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publicationApril 25, 2024

Bending Bamboo Shoots: Strengthening Foundational Skills

World Bank Malaysia Economic Monitor (MEM): “Bending Bamboo Shoots: Strengthening Foundational Skills”



Part 1: “Economic Developments and Outlook”

  • After experiencing weaker-than-expected growth outcomes in 2023, Malaysia's economy is projected to grow at a higher rate of 4.3 percent in 2024.
  • Domestic demand will remain the main growth driver throughout the forecast period, while Malaysia’s exports will benefit from a partial recovery of global demand for goods and base effects, following exceptional weakness last year.
  • Malaysia will continue to face considerable downside risks stemming from the external environment. 
  • Domestically, the main downside risks relate to the uncertainty over the strength of household consumption. Successful fiscal reforms will require both good policy design and effective policy communication to secure broad-based support from the rakyat.
  • Enhancing revenue mobilization remains crucial to rebuild fiscal space and meet future spending needs.
  • Over the medium term, the government’s focus is on improving the people’s living standards, as well as ensuring access to education, healthcare, and basic infrastructure.
  • The special topics in Part 1 of the MEM focus on civil service pensions and migrant workers in Malaysia, as well as the Public Finance and Fiscal Responsibility Act (PFFRA).

Part 2: “Strengthening Foundational Skills”

  • Malaysia has achieved near universal primary education with remarkable equity in resources and student experiences. 
  • Net enrollment rate at the primary level is close to 100 percent since 2013. Despite these successes, many children, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, struggle with learning outcomes. 
  • The problem starts early, with a significant portion of children lacking school readiness skills—leading to challenges in reading, writing, and mathematics throughout their schooling. By the age of 15, Malaysian students lag behind aspirational peers in reading, math, and science as measured by international assessments. 
  • To address these challenges, Malaysia has implemented various programs such as the Reading Aid Programme and the Primary School Literacy and Numeracy Program. The teacher strategy outlined in the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 aligns with global good practices, but these have not shown their intended impact. 
  • Reflecting this, the special thematic topic identifies the steps that can be taken to improve learning outcomes in Malaysia. This includes:  

    1. Ensuring that all children benefit from high-quality preschool education and arrive in primary school ready to learn.
    2. Given that poorer children are less likely to have school-readiness skills, improving access to and the quality of early childhood education for them could provide long-term benefits.
    3. Malaysia should rigorously measure student learning outcomes and benchmark them to international standards, while also measuring teacher performance thoroughly.
    4. In addition, support for teachers could be strengthened through effective teacher training programs, as well as policies that consider teachers' experiences and needs, thus ensuring effectiveness and sustainability.