Penang is a pioneer in Malaysia when it comes to education, boasting some of the earliest founded schools which have produced several great personalities. Formal education in Penang can be traced back during the British administration. The pioneer schools laid the foundation of the nation’s education system which educated generations of prime ministers, government officials, legislators, and many prominent people. Like for example, did you know that the nation’s founding Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, studied in the Penang Free School, founded in 1816, the Pennag Free School is the oldest English medium school in Soruht East Asia?
Schooling in Malaysia as a whole is administered by the Ministry of Education (MoE). Each state has its Education Department that manages education matters within its territory. The fundamental legislation governing education is the Education Act of 1996. The education system in the country is divided into Preschool (3-6), Primary (7-12), Secondary (13-15), Post-secondary (16-17) and Tertiary education (18+).
Penang schools uses the national educational system with a uniform curriculum and by law, Primary education gives the opportunity for all students in vernacular schools to use their mother tonque as the medium of instruction. Standardized examinations are also a common feature, just like in many Asian countries. In secondary education, Malay is the main medium of teaching except for the 3 main subjects – English, Math and Science; this is to prepare students for tertiary level education.
Education can be obtained from the many multilingual national schools, missionary schools, vernacular schools, international schools, religious schools, and even vocational schools.
National schools are mostly funded by the government. They use Malay as the main medium of instruction, and the student population is multi-racial.
Founded by Anglican missionaries in 1816, the Penang Free School is the first English school in the country. Other notable former missionary schools are the St. Xavier’s Institution and Convent Light Street, both founded in 1852; and the Methodist Boys School and Methodist Girls School, founded in 1891.
Penang has been the focal point of a well-rounded Chinese language education system. Chinese schools were established by local Chinese organisations with the support of the community. There are 90 Chinese primary schools and 10 Chinese secondary schools in Penang. Among the schools are Penang Chinese Girls’ Private High School, Phor Tay Private High School, Chung Ling Private High School, Jit Sin Independent High School, Heng Ee High School and Han Chiang School.
International schools use English as the main medium of instruction. They usually offer US or UK based curriculum, and follow international examination standards. Also, the approach is more holistic and more interactive. They have better and more up-to-date facilities, so it follows that school fees are more expensive than public schools. Students are mostly foreigners from different parts of the world, but there are also a good number of local students.
Religious and Vocational Schools
The Al-Mashoor Girls School is a Muslim religious secondary girls’ school in Penang. It has more than 500 students with about 50 teachers and staff.
Not to be confused with the Tunku Abdul Rahman University College, the Technical Institute Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Penang is one of the 2 vocational schools in Penang, together with the Kolej Vokasional Batu Lanchang.
Universities and Colleges
Penang has 2 medical schools namely Allianze College of Medical Sciences and Penang Medical College. There is also a dental training, nursing colleges, and several private and public colleges.
Some of the colleges include Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TARC), KDU College, Han Chiang College, The One Academy Penang, DISTED College, Inti College, and Olympia College.
The 3 famous national universities are University Sains Malaysia (USM) located in Gelugor, the Wawasan Open University in George Town, and Universiti Teknologi MARA located in Permatang Pauh. USM is one of the oldest universities in the country and is now bestowed the status of top university dedicate to research. On the other hand, Wawasan Open University is a private university which has both on campus and distance-learning programs.