Like many other Malaysians out there, I grew up in a Kebangsaan primary school. Being 7 years old when it all began, this choice wasn’t mine of course – it was my parent’s who wanted me to grow up in a diverse environment. It was all well and good, until I was done with my UPSR and was in search of a secondary school.

At this point, cluster schools (a.k.a. a brand given to schools where students excel in academics, extra-curricular and sports) were gaining much popularity for being pretty kickass all around. Although I tried to apply, it was tougher than getting into Stanford as I got rejected. Instead, I got accepted to another Kebangsaan school.

So we tried that at first, but like certain parents, my mom was unhappy with the inefficiency of the teachers and the low standard of English being taught. So, after six years at a Kebangsaan school, my mum decided to move me to… an international school!

Now, I’m sure you guys have heard a LOT about international schools. So did I! I came in with all sorts of assumptions, and yet I didn’t know what to expect. Two words: CULTURE. SHOCK.

Here are 7 things I learned in my experience:

1. Malaysia has international schools for atas people… and not-so-atas people

 .                  “Photo from Cempaka International School website, for illustration purposes only”

When my mum enrolled me at an international school, I thought there’d be swimming pools, a field and a gym. Guess what – my school had none of those. We only had a basketball and a futsal court to play sports. The facilities were almost the same as my Kebangsaan school, except we had air cond and the toilet didn’t have sanitary pads stuck on the wall. Yay!

What kind of international school is this lah?

Turns out, in today’s day and age, there are actually different international schools in Malaysia. See, international schools in Malaysia have increased by 65% since 2010. Because there are SOOO many international schools, school fees range from affordable to SUPER EXPENSIVE! Therefore facilities and subjects offered vary with the amount of money paid; the higher the school fees, the better the facilities.

Let’s take a look at some examples.

An atas international school would be schools like Alice Smith International School, Mont Kiara International School, and British International School of Kuala Lumpur. Here’s how Alice Smith charges for ONE term. (One term = the time when classes are being conducted at schools. There are three terms per year in Alice Smith.)

 .                                                                                     “An atas international school fee for a TERM. Photo from Alice Smith website”

Imagine that much money, being paid 3 times a year! This doesn’t include other additional costs! For a Year 10 student (15-16 years old), at Alice Smith you’d have to pay around RM88,350 a year! That’s about the price of a Honda Jazz!  

Let’s look at a mid-level international school instead. Some of these schools include Sri Emas International SchoolSri Kuala Lumpur and Cempaka International School. Here’s how much Sri Emas charges:

 .                                                “School fee for a not atas international school for a YEAR. Photo from Sri Emas website”

In comparison to Alice Smith, Sri Emas would only cost RM31,200 for the entire year for a Year 10 student (not including other additional costs). So that’s like a Perodua Axia.

Just for fun, let’s see how these both compare to Kebangsaan schools:

 .         “Infographic from iMoney.my”

Minus additional costs, school fees are practically the price of air!

Anyway, we digress. If the rich kids go to atas international schools, WHO actually goes to not-so-atas international schools? Well…


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