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In a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country like Malaysia, national unity is an overriding goal in the formulation of socio-economic policies. The nations' ideology, Rukun Negara (RN) proclaimed in 1969 forms the basis for the consolidation of national unity. Since the proclamation, it has provided the direction for all political, economic, social and cultural policies and constitutes an important milestone in the development of education in Malaysia. Development in education was further grounded through the National Philosophy of Education (NPE), established in 1988 and the policy statement of the National Development Plan (NDP) in 1991.

The essence of the NPE is to develop the potential of individuals in a holistic and integrated manner, so as to produce citizens who are intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically balanced and harmonious based on a firm belief in and devotion to God. The NPE is regarded as a statement of vision for the Ministry of Education (MOE) in the pursuit of educational excellence. The NDP on the other hand forms a basis in the development of education vis-a-vis the nation’s goal to become an industrialised country by the year 2020.

The government’s committment towards education is contained in the Federal Constitution and the Education Act of 1996. It is realised through the provision of free education to every child of school-going age, for a period of eleven years, in the country.

The Education Structure

Formal education is provided at four levels - primary, lower secondary, upper secondary and post secondary. The age of admission to the first year of primary education is six years old. Promotion from grade to grade is automatic. Continuous school-based assessment is administered at all grades and at all levels. However, at the end of each level, students sit for common public examinations. Successful completion of secondary education can lead to a number of opportunities for further study and training at post-secondary and tertiary levels, both in the academic and professional fields provided by universities, colleges and other educational training institutions.

PART I Descriptive Section

1. EFA GOALS AND TARGETS (1990 - 2000)

1.1 Education for all (EFA) programmes in Malaysia are not carried out selectively nor in isolation but rather in tandem with other educational development programmes that have been synchronised with efforts to mould a national identity, and to achieve unity in a multi-ethnic society as well as developing human resources essential for the next century. The implementation of the Sixth Malaysia Plan (6MP) (1991-1995), and Seventh Malaysia Plan (7MP) (1996-2000) saw the undertaking of programmes focused on expanding capacity and increasing access to all levels of education, strengthening the delivery system and improving the quality of education. The goals and targets of these programmes that are of concern to EFA are reported under six dimensions below:

Expansion Of Early Childhood Care And Development Activities

1.2 Early childhood development (ECD) programmes are instrumental in preparing the nation’s young to participate in nation building. In Malaysia there are two types of institutions that cater to this need; the childcare centre and pre-schools. The childcare centre is defined as any premise where four children or more from a household is received to be looked after for a fee. The centre admits children below four years of age. This centre is categorised into i) Home Based Centre and ii) Institutional Centre. The former receives less than 10 children, while the latter receives more than 10 children. These centres offer childcare services ranging from half-day to full day basis. The objectives of the childcare centre are as follows: -

1.3 The pre-school, is a non-formal and flexible programme for young children aged 4+ through 5+ years. The programme runs for a duration of one to two years. These centres are mostly privately-run and are highly concentrated in the urban areas catering for children from high and middle-income families. The fees charged by these pre-schools vary and are largely determined by overhead costs and market forces. Pre-school classes conducted by the MOE and other government agencies enable under-privileged children in the urban and rural areas access to pre-school education for free or at a minimal charge. Priority for admission to these classes is given to those who could not afford to attend privately-run pre-schools.

1.4 Pre-school education aims at providing a firm foundation for formal education. All pre-school centres have to abide by the curriculum guidelines set by the MOE. The curriculum which is in line with the NPE enables pre-school children to acquire basic communication, social and other positive skills in preparation for primary schooling. Specifically, the aim of pre-school education is to develop children’s skills in the following aspects:

1.5 For each aspect, the specific objectives are clearly stated. The social skill components focus on children’s interaction with the environment and the people in their surroundings, development of positive self-concept, discipline, social responsibilities, and positive attitudes towards learning.

1.6 The intellectual skill components emphasise physical environment, the concepts of space, numbers, alphabets, and prerequisites for writing, reading and language competencies. The physical skill components focus on the physical activities that involve co-ordination of the various parts of the body such as the head, hand, leg, eye and fingers.

1.7 The spiritual skill components emphasise the inculcation of noble values and believe in God. The aesthetical aspects on the other hand, train the children to express themselves through their hand-made creations, drawings, music and movements.

Universal Access To, And Completion Of, Primary Education by the Year 2000

1.8 In Malaysia, universal primary education (UPE) refers to formal primary education that emphasizes on acquiring strong reading and writing skills as well as building solid foundation in mathematics and basic sciences. The six years of schooling at this level admits children between the ages of 6+ through 11+ years.

1.9 Even though education is not compulsory, a very high percentage of children in this age group are enrolled in public primary schools throughout the country. This is possible since education in Malaysia is free. Moreover, under the primary school programme, access to and equal opportunity for education is provided to every child, including those from remote and rural areas. However, parents can also choose to enrol their children into private schools of their choice. These private schools are commercially run and they are now growing in popularity.

Improvement in Learning Achievement

1.10 To minimise the slide in academic performance of students, the MOE implements remedial education. Remedial education aims to improve the overall performance of slow learners and low achievers, with particular concentration on rural students. Under the remedial programme students are organised into separate groups based on their academic performance. Also a step taken was the introduction of simpler and more effective teaching methods as well as the utilisation of audio-visual aids.

1.11 An initiative to cater for fast learners is the introduction of the Year Three assessment or the Penilaian Tahap Satu (PTS). The PTS offers optional double promotion to outstanding 8+ year old students. This initiative accommodates accelerated learning for these high achievers.

1.12 National assessment in Year Six is to evaluate students’ performance at the end of the primary education before entering lower secondary education. At the end of the lower secondary education students sit for the Lower Secondary Assessment or the Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR). The PMR is a combination of centralised and school-based assessments. The school-based assessment follows the guidelines set by the Examinations Syndicate.

1.13 In line with the policy of expanding universal education to include upper secondary education, the PMR is no longer made a terminal examination; rather it is more of a diagnostic evaluation. After the PMR examinations students are allowed to specialise into either science, technical or arts stream. At the end of the upper secondary level students sit for the Malaysian Certificate of Education or the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM). Successful SPM students can enrol into post-secondary programmes. After the post-secondary programmes students can enter colleges and institutions of higher learning to pursue their degree programmes.

1.14 Among the post secondary programmes offered are the A level foundation programmes, matriculation, Sixth Form, Polytechnics and, teacher training. At the end of these programmes, students sit for their respective tailored examinations. Students who are enrolled into Sixth Form sit for the Malaysian Higher Certificate of Education or the Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM). The STPM is a national examination administered by the Malaysian Examination Council.

Reduction Of The Adult Illiteracy Rate, Especially The Disparity Between Male And Female Illiteracy Rates

1.15 Malaysia is fully committed to eradicating illiteracy by the year 2000, if not earlier. The various literacy and functional literacy pogrammes carried out for adults are geared towards fulfilling the importance and goals of life-long education.

1.16 Among the efforts to reduce adult illiteracy is the implementation of the adult functional-literacy and the reading habit promotion programmes. These are readily made available by the government through the Ministry of Rural Development (MORD) and other relevant ministries. The programmes are especially designed to meet the needs of the lower income group. There is no age limit for entrance into these programmes, neither is there restrictions with regards to gender.

1.17 The multi-pronged approach taken to eradicate illiteracy, to extend universal education to 11 years of schooling and the emphasis towards the acquisition of knowledge will prepare Malaysia towards the realisation of a literate and learning society by the turn of the century.

Expansion of Basic Education and Training in Other Essential Skills Required By Youths and Adults

1.18 The future of the country depends very much on the knowledge and skills acquired by the nation’s youth today to face an increasingly competitive and challenging world of tomorrow. As such, the government has accorded high priority to education and skills training for youths.

1.19 Current education policy implemented by the MOE that addresses the education of youths is the expansion of universal education from nine to eleven years of schooling. This policy has made it possible for PMR students with minimum achievement to continue to upper secondary level. These group of students who are usually less academically inclined follow the "School To Work Programme" based on an Abridged Syllabus developed by the Curriculum Development Centre (CDC). The programme exposes students to relevant generic skills at the work place in order to enable them to gain hands-on experience that would assist them to enter the world of work in the future.

1.20 The MOE also provides technical, vocational and skills training to youths between the ages of 15+ and 16+. These are offered in secondary technical (STS) and secondary vocational (SVS) schools. These schools are upper secondary schools specially equipped to teach technical and vocational subjects. These schools cater for students who have an aptitude and interest in technical subjects and also for students who are interested in vocational education and skills training. The primary aim is to provide the students with practical training in employability skills. Besides providing general education these schools also provide foundation in technical and vocational education to enable students to further their studies particularly in engineering and commerce.

1.21 In the skills training programme, more emphasis is given to practical work to develop competency in trade skills as required by the related industries. Students are trained to acquire the Malaysian Skills Certificate awarded by the Malaysian National Vocational Training Council (NVTC) after two years of training. In addition, a one-year specialised skills training in specific trades is provided both to students with the Malaysian Vocational Certificate and the Skills Certificate.

1.22 Apart from the above-mentioned programmes, a system of polytechnic education for youths between 17+ through 20+ years old are established. The polytechnic programmes also address market demands for skilled manpower. The primary objectives are :

1.23 In addressing the issue of unemployed out-of-school youths, skills training centres are set up to cater to their needs. These centres established by various government agencies provide formal and non-formal training to both youths and adults between the ages of 15+ through 40+ years whose education ranges from primary to tertiary level. The centres conduct these courses with the aim of imparting technical know-how to the participants in order that they may gain employment in various industries or initiate their own businesses. The training programmes also provide avenues for instilling discipline in accordance with the national aspiration.

1.24 Among the objectives of the programmes are:

Increased Acquisition by Individuals and Families of the Knowledge, Skills and Values Required For Better Living, Made Available through All Education Channels

1.25 Besides literacy and functional literacy programmes the government is also committed in propagating better living. The initiatives for enhancing quality of life emphasizes on enhancing family well-being, health and civic consciousness and promoting income-generating programmes. These programmes are offered to out-of-school youths aged 15+ years and above as well as adults from the rural and urban poor areas.

1.26 Among the programmes to address issues pertaining to improving family-income undertaken by the MORD is the Hard-core Poor Development Programmes or the Program Pembasmian Rakyat Termiskin (PPRT). Among others, the PPRTs provide opportunity for adults to enrol into specially designed courses that would expose them to income-generating activities and the working environment. Families of five earning a monthly income below RM202.00 are given priority.

1.27 Among the programmes undertaken by the MORD to enhance family well being are; the Family Development Programme, the Adult Education Programme and the Religious and Moral Education Programme.

1.28 The Family Development Programme is intended to enhance the well- being of rural families by fully utilizing women's potential in fostering the desired socio-economic and cultural values. The activities carried out are:

1.29 Activities under the Adult Education Programme include work-oriented classes for women in areas traditionally handled by males, such as crop production, animal rearing, aquaculture and other new vocational skills.

1.30 A new emphasis on the Religious and Moral Education Programme is not just religious and moral education per se but also the use of religious traditions to bring about positive changes highly related to development and work.


2.1 The EFA National Plan of Action for the country was prepared in 1991. This was possible through meetings and discussions among several ministries and agencies. The Plan of Action was spelt out in the form of projects and activities under the purview of various ministries and agencies. All programmes and activities for EFA, conducted by these various ministries and agencies impose no restrictions based on gender, ethnicity or socio-economic status.

2.2 The government, through the MOE, other ministries and agencies gives adequate publicity to the importance of formal and non-formal education through the mass media and other government information dissemination networks. This strategy has succeeded in encouraging parents to admit their children into educational institution and for adults to continuously pursue knowledge and upgrade their skills and competencies for a better living condition. More structured programmes undertaken are as reported below:

Early Childhood Care And Development

2.3 The guidelines for the setting up of childcare centres is outlined in the guidebook on rules and regulations of setting up childcare centres produced jointly by the Department of Social Welfare, the Health Department and the Local Authority. These agencies are authorised to approve the licensing of such centres. The Childcare Centre Act was implemented in the state of Selangor and Federal Territory in the year 1985 and eventually, throughout the country in 1986.

2.4 The Department of Labour registers and monitors the childcare centres in the plantation sector. The management provides this service free for the children of the workers. The provision for childcare centres in the plantations areas is mandated in the Standard Act Minimum Housing and Workers Facilitation 1990.

2.5 The provision for the establishment of pre-schools is enacted in the Education Act 1996. Pre-school programmes are undertaken by a number of ministries and agencies, including the private and voluntary sectors. Curriculum guidelines of the MOE serve as the base for pre-school education. Nevertheless, the agencies running the pre-schools are free to choose the medium of instruction to be used in their establishments.

2.6 The main strategy in ensuring high participation rate in public pre-school is that the government, through various programmes, provides meals and other support facilities and services such as per capita grant allocation, pre-school activity packages, indoor and outdoor pre-school equipment and apparatus for pre-school education.

2.7 Pre-school teachers are trained by their own agencies and establishments using varied approaches and methodologies. To this end, the MOE has trained 178 trainers from the Community Development Division (KEMAS) of the National Unity Department. These trainers in turn train other teachers. The government through its agencies also provide trained teachers, teaching-learning materials, and funds to facilitate running of the public pre-schools.

Universalisation of Primary Education

2.8 There are two types of public schools at the primary level, that is the national schools and national type schools. The national schools provide instruction in Malay; the national type schools provide it either in Mandarin or Tamil. Both the public and private schools follow the Kurikulum Baru Sekolah Rendah (KBSR) or the New Primary School Curriculum. The national curriculum, fully implemented in 1988, is continuously evaluated and upgraded to meet current developments in education and accommodate new challenges, aspirations and values and future demands of the changing technology.

Support Services

2.9 To provide quality education, trained and qualified teachers as well as other educational resources in the form of audio-visual aids, educational television and books are provided for primary education. Financial assistance in the form of per capita grants and scholarships are also provided. Other support services such as textbooks on loan, boarding facilities, health and dental care, and supplementary milk and meal, to children from the rural areas, and urban poor implemented by the government contribute to high participation rate in the public schools.

Quality Delivery System

2.10 The Teacher Education Division (TED) of the MOE formulates policies and guidelines pertaining to teacher training. The Division also implements and evaluates the curriculum and examination system while being responsible for the selection of candidates into the teacher training programmes. As part of its core business, the TED identifies areas of needs in terms of expertise; levels of skills required and type of courses to be offered before such programmes are carried out.

2.11 To enhance teachers' professionalism and to improve teacher quality, the MOE offers special diploma courses running over a period of one year for non-graduate teachers apart from other professional development courses offered to all teachers.

2.12 To this effect, pre-service and in-service courses have been formulated as the backbone of the various teacher-training programmes. Three types of pre service courses are made available for teacher aspirants and they are:

2.13 In-service teachers who wish to upgrade their knowledge and skills of the profession may register for any of the courses listed below:

Improvement in Learning Achievement

2.14 Student assessment in Malaysia had over the years undergone many changes. An on-going effort towards this effect is the collaboration between the MES and the Cambridge Examination Syndicate in reviewing the SPM. This initiative would propagate an open certification system that is internationally recognised.

Adult Illiteracy

2.15 There is no law to compel illiterates to attend functional literacy classes. The number of participants depends on the relevance of the curriculum to the daily problems faced by them. However, in places like Sabah and Sarawak, geographical conditions of the countryside, distance and poor communication deter some people from attending classes. Extreme poverty of certain isolated communities is also a factor that discourages them from participating in literacy programmes.

2.16 Efforts in improving literacy include inculcating reading habit and increasing access to global information. Such efforts are implemented through a nation-wide Gerakan Membaca or reading campaign, the upgrading of reading materials in public libraries and the establishment of new libraries. The training of librarians in the use of information technology (IT) has been stepped up in order to serve the public better.

2.17 Malaysia has introduced a special relevant functional literacy curriculum that is designed to suit the demanding needs of the target group. Besides the curriculum, the literacy programmes are "packaged" with other socio-economic programmes since education alone is not a strong motivator for the poor to learn. The income-generating programmes initiated under the PPRTs are more successful as the point of entry to make the literacy programmes effective.

Expansion of Basic Education and Training Required By Youths and Adults

2.18 The strategy undertaken to increase participation of unemployed youths and adults into the workforce and national developmernt is by recruiting them into vocational and skills training programmes. Through these programmes these group of youths and adults are given on-the-job training in industries as an exposure to the working environment. It is hoped that through these programmes, youths and adults of Malaysia can use their potentials and capabilities to the fullest to help the country realize the vision of achieving a developed nation status by the year 2020.

2.19 Among the resources provided to run these programmes are training allowances, trained and qualified trainers as well as relevant technical and vocational curriculum. Among the Government agencies providing these programmes are the Ministry of Education (MOE), Ministry of Human Resources (MOHR), Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), Ministry of Rural Development (MORD) and Ministry of Youth and Sports (MOYS).

