The Malaysian education system


Malaysia is one of Asia's top education destinations. The Malaysian government provides free education on primary and secondary level, suming up to an amount of 11 years for each student.

Primary and secondary education in Malaysia are regulated by the Ministry of Education whereas tertiary education is under the supervision of the Ministry of Higher Education.

There are 2 different types of government-run primary schools. As opposed to the “normal” government schools there are also the so-called “vernacular” schools which have Chinese or Tamil as teaching language.

Secondary school are subdivided into more or less 3 parts: national schools, religious schools and national-type Chinese or Tamil schools.

Nearly all Malaysian students (compulsory in public schools) wear school uniforms which are standardised in the whole country.

School structure

The Malaysian school system is structured as follows:

  • Optional kindergarten (age 3-6). There are only a few government-run kindergartens in Malaysia, most of them are run privately.
  • Obligatory primary school (age 7-12) is divided into 2 three-year phases. At the end of primary school students take the Primary School Achievement Test.
  • Secondary education (age 13-17) is divided into lower secondary (3 years) and upper secondary (2 years) education which are both ended with a standardised test. There are two different final tests, depending on whether the student were doing the last two years in a technical/academic track or a vocational track.
  • Post-secondary education (age 17-18) prepares the students who wants to attend a university.
  • University education

School hours and holidays

The school year in Malaysia starts in January and goes to the third week of November. The minimum number of schooling days per year is 190. Malaysian students have 5 holidays which sum up to an amount of 11 weeks. The regulations of how the holidays are distributed throughout the year are supervised by the individual states.

The school hours in Malaysia are another of the issues of the educational system. Due to a too large number of students and a shortage of schools, the students are taught in a two-session system. This means that the first session goes from approx. 7.30 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. and is mostly followed by compulsory co-curricular activities. The afternoon session, on the other hand, lasts until approx. 6.45 p.m. As some student live in a large distance to the schools, they arrive home at around 8 or 9 p.m. and this already in primary schools.

Further reading

Does this article help?

Do you have any comments, updates or questions on this topic? Ask them here: