Tanarata International School, Year One, First Term: Review/comments from a parent

My son, Zachary, just completed his first term of Year 1 at Tanarata International School about a week ago. Zachary is only five years old when he entered Year 1, and I did worry whether he would be able to cope with the more academic setting of a school versus his more playtime setting at his Beaconhouse Preschool.

Last day of the school term meant a parents-teacher talk with Zachary’s teacher, Mrs. Ann. This is an important meeting, not only because Zachary’s report card would be given to us, but also because we could discuss Zachary’s performance with his teacher.

Zachary and his class teacher, Mrs. Ann

Zachary and his class teacher of class 1B, Mrs. Ann

The last day of the school term was the parents-teacher meeting.

The last day of the school term was the parents-teacher meeting

I am glad that Mrs. Ann, Zachary’s teacher, noticed Zachary’s key strengths without having us to tell her about them. She found him to be very well behaved, friendly, and has no problems with social interaction. Even Zachary’s love of reading was well noticed by her. No surprise then that Zachary did exceptionally well in English. My wife and I have been promoting a strong reading habit in Zachary since he was only a month old through a daily routine of reading aloud (and picking the right children books). As Mrs. Ann mentioned to us, the ability to read and a strong vocabulary are the foundation of learning, without which a child would be severely hampered in learning. My wife and I are proud of Zachary’s wide range of vocabulary and his ability to describe his experiences in his own words.

Zachary did very well overall for his subjects. He scored an A for English, Science, Maths, and Mandarin. He obtained a B in both Art and Computer. However, he scored a C in swimming which is not entirely surprising because Zachary fears dipping his head in water. This something I have to teach him to overcome.

A view of Zachary's class, 1B, from outside

A view of Zachary’s class 1B from outside

Zachary's class Year 1B

Zachary’s class Year 1B

Unlike most schools, in particular Chinese schools, Tanarata do not rank the students’ performances, so there is no the best student, second best student, or, gulp, the worst student in the class. However, the school does give out awards for the overall best student and the most improved student in school.

Tanarata's entrance to the class rooms for Year 1 to 6

Tanarata’s entrance to the class rooms for Year 1 to 6

Zachary with his report card for the first term of year 1

Zachary with his report card for the first term of Year 1

I like this non-ranking system Tanarata practices. I know parents who are obsessed that their children sent to Chinese schools rank at least Top 3 in their class every term. I very much dislike this kiasu-system style. It places pressure on the children, not to learn, but to outrank others. Good if your child is in Top 3, but what if your child is in the mid-table or in the Bottom 3? It kills your child’s confidence especially at such a young age.

In Tanarata, exams are given out to students even for those in Year 1. However, for the first two terms for Year 1, the exams are less formal although the exams are still conducted to ensure that the students complete the exams on their own, without discussion with their friends. This kind of assessment would continue until the third term of Year 1. In other words, Year 1 students are gradually eased into a more formal setting of assessment or evaluation.

The Malay language is a compulsory class for all Malaysian students. In addition to Malay, the local students can choose another language class. Tanarata offers four foreign languages: Mandarin, French, Spanish, and Hindi. Zachary opted for Mandarin. Like all international schools, the level of Mandarin taught in Tanarata is rather low. Good enough for conversations, but if you wish your child to fluent in Mandarin, you would need to enroll your child in external Mandarin classes.

The maximum number of students per class is set at 20, and there are two classes for each year. Zachary is in class 1B (the other class is 1A – again no ranking is implied in naming the classes 1A and 1B). Both classes are split rather evenly, with 16 students in Zachary’s class. More than half of Zachary’s classmates are local Malaysians, and the rest are from motley of countries: Korea, India, Sudan, China, and Uzbekistan.

Tanarata has a rather low student population, and it is purposely set that way for “quality rather than quantity,” as one school staff mentioned to me. The classroom size is small for more personal attention by the teachers, and the school does not feel crowded. One notable point is Tanarata is more Asian-oriented, so there are significantly less students from Western or European countries. This can be an important criterion for some parents. One parent recently told my wife and I that one reason she pulled out her son from the Australian International School was because of her son could not mix well with his classmates, most of whom were not Asians.

One strong positive of Tanarata is I did not notice any cliques among students based on race or nationality. In other words, there was no cliques of only Indian, Chinese, or foreign students. I observed that Tanarata students mixed freely among themselves. English is also widely spoken among the students in sharp contrast to other so-called international schools.

