The Critical Issues of Malaysian Education System

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Education in Malaysia is overseen by two government ministries, The Ministry of Education (Kementerian Pelajaran in Malay) which handles matters pertaining to pre-school, primary school, secondary school and post-secondary school. Matters regarding tertiary education are dealt with by the Ministry of Higher Education (Kementerian Pengajian Tinggi in Malay) which formed at year 2004 with the intention to provide a better supervision on tertiary education issues. Each state has an Education Department to coordinate educational matters in its territory despite the fact that education is the responsibility of federal government. The main legislation governing education is the Education Act of 1996.

Before the introduction of the matriculation system, students aiming to enter public universities are required to finish an additional 18 months of secondary schooling in Form Six and sit the Malaysian Higher School Certificate (Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia, STPM); equivalent to the British Advanced or 'A' levels. Since the introduction of the matriculation program as an alternative to STPM in 1999, students who completed the 12-month program in matriculation colleges (Kolej Matrikulasi in Malay) can enroll in local universities. However, in the matriculation system, only 10% of the places are open to Non-Bumiputra(Chinese & Indian) students. Excellence in these examinations does not guarantee a place in a public university. Most of the selection criteria are not publicized or vague as no strictly enforced defined guidelines exist. This situation had created many disputes between the government and the parents of Non-Bumiputra students. Although the government announced a reduction of reliance of racial quotas in 2002, things hasn’t been changed much.

The classification of tertiary education in Malaysia is organized upon the Malaysian Qualifications Framework (MQF) which seeks to set up a unified system of post secondary qualifications offered on a national basis both in the vocational as well as higher educational sectors. In 2004, the government formed the Ministry of Higher Education to oversee tertiary education in Malaysia. The ministry is headed by Mustapa Mohamed at that time.

There are a number of public universities established in Malaysia. The academic independence of public universities' faculty has been questioned. Critics like Bakri Musa cite examples such as a scientist who was reprimanded by Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak for "publishing studies on air pollution", and a professor of mathematics at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia who was reproved for criticising the government policy of teaching mathematics and science in English at the primary and secondary levels.[13]

Students also have the option of enrolling in private tertiary institutions after secondary studies. Private universities are also gaining a reputation for international quality education and students from all over the world attend these universities. Many of these institutions offer courses in cooperation with a foreign institute or university, especially in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, allowing students to spend a portion of their course duration abroad as well as getting overseas qualifications. One such example is SEGi University College which partnered with University of Abertay Dundee.[14]

Many private colleges offer program whereby the student does part of his degree course here and part of it in the other institution, this method is named "twinning". The nature of these programs is somewhat diverse and ranges from the full "twinning" program where all credits and transcripts are transferable and admission is automatic to programs where the local institution offers an "associate degree" which is accepted at the discretion of the partnering university. In the latter case, acceptance of transcripts and credits is at the discretion of the partner. Some of them are branch campuses of these foreign...
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