Social Class and Educational Achievement in a Plural Society: Peninsular Malaysia

Haron, Isahak Bin

     In Malaysia, as in many developing countries, nationwide public examinations have become an important instrument to assess the level of pupil educational achievement and to select pupils for entry into another stage of the education ladder. At the primary level in Malaysia, a nationwide public examination called the Standard Five Assessment Examination is given to all pupils in primary schools (of all language media) at the end of five years of primary schooling. . . . The question that may be asked is: why do pupils attain different levels of achievement in the examination?" In particular, this dissertation "attempts to throw some light to these questions. (a) Is there a relationship between pupils' family socio-economic status and their achievement in the Standard Five Assessment Examination? (b) Is the relationship . . . between pupils' family socio-economic level and their achievement equally strong in different ethnic and rural-urban groups? (c) Is there a relationship between the quality of school resources (in terms of the level of educational facilities, teacher qualifications, experience and motivation, availability of textbooks) and the level of pupil achievement?"
     [T]his study differs from many previous studies of the educational production function in the basic question asked. Instead of asking the question which home and school variables affect pupils' achievement or the question whether family background or school factors make more difference in pupils' achievement, it asks: In the context of a rapidly changing multi-ethnic society, are the effects of socio-economic status and levels of school resources on pupils' academic achievement similar (or different) for different ethnic and rural-urban groups which are at different stages of socio-economic development and which have a different cultural heritage?"
     The data for the study is part of a probability sample of approximately 5 percent of youth born during the calendar years of 1960 and 1956 living in Peninsular Malaysia in 1970, drawn from the 1970 Census returns.