Principal at The International School of Penang (Uplands) in Malaysia
Malaysia < Back to Leadership Vacancies

The International School of Penang (Uplands) (Malaysia)

Appointed - Matthew Bristow
Mar 10, 14
Apr 1, 14



Search for new PRINCIPAL – from August 2014

(or as soon as possible thereafter)

The Board of the International School of Penang (Uplands), Malaysia, with the assistance of Search Associates, is seeking a new Principal for the school, to start in August 2014, or as soon as possible thereafter.


The International School of Penang (Uplands) is an independent, not-for-profit, co-educational, non-denominational day/boarding school for students from Year 1 to Year 13.

Uplands, as the school is more commonly known, has a history dating back to 1955, when it was established by The Incorporated Society of Planters, which, incidentally, is the oldest professional body in the country (Malaysia) today, having been established in 1919.

Having started its life as a school located in the hills of Penang, The International School of Penang (Uplands) is now housed in a fully owned, purpose-built modern campus in Batu Ferringhi, on the north coast of Penang Island.

Uplands is an IB World School, offering the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) in the Primary School and the International Baccalaureate Diploma in Years 12 & 13. In lower secondary, Years 7-9, the Secondary School offers a broad base of studies leading to the Cambridge International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), and EDEXCEL examinations in Years 10 & 11. A wide variety of subjects are offered at this level, all of which are taught in English, with the exception of foreign language classes.

With a largely expatriate staff of 70 teachers, and student numbers in the range of 550 - 650, the School has a very healthy student/teacher ratio, with well managed class sizes. By hiring the best teachers available, Uplands strives to ensure students receive a high quality international education from a teaching faculty that offers depth and diversity, as well as benefitting from a wide range of sporting and extra-curricular activities, aimed at cultivating teamwork, self-confidence and all-round personal development.

Year after year, Uplands students obtain excellent academic results which are consistently higher than global averages. As a result, graduating sixth form students are able to continue their tertiary education at leading universities around the world, for example Cambridge University, Oxford University, University of London, University of Bristol, John Hopkins University, Universitat de Barcelona, University of British Columbia, Monash University and the University of Melbourne.

Upgrading works are presently being carried out in the campus to add a new block of classroom and other facilities for the students. The work should be completed within this calendar year. The Board has also taken steps to acquire modern boarding facilities within the vicinity of the school.


The I.S.P. Schools Association was registered and incorporated as a company limited by guarantee in 1955.  The International School of Penang (Uplands) is both owned and operated by this Association. (note. Although the initials representing the name of the school and the association which set it up are the same, they are separate entities and have different meanings). 

It is worth noting that all governors of the Association, both Patron and Parent Governors, are not regular school governors – they are in fact Company Directors, who sit on the Board of the Association which established Uplands School back in 1955. Therefore, the Board of the I.S.P. Schools Association also serve as Governors of the school.  Whilst the Board is required to recruit a Head of School, assist in developing the annual budget, ensure that proper financial controls are in place and additionally ensure there are adequate resources for the school to achieve its mission -  the day-to-day running and management of the School lies in the hands of the Principal and his/her Senior Management Team.  As Head of School, the Principal is however fully accountable to the I.S.P. Schools Association. 

The Board in conjunction with the Principal sets the future direction of the School, initiates and reviews policies, monitors the School’s overall performance and ensures compliance with statutory and legislative requirements to achieve its vision and mission. It is the task of the Principal and his management team (administrative and academic) to implement policy decisions made by the Board, and to work with the Board to serve the school’s constituents – the students, parents and staff.

Although Uplands is a medium-sized school; with over 30 nationalities represented in the student body, and a teaching cohort representing 10 different nationalities, it is most certainly a multi-cultural, multi-racial and multinational community.  It is therefore extremely important that a Head of School is comfortable with this, is respectful of it and appreciates the value of such a community.

At Uplands, all parents are required to join the Uplands Parent Teachers Association (UPTA).  This parent community is an important part of the school, making suggestions and providing feedback to the Board.  The Board accords the UPTA due recognition and invites their representative to brief and update the Management Committee of the Board on a monthly basis.  The UPTA also gives valuable support to various school events throughout the year, in addition to organizing its own fundraising events or activities aimed at further developing a sense of community within the school. 

The Board, Principal and staff recognize the value of a proactive and supportive parent body. The Principal is therefore expected to work with the UPTA to create and sustain a harmonious environment within the school, and to enhance the school’s public standing within the wider community.

As the Chief Executive of the school, the Principal is responsible for the proper management of the school, including academic matters and as stated previously – day to day administration. He or she is required to work with teachers and support staff to create a pool of energized and motivated people to serve the needs of the students, the parents, the Board, the local authorities and government agencies, and the local communities.


The Board of Uplands School wishes to appoint an effective and dedicated leader to continue the progress and achievements of the School since its establishment over fifty years ago.   The position will begin in the academic year 2014/15, preferably in August 2014.

The Principal is the Chief Executive of the School and is responsible for its proper management, including academic matters and the day to day administration. The Board of Governors govern in constructive partnership with the Principal, recognising that the effectiveness of the Board and Principal are interdependent.   It is expected that this partnership be built on trust, candour, respect and honest communication between them.

Candidates should have international school leadership experience as well as the academic qualifications commensurate with such a position.     Candidates with IB experience will be preferred.

Uplands School requires an exceptional communicator with outstanding interpersonal skills.  The selected candidate must have executive ability, diplomatic skills and vision to enhance the public standing of the school and garner support from the school and local communities.    He/she should be a skilled sales person to represent and sell the school to everyone he/she encounters, and at the same time manage effectively by delegating to others but holding them accountable.  He/she should be a team player by listening and interacting with all his/her stakeholders, including Board members. 

The selected candidate is expected to carry out four main functions in the job: management, leadership, monitoring and evaluation, and strategic planning.     He/she is expected to exercise good judgement and work towards the efficient running of the school to ensure its long-term success. 

.An excellent command of the English language is essential and a familiarity with the requirements of such a school serving an international community within an Asian cultural setting is desirable. 


The Board’s expectation is that the duration of the contract for the successful candidate will be not less than three years.     The package is likely to include the following elements:

  • a competitive salary (paid in local currency)
  • a foreign service allowance
  • a generous housing allowance
  • annual flights to and from the Head’s home city, for the Head and his/her spouse
  • use of a school car, with all road tax, insurance, servicing and maintenance costs paid by the school
  • monthly allowance for petrol, mobile phone and entertainment
  • subsidised tuition fees at ISP Uplands for dependents
  • medical insurance for the Principal, his/her spouse and dependent children up to the age of 18
  • excellent professional development opportunities 


Candidates interested in applying are advised to take a thorough look at the school’s website 

Suitably qualified candidates should send to David Cope of Search Associates – all items together in one pdf as an email attachment (to arrive as soon as possible, and no later than 1 April 2014)

  • a letter of application (no more than one page), briefly outlining why the candidate wishes to apply for this position and what specific skills, qualities and experience he/she can offer the school
  • a CV (no more than two pages)
  • a statement of educational and leadership philosophy (no more than one page)
  • the names and full contact details (including current email addresses) of four professional referees
  • a good recent head-and-shoulders photo


First-round interviews are likely to take place by mid-April, with the final round in Penang later in the month.  However, the Board reserves the option to invite selected candidates to interviews in advance of this schedule. 

Did You Know…?

CEO of Search Associates, Jessica Magagna, was born in Morocco and attended the American Community School in Iran while her father was headmaster.