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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Schools in Malaysia (Part II)

Posted by CLF

Howdy folks! This is the continuation of the Part I post regarding schools in Malaysia. Part II emphasis more on secondary education available in Malaysia, from the government schools to private schools.
Before the post I would like to clarify that the following post is solely based on my personal experience and observation. Should you think the post has any mistakes, feel free to leave a comment to correct me, thanks in advance.

After 6 years of primary education, young Malaysians will proceed their education in another level, which is the secondary level.

The minimum requirement for a student to gain entry into a secondary school is a UPSR cert, an exam students sat during their last year in primary school at standard 6. Based on the most common government type secondary school, normally students are enrolled in the school at the age of 13. Their enrolment will be based on the UPSR result.

Students that passed UPSR will be placed in Form 1, Tingkatan 1 class, while those who failed their Bahasa Melayu subject in UPSR will be placed in a probation (peralihan, or called "remove") class, which they'll be taught the basics of secondary education syllabus, before allowing them to move to Form 1 the following year.

Here's a summary of types of secondary schools students can choose to pursuit their study.

#1 Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan, SMK (national secondary school)

Like its primary counterpart SK, this is the most common type of schools you can usually find it almost anywhere in Malaysia. In most cases, when there's SKs around, you'll find a SMK nearby as well, sometimes adjacent to each other.

Students will be spending the rest of their 5 years in this school (6 years for those in probation class). The 5 years can be divided into 2 parts, which is the lower secondary (Form 1 - Form 3) and higher secondary (Form 4 - Form 5). The teaching language is heavily based on Bahasa Melayu, except for respective language subjects like English or Chinese Mandarin.

Students from SMK will be siting for 2 government exams during their tenure in the school, which is the PMR for Form 3 and SPM for Form 5. Further info bout the exams can be obtained in other posts written by other contributors.

After a student completed his or her 5/6 years in secondary school, they are no longer bounded by the mandatory education rules. They can decide where they should further their studies (there's posts bout post-SPM guide which you can find it in this blog), or maybe head out to the world and find a job. Some secondary schools do provide optional Form 6 studies, which will last for another 2 years to prepare for STPM, the entry towards local universities.

An interesting note is that, MoE assimilated some English-based schools decades ago into SMK, notably Victoria Institute, St John's, and Penang Free School. These schools are the pioneers of secondary schools in Malaysia, setup long ago during the British colony period. Now, these schools are regarded as the elite secondary school in the country for their historical value as well as outstanding academic & co-curriculum performances.

I almost forgot to mention that, SMK is fully-funded by the government, so basically it's free for all (exclude extra fees imposed by the school for other usage).

#2 Sekolah Asrama Penuh, SAP (national boarding school)

This is another form of SMK, except that students are required to stay in the school hostels. Students are allowed to go back home during weekends or school holidays.

Since it's a boarding school, the system in the school is different compared to ordinary SMK. There's a warden-figure in the hostel act as the student's guardian who take care of students' welfare. Also, the students will be spending more time in the classroom than their SMK counterparts.

For most SAP, they're considered to be more superior than SMK because of the academic & activities results, because students are able to dedicate most of their time to study or participate in activities without external interference. Notable SAP are Royal Military College and Malay College Kuala Kangsar.

#3 Sekolah Menengah Jenis Kebangsaam, SMJK (national type secondary school)

SMJK is the "big brother" of SRJK (national type primary school). It's function is almost identical with SMK, except there's something different in SMJK, in terms of administrative works and its policy. Unlike SMK, not all SMJK are fully-funded by the government. In some cases, the schools are partially funded. To put things more simple, it's a SMK administrated by Chinese instead of others.

From what I observed, SMJK schools have something to do with Chinese population. Say, in KL, there's 2 SMJK, which is SMJK Confucian and SMJK Chong Hwa (I've heard SM Kepong Baru is populated by Chinese, but it's SMK instead of SMJK, correct me if I'm wrong). These 2 schools are dominated by mostly Chinese, but students from other races can be seen in SMJK as well. In most cases, the students are required to have at least primary education knowledge of Chinese Mandarin.

If I'm not mistaken, there are quite a number of SMJKs in the northern region, eg: Keat Hwa & Jit Sin at Kedah. Since I'm not staying in the northern part so I apologize I cannot give you additional info on that.

#4 Independent School (private school)

Independent schools are a different story compare to the schools mentioned above. As it name suggests, it's a private school and it's not funded by the government. Students will have to pay for a fee in order to study in private school, obviously.

Independent schools in Malaysia, mostly compromises of Chinese independent schools, are administrated by a board called United Chinese School Committees Association of Malaysia (USCCAM), in Chinese is called 独中 for short.

Since these independent schools aren't directly administrated by the MoE, so the rules and regulations are different from government schools. USCCAM is the boss here. They do have their own unified exam system (an exam which all the independent schools took part), just like SPM and STPM. Also, a very distinctive feature of an independent school student is their uniform, which for boys are full white top and bottom instead of dark green trousers for boys in gov school.

In independent school, the class rank differs from the Form system used in gov schools. Here, Form 1 to Form 3 students are called as "Lower 1 - Lower 3", while Form 4 to Form 6 are called "Higher 1 - Higher 3". Like other schools, students are able to decide whether they'll stop their study in Higher 2, which equivalent to Form 5 in gov school, or to continue another year at Higher 3 level, which is almost the same as Form 6.

Some independent schools shares the same history as its SMJK counterparts, as they used to be a part of a "big family", before splitting into government-based SMJK and privately-based independent school. The stories of this merging and splitting can be referred to respective schools. Some examples are Chong Hwa Independent, Confucian Independent, Kuen Chen, Shun Ren etc. As for northern region, I only know Chung Ling.

You may argue that why I did not include international schools in this post, because it's another types of schools and I'll cover it in the next point.

#5 International School

International schools are private education institute which differs from independent schools mentioned above.

International school's syllabus consist of standards from other countries, such as the GCE O Levels and A Levels, Australia Matriculation, and the International Baccalaureate (IB). The teaching syllabus differs from school to school, depending their affiliated countries or international education boards.

Some notable international schools are Garden International School and International School of Kuala Lumpur.

The international school mostly cater for foreigners, mostly UKers, Koreans, Japanese, Mid-Easters etc, and not to mention a number of local Malaysian students as well. This provides an early exposure for students to came across multi-racial culture, not just the 3 major races in Malaysia only. Talk about building up an early international relationship. ;)

The cost of attending international school isn't the cheapest around, but given the quality of the facilities, one may say it's worth the money spent on the better education quality.

With the above post, I end my series on Schools in Malaysia. Any comments are welcomed.
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  1. I would like to add few facts. SMJK is only used by Chinese secondary schools because there are no vernacular Tamil secondary schools.
    However, SRJK is used by both chinese and Tamil primary schools.

    Vision school (Sekolah Wawasan)
    Vision schools share facilities with other national schools to promote closer interaction among students.

    And SMA is not mentioned in the article.

  2. for the examples of SMJK in northen region, i think Jit Sin is from Penang, not the same state like Keat Hwa as stated.

    actually u can refer to http://educationmalaysia.blogspot.com/2005/06/national-vs-chinese-school-i.html
    where there're comparisons between national school students and chinese school students. There are pros and cons, some of the points you might agree n some disagree.

  3. Hi cereal87:

    Thanks for pointing out the SMJK difference, I've no idea bout that until you told me.

    Sorry to say but I have insufficient info regarding Sekolah Wawasan and Sek. Men. Agama. Thanks again for bringing it up.

    If anyone got infos bout these 2 schools, feel free to post it here in the comments.

    Hello dennis:

    The link you provided is not complete, but I'll dig around to find the post anyway.

    Different people may have different opinions on the same topic. So naturally we've to accept and respect the other's opinion as well. :)

  4. sorry for that half broken link.


    i think this link should be the correct one.

    yea.. that's what i meant. respect others opinions as well.

  5. very good article, very complete, but i had hoped you would shed some light on the national type independent schools (sri kl...sri kdu...etc...) and maybe give a list of tehse schools as well

  6. Hi chienyee:

    Thanks for bringing up the national type independent schools. If not mistaken Sekolah Sri Garden is one of them as well isnt it?

    I dont really have much infos bout these schools, so I didnt note it down.

  7. Hi, my daugther is 6 years old and we are from China. Can my daughter study in the independent school in KL? If yes, what application is required and to which authority? Many thanks.

  8. Hi,

    I am looking for and advise if possibe. I plan to bring my kids which is form 1 to dubai for a period of 2 month, while he is still schooling, as I am currently in arab saudi.

    I am not sure whether I can do that, applying a leave to school, and if school is allowed to give such a leave to my son.

    any advise ..pleae also email me at [email protected]

  9. hello!

    I was just wondering, since the International Schools have a higher standard, and my daughter is currently studying in a normal Malaysian school but would like to transfer to an international school. She'll be Form 3 next year.

    What secondary will she be in?

  10. Some kids learn by listening; others learn by doing. Geoff Mulgan gives a short introduction to the Studio School, a new kind of school in the UK where small teams of kids learn by working on projects that are, as Mulgan puts it, "for real."

    have a look ths vid posted in TED.com


  11. hi, I'm not sure whether this blog still active or not, but I would like to ask how student step into secondary school without UPSR when 2016? how they jugde who go into which secondary school?


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