The National Education System & the Classification of Educational Institutions

Brief History

The Malaysian educational system, evolved from a fragmentary system inherited from the British colonial administrators has complexities seldom found in other systems. These complexities are the result of hesitant, indecisive colonial policies on education, the demands of the different communities that have made up the population from colonial times for mother-tongue education and efforts by post-independent governments to integrate the population through a common education using Bahasa Malaysia (National Language) as the medium of instruction.



The policies that have gone to make up the education system and its contents are found in several government reports on education and the national economy that are listed below;

  1. 1951 The Barnes Report

  2. 1951 The Fenn-Wu Report

  3. 1956 The Razak Report

  4. 1960 The Rahman Talib Report

  5. 1967 The Higher Education Committee Report

  6. 1973 Committee Report on a Study of Views on Education and Society (Dropout Report)

  7. 1979 Cabinet Committee Report on Review of Implementation of Education Policies (Mahathir Report) 1979

  8. 1991 Cabinet Committee Report on Training

  9. 2001 The Education Development Plan 2001 – 2010

  10. 2006 The Education Development Master Plan 2006 - 2010

  11. 2007 National Higher Education Strategic Plan (NHESP)

  12. 2009 Strengthening Private Education in Malaysia by the Economic Planning Unit


The New Economic Model and Education

In March 2010, the government published a document entitled the ‘New Economic Model (NEM)’ which put forward a radical plan for the transformation of the Malaysian economy. Education was highlighted both as a cause for the parlous state of the economy, the lack of talent in the country as well as the primary lever for the proposed transformation. On 25 October 2010, the Prime Minister launched the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), A Road Map for Malaysia. The transformation plan presented a comprehensive proposal to transform Malaysia into a high income nation by 2020, lifting Malaysia’s GNI per capita from USD6, 700 to USD15, 000. This estimates a GNI growth of 6% per annum to achieve the targets set in the ETP by 2020.

Education was slated to play an important role in the ETP and was marked as one of 12 National Key Economic Areas (NKEA). The focus of the Education NKEA was on strengthening the private education services sector by increasing private consumption and investments as well as expanding education exports.

Making education a National Key Economic Areas (NKEA).

The focus of education NKEA is on strengthening the private education services sector by increasing private consumption and investments as well as expanding educational exports. 2020 envisions education as big business and not just a stopover location. This in turn is intended to develop a first world talent base that it needs. Each NKEA is given specific targets and concrete actions to drive economic development. The education NKEA has 13 Entry Point Projects (EPP). These are

EPP 1: Scaling up early child care and education centres

EPP 2: Improving early child care and education training

EPP 3: Scaling up international schools

EPP 4: Expanding private teacher training

EPP 5: Scaling up private skills training provision

EPP 6: Expanding international distance learning

EPP 7: Building a Islamic finance and business education DC

EPP 8: Building a health services discipline cluster

EPP 9: Building an advanced engineering discipline cluster

EPP 10: Building a hospitality and tourism discipline cluster

EPP 11: Launching EduCity @ Iskandar

EPP 12: Championing Malaysia’s international education brand

EPP 13: Introducing public private partnerships in basic education

Education Blueprints

In 2011, the government initiated a major review of the education system to develop a new National Education Blueprint to chart a path for the educational system in the context of what the Blueprint claims are rising international education standards and increased public and parental expectations of educational policy. Three specific objectives that are stated in the preamble of the Blueprint are:

  1. Understanding the current performance and challenges of the Malaysian education system, with a focus on improving access to education, raising standards (quality), closing achievement gaps (equity), fostering unity amongst students, and maximizing system efficiency;
  2. Establishing a clear vision and aspirations for individual students and the education system as a whole over the next 13 years; and
  3. Outlining a comprehensive transformation programme for the system, including key changes to the Ministry which will allow it to meet new demands and rising expectations, and to ignite and support overall civil service transformation.

In 2013, the Ministry of Education embarked on a review of higher education through the development of a Higher Education Blueprint that was published in 2015. The Blueprint proposes 10 shifts of development to create a higher education system that will rank among the world’s leading education systems and enable Malaysia to compete in the global economy.