Compulsory Primary Education
Primary education was made compulsory from the school term beginning in 2003 through an amendment made to the Education Act 1996 in 2002 (Education (Amendment) Act 2002).
Under the new provisions, a duty is imposed on every parent who is a Malaysian citizen residing in Malaysia to ensure that if his child has attained the age of six years on the first day of January of the current school year that child is enrolled as a pupil in a primary school in that year and remains a pupil in a primary school for the duration of the compulsory education.
The Minister may, if he considers it desirable and in the interest of the pupils or the public to do so, exempt any pupil or any class of pupils from the requirement to attend compulsory education, either absolutely or subject to such conditions as he may think fit to impose.
A parent who contravenes the provisions for compulsory education will be guilty of an offence for which the punishment may be a fine or a term of imprisonment.
The Malaysia Education Blueprint expects that by 2020, every student will leave formal schooling with a minimum SPM or equivalent vocational qualification. This means that compulsory schooling will increase from six to 11 years, and that approximately 5%, 10%, and 20% more students will be enrolled at the primary, lower, and upper secondary levels respectively (based on 2011 enrolment numbers for public and private schools). Students who are at risk of dropping out will be supported through a variety of retention initiatives, from remedial coaching to parent and student counselling. Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013 - 2025
Whether home schooling a child who is of primary school age (6-12 years) is legally permissible because of the statutory provision on compulsory education mentioned above, can only be determined by examining the ambit of the law and the discretion granted to the minister to exempt any pupil or class of pupils from that provision.
As noted earlier, every parent of a child attaining six years on the first day of January of a current school year is duty bound to ensure that child is enrolled as a pupil in a primary school in that year and remains a pupil in a primary school for the duration of the compulsory education. This is the effect or s. 29A of the Education Act 1996. However, sub-section 29A (2) of the same Act provides that the minister may, ‘if he considers it desirable and in the interest of the pupils or the public to do so, by order published in the Gazette, exempt any pupil or any class of pupils from the requirement to attend compulsory education, either absolutely or subject to such conditions as he may think fit to impose, and may at any time in his discretion revoke the exemption or revoke or alter or add to such conditions’.
The Ministry of Education Website at http://www.moe.gov.my/v/harian on 16 July2015 displayed the following information, which is reproduced in full. Since compulsory education is limited to primary education, it would seem that home schooling beyond the primary level will face no legal obstacle.
EXEMPTION FROM COMPULSORY EDUCATION (HOME SCHOOLING)
1. POLICY STATEMENT
Home schooling is a method of schooling available to parents whose children have such problems as a chronic health condition which requires close attention by the guardian. However, this is a privilege and not a right. Normal schooling is preferred for children as it allows them to interact and communicate with other children.
2.1 To provide the opportunity for children with health problems which require close attention by their parents to obtain formal education at home
2.2 To ensure the children are not excluded from receiving compulsory education as stipulated in the Education Act 1996
2.3 To educate parents to discharge their responsibility of schooling their children
3. POLICY IMPLEMENTATION
3.1 Education (Amendment) Act 2002
Sub-section 29A (2) of the Education (Amendment) Act 2002 provides that the minister may, "if he considers it desirable and in the interest of the pupils or the public to do so, by order published in the Gazette, exempt any pupil or any class of pupils from the requirement to attend compulsory education, either absolutely or subject to such conditions as he may think fit to impose, and may at any time in his discretion revoke the exemption or revoke or alter or add to such conditions.
3.2 Professional Circular No. 14/2002: Implementation of Compulsory Education in Primary Level in 2003 dated 27 November 2002
3.3 Guidelines for Implementation of Compulsory Education in Primary Level in 2003
4. METHOD OF IMPLEMENTATION
4.1 Application for home schooling can be submitted to any state education department in the country using the form provided. The application will be forwarded to the School Division of the Ministry of Education by the state education department to be processed and granted special approval. To date, only those with chronic health problems requiring close attention by the guardian have been granted approval. All conditions for application are set out in the form which is available without charge in all state education departments in the country.
4.2 Cases of application for exemption from compulsory education and to carry out home schooling are referred to the Director-General of Education for review and then forwarded to the Minister of Education for a decision.
4.3 In general, the conditions are as follows:
4.3.1 The applicant must be a Malaysian citizen.
4.3.2 The applicant must have a professional teaching qualification.
4.3.3 One of the parents must be prepared to tutor the child at home on a full-time basis.
4.3.4 The national curriculum must be followed.
4.3.5 Ability to provide education infrastructure which is conducive and proper for the purpose of teaching and learning
4.3.6 A visit to the home of the applicant will be made for the purpose of ascertaining the education infrastructure suitability by officials from the Ministry of Education, the state education department and the district education office.
