Motivation to Switch to an International School

October 06, 2017

Is an international school like any other school? What is it about international schools that are attracting more and more local students? Research carried out by Garden International School (GIS) on the number of locals attending international school looked at various aspects including the international school learning environment and the emergence of third culture kids. In the third article in the series we discuss the motivation to switch to an international school.




“I was sent abroad because of the education system here then, to be given exposure to that holistic approach to learning,” recalls Sharifah, 49, a parent at Garden International School for more than 10 years. “I don’t have to do that with my kids now because the education system has been brought over here.”

Like Sharifah, parents are looking for different curriculum options for their children apart from the national curriculum being offered in local public schools. International schools offer a variety of curriculums, with the more common ones being British, American and Australian.

UK’s IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) is a functioning curriculum that provides a structured examination at the end of a course that allows for international comparison of ability, an additional score to prove to universities and creates a goal for students to work towards. It is syllabus-driven and examination-centred. The IGCSE is more popular among Asian parents and teachers primarily because of the clear structure it provides.


English-medium education

Parents across the world agonise over where to send their children to school, but local families considering the international system have considerations far beyond the academics. They find that there are benefits to their children being taught in English – a key motivation for parents in this globalised world.

This is especially important in Malaysia where the national stand on the medium of education in public schools has swung back and forth between English and Bahasa Malaysia. Though there are merits to both sides of the argument, parents and children continue to be caught in the crossfires. For most parents, it’s about giving their children the best chance of success in an increasingly competitive world, and that means an ability to speak English and think critically.

GIS parent Hasliza Zakaria, 43, studied and worked overseas. “Having experienced the education systems in the US and UK, I can see the benefits,” says the mother of two.

Children are in a position to become outstanding speakers of English and develop a raft of professional skills from confidence in public speaking, to the ability to live in different environments with people of diverse backgrounds.

Interest in education overseas

Getting a place at an overseas university remains a key factor in the local students’ decision to attend an international school. They believe that getting a place at a university in the UK, US or Australia will result in giving them academic, social and soft skills to succeed in their chosen career. It would mean that their “investment” has paid off.

International schools are known to encourage critical thinking, put the child in the centre of learning, comprehensive teaching content as well as broader co-curricular programmes are just some of the reasons why students from international schools do really well and are accepted into top-notch universities worldwide.

These three main areas – curriculum, medium of instruction and getting into a foreign university – continue to be the motivation for Malaysian parents wanting the very best for their child, and therefore international schools in this country may well become the focal point of primary and secondary education.