1. What to Look for in an International School for your Child

What to Look for in an International School for your Child

Published on 07 May 2021

Roger Schultz
Head of School at Alice Smith

As of 12 April 2021, the Information System on Private Education Institutions by the Ministry of Education Malaysia* recorded a total of 183 international schools in the country. Majority of these schools are situated in the Klang Valley which consists of Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya. With many options today, what should parents look for in a school for their children? Roger Schultz, Head of School at Alice Smith School, who has been involved in international education in Asia for the past 26 years, shares his advice with Education Destination Malaysia.

There are many considerations when it comes to deciding on an international school for your child. According to Roger Schultz, Head of School at Alice Smith School, parents should be looking for a school with ‘high academic standards, engaging and attentive teachers, an internally recognised curriculum and a wide range of extracurricular activities.’  


Good Quality Teachers and Teaching Resources

‘Teachers are vital to the success of students and an excellent school will invest heavily in their continued development and pursuit of learning,’ says Mr Schultz. Undeniably, teachers play an important, if not the most important, role at any international school. The level of fees charged usually reflect the level invested in the school’s resources, in particular the background, experience and quality of the teaching staff. A school with a strong reputation in the international community will be able to attract good teachers. Good schools will also consistently invest in developing their teaching staff’s skills and keep abreast of trends both in education and teaching in order to ensure their students remain ahead compared to others. These schools will also conduct quality assurance tests to ensure their teaching staff are performing to expectations. 

In addition to good teachers, the level and quality of teaching resources is another important consideration. Mr Schultz believes that international schools with higher fees invest back into the school to provide students with the best teaching resources, such as ‘new technology for the classroom, funding to go on an off-campus excursion, upgrading facilities or supplies for day-to-day use.’


Internationally Recognised Curriculum 

An internationally recognised and established curriculum such as the National Curriculum of England (also known as the British Curriculum or a British-based curriculum outside of the UK) is the foundation of a good education. It is a challenging academic curriculum that emphasises mastery of subject matter and encourages independent thought. According to Mr Schultz, the best international schools are often modelled on internationally recognised curricula. He says, ‘By using an established curriculum, a school is able to replicate the same success for their students but in an international setting.’ Besides, by following an internationally recognised curriculum, students are able to seamlessly integrate back into a school setting in their home country or anywhere else in the world. 

In addition, Mr Schultz believes that receiving an international British education opens a world of opportunities for students as British international schools have a strong reputation for quality that is recognised and respected by top universities around the world.  


Facilities that Foster a Positive Learning Environment 

Parents should consider schools that not only provide building facilities that meet the needs of their students, but are also aesthetically pleasing and offer an overall positive learning environment for their students. As their children will be spending a lot of their time in school, it is important to keep in mind how the school environment might affect their children’s learning experience. Therefore parents should make it a point to visit the international school in order to observe the facilities that their child will use on a daily basis. Mr Schultz notes that multiple studies have shown that ‘good quality facilities foster a positive learning environment which is then manifested in better academic results and overall happier students and staff.’ Therefore, schools should also incorporate well-researched and innovative classroom design and outdoor spaces that foster creativity and a lifelong love of learning. 


A Wide Range of Extracurricular Activities 

Besides impressive academic results and post-secondary destinations, a good international school should also offer a wide variety of sporting, public speaking, artistic and other opportunities for students to discover their talents and excel in them. These include student clubs and societies, and competitions for students to develop leadership and teamwork capabilities among other skills. In addition, the school should also provide cultural exchanges and a broad range of residential expeditions and trips for all students. Besides academic excellence, a good school should also encourage students to develop personally, solve problems and contribute meaningfully to the wider community.


The best international schools should prioritise good quality teachers and teaching resources; adopt an internationally recognised and established curriculum; and offer facilities that foster a positive learning environment and a wide range of extracurricular activities. These are the characteristics of a good quality international school that parents should be looking for when deciding on a school for their children.


*System Maklumat Institusi Pendidikan Swasta (SMIPS) https://smips.moe.gov.my/ Accessed on 12 April 2021


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