written by Justin Durling, Head of Primary School, Kolej Tuanku Ja'afar


During the past five years, there has been a proliferation of international schools opening up, both within Malaysia and in the region, and this trend looks set to continue.  As Malaysia grows into one of the leading educational hubs in Southeast Asia, international schooling is being seen as a viable educational option by an increasingly large and diverse group of parents. Parents want their children to have the best possible educational experience and currently have a wide range of options to choose from. This is excellent news for prospective parents as it allows them to explore a range of schooling and educational systems and select the one that best suits their child. However, it is important that parents ask a range of questions to ensure that they are choosing the school that is right for their child.  

What curriculum does the school follow?

International primary schools in Malaysia will generally follow one or more of the following curriculum models ·       International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program ·       the National Curriculum of England and Wales ·       the International Primary Curriculum ·       Cambridge Checkpoint ·       or, the Canadian and American curriculum models. All of these curricula have a different structure with some being more focused on child -led inquiry and others focusing on a more traditional test-based approach. It is important to find out as much as you can about the school’s curriculum and assessment procedures. Think about your own child’s style of learning and choose the curriculum model that works best for them.  

Is the school accredited by an internationally recognized inspectorate?

International schools should be providing you with an assurance of quality control; the best schools are usually accredited by the Council of International Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges or a range of other internationally recognized, independent inspection bodies. You need to be confident that the school has measures in place to guarantee quality.  

Where does the staff come from and what are their qualifications?

Ideally, all staff will be fully qualified primary school teachers with a recognized teaching qualification from their home countries and a minimum of 2 years teaching experience. Teachers should be familiar with the curriculum and supported by capable learning assistants.


What size are the classes?

Optimum class sizes should not be higher than 25 students in each class with a qualified teacher and learning assistant in each class.  

What resources does the school use to support the curriculum and how well-resourced is the school?

The school should have sufficient educational resources to support a diverse and exciting curriculum model. Resources should also be available to provide individual support for learners as well as challenge and stimulate higher end students. Technology should be integrated into the curriculum with Smart boards, IPads and a range of laptops and desktop computers available to students. If parents ask schools the above questions they should be able to get a clear picture of which school will best support their child’s learning needs. Most importantly, parents should visit the school during the school day as this will be the very best way for them to see classes in action, view the learning spaces and observe how staff and children relate to each other in playground and classroom environments. International education is an exciting and valuable option for parents. Good schools will welcome your questions and make the time to ensure that you are able to gain a full understanding of all the aspects of the school’s operation.  


*This article was written by Justin Durling, Head of Primary School at Kolej Tuanku Ja'afar (KTJ), which has established itself over 20 years as one of the leading British-style, co-educational international boarding schools in Malaysia, with over 600 secondary students from 11 to 19. KTJ has recently opened a new primary day school for 3 to 11 year olds.  Parents are invited to attend KTJ's Primary School Open Day on Sunday 9 March 2014 between 10am and 4pm to visit the school and learn more about what it has to offer. For more information on KTJ, visit www.ktj.edu.my, email registrar@ktj.edu.my or call (+606) 758 5107