Frequently Asked Questions

General

1Why choose Straits International School?

Outstanding Academic Performance for Checkpoint & IGCSE

Since our school opened in 2012, our Cambridge Checkpoint students have consistently achieved excellent results, with some of our students rewarded with a scholarship based on their results. The school also achieved the best grades for IGCSE in 2018, where five students achieved at least 8A*/A in IGCSE tests. We achieved 100% pass rate again and 97% of candidates scored A* to C in 5 or more subjects.

50:50 Foreign and Local Teachers Ratio

The highest foreign teacher’s ratio comparing to the other similar range international schools in Penang. All Primary form tutors are foreigners and the Secondary teachers in major subjects are taught by the foreigners as well. 90% of our foreign teachers are from England so they are native English speakers.

A 5-star school rated by Ministry of Education

We are proud to announce that we received a 5-star rating from Ministry of Education based on the inspection result in various areas such as academics, our syllabus, teaching approach, administration, canteen operations and building management...etc.

Enterprise Project

We host Enterprise projects each year. These are carefully planned by teachers and students, taking into consideration a model that begins with the end of the project in mind, creating a driving question, planning, mapping and reflecting upon the experience. These opportunities offer a diverse array of skills that includes independent and group work, presentations, use of ICT, essay writing and more practical, art and craft based assignments.

English as an Additional Language (EAL)

EAL support is offered at SIS and includes approximately four hours per week of specialist parallel classes in English, based upon the Cambridge English curriculum. For those students with further requirements, SIS also provides an intensive after school development programme via the dedicated EAL department based at the school, which can add up to an extra two hours per week.

Technology-enabled Education and Development

Technology alone will not make a school smart. Powered by our people who are well-trained with enthusiasm and passion, the use of Google Classroom and Chromebook makes the teaching and learning processes easier, fun and creative. At the same time, it creates efficiency in every aspect of school administration. We also still remained focused on not losing the art of writing by hand or using textbooks.

Teaching and Learning

Learning is student oriented, and based around lesson plans that concentrate upon the discovery, application and discussion of knowledge. Learning also focuses upon the development of skills as much as the knowledge of content and it is part of the school’s ethos to drive the concept of project focused enquiries.

School Facilities and Services

1What are the class sizes?
As a young school our class sizes are currently quite small, ranging typically from 15-20 students. As the school grows to capacity, maximum class size shall be 25.
2What are your school hours?
We expect students to be at school at 7.45am, ready for an 8.00am start. Kindergarten can leave at 2.30pm, but all other students shall take part in the co-curricular programme which runs until 3.30pm.
3How does the school stay secure?
The school is very secure. We employ 24 hour independent security contractors to man the main entrance way into the school and all entry points into the school can only be accessed with a security card carried by teachers and staff members that opens the doors via electronic scanners. No children are allowed to go home on their own and all are passed over to parents by their class tutor at the end of the school day.
4Does the school provide different facilities, such as libraries (books), technology, cafeterias, and sport areas for different grade levels?
Yes. Our new building across 6 storeys includes 1 large canteen, a large library, 3 science labs, 2 ICT suites, fitness suite, multi-purpose hall with basketball court and stage area, outside futsal court and swimming pool.
5Do you have transportation services?
Yes. The school has two transportation providers that provide pick-up and drop-off services to all areas on Penang Island and selected areas in Mainland. If you are interested, kindly enquire at the Admin Office. Please note that these are external providers, rather than services provided by the school.
6Do you have an After School Service?
Yes. Effective Term 1, 2018/19, the school launched our After School Club which offers a variety of activities for your child while waiting for you to pick up at 5pm every day. They can take part in a variety of lessons such as swimming, instrumental lessons, Zumba, Chess and homework sessions; and will be provided with a snack! For more details, please enquire at the Admissions office.
7How do I communicate with my child’s teacher, and how often will I receive reports?
Teachers are available via their e mail addresses found upon this website or alternatively, they can be met at dismissal time each day. You are also equipped with a planner that shall give you the opportunity to make enquiries or organise appointments. Appointments can also be made by the school secretary if you wish to see staff during the school day. The school holds three parents’ evenings per year, as well as two progress reports (in October and March) and two full reports (in December and June) each year.

The Staff Body

1Where do the staff come from and what are their qualifications?
Our staff are a mix between local Malaysian and overseas staff. Our senior management team are from the UK and very experienced within international schools. We then have a number of other teachers who hold teaching qualifications from overseas, most typically the UK, as indeed do many of our local staff. Many of our local teachers also hold Malaysian teaching qualifications. Of those few that do not, but have extensive experience within the teaching profession, they are placed upon courses that qualify them as teachers with overseas qualifications.
2How does the school develop its staff?
The school runs intensive professional development courses, provided internally as well as via outside providers and various universities. The school takes advantage of its Cambridge status to place many staff on courses regionally and we have a high number of staff who are pursuing further education, most typically at Master’s level. Continual Professional Development is ongoing and varied, but typically includes topics such as; what makes outstanding lessons, assessment for learning, data tracking, differentiation in the classroom and providing support for students with English as an additional language.

The Curriculum

1What curriculum do you follow?
The school follows a combination of the Cambridge Checkpoint Curriculum (in English, Maths and Science) and the National Curriculum of England and Wales. (Please see the curriculum section of this website.) The school then offers Mandarin as a compulsory subject, either as a First or Foreign Language and Malaysian students study Bahasa Malaysia. All students at the school take part in Malaysian studies lessons and Islamic Studies is available for our Muslim students. The school curriculum is very much ‘internationalised’, particularly in the Humanities, where we attempt to broaden the horizons of our children by teaching from examples around the world.
2What is the difference between the IB and Cambridge Curriculum?

The International Baccalaureate Programme is offered through the PYP, MYP and DP which are the Primary, Middle and Diploma programmes. SIS currently offers a combination of the British curricula and the Cambridge curriculum that moves from Primary Checkpoint to Secondary Checkpoint, onto IGCSE and eventually, our intention, the A Level.

At a good school, it is our experience that there is little difference in the qualities of the programmes. Both have their strengths and whilst many observers will state that the IB is more about a philosophy of learning whilst a British Cambridge Curriculum is more about academic rigour, this is too simplistic. Both afford opportunities for breadth of study and critical thinking, and good schools will find a way of supplementing learning in order to enable students to grow in many ways.

As a relatively new school, this is where SIS holds an advantage and we can build a programme that takes the best of both worlds.

Our Cambridge and British curriculum means that the A Levels are the culmination of a tried, trusted and very structured system that delivers students to world renowned qualifications in the IGCSE and A Level. At our school, we also offer alternatives to the IB CAS programme (Creativity, Action, Service) through our weekly activity portfolio and annual Challenge Week. Project Based Learning also offers an alternative to the IB extended essay, and it is our intention for students to study the Cambridge Critical Thinking course as an alternative to Theory of Knowledge, at the A Level stage.

3What types of standardized tests are offered, and how do the students perform
Students sit their checkpoint examinations, which are externally provided by Cambridge at Years 6 and 9. At other year groups, our end of year examinations, which are internal, may typically include SAT papers in English, Maths and Science. Our students from our first checkpoint cohort performed well, and received diagnostic assessments that placed them as high performers against similar cohorts elsewhere in the world.
4What internationally-recognised certificates and qualifications do you offer in the School?
The school currently offers the Cambridge IGCSE (International General Certificate in Secondary Education). Local students who wish to attend local state universities, can opt to sit SPM subjects as an external candidate elsewhere. The school will help to prepare them for this. We also offer ICAS exams.
5At what ages are students offered modern foreign languages?
All students in the school from the age of three are taught English and Mandarin, as well as Bahasa Malaysia where appropriate.

Admissions

1How does the school support new students?
All students are assigned a buddy when they enter the school and are given 1:1 support from their Form Tutor, with assistance on timetables, expectations, uniform and school life. All teachers are available to parents through email communications.
2When do you accept students?
We accept students into the school all year round – there are no set intakes.
3Will my child have difficulty making the transition from another school system or indeed, back into a local system?
Typically, there is an adjustment for all students into a new school, particularly from local schools where style of learning may be markedly different. However, with time and support they adapt and thrive. Our curriculum is highly competitive, and our CIE examinations recognised throughout the world. In our experience, this has not been an issue.

Student Welfare

1What student-support services are available?

The school is very strong in EAL, with dedicated teachers helping students whose English requires improvement. We offer EAL during School and after School depending on the English level of the student upon the entrance assessment.

The school also runs separate learning support for special educational needs with the requirement of parents hiring an external shadow teacher. Further information about special educational needs can be acquired from the Admissions department.

We currently offer academic challenge and support programmes through our co-curricular programme.

2How will the social and emotional development of my child be looked after?

Each child has not one, but TWO form tutors in the Secondary school, one local and one overseas. This is done in order to give our students a greater opportunity to receive guidance and support, as well as someone who they feel comfortable to talk to. Children in the Primary school are taught primarily by their form tutor, creating a strong bond between themselves and their teacher.

We have leaders in the school who are very experienced in social and emotional development and we have a very clear sense of expectations at the school, which includes positive discipline and support.

The House system is strong, and there is a constant drive at the school to produce a community that cares for each other and listens to each other. This is a key part of the school.

3Do you have a school nurse on campus?
Yes, we have a school nurse on site during school hours. Additionally, all staff have basic first aid training and we have comprehensive policies and procedures to deal with illness or first aid situations.

Community Enrichment

1What co-curricular activities are offered?
Please consult the activities section of the website, but we have an ever growing set of activities which are themed on each day and include; academic challenge and support, creativity, physical exercise and cultures and communities.
2What types of field trips are available for students?

The school runs the Challenge Week every 2 years which is compulsory for all students. This is a week off timetable for all and students take part in the following activities to develop soft skills such as independence and teamwork:

Early Years and Years 1-2 – a series of Penang based day trips.

Years 3-6 – Overnight trips at within Malaysia.

Years 7-10 – Overnight trips at either within Malaysia or overseas.

3Does the school offer after-school/weekend activities for the community?
Yes we do, and these are open to all the community in order to try and build a sense of togetherness. Previous Saturdays have been spend on picnic, horse riding, beach cleaning and others. These are held once each term.
4Can my child learn to play an instrument, or continue one they are already studying?
The school is continuing to build an instrumental programme through the Music department that is offered to all students each year and is based upon the skills of our teachers and the timetable available to them. The school is also growing our network of outside providers that can offer further provision at the cost of the parent.
5What opportunities will my child have to develop ICT skills?
All students at the school are given ICT lessons each week, as well as plenty of other opportunities through other subjects and the co-curricular activity programme.
6What role does service play at the school?
Service is the cornerstone of our philosophy at SIS and we are busy building an ethos of compassion through an expectation that all students complete at least one hour of service per week during their activity programme. This means we are building a network of relationships with other institutions throughout Penang that give our students opportunities for hands on service, including programmes at Silver Jubilee Home for the Aged, Bukit Jambul Recycling Centre and more.