Malaysian children in kindergarten


Malaysian children go to kindergarten, also referred to as preschool, at the age of 4 to 6. Kindergarten is meant to equip children with some basic knowledge of ABCs and 123s and a window to school life. Kindergarten programme in Malaysia is provided by the Government and several of its agencies, private bodies, and voluntary organizations.


Preschools centers are required by law to register with the Government. Public kindergarten charges small registration and monthly fees while private kindergarten charges high registration and monthly fees. According to World Data on Education 7th Edition, the pioneer in setting up preschools in Malaysia was the Ministry of Rural Development (1970s). In 2007, there were 8,307 preschools setup by the Ministry, known as KEMAS kindergarten. In 2016, there were about 201,000 children (4-6 years old) in government and government-aided preschool, while 333,000 were enrolled in private kindergarten.


Initially, there were 3 main types of public preschool in Malaysia (2007); KEMAS, Ministry of Education (MOE) kindergarten, and Unity kindergarten. As Malaysia progressed, some entrepreneurs saw the business opportunity in providing kindergarten with enriched programmes and thus many private kindergartens were offered. Many parents who can afford the higher fees opted for private kindergartens. According to the MOE statistics, in 2008, nearly 630,000 children aged 4 to 6 were enrolled in public or private preschools programme. About the 40 percent was enrolled in a private preschool programme. Some research found that at the early stage, public kindergartens were considered inferior to private kindergartens because of materials and facilities. Teachers in public kindergartens too were said to lack professional training. Public kindergarten followed government goals, while the private ones include programmes such as Quran recitation, martial arts, ballet, and swimming classes.


However, recently things changed: teachers at public kindergartens now must have at least a teaching diploma and proper training while facilities and teaching materials have been upgraded. Parents from the lower income group with children in public kindergartens would be glad enough if their children graduated from kindergarten will be able to read, write and have made some friends among their peers. Moreover, Muslim parents expect that their children can read, recite and memorize the Quran, and know how to perform the five daily prayers, apart from the standard achievement of normal kindergarten. For these reasons, they usually search for Islamic kindergartens. The presence of kindergartens even in the remotest areas contributed to developing the love that Malaysians have for their country.


By Mohamad Nasir Yusoff


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