The National Education System & the Classification of Educational Institutions

Expatriate or International Schools

The NES as described above does not include education provided in expatriate or international schools (s.15 Education Act 1966). These schools are not defined in the Act and their description varies across official documents. For instance, a government document published in 2009, describes the former as schools catering to only foreign students that are allowed to deliver a foreign curriculum and the latter as schools that may be attended by both local and foreign students ‘and cater to pre-school, primary, secondary and pre-university levels.’ (Strengthening private education in Malaysia, Economic Planning Unit, 2009). In the more recent Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013 – 2025 published in 2013 by the Ministry of Education, there is no separate reference to expatriate school but International Schools are treated as a type of private educational institution teaching to a foreign curriculum.

The Income Tax (Exemption) (No. 8) Order 2012 defines international school as a school which is not a government school that provides pre-school education until the A-Level programme but does not include a school which provides solely pre-school education.

Government policy on the enrolment of local students in international schools has, over the years, shifted from what was almost total restriction to limiting local students to 40% of students enrolled to one that now allows local students to enroll without any restriction. Even that restriction appears now to have been removed, reading the tenor of the Blueprint on its aspirations to increase, not reduce choices.

International schools are also one of the subsectors identified under the National Key Economic Areas (NKEA) of the New Economic Policy to drive the economic growth of the nation. One of the Entry Point Projects in education ‘focuses on encouraging growth of international schools by Investment Tax Allowances, removal of Malaysian students quota, deregulation of tuition fees and promotion of Malaysia as the preferred education destination’ (Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013 – 2025).

Government policy shifts on the admission of local pupils in international schools and the approval of new international schools have seen a proliferation of private schools teaching in the English language to curricula imported from North America, Britain, India and Australia. As a result, for the local population, there is now a choice of several different types of education leading to different international qualifications.