Features of the Education System in Malaysia

Malaysia is known for its well organised system of education. Primary as well as secondary and tertiary education are well structured and students from within the nation as well as international locations apply and study here.

School Education System in Malaysia

Primary Education

Primary education in Malaysia lasts for around 6 years. Children commence with primary education at the age of 7 in this country. Primary education is a continuation of pre-school education in this nation. Along with reading, writing and arithmetic, children can also study other subjects such as science, physical education, Islamic and moral education. At the close of the studies in year 6, these students will appear for the Primary School Achievement Test/UPSR. The Malaysian school system is structured around optional kindergarten, compulsory primary school followed by secondary, post secondary and university education.  Optional kindergarten is for children aged 3 to 6. There are only some government run kindergartens in Malaysia and many of them are run privately. Compulsory primary school is for students aged 7 to 12 and it is divided into 2 three year phases at the end of the which a Primary School Achievement Test is taken.

Secondary education

This is for students aged 13 to 17 and it is divided into lower secondary and upper secondary education. While the former is for 3 years, the latter is for 2 years and both come to a close with standardised tests. Two different final tests exist depending upon whether the students have been following a technical or vocational education path.

Post secondary education

 This is for students aged 17 to 18 and this prepares students who want to attend university. Secondary schools in Malaysia range from the national secondary school to residential schools, arts and sports secondary schools, technical/vocational secondary schools, national religious secondary schools and national religious assisted secondary school. Children with chronic health conditions can opt for home schooling. 

Schools in Malaysia

 Of relevance to secondary education in Malaysia is the cluster school. It is identified as being excellent within the cluster apart from features such as school management and student achievement. Cluster schools emphasize the excellence of the Malaysian education system.
  • Primary schools include national schools, Chinese national type schools, native schools and Tamil national type schools.
  • Secondary schools comprise fully residential schools, technical secondary schools, national religious secondary schools, regular secondary schools, premier schools, schools within Putrajaya and Cyberjaya, centennial schools and special model schools.
  • Special education primary schools and special education as well as vocational special education secondary schools are also in place. Apart from this, there are also private and international schools.
  • Post-Secondary institutions including matriculation colleges and institutes of teacher education are also readily accessible. For secondary education, since the implementation of open certificate, students must study 4 compulsory subjects namely Islamic Education, Malay Language, English Language and Mathematics as well as History. Three main streams prevail in upper secondary education namely academic (science/arts), technical and vocational stream as well as religious stream.
  • Malaysian art & sports schools: Apart from Malaysian art schools, students in this nation can also opt for Malaysian sports schools, so that both sporting and academic talent can be jointly nurtured.   
Students who have completed their upper secondary education and appeared for the SPM examination can then proceed to higher education. Form 6 is a two year course of study comprising the lower and upper form. Eligible students can opt for either of the two streams: humanities and science. At the close of form 6, students can receive assessment through the Malaysian Higher School Certificate Examination.

Matriculation Programme: The Ministry of Education Matriculation Programme is a preparatory one for bumiputeria students with the Malaysian Certificate of Education for qualifying for degree courses in science as well as technology and professional arts in public as well as private universities. Pre-university studies last for 2 semesters. Programme curriculum focuses on academic aspects without leaving aside the co-curricular aspect. 

Features of Higher Education in Malaysia

Students can only enter university following completion of the matriculation programme. Students of matriculation programme receive sponsorship by the Ministry of Education and those who obtain the CGPA of 2.00 or grade C or above may be admitted to public institutions of higher learning.   

Public Institutions

Public institutions of higher education can be one choice for students who go in for higher studies in Malaysia. This institution is managed by Student Admission Management Division of the Department of Higher Education. Another choice is to go in for polytechnic colleges. These colleges are managed by the Student Intake Division, Department of Polytechnic Colleges.  Admission of students into community colleges is managed by the Student Intake Division of the Department of Community Colleges/DCC.

Foreign Universities

The “overseas branches” of foreign universities offer the same courses and awards as the main university. Twinning programmes have also become popular wherein the local universities in Malaysia form a partnership with foreign universities. Malaysian universities offer undergraduate and postgraduate courses and admission requirements for universities include STPM (Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia) exams or a foreign degrees such as the A-levels.

Private Universities

There are a growing number of private universities in Malaysia as the demand for higher education is on the rise. Students apply directly at the Malaysian private or public university of their choice given that the institution has been approved by the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education. Public universities can take international students, yet public institutions have to be licensed by the Immigration Department of the Ministry of Home Affairs in Malaysia. 
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