THE MALAYSIAN EDUCATION SYSTEM
A HISTORICAL, CULTURAL AND POLITICAL
Federation of Malaysia consists of :
Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak
Between 2deg – 7deg north of Equator
South East Asia
Borders Thailand (North), Singapore (South), Indonesia (South) and
127,355 sq miles (329,847 km²)
Indian 7.1%, others 7.8% (2004 est.)
KUALA LUMPUR (capital) 1.493 million
Bahasa Malaysia (official)
Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainan)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
93.1% literacy rate
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)
5.1% of GDP
Nominally headed by paramount ruler (commonly referred to as the king) and
a bicameral Parliament consisting of a nonelected upper house and an elected
31 August 1957 (from the UK)
Malaysia, a middle-income country, has transformed itself since the 1970s
from a producer of raw materials into an emerging multi-sector economy.
Peninsular Malaysia - rubber and oil palm processing and manufacturing,
petroleum and natural gas, light manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, medical
technology, electronics and semi-conductors, timber processing
Sabah - logging, petroleum and natural gas production;
Sarawak - agriculture processing, petroleum and natural gas production,
Prior to British colonization, education was informal
Limited to acquiring survival skills
PORTUGUESE (1511-1641) - Limited impact on Education
DUTCH (1641-1824) - NO impact on Education
BRITISH (1824-1942 and 1945-1957)
Significant influence on development of education
Development of English, Malay, Chinese, Tamil and
Divide and Rule - Did not promote ethnic unity
Significant influence on relationship between
School curriculum promoted Japanese culture and
ENGLISH SCHOOLS – PRE JAPANESE OCCUPATION
Establishment of English schools in Malaya was led by the British
government, individuals and Christian missionaries.
Opportunity to spread Christianity among the locals.
Curriculum emphasized preparing students for the Cambridge Overseas
Opportunity to further their education at the diploma level at Kings Edward
Medical College VII (1912) in Singapore, Raffles College (1919) or at degree
level at the University of England
Earliest schools established were the Penang Free School (1816) in Pulau
Pinang, Victoria Institution (1893) and St. John’s Institution (1893)in Kuala
Lumpur, as well as the Methodist Boys’ School (1897) in Selangor.
The Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK) was founded in 1905 to cater for
VERNACULAR MALAY SCHOOLS – PRE JAPANESE OCCUPATION
British Government set up Malay schools to teach Malay
children to become better farmers than their parents.
The curriculum emphasized on reading, writing, arithmetic,
geography and physical education
The first Malay school was established in 1855 in Gelugur,
The first Malay Girls’ School in Teluk Belanga also in Penang
VERNACULAR CHINESE SCHOOLS – PRE JAPANESE OCCUPATION
The Chinese were brought to Malaya from mainland China to
work at the tin mines in urban areas.
The curriculum, textbooks and teachers were brought in from
The first Chinese school was set up in Malacca in 1816 by
group of missionaries from London
Curriculum included History, Geography, Science,
Mathematics, Ethics, Writing, Physical Education and Music
VERNACULAR TAMIL SCHOOLS – PRE JAPANESE OCCUPATION
The Indians were brought into Malaya to work in estates and plantations
The development and growth of Tamil schools was thus closely linked to
the opening of rubber estates, coffee, sugar-cane and coconut plantations
Textbooks and teachers were brought in from India while the curriculum
was adapted from the Indian curriculum.
Parents opted to send their children to English schools as they had better
facilities and resources.
By 1930, there were four types of Tamil schools namely, government
schools, estate schools, Indian community private schools and the
Christian missionary private schools.
DURING JAPANESE OCCUPATION (1942-1945)
The Japanese army continued the vernacular schools
introduced by the British
Added the Japanese language into the curriculum.
Established the Nippon-Go school which emphasized on
Japanese culture and values.
Education at the secondary level was replaced with the
establishment of technical schools and technical college
Local teachers were given training in the teaching of the
PRE-INDEPENDENCE EDUCATION – BRITISH (1945-1957)
Absence of uniformity in the provision of education
Malay, English, Chinese and Tamil schools used their
respective medium of instruction, curricula, books and
Children of different ethnic background could only study
together in the English schools
Teachers for the Chinese and Tamil schools were brought in
from China and India
SEGREGATION EXISTED AMONG THE ETHNIC GROUPS
POST-INDEPENDENCE EDUCATION – POST 1957
Prior to independence, there was awareness amongst the leaders and
the locals for the need to replace the education systems left behind by
the colonists with one common education system for all.
This awareness resulted in the Razak Report 1956
The Education Committee Report 1956 established an education system
that incorporated national characteristics and guaranteed a place in
schools for all children regardless of their ethnic or religion.
The education policies as outlined in the Razak Report were the
foundation in the formulation of a national education system that
placed high emphasis on national unity.
CHALLENGES AND POLITICS
At the time of independence, the segregated system of primary school
was accepted by the government as an integral part of the national
Coexistence of alternative streams of education alongside mainstream
education provided different enrolment choices resulting in different
At the time of independence there were three types of secondary schools
using Malay, English, and Chinese as the medium of instruction
Government was concerned of further ethnic segregation caused by the
Chinese secondary schools which flourished under British rule
CHALLENGES AND POLITICS
Education Act of 1961 required all secondary schools to use Malay or
English as the medium of instruction faced strong objection from Chinese
Still today 60 Chinese secondary schools had opted not to comply with
the Education Act of 1961 – comprising of 55,000 students
The vernacular primary schools have persistently been singled as the main
cause of ethnic polarization in Malaysia
The ‘divide and rule’ policy implemented by the British resulted in socio-
economic disparity which benefitted the Chinese and affected the
The racial riots of 13 May 1969 caused by intense discontent over the
socioeconomic and education disparity between the Malays and the
Chinese resulted in the aggressive setting up of educational institutions of
higher learning for the Malays.
1980s, the government began establishing integrated schools by bringing
together the three language media primary schools that were located in
the same vicinity
1990s, Vision schools implemented where the children of 3 major race
would be administered by the 3 different races – a combined vernacular
BOTH EFFORTS REJECTED AND NOT SUPPORTED – BY THE
CHINESE FOR FEAR OF LOSING THEIR ETHNIC HERITAGE
Movement by the government to make the national primary schools the
schools of choice has nevertheless been viewed apprehensively among
non-Malays, especially by Chinese educationists.
The above measures were seen as a threat to the survival of Chinese
NATIONAL PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION
"Education in Malaysia is an on-going effort towards further
developing the potential of individuals in a holistic and
integrated manner, so as to produce individuals who are
intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically balanced
and harmonious, based on a firm belief in and devotion to
Such an effort is designed to produce Malaysian citizens who
are knowledgeable and competent, who possess high moral
standards, and who are responsible and capable of achieving
high level of personal well-being as well as being able to
contribute to the harmony and betterment of the family, the
society and the nation at large."
VISION & MISSION
EXCELLENT SCHOOLS, A GLORIOUS GENERATION
DEVELOPING INDIVIDUAL POTENTIAL THROUGH
Access: Every child in Malaysia deserves equal access to an education that
will enable that child to achieve his or her potential
Quality: All children will have the opportunity to attain an excellent
education that is uniquely Malaysian and comparable to the best
Equity: Top-performing school systems deliver the best possible education
for every child, regardless of geography, gender, or socioeconomic
Unity: As students spend over a quarter of their time in school from the
ages of 7 to 17, schools are in a key position to foster unity.
Efficiency: The Malaysian education system has always been well-funded,
yet improvements in student outcomes have not always matched the
resources channeled into the system.
In order for Multi-Ethnic Malaysia to achieve the Vision, Mission and
Aspiration of the National Education Philosophy and foster unity:
TOTAL Desegregation of the educational system (SCHOOLS)
complete structural revamp of the vernacular schools
One common medium of instructions across all schools – both primary and
ENGLISH AND BAHASA MALAYSIA LANGUAGE MUST BE MADE PRIORITY AS
MEDIUM OF INSTRUCTIONS
CHINESE AND INDIAN LANGUAGES AND CULTURE BE MADE AS A SUBJECT
Raman, S. R., & Sua, T. (2010). Ethnic segregation in Malaysia's education system:
enrolment choices, preferential policies and desegregation. Paedagogica Historica,
Segawa, N. (2007). Malaysia's 1996 Education Act: The Impact of a Multiculturalism-
type Approach on National Integration. SOJOURN: Journal Of Social Issues In Southeast
Asia, 22(1), 30-56.
Education in Malaysia: A Journey to Excellence / prepared by the Educational Planning
and Research Division. Ministry of Education Malaysia.
Central Intelligence Agency (US) ,https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-
Welcome to EducationMalaysia.gov.my. (n.d.). Education Malaysia. Retrieved April 5,
2014, from http://www.mohe.gov.my/educationmsia/index.php
Lambert, T. (n.d.). A SHORT HISTORY OF MALAYSIA. A Brief History of Malaysia.
Retrieved April 5, 2014, from http://www.localhistories.org/malaysia.html
Journal of Educational Administration; Educational development and reformation in
Malaysia: past, present and future; Rahimah Haji Ahmad
Professor and Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Malaya, Malaysia
Malaysia Demographics Profile 2013. (2013, February 21). Index Mundi. Retrieved April
6, 2014, from http://www.indexmundi.com/malaysia/demographics_profile.html
Tourism Malaysia. (n.d.). Fast Facts, General, People and languages, Currency, Weather,
Public Holiday, Practicalities. Retrieved April 6, 2014,
Encyclopedia of the Nations. (n.d.).Malaysia. Retrieved April 6, 2014, from
A particular slide catching your eye?
Clipping is a handy way to collect important slides you want to go back to later.