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Johor - International Schools review/opinion please...

Johor - International Schools review/opinion please...

Old Feb 8th 2017, 1:50 pm
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Default Johor - International Schools review/opinion please...

Hi,

We're planning to move from KL to Johor soon, so the obvious no. 1 headache is finding a good school for my son (5.5 years old). He is currently studying in the Australian International School Malaysia here in KL, and we are looking for something similar ( or close to it) in terms of the quality of teaching, facilities, students care etc. My wife and I are both Malaysian, worked and lived in SG and Australia previously, before decided to return home to live closer to our family.

Apologies if this topic has been discussed in great length here, but me a forum novice find it hard to crawl through the mountains of information we've got here.

Our minimum criteria (apart from 1, the rest are in no particular order):
1. School must have very good clinic facility, staff nurse, and health awareness throughout the school beyond the nurse's clinic. I'm saying this because our son has nuts allergy. His current school is really good at this.

2. Location. Close to home is best (we will be living in Setia Eco Cascadia residential, Taman Setia Indah), but we realized that we might not get schools that meet our no. 1 criteria. So, we've compromise the location a little...and will consider schools within 30 mins or so driving radius, or by school bus. If we can't find anything suitable within the 30 mins radius, then, I'd be I'd be a little concern...

3. Budget. No, not Marlborough College please. RM2k - RM3K total (fees + misc fees) / mth is probably our range. Anything beyond above RM3K/mth, then I'll probably start comparing them to Marlborough standard (which is unfair I know as Marl is on it's on, way up there..but hey..who else am I going to compare them with in Johor then?..:-)), and anything below RM2K/mth, I'll start questioning their standards & quality, or wonder if they are indeed an international school, or just a private school in disguise :-)

4. Schools that try to be sneaky. By sneaky I mean:-
a. They don't even publish who their principal is, or show the photo of their
principal.
b. No information on who their teachers are, their background/experience.
c. Have littles useful information on their websites (things like info on parents group, all sorts of meetings to improve the schools facilities/learning experience etc, have good feedback sessions..etc etc.. )
Note: Schools with good transparency will catch my attention.

5. Schools that have too many vacancies (especially teachers) is a big alarm bells for me. I came across one school that list pretty much every position for hire on their website, maybe except the school principal itself! High staff turn over anyone?? While a school with the opposite profile may very well catch my attention. Which school would hire more staff unnecessarily these days, and especially if everyone is happy working there? Only one exception for this is if the school is expanding rapidly. Expanding rapidly?? Johor?? In this current economic climate? I don't think so...maybe I'm wrong.

6. Schools that use 3D design of their school photo on their front page website and/or stock photos to showcase students/teacher interaction as part of their website marketing material, is a big NO NO for me. Come on, who would buy this things these days?? Real photos please! I want to see real people, actual school building photos in my research. We parents pay (or planning to pay) top dollars to your school, surely you can do better.

7. Curriculum. I'm currently fine with IB, Australian curriculum (obviously), and am willing to consider other curriculum if here are merits. Not too fuss with this stuff..provided my son get get a good balance of academic/social/personal development. After all, schools/Unis are just the 1st step, before they get into the REAL world. Any curriculum that place good emphasis on real world situation/problem-solving skills/survival skills (besides text books stuff)...I'm all for it!

Disclaimer: WE all know that all schools have good/bad/ugly points, AND every parents have unique criteria on this matter. Things I mention/critic here is merely an opinion from one parent, trying to look for an ideal place for his child to grow up in a safe and conducive manner. Hear of this phrase " someone's thrash could be another's treasure"? So, things/points we dislike about a particular school may just be GOLD for another parents. There is simply no right or wrong in this thing is it...?? Just so we all clear that before we start debating in a non-constructive manner:-)

Schools visited so far +, our initial opinion about it (any review/comments are welcome):-

Note: As we go with our research, I will update my review/opinion here with new information.


1. Fairview
Likes: Main reason we first check this school is because it's the closest to home (about 9 mins drive!). Plus the fact that they offer full fledged IB curriculum, which I'm starting to get comfortable with.

