“We have about 116 international schools nationwide,” Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan told reporters after the opening of a new campus for Straits International School in Penang. “The ministry also has approved a few more and we welcome any investors who would like to set up the school away from Klang Valley.”
“We welcome any investors who would like to set up the school away from Klang Valley”
The Greater Kuala Lumpur and Klang Valley areas are already attracting expatriates and international schools (23% of Malaysia’s international schools are in the capital, according to the International Schools Consultancy), and so the government is focusing its efforts to attract investment elsewhere.
“Greater Kuala Lumpur/Klang Valley is already developing at a pace, supported by government aspirations to make it a leading global metropolis,” noted Sami Yosef, head of Southeast Asia research at the ISC.
“Beyond Klang Valley there are many opportunities across Malaysia where current demand is not met by the supply of schools, for example in Sepang, Sungai Buloh and Penang.”
Two years ago, the government launched a raft of new initiatives to attract international schools as part of its Economic Transformation Programme, including sizeable tax exemptions for foreign providers.
Kamalanathan said the Education Ministry will continue to provide advice and consultation that will diversify education provision in Malaysia.
More providers are interested in opening up in the country, and the ministry has recently received two proposals to set up schools in Kluang and Batu Pahat in Johor.
The government’s commitment to attracting international schools providers stems not only from a desire to attract expats, but also to increase the availability of high-quality provision for local students, Yosef noted.
Malaysia has opened two global education hubs in the last decade – the Kuala Lumpur Education City and EduCity in Iskandar – the intention of which is to “reduce emigration of Malaysians who, until recently, have been moving overseas for an improved standard of education”, according to Yosef.
A number of reforms have paved the way for a substantial increase in demand from local students enrolling at international schools, including the removal of a 40% cap on Malaysian enrolments in 2012 and the requirement for state schools to teach maths and science in the Malaysian language, Bahasa Malaysia.