While tight competition for entrance into university, secondary school and even some primary schools is nothing new, debate has arisen over what appears to be the same trend at kindergarten – the first step for many towards the start of formal education.
Just one level up, admission tests have become a norm for students whose parents wish to enrol them at private or non-government schools.
But for children about to head off to kindergarten and preschool, at least one question at stake is the effect of similarly competitive aspects on their growth.
Azlin Norhaini Mansor, former chairman of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's (UKM) Leadership and Education Policy Center, said expectations these days have increased, even for children.
"Times are changing, and the needs and expectations of knowledge and skills are also increasing as children prepare for school as well as their future careers," she said.
"It would be unfair to children if we did not equip them with the knowledge and skills they need to face their world, which will definitely be different from the world of today."
Preschool education in Malaysia is for the most part dependent on private institutions as the number of government kindergartens is insufficient to meet demand.
Azlin said the tests and evaluations carried out at this level are to identify where each child is at, and to help the organisations in question prepare the appropriate programmes.
Child psychologist Suriati Sidek however disagreed with the administration of entrance examinations for children below the age of six.
"Studies show that at this age, children explore, understand and get to know the world through play," Suriati, of the International Islamic University Malaysia, told MalaysiaNow.
"Playing is a natural and routine activity that cannot be separated from childhood," she added.
"When parents are notified of exams or evaluations, they indirectly force their children to learn in order to obtain good results or gain entrance into the school."
Children can also feel pressured and worried about getting scolded if they do not achieve the desired results, she added.
She said children also tend to have a negative perception of learning in the first place, which should be made into a fun process.
Educationist Anuar Ahmad agreed, saying that preschool should not be turned into an institution which places a burden on children.
Anuar, of UKM, said preschool and kindergarten should instead provide children with a space to play and carry out other activities.
"They can also socialise with their friends," he said.
"If preschool becomes too centred on academics and tests, it will not be good for children's development."
Azlin meanwhile said that teaching methods should be improved in order to make learning fun.
"The workforce must also be strengthened, and infrastructure and materials improved as well."