Look East for Malaysia’s education… but to Shah Alam first

The Japanese School of Kuala Lumpur, established in 1966 to provide equal education opportunities for Japanese children living outside of Japan.

PETALING JAYA: During his trip to Japan last month, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia would continue its Look East Policy in cooperation with the country to further empower the national education system.

In a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, he said Malaysia would be looking at the entire Japanese education system, from kindergarten to higher education.

So what exactly are we looking at?

In an attempt to glimpse what the Malaysian education system could look like in the near future, FMT paid a visit to a school operating under directions set by Japan’s education, culture, sports, science and technology ministry.

Located in Shah Alam, the Japanese School of Kuala Lumpur (JSKL) is a semi-private institution accredited by the Japanese government.

It is currently the only Japanese school in Malaysia.

It was established in 1966 to provide equal education opportunities for Japanese children living outside of Japan.

Its first campus was located at the Japanese Clubhouse in Jalan Kia Peng. As the number of students grew, it was relocated to Taman Seputeh in 1977. In 1993, the school moved to Shah Alam. The ceremony was officiated by Mahathir who was then in his first tenure as prime minister.

Japanese School of Kuala Lumpur principal Satoshi Kanda.

JSKL principal Satoshi Kanda told FMT the school only caters to children of Japanese expatriates between six and 15 years of age.

It presently has about 100 children in kindergarten, 550 in elementary school and 150 teenagers in junior high, a total of about 800 students.

According to Kanda, the teachers and principal are employed on a three-year contract.

He said the school always ensured an adequate number of teachers for its students. This year, the kindergarten had a student-teacher ratio of 15:1, while the ratio for elementary and junior high was about 25:1.

The curriculum taught at JSKL follows that of schools in Japan, where curricula and practices are set by the Japanese government. As the medium of instruction is Japanese, textbooks and teaching materials are mostly obtained from Japan.

The subjects taught at JSKL include languages, mathematics, science, life studies, music, arts and craft, physical education and moral studies.

Kanda said Japanese moral studies focus more on students learning through practical, hands-on methods rather than based on theories.

The same principle can be seen in JSKL’s International Understanding education initiative, which runs activities such as intercultural exchange programmes with other international and local schools, volunteer training programmes where students help out at homes for disabled people, and field trips to enrich their understanding of life in Malaysia and its cultural diversity.

In line with the practice in Japan, JSKL’s terms are divided into three. The first runs from mid-April to end-July, at which point students break for the summer holiday in August.

The school resumes for the second term from early September to late December before taking a one-week winter holiday. The third term usually runs from early January to mid-March, when the students go on their spring break.

Kindergarten starts at 10.15am and ends at 2.20pm, while elementary and junior high school start at 8am and end at 4.30pm. All three groups run from Monday to Friday.

The hours include briefing, assembly, classes, cleaning time and slots for clubs and the student council.