School choice and school vouchers programmes: Why do they succeed and why do they fail – lessons for Malaysia?

November 17th, 2014 by admin Categories: Education, Policy Ideas, Publications No Responses
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This paper offers an exploration of the benefit of school choice and how school voucher programmes are a core feature of successfully bringing education choice to all segments of society. School vouchers are flexible arrangements for education funding, where the funding follows the student. By looking at three different school voucher programmes, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Programme in the US state of Wisconsin, and the nationwide voucher programmes in Sweden and the Netherlands, we seek to find a benchmark framework for what regulations and infrastructure need to be in place in order for a programme to be successfully implemented.

We find that there are four key conditions necessary for a school voucher programme to be successfully implemented:

1. Managerial autonomy for public and private schools, in order to allow schools to thrive under competition.

2. Education policy should be centrally decided and the government must ensure quality control.

3. Allow for-profit schools, under the condition of long-term commitment from all operators.

4. Grade inflation must be controlled to ensure fair competition and quality control.

It is not within the scope of this paper to outline what school voucher reform in Malaysia should look like. In order to design such a programme further research is needed. However, it is hoped that this paper can serve as a benchmark for future research on the subject.

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Morality and the Rule of Law: Inspirations from Raja Aziz Addruse

October 17th, 2014 by admin Categories: Policy Ideas, Publications No Responses
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Inspirations from Raja Aziz Addruse: Morality and the Rule of Law’ was a lecture by Tunku ‘Abidin Muhriz delivered at the 3rd Raja Aziz Addruse Memorial Lecture, a lecture series organized by the Malaysian Bar Council. In this lecture, Tunku ‘Abidin relays a personal account of Raja Aziz Addruse, a prominent and influential advocate who helped shaped Malaysia’s legal framework and justice system. The lecture recounts Raja Aziz’s unwavering efforts to protect the values and virtues of the Malaysian Constitution, including the fundamental rights of individuals. It reminds the audience of Raja Aziz’s stance of the prevalence of the constitution over parliament, and his many contributions in scrutinising topical issues through his convictions on safeguarding democracy and the realisation of a better Malaysia. Whilst stressing on current issues with the abuse of powers by institutions, and the lack of emphasis on the rule of law and morality, Tunku ‘Abidin ends the lecture noting that a contestation still exists between those who advocate the basic structure doctrine and those who advocate parliamentary supremacy, and that we may draw inspiration from Raja Aziz’s legacy in confronting the difficult questions of our current afflictions.

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CALL FOR PAPERS: IDEAS’ Giving Voice to the Poor: Malaysian Education and Low Income Households

August 28th, 2014 by admin Categories: Education, Publications One Response

The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) is a Malaysian think tank dedicated to promoting market-based solutions to public policy challenges. We publish research papers to shape the opinions of policy makers, parliament members, relevant government officials and public in general.

IDEAS is inviting submissions for papers from academics, think tanks, researchers, postgraduate students interested in the area of education especially among the poorest households in Malaysia. Papers are encouraged to utilise the data that IDEAS collected from our nationwide education survey of 1,200 low-income households, which we have made publicly available on our website. Writers are given the liberty to write on any aspects that you are interested in, which the data can help to substantiate.

The questionnaire was targeted at parents and sought to do the following:

  1. To understand the condition of their children’s education, including:

                   a)       educational expenses in relation to their income;

                   b)      awareness and views of different government assistance on education;

                   c)       quality of their children’s school;

                   d)      access to educational institutions; and

                   e)       ability to influence decision-making in education.

  1. To identify their children’s educational needs, including the relative importance for various needs.
  2. To explore their aspiration for their children, as well as towards the education system.
  3. To gauge their awareness and knowledge on the current education policy.

The full dataset is available at along with our first paper on the survey which covers the following five main findings:

  1. Information Gap: There is an information gap between government education plans and the information received by the poor. What can be done to improve this and why is it important? What policy recommendations can be made?
  2. Accessibility to Education Aid: Government education aid is not reaching the needy. What is going wrong and how can this be improved upon or is this an opportunity for private sector to step in. What policy recommendations can be made?
  3. Dropouts: Lack of interest in school continues to drive students to drop out at an early age. What can be done about this? Do we have enough information on the issue of dropouts to make policy recommendations?
  4.  Education Expenses: Education related expenses continue to be a burden for parents from low-income households. What areas of school-related expenses are particularly burdensome? What can be done to push students to continue going to school in spite of these challenges? What policy recommendations can be made?
  5. School Accessibility: Accessibility to schools continues to limit choice for parents. Is this limiting choice for the parents in terms of the school they would like to send their child to? Is this an opportunity for private sector to step in? What policy recommendations can be made?

