Education System in Malaysia

study in malaysia

Education System in Malaysia

Children in Malaysia begin their education as early as at the age of four at pre-schools although this is not compulsory. Primary education starts when the child reaches the age of six on the first day of January of the current school year. Presently, only the six years of primary education is compulsory while the five years of secondary education will be made compulsory by 2015. The government provides free education for six years at primary level and five years at secondary level. At the end of this secondary education, students sit for the public common examination, Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM). Students who want to pursue higher education after the secondary level need to have the required academic grades and be able to fund their education. School leavers with SPM qualifications can opt to obtain a pre-university qualification (such as the sixth form, matriculation programmes and GCE 'A' levels) or study for a certificate or diploma at higher educational institutions. The time needed to complete a pre-university programme depends on the type of programme - students usually take a year to complete a matriculation programme or STAM and one-and-a-half to two years for STPM and A-levels.

At higher education phase, study opportunities include certificate, diploma, undergraduate, as well as postgraduate studies. Undergraduate studies consist of bachelor degrees and professional qualifications while postgraduate studies offer master degrees and PhDs. Generally, higher education at the diploma level is for school leavers with a secondary school certificate such as SPM (usually age 17 onwards) while bachelor degrees require post-secondary qualifications such as STPM or GCE A Levels or other equivalent pre-university qualifications (usually age 19 onwards). Malaysia welcomes international students for all levels of education. Since the mid 1990s, international students have been coming to Malaysia to pursue their tertiary education at Malaysia's higher educational institutions. Today, Malaysia is ranked the 11th most popular destination in the world for international education at tertiary level.

Education Governing Authorities

Generally, the Malaysian education structure can be divided into pre-tertiary and tertiary education levels. Previously, there were two governing authorities in education: the pre-tertiary education sector (from pre-school to secondary education and teacher education) was placed under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education (MOE), while the higher education sector came under the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE). In May 2013, the two ministries were merged as one entity and named the Ministry of Education Malaysia (or Kementerian Pendidikan Malaysia in Malay).

Organisational Structure of the Ministry of Education

The pre-tertiary phase of MOE comprises the following:

  • The Policy and Educational Development Sector
  • The Education Operations Sector
  • The Teacher Professional Development Sector
  • The Education Development Sector
  • The Education Management Sector
  • Matriculation Division
  • State Education Departments
  • Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka
  • Malaysian Examination Council

At Primary Level (Public Schools)

The medium of instruction at primary schools varies according to the categories of schools.There are two categories of public-funded primary schools, namely :

  • National schools
  • National-type schools (Chinese/Tamil)

The medium of instruction in national schools is Bahasa Malaysia (the national language) with English as a compulsory subject (taught as second language) while the medium of instruction in national-type primary schools or the vernacular schools is either Chinese or Tamil with both Bahasa Malaysia and English taught as compulsory subjects. In 2003, the medium of instruction for Science and Mathematics in all primary schools was changed to English. However, since 2012, the teaching of Mathematics and Science has been reverted to Bahasa Malaysia in national schools; and Chinese and Tamil in vernacular schools.

At Secondary Level (Public Schools)

The medium of instruction in secondary schools is Bahasa Malaysia while English is taught as a second language in all schools. These two subjects are core subjects and compulsory for all students. Chinese, Tamil and Arabic (communication) are offered as additional subjects. Foreign languages such as French and other indigenous languages are also taught. Note: The foreign system schools established in Malaysia use their own national language as the medium of instruction. International schools follow an international curriculum and use English as its medium of instruction while expatriate schools follow the national educational system of their respective countries and use their national language as the medium of instruction.

At Higher Education Level

English is used as the primary medium of instruction at most private higher educational institutions. However, most bachelor degree courses offered at public universities are taught in the national language, that is, Bahasa Malaysia, while postgraduate studies are usually conducted in English.

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