1. Expert Analysis: Increasing Demand from Malaysian Families Driving the Growth of the International School Industry

Expert Analysis: Increasing Demand from Malaysian Families Driving the Growth of the International School Industry

Published on 26 Mar 2015
General Article

Author: Anne Keeling, ISC Research


English-medium international schools are increasingly valued by the world’s universities. “International schools are of paramount importance for us,” says Karen McKellin, Executive Director of International Student Initiatives at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada, where 70% of all international undergraduate students come from international schools. “Their students meet all of our requirements; they are well prepared to mix and participate, they have very good facility of English language, and they’ve been exposed to internationally recognised curricula,” she explains. At the University of Manchester in England, where 25% of all students are international, Liz Green, a Senior International Officer says: “There’s massive competition now to recruit the brightest and best young people from around the world and international schools are incredibly valuable to us for their very bright and fully rounded students.”


asia-economic-growthAn average of 80% of students attending the world’s English-medium international schools today are the children of local families who hope that attending an international school, many of which deliver globally respected curricula and examinations, increases the opportunities for a student to achieve the best potential for university and higher education. In Malaysia, this number currently stands at closer to 50%, a figure that has been increasing dramatically in recent years in line with changes in government policy.

In 2012, the Malaysian government removed a limit on the number of Malaysian citizens who could enroll at international schools, thereby paving the way for a substantial increase in the number of local students attending the international schools across the country.

This change in policy, as well as other government changes (including the requirement for Malaysian public schools to deliver all subjects in Bahasa Malaysia), has resulted in a major change in the shape of the international schools market in Malaysia. Since 2009, the total number of students attending the international schools has increased by 80%; the majority of which are local Malaysian children.

Nicholas Brummitt, Chairman of the International School Consultancy, says, “Today there is a massive demand for English-speaking education in Malaysia, as in several other countries throughout the world. The future growth of the international schools market is very much dependent on how many people can afford to pay the international school fees”.


asia-economic-growth Today Malaysia is considered a major education destination within Southeast Asia. With 142 English-medium international schools (encompassing pre-school, primary and/or secondary education), the country currently is home to 17% of the total number of international schools in Southeast Asia. There are two high-profile education hubs – located in Iskandar (EduCity) and Kuala Lumpur (Education City) – and 20% of all Malaysia’s schools can be found in Kuala Lumpur.

27% of all international schools in Malaysia are bilingual. They range in size, enrollment phases and orientation, but 57% offer (all or in part) the National Curriculum of England.

International Baccalaureate programs including the Primary Years Program, Middle Years Program and Diploma Program are offered by 20 schools, of which 15 deliver the IB Diploma Program.

As well as many local teachers, Malaysia attracts skilled, qualified teachers from all over the world to come and teach at its international schools. This includes a significant number of British teachers as well as North Americans and teachers from Australia and New Zealand.

In total, 57,616 students are enrolled in international schools throughout Malaysia and many of the leading international schools are at, or close to, full capacity.


Globally, there are currently 7,545 English-medium international schools and within ten years, ISC predicts there will be over 15,000 schools meeting the learning needs of more than 8 million students.

The International School Consultancy Group (ISC) is the leading organization in the world for market intelligence on the international schools market. It provides a range of services to meet the market intelligence needs of schools, higher education, school suppliers, investors, developers and professionals involved with international education. For more information, visit www.iscresearch.com



This article was published on 26 March 2015.

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