As my son approached primary school age, I realised that times had changed from my own school days. Then, the main criteria was that my siblings and I were sent to the government school nearest to our home. Now, there are many more options for education that is mandatory for children between the ages of seven and twelve. Here is an overview of where you could send your child for elementary education:

1) Public schools – Minimal costs in your neighbourhood

These are fully government-funded national schools and the government aided vernacular (Chinese and Tamil) schools offering the Malaysian Kurrikulum Standard Sekolah Rendah (KSSR) curriculum. The only difference being the medium of instruction – Bahasa Malaysia (BM) in the national schools, and Mandarin and Tamil respectively in the national-type schools.

The subjects of BM and English are compulsory subjects in all schools. Some mainstream national schools will also offer the option of your mother tongue (people’s own language) being taught as a subject. Schools which consistently attain high academic, co-curricular and sporting results are identified as cluster or high-performance schools. These may be popular and have larger class sizes. These schools are usually the ones that opt for the ‘Dual Language Programme’ (DLP). This means that the Mathematics and Science subjects can be taught in English. Public schools are in most neighbourhoods and city centres, and the costs are nominal yearly fees and the occasional optional donation.

2) Private schools – Personalised and varied facilities

Private schools offer the KSSR syllabus (some supplemented by Mathematics and Science in English) in BM, and tout small class sizes as well as extensive facilities for both academic and extra-curricular activities. There are usually more language and non-academic enrichment options available, with higher interaction between faculty and parents. These schools are in middle-income or suburban areas. Private schools will charge full fees for tuition, co-curricular and optional activities.

3) International and expatriate schools – Wide ranging curricula and premium facilities with prices to match

International schools follow curricula such as the International Baccalaureate or International Primary Curriculum, or from countries like the United Kingdom, America, India, Australia and Singapore. The medium of instruction is usually English, except for expatriate schools like the German, French or Japanese Schools.

Since international schools are now fully open to Malaysians as well as international students, many such schools have sprung up. Some private schools have even converted from the Malaysian to an international syllabus to cater for the increased demand.

International schools offer the same benefits as private schools. But they also offer lower student-to-teacher ratios and impressive academic and non-academic facilities. Creativity, technology and problem-solving exposure are usually encouraged. The international schools are mostly clustered around expatriate-friendly areas and new planned residential developments. Monthly costs can run from a couple of thousand ringgit to almost five digits, on top of admission fees.

Deciding on the type of school

With so many choices, how do you decide on the best option for your child?

  • First, decide on whether you want a more local foundation or an international curriculum. Choosing the latter could limit him or her from entering a Malaysian secondary school or tertiary institution and even a career in the local public sector.
  • The school’s approach, size and balance of academic and non-academic subjects should also be in line with your educational philosophy and the student’s aptitude.
  • The language of instruction will also be important. Whilst it would be useful for a child to be immersed in a second language, you would not want her or him to unduly struggle to learn in an unfamiliar language.
  • Delivery of the curriculum in a smaller class by a qualified teacher may also be desirable for certain children.
  • Location is another important factor, in order to minimise commuting time or to be close to after-school care or activities.
  • Cost, of course, is also a key consideration – bearing in mind educational costs would increase at higher levels.

See For Yourself

In my process of shortlisting schools, I found it helpful to research online and by word of mouth. I obtained as much information on the factors above, as well as feedback from students’ parents.

Most schools are also happy to bring you on a tour of their facilities. A few will allow you to observe a class and meet some teachers. It was also surprisingly easy to make appointments to meet up with the heads of public schools. Just avoid busy periods like orientations and exams.

Visit the schools and meet the staff. This will give you an idea of the commute and a taster of the interaction to expect in the future. Parents will also be able to ask how the school deals with matters of concern such as language difficulties, different learning styles, bullying and student misconduct. You could also enquire about teachers’ credentials and experience, class sizes, security, what they expect from students (and parents!), and see the facilities firsthand. It also allows you to observe the general school and classroom atmosphere, in order to gauge suitability for your child.

Gaining admission

Public Schools

Once you have decided on the school, the next step would be to apply for admission. For public schools in the Klang Valley this is (at the time of writing) via an online application with the Malaysian Ministry of Education (MOE) from March to April in the two years before the child turns seven years of age.

You can state your school of choice and will need to submit the application documents, identification papers, residential location proof and medical records to the school after application. Some high-performance schools will also have assessments the year before entry to gauge your child’s language and mathematics level. The school allocated will be announced in August of the year before entry. Parents may appeal any decisions after that.

Private and International Schools

With private and international schools, the process involves paying the registration fee and having an assessment (which ranges from an interview with a senior teacher or admissions personnel, language and numeracy tests, to attending a class for a few day). Upon a successful assessment, parents may need to pay admissions fees and deposits (note some charges may be non-refundable) as part of the enrolment.

Entrance would depend on when the next term starts and seat availability. Bear in mind that your child may be waitlisted for some schools with smaller class sizes, and international schools start primary education at younger ages – so you may want to start your school search early.

Aside from the traditional schools, there are a growing number of families taking their children out of the system. They are educating them at home, in learning centres or even ‘unschooling’ them. You may want to consider this option if you feel your child and family’s needs are best served by these alternatives.

In the end, it is important for parents to be comfortable with the school choice since much of the child’s attitude towards learning starts from home. Start exploring now and meet up with the educators to see which option will make an ideal educational partner for your family.

By Lu Sean

In her previous roles, Lu Sean killed it in arts management, PR, and law. She now herds two pre-schoolers and a cat. When not busy volunteering for a family support group, Lu Sean loves planning holidays while nursing a teh tarik.

Barbie is no stranger to millions around the globe – since 1959 it has been bringing joy to children as Mattel’s best-selling doll. But what has the brand been up to late, with sales for the iconic doll steadily declining in recent times? A career reimagining of sorts, it looks like.

Mattel Southeast Asia is showcasing a Barbie Career Dreamhouse in Malaysia, touted as the ‘First ever double-storey Dreamhouse’ in the country, and all of Southeast Asia. Parents can visit this dreamhouse from July 19th – 21st in Sunway Pyramid, from 10 am to 10 pm.

Mums and daughters can participate in fun activities that will take place in all four corners of the Dreamhouse which will include a music room, an arts and crafts room, a living room and a kitchen.

Rebranding Barbie?

Analysts say that Barbie’s decline is due to the fact that kids are now choosing to play with touch screens and electronic toys rather than old-fashioned dolls, and that despite efforts to diversity the doll’s looks, the brand is still associated with her traditional ‘tall, slim and blonde’ looks and lifestyle. Some say that Mattel has been unable to shift the stigma that Barbie promotes sexism and is thus, not a role model for the young girls of today.

But the Barbie brand seems to be fighting back in their own way. Rather than argue that it is not promoting the the old adage ‘A woman’s place is in the kitchen’, it seems to be saying that a girl and woman can do anything they want in the world today. And if girls and women can do anything they want in the world today – then why not be good in the arts and crafts? Or be a great chef or baker? Its activities in Malaysia and Southeast Asia these days seem to advance this philosophy.

Baking with Barbie

The brand teamed up with Chef Nathalie from Nathalie Gourmet to host a ‘Cook Up Some Fun’ workshop for mums and daughters recently.

Ivan Franco, Country Manager at Mattel Southeast Asia said: “We’re delighted to bring girls beyond imaginative play to real-world career experiences so they can be what they want to be for a day; from little chefs, musicians, to little artists brought to life through invaluable local partnerships across Southeast Asia.”

Held at Nathalie Gourmet Cooking Studio at I ‘Escape, the workshop was attended by 20 pairs of mums and daughters which included celebrity mums – Dynas Mokthar and her daughter Khyra, and well-known kids – Aryanna Alyssa and mom Suzanna Sahri and Ara Aziz and her mom Puteri Lily Lokman.

Barbie has also collaborated with A+E Networks Asia to film a 2-minute Barbie Cook & Bake video featuring Danielle Peita Graham, her daughter Sophia and other mums and daughters, which will air on Lifetime Asia (Astro Ch 709) from August onwards. The video will feature girls using their creativity and imagination to decorate their cookies. Towards the end of the segment, they will reveal their decorated cookies and dream career ambitions to their mums.

More than just a fashion doll? We’re looking forward to visiting this Barbie Career Dreamhouse later this month to see if this longtime brand can still whip up some inspiration and delight.


By Laych Koh

Laych Koh is the editor-in-chief of

The World Cup season is upon us again and my husband knows better than to stop me from hogging the telly or disturb me when I’m watching a game. I love football and have been following the World Cup since I was a teenager. Now that I’m a full-time mummy with an almost 20-month-old little girl, following a game can be somewhat tricky, especially at certain times. However, here are some ways that have helped me survive the season so far.

A Supportive Hubby

“I don’t follow football, I only watch when England is playing” is what my husband told me when we first met. I was shocked but more so disappointed when I heard that as I thought all Englishmen love football. However, over the years, I have found that his disinterest in the game has worked more in my favour especially during seasons like this. When he’s home and I’m glued to a game on telly, he will take care and spend time with our daughter (if she’s not napping), wash up the dishes or any other chore that needs to be done during that time. His support has not only let me enjoy a game (and a few more) but has also allowed me some ‘me’ time.

Watch a Game During Nap Times

Being based in the UK, with the way the times of the games are scheduled, I get to enjoy at least one game during the day in peace while my daughter takes her afternoon naps, which is usually from 1-3pm. This is a sacred time where I can follow a game without any interruption of “mama, mama”, cries or whines.

However, due to the difference in time zones, I’m aware that some mummies are not able to watch some of the games, especially those that are in the wee hours of the mornings. This is where game replays or highlights can help you catch up with what you have missed. If there is a game that you really want to watch, try catching 40-winks when your little one naps or make sure you have a bottle of Nescafe waiting for you in your kitchen.


When a game is on while my daughter is awake, I take this opportunity to try get her to watch it with me, introduce her to football and ‘indoctrinate’ her to love the game. The results have been:

  • Her shouting, “Goal, goal, goal” whenever she sees a game on telly or saying “Come on!”
  • Her trying to kick her mini football which she has never done so before, and
  • She actually cried when I turned off the telly in the middle of a game because it was her dinner time.

I believe I am winning!

Make the Most of Half-Time

It may only be 15 minutes but lots can be done in this short space of time and it helps get the little things that need to be done out of the way. So, this is where I take the time to either spend some quality time with my daughter (if she’s up and about) or speed through simple chores like washing up the dishes, preparing my daughter’s dinner or wiping down the kitchen counter.

Another Mummy Friend to Discuss Games

When you have a friend you can enjoy the game with, it always makes things more exciting. More so when that friend is a mummy herself (even if she’s not in the same country). Not only does she reassure me that I’m not the only football crazy mummy around, she also understands when I say “I have to change her nappy” half way through a game, and will keep me updated on what I have missed via WhatsApp or FB Messenger.

Internet and Live Games Online

Let’s face it, despite it being the World Cup season, you still have a life outside of it and there will be times where you will have to miss a game. Thanks to technology, I can check for the live results on my phone while I’m outside or follow a game with the live games online while hanging up the laundry or doing the cooking by listening to the commentators and going back to watch the goals later.


It hasn’t been easy finding a balance between enjoying the World Cup and being a mummy but thanks to these coping methods and support, I have managed to catch 28 out of the 47 group matches that have been played without feeling like I have abandoned my daughter. So, on to the round 16 of the knockout stage, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final. World Cup, I am still with you!


By Joanne Beer

A journalist by training, Joanne has worked in media, advertising, retail and charity organisations. Currently based in the UK, she’s being kept on her toes daily by her curious 1½-year-old who manages to get into every nook and corner.