This is a straightforward question, with an answer that is straightforward in some cases and a little more complex in others.
- Homeschooling in Malaysia is not illegal.
Homeschooling has not been “outlawed” in Malaysia. No one has been prosecuted for homeschooling thus far.
2. Secondary-Age and Pre-Primary Homeschooling 100% Legal
Only primary education is mandatory or compulsory under the Education Act of 1996 (Act 550). This means that there is absolutely no barrier to homeschooling under the age of 7 and above age 12.
3. Primary-Age Homeschooling is… complex?
Here’s what section 29a of the Education Act 1996 states.
Compulsory primary education
29A. (1) The Minister may, by order published in the Gazette, prescribe primary education to be compulsory education.
(2) Every parent who is a Malaysian citizen residing in Malaysia shall ensure that if his child has attained the age of six years on the first day of January of the current school year that child is enrolled as a pupil in a primary school in that year and remains a pupil in a primary school for the duration of the compulsory education.
(3) The Minister may, if he considers it desirable and in the interest of the pupils or the public to do so, by order published in the Gazette, exempt any pupil or any class of pupils from the requirement to attend compulsory education, either absolutely or
subject to such conditions as he may think fit to impose, and may at any time in his discretion revoke the exemption or revoke or alter or add to such conditions.
(4) A parent who contravenes subsection (2) shall be guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding five thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both.
(5) The Minister may make regulations for the carrying into effect of the provisions of this section.
Here’s how the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (based on the US) describes situation here:
Legal status of homeschooling: Homeschooling is legal. Although the Education Act of 1996 (Act 550) made primary education compulsory, several homeschool parents met with the Minister of Education to clarify the effect on homeschoolers. The Minister stated that fines for not sending children to school only apply to parents or guardians who neither send their children to school nor educate them in any way at home.
However, homeschoolers must apply for school exemption from the Ministry of Education, and stringent regulations have developed that often prevent families from obtaining official approval.
What exactly are those “stringent regulations”? They are outlined on the Ministry of Education website and governed by the “Professional Circular No. 14/2002: Implementation of Compulsory Education in Primary Level in 2003 dated 27 November 2002”.
In short, the MOE claims that,
Home schooling is a method of schooling available to parents whose children have such problems as a chronic health condition which requires close attention by the guardian. However, this is a privilege and not a right. Normal schooling is preferred for children as it allows them to interact and communicate with other children.
The MOE states that “To date, only those with chronic health problems requiring close attention by the guardian have been granted approval.”
In short, the regulations are very severe. Most homeschoolers do not have chronic health problems. In addition, parents or applicants “must have a professional teaching qualification” and must follow the national curriculum.
Of course, these are regulations set by the Ministry of Education and they are subject to change. However, it does seem explicitly unlikely for most homeschooling families to object said permission.
If you have any experience obtaining approval for homeschooling, we’d like to hear from you. In the meantime, we hope our homeschooling community will grow and continue to be highly supportive and backed by Malaysians of all walks of life.
My personal stand on the issue is that we need more progressive regulations and that they need to be updated to reflect the reality of homeschooling in Malaysia. Homeschooling is a right as well as responsibility. My brother and I, as well as many Malaysian homeschoolers from the “previous generation” are testaments to the fact that the government should not worry about whether we are sufficiently educated and are able to be contributing members of Malaysian society.