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close this bookTrends in Articulation Arrangements for Technical and Vocational Education in the South East Asian Region (RMIT, 1999, 44 p.)
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The bulk of the 20.5 million population of Federation of Malaysia, live on the Malay Peninsula. Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo, are less densely populated.

Over the last decade manufacturing, construction and provision of services in Malaysia have expanded, to reach 81.9% of Gross Domestic Product in 1995. In that year Malaysian agriculture contributed 13.5% of GDP, but such is the labour intensive nature of agriculture that this sector of the economy employed 18.0% of the 8.6 million workforce.

Malaysia has a public system of education which provides 6 years of primary education, followed by 5 years of secondary education. However, students from Chinese and Tamil medium schools, are required to undertake an additional year of study after the completion of primary school, which is aimed at improving competency in the national language Bahasa Melayu.

At the end of three years of the lower secondary school program, students undertake an examination, the Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR). Entry to upper secondary school programs is based on PMR results. At this point the less able student might leave the formal education system.

Education in upper secondary school is delivered in the following types of school:

· Normal Academic Schools
· Secondary Technical Schools
· Secondary Vocational Schools

Students undertaking the academic stream complete a 2 year course leading to the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) (Malaysian Certificate of Education) examination. A satisfactory SPM result permits entry to a 2 year pre-university program, which concludes with the Sijil Tinggi Pereskolahan Malaysia (SPTM) (Malaysian Higher School Certificate) examination.

Secondary technical schools, also provide the 4 year SPM/SPTM program which includes vocational and technology electives, in engineering, commerce, home economics and agricultural science.

The secondary vocational school, offers 2 year programs designed to provide an entry to paid employment. The course has an academic core, and vocational studies comprise about 50% of the program. Successful completion of this course results in the award of the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia Vokasional (SPMV) (Malaysian Certificate of Education Vocational). (2) Although the SPMV has a vocational focus, there are nevertheless articulation pathways for further study open to SPMV graduates.

There is also a extensive network of private primary and secondary schools. These institutions which are open to all Malaysian citizens, follow the national curriculum and examinations.

It should be noted that the Malaysian Government is moving to change the 6+5+2 year cycle of primary/secondary education, to 6+4+2 year cycle with 4 years of secondary education followed by 2 years of pre-university studies. (3)

In addition to extensive provision of TVE in Malaysia, there are eight government universities. Private universities emerged in Malaysia in 1997, when three were created these being the Universiti Telekom, Universiti Tenaga Nasional and Universiti Teknologi Petronas.

A significant reason for improving the Malaysian system of education is a long term Malaysian Government objective to make Malaysia an important regional centre for the provision of education.

Postsecondary technical and vocational education

Postsecondary technical and vocational education in Malaysia is provided by a mix of public and private institutions, including:

· Government polytechnics, some universities and institutes, skills training centres, and a number of ministries.

· Private colleges described variously as schools, colleges, institutes, institutes of technology and academies. These entities are classified as Private Higher Educational Institutions (PHEIs).

Skills training is also encouraged under the Seventh Malaysia Plan (1996 - 2000) which recognizes the need to improve Malaysia’s human resource as a key factor in national economic growth. Assistance for skill training is provided under the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) which makes significant contributions towards the cost of training at government and private training centres.

The HRDF is financed through levies on the manufacturing and selected service industries. Considerable training activity takes place with HRDF assistance at the enterprize level.

A recent World Bank/Government of Malaysia report investigating key factors of advancing Malaysian industry encouraged the expansion of high quality skills training in the private sector training. (4)

Many technical and vocational education courses available in Malaysia provide pathways to further study.

Government provision of TVE

Institutions providing TVE programs include:

· Industrial Training Institutes

These institutes provide certificate level training programs of 6 months to 2 years duration, and produce skilled workers in the fields of mechanical engineering, electrical, printing and construction. Depending on the program, entry requirements range from PMR to SPM/SPMV.

· National Youth Training Institutes

These institutes offer vocational training to young people in preparation for employment at the skilled worker level. Based on SPM entry, certificate programs are offered in various fields including automotive maintenance, electrical technology, refrigeration, electronics, construction, gardening, textiles, and hospitality. They range in duration from 12 months to 2 years. There are 7 National Youth Training Institutes.

· Polytechnics

Polytechnics provide 2 year certificate and 3 year diploma courses in business, engineering, architecture and construction. These programs are directed at students seeking technician and middle management levels. Polytechnic courses are based on SPM/SPMV entry. There are seven government polytechnics.

· MARA Institute of Technology (ITM)

A range of 3 year diploma courses are provided in a number of fields including business, applied science, building, interior design, engineering, computer science, tourism and hospitality management. These courses are based on SPM/SPMV entry. ITM also offers 6 month to 1 year certificate courses in hospitality based on PMR entry. ITM limits entry to bumiputra Malaysians, and has 12 campuses.

· Tunku Abdul Rahman College

The college which has campuses in Kuala Lumpur and Penang offers 3 year diploma courses based on STPM entry in the fields of business, technology and science. A limited range of 2 year certificate courses post SPM are also conducted by TAR College.

· Ministry of Health Training and Manpower Development Division Provides 3 year diploma courses for paraprofessionals training for a career in the health field including nursing, dental nursing, medical laboratory technologist, health inspection, etc. These courses require SPM for entry.

· Universities

Of the eight government universities the Universiti Technologi Malaysia
(University of Technology Malaysia) and Universiti Putra Malaysia (University of Putra
Malaysia) provide a number of 3 year diploma courses based on SPM entry.

A number of Malaysian government agencies other than those listed above also offer TVE courses and skills training programs.

Private TVE institutions

Provision of private postsecondary education in Malaysia is very extensive, having grown significantly over the last decade or so. This growth was encouraged by limited places being available in government postsecondary institutions, particularly universities.

Many private colleges have also developed a of range technical and vocational education courses at diploma and certificate level.

Technical and vocational education programs offered by Malaysian private colleges (PHEIs), although subject to Ministry of Education approval, do not have to follow government set curriculum.

Diploma programs normally require 3 years full time tuition post SPM. Certificate courses tend to vary in length from 6 months to 2 years post SPM. Some courses are structured such that a certificate course feeds into a related diploma course.

There are more than 70 significant private colleges in Malaysia, and further growth in this sector is anticipated. The expansion of private institutions has emerged from a government stance of firm containment during the 1970s, to that of controlled development in recent years. (5) The Malaysian Government has provided significant encouragement to the private sector to establish technical and vocational colleges through generous taxation concessions and legislative support which permit the establishment of such institutions.

Hundreds of private sector training institutions also provide skills training programs. Some private training institutions are also private higher education institutions eg. Federal Institute of Technology, Informatics College, Workers Institute of Technology, Kolej TAFE, and the Malaysian Institute of Management. For a training activity to receive support under the Human Resources Development Fund the training program must be approved by the Human Resources Development Council.


Although Malaysian universities are under considerable pressure to accept only the best SPTM graduates into undergraduate programs, there is some provision for those who complete polytechnic diplomas with merit to undertake higher level studies.

For example, the Universiti Malaya (University of Malaya) will consider graduates holding relevant polytechnic diplomas for entry to undergraduate degrees in a number of fields including engineering, computer science, pharmacy and law. Likewise entry to a number of Mara Institute of Technology degree programs is based on completion of a related ITM diploma or a diploma from another recognized institution.

A number of private colleges deliver significant segments of degree courses, under arrangements with foreign universities primarily in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada and Australia. A typical arrangement is that a Malaysian college would effectively deliver the curriculum of the first year or two of the degree course of a foreign university, with the student travelling abroad to the twinned university to complete the course. There are other variations to this model, which include preparation by Malaysian colleges for qualifying examinations of overseas (esp. United Kingdom) professional bodies such as the UK Engineering Council; credit transfer arrangements which allow studies undertaken at a Malaysian private college to be given advanced standing at the counterpart foreign university; or delivery of a distance education course in association with a Malaysian college.

An example of such an arrangement are the activities of the Malaysian Institute of Management which offers a wide range of training courses, as well as its own certificates and diplomas, mainly in the field of management. Students who complete an MIM diploma or another relevant diploma are able to undertake studies at MIM whereby they articulate to a number of degree programs including MBAs awarded by the University of Bath (UK), University of Hull (UK), Maastricht School of Management (Netherlands), or RMIT University (Australia). (6)

Graduates of the Workers Institute of Technology 3 year Diplomas of Engineering have the opportunity to proceed to 21 affiliated polytechnics in Britain as well as colleges and universities in Australia. Advanced standing of the Workers Institute of Technology Diplomas have permitted students to gain a degree after two years of additional study. (7)

Given the economic difficulties of late, and recognizing the advanced state of private provision of education in Malaysia, the Government has encouraged many private colleges to extend their twinning programs to allow students to complete their degrees in Malaysia. This trend should obviate much of the need for study abroad by Malaysian students.

The structure of articulation arrangements which have been established in Malaysia permits broad opportunities for further educational attainment. In particular, the concept that all levels of education should provide further possibilities for ongoing studies sets the scene for future growth in response to national and individual need.