Early Childhood Care & Education (ECCE) in Malaysia at a Glance (for newborns to 6-year-olds)
Every child is precious and children are assets to our society. They are the most valuable resource of the nation. I believe that developing a nation and
its people begins with early childhood education. While it is the duty of parents to ensure a child has the opportunities to develop, it is also the government's
responsibility to help parents bring the potential to fruition. In developing a child's potential, we are in reality developing the human capital of the child and of
the nation. In carrying out this task, we are enabling the child to grow holistically so that the child is equipped with abilities, knowledge and skills to become a
productive member of the nation.
Economists have long believed that investment in early education is a good strategy in developing human capital which in turn, is an important source for
economic growth. Cognitive and non-cognitive abilities are important for a productive work force. It is said that key workforce skills such as motivation,
persistence and self-control are developed early. Children are the future generations who have the potential to drive the economy of the country as leaders,
innovators, entrepreneurs, researchers and economists.
Quotation from Prime Minister YAB Dato' Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak at the opening address of the Malaysian International ECEC Conference
themed "DEVELOPING HUMAN CAPITAL BEGINS WITH CHILDREN on 14 April 2009.
Early childhood care and education (ECCE) in Malaysia is divided into two
age groups, which is 0-4 years and 4-6 years old.
The first group (0-4 years), comes under the Ministry of Women, Family
and Community Development (MWFCD) which coordinates national
programmes on the growth and development of children. Through its
Department of Social Welfare, MWFCD keeps a register of all childcare
centres (also known as taska) in the country.
Pre-school education for the second group (4-6 years) comes under three
ministries/agencies, i.e. the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Rural
and Regional Development, and the National Unity Department.
The Malaysian government places a strong emphasis on ECCE and has
formulated the National Policy for Early Childhood Education. Under this
policy, programmes have been introduced to meet the diverse needs of
the crucial early years of newborns till the age of six. These programmes
provide a solid foundation for healthy growth and development which
expose them to activities in nation building and enhance their readiness
for primary school education. The government's involvement in ECCE is
evident from its numerous initiatives to make early childhood programmes
more accessible especially for less fortunate children and those in rural
areas. A significant amount of funds is also allocated for ECCE every year.
Types of ECCE Institutions
ECCE programmes in Malaysia are offered by two types of institutions, namely:
- Childcare centres or nurseries or taska
- Preschools or kindergartens or tadika
(A) Childcare Centres or Nurseries (Taska)
In 1982, a study was jointly conducted by the Ministry of Social Welfare
and UNICEF (The United Nation Children's Fund) which indicated the need to enhance the quality of childcare among childcare providers especially in
the areas of food, environment, mental development and training for child
minders. As a result, the Childcare Centre Act 1984 was passed to maintain
the required minimum standards of childcare centres in the country. Besides
its aim of providing care and education to preschool children, the Act included
issues on registration; monitoring and inspection of the childcare centres;
and protecting the interests and safety of the children against any form of
abuse or neglect.
Since then, the Childcare Centre Act 1984 has been reviewed and passed by
the Parliament giving rise to the Childcare Centres (Amendment) Act 2007.
Government-supported community childcare centres, subsidised workplace
childcare centres and Quality Improvement Accreditation System (QIAS) have
also being implemented.
In Malaysia, a legislative-approved childcare centre is defined as a premise
at which four or more children under the age of four years from more than
one household are received to be looked after for reward.
Childcare centres in Malaysia fall into four categories:
- Government-owned childcare centres (Taska dalam komuniti since 2006)
- Workplace childcare centres
- Institution-based childcare centres with 10 children or more
- Home-based childcare centres with fewer than 10 children
Under the law, all childcare centres need to be registered with the Department
of Social Welfare (DSW) or more popularly known as Jabatan Kebajikan
Masyarakat Malaysia (JKM) under the Ministry of Women, Family and
Community Development (MWFCD). MWFCD is responsible for the approval
and establishment of childcare centres in the country whilst JKM serves as
the main regulator and coordinator of ECCE programmes.
In the plantation sector, childcare centres are provided free under the Standard
Act, Minimum Housing and Workers Facilitation 1990 and monitored by the
Ministry of Human Resources.
Categories of Childcare Centres
- Workplace Childcare Centres
With more and more women are engaged in active employment, MWFCD
has been promoting the setting up of childcare at the workplace. For
example, the government provides incentives in the form of a RM80,000
grant for the renovation and furnishing of childcare centres set up within
government offices. Also, to encourage working mothers to utilise these
centres, a subsidy of RM180 per month is given to government servants
with monthly salaries below RM2000 who send their children to these
MWFCD also encourages the private sector to provide childcare facilities at
the workplace for their employees. Incentives include 10% tax exemption
on the cost of building the childcare centres for a period of 10 years.
- Community Childcare Centres
MWFCD has been setting up community childcare centres in urban and
rural areas with the objective of providing quality childcare services that is
more accessible and affordable to the local community. It aims to set up
10 new community childcare centres throughout the country every year.
The centres use a curriculum set by MWFCD and is based on the active
participation of the local community, parents, children, governmental
agencies as well as private organisations. MWFCD has also proposed that
every parliamentary area set up a community childcare centre.
Families who send their children to community childcare centres would
receive a monthly subsidy of RM180 per child if the family's income is
below RM2000 or RM1200 in urban and rural areas respectively. A grant of
RM55,000 will also be given to those interested in setting up a community
- Permata Negara Early Childhood Education and Care Centres
The Permata Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) programme was
initiated by YABhg. Datin Paduka Seri Rosmah Mansor and was introduced
after it was approved by the Cabinet on 21 June 2006 with a grant of RM20
million. Themed 'Every Child a Jewel' (Setiap Anak Permata), the Permata
Negara pilot project was launched at 14 locations in 2006 ¡V at least one
in each state- with the curriculum and teacher training spearheaded by
Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris.
The founding principles of Permata ECEC Centres are:
- Every child is a jewel for the country
- Every child is precious
- Every child is a part of the human capital of the country
- Every child needs the best education
- Education must start from young/birth
- The first three years is crucial for development of the child
The aim of Permata ECEC Centres is to provide integrated quality care and
early education services based on the needs of the local community to
children below five years old. It adopts the community-based integrated
approach practised by Pen Green Corby, United Kingdom under the
SureStart Programme. Under this approach, the centres offer childcare
services, outreach programmes, parenting courses, counselling, and
healthcare services to help the local community develop a healthy lifestyle.
Facilities include a community resource centre and library; and some may
offer the services of a speech therapist and nutritionist.
The assessment on Permata ECEC Centres has been encouraging and the
government has allocated an additional RM150 million to implement the
Permata project to childcare centres of government and statutory bodies.
This includes the childcare centers of the Community Development
Department of the Ministry of Rural Development all over the country,
childcare centers of the National Unity Department and some institutions
which are community-based childcare centres. The government aims to
upgrade more than 300 of these childhood education facilities to Permata
(B) Pre-schools or Kindergartens (Tadika) for children aged 4 to 6
Early childhood education for children aged 4-6 years comes under three
ministries, i.e. the Ministry of Education; the Ministry of Rural and Regional
Development; and the Department of National Unity. The pioneer in the
setting up of preschools is the Ministry of Rural Development which began in
the early 1970's. There are currently 8307 preschools set up by this ministry
which are commonly known as the KEMAS preschool. KEMAS preschools
are located in rural or suburban areas and are set up based on requests by
Under the Department of National Unity, PERPADUAN preschools were
established in urban areas where 'Rukun Tetangga' (a friendly neighbourhood
scheme) existed. At present, there are 1496 PERPADUAN preschools.
In 1992, the Ministry of Education (MOE) started setting up preschools as an
annex to existing primary schools through a pilot project. This was extended
to the entire nation in 1993 and currently, there are about 5905 of such
preschools. Other providers of preschool education include also the State
Religious Department and ABIM (Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia).
In 2003, MOE set the National Preschool Curriculum which all preschools,
public and private are required to follow. The National Preschool Curriculum
is based on the principles of Rukun Negara and the National Philosophy of
Education; and aims to develop the following skills in children:
- Social skills
- Intellectual skills
- Physical skills
- Spiritual skills
- Aesthetic values (Creativity and Appreciation)
|Table 1.1 : The Three Main Types of Public Preschools in Malaysia (as at 2007)
|Types of preschool
|Number of classes
|Percentage (by class)
Categories of Preschool Providers
- Ministry of Education Preschools
Preschools are set up by MOE to increase accessibility to preschool
education for families with very low income in sub-urban, rural and remote
areas. Eighty per cent of such preschools are built in rural areas as an
annex to existing public primary schools and caters to children from the
age of 5 years. MOE also provides the following subsidies:
Through the National Education Act 1996 (Akta Pendidikan Kebangsaan
1996 - Akta 550, 2005) preschool education was officially declared part
of the school system. All public and private preschools/kindergartens
are required to implement the National Preschool Curriculum formulated
through the Curriculum Development Centre, Ministry of Education
(effective January 2003).
- A daily allocation of RM1.50 every school day per child for food prepared
by the school.
- An annual allocation of RM100.00 per child for learning materials. As
each preschool class can receive up to 25 children, that means the
school can receive up to RM2,500 per year for the purchase of teaching
and learning materials.
The implementation of any additional curriculum by private preschools
requires permission from the Head of Registrar, MOE. There is no
restriction on the medium of instruction used at any registered preschool
but the national language must be taught as a subject. Public preschools
require a minimum of 10 children aged 4-6 years to start a class. MOE
aims to set up a preschool at every national primary school in the future.
- KEMAS Preschools
KEMAS preschools are set up by the Department of Community
Development (Jabatan Kemajuan Masyarakat) of the Ministry of Rural and
Regional Development to provide preschool education to children aged 4-
6 years, particularly those from families with very low income. Classes
are conducted at the community halls (rented or provided free), housing
estates, private property, shophouses (rented) or at premises built by the
Each enrolment requires a minimum of 10 children per class and a
maximum of 30 is allowed. The operation of KEMAS preschools is funded
by the Ministry of Rural and Regional Development. Every child receives
RM1.50 per day for food and RM100 per year for learning materials. An
additional food allowance of RM150.00 per year is given to very poor
KEMAS preschools have been using the National Preschool Curriculum
since 2003 and emphasises on reading, writing and arithmetic, developing
individual potential, instilling moral values, building character and self
awareness; and developing physical, health, cleanliness and safety skills.
- PERPADUAN Preschools
PERPADUAN preschools are set up by the Department of National Unity
and Integration. They were first set up in 1976 beginning with 25 classes
in urban and suburban areas, specifically in areas with 'Skim Rukun
Tetangga' - a 'friendly neighbour' scheme.
Each preschool class has a Preschool Coordinating Committee made up of
members of the local community who provide advice on the operation of
the preschool and organise various activities for parents.
PERPADUAN preschools are established with the objective of nurturing unity
values at an early stage so that children will love their country and adapt
themselves to live harmoniously in a multi-racial community. PERPADUAN
preschools have been using the National Preschool Curriculum since
The aims of PERPADUAN preschools are:
- To nurture and foster the spirit of harmony, neighbourliness, unity and
nationality among children of different races
- To inculcate positive spiritual and moral values in the children's everyday
lives thus creating perfect personalities and characters to become good
and valuable family members
- To encourage a comprehensive, integrated and balanced development in
children aged 5 and 6 years via informal learning processes - "learning
- To strengthen relations and cultivate unity among parents and the
community through the PERPADUAN Preschool Coordinating Committee
and co-curricular activities.
Classes are conducted at community halls (rented or free of charge), housing
estates, private property, shophouses (rented) or built by the Ministry.
Each enrolment requires a minimum of 20 children and a maximum of 35
children is allowed. The classes are funded by the Department of National
Unity and Integration which also provides a daily allocation of RM1.50 per
child for food and RM100.00 yearly for learning materials.
- Preschool Education for Children with Special Needs
Preschool education for children with special needs come under the
Ministry of Education which is in charge of programmes for special schools
and special integrated primary schools for children; and the Ministry of
Women, Family and Community Development which is responsible for
implementing other special programmes.
In 2000, existing special schools started an early intervention programme
on their own initiative for children aged 4-6 years. In 2003, MOE approved
the conversion of these early intervention programmes at 28 special
schools to preschool programmes for children with special needs. The
28 programmes consist of 22 for the hearing impaired, 5 for the visually
impaired and 1 for those with learning disabilities.
The Department of Social Welfare of the Ministry of Women, Family and
Community Development run programmes for severely disabled children
with the aim of enhancing their quality of life in line with the National
Welfare Policy and National Social Policy. Special grants are also given to
NGOs that help run these special programmes for children below 4 years old.
- Preschools Operated by Private Sectors and NGOs
Preschools operated by the private sector complement the government's
efforts in providing quality education to children aged 4-6 years. These
preschools are required to adopt the National Preschool Curriculum as
stipulated in the National Education Act 1996.
The medium of instruction at these preschools ranges from Bahasa
Malaysia to Chinese, Tamil or English. The curriculum emphasises on
communication and social skills that prepare the children for primary
(formal) education. Additional programmes offered must be approved by
MOE. The fees for a private preschool ranges from RM20 to RM1000 per
How to Choose a Childcare Centre
All Childcare Centres or Taska are required to register with the Jabatan
Kebajikan Masyarakat (JKM). When choosing a childcare centre, it is useful
to use the following guidelines stipulated by JKM:
- The number of children at the premise must not exceed the stipulated
available space. The floor space required per child is 3.5 square meters.
This does not include the kitchen, storeroom, toilet, office, and corridor
- The ratio between child minder and children should be:
(Note: A supervisor is not considered a child minder in this ratio)
|Age||Children ||Child Minder|
|Below 3 years||5||1|
|Between 3-4 years||10||1|
- All child minders must have qualifications and training. According to the
Childcare Centre (Institution Based) Regulation 1985 (Amendment 1993),
a child minder should be at least 18 years of age and must have attended
the basic child care course approved by the Department of Social Welfare
within one year of being employed at the childcare centre.
- An appropriate menu and daily activity plan according to the different age
groups must be provided. These schedules should be visible to all on
the childcare centre's notice board. The certificate of registration for
operation should also be displayed.
- Appropriate facilities for the children must be provided. There should be
one toilet for every 10 children at the premise specifically for their use.
- There should be proper and appropriate equipment that is safe and wellmaintained.
- There must be activities with parental involvement.
- The premise of the childcare centre must fulfill the requirements of the local authorities, observe the health guidelines as set out by the Health
Department and fire safety rules as stipulated by the Fire and Rescue
- Every licensed childcare centre must have a fire extinguisher, first aid kit,
and an evacuation plan in case of fire. Fire and evacuation drills are to be
carried out once every three months.
In addition, parents may want to consider the following factors:
- The kindergarten is professionally managed as a learning centre and a
place for baby-sitting.
- The personnel are warm, caring and qualified.
- The kindergarten has a warm, loving and caring environment.
- The place is clean and spacious.
- There are outdoor and indoor play facilities for children.
- The ideal class-size is between 12 to 15 children with one teacher and one
assistant. Open communication is important in the process of learning.
- Small-sized classes will allow more communication between teacher and
children and more opportunities for children to speak.
- The curricular activities adopted by the kindergarten allow the children's
multiple intelligences to grow at different rates.
- The kindergarten should be transparent and practise open communication
with the parents to share with them their child's progress.
It is my heartfelt view that education is the right of every child regardless of whatever background they may come from. The future of our respective countries, and indeed that of humanity as a whole can be altered for the better, if we start on the right footing; if we begin by instilling in our children the right
values and traits and if we nurture the young with an abundance of love affection and care. We can build a better tomorrow by laying the right foundation today.
Quotation from YABhg Datin Paduka Seri Rosmah Mansor at the official opening of the Malaysian International ECEC Conference themed "DEVELOPING HUMAN CAPITAL BEGINS WITH CHILDREN" on 14 April 2009.
Source: Schools of Malaysia Directory 3rd Ed.