The Catholic schools in Malaysia, their history and future in the light of the present educational practices

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education Major in Religious Education and Values Education

Subject Categories

Catholic Studies | Religious Education


College of Liberal Arts


Theology and Religious Education

Thesis Adviser

Andrew B. Gonzalez, FSC

Defense Panel Chair

Carolina B. Fallarme

Defense Panel Member

Ma. Carmen R. Gaerlan
Fernando Elesterio
Ismael P. Maningas, Jr.
Elena Almandrez


Catholic schools in Malaysia have been noted for their educational contribution to the country since their first foundation in 1852 by the De La Salle Brothers and the Sisters of the Infant Jesus in Peninsular Malaysia. Formal education in East Malaysia, was however was in the hands of the Mill Hill Fathers of the Society of St. Joseph who established their first school in Sarawak and Sabah in 1881. Other teaching congregations too joined the teaching apostolate, and soon there was a network of Catholic schools throughout the country.
Prior to Malaysia's independence in 1957, there existed four different unrelated and racially polarized language medium schools namely: English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil schools. With independence a National Educational Policy (NEP) was designed to bring the children of various races together under a unified educational system, by making Malay the National Language of the country, and the main medium of instruction in all schools. This led to the conversion of all existing English schools into Malay medium schools. The Chinese and Tamil schools also came under the classification of National Type Schools, thereby conforming to the requirements of the National Educational policy.
Under the NEP the Catholic Schools were classified as Government-Aided Schools and received per capita grants from the Government to cover running costs and the salaries of the teachers. The religious Brothers and Sisters came under the classification of Category X, which allowed them to administer and teach with powers to appoint principals and teachers in their schools. The religious in the Catholic schools were also permitted to retire at the age of 65 in contrast to their counterparts who retired at the age of 55. Admission of students in Catholic schools was also in the hands of the religious.
Due to the popularity of Catholic schools and the great demands made for places in these schools, (especially in the urban areas) the Catholic schools came under the classification of Control schools. This move indirectly deprived the religious from exercising their right to admit the children of their choice, particularly Catholic children and children of benefactors and the alumni.
Recent policy changes by the Ministry of Education and the direct posting of principals to Catholic schools (as opposed to the earlier practice, when these postings were done by the religious congregations), together with frequent transfer of teachers have generally undermined the authority of the religious superiors and principals of Catholic school. The Ministry of Education has also reduced the retirement age of religious from 65 to 55 years. Such regulations have taken a toll on the number of religious serving in Catholic schools. The situation was further aggravated by the loss of religious vocations and the departure of missionary teachers to their homeland. Under the circumstances, it was also felt that since the religious were losing the authority over the principals and teachers in their schools, it was futile to carry on with the functions of the Guild of Assisted Catholic Schools which had been established in 1950. The Guild was finally dissolved in 1988.
As a result of the recent educational and administrative changes brought about by the Ministry of Education, the Catholic schools are presently passing through a critical period in their history. Under the initiative of His Grace Soter Fernandez, Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, the Bishops, Clergy, Religious, and the Laity have been actively engaged in discerning the future role of the Church with regard to Catholic education. This has resulted in the setting up of the Malaysian Catholic Educational Council (MCEC) to look into the possibility of going into private education.
The future of the Government-Aided Catholic schools is quite predictable. Within a space of the next five years most of the Catholic school would be in the hands of the principals and teachers appointed by the Ministry of Education, where almost all the students attending these schools would have been admitted directly by the respective Education Officers of the State.
These are trying times for the Church. It is hoped that the educational efforts being initiated by the Catholic Church would be able to meet the challenges posed by policy changes of the Ministry of Education, so as to prepare for a brighter future of Catholic schools of the country.

Abstract Format






Accession Number


Shelf Location

Archives, The Learning Commons, 12F Henry Sy Sr. Hall

Physical Description

v, 326 leaves, 28 cm.


Catholic schools--Malaysia; Education--Malaysia

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