Education in Malaysia
Education in Malaysia Ministry of Education
National education budget (2006)
Budget: RM5 billion1
Primary Languages: Malay, English, Mandarin Chinese, Tamil
System Type: National
1"Budget 2006", Bernama
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. As in other Asian countries such as Singapore and China, standardised tests are a common feature, contributing to the high numbers of school dropouts.
* 1 History
* 2 Characteristics
* 3 Stages
o 3.1 Pre-School
o 3.2 Primary
o 3.3 Secondary
+ 3.3.1 Public secondary schools
+ 3.3.2 Chinese independent high schools
o 3.4 Pre-University
o 3.5 Tertiary
+ 3.5.1 Postgraduate Programmes
+ 3.5.2 Vocational Programmes and Polytechnics Schools
* 4 Education Levels
* 5 Variants of schools
o 5.1 International Schools
o 5.2 Chinese Independent High School and Dong Jiao Zong's policy
o 5.3 Mission schools
* 6 School uniforms
* 7 Education and politics
o 7.1 National Education Blueprint
* 8 Issues in Malaysian Education
o 8.1 Language issues
+ 8.1.1 Poor Command of English
o 8.2 Gender issues and education
o 8.3 Racial polarisation in schools
o 8.4 The tuition phenomenon
o 8.5 String of A's
o 8.6 Chinese School Dropouts
o 8.7 Indian School Dropouts
o 8.8 Malay School Dropouts
o 8.9 Foreign Students
o 8.10 Mathematics and Science Studies
The Malay College at Kuala Kangsar, Perak, Malaysia.
High School Batu Pahat, Johor
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, and Anglo Chinese School, Klang. 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. Despite complaints about this policy, the British Director of Education stated:
“ It would be contrary to the considered policy of government to afford to a community, the great majority of whose members find congenial livelihood and independence in agricultural pursuits, more extended facilities for the learning of English which would be likely to have the effect of inducing them to abandon those pursuits. ”
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:
“ In the fewest possible words, the Malay boy is told 'You have been trained to remain at the bottom, and there you must always remain!' Why, I ask, waste so much money to attain this end when without any vernacular school, and without any special effort, the Malay boy could himself accomplish this feat? ”
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.
Education in Malaysia broadly consists of a set of stages which include:
* Primary education
* Secondary education
* Tertiary education
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 are 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, criticised by some as creating 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 except a formal mandatory training and certification for principals and teachers before they may operate a pre-school. The training covers lessons on child psychology, teaching methodologies, and other related curricula 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 preschools are located in high density residential areas, where normal residences compliant to regulations from the Welfare Ministry are converted into the schools. Some private schools have pre-school sections. Other pre-school programmes are run by religious groups.
There are two main types of public primary schools in Malaysia: national (Sekolah Kebangsaan in Malay, abbreviated as SK) and national-type (Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan, abbreviated as SJK). National-type schools are further divided into Chinese national-type schools (Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina, SJK(C)) and Tamil national-type schools (Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Tamil, SJK(T)). By degree of government funding, national schools are government-operated, while national-type schools are mostly government-assisted, though some are government-operated.
The medium of instruction is Malay for SK, Mandarin and simplified Chinese characters writing for SJK(C), and Tamil for SJK(T). Malay and English are compulsory subjects in all schools. All schools use the same syllabus for non-language subjects regardless of the medium of instruction. In January 2003, a mixed medium of instruction was introduced so that students would learn Science and Mathematics in English. Due to pressure from the Chinese community, SJK(C) teach Science and Mathematics in both English and Chinese. However, the government reversed the policy of teaching Science and Mathematics in English in July 2009, and previous languages of instruction will be reintroduced in stages from 2012.
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) 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 (poor curriculum induced).
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 Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) or Primary School Evaluation Test. The subjects tested are Malay comprehension, written Malay, English, Science and Mathematics. Chinese comprehension and written Chinese are compulsory in SJK(C), while Tamil comprehension and written Tamil are compulsory in SJK(T).
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.
Public secondary schools
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.