Concerns: On nuts allergy etc, they're not as proactive in our opinion. They only have some 300 students. I didn't get the international school vibe when walking around the school. Lack facilities (they don't even have a swimming pool yet). So, though best option location-wise, I'm a bit skeptical on the overall "international' outlook/environment of the school. Was told most students & teachers are local. I would prefer to have good mix of local/international students & teachers, to create a more positive vibe to learning...especially learning from one another...culturally, socially, professionally..etc.

Schools to be visited (opinion so far):-
1. Excelsior Intl School
Guess what? We're checking this school out tomorrow! So far, admin staff is responsive, school website has LOTS of useful information (not the feeling you get when certain schools didn't even publish who their principal is as I mentioned earlier).

Stay tune...any comments/suggestion are welcome (especially if you come across schools that ticks most (if not all) our boxes).

Cheers.

Last edited by johoreantobe; Feb 8th 2017 at 1:54 pm.
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Old Feb 9th 2017, 12:38 pm
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Default Re: Johor - International Schools review/opinion please...

You could look at Raffles American, next door to MCM, or a new one starting this year, Sunway ( Sunway International School ) just opened. Don't know much about them I'm afraid....
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Old Feb 14th 2017, 2:55 am
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Default Re: Johor - International Schools review/opinion please...

Thanks geedee. We visited SIS, but didn't go to Raffles American.

Our conclusion so far (though we haven't submitted any formal application yet).

1. SIS
> Our 1st pick. We felt very comfortable with the school nurse, Canadian curriculum (probably the closest to the Aussie curriculum we found to-date). Love the environment, the staffs, plus the fact that they hire Canadian certified teachers is a plus (from my perspective). School facilities is good (though not as grand as Excelsior - see my review below).

Most importantly, all of us (including my son) are happy with the school. Though they just started last month, they already have some 190 students in the school. Canadian curriculum from early age to secondary, then students can choose to go for IB Diploma of other path.

The school nurse was great (best so far compared to other schools). She used to work with Sime Darby medical group (emergency department) in KL and just recently moved to Johor - we couldn't feel more secure, especially with my son's nuts allergy. Being backed by the popular Sunway education group, gives us an additional comfort.

Only downside for us (so far) is that, the school is on the other end of town (takes about 35-50 mins drive in the morning). If by school bus, would be slightly longer as the driver need to pick up other kids on the way. We managed to speak to the private school transport operator same day (recommended by school) and got some fees of him, discussed pick-up / drop off timing etc. We'll probably gonna take this option at first, while my wife pick up more confidence driving on the highway, over long distance.

Another option (proposed by my wife) is that we could possibly just rent one of the small studio/1-bed apartment close to the school. Easier/faster for her to do school run Monday - Friday, and I could also possible live with them and commute to SG daily (as it's so close to 2nd link. That's option B.

Overall 1st experience, happy with the school.

2. Fairview
> We went back to Fairview for a 2nd, actually 3rd visit. This time we want to focus more on how they handle nuts allergy (other allergy during school hours). We met the school nurse for the first time and after a good chat, we were very happy with her response as well. The school admin even proposed to create a special tags for my son to wear on his shirt, indicating that he's allergic to nuts....and leave another tag with the home teacher, in case he forgot to bring his tag to school. This is what I called, a welcome value add service any us parents would appreciate.

School distance (only 9 mins drive from home...practically within the "neighborhood" vicinity) is what brought us back to Fairview several times.

Only thing SIS have some advantage over Fairview at this point is the fact that SIS's facilities are better (and feel more complete), where Fairview hasn't started putting up their swimming pool etc. I won't comment much on which teaching method is better (whether Canadian or IB...as this is something we have to experience 1st hand before I could comment further)...which teachers are better, but having experience the Aussie teaching method (by Aussie teachers) in my son's current school, and judging by his development (to-date)...we just have the tendency to lean towards the Canadian method for now.

We actually felt that Fairview is our close 2nd pick at this point (in terms of of #1 criteria above), but we just want to give SIS a go and see how we go. A small price to pay is the much longer daily commute to SIS that my son will have to endure.

Good thing is for SIS, on Friday their school ends at 12pm, so really it's only Mon-Thurs that he has to study until 3pm (probably get home by 4.30pm-5pm I guess). Whereas for Fairview, their school ends at 1.20pm daily i think for a 7++am start. Which is good as kids can almost have their lunch at home on that timing (if you live nearby), and can have a good afternoon nap etc.

3. Excelsior
> Probably the best school facilities we ever seen to-date. Even better than my son's current school in KL. They have this olympic size/standard for swimming pool, running track, and even the soccer field use artificial grass !. The school nurse (over the phone sounds convincing on nuts allergy stuff, but we didn't get to see her in person on the day). But that's about all I can say about the school that attracts my attention.

Downside for us is that, we just don't feel the same "warm" welcome throughout our visit (compared to SIS & Fairview)...from the admin staff plus the school principal as he walked-by. We felt a fair amount of "rigidity" vibe in the way the school is run/manage. We asked a lot of questions (as most parents do), and we're just not getting much encouraging response. It's like the admin staff is giving us a text-book answer to everything..if it's not stated there, too bad..kind of thing.

Things like Grade-1 onwards kids will have to queue up to purchase their own food from the canteen (my son is only 5.5 years old and has no concept of dollars and cents yet!)..to all grade-1 kids "MUST" learn swimming etc etc, and she just stops there. I'm fine if you say must in a proper context. But what-if the kids has disabilities or simply has swimming/pool phobia?? Those are psychological situation that "must" be addressed first, before they can get into the water.

As my wife use "special needs" to describe my son's nuts allergy (she was saying kids that need a little extra attention)...the admin staff quickly pick up on that and say.."Ohh..we don't accept kids with special needs here." Me thinking internally...that's it, we're done here! :-) It's the way she expressed it. What I hear here saying was.."You have to be NORMAL kids to be enrolled, else you're NOT welcome here."

It was after school on Thursday. We can see senior kids in the "Olympic" swimming pool and their instructor or some kind, were giving instructions non-stop. Perhaps they're into inter-school competition soon. Another group has this dancing lesson in one of the studio. I do fancy sports/extra activities for my kids but it has to be balanced with academic...in a non-stressful-way, if you know what I mean.

We just feel that they're trying to impose this "one-size'fits-all" system to all kids, irrespective to their special needs and development level. Towards the end, my son told me "Daddy, I don't like this school! ". Well...I don't blame him, as we felt the same way too. Even kids can tell.

In our opinion, a learning environment should have an element of flexibility, relax but firm nature to it. After all, each kids are unique in their own way. As I said earlier, schooling & Uni'ing are just the first step. The real test for them would be, how they cope and survive in the real world after.

So for now, unless the unforseen happen...we're considering SIS (with Fairview as a fallback). Sorry Excelsior, maybe for other kids/parents..but not us at this point I'm afraid.

My wife actually suggested that we should try out Fairview 1st (because of the location advantage) and that she could drive him daily as part of her "driving lessons", then consider transferring him to SIS later. That's an option, but I think we both are equally happy to put him straight into SIS. Just have to manage our timing/bed-time that's all. Trying to avoid too many school transfer for my son...may just affect his development/losing friends/making new friends again those sort of things, not to mention those non-refundable fees! :-)

If I have more info, I will share it here. Happy to hear your view/experience too.

Disclaimer: As I said earlier...these are my/our personal opinion on schools we visited, based on our personal needs. The fact that each of these schools has kids in them, means just that..they're the best school for some parents, for their specific needs at the time. In no way any of the schools are best school, or worst school. So schools, if you're reading this...don't feel offended by my not positive remarks, and don't be to proud either by my positive notes. There's always room for improvement in any situation, everywhere you look.

Enough of my rant. Hope some of this helps any parents having the same dilemma out there. I'm happy to share my experience here (or via PM) if you like to chat in private.

P/s: If you are a parent who live around Setia Indah/Bandar Dato Onn area and have kids in SIS, I'm happy to discuss carpooling option!

Cheers.

Last edited by johoreantobe; Feb 14th 2017 at 2:58 am.
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Old Feb 17th 2017, 3:17 am
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Default Re: Johor - International Schools review/opinion please...

