Thursday, December 07, 2006

KL school choices....

Jacques brightened up visibly by the idea of living and working in Asia again. It was a dream come true. He had lived for a short time in Singapore and had visited Malaysia and loved it. Jacques went off for a trip to visit and came back talking of tropical palm trees, bananas and mangos growing in the gardens, cheap and delicious Asian food and swimming pools in every condo. Kuala Lumpur, or KL as the locals call it, seemed a good place to live and the expats living there were positive too.

Jacques also visited a few schools in KL. The expat schools were all private and fees depended on their reputation. There were two British- curriculum schools, an American, Australian and an International one with an American syllabus and a French one. The French one interested us the most. The Lycée Français de Kuala Lumpur or LFKL had fees that were acceptable and they had places for both children. Pupils should ideally have one French parent, but it was not stipulated that they had to speak fluent French. Since Nina was still refusing to speak French and we thought it would give her more exposure to French. Marc spoke French already and he would not have to do much academic work till September because up to age six the emphasis is on play and non-academic skills. We knew that our kids would be lucky to ever get a place in the prestigious and wait-listed Lycée Français in London. Getting a place in one of the European bilingual schools I had read about while researching my book was a daydream too, since neither of us was in the diplomatic service. This was a rare chance to put our children into a French school, without going back to France.

But what would happen to their English if they went to a French school? We reasoned that Malaysians spoke English very well. Jacques reported that nearly all the films in the cinema were in English. Cable television had all the English-language channels and there were huge English-language bookshops and many activities for kids in English. It was the French language that was in danger. French would be under-used, without the proximity of France to England and visiting our cousins regularly. I felt sure I could keep their English going myself and the school would support the French. We did think about changing from OPOL to the Minority-Language-at-Home strategy, where I would speak French to Jacques and the kids. But that concerned me that I might alienate Nina, who could not yet communicate in French properly, and how could I talk to Jacques too? I would much rather adapt to a new school language then change our family strategy. It was a big risk to change the school language though, but we agreed on it and Jacques paid the deposit and enrolled them both in the Maternelle section, Marc in Grande and Nina in Petite section of the LFKL.

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