Malaysia needs not only a new Finance Minister, but also new world-class Education Minister

Calls on the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak to stand down as Finance Minister led by DAP MP for Kluang and DAP National Political Education Director, Liew Chin Tong have reached a new crescendo with last Friday’s statement by the Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin withdrawing blind and total support to Najib’s handling of the RM42 billion 1MDB scandal, with the triple position:

  1. That the Auditor-General should audit freely and independently, and tracing back to the accounts in 2009 when 1MDB first started, not just the accounts of 2013, as well as a forensic audit to ensure “there is no corruption in 1MDB transactions.
  2. That the Public Accounts Committee begin investigating 1MDB without having to wait for the outcome of the Auditor-General’s findings.
  3. No bail-out of 1MDB whether in the proposed disposals of lands in Tun Razak Exchange and Bandar Malaysia which were “obtained from the government on the cheap”.

However, the nation needs not only a new Finance Minister, but also a new Education, a need driven home after Muhyiddin’s speech today admitting his shock with the poor performance of Malaysian students in international assessments, despite the millions of ringgit being spent to improve the education system.

What is most shocking about Muhyiddin’s “shock” is that it has to take him 15 months for the Deputy Prime Minister-cum-Education Minister to be shocked by the dismal performance of Malaysia’s 15-year-olds in the three subjects of mathematics, science and reading in the 2012 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), when the results were released 15 months ago in early December 2013.

This is the first time after 15 months that the Malaysian Education Minister had expressed shock or made any public comment on the 2012 PISA results.

What had Muhyiddin been doing in the laslt 15 months?

Even up to now, Muhyiddin does not seem to have fully grasped the enormity of the dismal results of Malaysian students when compared to their peers in other countries, whether in PISA or Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

Speaking at a function in Sekolah Kebangsaan Seksyen 7 in Shah Alam, Muhyiddin said:

"They (students) are smart, but when placed in international tests like TIMMS and Pisa, it is not a secret where we stand. The bottom one-third, not the top.

"I, as the education minister, am shocked at the report but I have to accept that the education standards, although said to be good, is not enough."

There can be no more categorical admission of his failure as Education Minister for the past six years.

Why is Muhyiddin hanging on as Education Minister?

Muhyiddin does not seem to realise that he had been presiding over a relentless deterioration of educational standards of Malaysian students in the past six years, and that the problem is not just Malaysian students falling to the bottom one-third instead of among the top third tier of countries in the world in terms of performance in international student assessments, but the triple woes suffered by Malaysian students.

The triple educational woes of Malaysian students highlighted by PISA and TIMMS reports are:

  1. Malaysia is stuck in the bottom third of the countries surveyed in international assessments, and not making any upward move towards the upper tier of the top third of the countries.
  2. Although at the bottom third of the pile, Malaysia is being overtaken by other countries in the group, like Kazakhstan and Thailand.
  3. But the most disconcerting result from the 2012 PISA is the widening gap between Malaysia and the “top performers”. The disparity in the scores between 15-year-olds in Malaysia and the 15-year-olds in Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and Shanghai have widened since the previous PISA. Based on the difference of 38 points on the PISA scale being equivalent to one year of schooling, the disparity has widened to reach a stage where the 15-year-old in Shanghai, Singapore and South Korea are performing as though they had four or even five more years of schooling than 15-year-olds in Malaysia.

Just on this dismal record of Muhyiddin as Education Minister in the past ten years, he should stand down as Education Minister.

Furthermore, Malaysians would not forget that it was Muhyiddin who had claimed that Malaysian youngsters are receiving better education than children in the United States, Britain and Germany.

But the second Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh, is not the answer to resolve the nation’s educational woes.

Idris recently claimed that Malaysia’s education is “world class”, which was debunked by the latest Times Higher Education (THE) World Reputation Rankings 2015 where once again, Malaysian universities failed to make the cut among the best universities in the world – although the list of the world’s 100 most prestigious universities included two universities from Singapore, 43 from United States, 12 from UK, six from Germany and five from Australia.

Malaysia does not have world-class education, whether primary, secondary or tertiary.

But let us begin with world-class Education Ministers – and both Muhyiddin and Idris have proved that they do not have the mettle to be world-class Education Ministers.

There is no shortage of Malaysians who can become world-class Education Ministers to start the long hard road to create a world-class education system for all Malaysians. The question is whether such material to be world-class Education Ministers will be given the opportunity to prove their worth!

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah