Malaysia is well on the way to achieving universal primary education and realising Millennium Development Goal 2, with 96* per cent net primary school enrolment for both her girls and boys.
The country's success is in large part attributed to the Government’s commitment to education, as a strategy to reduce poverty and contribute to national development.
Broadening educational opportunities and upgrading the national education system has increased access to and enjoyment of other rights.
Since 1970, Malaysia has invested in providing proper infrastructure to ensure access to schools and supporting the needs of the poor through textbook loans, hostels, school health and milk programs as well as a supplementary food scheme. These efforts have been supported at the family level by parents who see education as an opportunity to provide a better life for their children.
Despite Malaysia’s success, it is estimated that 125,000** Malaysian children are still out of school and do not have access to primary education. This figure does not include refugees, stateless and undocumented children. Of equal concern is the number of children, some 17,000, who did not continue into secondary education each year in 2005-2009. The dropout rate is 16.7 per cent for rural schools compared to 10.1 per cent for urban schools***.
Specially tailored and culturally sensitive programs are also required to motivate children from Malaysia’s Orang Asli and other indigenous communities to enrol and complete their primary education. Historically burdened with low school achievement rates, these children attend school depending on the seasonal nature of their household chores. Targetted attention is also needed to ensure stateless, refugee and migrant children benefit from learning.
Another challenge is to improve the quality of primary education including to ensure the relevance of curriculum, and adequate provision of support to teachers, especially in rural areas.
Given the rapid use of ICT throughout the country, education policies also need to be sensitive to the possible creation of a digital divide between rural and urban children, due to a less comprehensive ICT infrastructure in rural areas.
* Source: The State of the World's Children 2011