1. Everything You Need to Know About Secondary Schools

Everything You Need to Know About Secondary Schools

Published on 24 Aug 2020
Secondary Schools

A typical secondary school education lasts for at least five years. The age of an average secondary school student is 13years old and they will receive a secondary school education until the age of 17 or 18 before pursuing pre-university studies. 

Once parents have selected a secondary school, they will need to prepare their children for the secondary school experience. This includes helping children adjust to the daily routine of attending school and talking to them about any concerns or worries. In addition, parents should also talk about what happens in secondary school – what goes on, how fun it will be, and how he or she will make lots of friends.

In the year leading up to the start of secondary school, parents are encouraged to visit the secondary school with their children to familiarise them with the secondary school environment. Parents can also attend trial classes and workshops if they are offered by the secondary school. This will give a chance for their children to socialise with their peers.


What Is Secondary School?

A secondary school is defined as an institution offering a secondary school education after primary school. Secondary school education is compulsory for students in most countries to prepare them for higher education in the future. 


Secondary School vs. High School

Technically, secondary schools do not exist in the United States. Middle school (grades 6-8), and high school (grades 9-12) can be considered part of secondary school because they are offered after elementary school. Secondary school in many English-speaking countries is equivalent to high school in the United States. 

Secondary school is defined as schooling after elementary school, therefore in the U.S. that would be grades 6 through 12. However, once a student reaches grade 9, they are considered to be a high school student. 


Age Group Of Secondary? Best age to start?

In Malaysian secondary schools, children enter secondary school at age 13. Secondary school education is compulsory for all Malaysian children. Generally, children will be in secondary school for five years. The two levels of secondary education are Lower Secondary (Form 1 to 3) and Upper Secondary (Form 4 to 5).

At the end of Form 3, children aged 15 will sit for the Pentaksiran Tingkatan 3 (PT3). Teenagers will also sit for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) at the end of Form 5. The national secondary leaving qualification plays a major role in determining the pre-university and higher education pathways for students. If they wish, students can enter the Sixth Form at selected national schools to sit for the Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM), which is equivalent to the A Level in terms of pre-university qualifications. 

On the other hand, the beginning of secondary education at international schools depends on the curriculum offered by the respective schools. Schools that follow the British Curriculum Secondary levels consist of KS3 (Ages 11 to 14) and KS4 (Ages 14 to 16). Students will typically sit for the (I)GCSE examinations at the end of KS4 at age 16. The curriculum aims to hone students’ higher order thinking skills and encourage independent learning as they prepare for the (I)GCSE examinations. At pre-university level, students can also go through KS5 from the ages of 16 to 18. 

For the American Curriculum, students aged 11 to 14 progress to Middle School which covers Grade 6 to Grade 8. They then move on to High School until the age of 18 to complete Grade 9 to Grade 12. The core subjects at each level are English language, arts, mathematics, science and social studies. In addition, students are exposed to visual and performing arts, foreign languages, physical education and technology.


The benefits and importance of Secondary Schools

A secondary school education is important as it introduces students to more advanced and specific subjects that lay a good academic foundation for when they eventually leave school. In addition, it gives children the opportunity to further develop their social skills and communication skills. Secondary schools are places individuals are most likely to create long lasting friendships and find peers with similar interests as them. 

They will also have a chance to develop soft skills such as concentration, time management, multitasking, being able to work in a team and many more. In addition, secondary school students also have the opportunity to join extracurricular activities that will reveal their interests and passions. They will also grow as human beings emotionally, mentally and physically. 


What is the Secondary School curriculum?

In Malaysian national schools, secondary students take core compulsory subjects such as Bahasa Melayu, English, Science, History, Geography and Mathematics at lower secondary level. After sitting for the PT3 examination, students can choose to enter the following streams – Arts, Science or Vocational. 

For British international schools, students will prepare to sit for the IGCSE examinations. International schools can select from over 70 IGCSE subjects and offer them in any combination to their students. The 70 subjects are inclusive of 30 languages. Generally, students have to take a minimum of five subjects in addition to mandatory subjects. The Cambridge IGCSE focuses on application of knowledge, critical thinking, adaptability, good English language skills and cultural awareness.

American high school students need to complete a certain amount of credits from Grade 9 to Grade 12 to be granted the American High School Diploma. In addition, students have the opportunity to sit for standardised tests such as the SAT, PSAT and ACT to measure their knowledge in certain subject areas.


Types of Secondary Schools

Secondary education in Malaysia is a continuation of primary education. It consists of lower secondary (Form 1 - 3) and upper secondary (Form 4 & 5). Generally, secondary school in many English-speaking countries is equivalent to high school in the United States. Grades 9 to 12 at American high schools are considered part of secondary school. For British schools, individuals aged 12 to 16 may enroll in lower secondary. They then progress to upper secondary from age 16 to 18 in preparation for university. 

Government-funded national schools and Chinese vernacular schools (with Mandarin as media of instruction) offer the Malaysian Kurikulum Standard Sekolah Menengah (KSSM) curriculum. There are also private schools offering the national curriculum that have more facilities and smaller class sizes. In addition, Malaysia has over 100 international schools offering international curricula and globally-recognised qualifications. 


How do you apply for Secondary School?

For national schools, placement of students into secondary school can be done by Standard 6 class teachers or parents themselves online. Parents who are interested in enrolling their children in international schools can contact the school directly for application purposes. Generally, the international school application process involves payment of registration fee and assessment test. If the child meets all requirements, parents would need to pay an admission fee and deposit for successful enrolment.


How to choose the right Secondary School?

There are several factors for parents to consider when choosing a secondary school for their child. Parents are encouraged to do their research early and take into consideration their needs as well as their child’s. Important factors to look into are curriculum offered, teacher credentials, teaching and disciplinary methods, fees, facilities and safety, among others. 


What are the fees for Secondary Schools?

Fees for secondary schools vary greatly depending on whether they are privately owned schools or government schools. Therefore, it’s important for parents to find a school that fits their budget. Government schools are mostly free, parents only having to pay for uniforms, books and administration fees. 

For international schools, term fees can run from a couple of thousand ringgit to almost five digits, on top of admission fees.


Click here to find schools that offer secondary levels! 

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