Marlborough College Malaysia
An all-through, co-ed, independent, British boarding and day international school on a 90-acre campus on the southern tip of Malaysia; sister school to Marlborough College in Wiltshire, UK.
- Marlborough College Malaysia
79200 Iskandar Puteri, Johor
- T +60 7 560 2200
- E [email protected]…oughcollege.my
- W www.marlboroug…emalaysia.org/
- Lower School Ages: 3-13
- Lower School Sexes: Co-ed
- Lower School Numbers: 451 girls and boys
- Middle School Sexes: Co-ed
- Senior School Ages: 13-18
- Senior School Sexes: Co-ed
- Senior School Numbers: 404 boys and girls
- Total School Numbers: 855 boys and girls
- Teaching Language: English
- SEN: SEN considered case by case
- Boarding: Available
- Uniform: Yes
- School Year: August – July; 3 terms: Aug – Dec; Jan – Mar; Apr - Jul
- School Hours: 8.30 am – 5 pm
- Fee Currency: Malaysian Ringgit (MYR)
- Fee Details: Annual Tuition Fees (day): Pre-prep: 84,000 Year 3-6: 86,400 Year 7-9: 111,000 Year 10-11: 112,575 Year 12-13: 121,350 Weekly Boarding: 123,000 - 164,415 Full Boarding: 144,000 - 193,125
- Fee Extras: Registration Fee: 2,000; Acceptance Fee: 5,000 (day pupils); 7,500 (boarding pupils); Deposit (refundable): one term's fees
- Religion: Non-denominational
- Memberships: COBIS (Council of British International Schools), Fobisia (Federation of British International Schools in Asia), HMC (Headmasters and Headmistresses Conference), BSA (Boarding School Association), Cambridge International Exams, Edexcel, ACT. Owned by by Marlborough College, run on charitable principles.
- State/Independent: Independent: private non-profit
- IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education)
- International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (MYP)
- International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (PYP)
- International Baccalaureate- Diploma (candidate)
- National Curriculum for England Used In Conjunction With an Adapted Curriculum
- Authorised by International Baccalaureate Organization (not to be confused as an inspection or accreditation agency)
- Council of British International Schools (COBIS)
- None (school may be licensed, or may be "inspected" by its own owner, but it is not independently accredited or inspected by recognised agency or organisation)
No school can pay to be in
The Good Schools Guide International. Period.
What The Good Schools Guide International says
Master of College Mr. Alan Stevens BA (First), MA
Since 2017; Alan Stevens, BA, MA Ed was Headmaster of Barnard Castle School, another all-through co-ed boarding and day school in County Durham, UK. Before that, head of Main School at Trent College, England. A passionate historian. With a First in history from Queens University, Belfast, he refers to his own somewhat eccentric-sounding history teacher, who would start bowling cricket balls in the classroom, as underpinning his conviction that inspiration is the catalyst to pursuing interests.
Mr Stevens is not from the Marlborough mould and brings ‘more normality’ and an affable determination to his role as Master of College - to the school’s benefit, some parents say. He believes wholeheartedly that students flourish best within a boarding community. His greatest ‘triumph’ has been the addition of more boarding options, an immediate hit with parents.
Wife, Heather, a highly qualified lawyer and senior civil servant, is also a big contributor to boarding and college life, reading bedtime stories and hosting house BBQs and afternoon tea. As a duo “they are very impressive”.
‘A more traditional learning style with small classes and big opportunities’ as put by one enthusiastic parent. A British independent school ethos and curriculum drawn from its sister school, Marlborough College UK, and given an international context; IGCSEs and IB Diploma lead onto university entrance worldwide.
Results are strong, snapping at the heels of the UK college even, which could ruffle a few feathers, but it does reinforce the school’s message of ‘shared DNA’. Interestingly though, and parents take note here, studying at MCM does not guarantee a place in the UK Marlborough College: it is a path forged by some but definitely not a shoo-in; every year there are one or two disappointed families.
2020 IGCSE results: 40 per cent A*s, 66 per cent A*s-A and 97 per cent A*-C, a slight increase on its four-year average, students in 2019 secured the top IGCSE marks in Malaysia in geography, religious studies, art, French, German and Japanese. 2020 IB results: average score of 36.3; 29 per cent of the 62-strong cohort achieving over 40 points; again, an increase on the school’s four-year average of 34.6 points and putting it in the top 2% of schools offering IB globally.
Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) kicks off pre-prep; an internationally adapted National Curriculum in lower and upper prep. Reading and spelling ages tested at the start and end of each year, CAT tests, progress tests and specialist teachers aplenty. This is the rigour of which parents speak highly. Mandarin, Spanish and Malay offered from reception in two classes a week, French from year 5.
From upper prep, year 5, the Independent School Examination Board (ISEB) Common Entrance syllabus is followed, the ‘greater rigour’ offering a ‘seamless transition’ into senior school; attractive to families looking for a Common Entrance route back to UK senior schools. Families casually mention that children slip easily into ‘top streams at top schools’. In the school’s early days, there was a perception among the Brits that MCM was the ‘smart choice’ as a prep school but now there is a more international and Asian cohort who aren't necessarily looking to filter out after this stage.
Senior school, Shell, Remove and Hundred, years 9 to 11, taught to IGCSEs. Students sit between eight and ten subjects and a few (eg languages or maths) may be taken a year early. Students are taught in specialist subject buildings named after illustrious Marlborough alumni: Betjeman, Sassoon, Morris. Inspiration never far from the mind.
Sixth form offers the IB Diploma, the school’s international setting and cohort an ideal environment for ‘nurturing global perspectives and citizenship’. Global politics a recently introduced subject and a good example of the school taking its role as educators of leaders seriously. While the UK College might be the stomping ground of future British royalty and leaders, so MCM is the same for Asia’s top brass. Sixth form lessons run on Saturday mornings; boarding encouraged.
Much talk about a scholarly environment. Academics supported with an enrichment programme, accessible to all students, enjoyed to the max by boarders. Societies, lectures, debates, excursions all time-tabled in, with the ‘Lectern club’ a much-loved, black-tie, public-speaking society for sixth form. A focus on exam results, delivered with a commitment to engage and inspire long after the textbook has closed. And textbooks there are; pupils from year 8 upwards use laptops but this is not a technology-excess environment as with many other international schools.
Class sizes are small, 1:6 staff pupil ratio; many ‘beaks’ (teachers) come from the British independent sector, if not Marlborough College UK itself. Parents are effusive about teachers and teaching; ‘the attention and care are fantastic’; ‘I would highly recommend MCM for the teaching, environment and overall ethos’. This close attention leads to strong results.
Limited facilities but the school supports individual cases, ‘wheeling in resources for free’ until a learning support plan is declared. Small class sizes mean ‘children are seen; they don’t get lost’ and the ‘school is very good at identifying weaknesses and supporting that.’ Paid for support, shadow teachers, external educational psychologist; all available for more demanding needs such as ADHD; parents and students’ hands held, ‘there was a great support structure and compassion around [my child]’.
Paid-for EAL classes available during foreign language lesson time. New for 2021; an ‘accelerated English programme’, a full immersion programme for non-native English speakers looking to join the College between years 3 to 8. Classes split into three age groups, run parallel to the mainstream curriculum, boarding encouraged. Students eat and play games with their year group. The goal: to fully integrate them within one to three terms.
Games, Arts and Options
A British ethos and academic rigour are two of the reasons that families are drawn to MCM, but rarely mentioned without ‘space for sport’ dropped in: ‘there is just sky, space, jungle…space’, ‘the space and opportunities for sport is fantastic’, ‘the grounds and facilities are amazing and vast’.
