Secondary education aims to promote the general development of students by helping them to acquire knowledge, insight and skills including the inculcation of values on the National Philosphy of Education. The ultimate goal is to develop a strong foundation for life-long education. Besides receiving general education, students are introduced to the beginnings of specialisation.
Education at this level is provided in national secondary schools. The medium of instruction in these schools is the Malay Language. As is the case in primary schools, English Language is taught as a second language in all schools. Chinese, Tamil and indigenous language are also offered as additional subjects. Under the Education Act 1996 foreign languages such as Arabic, Japanese, French, German are introduced in secondary schools. The curriculum prescribed for secondary schools is the integrated Curriculum for Secondary School (ICSS).
Lower Secondary Level (Form I to Form III)
This level covers a period of three years (Form I to Form III). Pupils from the national primary schools enter Form I whereas pupils from Chinese and Tamil medium schools proceed to a transition year ( Remove Class) before entering Form I. This Remove Class is for pupils to acquire sufficient proficiency in the Malay Language, which is the medium of instruction in secondary schools. However, pupils who have performed well in the UPSR are allowed to proceed directly to form I.
In the line with the emphasis on science and technology in national development, students are given an early exposure to vocational education through the integrated Living Skills subject. The core components of this subject are Manipulative Skills, Commerce and Entrepreneurship, and Family Life Education.
On completing three years at this level, pupils sit for a common public lower secondary school examination, the Lower Secondary Assessment (PMR), which is a combination of centralized and school-based assessment. The school-based assessment follows guidelines set by the Examination Syndicate. In tandem with the policy of providing five years of secondary education for all, the PMR is no longer a terminal examination, rather it is more a diagnostic evaluation. As a consequence universal education has been extended from nine to eleven years.
Upper Secondary Level (Form IV to Form V)
Education at the upper secondary level covers a period of two years. Besides following the general education programme, it is at this stages that pupils begin to specialise in either the arts, science, technical, vocational or religious disciplines. Specific schools are designated for each discipline. These schools are academic schools, technical schools, vocational schools and religious schools.