Experts concerned as Malaysians outnumber foreigners in international schools

Academics and education experts say this trend could lead to a divide between Malaysian students and the national education system that may affect their identity as Malaysians. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Academics and education experts say this trend could lead to a divide between Malaysian students and the national education system that may affect their identity as Malaysians. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 18 — Experts are concerned as Malaysian students in international schools now significantly outnumber their foreign counterparts, Berita Harian reported today. 

This has raised questions of whether international schools have deviated from its original purpose of catering to children of foreign nationals such as expatriates and diplomats.

According to academics and education experts, this is an unhealthy trend as separation between Malaysian students and the national education system will be vast and could affect the students’ identity as Malaysians. 

In a written reply to the Malay daily, the Education Ministry confirmed that to date, there are 44, 575 Malaysian students compared to 25,220 foreign students in 163 international schools.

According to the Education Ministry, in the last 10 years, the number of Malaysian students enrolling into international schools increased by 450 per cent.

“One of the main factors of bringing in international schools is to attract foreign investments and indirectly promote the country as an education hub in the region,” said the Education Ministry.

According to the Education Ministry, one of the reasons why Malaysian parents have chosen to send their children to international schools because they want them to eventually further their studies abroad.

Principal fellow at Unversiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Institute of Ethnic Studies Professor Teo Kok Seong agreed that the different curriculum in international schools will affect national building aspirations.

He said that as it is, Bahasa Melayu and History subjects are insufficient to mould a Malaysian identity in school.

“Every year there is an increase in enrolment of Malaysian students in international schools.

“This is not good and will cause them to be separated from the national aspiration.

“When more Malaysian students steer away from national curriculum, the Malaysian identity in local students will diminish as these students will be moulded according to foreign curricular studies,” said Teo.

Teo said the Education Ministry has to limit the enrolment of local students into international schools by referring to the original purpose of these international schools — which in comparison to today, the international schools seem to be prioritising revenue.

A fellow academic Tan Sri Abdul Rahman Arshad said the freedom of enrolment among local students into international schools will affect nation building efforts.

“The competition between national schools and international school is not levelled as international schools have far more financial resources compared to nation schools,” he said.

He added that there is a need for the Education Ministry to reshuffle the national education system to regain the confidence of parents, otherwise lose out to international schools.

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