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Supporting your child’s move to international school for secondary education

Supporting your child’s move to international school for secondary education

In Malaysia, international schooling at secondary level, after a primary education in the local system is very popular. The reasons for the move can be financial and the desire for the child to gain a firm foundation in either Bahasa or Chinese, or other personal reasons. The choice of international schools is dazzling and parents quite rightly spend a long time choosing the correct school for their family. 

Once the school decision has been made, the deposit paid and the place secured, what comes next? 


Any family moving to a new international school will have questions, and a family moving to international from the local government system is bound to have additional concerns and questions. 

One of the first things to remember is that each international school is different, they have their own admissions procedure and requirements. Therefore, your cousins/neighbours international school may well have different book lists, equipment requirements and settling in procedures. 

The key to a good transition into any new school is good communication between home and school. Nearly every international school will produce an information pack for new families, (different to the glossy prospectus that sold the school to you!). This should give you important information such as drop-off and pick up procedures, how to select and register for Extra Curricular Activities (ECAs) or Enrichment if these are run by external providers, how the school canteen works, points of contact (usually an email) for relevant members of staff. The sheer amount of information can be overwhelming and no one expects you to know it all by Day 1. Do keep this information close at hand over the early weeks at the school, you may well find yourself referring to it several times. 

At secondary level, your first point of contact in most schools will be the form tutor. The form tutor takes the register at the start of each day and hands out notices. They also do have a pastoral role. They are often the only member of staff who will see your child every day, and many schools now keep the same tutor with the same class from Y7 through to Y11, so by their IGCSE exam years, they know these students well and provide excellent support. Most schools will allow you to email the tutor with concerns. Be aware that the tutor is likely to be teaching a full timetable in addition to their tutor role, so they may not respond immediately. It would be reasonable to expect and acknowledgement of the email within a day or so, and allow them a few days to refer to other staff members if it is a complex issue. 


Apart from practical arrangements, what else can parents so to prepare their child from a more traditional school environment, to an international school environment? My first piece of advice would be to read. There are many great books available for students aimed at the upper primary/lower secondary. Below are some links for some recommended reading lists, including some recommendations for reluctant readers. 





Many parents ask whether public speaking enrichment is a good idea. My belief is this is a bit formal (unless the child really enjoys such activities), but any activity which encourages a student to express opinions, and have the confidence to speak up in a group of peers and ask questions is a good thing. This could come from any English-medium activity that the student enjoys – maybe drama, arts, sports etc. 


Another questions that families new to international schooling often ask is whether they will also have to get private tuition. If the school is using a UK style curriculum, ultimately leading to IGCSE at the end of Y11, it is important to be aware that in the UK, private tuition is not used anywhere near as much as it is used in Malaysia. Tuition in the UK is used for very specific reasons, and is usually a short term fix, eg in the run up to an exam, to help a child with additional needs (such as dyslexia), or to go over a specific part of the curriculum they may have missed due to illness. It is not used automatically and long term. Teachers trained in the UK, or local teachers experienced in teaching in good international schools, will be happy for students to approach them to go over something a second time if the student has not understood.

If your child is having an issue in a subject, have them approach their teacher in the first instance, rather than defaulting to external tuition immediately. Encourage them to ask specific questions. For example “I didn’t understand the experiment we did yesterday, please could you explain it again?” is likely to get more focused assistance than “I really don’t understand chemistry”. In the run up to exams, many schools run extra revision classes (eg at lunchtime) or homework clubs after school, where there are staff members or older student mentors to guide and assist if necessary. Do make use of these resources, they are there to help. 

If you take all this into account, the transition to international school should be smooth and stress free. Remember the key – keep communicating! 

Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are those of the author; they do not necessarily reflect the views of MalaysiaInternationalSchools.com and those affiliated to it.

Author Details

Fiona is an ESL teacher who have lived in Malaysia for more than 15 years.  She was a Parent Governor for a major International School, working on long-term strategy and policy development, with particular interest in Safeguarding policy and  its implementation within the Malaysian context. Fiona relocated back to the UK in 2018 but Malaysia is still very close to her heart.

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