Which school is best for your child?

Daisy Ng: ‘Don’t let fear drive your choices.’

PARENTS start worrying about their child’s education from the time they are toddlers. Some from the time they are infants, even!

First, there are the preschool options – Montessori, Waldorf or regular? Or a mix of these? Should there be emphasis on languages? Should there be swimming, karate and music? Should there be more emphasis on academics instead of play?

Those are just the preschool options.

How about when they go to school? What are your options in Malaysia?

Daisy Ng, founder and owner of Trinity Kids Malaysia, recently spoke to a group of parents on “Choosing the Ideal Primary School”.

According to her, this is a hot topic among parents. Some even feel they have “no choice” but to send their child to a chinese or international school.

Ng shared her own story of growing up in Singapore and learning languages which helped her when she joined the workforce.

She explained that knowing more languages is always an advantage in the workforce. So is timing and opportunity.

Ng outlined the options currently available: government, private, international, and private learning / homeschooling centre.

Each of these has its pros and cons. In addition, no two government schools are the same; similarly for international schools where you have the added option of which type of international school you want – British, American, Australian, or International Baccalaureate.

She pointed out that to send a child to international school from preschool up to high school can cost more than RM1mil in total.

For that much of money, are you assured of the best education your child can get?

According to Ng, the international schools she approached could only give a pass rate, rather than the number of students who go on to the top universities.

Some parents might assume the highest fees are offered by the best schools. This is not necessarily true, said Ng.

For those who want to explore government schools, Ng asked them to consider cluster schools.

Not many parents seem to be aware of cluster schools. Cluster schools are government schools given that status because they get good results in exams.

Once given the “cluster” status, these schools receive extra funds from the Ministry of Education for programmes in their schools. In addition, they have entrance exams, are allowed to pick their teachers, and the teacher to student ratio is also lower.

She advised those shopping for a school to do their research by visiting the school and asking questions, checking out the school and its students.

Find out:

  • What are the exam results like?
  • Are the kids happy?
  • What is the teacher to students ratio?
  • What are the core subjects?
  • Do they encourage languages?
  • Is there homework?
  • Are there exams?
  • What are the extra-curricular activities?
  • What are the hours like?

“If the kids are happy, the hours are short, they have good results – they must be doing something right.

“You might be looking at that versus another school which has tired kids, longer hours and good results. Which is the better school?” asked Ng.

It is up to the parents and what they are looking for. One family might want the shorter hours, another might prefer a school that keeps their child until evening.

“It is currently very noisy in Malaysia – your education may not reflect your talent nor capability. Will this be the same in the future? Will your investment in their education be reflective of the dollar value you have paid? Current decisions are driven by fear.

“If you have no fear at all and you are operating from your true desires for your child, what do you want for your child? The world we grew up in is very different from the world we are living in right now.

“We don’t know what it will be like in future. What we do know is that giving your child the gift of languages is the best gift you can give them now. Give them a good foundation and speak to them in your mother tongue at home. Languages is our advantage yet here we see it as being racially divisive,” said Ng, pointing out that the Swiss take advantage of their various languages.

She also advised parents to teach their children self-reliance and give them the skills needed to survive in the world. This includes handling success, failure and disappointment.

Ng said there is no point overstretching finances to send the child to an international school and struggle to pay the fees because the outcome is not guaranteed. “A successful outcome hinges more on your child’s drive, tangible advantage such as languages and parental nurturing, in addition to education,” she said.

There is not going to be a good or bad choice when it comes to picking a primary school, she added.

“You need to listen to yourself and your child and not let fear drive your choices.

“No school is going to be perfect.”