Private Schools vs. Public Schools in Malaysia

Straits International School : Private schools teachere

In Malaysia, the debate about private schools versus public schools has gone on for ages — when it comes to deciding where your child should go. Both systems have their strengths and weaknesses. However, the private school system offers more advantages, academically, socially, and otherwise.


What’s a public school?

A public school can be a primary or secondary school where kids attend without any cost. The public schools are usually funded and controlled by the Malaysian government at the local, state, or national levels.


What’s a private school?

A private school isn’t funded or controlled by the government, but by an individual body, using the student’s tuition fees. The private schools also include international schools in Penang.

In this blog post, we’ll point out the strengths and weaknesses of the public and private (or, international) schools in Penang, Malaysia.


Private schools class


When it comes to the student to teachers ratio in public schools, it is usually higher. It makes it challenging to offer personalized attention and support to every student and, at the same time, teach what needs to be taught in the syllabus.

In private schools, the classes are small, and the teacher has fewer students to attend at a time.
In many good private or international schools in Penang, the teacher is usually supported by a class assistant in a classroom. It provides more attention and support to each student on a one-on-one basis.

However, some do believe that the number of teachers with good teaching experience is higher in public schools than in private schools. This is because public school teachers usually go for some form of professional training every year — typically funded by the government.

It’s true that yearly professional training for teachers in private schools was not common in Malaysia many years ago. But things have changed. Today, teachers in good private schools do attend professional training on a regular basis.



Cost is one area that most parents are usually anxious about. The public schools, as defined above, are funded by the government and will cost parents almost nothing except the child’s necessities like the school bag, exercise books, etc. Also, school activities like camps, trips, excursions wouldn’t cost the parents so much.

The private schools, on the other hand, are more expensive than public schools. They are fully funded by individuals or private companies and don’t receive any financial aid or assistance from the government other than from the parents — in the form of tuition fees.

However, in the end, many parents believe that it is worth the price because the private (or international) schools produce well-rounded students with skills that can be applied more effectively in real world context.


private school students


Because private schools are not under strict supervision by the government, they can offer a curriculum that suits the students’ focus.

For instance, if your kid is interested in art or music, a private school has the capacity and capability to help improve and enhance your kid’s interest.

The public schools, on the other hand, are focused most on core classes, ignoring any peripheral subjects, partly due to the ever-changing budget by the government.



The private schools in Penang allow parents to be more selective about who their child will spend their days with. The private schools offer a more positive peer environment.

The reason for this is that private schools can screen who they accept and can program their offerings to the type of kid they want enrolling in the school.

The public schools are not allowed to pick or choose who attends. Everyone can attend a public school — which makes it a breeding ground for all sorts of children from different backgrounds.


class size of Straits International School/private school

Class sizes

The class size in public schools is way too large — usually up to 30 – 45 students per class, making the class not conducive for the students. As a result, the class teacher will not have the capacity to attend to each student’s individual needs or weaknesses.

The private (or international) schools have considerably lesser class sizes — as low as 15 students per class. With this number, the class teacher can easily meet the needs of individual students and concentrate on helping them improve in their area of weakness.


In a Nutshell

The private schools offer more advantages in terms of producing well-rounded students with skills that can be effectively applied in real world context. Is attending private schools a better option?

A consultation with our friendly and professional counsellors will be able to answer all the questions you might have before making a decision. If you need more advice, please feel free to get in touch with us.