Malaysia has made substantial investments to nurture the energy, creativity and talents of its 5.47 million adolescents to contribute to nation-building.
However, there remain some vulnerable adolescents who require additional support and attention as evidenced by the country’s net secondary school enrolment of 66 per cent for boys and 70 per cent for girls for 2005-2009*.
Lack of life-skills based education place Malaysian adolescents at greater risk of substance abuse, juvenile delinquency, bullying, teenage pregnancy as well as HIV infection.
According to the 2010 Malaysia Millennium Development Goals Report, three quarters of all children of upper secondary school age who are not in school come from households in the bottom 40 per cent of the income distribution, as do almost 90 per cent of all those of lower secondary school age who are not in school.
The lower rates in secondary school enrolment are cause for concern to the Government as it indicates a number of young people are being left behind and unable to profit from and contribute to the country’s progress.
The drop-off in secondary school enrolment can be linked to other threats such as substance abuse, which poses a risk to some adolescents. Statistics from the National Drug Agency (ADK) show that 65 per cent of drug users detected in 2009 had only completed their secondary education up to the age of 15.
Without correct information and skills to cope with the growth to adulthood, some adolescents and young people experiment with drugs and engage in unprotected sex, thus increasing their risk of unwanted pregnancies as well as contracting HIV, hepatitis and other sexually transmitted diseases. Lack of life-skills also contribute to other social problems amongst some adolescents such as juvenile delinquency and bullying in schools.
Young people’s participation in Malaysia is still limited to community work through uniform activities in school. A strategic approach is required to empower adolescents to benefit from participation so they may reach their full potential.
* Source: The State of the World's Children 2011