Understanding the Malaysia Education System

study in malaysia

Understanding the Malaysia Education System

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.

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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).

Academic Qualifications at the Higher Education Level

The qualifications awarded by all higher educational institutions in Malaysia registered under laws related to Malaysian education are governed by the Malaysian Qualifications Framework (MQF). The Malaysian Qualifications Act 2007 provides for the establishment of the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) whose main role is to implement MQF.

The framework specifies that a programme is required to achieve the following minimum credits before an academic qualification can be awarded by the approved higher educational institutions, e.g. certificate (60 credits), diploma (90 credits), bachelor degree (120 credits), and taught master degree (40 credits). Master and doctoral degrees obtained by research do not have credit values.

The various levels of higher education qualifications based on MQF can be defined as follows:



Malaysian Higher Education Qualifications, Education Levels and Minimum Number of Credits
Education Levels Higher Education Qualification Minimum Credit Required for the Award of Qualification
8 Doctoral No given Credit Value
7 Research master degree No given Credit value
Fully or partly
taught master degree
40
Postgraduate diploma 30
Postgraduate certificate 20
6 Bachelor degree 120
Graduate diploma 60
Graduate certificate 30
5 Advanced diploma 40
4 Diploma 90
3 Certificate 60
1-3 Skills certificate According to the skill and levels

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