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Education System of Malaysia

An Overview

Education is the responsibility of the Government and it is committed to providing a sound education to all. The Malaysian education system encompasses education beginning from pre-school to university levels. Pre-tertiary education (pre-school to secondary education) is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education (MOE) while tertiary or higher education is the responsibility of the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE). The vision of the Government is to make Malaysia a centre of educational excellence.

Malaysia Centre of Educational Excellence

The Malaysian international education sector has grown tremendously during the past decade and Malaysia is fast becoming a centre of educational excellence in the region. Malaysia currently houses more than 70,000 international students from more than 100 countries and it is proud to be the study destination of choice, offering quality international education at an affordable cost. Besides the relatively low cost of education, many choose to study here because they recognise Malaysia as an ideal gateway to develop their Asian network and relationships. They are also able to learn from Malaysia's great diversity, rapid economic development and peaceful and harmonious multi-cultural society!

The country is set to welcome 80,000 international students to study in Malaysia by the year 2010. Higher education opportunities in Malaysia are provided by 20 public universities, 24 polytechnics, 37 public community colleges, 40 private universities, 5 foreign university branch campuses and about 500 private colleges. There are also various higher educational institutions from the UK, US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany and New Zealand which offer twinning and franchised degree programmes through partnerships with Malaysian colleges and universities.

The 41 international schools (American, Australian and British-styled) and 13 expatriate schools which include French, German, Japanese and Taiwanese schools provide facilities from pre-school to upper secondary levels. This pre-tertiary international education provides parents with many study options for their children at affordable fees.

Primary and Secondary Education

Primary education (a period of 6 years) and secondary education (a period of 5 years with 3 years of lower secondary and 2 years of upper secondary) make up 11 years of free education.

The admission age to the first year of primary education is seven. Primary schooling is mandatory for all children between the ages of 7 and 12. Students sit for common public examinations at the end of primary, lower secondary and upper secondary levels.

Post-secondary Education

Upon completion of secondary education, students can opt to pursue 1 to 2 years of postsecondary education. This is the university entrance preparatory course. In total, the 12 years of school education serves as the basic entry requirement into Year One of a bachelor's degree programme in higher educational institutions.

Tertiary Education

At tertiary education level, institutions of higher learning offer courses leading to the awards of certificate, diploma, first degree and higher degree qualifications (at academic and professional fields). The duration of study for a basic bachelor's degree programme is 3 years and the courses of study at this level are provided by both the public and private education sectors, attracting many International Students.

Tertiary education providers consist of two groups :

  • Public (government-funded) institutions of higher learning, for example, public universities, polytechnics, community colleges and teacher training institutes.
  • Private (private-funded) higher educational institutions (PHEIs), for example, private universities, private university colleges, foreign university branch campuses and private colleges.

Government-funded Educational Institutions

The Government provides more than 95% of primary and secondary education as well as about 60% of the tertiary education, with the private sector providing the balance.

Private-funded Educational Institutions

The private education providers in Malaysia can be broadly grouped into 2 categories, depending on the levels of education, ranging from pre-school to tertiary education. These two categories of private institutions are :

  • Private Educational Institutions (PEIs) which provide education at pre-school, primary and secondary levels. They comprise private schools and foreign system schools.
  • Private Higher Educational Institutions (PHEIs) which provide tertiary education leading to the awards of certificate, diploma and degree qualifications.


Study Opportunities at Private Higher Educational Institutions in Malaysia

Quality Assured Tertiary Education With Many Options

Local and International Students in the pursuit of higher education are spoilt for choices of wide range of study options and types of higher learning institutions, all at highly affordable costs. Underlying this is the setting up of branch campuses in Malaysia by reputable universities from the UK and Australia. There are also various universities from the US, UK, Canada, Australia, France, Germany and New Zealand offering twinning, franchised and external degree programmes in partnership with Malaysian higher educational institutions.

Local private universities also offer competitively priced and excellent quality degree programmes as an added alternative.

Poised as the centre of educational excellence in the Asia- Pacific region, Malaysia's educational programmes offered by private higher educational institutions (PHEIs) are of excellent quality. These institutions of higher learning are governed by the relevant ministry, quality assurance agency and various acts. English, an international lingua franca, is the medium of instruction making this a plus factor for students who aspire to succeed in their career.

Categories of Private Higher Educational Institutions (PHEIs)

  • University Status
    • Private Universities
    • Private University Colleges
    • Foreign University Branch Campuses
  • Non-university Status
    • Private Colleges
    • Private Institutions

Types of Qualifications Awarded

  • Private Universities and University Colleges
    • Awarding their own degree qualifications
  • Private Colleges
    • Awarding internal or self-made certificate and diploma qualifications
    • Conducting foreign university collaboration degree programmes
    • Preparing students for external professional examinations
  • Foreign University Branch Campuses
    • Awarding identical degree qualifications as the foreign host university

Study Options at Private Colleges

A. Internal Awards at Diploma Level
Private colleges have been developing and awarding their own diploma qualifications to students since the early 1980s. English is the medium of instruction. The greatest strength of the internally-developed programmes is that they are recognised and granted with 'advance standing' entry status by many foreign universities in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, Germany and the US, allowing entry into these universities' second year or final year bachelor's degree programmes.

B. Preparing Students for External Professional Examinations
These colleges undertake to provide classes with tutorial support for students and prepare them for external examinations set by the local or foreign examination boards. Qualifications offered include those from the following globally recognised institutions :

  • Professional Associations (ACCA-UK, CIMA-UK, ICSA-UK)
  • Semi-Professional Examination Bodies (IBBM, LCCIEB-UK, NCC-UK)
  • External Academic Programmes at post-secondary level (GCE 'A' Level - UK, SAM-Australia, Canadian Pre-U)
  • External English Programmes (University of Cambridge Local Examination Syndicate)

C. Bachelor's Degree Programmes from Universities in the UK, US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Germany and France
Students can complete a foreign bachelor's degree programme in a Malaysian college which has an interinstitutional collaborative arrangement with foreign host-universities. The most common collaborative arrangements are the Split Degree and 3+0 Degree arrangement.

(i) Split Degree Arrangement
This comes under the Twinning Degree, Credit Transfer Degree or Advanced Standing (Validated) Programmes.

  • Twinning Degree Programmes allow students to partially complete the first or second year of a degree programme at a local college, with the remaining years to be completed at the specified foreign partner university, which will then award the qualification upon graduation.
  • Credit Transfer Programmes are also offered by colleges that have links with foreign universities. Students who have met the required credit hours of the subject studied locally can transfer the credit hours to the foreign university of their choice. This flexible arrangement is most popular among the US universities.
  • Advanced Standing Programmes are the private colleges' internal diploma programmes validated and moderated with 'Advanced Standing' entry status by a group of foreign universities for direct entry into the second or third year of their degree programmes. Upon completion of a 'recognised' diploma course in Malaysia, students will be awarded the foreign degree qualification after successfully completing the remaining portion of the degree programme in the foreign host university.

(ii) 3+0 Degree Arrangement
This arrangement allows the entire foreign bachelor's degree programme to be completed in a Malaysian college. There are two possibilities for students:

  • 3+0' Foreign University Degree Programmes
    Under this arrangement, some colleges are permitted by the foreign partner universities from the UK, Australia, US and France to conduct an entire degree programme in Malaysia on their behalf. The foreign universities will then award the degree qualification to the student. This novel study option, in operation since 1998, has made Malaysia a popular education destination for local and International Students.
  • External Degree Programmes
    Students register at a college which functions as a tutorial centre preparing them for a final external examination. The qualification obtained is equal to that obtained by the internal students of the foreign university.

D. Postgraduate Programmes
In collaboration with foreign universities, many Malaysian colleges offer students a wide range of foreign master's and Ph.D. programmes of international standard at relatively low cost.

Study Options at Malaysian Private Universities

Students can study at these Malaysian home-grown universities to earn their qualifications at both bachelor's degree and postgraduate degree levels. In both cases, English is the medium of instruction. The relatively cheap course fees combined with worldwide recognised qualifications make these campuses much sought after by local and International Students. The areas of study offered include business, computer science, engineering, IT, medicine, services, languages and others.

Study Options at Foreign University Branch Campuses

Degrees offered by a branch campus of a foreign university in Malaysia is identical in every aspect with that of the parent campus in the country of origin. The first foreign university branch campus, Monash University was set up in Malaysia in 1998.

Students registered in the Malaysian branch campus of a foreign university are automatically students of the parent campus. These students have an opportunity to spend one or more semesters at the parent campus in overseas (but not the final year) with no disruption to their studies. The cost of study for a degree in a branch campus in Malaysia is substantially lower than that in the parent campus overseas.


Category: Study Opportunities in Foreign Languages

Study in Malaysia Handbook 8th Ed Source: Study In Malaysia Handbook 8th Ed.

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