Educational Planning and Research Division
Ministry of Education, Malaysia

Overview of Education System

Education in Malaysia is a priority of the federal government. The government is committed to providing quality education to all children in the country regardless of gender, race, and social class. In line with the government’s commitment to education, approximately 25 percent of the national budget is allocated to education and training programs. The government’s commitment to education also is evident in the 10th Malaysia Plan (2011 to 2015), which emphasizes the importance of education, training, and lifelong learning. The Ministry of Education (MOE) oversees the provision of education in Malaysia from the preschool to the post-secondary levels.

Malaysia aspires to develop a world class education system that will enable its citizens to realize their full potential and contribute to the advancement of the country. Malaysia also aims to become a regional center of excellence in education. The education system in Malaysia is evolving continuously as it embraces new innovations for improvement in line with these aspirations.

Malaysia provides 11 years of free primary and secondary education (Grades 1 to 11). Students begin their primary education at age 6. Primary schooling (Grades 1 to 6) is compulsory for all children. It is divided into two levels: Level 1 (Grades 1 to 3) and Level 2 (Grades 4 to 6). Upon completion of lower secondary education (Grades 7 to 9), students continue their schooling at the upper secondary level (Grades 10 to 11) in the arts, sciences, or technical and vocational streams. After completing Grade 11, students may opt to enroll in Grade 12 (the first of two final years of schooling typically taken by students who intend to enroll in public universities in Malaysia), preuniversity foundation programs (matriculation programs offered at private universities in Malaysia), or skill, technical, and vocational programs.

Malaysia has a centralized curriculum that focuses on developing well-balanced individuals who are knowledgeable, skillful, ethical, and responsible. The primary school curriculum comprises a wide range of subjects including languages, arts, sciences, Islamic and moral education, and design and technology. The curriculum is designed to help students develop cognitively and emotionally, while providing a platform for developing Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) and producing well-rounded individuals.

The secondary school curriculum includes comprehensive education programs that serve as a bridge to tertiary education. Higher education institutions aim to produce employable graduates to meet the need for human resource capital for the country’s economic growth.

Languages of Instruction

Malaysia is a multiethnic country with a population comprising three major ethnicities—Malay, Chinese, and Indian. Consequently, the Malaysian system of education comprises two types of primary school: national primary schools, in which Bahasa Malaysia is the language of instruction (this is the Malay language, and also the official language of the country), and national type Chinese and Tamil schools, in which Mandarin and Tamil, respectively, are the medium languages of instruction. Both the national and the national type schools use the national curriculum.