Equal Education Opportunities For All

Society has a moral obligation to ensure that all children, regardless of social or economic standing are able to access and receive adequate education to secure a good future and become a contributing member of society.

Malaysia ranked third among 20 countries, after Finland and China for being a nation that provides equal opportunity for all1. The nation prides itself for providing free education for all citizens from primary to secondary school levels2. In 2019, enrolment rates were 98.1%, 95.8% and 88.8% for primary, lower secondary and upper secondary schools respectively3. In Sabah, dropout rates amongst at-risk students have steadily declined from 13.5% to 9% between 2012 to 20152.

Key Issues Affecting Education Opportunities In Sabah

Poor Conditions Of Rural Schools

In 2020, 466 out of 1,296 schools (45%) were categorised as dilapidated in Sabah⁴. Of these 414 were ranked at Category 6, by the Sabah State Education Department (JPN Sabah) – meaning the schools were unsafe for use and in a dilapidated state. 52 schools were at Category 7 and are considered hazardous and can be life-threatening⁴.

  • Dilapidated schools are schools that are not equipped with proper physical components, facilities or buildings5. These schools do not function and can put all those who attend at risk of injuries, accidents and even loss of life5. Schools dubbed as dilapidated usually do not have 24-hour electricity, nor safe drinking water. Some are subject to extreme weather conditions, whilst others lack facilities such as science labs, computer labs, canteens, toilets, libraries or even sufficient classrooms6
  • The poor infrastructure problem persists particularly in the rural area of Sabah. Additionally, Almost two in five rural households in Sabah (37.4%) are more than 9 kilometres away from the nearest secondary school2 – the distance is seven times the national average (5.3%), and Sabah comes second to Sarawak. Getting to school requires walking long distances, wading through muddy roads, crossing precarious bridges, or even taking a boat. 

Children Are out Of School

Currently, there are 24 state hospitals and 300 government health clinics throughout Sabah to accommodate all 27 district³. Unfortunately, this is not enough to cover the state’s population. Accessibility to these medical facilities is an added challenge, for example poor road conditions, dangerous terrain and unpredictable weather.

  • 6.5% of Malaysia’s population live more than 5km away from any healthcare facility 7. This number is much higher for states like Sabah and Sarawak 8. With more rugged terrains, one-third of their population is far away from a hospital. A 2015 study from the Ministry of Health found that the average time to reach a hospital for rural residents was 30.65 minutes compared to 16.71 minutes for urban residents 8
  • In order to accommodate emergency situations, government-managed ambulances which also includes airlift capacities for remote sites are provided. There are also non-government organizations (NGOs) that have taken the initiative to provide these rural communities with necessary healthcare.

Poverty A Huge Barrier To Education

In Sabah’s case, poverty is the most cited reason behind the lack of participation in schools. UNICEF found that more than 1 in 3 children dropped out of school (both primary and secondary) because of financial reasons².

  • This is because, despite all public schools being free of charge, many households are unable to afford the additional cost of schooling like transportation, food, uniforms, stationery or even reference books. Being unable to keep up with the costs, parents choose to take their children out of schools, and some may enter the state’s labour force early2
  • UNICEF believes that as this problem is more common in rural and remote regions in Sabah, there is a strong correlation with the region’s lack of income, and high poverty rate2. Not only are these communities unable to afford the school-related expenses, but they need their children to work for extra income.

Stateless Children Not Granted Education

The state is known for its large stateless (undocumented) population. Some are former Filipinos, Bajau Laut, Indonesian plantation workers, as well as irregular migrants from Indonesia and the Philippines who have visited the state and settled here. Despite multiple generations, children from stateless families are not granted the same education opportunities as Malaysians².

  • Non-citizen demographics were the leading population to be out of school on all levels2. By law, even if stateless children are born in Malaysia and given a birth certificate, it’s not enough to access public education2. As private education is too costly, and public education is off-limits, stateless children can only learn via Alternative Learning Centers (ALCs) run by NGOs or faith groups, even then, few attend. 
  • Whilst ALCs provide primary & pre-primary education and run by trained and certified educators, only one in four ALCs are free2. Other ALCs impose a tuition fee, which is most necessary to keep the organization going2. Unfortunately, ALCs do not always provide certification or proof of education, recognised by the local government. Meaning, although children are allowed to learn, they are not guaranteed employment.

Changemakers

Movers and shakers who are making a difference through education in Sabah

Infographics

Visually designed data for you to share, be informed and start conversations with your friends.

Universal Healthcare For All In Sabah

Equal Education Opportunity For All In Sabah

Better Employment Opportunities & Advancement In Sabah

Challenges In Restoring The Identity Of The Stateless In Sabah

Closing The Digital Divide In Sabah

Explore Our Sources

  1. The Star. (2020). M’sia third on list for equal opportunities in educationLink.
  2. UNICEF. (2019). Children Out of School, The Sabah Context. Link.
  3. Ministry of Education. (2020). Laporan Tahunan 2019. Pelan Pembangunan Pendidikan Malaysia. Link. 
  4. Borneo Today. (2020). RM1.2B Allocated But 466 Schools Still Unsafe. Link. 
  5. Ministry of Education. (2019). 2018 Annual Report. Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013 – 2025. Link. 
  6. Ministry of Education. (2013). Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013 – 2025 (Preschools to Post Secondary Education. Link. 

Connect With Us

Be A Changemaker Today

Drop us a line

For questions, partnerships or collaborations

Get Updated On The Impact Industry

Sign up to receive monthly updates about jobs, news and events. Promise, no spam!