Tamil Schools/Education in Malaysia

Tamil Schools and Tamil Education in Malaysia have a history of dating back to more than 200 years ago. It was a historic moment when the Government in 2012 created a dedicated unit – Action Plan for the Future of Tamil Schools – at the Prime Minister’s Department address the various problems faced by these schools, and to complement the work of the Ministry of Education in finding solutions to problems faced by these schools.

For the comprehensive and sustainable development of these schools, the Hon. Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak directed that a Blueprint for Tamil Schools be developed. This Blueprint for Tamil Schools was officially launched on February 14, 2014 and was handed-over to the government.

***Below are the excerpts from the Action Plan for the Future of Tamil Schools – Blueprint. (Prime Minister’s Department, 2014).


National Type Tamil schools (Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Tamil – SJKT) in Malaysia have a history of at least 150 years. The teaching of Tamil Language by volunteers, to safeguard their language and identity, started more than 200 years ago. This very important feature of the Indian community in Malaysia is also one of the many unique features of the Malaysian Education System. SJKT schools, without doubt, have played their part in producing the human capital for the country based on the National Philosophy of Education. These schools have shown tremendous improvement over the last 5 years (National Education Blueprint, 2012;19). This has been made possible with the joint effort of the Government, headmasters and teachers of these schools, parents, and the community as a whole.

Former Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak has on record implemented numerous initiatives since taking office in 2009 to improve SJKT schools. More than half a billion ringgit had been allocated to improve the infrastructure of development of SJKT schools in the last 5 years. He has also announced the building of six new SJKT schools.

Another very significant initiative by Hon. Prime Minister was the appointment of a Coordinator under the Prime Minister’s Department to produce a comprehensive Action Plan for the continuous and comprehensive development of SJKT schools. He has requested that the action plan be drawn up based on data collected from the existing 523 SJKT schools and through dialogue with all stakeholders in the community.

This report is the outcome of a comprehensive study undertaken between May 2012 and March 2013 to formulate a comprehensive and sustainable development plan for SJKT schools in Malaysia.


            Although the formal teaching of Tamil Language started in 1816 at Penang Free School by Rev. Hutchings (Rajendran, 2008), SJKT schools started to exist in Malaysia in the later part of the 19th century. There was a need to provide basic educational facilities to the children of the workers of the plantations administered by the British. Interestingly, these schools were started in the northern states such as Penang since the early arrival of Indians to Malaysia concentrated in Penang. 

            More SJKT schools were set up in the early part of the 20th century and there were significant increase in the number of SJKT schools in Malaysia after 1930s and after the second-world war. There were a total of 888 SJKT schools in Malaysia in the year 1957 (Rajendran, 2008), the year Malaysia gained its independence from the British. Largely due to fragmentation of estates and the migration of the estate workers to sub-urban areas, many of these schools closed down. Even today, the historical background of these schools, in particular the location of these schools, pose serious threats to the continuous existence of the SJKT schools. There are at least 15 SJKTs in the country with less than 10 students each.

            The majority of the Indian community would like to ensure the continuous existence of these schools which are considered an important symbol of their language and culture. These schools have shown significant improvements in both infra-structure development and and in academic achievements over the years. These schools have closed the gap between them and other types of schools significantly in the recent years.

“ At the primary level, SJK( T) schools still lag behind both SJK (C) and SK schools by approximately 4 percentage points in 2011 ( Exhibit 3-25). However, this gap has been almost halved during the past five years……” (National Education Blueprint, 2012;19)

While this was the case prior to the release of the Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) results of 2013, the SJKT schools further improved their performance. It is interesting to note that in the 2013 UPSR results, the SJKT schools have successfully closed the gap between them and other types of schools. The UPSR results of SJKT schools show that national average grade (GPN) of Tamil schools, had improved to 2.31 points in 2013 compared with 2.58 in 2010. The GPN of Tamil schools is only 0.04 points away from those of national schools. (A lower GPN score denotes better performance.)

To ensure the continuous, comprehensive and sustainable development of these schools, there has to be an Action Plan. This Action puts forward a comprehensive plan to ensure the continuous existence of SJKT schools in Malaysia. Besides evaluating the status of the schools and mapping out the challenges faced by these schools, this Action Plan aims to propose a comprehensive Action Plan to address all related issues to continue improving these schools, continue to receive the support from the community and most of all require the authorities to perform their duties to ensure the 100,000 children studying in these schools receive quality instruction.

Meeting with Sir Edmund Hillary

Very pleased to share this photo which was taken in 2001 in Auckland, New Zealand with Sir Edmund Hillary during the International Conference on Thinking. During my recent visit to Kathmandu, Nepal, I bought and am currently reading his memoirs ‘Sir Edmund Hillary: View From The Summit’ – published on the 50th Anniversary of the Conquest of Everest.

