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Education in Malaysia

Education in Malaysia

Like all children, refugee children have the fundamental right to life, survival and development to the maximum extent possible. However, living in exile, refugee children are often denied normal childhoods.

Refugee children in Malaysia are denied access to the formal education system, and thus obtain education via an informal parallel system of128community-based learning centres.

UNHCR advocates for refugee children’s access to education, provides financial and material support to the learning centres, support capacity building of teachers through teacher training and compensation, and continued coordination of ad-hoc support towards enhancing access to, and quality of, education for refugees.
What these refugee children call 'school' is actually not much more than a room above a shop in the middle of the city. Books, pens, and paper are sparse. There are no playgrounds and no place to run around. But to these children, this is the place where dreams are made.


14% (1,234)

Refugee children aged 3-5 years enrolled in pre-school education

 44% (5,046)

Refugee children aged 6-13 years enrolled in primary education

16% (874)

Refugee children aged 14-17 enrolled in secondary education

Population of Concern: 

There are a total of 150,379 people of concern. 25,499 are under the age of 18, with 23, 823 of school-going ages.

Age group
Total PoC

Of the 23,823 that are of school-going ages, only 30% are enrolled in community learning centres.

Locations of learning centres in West Malaysia

133 learning centres located in:

Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Perak, Pahang, Terengganu, Negeri Sembilan, Melaka, Johor, Pulau Pinang, Kedah, Kelantan.

Education Map

UNHCR implementing partners 

UNHCR Malaysia currently has six implementing partners in the sector of education which operate 10 learning centres and coordinates projects such as teachers training and teacher’s compensation.

Implementing partners:

  • Dignity for Children Foundation
  • Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation
  • Future Global Islamic Network
  • Soroptimist International Johor Bahru (SIJB)
  • Malaysian Social Research Institute (MSRI)
  • Muslim Aid Malaysia

Main activities

Objective 1: Improve learning achievement for refugee children in primary school

  • As of September 2017, 128 of some 700 teachers are compensated under the Teachers’ Compensation Programme.
  • Regular monitoring of learning centres done by staff members.

Objective 2: Ensure that schools are safe learning environments for refugee girls and boys and young people

  • Provision of grants based on needs for rental, renovation, materials, etc. to ensure a more conducive learning environment at the learning centres.
  • Peacebuilding activities by means of sports, art, music and other extracurricular activities explored with various parties such as PJ Live Arts, Dignity for Children Foundation and etc.
  • “Children’s Safety Programme” sessions are conducted by ICMC (International Catholic Migration Commission) for learning centres located in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Pulau Pinang. 

Objective 3: Improve access to formal secondary education opportunities for refugee young people

  • 21 learning centres offer Secondary Level education with 2 being specifically secondary education centres.

Objective 4: Improve access to higher education opportunities for refugee young people

  • UNHCR has signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, International University of Malaya-Wales (IUMW), Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, Brickfields Asia College, International Innovative College and HELP University to provide access to higher education courses for refugee young people.
  • Currently 48 refugees are pursuing their further studies.

Objective 5: Ensure opportunities for education are live long and available according to need

  • Early Childhood Development is further enhanced with the Toy Box programme which is implemented at 12 learning centres.
  • About 576 refugee youths have graduated from Project Self-HELP since its implementation in 2011. Project Self-HELP is a skills training programme by HELP College of Arts and Technology.


  • Denial of access to Malaysian formal public education.
  • Lack of certification and access to public examinations.
  • High turnover of teachers and minimal compensation.
  • Security and safety issues faced by the students and teachers in and out of school.
  • Lack of data on out of school children.