The National Education System & the Classification of Educational Institutions

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.