The not-for-profit difference!

Not-for-profit – these three simple words can make a huge difference to the educational experience for both students and families. With the rapid growth in the number of for-profit international schools in Malaysia, Ms. Julia Love, an Admissions Director with decades of global experience in international schools, reminds parents to check whether the school they are considering for their child is ‘not-for-profit’ or ‘for profit’.

“The difference can be felt across a range of areas including leadership, governance, parental involvement, decision-making, and ultimately, where the revenue generated by your child’s tuition fees is spent,” says Julia, who leads the Admissions team at The International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL). “The reality is that many families don’t fully appreciate the benefits of a not-for-profit school until their child is enrolled and they can see for themselves the difference it can make. Selecting a school is a major investment, so it’s important that parents ask lots of questions and fully understand the difference between the two models.”

“For-profit schools are generally owned by an individual or a private company that may also own and operate a chain of different school brands under their corporate umbrella. As the name suggests, for-profit schools are generally in the business of education to make a profit for the owner or shareholder. 

“Not-for-profit schools, of which there is only a handful in Malaysia, typically exist purely for the benefit of the students and to fulfill the school’s mission. This is certainly the case at ISKL which, as it has done since it was first established as a not-for-profit school in 1965, is governed by a parent-elected Board of Directors and reinvests all revenue from tuition fees back into its students and school. When you enroll at ISKL, parents automatically become members of The Society of ISKL – they are our shareholders and have the opportunity to be involved in how the school is run.

“ISKL’s not-for-profit status means there are no competing agendas about where funds are directed –  quite simply, revenue is used to recruit and retain the best international educators and create the best possible learning environment for our students.”

Ms. Tracy Caton, ISKL’s PTA President agrees, “When we joined ISKL we didn’t anticipate the impact that being at a not-for-profit school would have on the experience – not just for our kids but also our family. Our children previously attended for-profit schools and we noticed the difference– from the opportunities for parental involvement to transparency around how the school is governed. I like that the parent-school partnership is encouraged and that we have a Board of Directors comprised of ISKL parents who provide different perspectives.”

For Tracy, the fact that all revenue generated from fees is channeled back into the students and school is a game-changer, “It makes a real difference to us to know that the revenue from tuition fees goes straight back into students and school and isn’t being used to pay a dividend or profit to a shareholder or owner. This also means that ISKL can invest in its teachers and staff, which means our kids are supported by the best teachers worldwide!”

The governance of a not-for-profit school is also different from a privately owned school. ISKL is governed by a Board of Directors comprising up to 14 parent representatives. According to ISKL’s Board Chair and parent, Mr. Toshi Saito, this delivers an enormous benefit to the school and its community.

“All ISKL Board members are volunteers and become Board members because they wanted to work for the benefit of ISKL. However, this is where our similarities end – we are unabashedly diverse, with different cultures, nationalities, personalities, and areas of expertise represented.” said Toshi. “The diverse perspectives befitting a school with students from over 65 nations enhances our collective decision-making capability and contributes to ISKL’s truly international environment that nurtures the global citizens who will become the leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs of the future”.

Julia concludes, “Prospective parents ask us, is one model better than the other? Our advice is to consider both options in the context of a whole range of criteria including the schools’ vision and mission, curriculum options, learning support, after school activities, school and class sizes, facilities, transport, and parental involvement.

“At ISKL we passionately believe those three words – not-for-profit – really do make a world of difference to our students and we encourage families not just to take our word for it but to talk with other ISKL parents and students to get an independent perspective. Our philosophy is one of transparency and partnership with families and our administrators and Board members are also always willing to answer any questions. We encourage families to consider the merits of both options in order to find the best fit school for their child and the right fit community for their family.”

About ISKL

Established in 1965, The International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL) has become known as a center of excellence in the world of international education. ISKL is a co-educational, private, not-for-profit school responsible for the learning journey of over 1,500 students aged 3-18 years representing more than 65 nationalities at its campus in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

ISKL offers a robust international curriculum which combines leading North American educational frameworks with global best practice.  The curriculum recognizes that students are on a lifelong learning journey and is driven by ISKL’s mission to challenge each student to “Be All You Are” and develop the attitudes, skills, knowledge, and understanding to become a highly successful, spirited, socially responsible global citizen.

ISKL is accredited internationally through the Council of International Schools (CIS), and in the United States through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). There is a strong focus on service and sustainability across its divisions and is a member of the Eco-Schools organization and the Green Schools Alliance.

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