Excerpts from a presentation made at PBD Panel Discussion in New Delhi in 2016

Excerpts from a presentation I made at the PBD Panel Discussion in 2016 in New Delhi organized by the Ministry of External Affairs. This Panel Discussion was chaired by Hon. Minister of External Affairs.



(Science & Technology, Education, Start-Up India)

30 JULY 2016




  • Raising the quality of education in public schools – In order to properly address the needs of all children, and to prepare the nation to perform at an international level, it is important to first envision what a highly-successful education system must accomplish. What kind of students are best-prepared to meet the challenges of a 21st century economy? What kind of education prepares them for this rapidly globalizing world? These aspirations comprise two aspects: firstly, those for the education system as a whole, and secondly, those for individual students.

In Malaysia, for example, the new National Education Blueprint is in its fourth year of implementation. The government is committed to provide the necessary support including the financial and other relevant support to ensure the success of this very ambitious initiative.

In October 2011, the Ministry of Education launched a comprehensive review of the education system in Malaysia in order to develop a new National Education Blueprint. The decision was made in the context of raising international education standards, the Government’s aspiration of better preparing Malaysia’s children for the needs of the 21st century, and increased public and parental expectations of education policy. Over the course of 15 months (October 2011 to December 2012), the Ministry drew on many sources of input, from education experts at both local and international including from UNESCO, World Bank, OECD, and six local universities, to principals, teachers, parents, students, and other members of the public from every state in Malaysia. The result is a Malaysia Education Blueprint that evaluates the performance of current Malaysia’s education system with considerations of historical starting points against international benchmarks. The Blueprint also offers a vision of the education system and student aspirations that Malaysia both needs and deserves, and suggests 11 strategic and operational shifts that would be required to achieve that vision. To implement these strategic and operational shifts, the government is committed to provide the necessary resources required.

It is important to make an objective and a comprehensive review of the current education system and make the necessary changes. It is vital that the government makes the necessary resources, especially the financial resources, to achieve the objectives.

A couple of thoughts to be taken seriously:

  • It is extremely important to produce an indigenous model of the education system which addresses the various idiosyncrasies and caters for the unique needs of the country. While it is fine to look at various other models it is not advisable to adopt totally any particular model, however good that maybe.
  • A nation can consciously build an admirable school system if it pays close attention to the needs of children, if it selects and prepares its educators well, and if it builds educational communities that are not only physically attractive but conducive to the joys of teaching and learning.
  • Finland has made extraordinary educational reforms that appear to be paradoxes because they depart so clearly form the global educational reform thinking (Sahlberg, 2010). However, teacher professionalism, intelligent accountability, and a systematic focus on equity are among the aspects of Finland’s education system that have inspired others.
    • In Finland, teachers teach less and students spend less time studying both in and out of school than their peers in other countries (Sahlberg, 2010).
    • Finnish schools lack the standardized testing, test-preparation, and private tutoring of the United States and much of the world (Sahlberg, 2010).
  • Other aspects to be given priority.
  • Teacher quality – significant improvements to teacher education.
  • Regulatory / Accreditation body for teachers.
  • Upskilling of teachers – Professional development
  • Reduce the emphasis on examinations – (…to treat these current student assessment studies with caution, contending that results in studies … do not measure interpersonal, spatial, or creative skills…(Howard Gardner quoted in Sahlberg, 2011)
  • The Malaysian Government has sustained high levels of investment in education over the 59 years since independence. As early as 1980, the Malaysian federal government’s spending on primary and secondary education, as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), was the highest in East Asia. In 2011, the amount spent, at 3.8% of GDP or 16% of total government spending, was not only higher than the OECD average of 3.4% of GDP and 8.7% of total public spending respectively, but also at par with or more than top-performing systems like Singapore, Japan, and South Korea. In 2016, with an education the Government, once again, has continued to devote the largest proportion of its budget, 16% to the Ministry. This demonstrates the very real commitment the Government has to education as a national priority.
  •  Dramatic progress on improving access to education – The education system in Malaysia has made tremendous progress since 1957. At the time of Independence, over half the population had no formal schooling, while only 6% of Malaysian children had been educated to secondary level, and a paltry 1% to the post-secondary level. Five and a half decades later, access to education has been transformed beyond recognition. In 2011, Malaysia had achieved near universal enrollment at the primary level at 94%, and the percentage of students who dropped out of primary school had been significantly reduced (from 3% in 1989 to just 0.2% in 2011). Enrollment rates at the lower secondary level (Form 1 to 3) had risen to 87%. The greatest improvement was undoubtedly at upper secondary level (Form 4 to 5), where enrollment rates had almost doubled, from 45% in the 1980s, to 78% in 2011. These enrollment rates are even higher once enrollment in private schools is factored in: 96% at primary, 91% at lower secondary, and 82% at upper secondary level.

