International School VS Public School

Some parents might be considering to either send their children to International School or Public School. So, here is what I can help in enlightening the thoughts by providing the reviews.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world - Nelson Mandela

As a student of both a public school and an international school, I was thoroughly confused about where to put my children. I had some pretty great experiences in the public school where I spent about three years of my primary school life and very different experiences in the international school where I spent the rest of my schooling years. As the confusion of where to put the kids came to no solution, I did what I always do when I get stuck – make a list of pros and cons comparing the two. These are some of the things I came up with which helped me make up my mind. Finally, you would decide on what your gut tells you.


The single biggest factor when looking at both education systems is cost of education. A government school costs next to nothing. Your child will attend school for a good ten years, almost free. They will also get student loans more easily for their tertiary education having attended a government school. If you pick an international school, you will be paying a lot in fees for the next ten years. It does not stop at school fees. When the kids’ school underwent major renovation and expansion, we had to pay building fees for five years. The excursions and school trips organized by international schools are far more expensive than what they do in government schools too. As they enter upper primary school, non-compulsory overseas trips are part of the annual class trip; and they cost a lot too. Think about it this way, you will end up spending almost as much on school fees as you will spend on university fees later.

The one thing you may end up spending on if your kids go to a national school in Malaysia is tuitions. Because many parents are not happy with the large classrooms and the sometimes inconsistent teaching, most children who attend national schools go for tuitions and other enrichment classes. This certainly adds to the cost of education and although school fees are next to nothing, this comes up as a big hidden cost.

Class Size

Local school classrooms sizes are bigger. You will find a minimum of 40 students in a class. Naturally, the brightest students will choose to sit in the front rows and teachers will focus more on them, leaving the weaker students to their own devices. In such a short day with so much to cover, it cannot be easy for a teacher to focus on such a big number.

At international schools however, you will not find classes that are bigger than 20 students. Many international schools have a teaching assistant in every class too, especially for lower grades. Two teachers and 20 students sound like a more reasonable equation. The teacher is able to focus on every student in class. Parents can expect a healthy communication with the teacher through a student diary.


In a government school, your child will have friends who are all Malaysians. Your child will blend in and learn the culture of fellow friends – Chinese, Indians and Malays. Friendships made here last a lifetime. In an international school, however, your child will be exposed to a world of nationalities and cultures. I had friends from all over the world and it was interesting to learn so much about other people. The only disadvantage at that time was that the foreign children were all from diplomat families who moved around every two years. SO, it was sad to have to say goodbye every now and then. This has changed a lot today as almost half the students in international schools are Malaysians, which was not allowed back then.


The reason why this is a big considering factor is because the whole play of ‘English’ comes in. How often have we heard about how English is being taught in local schools? The whole problem is probably thanks to the non-English education in the last couple of generations, that led to the current, slightly sad state of affairs in schools today. If you look back to the 1950s, people spoke perfect English because they learnt it as a first language in schools back then. Talk to an elderly taxi driver today and you will still hear the same flawless English. English is important, now more than ever, simply because it is the world’s first language and something every individual will need in their working life. There has been a lot of mention of the quality of teachers in local schools too. Many of them earn far more in tuitions to do their job well in schools. There are still the same number of teachers here that do inspire and motivate their students to become future leaders and successful individuals.

At an international school however, you would get a better quality of teachers. A lot of international schools hire their teachers at International job fairs. These teachers are not only qualified and experienced, but passionate about the profession, giving students a better learning experience overall. These teachers bring with them international experience, and also a level of English proficiency that is required in today’s world. They are given lucrative salary packages from their employers, so they are less likely to try to make extra money from tuitions.

Another important thing to note when it comes to teachers is how passionate they are about teaching and the different methods of lesson planning and teaching. International schools encourage teachers to use creative methods of expression when it comes to teaching. For example, when teaching about King Henry VIII in history, the teacher may come in dressed like the King himself, and use props like the interactive white board and overhead projector to make a lesson more interesting. Varying methods of teaching like this are not heard of much in a local curriculum school. The large classes make it impossible for the teachers to create such environments of learning.


Curriculums both in local schools and international schools in Malaysia are commendable. The Science and Math curriculum of local schools surpasses that of international school standards. On the other hand, the curriculum of International schools is always being updated. English is definitely a big focus. The board exams of both types of schools are pretty competitive in quality. The only difference you will find is again, English. In local schools, all the subjects are taught in Bahasa Malaysia while in international school, the medium of learning is English.

It is the execution of curriculum which is also important and this totally depends on the creativity and passion of the teacher, as mentioned in the previous section. Today, it is far more difficult to grab a child’s attention in a class than it was even 10 years ago. Teachers need to have the creativity to be able to have lessons that are not only book based, so that students are able to remember facts better.

Some international schools provide excellent extra curricular activities for their students. This exposure does add up to a child’s personality. On the other hand, government schools do provide plenty of opportunities for children who are talented in the field of debates, public speaking and sports.

These are just some of the major factors you would need to consider when you are trying to decide between the two types of schools in Malaysia. Consider all your points carefully because it is not always healthy for children to change from one system to another. There will be added challenges for them to overcome.

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If this entry doesn’t enlighten you enough, you might want to read more here.

Looking at the current economic status today, I decided once I read about the cost. :joy:

To the fact that, everything in this world has its own pros and cons. Just choose wisely according to your preference. :v:

Couldn’t agree more about :moneybag: things too. Makes me think twice whether it will be like really worth it to go to international schools.

I realize the important of class size until i attended college. Small class is always better. More attention is given to the students.
Afterall, parents send their children to international school because they believe English is emphasized and that’s their only concern.

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I think public school rocks! But of course, it depends on which public school. If the Public school has its special curriculum, then I would say it is much superior than the international schools.

Regarding financial considerations, given cost of private schools may be prohibitive to some families, financial aid is available to those who cannot afford tuition. At least, for those at the higher hierarchy academically. (and by the way, this might be true only in certain countries)

What about religion? There may be positive points regarding private schools in this regard, since in some countries it is impossible to teach religion in public schools. For example, in the United States the Supreme Court has upheld the teaching of religious studies in American public schools time and time again. Once the child is old enough to think logically about the possible veracity of various religions, it is often too late — the religious instruction has been so successful that the child no longer accepts the possibility that they could be wrong. After all, these ideas were introduced by a loving and trusted family member. Moreover, many government even get a lot of criticism in how religious is being taught at schools, e.g. Richard Dawkins attacking prime minister David Cameron over faith schools years ago(
Private schools may specifically teach religion and may have more discretion about how to celebrate holidays that may have a religious association.

Special education – public schools are required by law to provide education to meet the needs of all students, including those with special needs, within the least restrictive educational environment. Private schools may or may not offer special education support and, whether or not they do, they may not be the right learning environment for those with special needs in a way that addresses their individual differences. Students with these kinds of special needs are likely to benefit from additional educational services such as different approaches to teaching, the use of technology, a specifically adapted teaching area, or a resource room. And not just for common special needs including learning disabilities, communication disorders, emotional and behavioral disorders, physical disabilities, and developmental disabilities, but also regarding gifted students and scholars with higher aptitudes and talent, hence the term Gifted education.

Just speaking about Malaysia’s case and not generally for the whole world - Parents tend to send their kids to private school (if they can afford it) more due to push factor rather than pull.

Push factor - public schools syllabus and quality of teachers are low

Pull factor - better syllabus, quality of teachers and better experience for the kid (better facilities)

I agree with @Tank_Killerz basically a lot of students from public schools are unhappy with the poor quality of education they’re receiving 'cause some teachers are not qualified to teach certain subjects (yet they still teach it!) and there are subjects they feel are unnecessary. Parents who understand this predicament will do their best to get their kids to the best school they can afford. One aspect that I do admire with international schools would be the richness of their co-curricular activities - students are given the opportunity to explore their full potential via sports, arts, and more. These experiences enhance their individuality and improves soft skills, critical thinking and other skills necessary for the future.

On comparing these two, International schooling has more benefits such as: Many International schools use a curriculum that is used and accepted around the world and often include extracurricular activities within their curriculum like debate teams, math leagues, robotics etc. In fact, students who have studied internationally are often at an advantage when it comes to finding a job. lt gives the students a chance to learn the diverse languages.