Another strong positive of Tanarata is the school welcomes parents’ involvement in the school activities. This is particularly true for the Halloween party organized by the school. Parents were asked to contribute gifts as well as their time in decorating the school. I do not see this as free labour but as a good way to make the parents feel a sense of belonging to the school as well as promoting interaction between parents. Judging by the well-decorated school during the Halloween party, these parents really put in their best effort.

Zachary with Mom and the, err, disciplinary teacher during Tanarata's Halloween Party

Zachary with Mom and the, err, disciplinary teacher during Tanarata’s Halloween Party

Zachary, dressed as a vampire, for the school's Halloween Party. Here posing with Zachary and Mom are the school teachers.

Zachary, dressed as a vampire, for the school’s Halloween Party. Here posing with Zachary and Mom are the school teachers.

Tanarata parents have also setup the Tanarata Community Club (TCC), or the “PTA” in Tanarata School. Unfortunately, my wife and I did not attend a single of their meetings as their meetings were often held when both of us were working. But it is good to know that TCC is not some dead club filled with inactive members. My wife and I were once asked by email sent by them if we had any issues or concerns to bring up to the school authorities.

Tanarata also maintains an active web social presence via Facebook that they use to post the school activities. Parents can also make comments on their Facebook and for all to read – which is a very good thing.

There was one unfortunate incident where a parent’s car was stolen right out of the school parking lot! In response, the school fitted several CCTVs around the school in particular at the school entrance, driveway, and parking lot. While this crime incident raised eyebrows, I am glad that the school responded quickly and correctly by installing the extra security measures – not just to protect the cars but also to protect our precious children.

In his first term, Zachary joined two ECA (extra-curricular activities) classes: drums and dancing. I wanted him to join Speech and Drama class too, but I noticed he was too tired from the other two ECA classes, so I pulled him out from the Speech and Drama class.

Tanarata school fees for Year 1 is RM3,600 per term inclusive of the school building fund. This fee does not include ECA fees, which is a good thing because it means we can choose which ECA we want our children to participate. ECA fees can range as low as RM60 to as high as RM450. Music classes like drums cost RM450 but the dancing class, if I remember accurately, is only about RM100 per term.

Various ECA classes are offered per term. But these ECA classes can generally be grouped into three: music (like vocal, drums, guitar, and piano), physical activities (like karate, tae-kwan do, dancing, football, swimming, and badminton), and scholastic (like web design, speech and drama, chess, and magazine and photography). Most of these ECA classes are out-sourced by the school. The speech and drama class, for instance, are handled by the Helen O’Grady Drama Academy.

Zachary enjoyed his drums classes but not so much the dancing class. He was expecting less formal dance routines (something akin to Gangnam style dancing) but what he got instead was “too much stretching” dancing like he was always warming up to dance instead of doing the dancing itself. Oh well…you won’t know until you try.

I am planning to send Zachary for the Speech and Drama class since this was what he took when he was at Beaconhouse Preschool, and he said he had lots of fun then.

There is a closer interaction between parents here in Tanarata than in larger schools or in government schools. Part of this reason is the smaller student population in Tanarata School.

There is a closer interaction between parents here in Tanarata than in larger schools or in government schools. Part of this reason is the smaller student population in Tanarata School.

Zachary's mom talking to a parent from China whose son share the same class as Zachary

Zachary’s mom talking to a parent from China whose son is Zachary’s classmate

Lastly, the school canteen is satisfactory, not great, but satisfactory. The meals there are prepared well and diverse. The canteen operator also allowed pre-paid meals, meaning that I deposit some amount of money (say, RM50) which would then be deducted each time Zachary orders a meal. That way, Zachary does not have to carry money to school or work out paying for his meals. However, the school is getting a new canteen operator next term, so I will wait and see if this operator is better than the previous one.

Overall, I am glad to report that Zachary enjoys going to school and meeting his teachers and friends. Once he was sick, and he had to miss two days of school. Since he was sick including over the weekend, he felt as if he did not attend school for over a week. To that, he once asked us, “I miss school. Is school still closed today?” This is so different from my own school experience. Being sick for me then was to be celebrated because it meant a doctor-certified excuse not to go to school.

I am overall happy with Tanarata. It is not a school for everyone. Tanarata is one of the cheapest international schools around, so their facilities may not match those from more expensive schools. This is not to say that Tanarata facilities are poor, but if you are a parent looking for Olympic-sized swimming pool, a school gymnasium the size of a shopping mall or free Wi-Fi at every school corner, then Tanarata would not be able to match your expectations.

