Private and public schools in Malaysia use the Malaysian National Curriculum. Private primary schools use the Primary School National Curriculum or KBSR. Private secondary schools use the Integrated Curriculum for Secondary Schools or KBSM. When you’re selecting a private school for your child’s primary or secondary education, you’ll see the curriculum listed as KBSR or KBSM. Students in private and public schools take the same standardized tests. International schools (see don’t follow the Malaysian National Curriculum; typically they base their curriculum on the home country of their students.

Pre-school is not mandatory in Malaysia but private pre-schools are common, especially in cities. Pre-schools do not have a formal curriculum. Primary education starts at seven and continues to age thirteen. Five subjects are mandatory for private primary school students: English, written Malay, Malay comprehension, mathematics and science. Secondary education starts at age fourteen and continues to age seventeen to nineteen. Mandatory subjects include Malay and English language studies, science, mathematics and history. Private secondary schools must also offer an Islamic religious education for Muslim students and moral education for Non-Muslims students.

Malaysia’s Ministry of Education strives for pre-tertiary educational excellence. Public schools are adequate, but the student-teacher ratio is high. If you’re considering a move to Malaysia, your child will find public education a challenge, unless he or she is fluent in Malay and if familiar with the Malaysian culture. Most private schools use Malay and English in classes. Study hours are longer and students get more individualized attention in private schools.