Our second paper published on this survey was on dropouts which can be found at However, we are looking to publish papers on the remaining issues. We welcome and look forward to all submissions.


Please submit a concept note and latest resume to by Friday 5 September 2014. The concept note should be between 800-1000 words in length, and effectively communicate preliminary ideas for the final paper and its methodology. Please do have a browse through the dataset and associated questionnaire and keep this in mind when submitting a concept note.  Accepted authors will be notified by 12 September 2014.

The full paper should be submitted to by 30 October 2014. Submissions should be between 4000-6000 words in length.


Accepted papers will undergo a peer-review process coordinated and monitored by IDEAS.

IDEAS will provide an honorarium for the writer, at an agreed-upon rate.

Published papers will be made accessible to the public through our website as part of the Policy Ideas publications, and distributed to policy makers, members of Parliament, and relevant government officials.

IDEAS will also provide opportunities for authors to present their findings to groups of relevant stakeholders. Additionally we will provide a platform for the presentation of important research findings in our monthly press statements, regularly picked up by print and broadcast media, nationally, regionally, and internationally. Social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, will also be used for further promotion. For examples of past publications, please visit

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Dropping out of school in Malaysia: What we know and what needs to be done

August 4th, 2014 by admin Categories: Education, Policy Ideas, Publications No Responses

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In 2013, IDEAS conducted a survey on education, also known as Giving Voice to the Poor, to uncover the needs and aspirations of parents from low-income households around Malaysia. The survey covered over 1,200 respondents of which 150 respondents had at least one child who had dropped out of school. This paper takes a closer look at this group of 150 in an attempt to further understand issues that parents perceive as the reasons for a child dropping out. These reasons include a lack of interest for school, the inability to pay for education-related expenses, and poor academic performance among others. Involvement of parents in a child’s education related activities at home, frequency of interaction of parents with school teachers, management and PTA, and parents’ opinions of education including technical and vocational education pathways are also considered. While data from the Ministry of Education show that the dropout rates are low in Malaysia, the absolute number of students leaving the system before completing a full secondary education reaches into the thousands. A majority of these students are from low-income households, hindering their ability to improve upon their socioeconomic status.

This paper hopes to add to the existing literature on dropouts in Malaysia and provide a more contemporary look at the issue and proposes that the issue of dropouts in the country deserves a reexamination in the form of a more comprehensive

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Generating best value for taxpayers’ money: How to improve transparency and accountability in Malaysia’s public contracting system

July 2nd, 2014 by admin Categories: Governance, Policy Ideas, Publications No Responses
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The Malaysian government has embarked on initiatives to improve transparency in government procurement since 2010. More information about procurement activities are now available for the public. However there is room for improvement. The paper proposes the following five steps to improve this initiative.

First, incorporate new rules to the current procurement process/cycle to improve its transparency and accountability including the mandatory requirement to publish a procurement plan, allowing contractors to review the results, and publish more detailed information on awarded contracts.

Second, facilitate greater public involvement in ensuring the transparency and accountability of government contracting, while strengthening investigation processes and punitive actions.

Third, streamline various govenment electronic platforms that currently exist has to create a credible, efficient and transparent procurement system.

Fourth, enhance the professionalism and integrity of procurement officers.

Last but not least, ensure public private partnership projects (PPPs) follow the same transparency rules as government contracting.

The recommendations are the result of research and dialogue activities carried out by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) over nine months between July 2013 to March 2014. This paper elaborates upon these five recommendations in greater detail.

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From average to excellent: What constitute a successful school transformation

June 9th, 2014 by admin Categories: Education, Other Publications, Publications No Responses
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Please click thumbnail to view report

In 2012, IDEAS embarked on a research to assess a successful school transformation programme. This project was funded by Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD). The school assessed was SMK Ahmad Maher in Kelantan. Attached is the report published by the YSD. The report is available in Bahasa Malaysia and English.

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Malaysian education: What do the poor really want?

April 15th, 2014 by admin Categories: Education, Policy Ideas, Publications No Responses
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This paper is an overview of the results of IDEAS’ nationwide education survey of households in the bottom 40 percent.

The average household income of the respondents was RM 919 per month. With over 1,200 households surveyed in six states across Malaysia, including Sabah and Sarawak, the results provide a glimpse into the barriers faced by low-income parents in Malaysia when they try to provide an education for their children. This paper elaborates on the five main findings which stood out from the data collected:

  1. Information Gap: There is an information gap between government education plans and the information received by the poor.
  2. Accessibility to Education Aid: Government education aid is not reaching the needy.
  3. Lack of interest in school continues to drive students to drop out at an early age.
  4. Education Expenses: Education related expenses continue to be a burden for parents from low-income households.
  5. School Accessibility: Accessibility to schools continues to limit choice for parents.

Addendum 14 May 2014

Giving Voice to the Poor Raw Data & Questionnaire

IDEAS has made the raw data and questionnaire from our Giving Voice to the Poor survey on education in Malaysia available to all online in the following files:

1)    Excel file – raw data (click here to download)

2)    PDF file – questionnaire (click here to download)

You will need to download both files in order to understand the data fully. The questionnaire is coded and those codes are then used in the excel file with the complete raw data. Please feel free to download and use the data for any research purposes. However, please be sure to credit IDEAS if you, as an individual, or your organisation utilise the above information.

Crediting IDEAS: Institute of Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS). (2013). Giving Voice to the Poor Raw Data. [Microsoft Excel]. Retrieved from

If you have any further questions of clarification please contact Tamanna Patel, Senior Researcher Education at or +60 3 6201 8896 / 8897

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The Malaysian Trust School Model: It’s good but is it sustainable?

February 13th, 2014 by admin Categories: Education, Policy Ideas, Publications One Response
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In 2010 Yayasan AMIR and the Ministry of Education (MOE) embarked on the Trust School Programme, which was billed as a pioneering public-private partnership in education for Malaysia. This involved both organisations working together to improve the quality of learning and teaching in selected government schools. The early success of the programme resulted in a declaration by MOE, in the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013 – 2025, that 500 Trust Schools would be created by 2025.

In this policy paper we argue that whilst the Trust Schools initiative has shown significant success, it represents a very weak form of public-private partnership, especially when compared to the models currently being deployed in many other education systems. In fact, in its early iteration it has been more of a public-public partnership – with much of the funding for the programme coming from Government Linked Companies (GLCs). We also argue that the current model lacks scalability as it relies on business community donations to fund Yayasan AMIR’s intervention programme. This is effectively a form of voluntary taxation and we suspect that it will prove difficult to find sufficient sponsors to finance the transformation of 500 schools.

Instead we suggest that MOE should consider strong forms of public-private partnership that involve expert education management organisations being funded on a cost-neutral basis to turnaround Malaysia’s lowest performing schools. These approaches are being used to great effect in England, US, Canada and are also currently being piloted in New Zealand.

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IDEAS 4-year review 2010-2013

February 9th, 2014 by admin Categories: Opinion, Publications No Responses
IDEAS 4-year review 2010-2013

A review of IDEAS progress between 2010-2013.

IDEAS 4 Year Review

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Transparency in European public procurement: benefits and lessons for Malaysia

January 15th, 2014 by admin Categories: Governance, Policy Ideas, Publications No Responses
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Malaysia has rather robust procurement regulations that compel agencies to implement the principles of transparency, value for money, and fair dealings in procurement activities. However, there are areas in which Malaysia can improve especially to encourage competition and innovation. The paper outlines measures that can be adopted by the Malaysiangovernment to improve the competitiveness and transparency of its procurement system. These measures are inspired by the European Procurement system that is explored in the first part of the paper along with the benefits associated with greater transparency in public procurement.

Transparency is one of the core principles in EU procurement. It is required in all stages of procurement, but particularly in three phases of tendering, evaluation and review in order to ensure non discrimination and equal treatment. The paper describes how the principles of transparency is applied in these stages.

The four measures advocated by the paper are as follows: (1) contracting agencies should add clearer and more detailed evaluation criteria in tender notices or tender documents, (2) contracting agencies should provide information about the reasons for choosing certain contractors and rejecting others to both winning and losing contractors as well as to the public, (3) a review phase should be incorporated into the system to allow contractors to fi le for complaints if they are not happy with the decisions made by the agencies and (4) the government should create parameters to ensure Bumiputera preferences in government procurement are less distortive to competition and are awarded in a transparent manner.

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