Co-curricular activities are compulsory at the secondary level, where all students must participate in at least 2 activities. There are many co-curricular activities offered at the secondary level, varying at each school and each student is judged based in these areas. Competitions and performances are regularly organized. Co-curricular activities are often categorized under the following: Uniformed Groups, Performing Arts, Clubs & Societies, Sports & Games. Student may also participate in more than 2 co-curricular activities.
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".
Chinese independent high schools
After receiving primary education in national-type primary school, some students from SJK(C) may choose to study in Chinese independent high school. Students in Chinese independent high school study in three junior middle levels and three senior middle levels, similar to the secondary schools systems in mainland China and Taiwan, each level usually takes one year. Like the students in public secondary school, students in Chinese independent high school are streamed into several streams like Science Stream or Art/Commerce Stream in the senior middle levels. However, some school recently provided unique streams like Electrical Engineering stream, Food and Beverage Studies or Arts design stream. The medium of instruction in Chinese independent high schools is Mandarin, and uses simplified Chinese characters in writing.
Students in Chinese independent high schools take standardized tests known as the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) at the end of Junior Middle 3 and Senior Middle 3. UEC has been run by UCSCAM (United Chinese School Committees Association of Malaysia, also known as Dong Jiao Zhong) 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.
UEC-SML is recognised as the entrance qualification in many tertiary educational institutions internationally like Singapore, Australia, Taiwan, China and some European countries, as well as most private colleges in Malaysia, but not by the government of Malaysia for entry into public universities. As the government of Malaysia does not recognize the UEC, some Chinese independent high schools provide instructions in the public secondary school syllabus in addition to the independent school syllabus, thus enabling the students to sit for PMR, SPM, or even STPM.
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 (which is usually abbreviated as STPM) or Malaysian Higher School Certificate examination (its British equivalent is the General Certificate of Education 'A' Levels examination or internationally, the Higher School Certificate). STPM is regulated by the Malaysian Examinations Council. 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 a little simpler than the GCE A levels, covering a smaller but just as deep 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.
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.
See also: List of universities in Malaysia
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. Prior to 2004, all lecturers in public tertiary institutions were required to have some post-graduate award as a requisite qualification. In October 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.
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:
* Monash University, Australia.
* The University of Nottingham, United Kingdom
* SAE Institute, Australia
* Swinburne University of Technology, Australia
* Curtin University of Technology, Australia
* Raffles Design Institute, Singapore
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.
* Ungku Omar Polytechnic
* Politeknik Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah
* Politeknik Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah
* Politeknik Kota Bharu
* Politeknik Kuching Sarawak
* Politeknik Port Dickson
* Politeknik Kota Kinabalu
* Politeknik Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah
* Politeknik Johor Bahru
* Politeknik Seberang Perai
* Politeknik Kota, Melaka (Version)
* Politeknik Kota, Kuala Terengganu
* Politeknik Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin
* Politeknik Merlimau
* Polytechnic Of Sultan Azlan Shah or Politeknik Sultan Azlan Shah
* Politeknik Kulim
* Politeknik Sultan Idris Shah
* Politeknik Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin
* Politeknik Muadzam Shah
* Politeknik Mukah
Universities produce almost 150,000 skilled graduates annually.
1. Standard 1 - 5
KBSR and PKSR
2. Standard 6
3. Form 1 and 2
Normal Exams equally for form
4. Form 3
5. Form 4
Normal Exams equally for form
6. Form 5
7. Form 6
8. Universities or Colleges
Based on studies taken
Variants of schools
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. The schools are modeled after British Boarding School.
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 Chung Ling High School, Penang Chinese Girls' High School and Jit Sin High School.
There are about 541 Tamil schools in Malaysia. They are categorised into two groups ie fully aided schools and partially aided schools. However, the enrolment in Tamil schools is increasing every year because of the achievements especially in UPSR and co-curricular activities. Nonetheless, majority Tamils accept that this schools are also the centre for Indian traditional and cultural activities.
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.
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 tongue 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. 
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".
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.
