Education at this level aims to provide the child with a firm foundation in the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic, as well as emphasising thinking skills and value across the curriculum. While education at this level is not compulsory, more than 99 percent of this age group are enrolled in primary schools throughout the country.
These are two types of schools at the primary level, that are, the national schools and the national type schools. In the national schools, the medium of the instruction is the Malay Language. The medium of instruction in the national type schools is either Chinese Language or Tamil Language. In both types of schools, the Malay Language is a compulsory subject. English is taught as a second language in all schools. Chinese, Tamil and Indigenous languages are also taught as subjects in national schools.
Promotion from Year 1 to Year VI is automatic as pupils are given continuous school-based assessment to monitor their progress in the mastery of the basic skills. The Education Act of 1996 provides the primary education course designed for a duration of six years, which may be completed within five to seven years. To identify pupils who are able to complete their primary education within five years, the Level One Assessment (PTS) was introduced.
PTS is a testing procedure administered jointly by the Examinations Syndicate and the school at the end of Year III of primary school. The PTS is not compulsory as students can opt not to sit for it. Those with high scores who are selected for double promotion can still opt not to proceed to Year V.
At the end of Year VI, pupils sit for a common public examination, the Primary School Achievement Test (UPSR). The subjects tested are Malay Language, English Language, Mathematics and Chinese Language or Tamil Language (for pupils of National Type Primary Schools). As of 1997, Science will also be tested in UPSR. A new element in the UPSR assessment is the introduction of Penilaian Agama Fardu Ain (PAFA), a school-based assessment which focuses on the practical aspects of Islamic Education to ensure that Muslim students understand and practice correctly matters on Fardu Ain.
All pre-schools have to abide by the curriculum guidelines set by the Ministry of Education. The curriculum enables pre-school children to acquire sufficient basic communication, social and other positive skills in preparation for primary schooling.