Kudos to CDC Director Masnah for the first decent government response on Malaysia’s poor performances in 2011 TIMSS and 2012 PISA results

Kudos to the Curriculum Development Division director of the Ministry of Education, Dr. Masnah Ali Muda, who has finally come out with the first decent government response on Malaysia's poor performances in the 2011 TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) and the 2012 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment).

I am not fully satisfied with Masnah's statement but it only highlights the cowardice of the Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in continuing his irresponsibility in refusing to own up to the crisis of deteriorating educational standards under his watch.

I do not deny that I had been badgering Muhyiddin almost daily since the release of the 2012 PISA results three weeks ago on 3rd December to come clean with Malaysians that the country is facing a full-scale educational crisis with deteriorating educational standards under his watch in the Education Ministry since April 2009.

Muhyiddin had been the lynchpin of an elaborate national conspiracy to make Malaysians believe the delusion that they have a world-class education system with the ever-increasing and unprecedented number of students scoring As for all subjects in local examinations especially PMR and SPM when the standards of Malaysian students were actually suffering serious deterioration in the past decade as evident from international educational benchmarks like the global assessments of TIMSS, conducted for eighth graders every four years, and PISA, conducted for 15-year-old students every three years.

Muhyiddin had been scurrying for cover from the dismal results of Malaysian students in the 2011 TIMSS and 2012 PISA results, and when he finds the pressure for public accountability irresistible in the past three weeks, he has dragooned the director of Curriculum Development Division of the Education Ministry to come to the forefront to face the arrows of criticisms for the poor Malaysian performance in TIMSS and PISA, when as Education Minister he should have the courage, conviction and responsibility to bear personal responsibility for the adverse TIMSS and PISA results.

Among the questions and issues I had shot at Muhyiddin in the past three weeks, for which there are still no answers, include:

  • 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”;
  • Muhyiddin should ask McKinsey & Co to answer the question how Malaysia is to become a “wonder nation” and make the double quantum jump from the bottom third to top third of 2021 PISA or reclaim the RM20 million spent on the consultant for the Malaysian Education Blueprint;
  • Has the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025 become “Miracle Education Blueprint” which expects Malaysian students to perform three educational miracles in his 13-year Three-Wave Educational Transformation Plan?
  • Muhyiddin's greatest disservice to nation is his denial that Malaysia has been in throes of education crisis for past decade and making bottom 40 per cent of Malaysian parents and students happy because of the delusion of a “world class” and quality education
  • What type of an Education Minister we have got when Muhyiddin is completely unconcerned, indifferent and disinterested about the country’s educational woes highlighted by the 2012 PISA, 2011 TIMSS and World Bank’s adverse report on “High-Performing Education”?
  • Which assessments should Malaysians believe - PMR or PISA/TIMSS?

The Curriculum Development Centre director, who is a civil servant, cannot answer these questions.

Only Muhyiddin as the No. 2 political leader in the government and the Education Minister can answer them.

When will Muhyiddin stop scurrying for cover and come forward to assume his Ministerial responsibilities for the national educational crisis of deteriorating educational standards confronting the nation in the years he is Education Minister?

In PISA, a 38 point difference is the equivalent of one schooling year of learning. This means that in the 2009 PISA, 15-year-olds in Malaysia are performing as though they have had three years' less schooling than 15-year-olds in Shanghai, Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong as Malaysia's performance was at least 100 points below that of their regional peers.

Instead of closing this gap under Muhyiddin's stewardship in the Eduction Ministry, there is an even greater gulf between the performance of Malaysian students and their regional peers in 2012 PISA, even ranging from four to five years behind their peers in the top-performing PISA countries/regions particularly in Shanghai, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan n the three critical subjects of maths, science and reading.

As Education Minister, isn't Muhyiddin going to assume full responsibility for such shocking retrogression in the standards of the Malaysian education system in the past four years, instead of passing the responsibility to the civil servants?

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah