School and Education in Malaysia


Between 1980 and 2009, illiteracy decreased from 30% to 5%. The heterogeneous population composition is reflected in education, and education policy since 1970 has been aimed at highlighting the Malays and bumiputra at all, since they have traditionally had lower education than Chinese and Indians. For higher studies there is quotation, which has become controversial. Since 2009, the term positive distinction has been officially used instead.

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The compulsory schooling begins at the age of seven and includes a six-year primary school. Subsequently, one follows a three-year lower secondary school and a two-year higher secondary school. About three-quarters of the children attend the state, free of charge, the so-called national primary school, where the language of instruction is Bahasa Malaysia. Parents can also choose to put their children in state-supported elementary schools with Chinese or Tamil as the school language.

Land area 329,847 km²
Total population 32,652,083
Population density (per km²) 99
Capital Kuala Lumpur (official); Putrajaya (administrative center)
Official language Malay
Income per capita $ 29,100
Currency Malaysian ringgit
ISO 3166 code MY
Internet TLD .my
License plate TIMES
Telephone code +60
Time zone UTC + 8
Geographic coordinates 2 30 N, 112 30 O

In 2009, 66% of boys and 72% of girls from one year old were moved up from the primary school to the lower secondary school. At the transition to the upper secondary school (corresponding to the upper secondary school), the student chooses either a natural science or a humanistic line.

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Those who wish to continue at university after secondary school first undergo a post-graduate education of one or two years, which now has two alternatives. One line leads to the (student) degree and has quoted admission: 90% of the places must be occupied by bumiputra. The second line, which leads to a certificate, is considered to be more demanding and thus has a higher international credit value. Previously, there was a clear quota at entry to the universities to gradually increase the proportion of bumiputra among the highly educated. When the above-mentioned lines were introduced around 2000, this would mean that support for the higher studies of bumiputra would be moved down and that more credit would determine access to university studies.

Between one quarter and one third of young people go on to higher education. In 2010, there were 20 state institutions, an international Muslim and about 35 private universities in Malaysia, and some thirty vocational colleges, most of them polytechnic. The number of private universities is gradually increasing and several of them are branches of universities in richer industrialized countries, mainly in the UK and Australia. The tuition fee at the state universities is low and the guideline is that 55% of the study places there will go to bumiputra. The private universities have high fees and most students there are non-bumiputra. Critics believe that admission principles and credit ratings are still unclear, and many non-bumiputra consider themselves discriminated against in higher education.