Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Report of what it's like to live there - 04/29/17
Personal Experiences from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
School Name: International School of Kuala Lumpur
1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?
2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?
Children attended grades K-12--at all levels of ES, MS, and HS.
3. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?
Spouse had long-term job assignment in KL.
4. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?
There are several other International School but ISKL was the only logical option for a US-based education close to the City.
Admissions & Welcome:
1. Are the admissions and placement procedures clearly stated to prospective families, either on the school website or through other means of communication?
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
Administration & School Procedures:
1. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
They are making efforts to improve in this area with the assistance of a PR firm. Prior to seeking help from outside consultants, the communication was poor.
2. Aside from school fees, are there required expenses such as uniforms, laptops/tablets, musical instruments, or field trips that parents are expected to cover? What are the approximate costs?
Fees are paid by parents for uniforms (minimal cost), sports and music/drama trips (depends on how involved your child is but costs increase as the student moves into HS), laptops for HS students, music rental fees (500+ RM)
Academics & Resources:
1. What personal or academic counseling resources are available at this school? Is there a dedicated college counselor at the school? Is he/she familiar with universities worldwide?
These areas of ISKL were notoriously deficient and had a poor reputation. We did not have any direct experience with their college placement "advisors." Some of the complaints centered around questionable guidance, missed deadlines when "advisors" did not send applications before they left for vacation, etc. I never got the impression that these "advisors" were actually familiar with US college admission procedures and expectations -some hired into these "advisor" positions were spouses of a current teachers who, in my opinion, lacked knowledge and experience and had to wing it.
2. Is there before and/or after-school daycare available? What are the costs?
3. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?
Yes, the library is large and well stocked at both campuses.
4. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?
All up to date however, there are no filters or blocks on the school wifi system allowing students and teachers full access to all internet all day. It is common for teachers and students to watch sports events, live stream events, videos, snap chat, Facebook, etc throughout the school day.
5. What are the technology requirements for students? Do they need their own laptops/ipads? How is technology integrated into the classroom and homework?
iPads and iPods are provided by ISKL at the elementary level and integrated into the curricilum. At the MS level (grades 6-8), ISKL provides all students with Apple laptops. HS students must purchase their own laptop--a required part of the curriculum.
6. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?
School is in the process of upgrading facilities. The current facility (both campuses) has gyms and pools with decent equipment. The PE programs are pretty solid. The MS/HS campus could have used more field space. Hopefully the new campus will address these issues. The pools at both campuses were too small and ill-equipped with seating and timing equipment. Not up to the same standard as other regional International schools.
7. Are Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses available in upper grades? If this is an IB school, is the full diploma required of all students?
ISKL offered very few AP options but did have an IB program. The IB Diploma was not required for all students. ISKL seemed to struggle to get enough teaching days to cover the entire IB course content leaving students to "self study" the material that was missed. Students' success in the IB program depended largely on the extent that a student was disciplined enough to put the work in outside the classroom. I learned that several students in recent years failed to achieve the predicted IB results and had University conditional offers rescinded. Others IB students struggled at the 11th hour to obtain placement at a University. The most prevalent issue was the quality and experience of the teachers hired by ISKL to teach the IB material.
8. Are students generally challenged appropriately by the curriculum? Please describe any particular strengths or weaknesses in this area. Do you have any thoughts how the curriculum is applied and implemented at this school?
The students never seemed to be presented with any real "academic rigor". School was a really "fun" place to spend the day. Students were always made to feel as though they were performing exceptionally. Whether this was fantasy or reality all depended on the student and the teacher.
9. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
Seemed to be dependent on grade and teacher. Academically, at all grade levels, the students never seemed pushed beyond their comfort levels.
10. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
ISKL offers and values all forms of fine arts.
11. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
12. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
ISKL offered no gifted and talented services. Teachers were supposed to provide "differentiated" instruction in the classroom to meet the needs of all students. Dependent on teacher.
13. What services are available for students with learning disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
This is another area that ISKL struggled. ISKL employed numerous LR teachers who attend many professional development opportunities around the region, yet it was always a mystery as to how the LR system actually worked, especially at the elementary school level. Students with minor needs were denied LR services because they did not "qualify." The Admissions policy is to not accept students with special needs so there was always a question about who actually received these LR services. It seemed to be limited to a select few students.
14. What services are available for students with physical disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
None that I am aware of. ISKL denied entry to students with disabilities, except in VIP scenarios.
15. What services are provided for speakers of English as a second language at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
16. What extra-curricular activities (including sports) are available at this school? Have your children participated in these activities? What activities do you feel are missing at the school?
ISKL offers a full range of extra curricular activities....soccer, badminton, basketball, rugby, tennis, swimming, cross country, track and field, touch rugby, etc. In many instances, these programs are deficient for a number of reasons including inadequate facilities (tennis and track) or lack of space. ISKL's sports programs are inferior when compared to other schools in the area and region but there is something for everyone--quantity over quality approach.
Social & Emotional Well-Being:
1. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?
Yes, somewhat through sports competition but not socially.
2. Are there are any problems with exclusionary behavior, cliques, or bullying at this school? Please describe any problems your children may have experienced in this area.
Yes, from my family's experience, this definitely is problematic at ISKL, but probably not more than at other schools (generally, this type of behavior would, likely, be found in most schools).
However, the issue that plagues ISKL, in my opinion, was their unwillingness to deal with these behaviours in an honest and open way. During the time our kids were at ISKL, we heard about several serious incidents including the sharing of nude photos of female students by male students on school servers for a a period of years. From what we saw, this matter was not handled in a transparent matter by the ISKL administration. Many in the community who were aware of these type of events hoped that this would equate to real open, honest, transparent, discussions to educate the students; real "teaching moments." Many community members were disappointed when the matter was evidently dismissed and concealed from the community with little to no discussion or consequences.
1. What letter grade (ranging from A, excellent, to F, fail) would you assign to this school based on your overall experience? Would you choose it again?
Grade D. During our time at the school, we witnessed a number of unqualified faculty which led us to conclude that ISKL was a deficient school that was providing low quality academics. We lost confidence in ISKL's ability to provide the academic rigor needed for college preparedness. There was no doubt that students at ISKL have fun! Lots of entertaining distractions that appeal to students----but the education was mediocre at best. Making matters worse, by 9th grade, ISKL students were more interested in the partying/clubbing life that Is prevalent in KL.
2. Please tell us anything else you think prospective parents and students should know about this school. Thanks for your contribution!
I would caution families to beware of this school! Currently, ISKL is in the process of opening a new larger, more modern campus and, as such, is desperate to grow its student population to help pay for the new facility. They recently employed the services of a professional marketing service to promote this school. However, some of the marketing messages are misleading, in my view, and make the school appear to be more than it is.
The most damning issue that plagues ISKL, in my opinion, is the amateur faculty. I believe that too many of these amateurs are employed in positions for which they are not qualified. For many years, ISKL has been plagued by allegations of mediocrity and "favoritism" of faculty's own students.