These rates are higher than most developing countries, although they are still lower than that of high performing education systems like Singapore and South Korea. In parallel, there has been rapid expansion in preschool education. Around 77% of students are now enrolled in some form of preschool education (either public or private), and the target is for universal enrollment through the Education National Key Results Area (NKRA) in the Government Transformation Program (GTP).

The significant improvement in access to education is echoed by a similar improvement in attainment. Youth literacy has risen from 88% in 1980 to near-universal literacy of 99% today, while adult literacy has increased even more dramatically, from less than 70% to over 92% in the same time frame. Further, the proportion of the adult population (aged 15+) with no schooling has declined, from 60% in 1950 to less than 10% in 2010, while the proportion (aged 15+) that has completed secondary education has risen from around 7% in 1950 to almost 75% over the same time period. These are achievements of which Malaysia can be proud of.

  • Dropout rate – With India recording almost 30 per cent of dropout rate at the primary level, Malaysia will be able to share its experience in reducing the dropout rate of students esp. at the primary level which has been reduced to less than 1 per cent.
  • The Teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS)

With the growing complexities of the modern world, the importance of learning is increasing day by day. The problems are complex and they require specialized attention. So unless people are trained at high levels of competence, it is difficult to meet the requirement of the modern world. In the present context of globalization and competition, we require high level thinking skills in education to adjust in different situations. HOT emphasizes students’ real learning achievement and practical implication of education which is vital. Thus, HOT is beneficial for all stakeholders of education in society to promote four pillars of learning (learning to know, learning to do, learning to be and learning to live together). Active learning can make a course more enjoyable for both teachers and students and most importantly, can cause students to thinking at higher level.

Nurturing high level thinking skills that enable students to synthesize meaning or apply ideas to other contexts are key. We are living in a rapidly changing world and finding that our low level thinking is inadequate to meet demands put upon it. It is often said that we should try to provide equal opportunity and equity to all groups of people to bring the mainstream of society through education. It is possible through HOT skills in education. HOT provides a better understanding of a learners centered education.

We should manage HOT skills in the classroom teaching learning process because they have enormous benefits for learners. For this teachers must be provided with the necessary knowledge, skills and the appropriate attitude. Malaysia has started to include the teaching of higher order thinking skills to all students as early as the 1990s. Very recently, Malaysia has given new life to this initiative and is one of the six trusts of the Malaysian Education Blueprint (2013-2025).

Making a Difference in Someone Else’s Life

Dear all.
I have decided to share my thoughts on a regular basis via this personal blog of mine. Having been an educator for more than 4 decades now, I have decided to pay special attention and focus on a theme ‘Making a Difference in Someone’s Life” for postings in this blog. While I will also be sharing my thoughts on a variety of topics or areas, I would like to dedicate the postings in this blog, in playing my little part in making a difference in someone else’s life, who could be the children, women, underprivileged, and those in need of assistance and guidance to move up.
As Mahatma Gandhi once said, ‘be the change you would like to witness in this world’. I am a firm believer that, merely talking, analyzing or providing ideas about issues and problems faced by the groups mentioned above wouldn’t solve any problems. Instead, it is important that each and everyone of us take it upon ourselves to do something, however small to make a difference in someone’s life. This is what Swami Vivekananda said, ‘…do something however small for the people who need help’.

  1. The UNICEF newsletter I just received has some data related to this topic.
    1. Approximately 57 million primary school-age children are not in school.
    2. Globally, over 22 million children are unvaccinated.
    3. Too many children still die of AIDS-related causes.
    4. Millions of children experience violence,
    5. Children are most vulnerable during conflicts and disasters.

The remedy is in instilling in each of the individual out there to do something within his or her means to those who is need.
God bless all.

National Day 2014

On the eve of Malaysia’s 57th National Day Celebrations, I would like to, once again, express my feelings as how proud I am as a Malaysian. Long Live Malaysia. God bless. We achieved independence 57 years ago, a couple of months after I was born. I am a Merdeka (Independence) baby myself. I grew up witnessing the wonderful things which make up the fabric of the Malaysian society. I feel proud as a Malaysian to note that Malaysians are all so peace loving people. As a result we have maintained peace and harmony in this beautiful country of ours. We must all continue to do our part to preserve this wonderful feature and strength of our country.

The last line in the National Philosophy of Education of Malaysia reads, “This effort aims to produce knowledgeable, ethical and responsible Malaysian citizens who can contribute towards the harmony and prosperity of the family, community and nation.” So it is our duty that we continue to cherish the peace and harmony in this country. We must remind ourselves that our mother-land is truly special to us.

A line in the national anthem reads, “Negara ku, Tanah tumpahnya darahku” which literally means, the country where I shed my blood. Please remember, it is not we who shed our blood during war to defend our country, but our mothers who shed blood when delivering us on this land. So, no other land could replace this very special land. We must all be united to safeguard our country from any form of challenges. I have been blessed to visit almost 30 countries in the five continents.

As a proud Malaysian, I must admit that no other land even comes close to our mother-land Malaysia. Whenever I return from abroad by Malaysian Airlines, the announcement just before landing at KLIA by the air-hostess touches my heart. “To all our visitors we wish Selamat Datang and to all our Malaysians Welcome home”. This is our home. Long live Malaysia. God bless. Selamat Hari Kebangsaan 2014. Happy National Day 2014. இனிய 2014 தேசிய தின வாழ்த்துகள்.

Let Us Do Our Part to Save The Environment

The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen ended with an agreement by countries to cap the global temperature rise by committing to significant emission reductions, and to raise finance to kickstart action in the developing world to deal with climate change.

At the meeting, world leaders, including from Malaysia, agreed to the ‘Copenhagen Accord’, which was supported by a majority of countries, including amongst them the biggest and the richest, and the smallest and most vulnerable. The Copenhagen Accord recognizes the scientific view that an increase in global temperature below 2 degrees is required to stave off the worst effects of climate change.

In order to achieve this goal, the accord specifies that industrialised countries are required to implement, individually or jointly, quantified economy-wide emissions targets from 2020, to be listed in the accord before 31 January 2010. A number of developing countries, including major emerging economies, agreed to communicate their efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions, every two years, besides listing their voluntary pledges.

It was also acknowledged at the conference that the pledges listed by developed and developing countries may, according to science, be found insufficient to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees or less. As such, the leaders called for a review of the accord, to be completed by 2015.

The review would include a consideration of the long-term goal to limit the global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. Heads of state and government also intend to unleash prompt action on mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology, reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries and capacity-building.

One of the significant outcomes of the conference was the decision to establish the “Copenhagen Climate Fund” to support immediate action on climate change. The collective commitment towards the fund by developed countries over the next three years will approach 30 billion US dollars. For long-term finance, developed countries agreed to support a goal of jointly mobilizing 100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries.

The Malaysian delegation to the COP15 was headed by the Hon. Prime Minister. He told the delegates that, “Malaysia is committed together with all other countries to do our best to combat climate change. We realize that this is no easy task, in fact, it is nothing short of a herculean endeavour. This Convention under which we are meeting is our best hope for a global framework of cooperation on climate change”. The Prime Minister gave an assurance that Malaysia will continue to contribute to this extremely important process.

Many provided mixed reactions to the outcomes of the COP15. Many were disappointed by the fact that COP15’s failure to produce a legally binding climate change agreement was unacceptable. At the conference, some of the poorer developing countries kept the proceedings frozen with procedural objection after procedural objection, while major economies like the U.S. and China brought little new to the summit and barely budged from their negotiation positions. In the end, all that was produced was an interim accord barely worth the name. It was bitterly attacked by many environmentalists, and even its chief architect, President Barack Obama, admitted the pact was “not enough” and that “we have a long way to go” (TIME).

Nevertheless, the conference provided a platform for world leaders to address this urgent issue. As was reported by TIME, “For all its limitations, however, the Copenhagen Accord is the first real step to fighting climate change in the 21st century. The real value of Copenhagen of the summit may lie in what it teaches us about dealing with climate change — and much more”.

The next annual Climate Change Conference will take place towards the end of 2010 in Mexico City, preceded by a major two week negotiating session in Bonn, Germany, in June.

The issue of climate change is a serious issue which needs to be addressed immediately. While the heads of governments are trying hard to handle this issue, it is extremely important that every individual realizes his or her role in making a significant contribution. At the government level, Malaysia remain committed to ensure at least 50 per cent of our land area remain as forests as pledged in the Rio Summit. Currently our natural forests and agriculture crop plantations combined cover 75 per cent of the country’s land area.
Individuals, on their part, realizing that this is an urgent and a serious issue, need to adopt certain measures which will help safe-guard the environment. For a start, why don’t we reduce the use of plastic bags, and instead bring our own shopping bags to shopping malls. We need to recycle items, use both sides of the paper to print, reduce the temperature of air-condition units in our rooms, and if possible turn off air-con units and lights when we are out of our rooms for a long period of time. Let us do out bit to save our environment.