In addition to the Malaysian National Curriculum, Malaysia has many international schools. International schools offer students the opportunity to study the curriculum of another country. These schools mainly cater to the growing expatriate population in the country. International schools include: the Australian International School, Malaysia (Australian curriculum), The Alice Smith School (British Curriculum), elc International school (British Curriculum), The Garden International School (British Curriculum), Lodge International School (British Curriculum), The International School of Kuala Lumpur (International Baccalaureate and American Curriculum), The Japanese School of Kuala Lumpur (Japanese Curriculum), The Chinese Taipei School, Kuala Lumpur and The Chinese Taipei School, Penang (Taiwanese Curriculum), The International School of Penang (International Baccalaureate and British Curriculum), Lycée Français de Kuala Lumpur (French Curriculum),Horizon International Turkish School amongst others.
Chinese Independent High School and Dong Jiao Zong's policy
Chinese Independent High Schools are independent secondary schools funded mostly by the Chinese public, led by Dong Jiao Zong.
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 thrived. Before Malaysia gained independence, the Chinese has had 1300 primary schools, nearly 100 high schools, and even Nanyang University, built without the financial support of the government. The report of UCSCAM claimed that the main reason for many Chinese parents sending their children to Chinese schools was that Chinese parents generally hoped their children would retain their Chinese identity, with love and awareness of the nation, love of their own culture and traditions, ethnic pride, and most importantly being aware of their ethnic "roots".
Mr. Lim Lian Geok (Chinese:林连玉), known as the "Soul of ethnic Chinese" (Chinese:"族魂"), the former president of UCSCAM, said: "One’s culture is the soul of one’s ethnicity, and its value as important to us 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 "true" Chinese, your children must be sent to a Chinese school.
The UCSCAM believed that the government of Malaysia had a "final goal" (referring to Razak Report) 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 school" with the Malay language (National language) as the main medium of instruction. The language of other ethnic groups, namely Chinese and Tamil, thus could only serve as a foreign language. The reason given by the government was that the Chinese and Tamil primary schools were the root cause of disunity of this country. In order to achieve "national unity", all other non-National Schools should be restricted, and finally merge with the National School.
"Do not give up and do not compromise"
The standpoint of UCSCAM is that only the implementation of a multilingual school policy befits Malaysia's multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-linguistic and multi-religious society. Dong Jiao Zong's distinctive position for this protest has remained unchanged over the last 50 years. 
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's educational system has maintained several 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.
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.
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.
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.
The Blueprint has been subject to some criticism. Academic Khoo Kay Kim has criticised the plan, saying:
“ We do not need this blueprint to produce excellent students. What we need is a revival of the old education system... meaning the education system we had before 1957. That was when we saw dedication from the teachers. The Malaysian education system then was second to none in Asia. We did not have sports schools but we produced citizens who were Asian class, if not world class. ”
Issues in Malaysian Education
For more details on this topic, see Issues in Malaysian Education.
The history of Issues in Malaysian Education started from the British government, the Barnes Report back in 1951, that is to unite all races with the colonial language. The later Razak Report was made to replace the unsuccessful Barnes Report, and the system remain until today.
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 globalised. This paved the way for the establishment of mixed-medium education. However, the policy was heavily criticized especially by Malay linguists and activists, fearing that the policy might erode the usage of Malay language in science and mathematics, which led to a massive rally in Kuala Lumpur on 7 March 2009. The government announced however this policy will be reversed in 2012, where the teaching of both subjects would be reverted back to Bahasa Melayu. 
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 the 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. 
There have been calls to make a pass in English compulsory for students to obtain their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia. This has been enthusiastically supported by several quarters such as the National Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) and the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP). The English language has decreased in quality over the years in schools due to the fact that passing English was no longer made compulsory to obtain the SPM certificate. Students were taught communicative English, thus grammar was not emphasised.
Universiti Malaya vice-chancellor Datuk Rafiah Salim claimed many students did not have a strong command of English and struggling in the Malaysian court room scene. 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. It has been reported that the teachers themselves had to take English classes to improve their command of English, especially in the teaching of subjects like English and Mathematics. While they are still grappling with the language, they are required to teach their students as well. 
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 programmed. 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. Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir has called on the Government to abolish the vernacular school system to enhance unity among the people and a check on polarisation.