Tanarata may have cheaper school fees, but I feel it is also selective in their student intake. This explains the low student population in the school. The green lush of vegetation and oil palm trees that surround this school makes learning here quiet, pleasant, and unique from other more concrete-based schools. Zachary’s teachers are great: most of them are friendly and experienced in handling young children, and some of them, well, quite fierce. Ah, but that is only to be expected. When was the last time you had a school without at least one much-feared teacher?

I am under no illusions that Zachary’s education is complete at Tanarata. Whichever school Zachary attends, my wife and I would still have to monitor closely his learning progress in school. My wife and I would still have to identify weaknesses in his learning and ensure he overcomes them. Teachers at a good school can only do so much. We, as parents, are still the most important factor in Zachary’s education.

But for now, I am pleased with Tanarata, and I look forward to Zachary’s second term.

Also read: Zachary’s entrance examination into Tanarata.



  1. Hi Christopher,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences on TIS. My daughter is currently in Year 3 in a Chinese school and struggling with Mandarin. She didn’t do well in her Mandarin exam whereby her results for the rest were all As. As a concern parent and she has also voiced out that she doesn’t want to study Mandarin plus I don’t want her Mandarin to pull down her overall grades, I started looking around for alternatives. The first choice was Convent schools but unfortunately, you need to pull some strings to get in. I have short listed Seri Suria and my daughter has been accepted into Year 4 in 2015.

    My uncle mentioned TIS in passing so I googled TIS and stumbled upon your blog. I was told that there will only be a place if there is a withdrawal but I can put in my application first.

    I was just wondering how often does TIS increase their fees. Would you be able to share that information? Also, is the security in TIS adequate since it is situated in a Palm Oil Plantation?

    Hope to hear from you soon.

    Thanks and regards,

    • TiS raises their fees once every two years or so. Recently, they raised the fees by about 20 to 40%, depending on the year group. For Year 4, the fees for the 2014-2015 academic year is RM4500 per term from RM3300 previously (note: there are 3 terms per year). This fees do not include the RM600 building fund per term, so the total fees will be RM5100 per term. Additional charges will depend on what ECA (extra curricular activities) your child registers. Arts activities (like playing the musical instruments) and robotics classes are the most expensive at about RM400 per term, but there are much cheaper ECA classes.

      TiS is located in the midst of oil palm trees but it is not remotely located, far from roads and from civilization. The school is actually next to a highway between UPM-Kajang, but the school building is located far from this highway so you will not hear any traffic. It is really quiet, much quieter than other schools. Don’t worry about security because the school is safe. The guards keep a watchful eye on our children and on who picks them up after school.

      • Wow! The increase is quite significant for Year 4 – 36%. Their fees will soon be on par with the rest of the International school in no time. My nephews are in Sri Garden and my sister mentioned that the increase is only between 10 – 15% every 2 years. Anyway, thanks for the information.

  2. Hi Chris.

    First and foremost, thank you for the very enlightening blog. I’m just beginning to look for a proper school for my girls, who are turning 5 & 4 next year. And what I’ve read on two of your blogs abt Tanarata School made my job a little easier. I guess I won’t be able to get my elder girl into the school for the 2014 intake based on your info that application should by end of May.

    Anyway, I’d like to know if this school uses British or Malaysian syllabus.

    • It’s best you start early to register for the school as there’s a growing waiting list for Year 1. TiS is strictly IGCSE (British). There’s no Malaysian syllabus, but local students will have to take Malay language classes.

  3. A bit of a logistical question. How does your son travel up and down to school? We stay in section 16 pj and I’m just wondering how it’s gonna be travelling up and down everyday with the kl traffic.

  4. Hi. It’s interesting to read your blog about TIS. I have a friend whose daughter is still studying there but will pull out in Dec. One of her complaints is due to the teacher’s constant picking on her for non issues and the worst thing is the teacher fell asleep in front of the whole class.Despite all the setbacks, she has been consistently a top student in her class. It must be due to the tough discipline and hard work that moulded her from her four years in a Chinese primary school.

    • Since we are sharing friend’s bad experience, I too have a friend whose daughter studies in a Chinese school. My friend also pulled out her out of the school because the teacher made her crawl on the ground until her knees were bleeding. When my friend approached the school principal, he replied, “Aiya, why your daughter so stupid, wan. Must always listen to teacher, meh?”

      No surprise then my friend’s daughter now studies in another school.

