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Malaysia, education & tuition:
A background guide


         This guide is written to help those who are not familiar with Malaysia understand better the articles posted on this website. Many of the articles assume, on the part of the readers, a comfortable level of knowledge in educational and societal norms of this country. For these and also other country-specific references found elsewhere on this site, an introduction will be helpful for foreigners. If you are a Malaysian, you might want to skip this guide and go straight on to the collection of education & tuition articles or go to our main site. Whenever possible, equivalent popular terms will be provided in the Malay Language (Bahasa Melayu, Bahasa Malaysia) in italicized font.


Malaysia
         To begin with, Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy consisting of 13 states (negeri) and 3 federal territories (wilayah persekutuan). The country is geographically separated into two regions, West Malaysia (Malaysia Barat) and East Malaysia (Malaysia Timur), by the South China Sea (Laut China Selatan). East Malaysia forms part of the Borneo island and consists of 2 states, Sabah and Sarawak, and the Federal Territory of Labuan (Wilayah Persekutuan Labuan). West Malaysia, which is also known as Peninsular Malaysia (Semenanjung Malaysia) hosts the remaining 11 states, the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur (Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur), and the Federal Territory of Putrajaya (Wilayah Persekutuan Putrajaya). The capital (ibu negara) of Malaysia is the City of Kuala Lumpur (Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur) - usually abbreviated as KL; while Putrajaya is referred to as the country's administrative capital. On the other hand, Labuan is a free port and also an offshore financial center. Following lists all the states and their respective state capitals:

State (Negeri) - State Capital (Ibu Negeri)

         The Malaysian people is a multi ethnic society made up of three major races; the Malays and the Indigenous Peoples (Melayu & Bumiputera, or Bumiputra); the Chinese (Cina); and the Indians (India). By and large, the west coast (pantai barat) of Peninsular Malaysia is dominantly populated by the Malays, while the east coast (pantai timur) reflect a more heterogenous mixture of ethnicity. The most extensive co-minglings occur in urban areas like the Klang Valley (Lembah Kelang, or Lembah Klang); specifically in places such as Kuala Lumpur (KL), Petaling Jaya (PJ), Subang Jaya (SJ), Cheras, Bangsar, Brickfields, Ampang, Damansara, Shah Alam, Sri Hartamas, Selayang, Kepong, Kelana Jaya, Gombak, Rawang, USJ, Sri Petaling, Puchong, Sunway etc. The national language (bahasa kebangsaan) is the Malay Language (Bahasa Melayu, or Bahasa Malaysia, or BM), although English (Bahasa Inggeris, or BI) is spoken extensively as a second language. Among the various ethnic groups, their mother tongues (bahasa ibunda) are also used, such as Mandarin (Bahasa Mandarin, or Bahasa Cina), Cantonese (Bahasa Kantonis), Tamil (Bahasa Tamil), Punjabi (Bahasa Punjabi) & etc. The national currency is the Malaysian Ringgit (Ringgit Malaysia, or RM).


Kindergarten
         Kindergarten or pre-schooling is compulsory for 6-year old children in Malaysia. Pre-school (pra-sekolah, prasekolah) institutions of this country are often known as Tadika (Taman didikan kanak-kanak), Tabika (Taman bimbingan kanak-kanak), Taska (Taman asuhan kanak-kanak), Nursery, Kindergarten etc. They all follow the National Pre-school Curriculum (Kurikulum Prasekolah Kebangsaan). Subjects taught under this curriculum include:

National Preschool Curiculum (Kurikulum Prasekolah Kebangsaan)



