Study in Malaysia: Education system

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Rahul Singha
Study Abroad Expert
Updated on Apr 11, 2020 18:58 IST

Study in Malaysia: Education system

With its international flavour, low crime rate, and of course, five of its universities appearing in the QS World University Rankings, Malaysia is becoming a popular study abroad destination.

The affordable cost of education and low tuition fees has made it one of the most popular international destinations for students. Education cost comprises of course fees which include tuition fees and other study fees payable to the institution, depending on what you are studying and the duration of your course/study program. Other components include the living expenses which will depend on which location you are staying in, your type of accommodation and your lifestyle. Malaysia has experienced a steady economic progression and rapid infrastructural development.

Malaysia boasts more than 700 private higher educational institutions and universities. Several American and British Universities have set up their campuses in Malaysia for Malaysian as well as international students. Such universities have been set up for students who wish to study at a lower cost. All these universities and courses are approved by the Ministry of Higher Education, Malaysia. Courses approved by a country's Ministry of Higher Education stand approved by any other country's Ministry of Higher Education worldwide.

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In Malaysia, you get the opportunity of three intakes in a year. The tuition fees is comparatively low than in other countries like the UK. One can also obtain a twining degree at most of the institutes and students can transfer their credits to another country where the institute has a campus.

Malaysian students can choose to study 3 types of programmes:

  • Locally run programmes
  • Twining academic programmes
  • Vocational, technical or skills training 

Two authorities oversee the operations of public or private higher educational Institutions in Malaysia:

  • Ministry of Education (MOE) looks after the pre-school to secondary education
  • Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) takes care of the tertiary or higher education

The long-term plan of the Malaysian government is to make Malaysia a center of educational excellence.

 Various levels of education in Malaysia

1. Primary and Secondary Education: It makes up to 11 years of free education. Primary education (a period of 6 years) and secondary education (5 years which encompasses 3 years of lower secondary and 2 years of upper secondary). For primary education, the admission age is 7 years. Primary schooling is obligatory or all children between the ages of 7 and 12. At the end of the primary, lower secondary and upper secondary levels, students sit for common public examinations.

2. Post-secondary Education: After the completion of secondary education, students can opt to pursue 1 to 2 years of post-secondary education. It is the university entrance preparatory course. As an end result, the total 12 years of school education serves as the basic entry requirement into Year One of a bachelor's degree programme in higher education institutions.

 3. Tertiary Education: At the tertiary level, higher learning institutions offer courses which lead to the awards of a certificate, diploma, first degree and higher degree qualifications (at academic and professional fields). The duration of study for a basic bachelor's degree programme is 3 years and the courses of study at this level are provided by both the public and private education sectors.

It is further divided into two major groups:

  • Public (government-funded) institutions of higher learning, for example, public universities, polytechnics, community colleges, and teacher training institutes.
  • Private (private-funded) higher educational institutions (PHEIs), for example, private universities, private university colleges, foreign branch campus universities and private colleges.

 4. Government-funded Educational Institutions: Through this, one can pursue more than 95% of primary and secondary education as well as about 60% of the tertiary education, with the private sector providing the balance.

 5. Private-funded Educational Institutions: It is divided into two categories depending on the levels of education offered, ranging from pre-school to tertiary education.

They are mentioned below:

  • Private Educational Institutions (PEIs) which provide education at pre-school, primary and secondary levels. They comprise private schools and foreign system schools.
  • Private Higher Educational Institutions (PHEIs) which provide tertiary education leading to the award of certificate, diploma and degree qualifications.

Know more about studying in Malaysia:

About the Author
Rahul Singha
Study Abroad Expert

With over 8 years of experience in overseas education, Rahul Singha has been previously associated with prominent education houses. He is also responsible for keeping a sharp eye on education policies of major study... Read Full Bio


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