  5. Hi Christopher,
    My son will be starting year 1 this Sept, I wonder if you plan to sell Zachary’s books away? If you do, pls kindly email to me.

    Hope to hear from you soon. Tqvm.

  6. Hi Christopher,

    Thanks for the info on this school. How is Zachary doing in his 2nd term?

    Would like to know if you have any new update pertaining to this school. Your write-up is very informative and I am interested to send my daughter here but would like to know more from parents who already have children attending this school now.


    • Zachary is now in the third term, and he is doing fine. He likes going to school and he enjoys his classes. I made the right choice putting him here as I doubt he would like going to national schools. I might blog more when Zachary is older, perhaps in his second year. Please note that TiS is quite popular at the moment, where the number of applications for Year 1 far exceed the number of available places. The closing date is end of this month (or is it next month?) — please check with the school. You can call the office and ask if they can show you around school. They could also email you the application form. If you are interested, you need to hurry, as the closing date is close but be aware that there are a lot of applications for Year 1, or so I was told.

  7. Hi Chris,

    I m also interested to sent my kids to Tanarata. Is there river and swimming pool inside the school? How they ensure the children safety? Thanks.

  8. Wishing you a good day. Your blog was shed so much insights not just on TiS but on raising kids. Thank you very much. I decided to share my thoughts with you.

    My daughter is turning 5 this year and I submitted her registration to the school already. I did this when she was 2 years old. I had surveyed the school so much and I appreciated the fact that they are very selective in their entries and its non commercial. I wanted to thank you for your positive and fair comments.

    My family are all Malaysians but I am being determined in offering a good education to my daughter for her to have a holistic education. From experience I couldn’t derive this from our local national schools. My entire family is against this idea as its regarded as not normal for Malaysians to enrol in an international school. For me, when I was blessed with this child, I promised to give her good education, right exposure and a healthy mindset. To start off, strong early education foundation is extremely important ( in my opinion) in building the right future.

    I have to work extra hard to afford her education cost, but I am very determined in doing this.

    Once again, thank you for your time to keep many parents well informed of what’s ‘ actually’ happening.

    All the best to you and your young man. :-). I wish to share more positive experiences when my daughter starts in TiS


  9. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for sharing your views about TIS. It really helps us to know more about the school. I am an expat working in KL and looking for a good school for my daughters 6 and 9 years old. Do you know whether they have entrance tests even for primary classes? What other things do we need to prepare for before discussing admission procedures with the school. Planning to get in touch with the school next week. Thanks in advance for your response.

  10. Hi there Chris,

    I am moving soon to KL therefore stumbled upon ur blog few days ago and indeed it is very englightening. I am worried about the entrance exam. Could you share which type of questions do they inquire ? My son is turning 4 this year. So i am very worried about this and hope you could give a few pointers.
    Thanking you in advance.

    • Just make sure your son knows how to read and write the alphabets (A to Z, both upper- and lowercase) and numbers (0-10). Your son also needs to be able to do very basic addition and subtraction problems. A command of English is also important because your son would need to read some basic words.

      You can buy pre-school English and Maths books at bookshops as practise or to get a good idea on what knowledge is required just before Year 1.

  11. Hi Christopher,
    I read with great interest about this article and I,ve been waiting for your comments about TIS since your first blog entry about the school. I am glad your son is enjoying his school and this must be a big relief for you and your wife, after a long search for a good school for your son.

    We lived in Taipei for three years and just came back for good in early December. I too was searching for an international for my two kids who attended an International school in Taipei. From your entry, it sounds that both the school are similar in terms of their approach/vision about what is education is all about, i.e. no grading and treating each child as an special individual, rather than focusing on exam results only.

    I plan to send my children to TIS (after reading positive comments from you:), I know that there is a waiting list, but, I hope that my kids will be accepted (crossing fingers).. I need to ask about the recommendation letters from other parents that to be attached together with the application form.. is it crucial? how if i dont know anyone there? how do I go about? Appreciate if you enlighten me on this..

    Thank you and sorry for the long comment:)

    • Hi, Kavitha. Nice to know you found this blog entry useful. I am not sure how important the school places on the recommendation letter, but it would probably help if you have one. When I applied, I did not supply any recommendation letter.

      But I think the most important criteria the school looks for are your children’s attitude and aptitude. Also evaluated is the parents themselves, so be on your best behaviour during the interview! :)

      Have you gone to the school yet? They can answer any questions you have and even show you around the school. But call the school first to make an appointment. Good luck! Let me know if you need further help.

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