When will Malaysia break into the dominance of Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan in rankings of TIMSS for math and science or is this a mere pipe-dream?

Is the Education Minister, Datuk Seri Mahdzir bin Khalid happy with the results of Malaysian students in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2015 made public worldwide yesterday?

The Education Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr. Khair Mohamad Yusuf seems to be quite ecstatic and easily satisfied with the results of Malaysian students in TIMSS 2015, when the results should be cause for grave concern for all educationists and parents in Malaysia.

In a way, Khair is right in that the TIMSS 2015 results was an improvement on the TIMSS 2011, as Malaysia scored 465 in mathematics and 471 in science, which is a significant improvement from 2011, when it was 440 and 426 respectively, for 14-year-old Form 2 students.

However, this is the second worst score for 14-year-old Malaysian Form 2 students in five TIMSS results since 1995, as shown by the following marks achieved by Malaysian students in the TIMSS series:

Maths Science
1999 519 492
2003 508 510
2007 474 471
2011 440 426
2015 465 471

While such improvements in math and science in TIMSS 2015 by Malaysian students are most welcome, it still fall short of the attainment of Malaysian Form 2 students in the earlier TIMSS series, especially in 1999 and 2003.

Does the Education Ministry understand what is the problem and has it a got a blueprint to restore the standards of Malaysian students in math and science to the level 16 years ago by the next TIMSS 2019?

The TIMSS 2015 results contain hidden dangers for the government’s goal in the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025 for Malaysia to elevate itself into the top third of countries participating in international assessments like Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) AND TIMSS.

The top third of the 39 countries in TIMSS 2015 for mathematics and science for 14-year-olds, with marks out of 1,000, are:


1.Singapore 621 marks
2.South Korea 606
3.Taiwan 599
4. Hong Kong 594
5.Japan 586
6.Russia 538
7.Kazakhstan 528
8.Canada 527
9. Ireland 523
10. England 518
10. United States 518
12. Slovenia 516
13. Hungary 514

Malaysia with 465 marks is now ranked No. 22 and must out-perform ten other countries in TIMSS 2016 to be in the top one-third of nations participating in the international assessment, namely:

14. Norway 512
15. Israel 511
15. Lithuania 511
17. Australia 505
18. Sweden 501
19. Italy 494
19. Malta 494
21. New Zealand 493

For science, the top one-third of the first-league nations are:

1.Singapore 597
2.Japan 571
3.Taiwan 569
4. S.Korea 556
5.Slovenia 551
6.Hong Kong 546
7.Russia 544
8.England 537
9.Kazakhstan 533
10.United States 530
10.Ireland 530
12.Hungary 527
13.Canada 526

Currently with 471 out of 1,000 marks for science, Malaysia is ranked 24 out of 39 nations assessed. Malaysia will have to beat the following ten countries to rank among the top one-third countries, viz:

14. Sweden 522
15. Lithuania 519
16. New Zealand 513
17. Australia 512
18. Norway 509
19. Israel 507
20. Italy 499
21. Turkey 493
22.Malta 481
23. United Arab Emirates 477

Has the Education Ministry a blueprint for Malaysian Form 2 students to beat their counterparts from Hungary to New Zealand in the case of mathematics and from Canada to United Arab Emirates in the case of science in TIMSS 2019, and if so, let the Education Minister make public such a blueprint.

When the TIMSS 2015 results were made public yesterday, there was a collective groan in the West that “US and UK students still lag Asian peers on international math and science exam” – except that US and UK students perform better than Malaysian student in both subjects.

The Education Ministry and his officials in the Education Ministry should ask why every four years, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan should continue to dominate the rankings for TIMSS math and science tests, and when Malaysia is going to break into their ranks to be a powerhouse for math and science in international assessments – or is this a mere pipe-dream as far as Malaysia is concerned?

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah