Integrated Curriculum for Primary Schools

In 1979, the Cabinet Committee presented a comprehensive report on the various aspects of the education system of the country. Based on the recommendations of this committee, the Education Ministry undertook to review the existing curricula of both the primary and secondary schools.

The formation of the New  Primary School Curriculum - the Integrated Curriculum for Primary Schools (ICPS) or Kurikulum Bersepadu Sekolah Rendah (KBSR) was first introduced ( trial run) in 302 primary school  in 1982. In 1983 it was implemented in all primary schools; and was fully implemented (completed one cycle ) 1n 1988. In 1988 Primary School Achievement (Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah) was introduced.

The aim  of primary school education is to ensure an overall, balanced and integrated development of an individual’s potential which includes the intellectual, spiritual, emotional and physical aspects so as to produce balanced and harmonious with high moral standards.

The basic principles of ICPS is based on the National Philosophy of Malaysian  Education as follows:

  • an integrated approach;
  • individual holistic development;
  • equal education for all;
  • life long education.

The concept of integration is manifested as follows:

  • Integration of skills in a subject  (In language teaching; 2 or more of the 4 skills – speaking, listening, reading and writing can be integrated in a lesson);
  • Integration of skills across a number of subjects. Example drawing and colouring can be adopted in Mathematics.
  • Assimilation of various content in subjects. For example, elements of science are assimilated in the teaching of language.
  • Integration of values in subjects. For example, Cleanliness and safety are given emphasis during practical session.
  • Elements taught across the curriculum include language, the environment, science and technology, patriotism, thinking skills and study skills.
  • Integration of the curriculum and co-curriculum.  Co-curricular activities are reinforced in the classroom learning situation.
  • Integration of knowledge and practice . Knowledge acquired can be put into practice outside the formal classroom situation.
  • Integration of past experiences and the newly acquired experiences of pupils.

For operational purpose, the structure of the Integrated Curriculum for Primary School is divided into 2 phases of three years each.

  • Phase I comprises Year 1, Year 2 and Year 3;
  • Phase II comprises Year 4, Year 5, and Year 6.

The ICPS consists of three areas namely: Communication; Man and His Environment; and Self – Development. These three areas are subdivided into six components, namely:

  • Basic Skills;
  • Humanities and Environment;
  • Arts and Recreation;
  • Spirituality, Values and Attitudes;
  • Living Skills;
  • Co-curriculum.

Recent Improvements and Interventions.

Since 1999, the motivation for improvements and interventions was to align the curriculum to existing and future needs; particularly in recognition of the need to adapt to rapid technological development within and outside the country. The revised curriculum was placed in the context of national development, learning theories and the National Philosophy of Education, and the Vision 2020.These are then translated into disciplines and special programmes such as patriotism, drug education, and environmental education.

The country has been consistently tackling the challenges in educational access, equity, quality, and relevance. The success of the system in responding to these issues was closely linked to the systematic strategies as expressed in Malaysia’s Outline Perspective Plan (OPP), which was implemented starting in the 1960’s. The OPP has always identified the education sector as the mechanisms in national growth. This ensured that sufficient funds are allocated to the education sector. The government, too, recognizes the immense impact of developing human resources in meeting the goals of Vision 2020. This is translated to continuous training and upgrading of skills.

The following outcomes are just part and parcel of the efforts of the Malaysian government in dealing with the issues and concerns in education, particularly in terms of access, equity, quality and relevance, and participation of the society in educational change.

  1. To improve access to education, the Federal Constitution ensures that there will be no discrimination against any citizen in terms of access to and financial support for education. Universal primary education is almost achieved and efforts to provide twelve years of basic education is being intensified. Literacy rates and enrollment rates are growing. The continuous increase of Malaysia’s literacy rate from 85 per cent in 1990 , to 93.7 per cent in 1998, to 94 per cent in 2002 and to 97 per cent in 2006. In 2003 the average class size was 31 and 33 for primary and secondary education respectively. In the same year, the student – teacher ratio for primary schools was17, and 16 among secondary schools. The number of primary schools increased to 7,623 in 2007 from 7,504 in 2003 and 7,130 five years before that. The number of secondary schools also increased from 1,566 in 1998 to 1,902 in 2003 and 2,058 in 2007.
  2. In terms of educational equity, equal opportunity for education is provided to every child, including those from remote and rural areas. Parents can also choose to enroll their children into National Schools that provide instruction in Malay and the National -type schools of their choice.
  3. Quality and relevance of education to individual needs and nation building have likewise been given top priority in the national development plan.The National Curriculum places emphasis on the holistic development and potentials of individuals. Technical, vocational, and skills training offered in secondary technical and vocational schools provide students with practical training and employable skills. Using technology to facilitate teaching and learning makes the process more interesting, motivating, stimulating, and meaningful.
  4. Participation of the society is also given priority in educational development. In designing and implementing education programs, the ministry of education has close cooperation and collaboration with other government agencies, private enterprises, non-government organizations, community-based organizations, religious institutions, and industries;  in activities such as strengthening early childhood education, vocational and trainings skills programmes; parent-teacher associations in fund raising, and the mass media.

In order to continuously improve the quality of education in Malaysia, the government  also adopted a number of upgraded approaches, strategies, and reforms in education. This is of course closely hinged on the National Philosophy of Malaysian Education, that aims to develop the potential of individuals in a holistic and integrated manner for them to be intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and physically balanced and harmonious, based on a firm belief in and devotion to God.

