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The International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL) Review and Everything Else You Need to Know

Published by SchoolAdvisor on Oct 18, 2019, 03:48 AM

The second school Team SchoolAdvisor visited was The International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL). There we interviewed the very friendly Director of Admissions, Ms Julia Love, and here is our very own review of ISKL, along with everything else you need to know.

Team SchoolAdvisor’s First Impression of ISKL

The first thing you notice when you enter the Ampang Hilir campus of ISKL is that it is HUGE! It is so big that there is a golf cart to take guests from outside the entrance gate to the school building inside. Security is quite tight and yet the guards are very friendly, just like everyone else we met at ISKL. 

Location

What team SA thinks – The environment around the school is serene and beautiful, with a lot of greenery. The Royal Selangor Polo Club is right next to the campus and the area is also home to several embassies, making it ideal for children of expats working there. There are also numerous residential complexes around, which are home to locals and expats alike. All in all, the surrounding area is quiet, but not secluded, making it ideal for a school. Additionally, from ISKL, one can easily access the city centre and links to other parts of KL, making ideal for working parents. 

About the school

ISKL is the longest-running IB World School in Malaysia and first opened its door 54 years ago with just 48 students. Currently, the number of children attending this school stands at just over 1750 and includes students from 68 nationalities.

ISKL boasts of being an all-inclusive and non-selective school, but there is a cap on nationalities, to encourage diversity in classrooms. According to Ms Love, the majority of students at ISKL are expats and occasionally due to their parent’s work, must relocate out of Malaysia in the middle of the school year. Although it can be challenging for children, ISKL prepares them to be able to cope in other places equally well.

“Instead of teaching students what to study, we teach them how to go about learning such that they can adapt to other schools, anywhere in the world, easily,” Ms Love says.

ISKL stands firm in its philosophy, which is to challenge each student to be global learners by providing a student-centred, inquiry-based and holistic approach to education.

What team SA thinks - You get an idea of how unity in diversity is valued at ISKL when you see the students. As we were walking out of the school, we came across two early childhood students of different ethnicities, walking holding hands and talking animatedly. This is what true global citizenship is about and ISKL is doing a wonderful job by nurturing this from a young age.

Curriculum

ISKL is one of the very few schools that provide a robust international curriculum which combines leading North American educational frameworks with global best practice and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP). Elaborating on the reason for including IBDP, Ms Love says, “It is a curriculum that aligns with ISKL’s vision and mission, which is to create global citizens. It not only allows students to have a clear understanding of subjects, but it is inquiry-based and prepares students for the type of learning that they will experience in university.”

The IBDP is academically rigorous, and while challenging, it shapes well-rounded students and is recognized by universities worldwide. “Many schools have selection procedures in place as to which student can or cannot pursue IBDP, but we allow students to decide for themselves. Which is why, this year, we have over 90% of our Grade 11 students enrolled in the full IBDP. Teachers and Counsellors work closely with the students to help them find success in the program.”

She believes that the IBDP workload can be beneficial for students in the long run since it prepares them to work under pressure and teaches them valuable time management skills.

What team SA thinks – It is a great initiative to allow students to decide if they want to go down the difficult IB path because we think that way, it gives a boost to students’ confidence knowing someone else believes that they can achieve what they believe they can. And we all know confidence can work wonders!

Admissions

Parents are welcome to take a school tour by appointment Monday through Friday each week and families will have a tour of the campus conducted by a student. Ms Love is proud of ISKL’s student tour guide program- the STARs- because she believes in the value of seeing the school through the eyes of students. Additionally, the school hosts two Open Days each year as well as dedicated language-specific Open Mornings.

As for assessment tests for students, this is not required for all applicants.  Ms Love explains, “Assessment tests or interviews are not the norm because recommendation letters, previous school report cards and certificates are usually enough for transferring students who are coming from other international schools. However, assessment tests and interviews are conducted if we have questions or concerns about a student’s educational background.”

What team SA thinks – Assessment tests can be pretty nerve-wracking for older students who understand the implications and for parents of younger children because kids don’t always follow instructions. ISKL offers a nurturing environment where parents and students can be themselves and not be judged on one day’s performance.

Extracurricular activities

“Too many to list!” exclaims Ms Love. Indeed, ISKL offers a whole range of activities from debate, performing arts and music to sports and service clubs.

What really stands apart among this extensive list of extracurriculars offered at the school are two Beyond the classroom programmes that students participate in, namely the Global Action Programme (GAP) and Malaysia Week.

Both these week-long programmes are designed to engage students in outdoor interdisciplinary education and service-learning opportunities designed to build students’ awareness of emerging global issues by involving them in a range of cultural, environmental and service opportunities.

Ms Love elaborates, “With GAP we encourage students to travel to different areas of the region and engage in community service work. During the GAP trip, students must be “disconnected” and cannot carry smart devices. The students stay in the communities where they are engaging in service work. We believe this gives them a perspective of life that they would otherwise not realise.

What team SA thinks – Many parents sending their children to international schools worry that their children will become disengaged from the real world and would grow up with a feeling of entitlement, instead of understating how privileged they are and being grateful for that. The GAP initiative by ISKL is a great way to keep kids grounded by exposing them to different communities of the world.

Parents involvement

Parents are encouraged to be involved in school activities and take an active part in the whole process of education. Ms Love explains, “We at ISKL believe that parents and the school have to work as a unit, seamlessly, to ensure proper growth and education of a child. There has to be transparent and clear communication between the school and parents, and they need to be on the same page, only then do students truly benefit from the full learning experience. “

“Parents are encouraged to take an active role in the school, depending on their interests and skill set. We can find opportunities for anyone! There are a number of parent events on campus each week. These include educational sessions with teachers and administrators, coffee mornings, school committee meetings, cooking classes, English classes, and much more!” she adds.

What team SA thinks – This is a wonderful initiative by ISKL to involve parents in school activities, especially for new expat parents in Malaysia, who can find people to interact with. The clear two-way communication between the school and parents will ultimately benefit students the most, and that is the end goal.

Team SA verdict

There is no doubt about the amazing infrastructure and facilities of ISKL but at the end of the day what matters is the kind of education being provided by a school, and ISKL is leaving no stone unturned to provide the very best. The community programmes are one of the unique aspects of ISKL and so is the strong relationship shared between the school and parents.

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