This word IGCSE has been getting more and more popular for the past few years. 10 years ago, if you want to study international syllabus locally, you will have to get permission from the Ministry of Education MOE before enrolling your child into an international school. I would say during that time it is reserved for the elites and expatriates families only. Due to one policy change to another from opening international schools to public and allowing more international schools to open, now Malaysians can send their children to study international syllabus with plenty of international schools to choose from. Keep in mind that international syllabus includes Canadian, Australian, American and UK (with IGCSE and Ed excel).
So before you decide to jump on the bandwagon, here are 7 Things you need to know before you enrol your child to start the journey of IGCSE in Malaysia.
1. Cost to Study IGCSE in Malaysia
Once you take your child out of the public school system and put him into an international school, it will be a lot of fees until your child gets a degree. Which means if you plan to put him into an international school after primary 5, then you will have to pay annual private international school fees from Year 6 to Secondary Year 7 to 11 and continue to a private university. Please take note that it’s extremely difficult for IGCSE students to enrol into the local universities like UM, USM, UTM and so on. The bulk of cost payable will be from his university years. A fairly good school will cost around RM1,200 – RM2,000 per month, so 6 years of secondary education will cost around RM85k to RM150k. To obtain a degree from private university will cost another RM80k to RM200k.
2. Not All International Schools Are The Same
Although IGCSE syllabus is very matured and it is updated frequently by the Cambridge team of educators (kudos to the Malaysian Cambridge team), but they only control the syllabus, grading and examinations. Schools are free to run the programs independently as long as they are students who are taking IGCSE exams (more exam papers printed out = more exam fees 😉). So you need to be careful when choosing an international school. I sincerely hope everyone can afford to go to Tier 1 International Schools with 100% expat teachers, but that is not the case, many of us are left with new and unproven international schools. For the benefit of your child, the second most important criteria will be the Management Team and Teachers. Find a school with low teacher turn over rate and a management team that is passionate about child progress. If you found a school which has teachers working in that particular school for more than 10 years its a great sign.
I have taught students from GIS who manage to get into Oxford and Harvard even before they finish their IGCSE, is there a link between GIS and the top universities? That you will need to ask the school. 🙂
3. Expat Teachers Local Teachers
The best IGCSE experience will be of course studying in top tier international schools with almost 90% expat teachers. Its like studying in the UK but physically in Malaysia. Your child will learn to speak native English like the folks in UK, Scotland and America and adjust accordingly when speaking to Malaysian. Isn’t that amazing. But not all of us can afford RM100k annual tuition fees, so we have to opt for a school who are taught by 90% local teachers or higher. To summarise it I would say;
Expat Teachers : Teach using the methods while they were students in UK, creates interest and help students to pass the subject.
Local Teachers : Typical Malaysian Teachers, Teach – Drill – Fail You If You Don’t Work Hard
I can’t agree expat teachers are better than local teachers but I would like to point out, in any schools no matter its expat or local teachers they will have strong and weak teachers. It really depends what the school would do about it. I personally know some local teachers who will call up parents to update their child status and call the students to remind them about exam matters, best teacher award goes to him (hint: he is in Sri KL and he is a local).
4. After School Tuition
Any typical Malaysian parents will send their child for tuition when their grades are below their peers OR just to fill up their time. In this case, you will also need to be-careful when finding an IGCSE tutor and the tuition fees are slightly higher. Try to look for those who can show you transparently the results of the past students, even taught students to be high achievers like Top of The World or Top of Malaysia which Cambridge will award successful examination candidates. School teachers and tutors should work hand in hand, where by school teachers create interest and provide fair assessment and tuition teachers provide carefully structured notes with simplified concepts and able to point out exam techniques from the 10 years of past year papers. If an international school tells you their students do not go for tuition, they are not telling you the whole truth.
5. English Level
Everything is in English; so kids who are weak in English will find it difficult to adapt but kids who are trained from Standard 1, a good command of English especially in Science and Mathematics will be ahead of others. If you are planning to send your child into an international school, please get their English level ready. I have taught kids who are transferred from national schools to international when they are in Form 2 and did well in their IGCSE exams at Year 11 and I had seen kids who struggle to adapt to the international school English because they have very weak English even though they transfer early from Standard 5 (SJKC) to Year 7(Secondary International School).
6. Different Kind of Assessments
I would say national school syllabus would go in-depth and test the students memory AND IGCSE syllabus is broad base and test students’ understanding. If we are to compare Chemistry SPM to Chemistry IGCSE, both has 3 papers and looks the same but the questions are set entirely different for different intentions. For example, Chemistry SPM Paper 2 vs Chemistry IGCSE Paper 4; both are written assessments but SPM will require memory power to score but IGCSE will ask you just to write short answers to test if you understand the subject matter. I personally think that strong students must have great memory power and also the ability to understand new concepts quickly.
The question is will your child be hired easily when he goes through the IGCSE route or will he not (and also build a unicorn like Grab). From thousands of interviews that we have conducted, I can summarise that students who go through the IGCSE system have better command of English in terms of speaking and writing. But graduates from top local universities like UM, UKM and USM are more determined and tougher when put on the field.
We are given more options and might not be a necessity
I’m sure parents have many reasons to send their children to go through IGCSE and sacrifice a lot to see them make it through. Two of the most common reasons that I hear are Chinese primary schools (SJKC) are too rigid and overloaded with homework AND my daughter cannot understand BM so she can’t do well in BM Sejarah and Moral, but as a teacher I would say these are the things which will make your child stronger. Overall, IGCSE is an extra option that we as Malaysian parents has privilege to take up BUT NOT a necessities.
BUT one thing that I learn during training to be an IB Diploma and IGCSE teacher is that finding the child’s talents and what he or she is good at is more important than scoring in Math exams. It’s alright for a child to fail Science while he is passionate about Econs, he might be the next Warren Buffet. It’s okay for a child to drop Accounting and take up Music and Drama if his talent is in that field, he might be the next YouTube superstar.
Good Luck! If you have any questions and you would like to share your opinion please comment below.