to all government schools. These schools have access to computers, sports equipment and lab technologies.
Then, what is lacking?
Students who attend international schools have greater access to teachers who make learning interesting by exposing them to real-world situations. Students are also introduced to a more diverse and an all-rounded curriculum that often presents better prospects in adulthood.
If international education is a move you are considering, here’s a few things you need to know.
1) Know the cost of an international education
One thing’s for sure, tuition fees at these institutions is not going to be cheap. Some parents have to fork out RM80,000 to RM100,000 per annum just to put their child through elementary school.
So if there’s a high chance of you enrolling your child into an international school, you must be willing and be able to take on a significant expense for a good number of years without comprising your other financial goals such as retirement.
Just like everything else lately, private and international school fees will also increase through the years. According to a report by iMoney, a parent who sends her three children to an international school, said school fees have been increasing since 2015 and is expecting a yearly increment of between 5% and 10%.
Parents must also be willing be make a few sacrifices such as moving to a smaller home, fewer vacations and trips to pricey restaurants. But for a number of Malaysian parents, these sacrifices are worth especially if it means a bright and promising future for their children.
2) Plan ahead of time
An international education is a massive long-term commitment and so, the sooner you start planning, the better it will be.
For instance, admission at an international school alone could cost parents an additional RM50,000 and above for miscellaneous charges, which include application, assessment and registration fees, This is likely an amount you will have to fork out upfront.
Also, it is not uncommon for schools to require some form of financial commitment, such as an acceptance deposit, so it will be wise to start planning from as early as possible, possibly even as soon as your child is born.
3) Consider the extras
Paying for an international school education entails so much more than just tuition fees.
For starters, you will need to buy school uniforms for your child, and these will often have to be specially-tailored or can only be purchased at the school.
You also need to consider sports fees, school trips, enrichment classes and extracurricular activities that will likely cost several times more than what it does in public schools.
4) Think about the other children you may have
Some parents are quick to make the decision to send their first child to an international school, and then comes child number two and three, and suddenly, they are stuck.
To avoid winding up in this scenario, proper family planning and budgeting is imperative so you don’t find yourself in a tight spot in the future.
With the rising cost of living, it is never too early to start budgeting for your child, from aspects ranging from daily expenses to planning for their university education, so you can be financially prepared.
5) Compare discount rates
We already know that international school education costs a bomb, which makes it all the more important for parents to find ways to save a few bucks on school fees. To this end, parents will first have to do some digging around to find and compare the special rates and discounts that are being offered by these schools.
With the discount, families enrolling more than two children in these schools will receive a discount for successful enrolment of the second and third child.
Finally, remember to not overextend yourself if you simply cannot afford to put your child through an international education without going into debt or compromising other financial goals.
While attending an international school can give your child a kickstart in life, it is not the be all and end all.
One way that you can manage your funds better is to consider transitioning your child to an international school later on, such as in their high school years so you do not have to spend as much.
Whatever your options, make sure you pick one that is both practical and sustainable for you and your child(ren) in the larger scheme of things.