Orang Asli Students Lagging Behind But There Is Hope

In Malaysia, the education of future generations is always held at a high priority. Yet, not everyone is given equal opportunity.

The Orang Asli (OA) community is an overlooked minority with 83% of the population still living in poverty[1].

Their lack of advancement can be partly attributed to the fact that opportunities for development and education are not readily available or accessible to many of them.

Source: Malaysiakini

When it comes to education, members of the older generation are illiterate because they never had a chance to be schooled.

The situation however has improved over the years – but the quality of education among the OA community is still low. Studies have shown that OA students are falling behind in their studies compared to the national average.

The inability to thrive at school creates an unequal sentiment in a child’s development. This stigma of ‘not being good enough’ carries on into their adult life and ultimately creates an unspoken and unseen barrier for them to progress higher and earn more[3].

A Challenge To Be Schooled And To Learn

The OA community are people that are closely connected to the land. Their villages are scattered and often far from urban areas. For OA students to attend school regularly, they need schools to be closer to their homes, however, this ideal is not always possible.

Source: Harian Metro

31.7% of indigenous villages are located in remote areas, while 61.45% are in the suburbs and in the remaining 1.38% are located in the city[4].

For many OA families, their children have to walk for hours just to get to school because their homes are located in deep interiors.

For most rural schools, infrastructure and facilities are also compromised – for example, they lack basic amenities such as electricity and clean running water, their classrooms may be run down and many of them do not have libraries[5].

With the challenge of getting to these rural schools come the challenge of getting the right and adequate educational resources there.

Textbooks and other learning materials are often delayed and do not reach the students and teachers on time[5].

Going Against The Grain

For an OA student to excel and thrive in their studies, it doesn’t just take a good school that is close to home – they have to overcome a host of hurdles to come out victorious on their other side. As an outsider looking in, it may be easy to put a label on them or assume the limit they can achieve, however – the truth is revealed in the data.

Orang Asli students have to overcome existing language barriers, cultural stigmas and mindsets, limited learning facilities, lack of parental support and fend off the risk of being married off early in order to gain tertiary education[6].

Source: Malay Journal

The road to obtaining a degree is tiresome and few have the tenacity to follow through. When these barriers become too apparent, many are left demotivated. As a result, the high number of absentees and school dropouts are still prevalent.

A Few Bright Sparks

Those that have overcome these difficulties have shown much promise. The Ministry of Education found an increase of pupils who achieved at least a Grade D for all subjects in UPSR 2018[7]. This proved that the interventions carried out helped students in improving.

Source: Bernama

The increased level of understanding in their classes was successful in increasing the level of academic achievement. This is especially so for primary school pupils. More students successfully transitioned from primary to secondary level, while some have even gone above and beyond by entering university.

Source: Harian Metro

In 2016, six talented individuals even managed to continue their studies in the UK[8]. Earlier this year, Professor Dr Bahari Belaton became the first Orang Asli to be appointed dean of University Science Malaysia’s School of Computer Sciences[9].

Source: University Science Malaysia

All these are prime examples of the untapped potential hidden in the Orang Asli community. Each of them aims to uplift their community and improve the quality of life that they were born into. They acknowledge that education is the main key to success.

It is our job to ensure that these talents do not go to waste and to work hand-in-hand in eliminating the unequal education sentiment that exists.

Explore Our Sources

  1. Husin, KA. (2018). Demografi Orang Asli. Kementeriaan Pembangunan Luar Bandar. Link.
  2. Wan, YS. (October 2020). Education Policies in Overcoming Barriers Faced by Orang Asli Children: Education for all. IDEAS. Link.
  3. Abdullah, R. Bin, et al. (2013). Teaching and learning problems of the Orang Asli Education: Students’ perspective. Asian Social Science. Link.
  4. Aziz, H. S. F. (July 2020). Education for All: Indigenous People of Peninsular Malaysia. Bait Al Amanah. Link.
  5. Deli, M. M., & Yasin, R. M. (2017). Community-Based Learning Center of Renewable Energy Sources for Indigenous Education. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences. Link.
  6. Fitri, A., et al. (2020). The Struggle of Orang Asli in Education: Quality of Education. Malaysian Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities (MJSSH). Link.
  7. Ministry of Education. (2018). Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 Annual Report 2018. Link.
  8. Noor Mohd, H. M. (2016, September 11). 6 pelajar Orang Asli ke UK | Harian Metro. Link.
  9. Dermawan, A. (June 2020). Bahari is first Orang Asli to be appointed faculty dean. New Straits Times. Link.

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