Malaysia’s long-term growth prospects depend on early education

The World Bank Malaysia Economic Monitor, titled “Bending the bamboo shoots: strengthening basic skills”, highlights the critical role of improving children’s learning outcomes in Malaysia’s long-term growth prospects. By strengthening basic skills, Malaysia can sustain growth and acquire the advanced skills needed to transition to a high-income country.

As the country seeks to attract private investment, access to skilled labor is essential. However, research conducted among companies reveals a significant gap in the demand for workers with both soft skills, such as problem-solving, leadership, and communication skills, and technical skills. Invest in quality early childhood education and improve teacher performance to remain competitive with ambitious peers like Singapore and South Korea, or to outperform emerging competitors like Vietnam. is the most important.

Malaysia’s Economy Minister Mohd Rafizi Ramli has acknowledged the challenge of sustaining economic growth while addressing rising costs of living and securing well-paid jobs for the country’s people. In the short term, governments are implementing measures such as setting minimum wages, progressive wages, and targeted cash transfers. But the long-term solution lies in turning education into productive employment.

Strengthening our education system is key to building a resilient and prosperous economy. Supporting teachers and improving outcomes in basic education is essential to tackling income inequality, which is a top concern for governments considering fiscal reform. Equal access to quality education provides more young people with opportunities for social and economic advancement.

“Malaysia needs more sophisticated and advanced skills if it is to move towards becoming a high-income country.” said Nudiam Diop, World Bank country director for Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. “Advanced skills fundamentally depend on strong foundational skills developed through quality early childhood and primary education. Malaysia already has a vibrant education system and the next step is to It’s about making sure students have the basic skills they need to acquire more advanced skills.”

Malaysia has made great strides in achieving universal primary education through equitable distribution of resources and student experiences. However, a significant number of children, especially those from low-income households, lack necessary school readiness skills despite attending early childhood centers. As a result, they face difficulties in reading, writing, and mathematics throughout their schooling. International assessments have revealed that by the age of 15, Malaysian students lag behind their peers in reading, mathematics and science.

To address these challenges, Malaysia has implemented several programs such as the Reading Support Program and the Primary School Literacy and Numeracy Program. These initiatives are in line with global best practices and are part of the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025, which focuses on effective education strategies. The report provides four recommendations to improve learning outcomes. First, it proposes that all children have access to high-quality early childhood education so that they are prepared for primary school. Second, efforts should be made to improve the accessibility and quality of early childhood education for low-income families. Third, it emphasizes the importance of measuring student learning outcomes against international standards and thoroughly evaluating teacher performance.

Finally, the report highlights the need for effective teacher training programs that take into account teachers’ experiences and needs and ensure long-term effectiveness and sustainability.

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