Primary School
         At age 7, children begin their formal education (pendidikan) in primary schools (sekolah rendah). Primary schooling lasts 6 years altogether. Pupils advance from Tahun 1 (Darjah 1, Primary 1, Standard 1, Year 1) through Tahun 2 (Darjah 2, Primary 2, Standard 2, Year 2), Tahun 3 (Darjah 3, Primary 3, Standard 3, Year 3), Tahun 4 (Darjah 4, Primary 4, Standard 4, Year 4), Tahun 5 (Darjah 5, Primary 5, Standard 5, Year 5) & Tahun 6 (Darjah 6, Primary 6, Standard 6, Year 6). Primary schools can usually be recognised by the prefixes in their names, such as SK - Sekolah Kebangsaan; SJK - Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan; SJK(C) - Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina; SJK(T) - Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Tamil; SRJK - Sekolah Rendah Jenis Kebangsaan; SRJK(C) - Sekolah Rendah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina; SRJK(T) - Sekolah Rendah Jenis Kebangsaan Tamil; and SA - Sekolah Agama. The multitudes of variations is due to the fact that schools use different ethnic languages as their medium of instruction. However, they all subscribe to the same national curriculum known as KBSR (Kurikulum Baru Sekolah Rendah / Kurikulum Bersepadu Sekolah Rendah), or New Curriculum for Primary School / Integrated Curriculum for Primary School. Using this scheme, primary schooling is separated into Level I (Tahap I) and Level II (Tahap II). Year 1, Year 2 and Year 3 are grouped as Level I; while Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6 are grouped as Level II. The academic subjects (matapelajaran, mata pelajaran) taught under KBSR are listed below:

Subjects in Level I - Years 1, 2 & 3 (Subjek dalam Tahap I - Tahun 1, 2 & 3)

Subjects in Level II - Years 4, 5 & 6 (Subjek dalam Tahap II - Tahun 4, 5 & 6)



Secondary School
         After primary schooling, pupils will move on to secondary schooling. However, those from ethnic primary schools who wish to enter national schools will undergo a year in a remove class / remove form (kelas peralihan / tingkatan peralihan). Secondary schooling takes 5 years altogether. Students advance from Form1 (Tingkatan 1) through Form 2 (Tingkatan 2), Form 3 (Tingkatan 3), Form 4 (Tingkatan 4) & Form 5 (Tingkatan 5). Similar to primary schools, secondary schools can usually be recognised by the prefixes in their names, such as SMK - Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan; SMJK - Sekolah Menengah Jenis Kebangsaan; SMJK(C) - Sekolah Menengah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina; SMJK(T) - Sekolah Menengah Jenis Kebangsaan Tamil; SMB - Sekolah Menengah Bantuan; and SMA - Sekolah Menengah Agama. However, they all subscribe to the same national curriculum known as KBSM (Kurikulum Baru Sekolah Menengah / Kurikulum Bersepadu Sekolah Menengah), or New Curriculum for Secondary School / Integrated Curriculum for Secondary School. Using this scheme, secondary schooling is separated into Lower Secondary School (Sekolah Menengah Rendah - SMR) and Upper Secondary School (Sekolah Menengah Atas - SMA). Form 1, Form 2 and Form 3 are grouped as SMR; while Form 4 and Form 5 are grouped as SMA. The academic subjects (mata pelajaran) taught under KBSM are listed below:

Subjects in Lower Secondary School - Forms 1, 2 & 3
(Subjek dalam Sekolah Menengah Rendah - Tingkatan 1, 2 & 3)

Subjects in Upper Secondary School - Forms 4 & 5
(Subjek dalam Sekolah Menengah Atas - Tingkatan 4 & 5)

         Apart from the subjects listed above, Form 4 and Form 5 students in vocational (vokasional, vokesyenal) schools can also select the following subjects:

Subjects in Vocational School - Forms 4 & 5
(Subjek dalam Sekolah Vokasional - Tingkatan 4 & 5)

         In addition to Forms 1 to 5, there is also a Form 6 (Tingkatan 6) which serves as a pre-university (pra-universiti) level. Form 6 students comprise of two stages - Lower 6 (Tingkatan 6 Bawah) and Upper 6 (Tingkatan 6 Atas). Students in Form 6 are usually aiming to enter one of the several local universities in Malaysia. In order to achieve that, they will have to do well in the STPM examination. The subjects available in Form 6 will be covered in the section on STPM below.


UPSR
         UPSR, short for Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah or Primary School Achievement Test is a compulsory national examination (peperiksaan kebangsaan) for Year 6 primary school students. These pupils will sit for the exam at the end of their academic year. Not all subjects that are taught in school will be tested though. Only selected subjects considered as important are covered in the UPSR. These subjects are:

Subjects in Primary School Achievement Test, UPSR - Year 6
(Subjek dalam Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah, UPSR - Tahun 6)


PMR
         PMR, short for Penilainan Menengah Rendah or Lower Secondary Assessment is a compulsory national examination (peperiksaan kebangsaan) for Form 3 secondary school students. These pupils will sit for the exam at the end of their academic year. Not all subjects that are taught in school will be tested though. Only selected subjects considered as important are covered in the PMR. These subjects are:

Subjects in Lower Secondary Assessment, PMR - Form 3
(Subjek dalam Penilaian Menengah Rendah, PMR - Tingkatan 3)


SPM / SPMV
         SPM, short for Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia or Malaysian Certificate of Education is a compulsory national examination (peperiksaan kebangsaan) for Form 5 secondary school students. These pupils will sit for the exam at the end of their academic year. For vocational schools, the equivalent examination will be SPM(V), short for Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (Vokasional) or Malaysian Certificate of Education (Vocational). Subjects offered in the SPM / SPVM are:

Subjects in Malaysian Certificate of Education, SPM / SPMV - Form 5
(Subjek dalam Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia, SPM / SPMV - Tingkatan 5)

         The large number of subjects on offer is due to the existence of multiple streams (aliran) of study. Choosing a certain combination of subjects constitues a 'package' (pakej). Among the 'packages' are Pure Science (Sains Tulen / Sains Tulin), Professional Arts (Sastera Ikhtisas), Islamic Studies (Pengajian Islam), Humanities (Kemanusiaan), Vocational (Vokasional / Vokesyenal), Additional Science (Sains Tambahan), Information Technology (Teknologi Maklumat) & etc.


STPM / STAM
         STPM, short for Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia or Malaysian Higher School Certificate is a pre-university (pra-universiti) national examination (peperiksaan kebangsaan) for Form 6 students. These pupils will sit for the exam at the end of their academic year. Subjects offered in the STPM are:

Subjects in Malaysian Higher School Certificate, STPM - Form 6
(Subjek dalam Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia, STPM - Tingkatan 6)

         Students from Islamic Secondary Schools (Sekolah Menengah Agama - SMA) will sit for the STAM, short for Sijil Tinggi Agama Malaysia or Malaysian Higher Religious Certificate to secure admission into Islamic universities. Subjects offered in the STAM are:

Subjects in Malaysian Higher Religious Certificate, STAM - Islamic Pre University
(Subjek dalam Sijil Tinggi Agama Malaysia, STAM - Pra Universiti Agama)

         All pre-university students are also required to sit for the Malaysian University English Test - MUET (Ujian Bahasa Inggeris Universiti Malaysia). Not only STPM students, but Matriculation (Matrikulasi) and Diploma (Diploma) students who wish to enter a local university have to take MUET. The test is intended to assess the achievement and proficiency level of these students in the English language.


University & College
         After sitting for their STPM or SPM, Malaysian students who wish to acquire tertiary education (pendidikan tertiari) will enrol in colleges (kolej) or universities (universiti) of choice. Between the two, enrollment into a public university is the more coveted due to its limited admittance and the stiff competition. Almost all STPM candidates aspire to gain admittance into these public universities. Compared to earning a degree (ijazah) in an overseas university, public universities offer unparalled savings in tuition and education costs. Examples of these public institutions of higher learning (IPTA - Institusi Pengajian Tinggi Awam, Institusi Pendidikan Tinggi Awam) are Universiti Malaya (UM), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS), Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Malaysia (UIAM), Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI), Kolej Universiti Islam Malaysia (KUIM), Kolej Universiti Sains & Teknologi Malaysia (KUSTEM), Kolej Universiti Teknikal Kebangsaan Malaysia (KUTKM), Kolej Universiti Kejuruteraan & Teknologi Malaysia (KUKTEM), Kolej Universiti Kejuruteraan Utara Malaysia (KUKUM) and Kolej Universiti Teknologi Tun Hussein Onn (KUiTTHO). The establishment of university colleges (kolej universiti) is a relatively recent development in Malaysia. While not enjoying the full status of a university, university colleges seek to combine the best of academic degree programs from universities with the best of practical diploma / certificate programs from colleges.

         Apart from IPTA, there are also private institutions of higher learning (IPTS - Institusi Pengajian Tinggi Swasta, Institusi Pendidikan Tinggi Swasta) offering quality tertiary education in Malaysia. Some of the more better-known IPTS are Multimedia University (MMU), Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP), Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN), Open University Malaysia (OUM) - Universiti Terbuka Malaysia, Universiti Tun Abdul Razak (UNITAR), Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR), Malaysian University of Science & Technology (MUST), University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, Curtin University of Technology Sarawak Campus, Monash University Malaysia Campus, International Medical University (IMU), Asian Institute of Medicine, Science & Technology (AIMST), Kolej Universiti Teknologi & Pengurusan Malaysia (KUTPM) - University College of Technology & Management Malaysia and Limkokwing University College of Creative Technology. The private institutions of learning (IPS - Institusi Pengajian Swasta, Institusi Pendidikan Swasta) in Malaysia also include many colleges and institutes that offer programs lower than degree level. Examples are Kolej Damansara Utama (KDU), Sunway College, Nilai International College, Taylor's College, Sedaya College, INTI College, Metropolitan College, Asia-Pacific Institute of Information Technology (APIIT), IPG College, KBU International College, Informatics and PRIME College.

         Internal Degree Programs (Program Ijazah Dalaman) are offered by universities and university colleges either of the IPTA or IPTS variety. The available levels of study span from Undergraduate Level (Tahap Prasiswazah) such as Bachelor's Degree, First Degree (Ijazah Sarjana Muda, Ijazah Pertama) to Postgraduate or Higher Degree Level (Tahap Pascasiswazah, Ijazah Lanjutan) such as Master's Degree (Ijazah Sarjana) and Ph.D / Doctorate Degree (Ijazah Doktor Falsafah, Kedoktoran). Graduate studies (pengajian siswazah) in Malaysian universities are accredited and recognized by the international academic community. On the other hand, Advanced Diploma, Diploma and Certificate programs are offered by university colleges, colleges and institutes of private learning (IPS). Some IPTS and IPS also conduct collaborative programs with overseas universities; for example: Twinning Programs (Program Berkembar), Credit Transfer Programs (Program Pemindahan Kredit), Advanced Standing Programs, External Degree Programs (Program Ijazah Luaran) and Distance Learning Programs (Program Pengajian Jarak Jauh,Program Pedidikan Jarak Jauh). Tutorial programs that prepare students for popular examinations are also available, such as for pre-university courses and for professional courses (kursus profesional). Examples of popular preuniversity exams are GCE 'A' Level (UK), SAM (Australia), OSSD (Canada), WATEE (Australia) and LCCI (UK). Examples of professional exams are AIA, AAT, ABE, CIM, ACCA, CLP, MACPA and IBBM.


Tuition
         Malaysians use the word "tuition" in a different way from Americans. In the USA, tuition is what you pay to a college (kolej) or a university (universiti). In this country, tuition (tuisyen) means supplementary academic coaching. Pupils attend tuition classes on their own volition and pay for the tutoring service. It is a service operated by the private sector (sektor swasta), and is therefore a type of profit-oriented education. Tuition can best be described as the shadow education system of Malaysia. It has "shadowy" characteristics because tuition has never been part of the government sanctioned public schooling system; yet it is as widespread as the official one. Tuition is also shadowy in other ways as well. Its existence is solely reliant on the continuation of the schooling system in its current form. The emphasis on examination in Malaysian education both gives birth to and sustains the tuition industry. The range of subjects offered in tuition mimics those in schools. Teaching techniques are geared towards helping pupils do well in the national exams. The slightest change in syllabus (silabus, sukatan pelajaran) or exam formats will be met with the swiftest of response by the tuition industry, often even capitalising on the situation. No matter what, tuition shadows the schools without fail.

         There are two types of tuition - institutional tuition (tuisyen institusi) and private tuition (tuisyen peribadi, tuisyen persendirian, tuisyen perseorangan). Institutional tuition refers to tutoring that takes place in a dedicated establishment. These institutions are variously known as Tuition Centers (Pusat Tuisyen), Guidance Centers (Pusat Bimbingan) & Learning Centres (Pusat Pembelajaran). In the 1980's tuition centres began mushrooming in Malaysia. The tuition 'boom' was so sudden that many of these early operators had to pioneer the assimilation of the word "tuition" into the Malay Language. Hence several non-standard variants were adopted, such as "tiusyen" and "tusyen". Since then, however, the proper term has come into usage. The second type, known as private / personal tuition occurs on a smaller scale. A tutor (pengajar) or tuition teacher (guru tuisyen, cikgu tuisyen) will guide a small group of students or even a single student only. In the latter case, it is known as 1-to-1 tuition (one-to-one tuition). In the former case, it is called group tuition (tuisyen berkumpulan). Regardless of which, private tuition usually takes place at the tutor's home or the student's. Therefore, private tuition are sometimes referred to as home tuition (tuisyen di rumah). Home tutors and their students are usually matched by tuition agents (agen tuisyen) or tuition agencies / agency (agensi tuisyen). The popularity of personal / private tuition is on the rise. Together with institutional tuition, they are both evidence that tuition is here to stay in Malaysia.

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Glossary of Terms :
(1) Tuition - Tutelage, the act of tutoring or teaching a student (pupil); Fees paid for instruction (especially for higher education). In Malaysia, tuition is more popularly used to denote tutoring rather than fee. Common Malaysian misspellings: Tiution, Tution. *(BM): Tuisyen, Tiusyen, Tusyen, Tuisen, Tiusen, Tuisyan, Tiusyan, Tusyan. | (2) Home Tuition - Tutoring that takes place at students' or tutors' home as opposed to at tuition centers; Also: Home Tutoring, Private Tuition, Private Tutoring. *(BM): Tuisyen Di Rumah, Tuisyen Swasta. | (3) Personal Tuition - Tutoring on the basis of one tutor catering to one student. Also: Personal Tutoring, Individual Tuition, Individual Tutoring, One-to-one Tuition, 1-to-1 Tutoring, One-to-one Tutoring, 1-to-1 Tuition. *(BM): Tuisyen Peribadi, Tuisyen Persendirian, Tuisyen Perseorangan, Tuisyen Individu. | (4) Group Tuition - Tutoring on the basis of one tutor catering to several (small number, but more than one) students. Also: Small Group Tuition, Small Class Tuition, Group Tutoring, Small Group Tutoring, Small Class Tutoring. *(BM): Tuisyen Berkumpulan, Tuisyen Kumpulan Kecil, Tuisyen Kelas Kecil. | (5) Tutors - Tuition Teachers, persons who conduct tuition. In Malaysia, teacher is more popularly used to denote a school teacher whereas tutor usually means a non-school teacher. Also: Tiutors, Tuitors. *(BM): Guru Sekolah, Cikgu Sekolah, Pengajar Tuisyen, Guru Tuisyen, Cikgu Tuisyen. | (6) Home Tutors - Tutors who provide home tuition as opposed to those who teach at tuition centres. Also: Private Tutors, Personal Tutors, Individual Tutors, One-to-one Tutors, 1-to-1 Tutors, Group Tutors, Small Group Tutors, Private Teachers, Personal Teachers, Individual Teachers, One-to-one Teachers, 1-to-1 Teachers, Group Teachers, Small Group Teachers, Private Tuition Teachers, Personal Tuition Teachers, Individual Tuition Teachers, One-to-one Tuition Teachers, 1-to-1 Tuition Teachers, Group Tuition Teachers, Small Group Tuition Teachers. *(BM): Pengajar Di Rumah, Pengajar Swasta, Pengajar Peribadi, Pengajar Persendirian, Pengajar Perseorangan, Guru Di Rumah, Guru Swasta, Guru Peribadi, Guru Persendirian, Guru Perseorangan, Cikgu Di Rumah, Cikgu Swasta, Cikgu Peribadi, Cikgu Persendirian, Cikgu Perseorangan. | (7) Tuition Centers - Private institutions that conduct tuition on classroom-like settings. Also: Tuition Centres, Tutorial Centers, Tutorial Centres, Tuition Classes, Tutorial Classes, Tutoring Classes. *(BM): Pusat Tuisyen, Pusat Bimbingan, Pusat Tutorial, Kelas Tuisyen. | (8) Home Tuition Jobs - Home tuition vacancies; Posts to be filled by home tutors. Also: Private Tuition Jobs, Home Tutoring Jobs, Private Tutoring Jobs, Home Tuition Assignments, Private Tuition Assignments, Home Tutoring Assignments, Private Tutoring Assignments, Private Tuition Vacancies, Home Tutoring Vacancies, Private Tutoring Vacancies. *(BM): Jawatan Kosong Tuisyen, Pekerjaan Tuisyen, Kerja Tuisyen, Tugasan Tuisyen. | (9) Home Tutees - Home tuition students; Pupils receiving home tuition from home tutors. *(BM): Pelajar Tuisyen, Murid Tuisyen, Penuntut Tuisyen. | *(BM) denotes terms in Bahasa Melayu or Malay Language.

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