The National Education System & the Classification of Educational Institutions

Introduction (updated October 2021)

This is a description of the Malaysian educational system as seen through the policies, laws, and regulations that have contributed to the development of the system. It is presented as a detailed introduction to the entire education system, public and private, providing access to primary legislation, regulations, and when available, circulars issued by the Ministry of Education (MOE).

Between 2010 and 2015, two important documents were published, The Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (Pre-School to Post Secondary Education and the Education Blueprint (2015-2025) (Higher Education). The two Blueprints are intended to chart the development of education in Malaysia up to 2025. Various actions that have been taken in furtherance of the two documents have been publicized by the relevant authorities through annual reports and information published on the Internet.

With the change of government after the May 2018 General Elections, discussions on national education have once again taken center stage. Announcements by the Minister of Education and officials of his Ministry suggest a possible overhaul of all educational policies at all levels of education. The new Minister of Education (with combined portfolios on general and higher education) attempted many proposals at the school level, raising controversies in the process but there were no significant changes made either to policies or the practice in schools. The National Education Advisory Council was revived with new members representing many sectors, but neither their discussions nor reports, if any, have been published.

Dr. Maszlee was more successful in initiating reform of the higher education sector. At least six committees were appointed to review the different sectors of higher education. A special committee was created to review the Universities and University Colleges Act 1970 with a view to replacing the Act with new legislation on higher education that would harmonize the different laws. The Private Higher Education Governance Department in the Ministry began consultations with representatives of the private sector under a series of 'Way Forward' meetings. The committee on higher education produced a series of papers that recommended changes to policies and laws. The Way Forward committee produced a collection of papers in a book bearing the title Education as Industry. 

Dr Maszlee, unfortunately, resigned from office on the first working day of January 2020. Political maneuverings in the first two months of that year saw the demise of the Pakatan Hrapan government and with that the demise of the reforms Dr. Maszlee initiated. To their credit, the initiaters of reform in the private sector navigated the idea of Education as Industry through the new government. At the time of this update, meetings are continuing between the ministry officials and the private sector to implement the changes recommended.

Legislation on Education

The table below shows the main legislation dealing with education, including the regulations made under the respective Acts. However, these are not the only legislation dealing with education in the country. Other legislation dealing with vocational training and specialized educational institutions will be discussed separately.

Table 1