With a 90-acre campus, 9 grass pitches, 5 tennis courts, a 50m pool and smaller junior pool, cricket ground, athletics track, netball courts and a newly installed golf range, it’s easy to see the attraction and there is a plenty on offer.
But see this in the context of smaller student numbers; one parent quietly mentioned ‘they do rattle around in all that space’ and another that 'sports standards are not UK level', if your background is that of British prep school with teams of county level players. The pros being that the school has a smaller pool to work with so ‘they can’t cherry pick’ for the sports teams and children are ‘given opportunities they wouldn’t necessarily have had’. The cons are ‘they have to learn to take knocks’ when playing some competitive teams.
The school has worked hard to develop local and international school competition alike. We hear that local sport, especially rugby, is very strong. MCM has its very own ‘Straits Tournaments’, a series of prestigious fixtures and a chance for the school’s performance sports teams to shine. Proper match teas, too.
Fixtures held on Saturday afternoons and training sessions run early and late; this is often cited as a reason for boarding. As is ‘the opportunity to play golf with your friends on the weekend’ or ‘cricket games with house staff in the evening’, provided enough friends are boarding too.
It’s not all about sport. Dedicated facilities for music, art and drama are well equipped. The MCM Christmas card competition, entries into a prestigious Asian film competition, after-school art masterclasses and weekend ‘open studios’...no spare time or resource under-utilised here.
Likewise, ‘a huge range of musical opportunities’, from lunchtime concerts to the annual musical; 128 individual instrumental lessons running every week. Drama is popular; ‘they put on shows and my daughter always wants to be involved’. Smaller school opportunities abound with everyone encouraged to play a part. Productions always first class; Trinity and Lamda exams on offer.
A huge focus are the ‘beyond subject choices’ and ‘generosity of spirit’ that is the Marlborough philosophy. This is a ‘privileged community and with that comes responsibility’; leadership, service and community programmes woven into the fabric of the school day…and evenings and weekends. Be prepared for your child to clamour to board because otherwise ‘they miss out on the good stuff’ eg teaching English to estate staff, outreach with a local orphanage or marine conservation on the Malaysian peninsula. It’s all about building up local relationships, to learn ‘compassion, kindness and altruism’; understanding that just ‘being there can make someone’s day better’.
Barton Farm, the school's organic and sustainable farm, set up by some enterprising Sixth formers, is the outdoor learning highlight. Product sold back to the school’s kitchen and ‘experiential learning’ for all ages.
Background and Atmosphere
At the time of founding, 2012, this was the first independent, British boarding and day school to open in Malaysia, the Marlborough College name and heritage a strong pull for local and international families alike. A ‘natural extension’ of the UK college, the school mirrors its traditions and language eg 'beaks', 'house swipe', 'dames' and introduces British culture to an Asian audience, including a beagle hash, black tie dinners; all done ‘very nicely, not cheesily’ apparently. Families say it is ‘the closest thing to a British public school that you will find in Asia.’
Initially the school attracted many expat families from Singapore who could take advantage of a daily or weekly bus service across the Singapore-Malaysia border but Covid travel restrictions have put a pause on that over the last academic year. It remains to be seen what the longer-term impact will be but likely that, unless you are living locally in Malaysia, you will be considering the school as a boarding option.
Boarding has been on offer from the get-go but initially offered as a full programme, it was slow to take off. Enter Alan Stevens and the addition of more boarding options and the crowds cheered. Parents, often unfamiliar with boarding themselves, were quickly won over once their child ‘gave it a go’; ‘the children came home on the weekend feeling invigorated and happy and it took a lot of pressure off the family’; ‘my son really blossomed’.
A strong junior and senior house system run for both day and boarding students with housemasters, housemistresses and dames acting as proxy parents; all ‘super committed and caring’. The purpose built boarding houses may feel a little stark to some parents, more like modern tropical villas than cosy boarding houses fashioned from years of use but efforts made to make them more ‘homely’ and parents say there is ‘always a lovely atmosphere in the boarding houses, kids are studying, playing table football, violin, all doing different things.’