  1. First, there had been strategic changes in the teaching and learning of mathematics and science in primary and secondary schools by enhancing the teaching of those subjects. In 2002, English language (from the traditionally Bahasa Malaysia) was made as the medium of instruction for both these two subjects; which is expected to enable students to access information in the internet, read articles and research papers and other materials published in English.
  2. Second, the Ministry of Education is also working on making the utilization of ICT more common among Malaysian schools. This may come in ways such as ICT-enhanced teaching and learning, distance learning, video conferencing, and Internet links to facilitate the exchange of ideas, and collaborative classroom discussion. Majority of primary and secondary schools in Malaysia already have computer laboratories and internet facilities. The Smart School Project or SSP in a flagship programme in Malaysia’s Multimedia Super Corridor ICT Application. SSP utilizes the browser-based teaching and learning materials for Bahasa Malaysia, English Language, Science, and Mathematics. These materials accommodate different needs and abilities that allow learners to take greater responsibility in managing their own learning.The SSP also encourages the development of teaching and learning courseware in the classroom that would be incorporated in the Smart School Integrated System or SSIS. All coursewares are launched through the networked computer system provided to all Smart Schools.
  3. Thirdly, the ministry, through the intervention initiatives - Early Intervention Classes for Reading and Writing (Kelas Intervensi Awal Membaca dan Menulis – KIA2M) actively pursuing to redress the 100,00 primary school pupils who are still struggling to master basic skills in reading and writing. Introduced in 2006 for grade 1 pupils, the assessment is carried at the very beginning of the school session to screen and identify those needed special help and care in reading and writing. The progress is progressively monitored and measured six month later, with those achieving the set minimum standard in reading and writing will be transitioned back to the main stream.
  4. The fourth key initiative is on the changes in public examinations. The School-based Assessment of Oral Skills focus on the Bahasa Malaysia and English languages. It entails that students be assessed in or outside the classroom situation. It is offered to students in grade 1 to grade 6 in primary schools. As mentioned earlier  Mathematics and Science were first conducted in Bahasa Malaysia and English in 2003, hence another assessment on bilingual proficiency was conducted starting in 2004. By 2008, all assessment instruments for grades 6 public examinations (UPSR) for Mathematics and Science subjects would be in English for all national primary schools; but till to-date this ruling is not implemented yet.
  5. Primary school pupils may be studying Malaysian history as early as January 2010. Education Director -general, Tan Sri Alimuddin Mohd. Dom said that this is part of the education transformation to restructure the curriculum and to make schooling more fun.

Challenges and Opportunities.

The following are some of the challenges that have to be address by the  ministry:

  1. Malaysia has always been motivated to pursue integration through education in line with vision 2020’s goal of uniting all races. Vision Schools were thus established to keep pupils learning together in the same vicinity irrespective of race or religion. It also creates greater opportunities for pupils of different ethnic groups to mix and interact through various schools activities.
  2. Expansion of preschool education is another challenge as indicate by only 36 per cent of children aged 5-plus years who did not have access to preschool as of 2000.  The Ministry of Education institutionalized the National Preschool Curriculum compulsory in all preschools beginning 2003. This effort, (among many others)  increased participation rate on the preschool level from 64 per cent in 2000 to 88.3 per cent in 2003.
  3. The Ministry is giving increased emphasis on science and technology education. Currently, the low participation rate in the science stream is far from the targeted ratio of 60 percent in science and technology – compared to 40 percent in the arts. Efforts have been made to the upgrading of vocational and technical schools, building and upgrading science schools and science laboratory facilities. The ministry also introduced science subjects in grade 1 starting in 2003.
  4. Another challenge is sustaining students’ participation in the system especially among the poor. The Poor Students’ Trust Fund distributed 1.54 million Malaysian ringgit to 800 primary school students nationwide in 2003. Each poor student receives a maximum of 2,000 Malaysian ringgit a year to pay for their school expenses. In 2003, the ministry also introduced a financial assistance programme for children at risk of dropping out of school because of poverty. Also the tuition voucher scheme for children Year Four, Five, and Six at primary level qualify children from needy families who show poor academic performance to enroll into extra-classes in critical subjects such as Mathematics, Science, English, and Bahasa Malaysia.
  5. In the area of education and gender equality, the main challenges for the Malaysian education is the low participation of male youths at the secondary level. However, in primary school the composition of males and females enrolled in public primary school is about the same. This places Malaysia in a unique situation among other developing countries.
  6. The Ministry of Education is also trying to address social inclusion in education, particularly among children with special needs and children of indigenous people of the country. The Orang Asli , the indigenous children population of Malaysia, has been the main focus of integration and assimilation by providing them with equal opportunities  in education and introducing measures to ensure the teaching of their dialects. School uniforms, food rations, textbooks and other forms of assistance are continually supplied as incentives for school attendance. The ministry is also working with other government agencies to provide learning and training facilities and services for children and youths with special needs. The Special Education Department of the Ministry of Education coordinates all special education programmes of all special education schools to students with hearing and visual impairment. In the case of students with special needs; Integrated Special Education Programmes through special education classes in mainstream schools were carried to enhance their social integration.
  7. To better pioneering  changes in education, the Education Development Master Plan (Pelan  Induk Pembangunan Pendidikan, PIPP) 2006-2010 outlines the strategic moves to close the gap and raise the bar of Malaysian education. Being a diverse society, it cannot be ignored that unity, social cohesion and developing the human capital of the country made significant contribution to economic growth and social maturity that the country is enjoying right now. Focal areas are still on improving equity, access, and democratization of education. The ministry is fully aware that a continuing process of transformation – that has to consciously and consistently prioritized.

Read more @ :

Dr. Khair Mohamad Yusof, “Basic Education Curriculum Revisited: A Look at hte current content and reform in Malaysia”. SEAMEO-RETRAC 11TH Governing Board Meeting and Conference,Institut Aminuddin Baki Malaysia, 27-30 August 2008.

Hamidah Atan, NST Online, 14 June, 2009

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