2.20 Efforts by the government are supplemented by increasing participation from private training institutions. This will provide opportunity for more youths and adults to participate in skills training to meet the demand for skilled manpower. Measures undertaken to increase private sector participation in training programmes is in the form of the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) established in 1993 by the Ministry of Human Resources.

2.21 Standards and quality of the training programmes are maintained through the National Industrial Training and Trade Certification Board (NITTCB) established by the National Advisory Council for Industrial Training. The NITTCB sets a common trade standard for all training programmes. It also serves to review and to improve such training programmes. Certification for most courses is through the NITTCB and the NVTC.

Knowledge, Skills And Values Required By Individuals And Families For Better Living

2.22 Programmes in propagating better living undertaken by various government agencies emphasizes on enhancing family well being, health and civic consciousness among the participants as well as promoting income-generating activities. The main strategies of the programmes are based on the potential, needs and requirements of the community. Financial assistance and other incentives are also given to participants. More specific programmes as mentioned in para 1.27 are; the Family Development Programme, the Adult Education Programme and the Religious and Moral Education Programme.


3.1 In 1987, Malaysia established its National Co-ordination Committee for the Asia-Pacific Programme of Education for All (APPEAL). The task of the committee was to co-ordinate the implementation of programmes that would meet the goals of achieving universal primary education, eradicating illiteracy, and providing continuing education. To this effect, the Committee meets biannually to discuss progress of projects and activities undertaken during each administrative year.

3.2 The Committee lead by the MOE comprises the following ministries and agencies:

3.3 EFA programmes initiated through the committee are incorporated into the administrative functions of these ministries and agencies. Each ministry and agency has its own technical working group that forms a mechanism for co-ordinating and monitoring programmes at the national, state and district levels, using its own modalities and indicators. The main programmes that are undertaken by the various ministries and agencies are as follows:

Pre-school education

Primary Education

Literacy Programmes

Continuing Education (Skills Training)

3.4 The policies and plans for EFA are set based on the NDP, the Outline Perspective Plan (OPP), and the five year plan, approved by the Cabinet, and Parliament of Malaysia; the nation’s highest decision making body.


4.1 The MOE plays a dominant role in the education enterprise in providing education and training to meet development and manpower needs of the country. In doing so, there is close co-operation with other governmental agencies, private enterprises, non-governmental organisation, community-based organisation, religious institutions and industries. These agencies carry out parallel programmes to supplement the MOE’s efforts.

4.2 An example of such co-operation is in strenghtening the early childhood education programme to ensure young children have access to quality childhood development programmes. The government is working closely with private institutions and NGOs to bridge gaps between various agencies organising child care centres and kindergartens. This is important because each establishment has its own style of management, organisation, mode of operation, training, and so forth.

4.3 A National Committee was set up to co-ordinate matters concerning early childhood education including the curriculum, the training and the development of the overall programme. In addition, sub-committees with the same role and function have also been set up at state levels. The effort of the committee has resulted in the development of the Pre-school Curriculum Guidelines by MOE. All ECD centres currently use the guidelines. The curriculum guidelines contains the philosophy, long-and short term goals; objectives of the programme; identifying the different skills components to be imparted as well as the suggested list of books and other resources to help teachers of pre-school centres.

4.4 Malaysia receives external aid for education and training in the form of technical assistance and investment programmes. The World Bank and the Asia Development Bank, still remain the major source of external assistance. Bilateral assistance is also available. The principal sources are Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom which focus on industrial and vocational training, human resources planning and research as well as higher education. The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) provide support for ECD programmes.


5.1 In terms of new investments, primary schools have seen the introduction of science, living skills and music into their curriculum together with the greater emphasis on language teaching and the use of information technology in education.

5.2 The development of Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) and the rapid increase in the use of information technology is creating a major challenge for the educational system. As the pioneer for making a world-class quality education centre a reality in Malaysia, the MOE has initiated the Smart School Programme and encouraged the use of multimedia and other materials in the teaching and learning process. As the children at the pre-school classes are feeders to the programmes, the government has given more allocation to improve the educational infrastructure e.g. the building of new schools, updating materials and resources for teaching and learning e.g. developing CD-ROMs, and in getting teachers to participate in childcare courses.

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