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Boarding schools in Asia: Schools in Korea, Singapore, and Malaysia for academic success

Many expat families in Hong Kong and Singapore find boarding school a good option for older children, giving students an opportunity to develop initiative and independence. Consider giving your future leaders the chance to attend school overseas to glean the vital qualities for success at university, and in life in general.

Best boarding schools in Asia, academic and education options in Asia
Marlborough College Malaysia

Marlborough College Malaysia, a 10-minute drive from the Second Link causeway to Singapore, offers a British schooling experience for students from around the world. Boarding is offered from Year 5 to Year 13, with weekly boarding an option from Year 5 to Year 8. We asked a couple of students to share their experiences:

Jack Dalgleish (12) is Scottish and lives in Hong Kong. He is boarding in Year 8.
“I previously attended the Japanese International School in Hong Kong, and I’m now studying at Marlborough for the quality education. I didn’t find settling in easy; I got quite homesick and upset. One year on, however, I feel that Taylor House is a home away from home.

I enjoy afternoon sports like hockey and tennis, and my favourite activity is having a sound night’s sleep! There is a real international mix of students, including from Japan, Canada, South Africa, Malaysia and Britain. We love going on outings together, including to the movies and eating out!

My advice to new boarders would be to bring familiar belongings with you, whether it’s posters or a teddy bear… even a mug from home would do fine!”

Phoebe Cox (14) is British; her mother lives in Malaysia and her father in Kazakhstan; she is boarding in Year 10.
“I wanted to go to Marlborough to become more independent, and more sociable, by learning how to live with a group of girls. I’ve enjoyed learning about the cultures, beliefs and traditions of my fellow boarders; it’s a great way to open your mind to new and exciting possibilities.

The strong sense of family and connection within the boarding community made settling in very easy. The girls were welcoming, the Housemistress caring and the atmosphere relaxed.

I like the wide variety of activities during and after school; there’s sport, music, drama, charity, art, technology, debating and much more. We’re encouraged to try something we haven’t done before – to step out of our comfort zone. On weekends, boarders can take part in trips to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, play sport or volunteer at charity events.

Boarding is not for everyone, but it’s utterly worth it for the experiences, memories and friendships. A boarding house is a home, and the pupils and staff will welcome you as though you’ve been there all your life.”

Marlborough College Malaysia will be hosting an information event in Hong Kong during a visit from 15 to 18 May 2015; more details to follow on the website. Visit to register your attendance, or to book an individual appointment to explore boarding and day life at the College.

Marlborough College Malaysia, Nusajaya, Johor, Malaysia, +607 5602244

Best boarding schools in Asia, academic and education options in Asia
Branksome Hall Asia


Branksome Hall Asia is the sister school of Branksome Hall, a 112-year-old independent girls’ school in Toronto, Canada, consistently ranked as one of the world’s best boarding schools. Founded in 2012, and located on the UNESCO World Heritage site of Jeju-do, in Korea, this IB World School offers the Diploma Program, Middle Years Program and the Primary Years Program. We asked Principal Dr Beverly Von Zielonka to describe the boarding experience at the school.

“Branksome Hall Asia offers residence living in Jeju-do – an island of clean air and clean living, diverse geography, beautiful beaches, and hiking trails. It is a safe and healthy environment in which to learn and live.

Our purpose-built Residence facilities – shared rooms in the Junior Residences and single ensuite rooms in the Senior Residences – are of the highest standard. Students have access to all school facilities including an Olympic-size pool, gymnasium, fitness centre, yoga rooms, dance studio, artificial turf, Performing Arts Center, and library.

Residence students come from a wide variety of countries, including Malaysia, Japan, China, Hong Kong, the US, Canada and Australia. The ‘home away from home’ ethos is fostered through a ratio of one qualified teacher, the Teacher Don, to every 10 students within a family structure. The Teacher Don supports students in developing a sense of belonging, a good work ethic and a sense of self-discipline. Regular monthly communication is maintained between the residence and the student’s home.”

Branksome Hall Asia, Seogwipo City, Jeju Island, Korea, +822 60013840

United World College South East Asia, Singapore
United World College South East Asia, Singapore

In Singapore, United World College of South East Asia has hosted boarders since 1971; Director of Admissions, Jonathan Carter explains the unique aspects that make the school a good place to board.

Why do children typically board at UWCSEA?
The safety of Singapore means that they can be given meaningful independence. Many schools can concentrate on the development of an individual student’s self-management and emotional resilience, but they cannot test those skills in the outside world. Some cities are too dangerous, while some schools are too isolated.

In Singapore, the student is given an enormous amount of real responsibility because the country allows it. It is a cliché, but Singapore is our campus. Families can trust the environment and the safety of their children in such an environment. It is genuinely a pre-university residential experience.

The UWC model, common to all 14 UWC schools and colleges around the world, promotes cultural diversity and a values-based education. Our boarding students can fully immerse themselves in the life of the school, and they can interact with a variety of people. With over 50 nationalities in the boarding house, the experience is truly international.

Finally, UWCSEA is not a boarding school per se: we are a large and busy international school with a boarding community that is a vital part of that school.

What are the attributes of a child who could be suited to the boarding experience at UWCSEA?

He or she should be:

  • An ambassador of their own country and culture, and tolerant of other people and their cultures
  • A role model for other students in the boarding house, and for the school as a whole
  • Altruistic and willing to engage in service because they want to, not because they have to
  • An activist who believes passionately in the need for social and moral awareness and the means by which change can happen
  • Willing to take risks and get involved in a huge variety of activities; we often say that our boarders are thoroughbreds who have to be reined in, and not nags who have to be dragged forward
  • A self-manager
  • Someone possessing an inner moral compass; the College prides itself on never having to be disciplinarian – students do not have to be told what to do or what is right and wrong; they know it.

Need to Know
* Both campuses offer full residential boarding for students aged 13 to 18 (Grade 8 and above); weekly boarding isn’t available.

* There are 192 residential students at the Dover campus and 171 at the East campus.

* Day students can apply to transfer into the boarding house.

* The application process for boarding is the same as for day students, except that all prospective boarders are interviewed.

UWCSEA, Dover Campus: 1207 Dover Road, Singapore, East Campus: 1 Tampines Street 73, Singapore, +65 6775 5344

Consultancy Apple Ivy helps students with applications to US boarding schools
Consultancy Apple Ivy helps students with applications to US boarding schools


Hong Kong-based admissions consulting company Apply Ivy has been helping students through the process of applying to boarding schools in the US since 2006. Founder Carole Bird explains the process.

What are some factors parents need to consider in choosing a school?There are hundreds of schools to choose from, and many factors that make schools unique and different from one another. We work closely with students and their families to find a range of schools for students to apply to that are a good fit for them, and where they will thrive both academically as well as personally.

For some students, applying to boarding school enables them to find a curriculum where they can be more challenged, while for others it may be helping them to find a school that will have appropriate learning support to suit their needs, and for many it’s an opportunity to gain more independence and be immersed in an environment where they are constantly learning, being challenged and engaged, and taking advantage of close student/teacher interaction, in addition to a wealth of extracurricular opportunities.

Other factors include location, size of student body, religious affiliation, strength of extra-curricular activities in sports, music and arts, and the percentage of international students. We work closely with students and their families to understand their preferences, learning styles, and strengths, and to make school recommendations based on this information. We also regularly visit schools in the US so that we have first-hand knowledge about schools, and we meet with admissions officers to understand what types of students their schools are looking for.

What is the application process like?
In the US, students can only apply to boarding schools the year before they intend to start. US boarding schools consider a range of factors in the application process, including academic transcripts for the two previous years, letters of recommendation, a parent statement, essays from the student, standardised test scores (SSAT), an application form which usually includes details about a student’s extra-curricular activities, and finally, an interview. Since the average boarding school is only 300 students (size ranges from 100 to 1,000 students), the interview is quite important; schools are looking for students they think will contribute to the school. That’s why we spend a lot of time with students preparing them for the interview.