For the past week, Malaysians have been waiting for comments from the Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on the poor results of Malaysian students in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2011 but he has disappointed Malaysians.
Since the world-wide publication of the TIMSS 2011 results on December 11, Muhyiddin had commented on everything under the sun except on TIMSS 2011 results showing unchecked plunge in the standards of mathematics and science for Malaysian students as compared to other countries – powerful testimony that Muhyiddin is neither committed nor interested in his first duty as Education Minister.
Only eight months ago, Muhyiddin shocked Malaysians claiming that the Malaysian education system is better than advanced nations on the ground that Malaysian youngsters are receiving better education than children in the United States, Britain and Germany.
But Muhyiddin’s claim has been debunked by TIMSS 2011, as in the test for eighth-grade students for mathematics, Malaysia is ranked No. 26 with a score of 440 out of 1,000, as compared to United States which is ranked No. 9 with a score of 509 while England is ranked No. 10 with a score of 507. For science, Malaysia is ranked even lower at No. 32 with a score of 426 as compared to England’s ranking of No. 9 with a score of 533 and United States’ 10th ranking with a score of 525.
Malaysia’s scores for both maths and science are below the international average, while the scores in both subjects for United States and England are above the international average.
What has Muhyiddin got to say about the TIMSS 2011 showing that in both maths and science attainments, Malaysian students lagged far behind both the United States and Britain although he had claimed that Malaysia provides a better education than these two countries?
In fact, in the TIMSS 2011, Malaysia lags behind Israel, Hungary, Slovenia, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Armenia, Romania, United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Lebanon in the maths test and trails behind Slovenia, Israel, Lithuania, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Iran, Romania, UAE, Chile, Bahrain, Thailand, Jordan, Tunisia, Armenia and Saudi Arabia in the science study.
Even more serious than Malaysian students losing out to their contemporaries in the United States and Britain as well as a host of other countries which are not “advanced nations” in the two critical subjects of maths and science is that Malaysia is providing an increasingly more inferior education system than in the past.
In the four TIMSS 1999-2011, Malaysia is the country which suffered the biggest drop in scores among all participating countries for both maths and science : in maths dropping by 79 points from 519 in 1999 to 440 in 2011; in science, dropping by 66 points from 492 in 1999 to 426 points in 2011.
Muhyiddin cannot remain silent for Malaysians are entitled to know why he is unconcerned and indifferent to the atrocious TIMSS 2011 results for Malaysian students, which is an indictment of the Malaysian national education system as well as the series of UMNO/BN Education Ministers in the past– going back even to the period when the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak was the Education Minister from 1995-2000.
Muhyiddin should not indulge in the “syok sendiri” syndrome claiming that Malaysia has a better education system than “advanced nations” like United States, Britain and Germany, when we lagged behind many nations not in the “advanced” category.
Why is Muhyiddin ignoring the other fact to emerge from the series of TIMSS, that Malaysia is lagging far behind the top-performing countries or “power houses” in maths and science from Asia, namely Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan.
There are even international studies which show that 15-year-olds in Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and Shanghai are performing in international tests as though they have had three or more years of schooling than 15-year-olds in Malaysia.
Malaysians are entitled to ask: Quo Vadis, the Malaysian education system.
If this is not the first priority interest of Muhyiddin, he should ask the Prime Minister for a change of Ministerial portfolio so as not to continue to jeopardise the future of new generation of Malaysians as well as the potential competitiveness and greatness of the nation.