4.3.7 The applicant shall allow officials from the Ministry of Education, the state education department or district education office to visit the home at any time during a school day for the purpose of monitoring the teaching and learning process without prejudice.
4.3.8 A child undergoing home schooling is not allowed to attend any school whether private or government for daily tuition.
4.3.9 If the applicant is found to violate the conditions contained in the approval granted by the Ministry of Education, the ministry shall have the right to revoke the approval forthwith and the child shall be instantly registered at a normal school.
5 EFFECTIVE DATE
5.1 The "Criteria for Exemption from Compulsory Education at Primary Level" paper was approved by the Minister of Education on 28 June 2003 and the task of processing applications for exemption has been implemented effective from that date.
The exemption policy and regulations take a very restricted view taken of home schooling. The exemption given is to ‘provide the opportunity for children with health problems which require close attention by their parents to obtain formal education at home’. This may not serve the needs of parents who desire to home educate children with no health problems.
There is no discussion on home schooling in the Malaysia Education Blueprint.
Secondary education is defined in the Education Act 1996 as education appropriate for pupils who have completed a primary education and is divided into two stages – lower secondary (Forms I-III) upper secondary (Forms IV-V).
Post-Secondary (Form VI and Matriculation) means education provided to a person who has completed upper secondary education, but does not include higher education.
National Secondary Schools
‘National secondary schools’ are government or government aided secondary schools;
- providing a five-year course of secondary education appropriate for pupils who have just completed primary education;
- using the national language as the main medium of instruction;
- in which the English language is a compulsory subject of instruction;
- in which facilities for the teaching of—
(i) the Chinese or Tamil language shall be made available if the parents of at least fifteen pupils in the school so request;
(ii) indigenous languages shall be made available if it is reasonable and practicable so to do and if the parents of at least fifteen pupils in the school so request; and
(iii) Arabic, Japanese, German or French or any other foreign language may be made available if it is reasonable and practicable so to do; and
- preparing pupils for such examinations as may be prescribed,
and includes any such school providing a transition class;
Secondary education is provided through different types of schools, namely, academic schools, technical schools and schools of other descriptions as determined by the Minister of Education. The description of the schools provides an indication of the type of education provided;
- Academic schools
- Technical Schools
- Vocational Schools (now upgraded to vocational Colleges)
- Performing Arts Schools
- Sports Schools
- Residential Schools
- Military Schools
- MARA Junior Science Colleges
- Religious Schools
- Special Model Schools
Transition classes or ‘removed classes’, as they are sometimes called are special classes conducted over a year in secondary schools to transit students from vernacular schools (National Type (Chinese) Schools or National Type (Tamil) Schools) into National Secondary Schools by helping them improve their National Language skills.
Post-secondary education is broadly defined by the Education Act to mean education provided to pupils who have completed upper secondary education but excludes higher education from the term. Under the Education Act 1996, the Minister may provide post-secondary education in national secondary schools, colleges or any educational institution established and maintained by the Minister under the Act.
Post-secondary education in the form of Form 6 is offered in some secondary schools. Another type of post-secondary education offered in a number of government institutions is the one-year matriculation programme.
Private institutions offer a wide variety of such programmes from the ubiquitous ‘A’ levels to university foundation programmes that prepares students completing upper secondary education for entrance into a university or other tertiary institution.
The Minister may require a private educational institution, including expatriate and international schools providing post-secondary education to teach the following subjects in addition to the subjects in the post-secondary programme:
- the national language, where the medium of instruction is other than the national language;
- Malaysian studies;
- the English language, where the medium of instruction is other than the English language;
- studies relating to Islamic education for pupils professing the Islamic religion; and
- moral education for pupils not professing the Islamic religion, based on the prescribed curriculum.
Expatriate or International Schools
The NES as described above does not include education provided in expatriate or international schools (s.15 Education Act 1966). These schools are not defined in the Act and their description varies across official documents. For instance, a government document published in 2009, describes the former as schools catering to only foreign students that are allowed to deliver a foreign curriculum and the latter as schools that may be attended by both local and foreign students ‘and cater to pre-school, primary, secondary and pre-university levels.’ (Strengthening private education in Malaysia, Economic Planning Unit, 2009). In the more recent Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013 – 2025 published in 2013 by the Ministry of Education, there is no separate reference to expatriate school but International Schools are treated as a type of private educational institution teaching to a foreign curriculum.
The Income Tax (Exemption) (No. 8) Order 2012 defines international school as a school which is not a government school that provides pre-school education until the A-Level programme but does not include a school which provides solely pre-school education.
Government policy on the enrolment of local students in international schools has, over the years, shifted from what was almost total restriction to limiting local students to 40% of students enrolled to one that now allows local students to enroll without any restriction. Even that restriction appears now to have been removed, reading the tenor of the Blueprint on its aspirations to increase, not reduce choices.
International schools are also one of the subsectors identified under the National Key Economic Areas (NKEA) of the New Economic Policy to drive the economic growth of the nation. One of the Entry Point Projects in education ‘focuses on encouraging growth of international schools by Investment Tax Allowances, removal of Malaysian students quota, deregulation of tuition fees and promotion of Malaysia as the preferred education destination’ (Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013 – 2025).
Government policy shifts on the admission of local pupils in international schools and the approval of new international schools have seen a proliferation of private schools teaching in the English language to curricula imported from North America, Britain, India and Australia. As a result, for the local population, there is now a choice of several different types of education leading to different international qualifications.
Position of Expatriate and International Schools in the Regulatory Framework
Although s. 15 of the EA1996 expressly excludes the education provided in the above schools from the NES, there is nothing in the Act to exclude them entirely from its regulatory provisions. As educational institutions, they have to register as such under the provisions of the Act and conform to those provisions of the Act that apply to private institutions.
Special Schools and Special Education
Special education is defined as education in the Education Act 1996 as education that caters for the special educational needs of pupils and special schools are those that provide special education. Special needs pupils display a wide range of impairments, disabilities and behaviors that preclude them from full and complete participation in education in a normal school. Current policy gives these children or their parents, three different schooling options;
- Special education schools dealing with a particular type of impairment or dealing with different types of impairment;
- Mainstream schools with special classes for students with special needs and,
- Mainstream schools that integrate one to five special needs students in their regular classes.
Other Educational Institutions
The Minister of Education has wide powers under the Education Act 1996 to establish and maintain colleges, polytechnics and institutions not established or maintained under the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 (the UUCA).
The Medium of Instruction
The national language or Bahasa Malaysia is the main medium of instruction in all educational institutions in the NES except in national-type (primary) schools that use Mandarin or Tamil as the medium of instruction. The Minister is empowered by the Act to exempt other schools from using the National Language, however, in all instances, institutions not using the National Language as the medium of instruction are required to teach the National Language as a compulsory subject.
Compulsory Religious Teaching in Schools
The Education Act 1996 provides that when in an educational institution there are five or more pupils professing the Islamic religion, such pupils shall be given religious teaching in Islam by teachers approved by the State Authority. (As matters pertaining to Islam are state matters, the teaching of the religion will be provided by state appointed teachers).
The Act also stipulates that the subject be taught for a period of at least two hours a week within the period of general teaching of the educational institution, or within such other period as the Minister may decide, in the case of any particular educational institution.
Teaching of religious knowledge of a religion other than Islam
Under the Act, the governors of a government-aided educational institution may provide for religious teaching in a religion other than Islam to the pupils of the educational institution or to any of them but no such provision shall be defrayed from moneys provided by Parliament. This provision in the Act enables Mission and other schools affiliated with a particular religion to provide instructions in their particular religion.
Parental consent which has to be in writing is required under the Act for a pupil to attend teaching in a religion other than that which he professes.
In line with policy that states that every Muslim child must receive Islamic education in school, the KSSR curriculum (as well as the KBSR curriculum before it) provides 160 minutes per week of Islamic Education to Muslim students and 120 minutes per week of Moral Education to non-Muslim students. Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2015, 2014,
Islamic Religious Schools
Islamic religious schools are found in all levels of education. Although there are no specific provisions for the establishment of religious schools, s. 34(1)(d) gives wide powers to the Minister to establish educational institutions not provided under the Act. But not all religious schools are established by the Minister. There are those established by the federal government such as the Sekolah Agama Kerajaaan which are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education, but they constitute only part of the schools in the country dedicated to teaching Islam. Sekolah Agama Negeri (SAN) are state religious schools that are under the jurisdiction of state religious authorities. Although education is a matter for the federal government, states establish religious schools because states have constitutional jurisdiction over Islam.
A third category of religious schools are the government-aided religious schools or Sekolah Agama Bantuan Kerajaan (SABK) which are jointly controlled by the Ministry and the state religious authority or school’s board of trustees. All Sekolah Agama Kerajaaan teach the national curriculum, while the SAN and SABK teach the national and religious (Dini) curriculum.
In addition to the federal and state religious schools there is also a large number of private religious schools which, according to the Education Blueprint (Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2015, 2014), form 1% of total primary and secondary enrolment. These schools may or may not teach the national curriculum. Most of these schools are small and located in rural areas (Sekolah Agama Rakyat and Sekolah Agama Persendirian) but in the mix of this group of private religious schools is a growing number of schools that teach a broad and modern curriculum with a strong religious input. These are the Islamic equivalent of international schools.