Going one grade at a time, most English-medium primary schools in the country had changed to Malay-medium schools by 1975, while the conversion for the secondary level was completed by 1983. Schools in Sabah and Sarawak meanwhile, only started the conversion process in the mid-1970s.
Teachers from English-medium schools were offered courses in Bahasa Malaysia to cope with the conversion, but not all could manage the sudden switch in policy. Some even opted to become English teachers despite lacking the specific training to teach the language.
There was still a significant divide between the changing English-medium schools and other schools.
A “DropOut Study” carried out in 1973 concluded that most of the children of the poor attended vernacular schools while parents from wealthier and urban areas were more likely to send their children to English-medium schools.
As one local researcher noted in 1976, the perceived “higher status” of English-medium schools was still an allure to Malaysian parents even as the conversion process was ongoing: “The physical conditions of the English medium schools, the facilities available therein and the type of teaching staff they have, contribute to making the English-medium school the prestige school in Malaysian schooling system.”
The STAR Online Education Sunday June 2, 2013