Private Tutoring in Malaysia: Regulating for Quality

Memo #126 (Malay translation available here)

By Husaina Kenayathulla – husaina [at] um.edu.my

Private tutoring is perceived as a household necessity in Malaysia. This growing phenomenon is increasingly difficult for policy makers to ignore. The Malaysian government consistently tries to achieve a balance between encouraging and regulating private tutoring.

Approximately 93 per cent of families that allocate money to private tutoring for their children spend up to a tenth of their total monthly expenditures. Parents do not have any strong evidence of the effectiveness of tutoring. But there is a strong shared belief in the efficacy of tutoring, regardless of the teaching and delivery methodologies used in tutoring centres. Increasingly, private tutoring is used to bolster the academic records of already well-performing students, in addition to its traditional, remedial purposes.

South Korea and Mauritius have attempted to ban private tutoring on the premise that it fosters social inequalities. But the Malaysian government has adopted a more moderate approach to monitor and regulate the tutoring industry.

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The Malaysian government explicitly allows school teachers to tutor outside school hours to supplement their income. According to a Ministry of Education 2006 circular, teachers are limited to four hours of tutoring per week but there are no restrictions on the type of students they can tutor. This means they can tutor students who attend their own in-school classes.

Most of the international education literature opposes the idea of teachers tutoring their own students. Teachers may withhold information pertinent to their in-school classes so that students would attend their tutoring classes. Despite these findings, the Malaysian government continues to allow teachers to tutor students from their own classrooms. It has become a firmly rooted practice, especially in rural areas.

Although the Malaysian government recognizes the importance of tutoring, it seeks to regulate the market in order to control the quality of private tutoring. The government requires all private tutoring centres to be registered with the Ministry of Education (at the state level).

Regulations include requirements such as academic qualifications for the principal, who should have at least a secondary school certificate, and teaching permits for teachers who are not in-service. It also includes safety standards such as the availability of fire escapes and adequate infrastructure.

Even though the Malaysian government strives to regulate private tutoring through authorizations, there is no effective post-authorization monitoring.

With the growth of private tutoring in Malaysia, enforcement of proper monitoring mechanisms is necessary to ensure quality tutoring for the benefit of students and to prevent corruption in the industry.

Husaina Kenayathulla – PhD candidate, Education Leadership and Policy Studies, Indiana University. Fellow, Educational Management, Planning & Policy, University Malaya, Malaysia.

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Private tutoring in Malaysia. Source: The Star Online

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Asia Pacific Memo is published by the Institute of Asian Research (IAR) at The University of British Columbia. Distributed weekly, we feature 350 word essays or video interviews on contemporary Asia.