Demographics of a diverse Malaysia

To accompany our cover story, here are some figures on Malaysia’s demographic makeup.

Malaysia is made up of many races and cultures, the predominant ones being the Malays, Chinese and Indians on the peninsula. For February, to accompany our cover story, here are the figures on Malaysia’s demographic makeup.

Ethnicity in Malaysia

In 2014, the total population of Malaysia stood at 30.3 million. Peninsular Malaysia is home to 79.3% of the entire population – about four times more populated than East Malaysia. 50.3% of Malaysia’s population are of Malay ethnicity, whereas 21.8% are of Chinese ethnicity and 6.5% are of Indian ethnicity. Other Bumiputera represent 11.8% of the Demographics of a diverse Malaysia population, whereas 8.7% comprise non-Malaysian citizens.

Comparing Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia, the proportion of Malay, Chinese and Indian ethnic groups are considerably larger in the former. Those of Malay ethnicity represent 59.7% of the population in Peninsular Malaysia but merely 14.4% in East Malaysia. Indians are the smallest minority group in East Malaysia, representing only 0.3% of the population there.

East Malaysia is heavily populated by non-Malaysian citizens, who make up nearly one-fifth the population there. They are the second largest group in East Malaysia, surpassing the Chinese and Malay populations there.

Religion in Malaysia

Muslims constitute a large majority of the Malaysian population, representing 63.9% of the population on the peninsula and 51.3% in Sabah and Sarawak. There is a total of 17 million Muslims in the country.

The Federal Constitution of Malaysia (Article 160) defines a “Malay” as an individual who professes the religion of Islam; therefore all Malays in Malaysia are Muslims. However, the total Muslim population in Malaysia is still larger than total Malay population by 11.12%, implying that there is slightly over one in 10 Malaysians who is not Malay, but is a Muslim. Most of them are probably from other Bumiputera in East Malaysia; about 37% of the population in Sabah and Sarawak are not Malay but profess the religion of Islam.

The second most professed religion is Buddhism, which has a considerably larger population of believers on the peninsula (22.53%) than in East Malaysia (9.28%). 90.4% of Buddhists are found to be residing in Peninsular Malaysia. The total number of Buddhists comes to approximately 5.6 million – more than twice the total number of Christians.

Christianity is the third most professed religion in the country, with a large following in East Malaysia; more than a third of the population in Sabah and Sarawak are Christians, compared to only 3.1% on the peninsula. There is a total of 2.6 million Christians in the entire Malaysia, and the majority of them reside in East Malaysia.

Hindus represent 6.27% of the Malaysian population, with 1.8 million in Peninsular Malaysia and 7,443 in East Malaysia. 0.72% of the Malaysian population do not have a religion, with East Malaysia having a larger proportion of those without religion.

Education in Malaysia

Approximately 75.6% of primary schools are national schools, and they outnumber vernacular (national type) and religious schools by approximately 4,000. Vernacular schools have not seen any considerable change apart from an increase of three for the period 2011-2012. The number of government aided religious schools (GARS) increased from five schools in 2011 to 18 schools in 2012,and then almost doubled to 35 schools in 2013. Lately however, GARS and national schools have only had marginal increases of one and five respectively.

While the proportion of student enrolment by type of schools has seen almost no change from 2011 till 2014, the number of students enrolled at schools has been steadily decreasing. The rate of decline in the total number of enrolment closely correlates with the rate of decline in the current or upcoming schoolenrolling population age group (5 to 9 years old), as shown in the graph.

Total student population at national schools has declined by four per cent since 2011, with a 5.6% decrease at national type (C) schools and a drop of 13.3% at national type (T) schools. GARS have, however, experienced a hike in student enrolment during the same period – approximately 155.9%. In 2014, despite only 16.8% of all schools being national type (C) schools, 20.8% of students were enrolled in them, while national schools have a fairly comparable percentage in student enrolment and number of schools.

All schools except GARS have seen a decline in the number of students per class from 2011 to 2014. GARS have the most crowded classrooms among all types of schools, at about 32 students per class in 2014. The gap difference between national and national type (C) is narrowing and the crowded situation is improving. The classrooms in national type (T) schools are relatively underutilised, compared to other school types.

Similar to the number of schools and enrolment figures, the number of classes has been declining since 2011 as well, except for those in GARS which have increased by 153%. However, the rate of decline in number of classes is much lower than that of schools and enrolment. The largest decrease was experienced by national type (T) schools at 4.6%, whereas there were only decreases of 0.6% and 0.2% for national type (C) and national schools respectively.

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