Hi Johorantobe,

I know a few families that have their children at SIS and so far they are very happy. Teachers are very qualified and open-minded, the vibe of the school is good, well-balanced curriculum, reasonable fees compared to other schools in the neighborhood (MCM/RAS)... Just everything in good balance. I heard that the school really cares about the food and really go out of their way to provide healthy meals for students. The only thing about SIS that was a bit concerning was the fact that the pre-schoolers and kindergarteners are currently put in the same one big room and the atmosphere is a bit chaotic with mixed-age children running around. They probably need to ( and will probably do) expand pre-school and kindergarten facilities and divide up the classroom as the enrollment grows. But from Grade 1 onwards this is not an issue.

Fairview... One of my kids went there for a short period of time and to this day she still tells me how awful the school was and complains that she was given very unhealthy snacks etc. My impression is that children don't get individualized attention and they were just left to their own devices. The school asked some students to drop their grades down just because they were foreign students, so my girl had classmates who were 6, 7 years old although she was only 4. I thought that this was really not appropriate assessment and very unfair, as these older students looked totally capable academically, just that they needed some extra support in English. In fact, they were nearly going to do the same for my girl, just because she came from Singapore syllabus but I insisted and fought with the admission that she will not drop a grade and thank goodness I did! I heard that a lot of families left the school recently because the school raised the fees so much, as they moved to a new campus. Sorry to be a bit harsh but that was our experience... wasn't positive for sure...

Not sure about Excelsior, I hear mostly positive stories. I've looked at a lot of schools in the region, and I think SIS is really a good school with huge potential. Good luck and all the best!
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Old Feb 17th 2017, 11:23 am
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Default Re: Johor - International Schools review/opinion please...

Hi Johorantobe,

Glad you're narrowing it down! Choosing schools is a nightmare for parents! No such thing as the perfect one!

Good luck and please let us all know your choice, and why.... it may help someone else down the line.

Cheers.
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Old Mar 1st 2017, 3:24 am
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Default Re: Johor - International Schools review/opinion please...

I'm more inclined to stick with things that've been around longer, like Fairview, Sri Utama and Marlborough. Yes, Marlborough is pretty new, but it landed in Malaysia with huge fanfare and that gives it lots to live up to.
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Old Apr 19th 2017, 10:49 am
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Default Re: Johor - International Schools review/opinion please...

Hello johoreantobe,

Warm future welcome to Johor! I would be interested to know more about your thoughts on SIS. Have you formally submitted application?

Tip. Eat and pig out on all your favourite foods in KL before coming over. I miss my Hokkien mee, etc etc. currently dying for some decent Assam Laksa
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Old Nov 1st 2017, 12:05 am
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Default Re: Johor - International Schools review/opinion please...

Dear johoreantobe,

Hi, it's nice to share your review and opinion in such a detailed manner, especially when it comes to picking the correct school for your child. I am just wondering how have your child been doing in SIS ? I am also staying nearby in Mount Austin and have been wondering which school is besy for my child. Currently my 8-year old has been attending a homeschool (in fact it is a privately run school operating from shoplot, teaching Singapore syllabus)and I am getting quite uncomfortable with the frequent change of teachers lately.
Can you please share with me on the syllabus and school fees in SIS? Thanks!
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Old Mar 16th 2019, 11:32 pm
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Default Re: Johor - International Schools review/opinion please...

Just curious to see what school did you end up picking? We will be evaluating schools soon as well.
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Old Jul 9th 2019, 3:13 am
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Default Re: Johor - International Schools review/opinion please...

Originally Posted by ludba View Post
Just curious to see what school did you end up picking? We will be evaluating schools soon as well.
I would say try to find school that doesn’t have any financial issues time after time. You can search on google.
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Old Jul 9th 2019, 3:30 am
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Default Re: Johor - International Schools review/opinion please...

Originally Posted by shessojag View Post

I would say try to find school that doesn’t have any financial issues time after time. You can search on google.
what school has financial issues?
I have could not find that information?
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Old Jul 9th 2019, 4:07 am
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Default Re: Johor - International Schools review/opinion please...

Originally Posted by ludba View Post


what school has financial issues?
I have could not find that information?
I don’t think in this forum I can say the name.The big and quite empty one all I can say
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Old Jul 10th 2019, 6:53 am
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Default Re: Johor - International Schools review/opinion please...

Sent you a pm
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