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Education in Malaysia is of a high standard and expat parents should not struggle to find a school for their child. That said, due to the language barrier in Malay-, Tamil- and Chinese-speaking public schools, many expats prefer to place their children in English-speaking international schools.
Preschool begins at the age of 4, but schooling only becomes compulsory from age 6 to 15.
Public schools in Malaysia
Public schools in Malaysia are in abundance and there are no tuition fees as they are supported by the government. Facilities in public schools are adequate and have most of the basic items needed for education, but student-to-teacher ratios can be quite high.
As an expat coming to Malaysia, the public school option should be the least costly. However, some major deterrents are the language barrier as well as the bureaucratic registration process for foreign students.
Private schools in Malaysia
There are a number of good private schools in Malaysia, but they are known to be expensive. Some private schools use English as the main language of tuition. As with the public schools, private schools follow the guidelines and rules set by the Malaysian Ministry of Education.
Most expat children settle into private schools quite easily as they are less likely to struggle with the culture shock that they may experience at a public school. The teachers are also usually well trained and have ample experience in communicating effectively and handling students from different cultures and backgrounds.
International schools in Malaysia
Expats who wish to have their children educated in the curriculum of their home country or a country other than Malaysia should consider an international school.
Most international schools in Malaysia are based in Kuala Lumpur. These schools usually maintain the culture, primary teaching language and teaching methodologies and curriculum of their country of origin. The most prominent schools in Kuala Lumpur adhere to the English National Curriculum, with many schools also offering the International Baccalaureate programme.
In these international schools, students will not only avoid the culture shock that they might encounter at public schools, they will also get the opportunity to socialise with classmates from their home country.
Special educational needs in Malaysia
Children with special needs are either educated under tailored programmes at mainstream schools – known as the Special Education Integrated Programme (SEIP) – or at dedicated special schools.
Public schools offering the SEIP are fairly easy to find, with the programme being offered in many schools across the country. However, there are very few dedicated public special schools. Those that do exist mostly cater to hearing and visual disabilities only. Parents may find more options in private education, however.
Tutors in Malaysia
Whether children need a little extra help with maths or are struggling to adapt to a new curriculum, tutors can be an invaluable resource to expat parents in Malaysia. Language tutors can be particularly useful for children being taught in a new language, such as Malay, and for maintaining fluency in the family's mother tongue.
Recommended tutoring companies in Malaysia include TeacherOn, ChampionTutor and MyPrivateTutor.