Situation in Malaysia
Adolescence – An Age of Opportunity
Malaysia has made substantial investments to nurture the energy, creativity and talents of its 5.47 million adolescents to contribute towards nation-building.
There remain, however, vulnerable adolescents who require additional support and attention to escape poverty, health risks, violence and exploitation so they too can realise their full potential.
For example, the country’s net secondary school enrollment ratio is 66% for boys and 70% for girls for 2005-2009 compared to the net primary school enrollment ratio of 96% for both girls and boys. The lower rates in secondary school enrollment are cause for concern as they suggest that a number of adolescents and young people are being left behind, unable to profit from and contribute to the country’s progress.
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% of the income distribution, as do almost 90% of all those of lower secondary school age who are not in school.
This inequality is linked to high youth unemployment. The unemployment rate for youth aged 15–24 was 11% in 2008, amounting to 230,000 persons and accounting for 60% of the unemployed. Those aged 15–19 had an unemployment rate of 18%, and accounted for more than 20% of the unemployed.*
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% of drug users detected in 2009 had only completed their secondary education up to the age of 15.
Lack of life skills
Small-scale data also indicate that sexual activity among young people in Malaysia is increasingly common, although their knowledge about family planning and reproductive health, including sexually transmitted infections, remains at relatively low levels.*
Without access to correct information and without the skills to cope with the transition to adulthood, some adolescents and young people experiment with drugs and engage in unprotected sex, increasing their risk of unwanted pregnancies as well as contracting HIV, hepatitis and other sexually transmitted diseases. Lack of life-skills also contributes to other social problems, such as juvenile delinquency and bullying in schools.
* Malaysia Millennium Development Goals 2010 Report