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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Public Schools Vs Private Schools In Malaysia

Public Vs Private Schools In Malaysia
Public Vs Private Schools In Malaysia
We have been school shopping again. This time it is to choose a secondary school for our children. As usual, we are rather late. My daughter has completed her UPSR and is waiting for her results. By now most parents have already made the decision on which school to send their kids. Some of them have even started schooling in the September intake for International Schools. Yet, here we are still pondering. Why? The reason why we cannot make up our minds is because it is hard. It is so hard to decide.

I have visited public schools and spoken to teachers and heads of schools and attended private education fairs. My thoughts are everywhere so I guess I won't try to group them. I will just put them all in point form below as they come. This post is not meant to be an informational post. It is just my own random thoughts.

  • Public schools are in a sad state but not all, there are still some which are good and like those I used to attend and brought back good memories. However some have window panes that are almost entirely gone and not replaced. Some had brand new facilities that have been vandalised. Sigh.
  • It makes my heart feel heavy to see the nice facilities in the private schools compared to the school with the broken window pane (that's what I shall call it) knowing I will be sending my child to the latter
  • I do not see our children divided in vernacular and national schools but I now clearly see them being divided by what they can afford and what they can't (broken window pane vs school with swimming pool and spanking new chairs and tables) Vernacular schools do not divide children but they have been made use of by both sides to further their own arguments. What do children know about racism? They only know how to play happily with each other.
  • In Chinese Independent schools kids have to sit for two exams simultaneously. Rather heavy.. (Updated. This is a comment I received from a reader which I think is good to know.  "By the way since UEC is one year after SPM, i would think SPM as a pre-exam for UEC thus student are given chance to do a revision before UEC so that they only need to focus more on the last year's modules. Besides, UEC is equivalent to A-Level & STPM and therefore it shorten half year study as compared to STPM."
  • Another reader reminded me that few CIS in Penang are currently offering IGCSE + UEC curriculum instead of IGCSE + SPM curriculum. Perhaps the CIS in Klang Valley will do so too soon.
  • A public school teacher told me, we try our best but whether you get a good teacher or not depends on your luck. Our teachers are still young. They are learning. You have to take outside tuition. Sometimes I wonder why school is not enough? 
  • Private schools have now been broken up to Private National Schools offering local syllabus or Private International Schools offering international syllabus. At the moment although the private national school prepares kids for SPM by conducting Math and Science in English. They only have two more years in which they can do so. I'm told by that they see more and more parents opting for the one with the International Syllabus because it is in English. The fee is double for private International schools.
  • I'm also told to expect a certain loss of culture as kids attend the International syllabus one. While it is a good thing to be exposed to other cultures of the world, we must not lose our identity. I have so loved the fact that the kids could enjoy and learn about their own culture and country in their SJKC.
  • One private school operator told me that their intake comprise 50% Malays and 50% other races as everyone wants their children to study in English as he puts it.
  • I have also been advised by other parents who have sent their children to private schools that there are two kinds of private schools, those attended by rich businessmen kids and those attended by hardworking professionals who make their kids work as hard. More differentiation here.
  • Some of my daughter's classmates take this route. 5 years in Chinese primary school, then switch in Sept and jump straight to Year 7 (equivalent to Form 1) bypassing UPSR or 6 years in Chinese Primary school, then in Sept go straight to Year 8 (equivalent to Form 2). This is done if the child's birthday is before September. My only thought is this people really plan far ahead unlike indecisive us.
  • There is another category of school ie the SMJK which is run by a board like a Chinese primary school but takes the SPM. I see lots of people clamouring to join these.
  • Lots of people clamouring to join the cluster schools and other schools with certain titles and benefits too. 
  • Generally you have to have good results meaning 5As for SK or 7As for SJKC if you are planning to join those types of public schools that everyone else is clamouring to enter.
  • Oh and there is homeschooling too, to add to the list of choices available for secondary school education. Are we spoilt for choice? It seems to me that whatever decision we make it is because we have no choice rather than because we are spoilt for choice.
  • We are a little late in the day in choosing schools. As there are entrance exams to sit for some of these schools eg Chinese Independent School or some of the more popular private schools that are good and not too expensive with hundreds sitting for the exam and many rejected, I think it will be prudent for parents to plan ahead around std 3 or std 4 by visiting education fairs etc.
  • Some parents are worried about entrance exams. My thoughts are worry if entrance exam is required for schools with a long waiting list. Find out those requirements early so you have enough time to prepare your child. As for the entrance exams for private schools, it depends. If the private school is new with a capacity for over 1000 students and their present enrollment is currently over 100, I would imagine that the entrance exam is a mere formality. I was told that entrance exam for some of the private school includes English and Math papers for Private International School while entrance exam includes English, Math and BM for Private schools offering National syllabus.
Gosh. Since when has choosing schools started being so hard. In our time, we just went to SKs or SJKC and then everyone moved on to SMKs.

Note: Please do not take this post too seriously in terms of accuracy. I am just a parent writing my thoughts in a personal blog. No political overtures meant as well.

Acronyms used in this post.

SJKC = Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina
SK = Sekolah Kebangsaan
SMK = Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan
CIS = Chinese Independent School
SPM = Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia
IGCSE = International General Certificate of Secondary Education
IB = International Baccalaureate
UEC = Unified Examination Certificate

Related Posts:
Secondary School Choices Malaysia Kuala Lumpur
The Road Less Traveled From SJKC To SMK


  1. Good sharing on the thought. By the way since UEC is one year after SPM, i would think SPM as a pre-exam for UEC thus student are given chance to do a revision before UEC so that they only need to focus more on the last year's modules. Besides, UEC is equivalent to A-Level & STPM and therefore it shorten half year study as compared to STPM.

    1. Thank you for your sharing. I wasn't aware of this. This is interesting to note so I have copied and pasted your information in my post. :)

  2. Really hard to choose... If financially strong, I would prefer to go to private school seeing what you've described here. sigh...

    1. Broccoli Ginger, I do hope I haven't painted a too negative picture of public schools. That was certainly not my intention. I am still sending my child to one.


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