18 November 2014

Kuala Lumpur


Ministry of Education should pilot the school voucher system because it can improve quality and help students from poor families


The Malaysian Ministry of Education should consider initiating a school voucher programme because it could help bring about better education outcomes and improve school efficiency and quality.

A new research released today by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) suggests that a school voucher system would be the best way to increase access to better schools, especially for parents and students from poorer backgrounds.  The voucher system could contribute to ending education inequity in Malaysia.

In IDEAS’ November 2014 policy briefing paper entitled “School choice and school voucher programmes: Why do they succeed and why do they fail?”, freelance education researcher Jenny Gryzelius explains that a voucher system is one where a specified amount of government funding is earmarked per child, and the family of the child is then able to choose where they want to use the funding.  The parents can decide whether to go to a government school or a private school using the money allocated through the voucher.  The idea behind this concept is to fund the students and their choice of education rather than schools directly.

The research paper looks at three school voucher programmes operating today, namely the Milwaukee Parental Choice Programme in the US state of Wisconsin, and the nationwide voucher programmes in Sweden and the Netherlands.  After analysing the three case studies, Gryzelius proposes four key recommendations if Malaysia wants to introduce the voucher system.

The first is managerial autonomy for schools, in order to allow them to thrive under competition. While High Performing Schools are afforded some autonomies, these still remain quite minimal. Similarly, the management in other schools is restricted by what the Ministry of Education, JPNs and PPDs dictate to them. A school voucher system, if it were to be introduced, would require schools to be highly autonomous to be successful.

Secondly, key policies and minimum standards should be centrally determined by the Ministry of Education.  Enforcement and quality control should be centrally managed too.  This will ensure students’ welfare is protected.

Thirdly, for-profit schools should be asked to prepare long-term investment plans so that we do not see abrupt and disorderly school closures due to financial difficulties, which is highly disruptive to students and parents.

Fourthly, exam grades are important for performance measurement and therefore steps must be taken to prevent schools from inflating grades to mask true performance.

Commenting on the release of the papers, IDEAS chief executive Wan Saiful Wan Jan says  “The poor in Malaysia has been discriminated for too long.  They do not have the ability to choose better schools like many of the richer Malaysians. It is time we fix this educational inequality by piloting a school voucher system so that even the poor have choice too.  This is a system that would ensure schools continue to be free while at the same time creating parental choice for everyone.  Certainly more studies should be conducted and this paper did not go into the details of how to implement school voucher.  But I hope this paper can be an impetus for further studies on the topic.

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Jenny Gryzelius is freelance education researcher, with a Masters in Social Policy Analysis from Catholic University Leuven, Belgium. She was formerly Senior Researcher at IDEAS.

IDEAS is Malaysia’s first think-tank dedicated to promoting market-based solutions to public policy challenges. We are an independent not-for-profit organisation. As a cross-partisan think tank, we work across the political spectrum. Our purpose is to advance market-based principles, and we are not bound by party politics, race or religion.  Our mission is to improve the level of understanding and acceptance of public policies based on the principles of rule of law, limited government, free markets and free individuals. For more information, please visit


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