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. 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.
String of A's
On July 2008, the Regent of Perak Raja Nazrin Shah said that getting a string of A's is meaningless if students fail to understand, appreciate and practice good values, and describing that excellent results as mere pakaian luaran (external appearance), there would be uneven development of human capital if students failed to inculcate good morals. "This will lead to society and the country to suffer". He also said that people with good moral values always hold firm to life principles especially in defending truth and justice. Students should be taught not to lie or rely on leaked examination papers just to obtain higher grades. He noted that while positions and posts could give one power, one would be judged by the people. "There are many people who obtained positions and posts but there are not many who die with a good name" 
Researchers have shown that many parents are still looking for As in their children's school exam papers. They said that scoring in exams only means that the child has learned to answer correctly on paper. Real learning comes through when the child makes his contribution to the world he or she lives in. According to the British Council, foreign universities were looking beyond those with a string of As at the SPM level, as they prefer all-rounders who also excel in extra-curricular activities. They have stated that British universities were put off by the number of As which Malaysian students boasted about.
Chinese School Dropouts
Educationist Goh Kean Seng pointed out that there are about 90 per cent of Chinese children in Malaysia go to Mandarin-medium primary schools, which are run by Malaysian government but less than 5 per cent go on to Mandarin-medium secondary schools (Chinese Independent High School) which are privately-run and fee-paying. Parents prefer to send their children to government schools, where education is free and it caused many drop out because they cannot cope with the change in the medium of instruction. Goh claimed that the situation is worsened by the switch from Mandarin to Malay as the medium of instruction when the pupils go on to secondary school. Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) also pointed out, estimating 25 per cent of Chinese students quit studying before age 18, the estimate puts the annual dropout figure at over 100,000 and that the situation has deteriorated. Also claimed that among the dropouts, some become apprentices in workshops, picking up skills like plumbing or motor-repair. Some dropouts eager to make a quick buck finding themselves involved in illicit trades, such as peddling pirated DVDs or collecting debts for loan sharks. 
On February 2008, MCA Youth chief Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said "When we conveyed to the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi that 35,000 Chinese students had dropped out of school this year, he was shocked. We told him that we did not have enough funds to run programmes for more dropouts, and he approved the allocation."
Indian School Dropouts
According to the government there are currently about 289 Tamil schools in estates throughout the country. Many of these schools are in estates and lack basic facilities, which have high dropout rates. The Malaysian government has said there is a need to upgrade the quality of education among Indian students and to create awareness on the dangers of getting involved in crime. Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Senator T. Murugiah said that "Education is the primary factor to dissociate the Indian community from criminal activities, a high percentage of which are associated with Indians."
Malay School Dropouts
Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said the NEP spirit should not be confined to economic achievements alone, as its importance should be extended to education that is increasing access, equity and quality of education for Malay students. "At the higher education level, the number of Malay students in critical courses must be balanced with those of the non-Malays to reflect the composition of the Malaysian populace" and "The safety net or opportunities for second education, must be expanded so that Malay school dropouts could fill up job opportunities and further their studies" Recent census have shown the number of Malay school dropouts have been on the rise, together with other forms of social problems. 
Since beginning 2009, more foreign students have chosen to pursue their tertiary education in Malaysia because of the worldwide recession. Although the quality of education cannot be compared with the higher standards of Malaysia's neighboring country, Singapore, it is relatively cheaper. The Higher Education Ministry is expecting about 75,000 foreign students to take up undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. Most of the students are from come from China, Indonesia and followed by countries from the Middle East.
Mathematics and Science Studies
A recent study by the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study in 2007 ranked Malaysia in 20th place in the world in 8th grade Mathematics, behind Singapore which was ranked third but ahead of Thailand which ranked 29th. Malaysia was also ranked 21st in the world in Science, similarly behind Singapore but ahead of Thailand which got 1st and 22nd respectively.
On July 8, 2009 the government decided to end the policy of teaching mathematics and science in English or PPSMI in both primary and secondary schools effective from 2012. The two subjects will be taught in Bahasa Melayu in national schools and Tamil and Chinese for vernacular schools.