Muhyiddin cannot continue to be dumbstruck by 2012 PISA results five days ago but must speak up on responses by Education Ministry

The Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin cannot continue to be dumbstruck by the 2012 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results five days ago but must speak up on the responses by the Education Ministry.

Malaysia should at least learn from England which has swung into immediate action, announcing the creation of 30 elite maths centres across the country after the 2012 PISA results which find that UK schoolchildren are up to three years behind their peers in the top-performing countries in Asia.

Under the new UK plan, secondary school teachers will provide expert tuition to primary pupils as part of government reforms designed to address serious failing in maths.

Under the plan, pupils aged under-11 face being set more challenging tasks designed to prepare them for the demands of secondary education as the UK Education Secretary, Michael Gove, said successful Asian nations introduced all students “to more stretching mathematical content at an earlier age than has been the case here”.

More teachers will also be trained as specialists in the subject.

In fact, UK Education Secretary expressed particular concerns over poor standards of UK students in maths in the House of Commons on Tuesday, the same day the 2012 PISA results were announced.

In contrast, Muhyiddin has still to respond publicly to the 2012 PISA results for Malaysia.

The 2012 PISA figures show that UK schoolchildren are now the equivalent of three years behind pupils in Shanghai, China – the best-performing jurisdiction – and a year behind the best-performing European countries such as Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Under new UK plan, the Department of Education will designate 30 teaching schools as regional centres to drive up standards in maths.

The Mathematics Education Strategic Hubs – funded with £11m of taxpayers’ money – will be expected to recruit more maths experts into the teaching profession, raise standards of on-the-job training locally and ensure tough teaching materials are introduced into surrounding schools.

In a key move, it is likely to involve top-performing secondary schools working with local primaries to improve teaching in the subject and give children more challenging tasks at the age of 10 and 11.

The hubs in England – formally launched in September 2014 – will be partly designed to ease the transition between primary and secondary education and stop pupil performance dipping in the first years of senior school.

This is United Kingdom’s response the 2012 PISA results – a “wake-up call” for schools across Britain as UK pupils’ performance in maths, science and reading is lagging far behind those topping the ranking in East Asia, particularly Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea.

UK’s performance in 2012 PISA has stagnated at about the same middle-ranking level achieved when the exams were last taken in 2009.

The UK ranked 26th for maths and 23rd for reading, which puts it broadly on a par with the OECD averages and in the same bracket as nations such as the Czech Republic, France and Norway.

In science, the results were slightly better, with youngsters coming 21st, just above the OECD average and similar to results in Australia, Austria, Ireland, New Zealand and the Netherlands. These are similar to the 2009 rankings.

The OECD average for Maths is 494, Reading 496 and Science 501. UK’s score in the 2012 PISA is 494 for Maths, 499 for Reading and 514 for Science.

Malaysia is well below the OECD average and UK’s performance, as our scores in 2012 PISA are: 421 for Maths, 398 for Reading and 420 for Science.

As a difference of 38 points on the PISA scale is equivalent to one year of schooling, the 2012 PISA would put Malaysia’s 15-year-olds behind their peers in UK by two to two-and-a-half years in maths, reading and science.

What is shocking is that UK education authorities are regarding 2012 PISA as a “wake-up call” for urgent education reforms in these three key subjects while Malaysia, which is far behind UK and even three to five years behind the top-performing countries like Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea do not seem to be very concerned about Malaysia being stuck in the bottom one third of the PISA countries.

When will Muhyiddin “wake up” to make a “wake-up call” for Malaysia’s poor educational standards?

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah