Chemical Education in Asia-Pacific


Dr Ting-Kueh SOON*

Tunku Abdul Rahman College, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Back to Chemical Education in Ajia Pacific Home Page

* The Author is also the Chairman of the Education Section,Institiut Kimia Malaysia

In Malaysia, Chemical Education has been in the main stream of the national education system since the days of independence. Chemistry was first taught at the secondary level; but was extended to the primary level as part of "Man and his environment" when the New Primary School Curriculum (KBSR) was introduced in 1982. Chemical education is continued in the Integrated Secondary School Curriculum (KBSM) in the combined science curriculum for forms one to three, and as part of general science and additional science or chemistry for forms four and five. For the science students who continue to study into the sixth forms, chemistry is taught as a subject both in the Higher School Certificate (STPM) and the "A" levels.

Chemistry is taught in all local universities and colleges with a science faculty/department. It is a pre-requisite for students taking undergraduate programmes in a majority of science, engineering, medicine, pharmacology, food science and nutrition, materials science, environment and, other technical and professional programmes and courses. Post graduate programmes in various disciplines in Chemistry is also being conducted in all universities with a science programme. This paper discusses chemical education in Malaysia, both at the school and university levels. It also reports on the Chemist Act 1975 and its relation to the Institiut Kimia Malaysia. Finally it relates chemistry to the industrialisation and the changing ways of life in Malaysia.

Top of Page


The post independence National Education Policy, i.e., Razak Report, 1958; Rahman Talib Report, 1960; Education Act, 1961, for instance, specifically aims at moulding national identity and unity in a plural society. The National Philosophy of Education (Falsafah Pendidikan Negara) 1988 states:

Education in Malaysia is an on-going effort towards further developing the potentials of individuals in a holistic and integrated manner, so as to produce individuals who are intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically balanced and harmonious, based on a firm belief in and devotion to God. Such effort is designed to produce Malaysian citizens who are knowledgeable and competent, who possess high moral standards, and who are responsible and capable of achieving a high level of personal well-being as well as being able to contribute to the betterment of the society and the nation at large.

The Philosophy emphasizes life long education, good citizenship, the overall development of the individual based on belief in God, and the knowledge and skills necessary for effective contribution to the social and economic well being of the nation.

Top of Page


In the pre-independence period, education in the then Malaya was subjected to the general objectives of the colonial authorities; that is to minimise changes and maintain the status-quo of the differential communities in the country. There was, therefore no attempt to develop a national policy or system of education. Thus, there were separate school systems for the Malays, Chinese and Indians at all levels. It was only in the English schools that children of all races came together. The educational programme in these English schools followed the British model.

By the early 1950s, it was strongly felt that there should be more integration among the various ethnic groups. In 1956, a special committee under the chairmanship of Tun Abdul Razak, who later became the Minister of Education and the Second Prime Minister of Malaysia was set up to review education policies with the objective:

" ....... to establish a national system of education acceptable to the people of the Federation as a whole which will satisfy their needs and promote their cultural, social, economic and political development as a nation, having regard to the intention to make Malay the national language of the country whilst preseving and sustaining the growth of the language and culture of other communities living in the country."

The report of the Committee, popularly known as the Razak Report, became the basis of the present educational policies. The main recommendations of the Report became the basis of the education system as enshrined in the Education Ordinance, 1957.

In 1960, a Review Committee was set up to monitor the progress of the implementation of the National Education Policy. One important recommendation of the Review Committee was to raise the school leaving age to 15 years. This was made possible through the abolition of the Malayan Secondary School Entrance Examination (MSSEE), thus permitting automatic promotion throughout the primary and lower secondary levels. The recommendations of the Review Committee became the basis of the Education Act, 1961 which characterised the features of the present education system.

Top of Page


The present Malaysian education system comprises six years of primary education (Standards one to six), five years of secondary education comprising three years of lower secondary (Forms one to three) and two years of upper secondary (Form four to five), and another two years of pre-university education (Lower and Upper Form Sixth) as summarised in the following chart (Fig.1: Education System in Malaysia).

Fig.1: Education System in Malaysia

After pre-university, the students will be able to enrol either in local universities or to go overseas for study in the United Kingdom, United States of America, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Canada, India and many other countries.

Top of Page

3.1 Educational Statistics

The educational statistics in Malaysia is shown in Table 1 and Table 2.












Lower secondary





Upper secondary





Teacher training





Diploma course





Degree course







Type of Schools

Number of Schools

Number of Pupils

Number of Teachers










Top of Page


3.2 Examinations

The Malaysian education system is targeted at passing examinations. At the primary level, the children have to sit for an assessment examination (Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah or UPSR) in Standard Six. However, promotion into lower secondary level is automatic.

At the lower seconadary level, the students have to sit for an assessment examination (Penilaian Menengah Rendah or PMR) in Form Three in order to be promoted to Form Four at the upper secondary level. The upper secondary level is divided into three different streams, namely academic, technical and vocational.

At the end of the secondary level in Form Five, the students from the academic and technical streams have to sit for the Malaysian Certificate of Education (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia or SPM) examination which will decide whether they continue to pre-university education, or some technical or sub-professional courses, or join the work force. Students from the vocational stream will sit for the Malaysian Certificate of Vocational Education (Sijil Pelajaran Vokasional Malaysia or SPVM) examination which will decide whether they be allowed to continue their college education or seek employment.

At the end of Form Six, the students have to sit for the Higher School Certificate (Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia or STPM) examination. The results of this examination will decide if they will be admitted to local universities which uses STPM as a criteria for admitting undergraduates. The students may also use the STPM to apply to oversea universities. Nowadays, a large number of students are also sitting for the "GCE Ordinary or O Level" (which is equivalent to the SPM) and the "GCE Advanced or A Level" (which is equivalent to the STPM) examinations of the United Kingdom which qualify them for entries into universities in the United Kingdom, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, India and other British Commonwealth Countries.

Top of Page

3.3 The New Education Curriculum for Schools

In 1974, a Cabinet Committee was set up to review the implementation of the national system of education. The Cabinet Committee Report 1979 was published at the end of 1979 with a total of 173 recommendations. Two major results of the recommendations were the implementation of the New Primary School Curriculum (KBSR) in 1982 and the Integrated Secondary School Curriculum (KBSM) in 1988. The New Primary School Curriculum or KBSR stresses on the need to provide basic education and to promote the overall intellectual, spiritual, emotional and physical development of all children with different abilities and potentials. It is divided into two phases of three years each. In the earlier phase, the learning and teaching is to be concentrated on the basics in reading, writing and arithmetics. The later phase is intended for reinforcing mastery of these basic skills while emphasizing the acquisition of knowledge, the use of language for thinking and communication, and the utilization of arithmetic skills for problem solving.

The KBSR's curriculum principles aiming at laying a strong foundation for efficiency in learning among primary school children are being continued and reinforced in the Integrated Secondary School Curriculum or KBSM. The KBSM seeks to equip the students with more skills and knowledge so that they would be able to, at the end of the secondary school education, either choose to continue into the tertiary level, or join the work force. The KBSM seeks to reach a balance between providing students with a general education while giving opportunities for specialized pursuits.

Top of Page


In the light of the above mentioned development of the Malaysian education system, we shall now discuss chemical education at school. Informal chemical education is introduced at the later phase of the KBSR system. At the fourth year of the primary education, the subject, Man and his environment (Alam dan manusia) was introduced with the aim of making the children more aware of their environment. Subtle chemical principles are being used to explain atmospheric and aquatic phenomena, energy changes, food and nutrition, natural resources and many other everyday life things associated with human and his environment. No chemistry is directly mentioned; rather, the emphasis is on how things behave or happen in the environment.

However, it was discovered recently that this subject, Man and his environment, covers too wide a scope for the teacher to teach effectively, as it contains not only the basic scientific principles, but also the social aspects of the curriculum. The subject is now split into two different subjects; one dealing with science and other touching on social science.

The Integrated Secondary School Curriculum or KBSM is divided into two parts, namely the lower secondary of three years from Form One to Three, and the upper secondary of two years from Form Four to Five. At the lower secondary level, chemistry is taught at part of the Combined Science (Sains Panduan). This is a continuation of the KBSR curriculum with the emphasis on developing the basic skills for communications and knowledge acquisition. Combined Science deals mainly with the basic understnading of scientific principles in relation to life processes and the human environment.

For the upper secondary level, chemistry is either taught as part of General Science and Additional Science for non-science students, or as a subject, Chemistry, for science students. For General Science and Additional Science, the curriculum touches on the basic principles of chemistry such as matters, acid-base reactions and salts, the elements and their properties, oxidation and reduction, and certain aspects of industrial chemistry. The basic philosophy is to equip the students with enough chemistry to understand the various processes in life. It is also aimed at making the students more aware of what is happening in the environment.

On the other hand, the subject, Chemistry, is offered to science students who may be aiming for a career in science and technology. The syllabus is divided into three main sections on matters (Kajian Jirim), reactions (Saling Tindakan Antara Bahan) and new products and materials (Penghasilan Bahan Baru). Under matters, it is further sub-divided into matters, atomic structure and periodic table, chemical bonds, petroleum and hydrocarbons, alcohols, organic acids, and natural polymers. Under reactions, it covers acid-base, salts, electrochemistry, oxidation-reduction, thermal chemistry, and rates of reactions. For the new products and materials section, it includes industrial products, agrochemicals and consumer products. It is obvious from the syllabus that the chemsitry covered is quite extensive. It not only provides the students with enough chemical background to cope with everyday life, but also gives them enough chemical knowledge to prepare them for further studies in science and technology. With this chemistry background, the students may proceed to continue their academic studies in the pre-university programmes such as the the sixth forms or some matriculation courses, or take up some technical or sub-professional courses preparing them for work.

At the pre-university level, chemistry is taught as a subject in the Higher School Certificate (Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia or STPM), the "A" level and other pre-university matriculation programmes. The chemical principles covered are extensive. They include atomic and molecular structures, elements and the periodic table, acid-base reactions, redox reactions, gaseous, acqueous and solid-state chemistry, organic chemistry including alcohols, acids, hydrocarbons, natural polymers, etc., and some industrial chemistry. There is enough chemistry to prepare the students for a major in chemistry at the university level, or as a minor as pre-requisite in some science programmes such as medicine, pharmacy, food science and nutrition, most engineering programmes including chemical, materials, environment, etc., and many other chemistry-related courses.


10.15 Kedudukan karbon dalam siri kereaktifan

1. Karbon boleh terbakar dalam oksigen berlebihan untuk membentuk karbon dioksida:

 C(p)   +   O2(g)     ---->     CO2(g)		

2. Karbon dapat menurunkan oksida logam X kepada logamX apabila dipanaskan bersama-sama, dengan syarat karbon adalah lebih reaktif daripada logam X

Karbon  +  Oksida logam X   ---->   Karbon dioksida  +  logam X

3. Satu campuran karbon dan oksida logam Y tidak boleh bertindak balas, iaitu oksida logam Y tidak dapat diturunkan kepada logam Y apabila campuran dipanaskan, jika karbon kurang reaktif daripada lodgam Y.

Karbon  +  Oksida logam Y	---->       Tidak bertindak balas

4. Eksperimen menentukan kedudukan karbon dalam siri kereaktifan

  • (a) Serbuk karbon dan serbuk kuprum(II) oksida dengan kuantiti yang lebih kurang sama banyak dicampurkan dan digualkan sehingga sekata di atas sekeping kertas asbestos.
  • (b) Kertas asbestos bersama-sama campuran itu diletakkan diatas kasa dawai yang terletak di atas tungku kaki tiga, seperti yang ditunjukkan dalam Rajah10.30.
  • (c) Campuran itu dipanaskan dengan kuat
  • (d) Pemanasan dihentikan sebaik sahaja campuran berbara merah.
  • (e) Permerhatian direkodkan untuk mengetahui sama ada tindak balas berlaku atau tidak, iaitu sama ada bara/nyala terang merebak ke seluruh campuran dan zarah-zarah baru dihasilkan atau tidak.
  • (f) Eksperimen di atas diulang dengan menggunakan campuran berikut secara bergilir-gilir:
  •          Serbuk karbon   +   Serbuk magnesiam oksida
             Serbuk karbon   +   Serbuk aluminium oksida
             Serbuk karbon   +   Serbuk zink oksida
  • (g) Semua pemerhatian yang diperoleh dan kesimpulan daripada setiap pemerhatian dapat dijadualkan seperti berikut.
  • Campuran


    Adakah tindak balas berlaku

    Kesimpulan tentang kereaktifan karbon

    Karbon + kuprum(II) oksida
    Satu nyala terang merebak ke seluruh campuran Pepejal perang (baru) terhasil.

    Tindak balas berlaku. Karbon menurunkan kuprum(II) oksida (hitam) kepada kuprum (perang).

     C(p) + 2CuO(p) -->CO2(g) + 2Cu(p)
    Karbon lebih reaktif oksida daripada kuprum
    Karbon + Magnesium oksida
    Tiada perubahan Tiada tindak balas berlaku. Karbon kurang reaktif daripada magnesium.
    Karbon + Aluminium oksida
    Tiada perubahan Tiada tindak balas berlaku Karbon kurang reaktif daripada aluminium
    Karbon + Zink oksida
    Satu bara terang merebak ke seluruh campuran.@Pepejal kelabu (baru) terhasil

    Tindak balas berlaku. Karbon menurunkan zink oksida (kuning apabila panas dan putih apabila sejuk)@

    C(p) + 2ZnO(p)-->CO2(g) + 2Zn(p)
    Karbon lebih reaktif daripada zink

    Top of Page


    5.1 Undergraduate Level

    There are eight universities in Malaysia with six of them offering chemistry as part of their science programmes. The nineth university, Sabah University Malaysia has just started its first intake in July 1995 with courses in business and management. In addition, two colleges are also offering degree and diploma programmes in chemistry as shown in Table 3.



    Degree/Diploma Programme


    University of Malaya (Universiti Malaya) Bachelor of Science


    Bachelor of Science (Hons)


    National University (Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia) Bachelor of Science (Hons)


    Agriculture University Malaysia (Universiti Pertanian Malaysia) Bachelor of Science (Hons)


    Bachelor of Science with Education (Hons)


    Science University Malaysia (Universiti Sains Malaysia) Bachelor of Science (Hons)


    Bachelor of Applied Science (Hons)


    Bachelor of Science with Education (Hons)


    Technology University Malaysia (Universiti Teknologi Malaysia) Bachelor of Science (Hons)


    Bachelor of Science with Education (Hons)


    Sarawak University Malaysia (Universiti Malaysia Sarawak) Bachelor of Science (Hons)


    Tunku Abdul Rahman College Diploma in Science


    Bachelor of Science


    MARA Institute of Technology (Institut Teknologi MARA) Diploma in Technology


    Advanced Diploma in Technology*


    *  This  Advanced Diploma is now recognised as  equivalent  to  a Bachelor
     of Science with Honours by the Malaysian Government.

    The minimum entry requirement into these degree/diploma programmes is a pass in the STPM with either two principal level subjects or one subject at the principal level with two subjects at the subsidary levels, except for the Diploma in Technology in the MARA Institute of Technology, which only requires a pass in the SPM. However, competition into local universities is very keen due to the large number of applicants and limited places in the universities.

    At the University of Malaya, students with good STPM results may be admitted directly into the second year of the Bachelor of Science (B. Sc.) programme. At the end of the third year, those who obtained good results in B. Sc. examinations are promoted to the fourth year for the Bachelor of Science with Honours (B. Sc. Hons) programme. For the other universities, the Bachelor of Science with Honours is a four year programme with the results of the examinations deciding whether the undergraduates will be awarded the Bachelor of Science or the Bachelor of Science with Honours.

    For the Tunku Abdul Rahaman College, the College only awards the Diploma in Science. The award of the Bachelor of Science is by the Campbell University of North Carolina, USA based on examinations conducted at the College.

    The MARA Institute of Technology has just introduced an Advanced Diploma programme in Industrial Chemistry which is recognised as equivalent to a Bachelor of Science with Honours programme.

    Chemistry taught at the undergraduate level in Malaysian universities and colleges provides an indepth study in the various fields of chemistry including the fundamental inorganic, organic and physical chemistry, and also the other major areas such as analytical, industrial, polymer, natural products and environmental chemistry. Undergraduates majoring in chemistry would normally have to cover an even wider area that may include more indepth studies on instrumentation, quantum theory and computational chemistry, transition metal chemistry, physical organic chemistry, and other more advanced topics. The level of chemistry in Malaysian universities and colleges is considered to be on par with the best universities in the world.

    Top of Page

    5.2 Post-Graduate Programmes in Chemistry

    Post-graduate programmes in Chemistry leading to the Master of Science (M. Sc.) and the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph. D.) are being offered by all the six universities with the Bachelor of Science programme. All the post-graduate programmes are conducted through full time research. There is no master programme in chemistry conducted just by course work as offered by many universities overseas. This is because the final year chemistry curriculum in Malaysia is considered advanced enough to provide sufficient knowledge in the chosen specialisation. Only occasionally are some candidates required to take a few credits course work to strengthen their background in particular fields of chemistry.

    There is no doubt that the post-graduate research in chemistry may be in any area of specialisation, the recent trend is towards research on our primary commodities such as rubber, palm oil, petroleum, tin, cocoa and timber. Many research projects are also focused on natural products, especially those from our tropical rain forest. Another recent preference is the research conducted on pollution control, and, waste management and utilisation.

    Top of Page


    In Malaysian public schools, you have to have a teaching certificate or a teaching diploma in order to be considered as a qualified teacher. The task of teacher education and training lies with the government and this is undertaken by both the universities and the teacher colleges. In the past, primary school teachers were trained in teacher colleges and secondary school teachers by the universities. However, due to the demand for more teachers, most of the teachers colleges produce both primary and secondary school teachers. Some of these colleges also train specialist teachers including teachers for vocational and technical subjects, teachers for the handicapped, and language teachers.

    As at January 1 1995, the total number of teachers in Malaysia was 230,020 of which 140,548 (61.1%) were primary school teachers and 89,472 (38.9%) were secondary school teachers.

    Currently, there were 30 teacher training colleges distributed throughout the country. Most of these colleges take in trainees with a SPM or STPM qualification and provide them with a two-year or two-and-a-half year certificate programme leading to a Certificate in Education. The universities, on the other hand, offer a one-year post-graduate Diploma in Education. Recently, some teacher colleges have been upgraded to university status and are training university graduates. To overcome the shortage of science teachers, some universities are offering a four-year Bachelor of Science with Education programme.

    Top of Page

    6.1 Science/Chemistry Teacher Education

    There is no such thing as the training of "chemistry teacher" per se. At the teacher colleges, teachers are trained in various subject matters such as child psychology, sociology, pedagogy, etc and their teaching areas such as science, economics, arts, etc. In other word, you are trained as a science or economic, or art teacher; and you are expected to teacher any subjects which come under science (if you are a science teacher) including chemistry, biology, physics, etc.

    On the other hand, at the post-graduate diploma level, one would normally be trained to teach, for example, chemistry as a major and perhaps, biology as a minor. However, what one actually teaches in school, depend very much on the need of the school. If the school is short of physics teacher, one would have to do so, even though you may be trained in chemistry.

    Top of Page


    The local universities and colleges produce about 350 chemistry graduates a year; and there may be another 50 or so chemistry graduates from oversea universities who return annually. However, only about 30 percent of these graduates find work as chemists in Malaysia. The other 70 percent usually work in a management capacity in various industries.

    By the word "chemist", this is meant to include those working in the laboratories including quality control and product development chemists, research officers, etc., teachers and educators in schools and universities, sales and marketing personnel in chemicals and instrumentation, as well as those managers of research and development departments and institutions. Due to rapid industrialisation, especially in the last ten years or so, chemists are in demand in Malaysia. They work either in the government including the universities, and research and development institutions, or the private sector.

    Top of Page

    7.1 Chemist Act 1975 and the Malaysian Institute of Chemistry

    Malaysia is one of the few countries in the world which has a Chemist Act 1975. The Malaysian Institute of Chemistry (Institiut Kimia Malaysia) or IKM is inaugurated on 8 April 1967. It is a professional organisation of chemists involving in the promotion of chemistry, and the protection of the interests of the chemists and the general public. IKM is empowered under the Chemist Act 1975 to regulate the practice of chemistry in Malaysia. Only those registered with IKM are allowed to practise as chemist under the Act.

    At the moment, it is estimated that there are about 6,000 chemistry professionals in Malaysia. Of these, only about 2,000 are registered chemists, that is, they are members of IKM. The majority of some 3,000 chemistry teachers in schools and a sizeable number of chemistry lecturers in the universities and colleges are still not members of IKM.

    Beside regulating the practice of chemistry, IKM is also involved in the continuing education of chemists in Malaysia. It organises the annual Malaysian Chemical Congress (MCC). MCC is a congress of various symposia on specific areas in chemistry such as analytical, chemical education and safety, environment, polymer and industrial chemicals, oils and fats, organic and natural products, etc. MCC allows chemists to exchange ideas and information. It also serves to update chemists on the latest development in various disciplines in chemistry.

    IKM also organises specific symposia, workshops and training courses for its members and other professionals for skill improvement and updating. It also holds international conferences such as the Asian Chemical Congress and the Eurasia Conference on Chemical Sciences. IKM works very closely with regional as well as international chemical organisations such as the Federation of Asian Chemical Societies (FACS) and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). It also enjoy good working relationship with inetrnational agencies such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

    Top of Page

    7.2 Chemists in Malaysia

    Chemists in Malaysia are employed both in the public as well as in the private sectors. In the public sector, the most numbers of chemists may be found in the following:

    * The Chemistry Department

    * The Universities and Colleges

    * Research and Development (R & D) institutions such as -

    ^ Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM)

    ^ Institute for Medical Research (IMR)

    ^ Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI)

    ^ Mines Research Institute

    ^ Palm Oil Research Institute of Malaysia (PORIM)

    ^ Rubber Research Institute of Malaysia (RRIM)

    ^ Standards and Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia


    * Other government departments such as -

    ^ Agriculture Department

    ^ Department of Environment (DOE)

    ^ Geological Survey Department (GSD)

    ^ Department of Public Health

    ^ Public Work Department (PWD)

    It is estimated that about 1,000 chemists worked in this sector (excluding education) in various capacities.

    In the private sector, chemists are employed in analysis and testing, quality control, sales and marketing, production and manufacturing, and research and development, with some in the management position. The industries served by these chemists covered a wide spectrum as shown in Table 4.


    Polymers and Plastics
    Industrial Chemicals
    Minerals and Metals
    Electronics and Electroplating
    Food and Beverages
    Fragrances and Flavours
    Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Products
    Household Products
    Detergents and Surfactants
    Textiles and Dyes
    Paints and Coatings
    Adhesives and Resins
    Glasses and Ceramics
    Building Materails
    Agro-based Industries
    Palm Oil and Related Products
    Rubber and Latex Products
    Timber, Paper and Pulp

    Top of Page


    Chemistry played an important role in the industrial development in Malaysia. The Malaysian economy started off as an agriculture-based economy in the 60s. It is not until the 80s that manufacturing became an important sector of the economy. In the earlier years after independence, the Malaysian economy is based on agriculture produces such as rubber and oil palm. Later in the 70s, petroleum became an important commodity, contributing to a large portion in the export earning of the country. It was not until the 80s that manufactured goods and processed products from primary commodities became an important source of foreign exchange. In fact, in the 90s, manufactured goods have overtaken all other sectors and became the major export sector of the Malaysian economy. This trend is expected to continue right into the 21st Century.

    Chemistry has played a key role in the transformation of the Malaysian economy. First the primary commodities such as rubber, palm oil, tin, petroleum and timber are processed into secondary products for export. Taking palm oil as an example, the crude palm oil exported in the 70s is now sold as fractionated palm olein and palm stearin, and further downstream activities have converted palm oil into oleochemicals for processing into other end-use products. The rubber and latex are also made into rubberised and latex products for export.

    Also in the manufacturing sector, chemistry has played an important role in polymers and plastic, industrial and agrochemicals, detergents and surfactants, pharmaceutical and medicinal products, just to name a few.

    Another area where chemistry has played a key role recently is in pollution control, and waste management and utilisation. The possible consequences of industrialisation are pollution and waste generation. Chemists have been able to reduce the pollution loads of many industries and provide proper waste management and utilisation.

    Top of Page


    Chemistry also plays an important part in the Malaysian way of life, especially on matters relating to the environment. The rapid industrial development has resulted in the deterioration of the quality of our environment. The air became polluted with emissions from motor vehicle exhaust, emissions from power and chemical plants, quarry and construction activities. The inland water systems became polluted with effluent from palm oil mills, latex factories, food manufacturing industries, textile, electroplating, paper pulping and many other industries. Land also became derelict due to mining and quarrying activities.

    It is fortunate that chemistry has been able to play a positive role in the protection of the Malaysian environment. The introduction of lead-free petrol, cleaner sources of energy, coupled with more stringent control on emissions from motor vehicle exhaust and factories, Malaysia has been able to check the deterioration in the air quality. With improved public transport system, reduced emission from both stationery and mobile sources, and control on open burning, it is expected that the overall air quality in Malaysia will improve in the near future.

    One of the greatest success in the application of chemistry and engineering in environmental control in Malaysia is in the treatment of palm oil mill effluent (POME), effluent from latex concentrate factories, food manufacturing industries and others. Malaysia has been able to develop our own treatment systems to successfully reduced discharges from these industries. Taking POME as an example. After treatment, the final discharge contains a BOD load of less than 100 ppm from an initial figure of 10,000 to 50,000 pm in the raw effluent. However, many of the Malaysian river systems are still polluted from waste and discharges from the construction activities, untreated sewage, agricultural waste and indiscriminate disposal of solid waste. The Malaysian government has come up with a river monitoring system to control further deterioration in the water quality.

    Chemistry is playing an important role in environmental protection and conservation. Besides reducing discharges to the air and water environment, sanitory disposal of household waste and treatment facilities for toxic and hazardous waste have also been established to deal with such problems. Furthermore, with strict enforcement of environment impact assessment on important projects, we hope that further industrialisation of Malaysia will not significantly sacrifice the quality of our environment.

    Top of Page


    Chemistry has affected the Malaysian way of life in providing new products and materials in their everyday life. Chemistry has also elevated the standards of living by providing better nutrition and health care, better protection against diseases and elements of the environment, and better quality of life.


    Future chemical education in Malaysia has to play three important functions.

    The first is create a Malaysian public who is chemistry literate. This is to mean that the Malaysian public must know sufficient chemistry for them to decide what foods are good for them, what products are environmentally friendly, what industries they would choose to minimise pollution, and what steps to take to conserve and protect the environment.

    The second is to create a chemical workforce who is able to support industrialisation and to protect the environment.

    The third is to create a sense of social responsibility among our decision-makers such as the politicians, the entrepreneurs and the investors.

    Top of Page


    In conclusion, chemical education and chemistry have played an important role in the industrialisation of Malaysia. They have also contributed to a better quality of life in Malaysia.


    Government of the Federation of Malaya (1958). Report of the Education Committee 1956 (Razak Report), Kuala Lumpur: The Government Press.

    Government of the Federation of Malaya (1960). Report of the Education Review Committee 1960 (Rahman Talib Report), Kuala Lumpur: The Government Press.

    Government of Malaysia (1987). Education Act 1961, Kuala Lumpur: The Government Press.

    Government of Malaysia (1991). The Sixth Malaysia Plan, Kuala Lumpur: The Government Press.

    Kementerian Pelajaran Malaysia (1979). Laporan Jawatankuasa Kabinet Mengkaji Pelaksanaan Dasar Pelajaran, Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.

    Kementerian Pelajaran Malaysia (1981). Buku Panduan Am KBSR, Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.

    Kementerian Pendidikan Malaysia (1988). Sukatan Pelajaran Sekolah Menengah: Sains, Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.

    Soon T. K. (1991). Chemical Education and Chemistry as a Profession in Malaysia. Paper presented at the Seminar on Education and Practice of Chemistry V (EDUPRAC V) at the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, 3rd August 1991.

    Soon T. K. (ed.) (1989). Proceedings, Seminar on Chemical Education, Kuala Lumpur: Institiut Kimia Malaysia.

    Sa'adah M. (1992). The Teaching of Chemistry Syllabus in Malaysian Secondary Schools - From the Teachers' Viewpoint.Proceedings, Regional Seminar on Chemical Education and Public Understanding of Chemistry, Kuala Lumpur: Institiut Kimia Malaysia.

    Soon T. K. & Sukiman S. (1992). The Current Status of Chemical Education in Malaysia. Proceedings,Regional Seminar on ChemicalEducation and Public Understanding of Chemistry, Kuala Lumpur: Institiut Kimia Malaysia.

    Soon T. K. & Quek A. H. (1992). University Chemistry Curriculum Development -- Meeting the Needs of Rapid Industrialisation. Proceedings, Regional Seminar on Chemical Education and Public Understanding of Chemistry, Kuala Lumpur: Institiut Kimia Malaysia.

    Soon T. K. (1993). Chemistry, consumer and quality. Proceedings,Symposium on Chemical Education for the Community, 5th Asian Chemical Congress, Kuala Lumpur: Institiut Kimia Malaysia. Educational Planning and Research Division, Ministry of Education Malaysia (1994). Education in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur: Governmentof Malaysia.

    Educational Planning and Research Division, Ministry of Education Malaysia (1995). Educational Statistics '95, Kuala Lumpur: Government of Malaysia.

    Top of Page

    Back to Chemical Education in Ajia Pacific Home Page