At first glance, both types of schools offer similar advantages, especially when it comes to the calibre of teachers and generous facilities. Private and international schools usually cover the whole range of educational needs, from preschool right upto secondary However, the main difference comes down to the syllabus.
Private schools in Malaysia generally follow the Malaysian National Curriculum for Primary School Standard Curriculum (Kurikulum Standard Sekolah Rendah) and Secondary School Standard Curriculum (Kurikulum Standard Sekolah Menengah), as required by the Education Act 1996.
The benefit of attending a private school is that your child will receive a Malaysian education in the English medium.
Some private schools will follow the Singaporean syllabus for Science and Mathematics, as do some international schools.
Whereas with international schools, your child will be exposed to an international curriculum, with a pathway to take on globally-recognised certification at the end of their studies. In Malaysia, you can find schools that offer British, Australian, American and Canadian curriculum.
These schools are not governed under the Education Act 1996 but are subject to supervision by the Ministry of Education through its Private Education Division. International school fees are often higher due to their superior facilities, and in some cases, offer boarding as well. In addition to this, they pay their educators an attractive salary with benefits.
Private schools also feature these advantages, in addition to providing two sets of certification. For example, your child will be able to sit for SPM subjects, as well as IGCSE, depending on which subjects they choose.
Start your research as early as possible. You want to be able to have a leg up and not miss any application deadlines.
Once you’ve identified your shortlist, try to visit the school in-person. If that’s not possible, request for a virtual tour. Most schools have this on their websites now.
To make the process easier, some schools accept purely online applications. If not, it’s best to liaise with one person in charge.
Make sure you have all your documents ready:
- Passport size photographs of the child
- Passport size photographs of the parents
- Photocopy of the child’s birth certificate
- Photocopy of the parent’s identity card
- Photocopy of any other certificate
- Payment for the Registration Fee, Deposit and School Fees
If your child has been learning in English so far, he or she should not have a problem scoring in the assessment test. The main barrier is if your child has been learning in Bahasa Malaysia, in which case, extra language classes are a good idea.
If you feel like your child is weak in a particular subject, you can also consider getting them extra help for that.
Generally speaking, the assessment tests to get into private schools is conducted to better determine the class placement for your child. It is not so much about their abilities but where they stand amongst their cohort.
If they were doing relatively well in their previous school, or preschool - there is no reason for you to worry.
Yes, most private schools will deliver science and mathematics in English, even though they are following the national syllabus. Only schools that follow the Dual Language Programme (DLP) will offer these subjects in both languages.
Few private schools use Bahasa Malaysia as their official language, such as the Beaconhouse private schools. However, they uphold high standards of English by measuring against international benchmarks and utilising resources from the UK and from Singapore.
For example, Science and Mathematics at Beaconhouse private schools are taught in English and students will get additional language lessons if necessary.
There are actually quite a number of independent Chinese schools that are not under the purview of the government - these schools do qualify as ‘private schools’ based on the definition of the MOE, because they are not funded by the government
Students who attend independent Chinese schools will sit for the UEC (Unified Examination Certificate) which is equivalent to A Levels. The UEC is slowly but surely gaining recognition in Malaysia, however, it is actually accepted in some countries. In addition to a Chinese-based syllabus, students also sit for their PMR and SPM, hence the national syllabus is still given importance.
Long answer, short: Yes, a select few do teach in Mandarin, for example. There are fewer Tamil secondary schools, however.
We received mixed feedback on this million-dollar question. Indeed, as a parent you would expect a private school to have better teachers and to not have to rely a lot on outside help.
While plenty of parents are perfectly satisfied with their children’s grasps on their subjects, some have felt the need to get extra tutoring. However, this is mostly based on their fear of not being able to catch up, or a perceived lack of understanding in a particular subject.
We would encourage parents to enroll their children in other non-academic upskilling that are perhaps not available at the school, such as music, language arts or sports.
In terms of funding, the most obvious comparison is that public schools are more or less fully funded by the government, hence why they will not offer state-of-the-art facilities. The upside to this is that fees are relatively low and parents only pay for miscellaneous things such as books, stationery, class trips and so on.
Private schools are usually funded by the children’s tuition fees which, in some cases can be as expensive as international schools. Some private schools are non-profits or are funded by private entities.
The biggest advantage of private schools over public schools is their facilities and access to technology, but most importantly, their smaller teacher to student ratio. Most private schools try to keep their classes as small as possible, modelling international schools which do the same. They also tend to hire extremely qualified teachers, who are familiar with the national curriculum, but are also well-versed with international standards.
Primary school students will take on subjects such as science, physical education and Islamic/moral education, in addition to core subjects. At the end of Year 6, students will sit for the Primary School Achievement Test (UPSR).
Secondary school students are given a wider range of subjects; they will also choose between the Science and Arts stream or a combination at Form 3 (equivalent to Year 9 for international students). Private secondary schools prepare students for two public examinations, namely the PT3 (Form 3 assessment) and the SPM (Malaysian Certificate of Education) during their last year, Form 5.
These examinations are conducted by the Malaysian Examinations Syndicate (Lembaga Peperiksaan Malaysia). Very few private schools offer the Malaysian Higher School Certificate (STPM) in the Sixth Form, opting instead to offer the A Levels or other alternatives.
The biggest change for your child when transitioning to a private school from a public institution will be the primary language. If, all this while they have been learning everything in Bahasa Malaysia, they may struggle a bit to fit in at a private school.
It is best to try to prepare for this beforehand and get them additional language support. If this is not possible, do inquire with your school of choice if they are able to provide assistance with this issue, as they are usually quite well-versed with this situation.
In terms of adjusting socially and emotionally, your child will learn to adjust with the help of their new friends and teachers. Do your best to prepare them, and allow them to visit the school environment with you (if you are able). Explain to them why you are taking them out of their former school if they are unhappy with your decision. They will come around eventually.
The Dual Language Programme (DLP) is a programme under the government's initiative to 'Empower Bahasa Malaysia and Strengthen English' policy. This basically means that parents and children are given the opportunity to learn core subjects such as Science, Mathematics, IT and Communications and Design & Technology in either English or Malay.
Those that opt for the DLP place an importance on their child learning Bahasa Malaysia, which is important for those who plan on living and working in the country. Furthermore, parents who choose this option explain that they want their child to be able to converse with fellow Malaysians, whether in a formal or informal setting.
The benefits of choosing DLP is that your child is learning core subjects in another language, and will also be qualified following the country’s standards.
Read these articles to gain better understanding on private schools and the differences in the curriculum.