Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Elite English school in Malaysia’s Iskandar region to take in students next month

A little piece of England will open its doors next month in Johor. The Malaysian branch of the English public school Marlborough College takes in its first batch of students on Aug 27.

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Elite English school in Malaysia’s Iskandar region to take in students next month

By Carolyn Hong
24 July 2012

NUSAJAYA (Johor) - A little piece of England will open its doors next month in Johor. The Malaysian branch of the English public school Marlborough College takes in its first batch of students on Aug 27.

Sprawling across 36.5ha close to the Second Link, Marlborough College Malaysia will begin its first term with nearly half its students coming from Singapore.

‘This is the first direct expansion of the Marlborough College,’ said Mr Robert Pick, the Master of Malborough College Malaysia.

The parent school began exploring the idea of expansion in 2005, he said, to diversify its ethos from an overwhelmingly white, middle-class English public school perspective.

Singapore, Hong Kong, China, India and Malaysia expressed interest in hosting a branch school. It chose Malaysia because it could provide a large piece of land, and for its keen interest in education.

Marlborough is located within the Iskandar region, an economic zone that aims to attract spillover investments from Singapore.

The opening of Marlborough College has stirred excitement because of its prestigious reputation. Opened in 1843 in Wiltshire, it is known to many as the school attended by British Duchess Kate Middleton.

About half the inaugural batch of 300 pupils aged five to 11 comprise children from across the Causeway. Most are children of expatriates working in Singapore. The rest are Singaporeans.

‘It has far exceeded our expectations,’ said Mr Pick. ‘We are virtually full already.’

Mr David Bochsler, 40, a Canadian who runs a Singapore-based firm that designs luxury homes in Nusajaya, will send his boy, eight, and girl, six, to Marlborough from the Canadian International School Singapore they are now attending.

‘It is a great school, (from) everything we are hearing and reading. They are not just selling the name, but the entire school spirit... The facilities are great, and the size of the land you just won’t be able to get in Singapore. Student-teacher ratio is also good.’

Overall, two-thirds of the total student population are children of expats, mostly British, Australian and European professionals working in the region. The rest are Malaysians or Singaporeans.

In five or six years, the school expects to have about 1,300 students up to the age of 18. Its fees range from RM56,000 (S$22,200) a year for the youngest to RM126,000 a year for boarding seniors.

Day pupils from Singapore will be transported by a bus service, which will pick them at several points in the Republic for the hour-long trip. They will not have to get off the bus for immigration checks, but will have to carry their passports.

Tunku Zain Al-Abidin Muhriz, 32, a Negeri Sembilan prince who attended the British school from 1995 to 2000, said the school had fostered in him a deep respect for other people.

‘It was not one of those schools that prioritised academic achievement. Rather, it was more important to leave school as a well-rounded, decent member of the community,’ he said.

The curriculum is based on the British one, with additional classes such as comparative religion, drama, music and art.

Sports will play a big role in school life. The school has a hockey field, swimming pool, squash courts, tennis courts, indoor gym and, soon, a football and rugby field and athletics track.

Political analyst Wan Saiful Wan Jan, who heads the Ideas think-tank, said Marlborough’s presence shows that Malaysia has what it takes to be a market for education.

‘But that doesn’t solve our education problem. It is still an elite school,’ he said. ‘We need Malaysia not to be just an education hub for economic gain, but also to improve education for all.’