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According to Merriam Webster dictionary, education is defined as the action or process of
teaching someone especially in a school, college or university. Therefore, education is meant
to grow in us a perspective of looking at life. It helps us shape opinions and develop a point
of view.
Education provides us with knowledge about this big world. It creates the way for a
good career. It helps build character. It leads us to enlightenment. It prepares the foundation
of a stronger country. In short, education makes a man complete. The education system is
actually divided into preschool education, primary education, secondary education, postsecondary education and tertiary education. Education may be obtained from the multilingual
public school systems which provide free education for all Malaysians, or private schools, or
through homeschooling. By law, primary education is compulsory. It is mean for everyone
regardless of background, religion, race and etc.


Education is essential to sustainable development. Todays education is crucial to the ability
of present and future leaders and citizens to create solutions and find new paths to a better
future. Nelson Mandela did quoted education is the most powerful weapon which we can use
to change the world. The history of education actually starting before the administration of
British, where Sabah and Sarawak did not receive any formal education.
Malays were only given religious education whereas other indigenous groups were
given traditions education from their descendants. When Sarawak was ruled by Brooke
family and Sabah was ruled by the British North Borneo (Chartered) Company, education for
its people was not an important agenda, it was accorded low priority. They only provide
education at primary level with the purpose to offer workforce for the government and to
make people better farmers or fishermen that their parents. However, the people of Sarawak
and Sabah is not homogeneous, they came from diverse ethnic and backgrounds, and
dwelling in different localities. The outcome of a centurys rule of the British/Brooke on the
inculcation scenario is:
1. Malay edification, Chinese edification, Native edification, India edification and
English inculcation

2. The provision of edification by different stakeholders: the British and the private
sector [(Christian missionaries-Anglican, Roman Catholic, Seven Day Adventist,
Methodist), Malay-Muslim religious ascendant entities, Chinese communities]\
3. Unequal development both spatially and ethnically, spatially as in urban area being
more progressive in development of education facilities, and rural Sabah/Sarawak
being less developed in education facilities, ethnically as higher literacy rate among
Chinese, and lower literacy rate among Natives
The role of missionaries in education for Sabah and Sarawak
Missionaries played a very important role for
providing education to the people of Sabah
and Sarawak for non-muslim native and
other indigenous groups. James Brooke had
an open policy and attitude towards the
Christian missionaries where he invited these
missionaries to Sarawak with the purpose to
support his administration and assist in
providing education to the non-Malay natives. The Christian mission built schools using
English as the medium of instruction and they take a change to spread Christianity. Nearly
half of such schools are located in the Christian-majority Sarawak state.
In Sabah, the North Borneo Company also was supportive to mission school as they
insufficient of funds for providing education and by the help of missionary it will ease their
burden of education expenditure. The establishment of a mission school has received a
written letter of permission from the Chartered Company to carry out their work in 1881.
Christian school founded targeting the Chinese and European to expand their teaching.
Among the skills taught include reading, writing and arithmetic. The mission schools in
Sabah, not only provided primary education but secondary level education as well. But the
mission school only built in city area where natives people which stay in interior area did not
get a chance to enrol into mission school.
Furthermore, the involvement of missions in education was in line with the Brooke's
and Britishs objective of ''civilising'' the natives as well as reducing their burden in providing
education (Sabihah Osman, 1990: 82). This is because most of natives people in Sarawak
and Sabah are pagan and more believe to animism and superstition. The English/Western

education provided by the missionaries, especially the Roman Catholics, has proved to be of
immense economic value.
In fact, it was the students from mission schools who were able to fill positions in the
government sector as clerks, teachers and administrators. The positive exposure in mission
schools made the students confident as well as receptive to the changes taking place around
them. Mission school use English as medium of instruction which make the people for that
century very proficient in English language. Even the mission school still alive until today
but in accordance to the national language policy, all mission schools medium of instruction
has been changed to Malay as to standardize curriculum within all states..
English subject remain in syllabus which it become second language to Malaysia and
it is important for global commerce. However, lack of English proficiency among teachers in
Sabah and Sarawak cringe at teaching English for those students who reside mainly in rural
areas. Native people who staying in rural areas dont see English language is important to
them since after school these students will speak in their mother tongue for daily
communication. Inadequate of facilities in school and transportation issue also cause
difficulty for them to attend school.
Education for Malays
The Malays in Sarawak had their own traditional system of education (Sabihah Osman,
1990: 43). By traditional is meant religious education provided by religious teachers or
religious authorities such as Tok Imam, Tok Haji and Arabs who came as traders and
thereafter resided in Malay villages. Such religious education entailed learning the Holy
Quran, as well as learning to read and write Jawi. Same goes to Muslim in Sabah, they had
their own system of reading and writing in Jawi.
The Brookes and British regarded the Malays as the governing race and recognised
the need for Malays to be educated in their own language. This policy of providing education
in the mother tongue or in the students own language was carried out for the other
communities as well. Education was regarded as an instrument for improving the living
conditions of the Malays in their traditional work to be better. Schools were set up and
advocated that each of the major ethnic groups (Malay, Chinese, Indians, but excluding the
non-Malay natives) be taught through its own mother tongue. The people, however, were
given only basic literacy and numeracy as well as training in practical skills related to their

Education for Chinese




founded by the Chinese

community which funded
by Chinese merchants in
Sabah and Sarawak. Therefore,
syllabus, textbooks and teachers
from China brought to Borneo as





