Written by: Anne Keeling, ISC Research

Little girl in classroom with other children

Malaysia’s international schools are expected to see significant growth in the next few years, providing a greater range of educational options for the parents of both local and expatriate children.


The English-medium international school sector is already a healthy one in Malaysia, thanks to the Malaysian government, which is supporting its development and expansion. Malaysia views international schools as an important option for both expatriates and local families. International schools play an essential part in attracting highly skilled, young professional expatriates to relocate to the country. They also provide an important option for wealthier local families who may be looking to an English-speaking, internationally-oriented education to provide expanded opportunities for university and the workplace for their children.




Market intelligence and data on Malaysia’s international schools is collected and evaluated by The International School Consultancy Group (ISC), a UK-based organization which has been researching the worldwide international school market for over 25 years. According to the very latest ISC data, there are currently 122 English-medium international schools in Malaysia teaching a total of 46,130 students and employing over 4,500 full time staff.


Kuala Lumpur has the largest number of international schools; 27 are located in the city educating over 15,000 students. Other major centres for international schools are Penang and Iskandar. 66% of the international schools in Malaysia follow a UK-oriented curriculum and 8% follow an American curriculum. 65% say they are also internationally oriented in their learning approach and 25% of Malaysia’s international schools are bilingual. 13 international schools deliver the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, 59 take IGCSEs, and 25 take GCE A Levels. 73% of the international schools have less than 500 students, 8% have over 1,000.


ISC says there is a strong presence of, what it considers to be, premium schools in Malaysia. These are reputable, accredited, international schools that are highly sought-after and tend to be larger in terms of their student population. These premium schools tend to reflect the evolving international school demographics within a region. 39 of the 122 international schools in Malaysia are considered to be premium schools and between them they provide education for over 22,000 students (almost 50% of the country’s total international student population). These premium schools are currently employing mostly British, American and local Malaysian staff. 40% of the students at the premium international schools are local Malaysian children, 9% are British, 6% South Korean, and 4% American. Over 70% of these schools are currently at total capacity and in Kuala Lumpur school capacity is even higher.




ISC predicts that all of Malaysia’s international schools will see higher enrollment of both expatriate and local students within the next few years. This is as a result of the Malaysian government’s aim to transform the country into one of Asia’s top performing economies by the year 2020.


One step towards achieving this aim took place in 2012 with the lifting of restrictions on the number of Malaysian citizens who were able to attend international schools.  A 40% cap was removed and no new limitations put in its place. This now means that international schools are legally entitled to enroll up to 100% Malaysian nationals if they choose. A number of premium schools are aiming for a 50:50 ratio of local and expatriate children, representing within their intake an increasingly popular overarching school ethos that combines both local culture and global mindedness.


Another recent development, led by the Malaysian government, has been the establishment of two new education hubs for the country: Education City in Kuala Lumpur and EduCity in Iskandar, Johor. Both hubs will provide high-quality internationally-oriented education for all ages, including tertiary education. These education hubs are designed to further attract skilled expatriates and also to increase the options for local citizens, reducing emigration of Malaysians who move overseas for an improved standard of education including university.


British boarding school Epsom College is one of the new additions for KLEC (Kuala Lumpur Education City). This will be the first overseas campus for the school, and will open in September 2014 with boarding and day school facilities for pupils aged between 3 and 18. Once established, Epsom College Malaysia will have places for 900 senior students and 650 prep school pupils. Several other British as well as American schools and universities will have a presence in these education hubs.


In addition to developments in Kuala Lumpur and Iskandar, the Malaysian government has also issued a significant number of licenses for new international schools in other areas of Malaysia over the next three to five years. ISC says that these will contribute a 39% increase in international school student places. Many existing international schools are also predicted to expand.


“Plans to develop international education in the country are likely to produce an upward trend in the country’s skilled labor force,” states ISC’s latest Country Report on Malaysia.




The International School Consultancy Group (ISC) is the leading organization in the world for market intelligence on the international schools market. It provides a range of services to meet the market intelligence needs of schools, higher education, school suppliers, investors, developers and professionals involved with international education. More information is available at www.iscresearch.com