Malaysian Education System
As Fulbright English Teaching Assistants we receive amazing support from the US Embassy and the Malaysian Ministry of Education (MOE). The educational system in Malaysia is centralized, and most all of the curricula, syllabi, and books are mandated by the MOE. The school system is generally exam-oriented all across Malaysia, and a strong emphasis is placed on academic excellence and performance. School years begin with kindergarten at the age of 4 and 5. Students attend primary school (elementary school) from Standard 1 through Standard 6 (similar to 1st-6 grade). English is taught from standard 1 onwards as a foreign language.
Secondary school encompasses Form 1-Form 5 (7th-11th grade). The names of secondary schools are written with an SMK (Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan) followed by the name of the school. In Form 3, students take their PT3 exams, an exam that will determine which specific stream they will study in Form 4 and 5. Streams target students towards particular fields and disciplines. It is common that students who excel academically end up in the natural sciences stream, while students with poorer academic performances are pushed towards the arts streams. In Form 5 or at the age of 17, the students will have to sit for a major examination, Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) and the results are essential for entry into university or a matriculation program. Like a U.S. high school diploma, an SPM result is often a requirement for employment. Several practice and trial exams are administered throughout the Form 5 year to prepare for the exam. Following this exam there are options for students to continue their studies before proceeding to their undergraduate degree:
-Matriculation, a one or two-year preparatory course funded almost entirely by the government.
-Form 6 (like our 12th grade), an additional 1.5 years of secondary school offered only at certain schools followed by another examination, Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM). My school SMK Mahmud has a Form 6 program
-Diploma at a college or university, a three-year program
-"A-levels" at private institution or college.
Adapted from the Fulbright Malaysia ETA Program 2017 In-Country Handbook