Greatest blooper for Muhyiddin as Education Minister is his cowardice to own up to deteriorating educational standards of Malaysian students evidenced in TIMSS 2011 and PISA 2012

The greatest blooper for Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is his cowardice to own up to the deteriorating educational standards of Malaysians students evidenced in the 2011 TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) released in December last year and 2012 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) released this month.

Ironically, the deteriorating educational standards of Malaysian students, particularly in the more than four years with Muhyiddin as Education Minister, has been ironically highlighted by the “superlative” 2013 Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) results, to the extent that both the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Muhyiddin had publicly congratulated students who excelled in the PMR exam.

The 2013 PMR results are better than last year, with 30,988 or 7.33 per cent of the over 462,940 PRR candidates nationwide who scored Grade A in all subjects – an increase of 0.41 per cent or 514 candidates over last year’s 30,474 Grade A straight scorers.

It is most ironical that the “superlative” 2013 PMR results with 30,988 or 7.33 of the students in the 2013 PMR attaining top scores of all As in all subjects stand in sharp contrast to the 2011 TIMSS, where only two per cent of Malaysian students reached the grade of “top scorers” and 2012 PISA with only 1.3 per cent of Malaysian students scaling the “top scorers” bracket.

Why such a vast contrast in the results of the local PMR examination and the two international educational assessment benchmarks?

Can Muhyiddin, as Education Minister, enlighten Malaysians which examinations they should believe and trust – the local PMR or the international PISA and TIMSS?

Muhyiddin cannot doubt the credibility and integrity of PISA and TIMSS as international educational yardsticks as one of the objectives of the 13-year Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (MEB) launched by the Education Minister himself in September is to catapult Malaysia from bottom third to the top third of the PISA and TIMSS international educational benchmark systems!

If PISA and TIMSS are dubious international educational assessments, then why did Muhyiddin and MEB accept them as yardsticks to measure the success of Malaysian educational blueprint and transformations in the next 13 years?

Or was Muhyiddin taken for a ride by the consultants who were paid RM20 million to prepare the MEB?

If Muhyhiddin and MEB accept PISA and TIMSS as authoritative educational assessments with credibility and integrity, then this would imply grave doubts about the value, credibility and integrity of local examinations like the PMR.

Is this the real reason why the PMR public examination for Form Three students will be scrapped this year to be replaced with the secondary school-based assessment test starting from next year?

By continuing to maintain a thunderous silence on the poor performance of Malaysian students in 2011 TIMSS and 2012 PISA, Muhyiddin is in fact trying to camouflage and hide from the Malaysian public the grave national educational crisis of deteriorating standards in Malaysia in recent years.

The 2012 PISA, for instance, shows that Malaysia’s 15-year-old students are not only falling below the international average in the three critical subjects of maths, science and reading, but are from three to five years behind their peers in the top-performing PISA countries/regions such as Shanghai, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

In fact, the World Bank’s latest “Malaysia Economic Monitor: High-Performing Education” contained an indictment on the failures of the Malaysian national education system when it said that the 2012 PISA results suggest that “schooling is not translating into learning” in Malaysia.

Equally shocking is the discovery in 2012 PISA that more than half of 15-year-old Malaysian students do not reach basic proficiency levels in mathematics.

The Pakatan Rakyat leadership council at its meeting in Kuala Lumpur last night has called for an emergency meeting of Parliament in January over the twin economic and educational crisis facing Malaysia.

Will Muhyiddin agree that Malaysia is facing a grave national educational crisis which deserves the convening of an emergency Parliament in January?

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah