Education in Malaysia

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(This page will hopefully be developed into an overview of Education in Malaysia. Below is copied from the corresponding article in wikipedia. Note that copying from other articles is not allowed; but wikipedia is fine because it is under GNU Free Documentation license.)

Education in Malaysia may be obtained from government-sponsored schools, private schools, or through homeschooling. The education system is highly centralised, particularly for primary and secondary schools, with state and local governments having little say in the curriculum or other major aspects of education. Standardised tests are a common feature, as in other Asian countries such as Singapore and China, which attain to high number of school dropouts.



Education in Malaysia broadly consists of a set of stages which are:

Only Primary Education in Malaysia is mandated by law, hence it is not a criminal offence to neglect the educational needs of a child after six years of Primary Education.

Primary and secondary education in government schools is handled by the Ministry of Education, but policies regarding tertiary education are handled by the Ministry of Higher Education, created in 2004.

Starting in 2003, the government introduced the use of English as a medium of teaching in all science subjects, although this creates a discrimination between students who are and who are not fluent in English.


Attendance in a pre-school programme is not universal and generally only affluent families can afford to send their children to private, for profit pre-schools.

The government has no formal pre-school curriculum for pre-schoolers except a formal mandatory training and certification to principals and teachers before they can operate a pre-school. The training covers lessons on child psychology, teaching methodologies, and other related curriculum on childcare and development.

Registered pre-schools are subjected to zoning regulations and must comply to other regulations such as health screening and fire hazard assessment. Many of the preschools are located in high density residential areas where normal residences which comply to the regulations of the Welfare Ministry is converted for this purpose. Some private schools have pre-school sections. Other pre-school programmes are run by religious groups.


Primary education consists of six years of education, referred to as Year 1 to Year 6 (also known as Standard 1 to Standard 6). Year 1 to Year 3 are classified as Level One (Tahap Satu in Malay) while Year 4 to Year 6 are considered as Level Two (Tahap Dua). Primary education begins at the age of 7 and ends at 12. Students are promoted to the next year regardless of their academic performance.

From 1996 until 2000, the Penilaian Tahap Satu (PTS) or the Level One Evaluation was administered to Year 3 students. Excellence in this test allowed students to skip Year 4 and attend Year 5 instead. However, the test was removed from 2001 onwards due to concerns that parents and teachers were unduly pressuring students to pass the exam.

At the end of primary education, students in national schools are required to undergo a standardised test known as the Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) or Primary School Evaluation Test. The subjects tested are Malay comprehension, written Malay, English, Science and Mathematics. Previously, Chinese and Tamil comprehension along with written Chinese and Tamil are optional subjects for Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools.

In January 2003, a mixed medium of instruction was introduced so that Standard 1 students would learn Science and Mathematics in English whilst other subjects are taught in Malay. Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools generally conduct classes in Mandarin and Tamil respectively. Recently, Tamil schools have also begun to employ English for teaching Science and Mathematics and currently, Chinese schools teach Science and Mathematics in both English and Chinese. Participation in the UPSR is not compulsory, but all vernacular schools also administer the UPSR to their students as this allows for re-integration of their students into national schools for secondary education.{{#if:||{{#if:| |}}{{#if:|[[{{{cat-date}}} {{#if:February 2007|{{#if:|from|since}} February 2007}}]]{{#if:February 2007|{{#ifexist:{{{cat-date}}} {{#if:|from|since}} February 2007||}}}}}}}}{{#if:citation needed|[{{#if:|{{{pre-text}}} }}citation needed{{#if:| {{{post-text}}}}}]|}}

The division of public education at the primary level into national and national-type school has been criticised for allegedly creating racial polarisation at an early age. In the 1970s, around half of all Chinese parents sent their students to national schools; as of 2006, the same figure stood at 6%. Lim Guan Eng of the opposition Democratic Action Party stated that ""When I was growing up in Malaysia, going to national schools, I never imagined that the country would become so polarized." Non-Malays, Chinese in particular, avoid national schools due to said schools being Malay-dominated and, especially in recent years, having an overwhelmingly Muslim atmosphere.<ref>Beech, Hannah (Oct. 30, 2006). Not the Retiring Type (page three). TIME.</ref>


Public secondary schools are regarded as extensions of the national schools. They study in five forms. Each form will take a year. Some students, however, will have to study in "Remove" before they can study in Form 1 because of the poor academic results, or simply choosing to do so, which is possible in some schools. At the end of Form 3, the Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR, formerly known as Sijil Pelajaran Rendah (SRP) or Lower Certificate of Education (LCE)) or Lower Secondary Evaluation is taken by students. Based on choice, they will be streamed into either the Science stream or Arts stream. The Science stream is generally more desirable. Students are allowed to shift to the Arts stream from the Science stream, but rarely vice-versa.

At the end of Form 5, students are required to take the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) or Malaysian Certificate of Education examination, before graduating from secondary school. The SPM was based on the old British ‘School Certificate’ examination before it became General Certificate of Education 'O' Levels examination, which became the GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education). As of 2006, students are given a GCE 'O' Level grade for their English paper in addition to the normal English SPM paper. (Previously, this was reported on result slips as a separate result labelled 1119, which meant students received two grades for their English papers.) This separate grade is given based on the marks of the essay-writing component of the English paper. The essay section of the English paper is remarked under the supervision of officials from British 'O' Levels examination . Although not part of their final certificates, the 'O' Level grade is included on their results slip.

Shortly after the release of the 2005 SPM results in March 2006, the Education Ministry announced it was considering reforming the SPM system due to what was perceived as over-emphasis on As. Local educators appeared responsive to the suggestion, with one professor at the University of Malaya deploring university students who could not write letters, debate, or understand footnoting. He complained that "They don't understand what I am saying. ... I cannot communicate with them." He claimed that "Before 1957 (the year of independence), school heroes were not those with 8As or 9As, they were the great debaters, those good in drama, in sport, and those leading the Scouts and Girl Guides." A former Education Director-General, Murad Mohd Noor, agreed, saying that "The rat race now begins at Standard 6 with the UPSR, with the competition resulting in parents forcing their children to attend private tuition." He also expressed dismay at the prevalence of students taking 15 or 16 subjects for the SPM, calling it "unnecessary".<ref>"Experts: Go back to drawing board", p. 22. (Mar. 21, 2006). New Straits Times.</ref>

After receiving primary education in national-type primary school, some students may choose study in Chinese independent high school. In Chinese independent high schools however, students take a standardized test known as the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC). UEC has been run by the Dong Jiao Zhong (the association of Chinese school teachers and trustees) since 1975.

The UEC is available in three levels: Vocational Unified Exam (UEC-V), UEC Junior Middle Level (UEC-JML/JUEC) and Senior Middle Level (UEC-SML/SUEC). The syllabus and examinations for the UEC-V and UEC-JML are only available in the Chinese language. The UEC-SML has questions for mathematics, sciences (biology, chemistry and physics), bookkeeping, accounting and commerce in both Chinese and English. The difficulty of UEC-SML test papers is nearly equivalent to A-level except English.

Students in Chinese independent high school study in three junior middle levels and three senior middle levels. Each level usually take a year. Instead of five years in public secondary school, they have to study for six years. They are not allowed to be promoted to a higher level if they fail to pass the school examinations. They will have to study in the same level again in the next year. Those who fail to be promoted to a higher level after studying in the same level for three years will be dismissed from school. As a consequence, some students may take more than six years to finish their study in Chinese independent high school. At the end of Junior Middle Three, students are required to take UEC-JML. Some students will take PMR as well. UEC-JML is more difficult than PMR. Like the students in public secondary school, students in Chinese independent high school will also be streamed into either Science Stream or Art/Commerce Stream since they are in Senior Middle One. At the end of Senior Middle Two, some students choose to take SPM examination. They may leave Chinese independent high school after SPM examination. Some students, however, choose to further their study in Senior Middle Three. At the end of Senior Middle Three, they take UEC-SML.

UEC-SML is recognised as the entrance qualification in many tertiary educational institutions internationally like Singapore, Australia, Taiwan, China and some European countries, but not by the government of Malaysia for entry into public universities. However, most private colleges recognise it. In May 2004 the National Accreditation Board (LAN) required students entering local private colleges using any qualification other than the SPM to pass the SPM Malay paper. This drew protests and the then Higher Education Minister Dr Shafie Salleh exempted UEC students from this requirement. {{#if:||{{#if:| |}}{{#if:|[[{{{cat-date}}} {{#if:May 2008|{{#if:|from|since}} May 2008}}]]{{#if:May 2008|{{#ifexist:{{{cat-date}}} {{#if:|from|since}} May 2008||}}}}}}}}{{#if:citation needed|[{{#if:|{{{pre-text}}} }}citation needed{{#if:| {{{post-text}}}}}]|}}


After the SPM, students from public secondary school would have a choice of either studying Form 6 or the matriculation (pre-university). If they are accepted to continue studying in Form 6, they will also take the Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia or Malaysian Higher School Certificate examination (its British equivalent is the General Certificate of Education 'A' Levels examination or internationally, the Higher School Certificate). Form 6 consists of two years of study which is known as Lower 6 (Tingkatan Enam Rendah) and Upper 6 (Tingkatan Enam Atas). The STPM is known to be more difficult than the GCE A levels, covering a broader and deeper scope in syllabus. Although it is generally taken by those desiring to attend public universities in Malaysia, it is internationally recognised and may also be used, though rarely required, to enter private local universities for undergraduate courses.

Additionally all students may apply for admission to matriculation which is a one or two-year programme run by the Ministry of Education. Previously, it was a one-year programme, but beginning 2006, 30% of all matriculation students were offered two-year programmes. Not all applicants for matriculation are admitted and the selection criteria are not publicly declared, which has led to speculation that any criteria existing may not be adhered to. A race-based quota is applied on the admission process, with 90% of the places being reserved for the bumiputeras, and the other 10% for the non-bumiputeras. The matriculation programme is not as rigorous as the STPM. The matriculation programme has come under some criticism as it is the general consensus that this programme is much easier than the sixth form programme leading to the STPM and serves to help Bumiputeras enter the public university easily. Having been introduced after the abolishment of racial quota based admission into universities, the matriculation programme continues the role of its predecessor, albeit in modified form. It is considered easier because in the matriculation program the teachers set and mark the final exams that their students sit, whereas in the STPM the final exam is standardised and exam papers are exchanged between schools in different states to ensure unbiased marking. Also, the matriculation programme adopts a semester basis examination (2 semesters in a year) whilst STPM involves only one final examination, covering all 2 years' syllabus in one go. The scope and depth of syllabus in matriculation is also lesser to that of STPM. The disparity between the programmes does not end there, for it is a known fact that in critical courses offered by local public universities (such as Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry and Law), almost 70% of the students comprise matriculation students. On the contrary, STPM students forms the majority in courses which are less in demand, such as a Bachelor in Science. Defenders of the matriculation programme have described the two programmes as distinct and different, drawing the analogy of an apple and an orange. However, having serve the same purpose (i.e. as an entrance requirement to Universities), the Malaysian public is criticising the matriculation programme as a blatant practice of double standards.

Deputy Education Minister Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong said that the existing terminal system for STPM assessments will be replaced by a modular one in 2012.

A modular system means that assessment is conducted throughout a particular programme, while a terminal system places the assessment at the end of the study period. The modular system for the STPM will be based on three semesters, whereby evaluation will occur at the end of each semester. Dr Wee explained that this new format will lessen the burden of Form Six students and better prepare them for tertiary study. “Right now, students have to contend with the pressure of doing well in one major examination at the end of the Form Six studies. “We think that it will be better to expose students to the sort of continuous assessment that is being practised in universities. “By implementing a semester-based system and placing a 20% weightage on coursework, we hope to produce a more holistic approach to learning,” he said.

He added that no changes will be made to the content of the STPM syllabus itself.

Having remained unchanged since its inception in 1982, calls for a rehaul of the Form Six programme are not new.

In fact, the Education Ministry had announced the change to a modular system back in 2009, where Dr Wee was then reported as saying that the new system will be introduced in 2011.

Despite letters to the media from concerned parents and students seeking confirmation of the change, there was no solid response from the ministry until recently.

When asked about the delay in implementing the modular system, Dr Wee said that it was due to the logistics of overhauling the current framework.

It is these logistics that Form Six teacher Rokiah* is concerned about.

“I agree that the STPM needs an overhaul if it is to stay relevant to today’s students,” he says.

“But implementing a modular system is not as easy it sounds.

“For one, if the coursework involved is going to be marked by in-school teachers, how will these marks be standardised? Will there be an independent panel of examiners as well?

“If the latter is the case, the cost of carrying out the examinations will definitely increase.”

Form Six teacher Lau* welcomed the change, saying that it would inject new life into the qualification.

“I think that the new system will give teachers more room to be creative with their teaching methods, such as including more discussions and school-projects.

“But if students continue to be spoon-fed and rely on rote learning, it will make no difference,” he said.

Lau added that he hoped teachers will be given training on carrying out the new method of assessment.

“So far, we have still not received any official details on how these new assessments are going to be carried out.

“I hope that it (the training) will not be rolled-out at the last minute, with teachers groping in the dark and wondering how to instruct their students,” he said.

Student reactions

STPM-leaver Lim Sook Wei, 20, thinks there are advantadges and drawbacks to both the terminal and modular systems.

“The modular system will allow students to forget what they’ve learnt in a semester once they are done with it, and this knowledge might have a connection to what’s being taught in the following semester.

“On the other hand, students will be forced to study consistently instead of cramming all their effort in the few months before the final examinations,” she said.

Meanwhile, Edmond Ling, 21, said that the change may come with a drop in standards.

Now a second-year medical student, Edmond said that the rigourous nature of the STPM eased the burden of his tertiary study

“During Form Six, I had no choice but to internalise everything I learnt in order to do well in the exam,” he said.

“Since the STPM syllabus covers so much ground, I felt like my first year at university was a breeze. I think that the new modular system may dilute the quality of the qualification, because students will not have to work as hard any more.”

But Upper Six Mohd Ashraf Suleiman, 19, thinks otherwise.

“Most Malaysians are the mugging type but this modular system will encourage better learning habits.

“Also, coursework will help promote critical thinking and reading material beyond just textbooks,” he said.

Form Five student Revathi Joseph however, has more pragmatic concerns for her Form Six study next year.

“I’m having a tough time with some subjects in school right now because of disinterested teachers,” she said.

“A few don’t even bother coming into class! I have to attend tuition classes in order to complete the syllabus.

“I’m just worried that if there are going to be teachers like that when I take up Form Six, getting guidance with coursework and preparing for multiple exams is going to be an issue.” The Centre for Foundation Studies in Science, University of Malaya, offers 2 programmes only for Bumiputera students : i) The Science Program, a one year course under the Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Higher Education. After completing the program, the students are placed into various science-based courses in the local universities through the meritocracy system. ii) The Special Preparatory Program to Enter the Japanese Universities, a two year intensive programme under the Look East Policy Division of the Public Service Department of Malaysia in cooperation with the Japanese Government.

Some students undertake their pre-university studies in private colleges. They may opt for programmes such as the British 'A' Levels programme, the Canadian matriculation programme or the equivalent of other national systems - namely the Australian NSW Board of Studies Higher School Certificate and the American High School Diploma with AP subjects. More recently, the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme is becoming more popular as a pre-university option.

The Government has claimed that admission to Universities are purely meritocracy based, but having so many different pre-university programmes and without a standard basis for comparison among the students, the public has been highly sceptical of the claim.


Template:See also Tertiary education in the public universities is heavily subsidised by the government. Applicants to public universities must have completed the Malaysia matriculation programme or have an STPM grade. Excellence in these examinations does not guarantee a place in a public university.The selection criteria are largely opaque as no strictly enforced defined guidelines exist.

The classification of tertiary education in Malaysia is organised upon the Malaysian Qualifications Framework (MQF) which seeks to set up a unified system of post secondary qualifications offered on a national basis both in the vocational as well as higher educational sectors.

In 2004, the government formed the Ministry of Higher Education to oversee tertiary education in Malaysia. The ministry is headed by Mustapa Mohamed.

Although the government announced a reduction of reliance of racial quotas in 2002, instead leaning more towards meritocracy. However, in 2004, 128 non-Malay or non-Bumiputra students with excellent results had their applications to study medicine at public universities denied.Template:Verify source (See Issues in Malaysian Education.)

Prior to 2004, all lecturers in public tertiary institutions were required to have some post-graduate award as a requisite qualification. In October of 2004, this requirement was removed and the Higher Education Ministry announced that industry professionals who added value to a course could apply for lecturing positions directly to universities even if they did not have postgraduate qualifications. To head off possible allegations that the universities faced a shortage of lecturers, Deputy Higher Education Minister Datuk Fu Ah Kiow said "This is not because we are facing a shortage of lecturers, but because this move will add value to our courses and enhance the name of our universities...Let's say Bill Gates and Steven Spielberg, both well known and outstanding in their fields, want to be teaching professors. Of course, we would be more than happy to take them in." He went on to offer architecture as an example whereby well-known architects recognized for their talents did not have a masters degree.

The academic independence of public universities' faculty has been questioned. Critics like Bakri Musa cite examples such as a scientist who was reprimanded by Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak for "publishing studies on air pollution", and a professor of mathematics at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia who was reproved for criticising the government policy of teaching mathematics and science in English at the primary and secondary levels.<ref>Template:Cite book</ref>

Students also have the choice of attending private institutions of higher learning. Many of these institutions offer courses in cooperation with a foreign institute or university. Some of them are branch campuses of these foreign institutions.

Many private colleges offer programmes whereby the student does part of his degree course here and part of it in the other institution, this method is named "twinning". The nature of these programs is somewhat diverse and ranges from the full "twinning" program where all credits and transcripts are transferable and admission is automatic to programs where the local institution offers an "associate degree" which is accepted at the discretion of the partnering university. In the latter case, acceptance of transcripts and credits is at the discretion of the partner.

Some foreign universities and colleges have also set up branch campuses in Malaysia, including:

The net outflow of academics from Malaysia led to a "brain gain" scheme by then (1995) Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamed. The scheme set a target of attracting 5,000 talents annually. In 2004, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister, Datuk Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis in a parliamentary reply stated that the scheme attracted 94 scientists (24 Malaysians) in pharmacology, medicine, semi-conductor technology and engineering from abroad between 1995 and 2000. At the time of his reply, only one was remaining in Malaysia.

Postgraduate Programmes

Postgraduate degrees such as the Master of Business Administration (MBA) and the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) are becoming popular and are offered by both the public universities and the private colleges.

All public and most private universities in Malaysia offer Master of Science degrees either through coursework or research and Doctor of Philosophy degrees through research.

Vocational Programmes and Polytechnics Schools

Besides the university degrees, students also have the option of continuing their education in professional courses such as the courses offered by the ICSA (Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators) etc. Polytechnics in Malaysia provide courses for diploma level (3 years) and certificate level (2 years).

The following is a list of the public polytechnics in Malaysia.

Universities produce almost 150,000 skilled graduates annually.

Types of Schools in Malaysia

Template:See also

These are the different types of schools in Malaysia and their naming conventions.

National Schools (Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) for primary schools, Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (SMK) for secondary schools)

Malay-medium schools where mother tongues are usually not taught. Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan, acronym SRK is used for certain national type primary schools.

National Type/Charter Secondary/High Schools/Residential Schools or Sekolah Berasrama Penuh (SBP)

Within the national public school system are a few magnet type/charter public high schools. Admissions are very selective, reserved for students who demonstrate outstanding academic achievement and potential at the elementary level, Grade/Standard 1 through 6. These schools are either full time day or boarding schools ('asrama penuh'). Examples of these schools is the Malacca High School, Royal Military College (Malaysia) and Penang Free School.

Residential schools or Sekolah Berasrama Penuh are also known as Science Schools. These schools used to cater mainly for Malays elites but has since expanded as schools for nurturing Malays who are outstanding academically or those displaying talents in sports & leadership.

National Type Schools (Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (SJK) for primary schools, Sekolah Menengah Jenis Kebangsaan (SMJK) for secondary schools)

SJK is used for vernacular Chinese and Tamil primary schools. SMJK is only used for vernacular Chinese secondary schools because there are no vernacular Tamil secondary schools. Examples of these school are Jit Sin High School, Penang Chinese Girls' High School and Chung Ling High School.

Chinese primary schools are usually run by a Board of Governors. They make decision for the school but not in all matters. One matter is the running of school canteens (cafeterias) where the operator is appointed by the Education department. In 2004 Education Minister Datuk Hishamuddin Tun Hussein Onn stated this function would be returned to the Board but it has yet to occur.

Between 1995 and 2000, the Seventh Malaysia Plan allocation for primary education development allocated 96.5% to national primary schools which had 75% of total enrolment. Chinese primary schools (21% enrolment) received 2.4% of the allocation while Tamil primary schools (3.6% enrolment) received 1% of the allocation.

Despite lack of government financial assistance, most students from Chinese schools excel in standardised tests. Some students from other ethnic backgrounds enrol in Chinese schools for the supposed better education. Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng noted that the government refuses to fund Chinese primary schools despite the fact that 10% or 60,000 students are non-Chinese.<ref>Guan Eng: National unity and racial threats don’t gel</ref>

Vision schools

Recently, attempts have been made to establish (Sekolah Wawasan) or vision schools. Vision schools share facilities with one or more national schools, ostensibly to encourage closer interaction. However most Chinese and Indian ethnic groups object it as they believe this will restrict the use of their mother tougue in schools.

In 2004, the Prime Minister said "the national school, the main catalyst for the integration process in the young generation, has begun to lose its popularity as a school of choice, particularly among Chinese students". He went on to say that only about two per cent of Chinese students attended national schools. [1]

In response, Datuk Dr Maximus Ongkili, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, said that the seating arrangements of students, especially in primary schools, would be planned to allow for maximum interaction among the races. He also stated "The Education Department is looking at introducing National Integration as a subject in the school syllabus," and that "The composition of teachers too should also reflect the various races".<ref>[2]Template:Dead link</ref>

Islamic Religious Schools (Sekolah Rendah Agama (SRA) is used for primary schools, Sekolah Menengah Agama (SMA) is used for secondary schools.)

Sekolah Pondok (literally, Hut school), Madrasah and other Islamic schools were the original schools in Malaysia. Early works of Malay literature such as Hikayat Abdullah mention these schools indicating they pre-date the current secular model of education. The earlier Hindu culture pre-dating the Islamic period of Malay history did not appear to spawn any formalised educational structure.

Another type of schools available in Malaysia is the Islamic religious schools or sekolah agama rakyat (SAR). The schools teach Muslim students subjects related to Islam such as early Islamic history, Arabic language and Fiqh. It is not compulsory though some states such as Johor make it mandatory for all Muslim children aged six to twelve to attend the schools as a complement to the mandatory primary education. In the final year, students will sit an examination for graduation. Most SAR are funded by respective states and managed by states' religious authority.

Previously, former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohammad suggested to the government that the SARs should be closed down and integrated into the national schools. However, his proposal was met with resistance and later, the matter was left to die quietly.

Such schools still exist in Malaysia, but are generally no longer the only part of a child's education in urban areas. Students in rural parts of the country do still attend these schools. Since the academic results published by these schools are not accepted by mainline universities, many of these students have to continue their education in locations such as Pakistan or Egypt. Some of their alumni include Nik Adli (Son of PAS leader Nik Aziz).

Some parents also opt to send their children for religious classes after secular classes. Dharma classes, Sunday schools and after school classes at the mosque are various options available.

International Schools

Chinese Independent High School

Chinese Independent High Schools are independent secondary schools funded mostly by the Chinese public, led by Dong Jiao Zong.

Dong Jiao Zong's policy

A "Rooted" Chinese

According to UCSCAM (United Chinese School Committees Association of Malaysia), known as DJZ (Dong Jiao Zong - the stronghold/fortress of Chinese), it was the British colonial policy (1786-1957) allowing the vernacular language schools to exist and develop, at the same time enabling the Malays while placing restrictions on the Chinese. Students of British school gained better opportunities in employment than any other schools. Nevertheless, under such policy, the development of Chinese language education is thriving. Before Malaysia gained independency, the Chinese has had 1300 primary schools, nearly 100 high schools, and even a Nanyang University, built without the financial support of the government. The report of UCSCAM claimed that the main reason so many Chinese parents sending their children to Chinese school is that Chinese parents generally hope their next generation can become "A person that is like a Chinese people", with love and awareness of nation, love their own culture and traditions, ethnic pride, and most importantly to have ethnic "root".

Mr. Lim Lian Geok (Chinese:林连玉), known as the "Soul of ethnic Chinese" (Chinese:"族魂"), he is the former president of Chinese education, said: "One’s culture is the soul of one’s ethnic, its value as important as our lives." And if any of you (Chinese) want to inherit Chinese cultural heritage, and if any of you (Chinese) want to live a "root" Chinese, your children must be sent to Chinese school.

"Final goal"

The UCSCAM believed that the government of Malaysia is having a "final goal" to eradicate the Chinese schools and Tamil schools. The report claimed that the Government of Malaysia's culture and language education policy, over the past 50 years was, to not give up implementation of the "final goal", that is, only a final national origins of the school - "national school" with the Malay language (National language) as the main medium of instruction. The language of other ethnic groups, namely Chinese and Tamil, and so can only serve as a foreign language. The reason given by the government was that the Chinese and Tamil primary schools are the root cause of disunity of this country. In order to achieve "national unity", all other non-National Schools should be restricted on the development, and finally merge with the National School.

"Do not give up and do not compromise"

The standpoint of UCSCAM is, only the implementation of multilingualism origins of school policy is the answer to Malaysia's truly multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-language, multi-religious multi-national situations. Dong Jiao Zong's distinctive position for this protest is unchanged over the last 50 years. Therefore, Dong Jiao Zong will continue to neither haughty nor humble in attitude, standing firm in maintaining the mother-tongue education, do not give up, do not compromise, ready to fight again for another 50 years. [3]

Mission schools

Roman Catholic missionaries of the Josephian order also started a series of "mission schools" and many of these schools still stand and carry the names of various Roman Catholic saints. Due to government intolerance of non-Muslim views in the public space, none of these schools have brothers any more only SMJK Katholik, Petaling Jaya (Catholic High School, Petaling Jaya has a residance for a few Marist Brothers outside the school. There are also a series of convents which originally housed nuns but had a school attached to provide education to young girls. The education of young ladies at that time was considered very revolutionary. Similar to the brother schools, many of these convents no longer house nuns and so are convents in name only. The Lasallian Brothers also started a series of schools in Malaysia and Singapore. Some of these schools include St Xavier's in Penang, St. Francis Institution in Malacca, St Michael's in Ipoh, St Paul's in Seremban, St. George's Institution in Taiping and St John's Institution in Kuala Lumpur. Most of these schools still have at least one Lasallian Brother as a Chairman of the Board of Governors.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has maintained several Adventist schools in East Malaysia since 1939. The schools are officially known as Sekolah Rendah Advent for primary schools and Sekolah Menengah Advent for secondary schools, abbreviated to SR Advent and SM Advent. The secondary schools were established as boarding schools, but now admit day students, who account for about half of the total enrollment.

The Methodist Church in Malaysia also established a set of mission schools and these schools carry the name ACS (Anglo-Chinese School) and MGS (Methodist Girls School). The Methodist schools still maintain a single private school called Methodist College.

The Anglican Church in Malaysia established a number of schools such as St Mary’s in Kuala Lumpur and St Mary's in Kuching which is the Oldest School in Sarawak.

Very few mission schools are co-educational, with the bulk being single-sex schools. Many schools in the Roman Catholic school system that have since become national (public) schools are now co-educational. The Seventh-day Adventist school system has been co-educational since its establishment.


File:Overfloor and Big Tree, Malay College.jpg
The Malay College at Kuala Kangsar, Perak, Malaysia.

Secular schools in Malaysia were largely an innovation of the British colonial government. There were four initial proposals for developing the national education system: the Barnes Report, Razak's Report, Ordinan Report and the Fenn-Wu Report. The former proposal was implemented through the 1952 Education Ordinance.

Many of the earliest schools in Malaysia were started in the Straits Settlements of Penang, Melaka, and Singapore. The oldest English school in Malaya is the Penang Free School, founded in 1816, followed by Malacca High School. Many of these schools still carry with them an air of prestige although there is no formal difference between these schools and other schools.

British historian Richard O. Winstedt was concerned with the education of the Malays and he was instrumental in establishing Sultan Idris Training College. The college was established with the purpose of producing Malay teachers. R J Wilkinson, Winstedt predecessor on the other hand helped established the Malay College Kuala Kangsar in 1905 which aimed to educate the Malay elite.

Initially, the British colonial government did not provide for any Malay-medium secondary schools, forcing those who had studied in Malay during primary school to adjust to an English-medium secondary school. Many Malays opted to drop out instead.<ref>Puthucheary, Mavis (1978). The Politics of Administration: The Malaysian Experience, p. 9. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-580387-6.</ref> Despite complaints about this policy, the British Director of Education stated:


Malay representatives in the Federal Council as well as the Legislative Council of Singapore responded vehemently, with one calling the British policy "a policy that trains the Malay boy how not to get employment" by excluding the Malays from learning in the "bread-earning language of Malaya". He remarked:


Eventually, to remedy this problem, the British established the Malay College Kuala Kangsar. However, it was mainly intended as a way to educate future low-level civil servants, and not as a means to opening the doors of commerce to the Malays — the school was never intended to prepare students for entrance to higher institutions of education.<ref>Puthucheary, pp. 10–11.</ref>

School uniforms

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Malaysia introduced Western style school uniforms (pakaian seragam sekolah) in the late 19th century during the British colonial era. Today, school uniforms are almost universal in the public and private school systems. Public school uniforms are compulsory for all students and standardised nationwide.

A common version of Malaysian school uniform is of public schools. The dress code for males is the most standardised while female uniforms are more varied based on the ethnicity of students and the type of schools. Male students are required to wear a collared shirt with a pair of shorts or long pants. Female students, however, may wear a knee-length pinafore and a collared shirt, a knee-length skirt and a collared shirt, or a baju kurung consisting of a top and a long skirt with an optional hijab (tudung) for Malay students. White socks and shoes of black or white are almost universally required for all students, while ties are included in certain dress codes. Prefects and students with other additional school duties may wear uniforms of different colours; colours may also differ between primary and secondary schools.

Education and politics

Education is largely politicised in Malaysia to the extent that every Prime Minister, excluding the first Prime Minister (Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra al-Haj), has at one time or another been the education minister.

The ruling political alliance is composed of ethnically based parties and one of the concessions allowed by the controlling Malay party is to allow the Chinese and Indian parties to start colleges.

In July 2006, Higher Education Deputy Minister Datuk Ong Tee Keat stated that a review of the controversial Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) will be held among Malaysian MPs.<ref></ref>

National Education Blueprint

In 2006, the National Education Blueprint 2006–10 was released. The Blueprint set a number of goals, such as establishing a National Pre-School Curriculum, setting up 100 new classes for students with special needs, increasing the percentage of single-session schools to 90% for primary schools and 70% for secondary schools, and decreasing class sizes from 31 to 30 students in primary schools and from 32 to 30 in secondary schools by the year 2010. The Blueprint also provided a number of statistics concerning weaknesses in education. According to the Blueprint, 10% of primary schools and 1.4% of secondary schools do not have a 24-hour electricity supply, 20% and 3.4% respectively do not have a public water supply, and 78% and 42% are over 30 years old and require refurbishing. It was also stated that 4.4% of primary students and 0.8% of secondary students had not mastered the 3Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic). The drop-out rate for secondary schools was given as 9.3% in urban areas and 16.7% in rural areas.<ref>Koh, Lay Chin (Jan. 17, 2007). "Free hand for 'clusters' to excel", p. 12. New Straits Times.</ref>

The Blueprint also aimed to address the problem of racial polarisation in schools. Under the Blueprint, schools will hold seminars on the Constitution of Malaysia, motivational camps to increase cultural awareness, food festivals to highlight different ethnic cooking styles, and essay competitions on different cultural traditions. Mandarin and Tamil language classes will be held in national schools, beginning with a pilot project in 220 schools in 2007.<ref>"Enhancing racial unity in national schools", p. 13. (Jan. 17, 2007). New Straits Times.</ref>

The Blueprint has been subject to some criticism. Academic Khoo Kay Kim has criticised the plan, saying:


School Uniforms & Crimes

In 2008, a group of Malaysian from the National Islamic Students Association of Malaysia condemned the uniform worn by girls at government schools, claiming that it encouraged rape and pre-marital sex.