Mandarin medium of instruction in

schools and they also will apply various Chinese dialect. Apart from the Chinese-medium
schools of Chinese society also received education in mission schools.
The Chinese communities progressed faster in the provision of education as they did
not depend on government aid. The schools were set up with the main intention of providing
education in the Chinese language. As such, their students remain largely Chinese to this day
even though the school themselves are open to people of all races and backgrounds.
After Sabah and Sarawak joined Malaysia, some of the Secondary Chinese School has
been converted into national type school where syllabus is predicated on national curriculum
and but designed, approved and revised by Chinese Edification Bodies. But the primary
Chinese medium school was able to retain the medium of ordinate dictation. The composition
of Chinese schools in Sabah and Sarawak, is very unique with a high percentage of
Bumiputera Muslim and non-Muslim students studying in these schools, especially in the
rural areas.
In fact, many Bumiputera parents including professional ones prefer to send their
children to Chinese schools that can described as a 'melting pot' as the children become
friends although they came from different backgrounds. Overall, the Chinese vernacular
schools have for example, provided constantly high educational and academic standards
which have led to better inculcated Malaysians. It is for this reason, that many parents of all
ethnic groups are increasingly magnetized to these schools despite their typically
overcrowded and under-equipped nature.
It is clear and verbally expressed that the British and Brooke family practiced an
insouciant and laissez-faire posture towards the provision of edification for the people of

Borneo. Inculcation and schooling was regarded as an intrusion and disruptive influence
on the general status quo of Sabah and Sarawak native life. The decision to revert to Bahasa
Malaysia as the medium of injunctive authorization in the edification system has engendered
linguistic challenges among learners in Malaysian universities and competence in English
among learners has been on the decline since a vicissitude in language policy was enforced
from that of English to Bahasa Malaysia in 1970 (Chan & Wong, 2004, p. 1). The decline
has led to elevate in the number of unemployed graduates who fail to secure jobs because of
their lack of competence in the English language, evident particularly during interviews
(Chan & Helen, 2006, p. 309). Nevertheless, the advent of Information Technology (IT) and
globalization has made English language proficiency imperative for developing countries
such as Malaysia.


Before the administration of North Borneo Smelting Company, Christian Missionaries played
a vital role. Many ethnic groups did not have opportunity to receive any formal education.
The Malays is given religious education while other races like Dusun is educated with the
traditional education of their descendants. After the administration of North Borneo Smelting
Company, education developed at the fast rate. Missionaries began set up schools in Papar
(1981), Sandakan such as St. Mary (1883), St.Micheals boys school (1888) and Convent
School for girls (1891). English as Medium of instruction (MOI) in almost every school.
Dusun and Mandarin also used as MOI.
Development of schools in Sabah

Establishment of Chinese national

type primary school in Jesselton,
79 private school (1939), which
included a school in Ladang
Getah, Tawau Japanese as MOI.

1930s : 49 mission

1930 : Governmentaided schools reached

21 + 7 by 1941


1941 : 52 mission

1920 (KB) : a primary

Used Malay as MOI.

Sarawak had its own traditional education system before Brooke family colonisation era.
People of Sarawak which consist of Iban, Melanau and Kelabit did not receive any formal
education. They only have basic skills such as hunting. The Malays were taught Islamic
education in religious schools. Below is the development of schools in Sarawak.
During Brooke

Hammond Report:
schools were also
established in 1940

Education managed
Brooke government

government set up an

Kinowit, Anglicans
(used English as

Outside Kuching
Malay, mandarin &
English as MOI

The national philosophy of education states that "Education in Malaysia is an ongoing effort
towards further developing the potential of individuals in a holistic and integrated manner so
as to produce individuals who are intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically
balanced and harmonious, based on a firm belief in and devotion to God".
Nowadays, the Malaysian education system encompasses education beginning from
pre-school to university. Education became the main agenda in all resolution made by the
government since Rancangan Malaysia Pertama (RM1) till now. The Malaysian government
always seeks for the new formula on how the young generation could eventually graduated
from the University and able to contribute towards a better country. Government never stop
to rectify all the weaknesses found in our education systems and to make sure that we achieve
the goal and objectives set earlier.
Currently, there are 37 private universities, 20 private university colleges, 7 foreign
university branch campuses and 414 private colleges in Malaysia. The school year is divided
into two semesters. The first begins in the beginning of January and ends in June; the second
begins in July and ends in December.




Sabihah Osman (2011), on a mission to educate


Regina Lim (2008), Federal-state Relations in Sabah, Malaysia: The Berjaya

Administration, 1976-85


Sabihah Osman (1990) Perkembangan pelajaran Bumiputera Sarawak 1841-1941.

Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur


Ong P.L, Ong P.H, Sivapalan S., Marsitah M.R, Badariah S, Malaysian Journal of
Society and Space 10 issue 1 (36 - 48) 2014, ISSN 2180-2491The making of
Malaysian solidarity: A historical look at education and social cohesion in Sarawak


Ramiza Darmi,Peter Albion, English Language In The Malaysian Education

System: Its Existence And Implications


CHINESE EDUCATION IN MALAYSIA: A Reflection of Its Past & Future Direction by

Florence Kuek


Chan, S. H., & Helen, T. (2006). English for Mathematics and Science: Current
Malaysian Language-in-education policies and practices. Language and Education,
20(4), 306-321.
Chan, S. H., & Wong, B. E. (2004). Assessing oral skills of pre-tertiary students: The
nature of the communicative act. Paper presented at the International Conference on
English Instruction and Assessment



Lambert, T. (n.d.). A SHORT HISTORY OF MALAYSIA. A Brief History of Malaysia.

Retrieved October 5, 2014, from