Yearstarter2019: What’s in store for our education system in 2019

Dr Maszlee is committed to reducing the administrative workload of teachers this year. Photo: The Star/Mohd Sahar Misni

What’s in store for Malaysia’s education system in 2019? Top on the list, according to Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik, is to unburden teachers and students. Schooling and learning will be a joyful experience because the emotions of our children matter, he said.

“Inculcating good values and civic consciousness into the national curriculum, which was planned since my appointment (in May 2018), is going to be carried out,” he said.

The ministry is adopting a bottom-up approach, and Dr Maszlee is committed to reducing the administrative workload of teachers.

He said this would ensure better teaching and learning in classrooms.

“Previously, ministerial policies have been top down. We’re going to take away all the extra paperwork for teachers in 2019,” he said, adding that this was possible because the ministry has a close working relationship with the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP).

Crediting the NUTP and other teacher associations and societies for updating the ministry on what’s happening on the ground, he said the ministry could get things done because it wasn’t working alone. He also shared what we can expect in 2019:


There will be a significant reduction in the number of dilapidated schools, to ensure that the buildings are safe. Ongoing projects will be reviewed to ensure effective delivery of projects.

Exams for students in Years One, Two and Three will make way for a more holistic assessment. More training for teachers on classroom-based assessments will be conducted to assess a child’s development.

There will be more emphasis on infusing values into everyday school life. The exercise will start with a manual to introduce values during school assemblies, followed by two weeks of letting students put these into practice.

There will be more engagements with others including the media, corporations and foundations to inculcate these values. Civic consciousness will be strengthened across different subjects for better inculcation of values like mutual respect, kindness, love, integrity and hard work.

The low income population (B40) and special needs students will receive greater support. B40 students will get free breakfast and milk, so they can focus on learning. More allocation will be channelled to students with special needs.

A mechanism to allow stateless children to enter government schools will be introduced.


Amendments to the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) will see students and academics having more freedom to express themselves, and more student unions formed and strengthened.

There will be more autonomy for university governance. The senate will be empowered to make decisions with consultation from university staff, academics and students.

Technical & Vocational Education Training (TVET)

There will be a report on how to improve TVET articulation and system, and these will be translated into action.


Improvements to the education system will be carried out after a review of the National Education Policy Studies Committee Report is conducted.

Multilingualism will be prioritised by strengthening

Dewan Bahasa Dan Pustaka (DBP); translating into and producing more works in Bahasa Melayu; introducing “Kerangka Standard Bahasa Melayu” as an internationally-recognised framework akin to the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL); continuing the Dual Language Programme (DLP) in schools; and ensuring better training of English teachers.

Public-private partnerships across all levels of education will be enhanced.

Higher Education Courses To Look Out For

Datuk Dr Parmjit Singh.

While demand in areas like engineering, business, law, accounting and finance is expected to still drive tertiary education, technology is giving rise to new programmes and courses which are predicted to be popular in 2019.

According to the Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities (Mapcu), here are the courses to look out for and why they’ll be in demand.


Due to growing online threats, hacks and intrusions.

Internet Of Things (IoT)

This is being incorporated into home appliances and devices, and adopted within Industry 4.0 manufacturing processes.

Data Sciences & Big Data

Big data analysis of consumers and customers allows for specialised and personalised marketing strategies.

Fintech & Blockchain Tech

These are being adopted by financial institutions, and the government is promoting the use of technology to drive a digital economy.

Augmented Reality (AR) & Virtual Reality (VR)

Use of AR and VR in medicine, science and technology, for teaching and learning, is increasing.


There’s extensive use of robotics is manufacturing and in emerging industries like medicine (for surgeries) and services (in F&B). Consumers are also warming up to hybrid and autonomous vehicles.

E-commerce & E-business

Businesses and individuals use virtual and cashless payment systems as consumers want convenient alternatives to purchasing goods and services.

Several of these courses are already on offer but they’ll feature more prominently in 2019, said Mapcu president Datuk Dr Parmjit Singh.

“Programmes offered by higher education institutions are based on industry developments and trends,” he said. “The emergence of new business models and technologies, and the resultant digital disruption on industries, are spurring demand for specialist programmes.”

On whether students can expect a fee hike in 2019, he said intense competition means that institutions are cautious about raising fees arbitrarily.

“Higher fees result from economic considerations like inflation, as well as rising operating and development costs,” he said, adding that fee increases within private higher education institutions are regulated by the Education Ministry.

While Mapcu doesn’t foresee major developments in higher education in 2019, the association is concerned about foreign institutions being invited to set up branch campuses in Malaysia.

“There’s already excess capacity within the existing institutions. It would affect the sustainability of the private sector if capacity is built without a corresponding demand for places in universities.”

Education To Be More Accessible & Equitable

Harry Tan Huat Hock.

Harry Tan Huat Hock, secretary-general of the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP), said with education getting the lion’s share of Budget 2019, students and those from the lower income group will benefit from a more conducive learning environment.

“We’ll see more schools, but more importantly there’s money for rebuilding dilapidated schools nationwide, upgrading existing national schools, Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools, fully residential schools, Mara Junior Science Collage, government-aided schools, mission schools, Tahfiz, Sekolah Pondok, and independent and conforming Chinese schools.”

But Tan is also cautiously optimistic of the Budget’s real impact despite the RM60.2bil allocation. Much would depend on how the money is spent, he said. “There needs to be an overhaul in our education system. We have the money. Now it’s time to zero in on the nitty-gritty.”

He said fulfilling basic needs must be a priority. The budget for education should focus on making schools safer, more comfortable and better equipped.

“The ministry must make sure that all schools, especially in Sabah and Sarawak, have fences. Schools in heavy traffic areas must have full-time wardens, primary school pupils need lockers, old chairs and desks should make way for contemporary furniture, classrooms have to be brightly lit, working toilets are a must, and learning tools like smartboards would be very effective.”

Tan added that though Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) may be getting a bigger allocation in 2019, the ministry must take a serious look at its outdated syllabus.

“We’re hopeful that the funds will be used to provide TVET students with the latest learning facilities so that they’re industry-ready. For example, many are learning how to fix old carburettor engines when they should have access to hybrid engines.”

He also said for Budget 2019 to have any real impact, teacher engagement is crucial. Reports prepared by teachers for the ministry must be taken seriously.

“Our role is to educate, so children go on to become good citizens. But how are we to teach discipline when there are so many restrictions imposed on us? If we see something wrong, we must be free to highlight it,” he said. “Having a big budget is good, but to successfully improve our education system, we need reformists, not politicians.”

The union’s 220,000 members work hard to inculcate good values like punctuality, compassion, politeness, grit, self-control and humility among students who end up being let down by reality.

Tan pointed out as examples, “We stress that everyone must be on time for our sports meet, yet the VIP politician is late. We tell them get good results and you will be rewarded, but we keep reading about straight A students who can’t get into public universities or aren’t given government scholarships.”


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