Written by Gerrard Lim 

A wide selection of co-curricular and extracurricular activities is offered at international schools today. Students take part in these activities after school hours and sometimes on weekends.  

Co-curricular activities refer to the activities and learning experiences that complement the academic curriculum. As such, these activities are normally teacher-led and include debates, competitions, performances, science and other fairs, and activities that involve the use of languages, among others. 

On the other hand, extracurricular activities (ECAs) are activities that are not part of the regular school curriculum and are designed based on a shared interest, skill, goal or purpose. ECAs usually revolve around sports, arts & crafts, hobbies, educational clubs and societies, and community service. These activities can be teacher- or student-led.


                                                                                                           Types of ECAs                                                                                                                     


International schools in Malaysia provide diverse extracurricular activities based on various categories. Here are some examples of extracurricular activities offered at international schools:

1. Sports 

Badminton, squash, tennis, table tennis, swimming, rugby, hockey, football, table tennis, taekwondo, wushu, and cheerleading. 

2. Academics

Robotics Club, Science society, English, Mathematics, debate and public speaking.

3. Hobby 

Photography, videography, art, cooking and journalism.

4. Culture and language 

German, French, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, Bahasa Melayu, and Model United Nations (MUN).

5. Performing Arts 

Music: Ukulele, vocal, violin, guitar, and cello.

Group: Orchestra, marching band, rock band, dance recitals, and school production.

6. Community 

Rotaract, interact club, student council, the library community, and yearbook.

7. Outdoor Clubs 

Red Crescent Society, St. John’s Ambulance, scouts, discovery trips and cultural exchange programmes, World Scholar’s Club, and Duke of Edinburgh Award.



Co-curricular and extracurricular activities are a great way to help students learn more about themselves, and gain knowledge and skills in different areas. Whether it is classic chess or more unorthodox options such as Gundam building and Korean Drama analysis, there’s always something to learn in all these activities.


Here are some skills that students can learn by joining an activity:

1. Communication skills 

Communication is an essential part of functioning adequately as a member of a society, club or team. Learning to speak fluently and coherently is important in order to develop new friendships, strengthen existing ones, and communicate your ideas to a larger audience.

2. Leadership and teamwork skills 

These activities teach students how to manage, plan and distribute work, and help students learn how to work with other members in a team. Competitive activities, whether sports, academic or arts-related, also help students to be patient and resilient, especially during high-anxiety periods when their team needs to work well together to overcome challenges.

3. Time management and organisational skills 

As ironic as it may seem, taking part in extracurricular activities can help students develop good time management and organisational skills because students have to juggle studies and other activities. This gives them less time to procrastinate and more opportunities to prioritize work and leisure appropriately.

4. Learns commitment and responsibility 

In order to do well and enjoy any form of ECA, students are encouraged to be committed and carry out their responsibilities accordingly especially if it involves other students such as in group projects. Most ECAs require students to be committed for one or two terms, or even for a whole school year. Therefore, students learn commitment and responsibility when they are part of an activity.   


In addition to the above skills, there are other benefits of taking part in co-curricular and ECAs. Here are a few:

1. Promotes mental wellbeing 

A study carried out during the lockdown showed that extracurricular activities have components of social interactions that significantly reduced student stress. Verbal and nonverbal social ECAs, like group music therapy sessions and social gathering activities, were ranked the highest in impactful mental health repair.

2. Increases self-confidence 

Most students join ECAs based on their interests and passions. It is also a platform for students to find and showcase their talents. Self-confidence is fostered when students discover their talents and excel at a new skill. A sense of accomplishment and pride is gained along with self-confidence. Being complimented for their skills or winning competitions also boost the self-esteem of students. 

3. Encourages a healthy lifestyle 

Extracurricular activities geared toward sports and outdoor activities promote good physical and mental health. Extracurricular activities also provide a break from the stress of studying and homework. In addition, music and art activities can help students to relax.

4. Improves overall academic performance

The soft skills that students have picked up through their participation in ECAs (such as good time management and organisational skills) can be applied in their academic pursuits resulting in improved overall academic performance. The key is not to do too many things that may result in students not having enough time for their studies. 


                                                                                                                       Joining an Activity                                                                                                                            

The application process usually consists of students deciding on which activity they want to do and filling in the necessary forms physically or online. Depending on the activity and purpose, students may need to audition in order to get in.

Some schools charge participation and other fees for equipment and maintenance, and if an external party with special expertise is recruited to lead the activity. Some activities like cooking clubs require you to purchase and bring your own ingredients. Some activities are free to join.


                                                                                                   How to select an Activity                                                                                                                    

It is important to know what is on offer and select those that the student has an interest in or want to learn more about. It may be beneficial to choose a sport (to give the student more opportunities to exercise and keep healthy) and/or an activity in which the student can develop additional knowledge and skills. For example, by joining the St. John’s Ambulance, students can acquire first aid and life-saving skills. If what your child likes to do is not available, you may consider encouraging your child to set up his or her own club or society.  


In summary, there are many benefits for students to take part in co-curricular and ECAs. In addition to discovering their passions and make new friends, students can also develop important skills that will help them in school and beyond.