PETALING JAYA, June 18 — The quality of primary and secondary school education in Malaysia is only worth 9.1 years of schooling even though pupils study an average of 12.2 years, when compared to South Korea or Singapore, a World Bank study shows.

Richard Record, the lead economist for Malaysia in the World Bank Group’s Macroeconomics, Trade and Investment Global Practice, told reporters today that this challenge facing Malaysia can be traced all the way down to the inconsistent standards of preschools in the country.

“Pre-school seems to be one of the areas in which we see a gap opening up, which suggests it could be tackled right through the education system.

“We measure the readiness of children when they start school. There is already some gap which suggested that there’s differential readiness when school starts, which in turn suggests that the quality and availability of pre-school is not uniform across the country.


“So, clearly, some children are behind even from the starting line if you like. You need more consistency so you won’t see children who are left behind,” he elaborated at the sidelines of the last day of the Malaysian Economic Convention 2019 here, today.

Record was citing data from the World Bank Human Capital Index, which measures the different components that develop productive human capital in order to measure the gap between a child’s learning potential and lifelong earnings in their adulthood.

The study looks at the years of schooling and the quality adjusted years of schooling, where it rates Malaysian children at 0.62 out of 1.


“On average, the Malaysian child gets about 12.2 years of education in total, but when we make some adjustments for quality, comparing educational outcomes in Malaysia compared to the world’s best educational system, then we see that there is a discount rate of about 3.1 years.

“So that is the gap between what is current and the potential level of learning.

“The aggregate score on the human capital index for Malaysia is .62, which means essentially that Malaysian children today, given current health-educational-nutritional or policies and institutions will fulfill only about 62 per cent of their potential,” said Record.

However, he acknowledged that when compared to other countries in the East Asia Pacific region and its middle income peers, Malaysia is performing very well.

The gap is only visible when compared against developed high income nations — a goal that Malaysia aspires to.