National Education System

Education as a whole is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education, which is responsible for managing a comprehensive school system ranging from primary to post-secondary level, regulate syllabi, controls national examinations and it supervises the development of education in the country. Tertiary education in the country is managed by the Ministry of Higher Education.

Primary education in Malaysia covers a total period of six years. It is aimed to provide a good foundation for pupils to be proficient in reading, writing and arithmetic (3R’s). In 2011 the Ministry of Education revised the primary curriculum and introduced the Primary School Standard Curriculum/KSSR in stages. By 2016 the new curriculum will be implemented in all primary schools.  At the end of the six years, primary school pupils will sit for the Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah/The Primary School Assessment Test (UPSR/PSAT). Irrespective of their performance in the PSAT, all primary school pupils are promoted to Form One, the foundation year of secondary education. There are no repeaters at the primary level.

Secondary education is the continuation of primary level education.  The syllabus, Kurikulum Bersepadu Sekolah Menengah/Secondary School Integrated Curriculum (KBSM/SSIC) was developed to suit the needs and aspirations of the country. In 2017 the Secondary School Standard Curriculum will replace the KBSM to provide learners with a comprehensive set of   21st century skills and competencies.

Secondary education is divided into three main levels: lower secondary level, upper secondary level and post-secondary/pre-university level. Lower secondary education in Malaysia prepares students to develop skills needed in life and to be useful citizens of the country.  After completing the third year, the students are required to take a national assessment test, Penilaian Menengah Rendah/Lower Secondary Assessment (PMR/LSA).  The students’ performances on PMR/LSA will determine their academic streaming to the upper secondary level i.e. whether to be in science, arts, technical or vocational streams.

The selection of students and academic streaming to the upper secondary level will be determined by the Ministry of Education.  At the end of the two-year period in upper secondary education, the students will be assessed by a compulsory national examination, Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia/Malaysian Certificate of Examination (SPM/MCE). The SPM/MCE certificates are equivalent to O-level Cambridge University Examinations. Previously, those who followed the vocational stream sat for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia Vokasional/Vocational Malaysian Certificate of Examination (SPMV/VMCE) which was equivalent to the Malaysian Certificate of Examination.

The transformation of vocational education in the country has brought about various changes and the establishment of Vocational Colleges which train students in the area of vocational skills at an early age. Students in the vocational stream will study both the vocational subjects, as well as the academic subjects identical to the normal school syllabi.  Those with excellent results may further their studies at local institutions of higher learning or enter the job market.

Skills Training Course is an optional programme. Students will undergo into the skills training programmes so as to enable them to sit for the Peperiksaan Majlis Latihan Vokasional Kebangsaan Asas (MLVK) at the end of the second year study programme.  They will then join the job market or undergo advance skills training in selected areas. The vocational training of youths is becoming important for national development. Besides the Ministry of Education, there are other ministries, public and private agencies involved in the vocational training of youth to fulfill the manpower needs of the industries.

The post secondary/pre-university education programme is classified into several categories i.e. Form Six, matriculation study programmes, pre-university courses and  A-Levels. The entry to these programmes is based upon the performance in the SPM.  There are various academic streaming such as arts, science and technical at the post-secondary level.  Students will be required to take the Malaysian Higher School Certificate/Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM) which is organized by the Malaysian Examination Council and is accredited by the University of Cambridge Local Examination Syndicate of England (UCLES). The qualification is recognized by most universities around the world.

The matriculation study programme is organized for entries to the local universities.  It is a one-year academic foundation programme, monitored by the host universities and teaching is carried out at the respective matriculation colleges.  Students who excel in their examinations at the end of the programme will be accepted to the host universities.

In 2012 the Ministry of Education Malaysia carried out a comprehensive review of the education system in Malaysia and produced the National Education Blueprint which will outline fundamental strategies and initiatives to improve the education system in the country.