International Education in Penang
Malaysia has been working hard in recent years to attract skilled and educated expatriates to its cities. Kuala Lumpur or Johor Bahru may spring to mind as favourite Malaysian enclaves for expats. But Penang, further north and smaller than both, has equally as much to offer.
This is especially true for expat families. Penang is less crowded, with beaches aplenty and despite its smaller size, a good selection of international schools too.
The international school scene in Penang is smaller than other Malaysian cities, but comes with less competition. Waiting lists are common, but if you get your name on the list as early as possible it’s unlikely that you’ll be disappointed. In fact, many schools charge a non-refundable application fee to stop waiting lists becoming too long.
Penang comes in two parts; Penang Island, and Seberang Perai on the mainland. Most international schools are located on Penang Island. You’ll find a small number of schools in the island’s capital of Georgetown, but there is a bigger choice further north in Tanjung Bungah and Tangjung Tokong.
School buses are common in Penang’s international schools, but the service comes at an extra cost that is not included in your yearly school fees. Keep in mind it takes under an hour to travel the length of the island by road in typical traffic - Penang island is not big! So if you live in the same area as your chosen school you shouldn’t have to worry about commute times.
Like the rest of Malaysia, international schools in Penang are dominated by the British curriculum. The choice is not as diverse here as in Kuala Lumpur or Johor Bahru - beyond the British or American curricula and the International Baccalaureate, there isn’t much else on offer.
As for the quality of education, there is little to be concerned about. International schools in Malaysia are governed by the Private Education Department (PED) under the Ministry of Education. The PED is notoriously strict and imposes hefty fines for almost any violation.
Furthermore, Malaysia has a plan to become a high-income country within the next decade. Part of that plan is attracting a steady stream of skilled workers from abroad, which means a steady stream of quality international schools is required.
Like most other destinations in Asia, you can expect your chosen international school in Penang to have excellent facilities, native English-speaking teachers, extensive extracurricular activities, and all the other usual bells and whistles.
Malaysia’s plan has so far been successful; expat numbers on the rise throughout the country and this includes Penang. So if you’re planning a move here within the next couple of years, keep an eye out for brand new international schools opening up too.
Below, we have compiled our top 5 international schools in Penang. However, there are another 6 schools to choose from in the city. You can find the best international school for your child by personalising your results. Just fill in your search criteria, and we will calculate a personal score for every international school in Penang based on your requirements.