The Community Development Department or better known among the public as KEMAS is an extension of the Adult Education Division which was established in 1961, through cabinet papers No.385 / 25/60 by focusing on the “Illiteracy Eradication” program.

    By 1977, this illiteracy was enhanced by ‘Functional Literacy‘ concept introduced by UNESCO. It is an effort to make poverty eradication as one of the strategies to develop rural communities.

    Following the launch of the “New Economic Policy” (1970), this Division was renamed to “Community Development Department” (KEMAS) that emphasize on an effort towards a community development.

    KEMAS, Community Development Department is known as (KEMAS) which stands for ‘Community Development’. KEMAS was initially known as the Adult Education Division. It was officially established by YAB Tun Abdul Razak Bin Hussien in 1961 through a ceremony held at the Federal House. The rationale for the establishment of Adult Education Division at that time was created after the country achieved Independence in 1957 and a census was conducted in the same year and found that 1,868,948 adults and 2,379,213 children aged between 10 and 14 were illiterate.

    The findings of this study are seen as a major obstacle to the government in implementing the national development agenda. In 1958, the Second Community Development Conference was held in Kuala Lumpur and was an extension of the First Community Development Conference which was held in 1953 in Taiping. As a result of the conference, a certificate by the Adult Education Special Committee convened on 3rd August 1960 was discussed at Cabinet level during the same year under Cabinet No. 385/25/60. The focus of the cabinet paper discussion is to prioritize basic education to illiterate citizens through the Adult Education Plan until an approval has been issued to establish Adult Education Division and placed under the Ministry of National and Rural Development.

    The government believes that literacy education has a close relationship with the community development. Based on two policies and major implementation strategies of Adult Education outlined in the Cabinet Paper No. 2/54/61 (which is eradicating illiteracy among rural people and providing knowledge of roman alphabet reading and writing to non-Malays), illiteracy has been introduced based on 3 main stages as planned by YAB Tun Abdul Razak Bin Hussien (made an announcement at the launch of World Literacy Day in 1968). The Illiteracy Eradication Movement has been implemented for 15 years.

    Subsequently, based on the Basic Reading and Writing Class, various other classes were also conducted including the National Language Class and Roman Alphabet Language Class (KBK / KBR). As a result, 500,000 students have benefited from these programs every year. Given the increasing demand for each year, teacher recruitment programs are held on a large scale and this indirectly creates a wide range of job opportunities especially for those who can read and write. Training for these teachers was given in stages to increase the skills and contributing to produce the Teaching and Curriculum Method for Adult Classes. This curriculum requires the supervision of teachers by qualified supervisors appointed through practical test, phased curriculum and also learning methods such as 3M education which includes the Zaaba method simplified by Embong Yahya (guidance in everyday work such as agriculture, health, household and child education).

    When Sabah and Sarawak merged with the Federal of Malaysia in 1963, 250 classes were successfully opened in Sabah and 60 classes in Sarawak in 1965. In conjunction with the declaration of Bahasa Melayu as Bahasa Kebangsaan Malaysia in 1965, KEMAS, which was then known as the Adults Education Division, have been actively running Language Month Campaigns especially among adult students. In 1963, the government intensified the efforts to attract more students, especially women, to participate in the Language Month Campaign and as an effort to eradicate illiteracy among the rural population.

      The Adult Education Division later introduces the Household Economics Class (ERT) covering the basic education of reading, writing and counting and guidance in household` management and how to prepare nutritious food. In 1968, the Islamic Class (KAI) and the Jawi Learning Class (KBJ) were introduced to attract the elderly in eradicating illiteracy among themselves and providing religious guidance. KAI has successfully trained 118,045 students through 4,851 classes across the country.   By 1969, Skills Training Class was introduced to provide vocational skills as well as to eliminate illiteracy. This training class covers some area of expertise such as mechanical motors (motorcycles and boats), electronics (radio and television), welding, wood / rattan (furniture making), make-up, hairdressing, tailoring (men and women), carpentry and etc. The Magazine of Adult Education Division, which is Dewasa Magazine and Radio Education (Distance Education) have been created in collaboration with Radio Malaya. It is one of the mediums to assist the efforts that have been undertaken primarily in the field of religious education, health, agricultural, self-development and so on. By 1974, when the illiteracy rate population had dropped to 1.7 million, the National Language Class and the Roman Learning Class (KBR) were terminated except in Sabah and Sarawak. KBR was subsequently replaced by the Functional Literacy Program implemented in the peninsular with the cooperation of UNESCO. In 1970, the Adult Education Division was restructured in the Community Development Division (KEMAS) in line with the implementation of the New Economic Policy (NEP) which was responsible for changing the attitude of the rural community and ensuring that they could accept the progress and development progressively as well as providing training to the rural community so they could actively involve in an effort to raise their own economic, families and communities standards. Among the programs that were conducted were the Household Economy Class (Kelas Ekonomi Rumah tangga, ERT), Work Training Class (Kelas Latih Kerja, KLK), Task Guideline Plan (Rancangan Pedoman Tugasan, RPT), Islamic Class (Kelas Agama Islam, KAI), Children’s Nursery (Tabika),  Village Library(Khutub Khanah Desa, KKD), Village Business Plan(Rancangan Desa Usaha, RDU).  The implementation method of the KEMAS program is through the 3K concept approach as an implementation guide which are Requirements, Needs and Abilities. In 1980, in line with the changing life of the community at that time, the economic sector was emphasized. This change has led KEMAS to change its strategy and approach by encouraging rural communities to engage in revenue enhancement activities. Among the programs conducted were Business Culture, Reading Culture, Income Generation Project, and Integrated Approach for KEMAS Activities, Communal Work Project and New Development Vision of Village and Rural Community. Along with the implementation of this program, food centers, production centers in clothing, handicrafts and embroidery have been created. Community Library and Resource Center were also created in rural areas as a reference center for community learning. At the same time, the Child Excellence Program (Program Kecemerlangan Kanak-kanak, PEKA) was introduced to educate parents about the importance of early childhood education.

    KEMAS also strives towards producing local leaders in activities held to enable them to plan, implement and manage development programs carried out in villages as well as bring positive changes in attitude and socio-economic life of the rural community. In the early 1990’s, KEMAS’s commitment focused on more comprehensive human resource development efforts implemented through non-formal education and lifelong education approaches. Among the programs created are Functional Literacy Education (Pendidikan Literasi Fungsian, PLF), Children’s Nursery (Tabika), Child Care Centre (Taska), Family Wellness Education (Pendidikan Kesejahteraan Keluarga, PKK), Children’s Excellence Program (Program  Kecemerlangan Kanak-kanak, PEKA), Human Development Class(Kelas Bina Insan), Gerakan Desa Movement (GDW), Computer Literacy Class and Community Library.  In 2000, KEMAS has focused on the areas of information technology (ICT) development, human development and enhancement of activities held. At the same time, KEMAS is still pursuing existing activities. In 2003, the Gerakan Desa Movement was converted to the Gerakan Daya Movement. Given the growing needs and involvement of KEMAS, beginning April 1, 2002, the government has decided to restructure KEMAS through the mandate No. E8 / 2002 in which the function and role of KEMAS has been revamped. Throughout 2001 to 2009, KEMAS’s functions and roles included three of the five core National Mission namely enhancing the nation’s knowledge and innovation capability and cultivating first-class minds and addressing the ongoing constructive and productive socio-economic disadvantage under the Gerakan Daya Movement; Computer Literacy Education(Pendidikan Literasi Komputer), Family Wellness Education(Pendidikan Kesejahteraan Keluarga), Skills Education(Pendidikan Kemahiran), Functional Literacy Education(Pendidikan Literasi Fungsian) and Resource Center, the continuous education concept is in line with the development of human capital under the Human Development Division; Early Childhood Education Program (Tabika and Taska) and Supplementary Food Program for children.