Muhyiddin should outline concrete plans to prove that the Malaysia Education Blueprint for Malaysia’s 15-year-olds to be in top third of countries in 2021 PISA is no 'pie in the sky'

Malaysia has two Education Ministers but this has not stopped the country from continuing to slide down international educational standards, transforming our previous status in the early Merdeka years as a nation of excellence for primary, secondary and university education into a nation of mediocrity.

This was painfully highlighted by two events last week, the release of the 2012 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) last Tuesday and the inaugural Times Higher Education BRICS & Emerging Economies Rankings 2014 last Wednesday.

The 2012 PISA, a global test of 510,000 15-year-old students in 65 countries in reading, science and maths, found Malaysia’s 15-year-olds not only below the international average in the three critical subjects but four or even five years behind their peers in the top-performing PISA countries/regions in Shanghai, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The inaugural Times Higher Education BRICS and Emerging Economies Rankings 2014 has finally confirmed Malaysia’s removal from the pedestal of the world’s top ranking universities – as not a single Malaysian university succeeded for the third year running to be ranked in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for top 400 universities for 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14.

Malaysia has two universities in this new list of top 100 universities in 22 emerging economies – Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) which took the 77th spot and the Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) in the 95th place. Conspicuously omitted is University of Malaya.

But Malaysia still lags behind Thailand which has five universities listed with its King Mongkut’s University of Technology, Thonburi ranked highest at 29th spot.

China came out tops on the new list with Peking University and Tsinghua University taking the first and second spots respectively as well as taking the most spots with 23 universities listed.

Taiwan has 21 institutions ranked in the top 100 while India had 10. Even Turkey fared better than Malaysia with seven universities in the top 100.

Both the 2012 PISA and Times Higher Education BRICS and Emerging Economies Rankings 2014 were released during the UMNO Annual General Meetings last week, but they did not attract any concern or attention as not a single UMNO leader or delegate spoke on it, although there was a specific resolution on education in the UMNO General Assembly.

What better proof that UMNO leaders and delegates were only interested in the politics of education instead of ensuring that all Malaysian students regardless of whether Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan or Iban should get the best education in the world in the country.

With continued deteriorating educational standards, Malaysians need to be convinced that the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 objective for Malaysia to be in the top third of the countries in the PISA and TIMSS (Trends in International Maths and Science Survey) systems by 2021 is no “pie in the sky” but a serious and achievable target.

As PISA is conducted every three years, there will three more PISA assessments in 2015, 2018 and 2021 for Malaysia to be among the top third countries to be realised.

Under the Malaysia Education Blueprint (MEB), Malaysian 15 year-olds are expected to achieve the international average in the 2015 PISA and 2018 PISA and to reach the top third of the system in PISA 2021.

Are these targets realistic, possible and achievable?

Let the Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who unlike other Education Ministers has strenuously avoided the 2012 PISA subject like a plague, convince Malaysian parents that he is not “building castles in the air” and show what concrete plans he has for our 15-year-olds to catapult to the top third of countries for these three subjects in 2021 PISA.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah