Yesterday was the Open Day at the Primary campus of Alice Smith International School KL. The campus is located in a quiet leafy suburb near the old Istana (not the new one in Sri Hartamas).
Dear Hubby and I suited up for the occasion. As the fees for Reception year are in excess of RM10,000 per term (approx 2,000++ quid), we thought we should look like we could afford at least a term at the school. Hee...
I missed the turn-off to the school and for the first time in my life, did the Malaysian thing. I reversed back along the road to the turn-off. *facepalm* This was with Dear Hubby's encouragement. Don't try this anywhere else, I knew it would be ok doing it there as there is very little traffic and what traffic there was drove very slowly as there were many road bumps. The only good that came out of it is that now I know I can pass the UK driving test which has a section where you are required to reverse up a hill.
We were met by an admissions team member who explained the application and admissions process. She also talked about the fees, the all-important topic for most parents. Alice Smith is a non-profit school and all the money they need to run the school - paying salaries, maintenance, buying of materials, books, toys, games equipment - is generated solely by the fees paid. It teaches the UK curriculum which was why this school was on our list.
The Asst Principal for Pastoral Care, Mrs Alison Nadarajah, took us on a guided tour of the campus. She's a Brit who has lived in Malaysia for 20 years and I'm extremely impressed she's still retained her original accent. Unlike... you know... the Malaysian who goes to UK for a 10-day tour and suddenly comes back sounding like the Queen....
All I can say is - can *I* enrol in the school instead of Connor? The classrooms look bright and cheerful and very stimulating. We looked into a pre-school class (for children aged 3+) and they were having a show and tell session. They were all seated on a mat in front of the teacher and eager hands were raised during question time. That is something I definitely want to see. I am a product of the Malaysian school system and my instinct is to look at the floor when it is question time and pray I'm not called upon. That is not what I want for my son.
They have 2 pre-school classes and 5 Reception classes. Starting from Year 1 onwards, there are 5 classes per year with about 20 children in each class. There are about 800 children on the campus. I was very impressed by the discipline of the children. There was absolutely no shouting and screaming or mad running around and yet there was no head teacher walking about with a cane enforcing good behaviour. The environment was calm and friendly.
Each class is organised into groups of perhaps 5 children. They do their work in groups and teachers do their best to ensure each group consists of children of mixed abilities and backgrounds. There were plenty of creative materials and toys in the lower classes. In one Reception class, I noted at least 5 tables, each with a different theme. One had a space rocket and space toys, one had a castle and knights, one had a pirate ship and pirates, one had a garage, one had a dollhouse. Children were clearly encouraged to use their imagination and creativity. They were encouraged to think and not just sit down and memories times tables.
There is also serious work going on. The Reception children were working on phonics when we visited. One class was doing maths exercises on the computer. One more was busy doing arts and craft in groups. Alice Smith has a web-based homework and assignments site. Students use it to access their work and parents can check on it. Dear Hubby said "Well, no more 'The dog ate my homework!' excuses then!" They are also given homework diaries and parents are expected to check that daily.
They have 2 libraries on campus - one for Early Years and another for the older children. It's not like the staid libraries of my youth. These were bright and inviting. Books were placed at a height that is easily accessible for young children. There were cushions and bean bags alongside chairs and tables. There were also soft toys and other toys so you can use them to act out the scenes you'd just read.
The best part has to be the swimming pool. It's shallow, water level came no higher than the hip of the teacher standing in the pool. Swimming is compulsory. Sports is a big thing, students are sorted into 4 sports houses upon enrolment and I was absolutely delighted to hear that. There is a large playing field and a four-storey gym. I came from a school with a proud sporting history and remember many happy days cheering on my school team. I am glad to note Alice Smith has a similar emphasis on sports.
We met other teachers when we poked our heads into their classes. The older children were all in the school hall, having a singalong so the teachers had some free time. I noted they were pleased and proud to welcome visitors, they were happy to answer questions and show us the work their students had been doing. One class had a more traditional seating, everything was lined up. Their teacher explained she gave them a choice of sitting in circles or lines and the class voted for lines. One of the kids had said gleefully, "It feels more grown-up and it's like going back to the old days!" Thanks, kid. Now I feel wrinkly! Teachers are employed mainly from the UK on two-year contracts. Most stay at least 4-6 years and that's what you want, you don't want a school where teachers are constantly coming and going.
As for school lunch, you can either pack from home or order from the school cafe. The school cafe menu looks very impressive, a far cry from the mi sup and karipap of my school days. You can check out a sample of the menu on their website.
Now for the scary part - the school fees. You can check their website for a more comprehensive look at the fees so I'll just give termly fees for preschool (age 3+), Reception (age 4+) and Year 1 (age 5+) for a feel of what you'll be paying. Preschool costs RM8,420 per term, Reception RM,11855 and Year 1 RM12,450.
If you are an expat working here and the company is paying the school fees, please check with your company on their policy. Most companies will only bear the fees from Year 1 onwards. There is a hefty non-refundable enrolment fee of RM20,000 from Reception to Year 11 so bear that in mind when you are looking to enrol your child(ren). Tuition fees are inclusive of all books, materials and resources. From time to time, the children will have field trips which are paid for separately. If you are selected for say, choir or swim team and have to go to a meet, that is borne separately as well. If you prefer your child to take the bus to school, there are bus services to most areas in KL/Sgor which are popular with expats and you pay bus fares to the bus operators.
I was extremely impressed by the campus, by the staff, by the resources available to students, by the facilities. I was also impressed by the behaviour of the children. We did not see any broken toys anywhere, materials seemed well taken care of, some looked spanking new. Children were well-behaved and were participating in their classes. I can't wait to enrol myself... er.. I mean Connor.
What else can I say except... Bye-bye Birkin, Hello Alice Smith.
The Alice Smith School
2 Jalan Bellamy,
Tel: 03-2148 3674
Click HERE for their website