Education as a whole is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education, which is responsible for managing a comprehensive school system ranging from primary to university level, regulate syllabi, controls national examinations and it supervises the development of education in the country.

Primary education in Malaysia covers a total period of six years. It is aimed to provided a good foundation for pupils to be proficient in reading, writing and arithmetic (3R’s). At the end of the six years, primary school pupils will be assessed for the Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah/The Primary School Assessment Test (UPSR/PSAT). Irrespective of their performance in the PSAT, all primary school pupils are promoted to form one, the foundation year of secondary education.

Secondary education is the continuation of primary level education. The syllabi, Kurikulum Bersepadu Sekolah Menengah/Secondary School Integrated Curriculum (KBSM/SSIC) is developed to suit the needs and aspirations of the country. Secondary education is divided into three main levels: lower secondary level, upper secondary level and pre-university level.

Lower secondary education in Malaysia prepares students to develop skills needed in life and to be useful citizens of the country. After completing the third year, the students are required to take a national assessment test, Penilaian Menengah Rendah/Lower Secondary Assessment (PMR/LSA). The students performances on PMR/LSA will determine their academic streaming to the upper secondary level i.e. whether to be in science, arts, technical or vocational streams.

The selection of students and academic streaming to the upper secondary level will be determined by the Ministry of Education. At the end of the two-year period in upper secondary education, the students will be assessed by a compulsory national examination, Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia/Malaysian Certificate of Examination (SPM/MCE) or Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia Vokasional/Vocational Malaysian Certificate of Examination (SPMV/VMCE), as in the case of the vocational streaming. The SPM/MCE/SPMV/VMCE certificates are equivalent to O-level Cambridge University Examinations.

Students in the vocational course stream will study the vocational subjects in conjunction with other academic subjects identical to the normal school syllabi. They will be required to take the Peperiksaan Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia Vokasional (SPMV) at the end of the second year. Those with excellent results may further their studies at local institutions of higher learning or enter the job market. Skills Training Course is an optional programme. Students will undergo into the skills training programmes so as to enable them to sit for the Peperiksaan Majlis Latihan Vokasional Kebangsaan Asas (MLVK) at the end of the second year study programme. They will then join the job market or undergo advance skills training in selected areas. The vocational training of youths is becoming important to national development. Besides the Ministry of Education there are other ministries, public and private agencies involved in the vocational training of youth to fulfil the manpower needs of the industries.

The pre-university education programme is classified into two groups i.e. the A-Level and the matriculation study programmes. The entry to these programmes is based upon the performance in the SPM/SPMV. For the A-Level study programme, the academic streaming will be in arts, science and technical. Students will be required to take the Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia Examination (STPM), which is organized by the Malaysian Examination Council and is accredited by the University of Cambridge Local Examination Syndicate of England (UCLES). The qualification is recognized by most universities around the world. The matriculation study programme is organized for entries to the local universities. It is a one-year academic foundation programme, monitored by the host universities and teaching is carried at the respective residential/private schools. Students who excel in their examinations at the end of the programme will be accepted to the host universities.

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