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Primary and Secondary Schools in Malaysia

About Primary and Secondary Schools in Malaysia

Primary education in Malaysia is the second tier of primary education here. Before a child enters primary school, he or she enters a pre-school playgroup at age 3-4 years, where they spend a few hours every day. From age 4-6 years, students attend the next rung of primary education, Kindergarten, where they learn various activities and interact with children their age.

By age seven, a student is ready to begin primary education in Malaysia. This is a six-year period and is called Year (Tahun) 1 to 6 (or Standard Darjah).  Of these, Years 1-3 are known as Level One (TahapSatu) while the remaining Years 4-6 are known as Level Two (TahapDua).  No student is ever failed or held back at the end of the year, based on his or her academic performance.

Before moving on to secondary education, students of Year 6, must appear for the Primary School Achievement Test or UjianPencapaianSekolahRendah, which tests their level of comprehension and written Malay, Science, Englishand Mathematics, Chinese written and comprehension is also tested in Chinese schools, while Tamil oral and comprehension is tested in Tamil schools.

There are two kinds of public primary schools in Malaysia based on the instruction medium. These are Malay-medium National Schools or SekolahKebangsaanand non-Malay-medium National-type Schools or SekolahJenisKebangsaan, SJK, or vernacular schools.

Malay and English remain compulsory subjects in all schools. The syllabus for non-language subjects is standardized across all schools, notwithstanding the medium of instruction. In Chinese medium schools, teaching Chinese is compulsory as Tamil is in Tamil-medium schools. All National Schools must also teach national languages apart from Chinese or Tamil, if the parents of a minimum of 15 students ask for it to be taught.

Since 2003, schools introduced a mixed instruction medium so that students can learn Maths and Science in English and Chinese. But in 2009, the government went back to teaching these subjects in English alone, while the other instruction mediums are slated to resume in stages from this academic year.

There are government-owned and run National Schools and government-aided National-type Schools here. Malaysia’s National Secondary Schools or SekolahMenengahKebangsaan (SMK) provide secondary education in Malaysia, with Malay as the chief instruction medium and English as a compulsory subject. From this year, the medium of instruction here is Malay. Here too, Chinese and Tamil languages are taught, particularly if the parents of 15 students ask for it. Besides, French, German, Arabic and Japanese are also taught at some schools.

Secondary education in Malaysia comprises a five-year period of education, called Form 1-5. Of these, Forms 1-3 are categorized as Lower Secondary or MenengahRendah, while Forms 4 and 5 are called Upper Secondary or MenengahAtas. Here too, promotions to the next level do not depend on one’s academic performance. It is mandatory for all students in secondary education level to take part in at least two co-curricular activities.

There are also other kinds of government schools or government-aided secondary schools in Malaysia, such as Religious Secondary School or SekolahMenengah Agama, Residential Schools, Technical Schools or SekolahMenengahTeknik and MARA Junior Science College. Admissions depend on students’ performance excellence. The Malaysian government provides free education to all students for 11 years spanning primary and secondary education in Malaysia.

Once a student obtains the SPM certificate, they can either go on to Form 6 or choose to do their matriculation. Form 6 students will appear for the STPM or high school examination, which will make them eligible to attend Malaysia’s public universities.