It is a testament to the school that during Covid travel restictions parents of boarding children, who chose to stay in school, cannot speak highly enough of the support system; the MCM family has rallied around. This ‘family’ culture comes out loud and clear; there is a huge emphasis on manners, kindness, support and warmth across the school at pupil, staff and parent levels. Head of prep, Mrs EJ, and deputy head of prep (pastoral), Mr Gough, both referenced frequently as ‘outstanding’.
Meals eaten in the school’s prep and senior canteens, ‘beaks’ eat there too. The main canteen has a ‘nice vibe’; children dropping their sports kit at the door and walking in, friendships made over breakfast. No meals in houses but boarding dorms rewarded with a special Housemaster's supper or Saturday morning pancakes; houses have a ‘brew room’ for snacks.
School uniform reminiscent of the UK college complete with long skirts for Sixth form girls, culturally appropriate sports kit for Muslimah students. School shoes strictly polishable leather and no slippers, though plenty of sliders lined up at dorm doors.
Pupils and Parents
As the school and boarding programme have matured, students have increasingly joined from far and wide across Asia, drawn by the strong British heritage. If you are expecting the full British experience to extend to the student community as well, think again: this is a very multicultural school which is positively celebrated with huge respect for each other’s faiths and diversity.
Students quickly become part of the MCM community, the ‘family’ that also includes many staff living onsite. Parents say their children are ‘happy and have lots of friends, ‘the best thing about the school is the real sense of community’. House pride and belonging are cultivated through termly competitions, the house pancake race, house triathlon, house shout and even house pie baking!
Parent community also strong. Overseas parents may feel somewhat out of the loop on day-to-day matters but the support is always ready to kick in; scooping children up on weekends and dropping off essential items. What’sApp year groups overwhelm with kindness rather than clutter. Friends of MCM organise the more formal social and fundraising events.
Pastoral Care and Discipline
‘Class groups are small, there is nowhere for children to hide or bully’, ‘there are no dark corners’, ‘we’ve never have had any issues on that front’. This is a small school and the house structure - day houses and boarding houses alike - means children are visible to a wide range of staff beyond their ‘beaks’.
Boarding is offered from year 5 onwards. Day boarding (3 nights a week), weekly boarding (Sunday night to Friday) and full boarding offer flexibility to suit all families; highly encouraged the higher up the school you go. Weekends are busy, busy, busy, with sporting, house and year group activities. You don’t want your child climbing the walls with boredom here; Johor Bahru, a somewhat gritty Malaysian city, lies just the other side of them.
Academically mildly selective with age-appropriate assessment days and interviews running three times a year, ahead of each academic term. The College is very happy to accommodate overseas families needing ad hoc admissions tours, interviews and online assessments. Art, drama, music, service and sport talents all recognised, historic and family connections to the college ‘valued’. Honorary-only scholarships available to internal and external candidates at 13 years old.
There is a certain inevitable exodus at the end of prep school and again after IGCSEs, from British families in particular, sometimes down to family relocations but often because they view the school as ‘an easy transition into a UK public school.’ The school are supportive of such moves and are even ‘really strong on where your child should go next’.
Upper sixth leavers see strong university offers with increasing numbers going much further afield than the UK; students have successfully gone to top universities in the US & Canada (Brown, Columbia, Berkeley, UPenn, UBC, McGill); the UK (UCL, Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Durham, Leeds, University College Dublin); Australia & NZ (Uni of Melbourne, Uni of Sydney, Uni of Auckland) and Asia (KAIST, Monash University Malaysia).
The College is operated by a Malaysian registered company, M East Sdn Bhd and many of the directors are Marlborough College alumni. Fees are considered at the top end of Malaysian private/international schools. Bursaries available.
If it’s a British public school style education and archetypal boarding experience you are after, then look no further. Delivered with a very international twist and a huge dose of care and commitment to support the success of every student.