  • "The white blouse is too transparent for girls and it becomes a source of attraction"
  • "it becomes a distraction to men, who are drawn to it, whether or not they like looking at it"
  • "This leads to babies born out of wedlock and, to an extent, even prostitution"
  • "Decent clothes which are not revealing can prevent and protect women from any untoward situations"
  • "This is the source of the problem, where we can see that schoolgirls themselves are capable of using this to attract men to them"
  • "This could see them getting molested, having premarital sex and all sorts of things" [4]

Issues in Malaysian Education


Language issues

The issue of language and schools is a key issue for many political groups in Malaysia. UMNO championed the cause of Malay usage in schools but private schools using the Chinese and Tamil language are allowed. Up until 1981 in Peninsular Malaysia (and some years later in Sarawak), there were also English-medium schools, set up by Christian missions. However, following the severe race riots in Kuala Lumpur in May 1969, English-medium schools were phased out from January 1970, so that by 1982 these became Malay-medium schools (‘national schools’).

The existence of vernacular schools is used by non-Malays components of the ruling Barisan Nasional to indicate that their culture and identity have not been infringed upon by the Malay people. This is often a key issue as it is considered important by many. Dong Jiao Zhong (the association of Chinese vernacular school boards and teachers) and other such organizations still shape much of the views of the Chinese educated community, which is a key electoral constituency.

In 2002, the government announced that from 2003 onwards, the teaching of Science and Mathematics would be done in English, in order to ensure that Malaysia will not be left behind in a world that was rapidly becoming globalized. This paved the way for the establishment of mixed-medium education.

Due to the lack of Chinese students attending government schools, coupled with the number of non-Chinese students attending Chinese vernacular schools, the government announced in April 2005 that all national schools will begin teaching Chinese and Tamil, not as a mother tongue course but as an elective course.

Poor Command of English

Veteran English teacher Ibrahim Zakaria put forward, even intelligent young graduates too have trouble getting ideas across in English languages, and even local lawyers are of poor quality English. Some of these students with poor command of English could even score A or a strong credit in the SPM Examination. Also pointed out that there is quality in the English Question Papers but the passing mark has been manipulated in such a way that even the undeserving students manage to score an A for English, and this speaks volumes for our education system. Until today, various reasons have been given for the decline in the English standard but nobody has honestly pointed out that the root cause is the short-sightedness of the leaders and education ministers. [5]

Universiti Malaya vice-chancellor Datuk Rafiah Salim claimed many students did not have a strong command of English and struggling in the Malaysian court. She also said Malaysian law is based on Common Law and local lawyers still look up English law and read up on English cases, therefore if the students have a better grasp of English, they would be able to practise advocacy better. [6]

Gender issues and education

In 2004 the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) representative Dr. Richard Leete stated that Malaysia's ranking in the UNDP gender index was not "as high as it should be". Former Higher Education Minister Datuk Dr Shafie Salleh replied that it was not unique to Malaysia. His quoted statistics revealed that there was a 2:1 ratio of boys to girls in polytechnics and at public higher learning institutions. However it should be noted that in virtually all developed countries that both females and males enter university in approximately equal ratios, thus the 2:1 ratio in Malaysia is seen as rather peculiar when placed in a global context.

Malaysian polytechnics and community colleges are not degree producing institutions and none have post-graduate programmes. Most are vocational or technical institutions. This imbalance is corrected once the respective genders leave the educational system.

Racial polarisation in schools

Due to the existence of vernacular schools, there exist worries that students are not interacting enough with those of other races. Racial polarisation is very prevalent in the Malaysian education system, with students grouping together according to their race. Although many measures have been taken to reduce this polarisation, the students of different races usually work together, but play with their own kind. The Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Rais Yatim said in an interview that racial polarisation existed due to the existence of national-type schools, and that national schools had failed due to the prevalence of Muslim rites.

The tuition phenomenon

The prevalence of tuition centres in urban areas of Malaysia is also an issue of growing concern. Students in urban areas generally go to tuition centres, due to pressure by parents to do well or unable to cope up with the standard of the current education. The tuition industry is in itself extremely large, and was reported to be worth about RM 4 billion.<ref>New Straits Times, December 24 2006</ref> There is also the problem where tuition centres offer 'crash courses' for most of the central exams where they offer 'leaked questions'. These leaked questions are usually obtained by unscrupulous means, but so far the control of leaked questions by the government has not been reasonable, with an average of one or two leak(s) every year.<ref>New Straits Times, December 24 2006</ref>

Notes and references



See also

External links