All You Need to Know About Primary Schools in Malaysia

Malaysian Primary Schools

Overview

In Malaysia, children start their ‘formal education’ in primary school when they are 6 years of age. Basically children start the year they turn 7.

Before they go to primary school, parents have the option of sending their children to preschool/kindergarten.

Primary School education customarily lasts for 6 years (ages 7 – 12).

Facilities in public schools are generally adequate and meet the demands of providing an education, but have very high student to teacher rations – with 40 to 50 students in a class. 

This article covers general information regarding Public Primary Schools in Malaysia.

School Types

Public primary schools in Malaysia are divided into two categories;

  • National School
    • uses Bahasa Melayu as the primary language of instruction
    • wholly funded by the government
  • National-Type School (Vernacular schools)
    • uses either Chinese or Tamil as the primary language of instruction
    • government-aided school

Both categories mentioned accept all children regardless of ethnicity or religion.

Registration

Once you have decided on the school you prefer for your child, the next step would be to register through an online portal at Sistem Pendaftaran Atas Talian (SPAT) KPM. Online registration is required for all states in Malaysia with the exception of Sabah, Sarawak and the Federal Territory of Labuan. 

Registration for primary school is done from March to April in the two years before your child turns seven years of age.

Documents required for application:

  • Application documents
  • Identification papers
  • Residential location proof
  • Medical records

Some high-performance schools will also have assessments to gauge your child’s language and mathematics level.

The results of school allocation is announced in the month of August of the year before entry. Appeals are allowed.

Hours

Sessions for public school usually start at 7.30 am and end around 12.30 pm to 1 pm.

Many public schools run on a two-session system, with one session in the morning and another in the afternoon to accommodate the high number of students.

Cost

Public education is free in Malaysia. With that being said, you will still have to fork out some money for:

  • Uniforms, socks, shoes, etc
  • Insurance/Takaful
  • Books, stationary
  • Meals

School Term and Holidays

The school year starts in January, and there are 2 terms per year, with breaks in between.

Plan your holidays and trips well as prices go up during these times, and places and tickets are booked up well in advance.

This is the school calendar for 2019.

Malaysian School Calendar 2019
Malaysian School Calendar 2019 [Source: The Star]

Subjects

For Primary 1-3 (Ages 7-9)

Core Subjects:

  1. Malay
  2. English
  3. Chinese (Chinese national type schools)
  4. Tamil (Tamil national type schools)
  5. Mathematics
  6. Science
  7. Islamic education
  8. Moral education

Compulsory Subjects:

  1. Physical Education
  2. Health Education
  3. Visual Arts Education
  4. Music Education

For Primary 4-6 (Ages 10-12)

Core Subjects:

  1. Malay
  2. English
  3. Chinese (Chinese national type schools)
  4. Tamil (Tamil national type schools)
  5. Mathematics
  6. Science
  7. Local Studies
  8. Islamic Education
  9. Moral Education
  10. Civics and Citizenship Education

Compulsory Subjects:

  1. Physical Education
  2. Health Education
  3. Living Skills
  4. Visual Arts Education
  5. Music Education

At the time of writing this article, schools are given the option to choose to teach Science and Mathematics in Malay or English, an effort by the government to alleviate some concerns raised by Malaysian parents.

Tests and Exams

At the end of their 6th year (commonly referred to as Primary 6), students sit for Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (Primary School Evaluation Test) or UPSR.

The test covers:

  • Mastery of comprehension, writing and oral for Malay and English
  • Mastery of mathematical skills
  • Mastery of science concepts

Parents would be happy (or not) to know that the examinations for lower primary school students (Primary 1-3) will be eradicated and replaced with objective assessments in 2019 – in order to encourage students to find joy in learning.

Uniforms

Primary School Uniform for Malaysian Students
Primary School Uniform for Malaysian Students
  • Boys
    • White shirt and
      • Navy blue short trousers; or
      • Navy blue long trousers
  • Girls
    • Navy blue pinafore over white shirt; or
    • White baju kurung (a long tunic that covers the arms) over long navy blue skirt

In some vernacular schools (Read: Chinese), a hair-style and length rule is enforced.

Food

There is around a half hour break in the middle of the school session (around 10 am for the morning session, and 3 pm in the afternoon session). During this time, students will either have a snack packed from home by their loving parents, or munch on whatever is provided by the school canteen.

In order to promote healthy eating habits from a young age, the Health Ministry along with the Education Ministry have issued a guideline for food served to students. Whether this has been strictly implemented or not, is another matter altogether.

Malaysian School Canteen Food Guidelines
Malaysian School Canteen Food Guidelines [Source: The Star]

So there you go – some basic information to give you a general idea of Primary School education in Malaysian public schools.

Should you feel like reading up a little bit more on issues faced in Malaysia’s Education System, check this out.

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