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Malaysia – Education and Schools

Malaysia is a Southeast Asian country known for its diverse population and rich cultural heritage. The education system in Malaysia is highly regarded, with a strong focus on developing well-rounded individuals. In this article, we will explore the education system in Malaysia, including the quality of education, compulsory education, types of schools available, the syllabus, qualifications offered, school hours and holidays, enrollment process, international schools, and higher education options.

Quality of Education in Malaysia

The education system in Malaysia has undergone significant improvements over the past few decades, resulting in higher quality education across the board. The country invests heavily in education, with approximately 20% of the government’s budget allocated to education.

Malaysia has a high literacy rate, with a 2019 UNESCO report indicating a literacy rate of 96.2%. The country has made significant strides in improving access to education, particularly for girls and marginalized communities.

Compulsory Education in Malaysia

Education in Malaysia is compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 17. Children must attend primary school for six years and then attend secondary school for another five years.

Types of Schools in Malaysia

There are several types of schools in Malaysia, including:

  1. Tadika (Kindergarten): Children aged between 3 and 6 attend tadika, which is not compulsory.

  2. Primary School: Children aged between 7 and 12 attend primary school for six years.

  3. Secondary School: After completing primary school, students attend secondary school for five years. Secondary schools are divided into several categories, including:

    • Lower Secondary School: For students aged 13 to 15, also known as Form 1 to Form 3.
    • Upper Secondary School: For students aged 16 to 17, also known as Form 4 and Form 5.
  4. Pre-University: After completing secondary school, students can attend pre-university programs that prepare them for tertiary education.

  5. Vocational Schools: Students can attend vocational schools, which provide specialized training in fields such as culinary arts, automotive, and construction.

Syllabus and Qualifications

Schools in Malaysia follow a standardized curriculum set by the Ministry of Education. Students are taught Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mathematics, Science, and Islamic Studies or Moral Education. Other subjects may include History, Geography, Art, Music, Physical Education, and Foreign Languages.


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Students are awarded the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) certificate after completing secondary school. The certificate is recognized throughout the country and is a requirement for tertiary education.

School Hours and Holidays

School hours in Malaysia vary depending on the school and level of education. Primary schools typically operate from 7:30 am to 1:30 pm, while secondary schools may start earlier and finish later.

The school year runs from January to November, with breaks for Chinese New Year, Hari Raya, Deepavali, and other public holidays.

Enrollment Process

To enroll in a school in Malaysia, parents must provide the child’s birth certificate, proof of residence, and vaccination records. For non-citizens, a valid passport is required.

There is significant competition for enrollment in top-tier public schools, with many parents opting to send their children to private or international schools.

International Schools

Malaysia is home to several international schools, catering to the needs of the expat community. International schools typically follow the British or American curriculum and offer a range of extracurricular activities. Some popular international schools in Malaysia include:

  • Garden International School: This school offers a British-style education for students aged 3-18. The school has a strong academic program and a range of extracurricular activities
  • Mont’Kiara International School: This school offers an American-style education for students aged 3-18. The school has a diverse student body and a range of extracurricular activities, including sports, music, and drama.
  • International School Kuala Lumpur: This school offers an American-style education for students aged 3-18. The school has a strong academic program and a range of extracurricular activities, including community service programs and international travel opportunities.

Parents should expect to pay tuition fees for international schools in Malaysia. Fees vary depending on the school and the level of education.

Higher Education Options

Malaysia has several higher education institutions, including universities, colleges, and vocational schools. The country is known for its strong engineering and technology programs, with several universities ranking highly in international rankings.

The most prestigious university in Malaysia is the University of Malaya, which offers a range of undergraduate and graduate programs. Other notable universities include Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Universiti Putra Malaysia, and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

In addition to universities, Malaysia has several vocational schools and institutions offering specialized education in areas such as business, hospitality, and art.

Education in Malaysia is highly regarded, with a strong focus on developing well-rounded individuals. The country has made significant strides in improving access to education, resulting in higher quality education across the board. Malaysia offers a range of educational options, including primary and secondary education, international schools, and higher education. Parents should be aware of the enrollment process and the documentation required to enroll their child in a school in Malaysia. International schools offer an excellent option for expat families, while higher education institutions provide opportunities for students to continue their studies at the tertiary level.


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