The 2012 PISA results assessing 510,000 15-year-old students in 65 countries in mathematics, science and reading have been hailed as “wake-up” calls in the United Kingdom and the United States provoking much national soul-searching about the mediocrity of their education systems compared to top-performers like Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.
In Malaysia, however, the government and the education authorities are very complacent and continue to slumber away although Malaysian students are far behind their peers in UK and US in the assessment in all the three subjects.
Compared to the 2009 PISA, Malaysia improved in math but fell in scores for science and reading: math 421, science 420 and reading 398.
These compare unfavourably with the scores for 15-year-old students in UK (math 494, science 514, reading 499) and US (math 481, science 497, reading 498).
Based on the difference of 38 points on the PISA scale being equivalent to one year of schooling, the 2012 PISA results indicate that Malaysian 15-year-old students are 1.9 to 2.7 years behind their peers in UK in the three subjects: math behind by 1.9 years; science behind by 2.4 years and reading behind by 2.7 years.
It is not only Malaysian 15-year-olds who are 1.9 to 2.7 years behind their peers in the United Kingdom in math, science, and reading (and three to five years behind their peers in Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Macao and Japan), it is clear that the Malaysian political leaders and education planners are many years behind their counterparts in UK and US in their poor response to the 2012 PISA results.
For instance, up to now, there is not a single word from the Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, with regard to Malaysia’s poor performance in the 2012 PISA!
Muhyiddin cannot just fall back on the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (MEB), for the 2012 PISA results have exposed the utopian nature of its objective to make a double quantum jump from the bottom third to the top third of the PISA assessment by the 2021 PISA – a feat no nation had achieved in four triennial PISAs.
May be the MEB should more appropriately termed “Miracle Education Blueprint” for expecting the Malaysian education to achieve a miracle by 2021.
Malaysia is presently stuck in the bottom third of the PISA system for all three subjects, i.e. 421 for maths, 420 for science and 398 for reading, when Malaysia needs to achieve scores of 450 for maths, 442 for science and 446 for reading to get into the middle third and scores of 532 for maths, 511 for science and 508 for reading to get into the top third of the PISA assessment.
This is based on 2012 PISA as from the four triennial PISA tests of 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2012, the threshold for each third of the assessment rises, for instance, the top performer in maths in 2003 was Hong Kong with a score of 550 while Shanghai topped the 2012 PISA with 613.
Similarly, the top performer in science in 2003 was Finland with a score of 548 while the top performer in 2012 PISA is Shanghai with a score of 580; and the top performer in reading in 2003 was Finland with a score of 543 while Shanghai topped the 2012 PISA with 570.
Based on the 2012 PISA without taking account that the thresholds for each level would be raised in the next ten years, Malaysia would have to improve a minimum of 111 points for math, 91 points for science and 110 points for reading between the 2012 PISA and the 2015, 2018 and 2021 PISA to get into the top third of the assessment.
This is virtually asking for a miracle from the Malaysian education system, why the MEB is more fit to be described as “Miracle Education Blueprint”.
As a result of constant bombardment and criticism for the 2012 PISA since its publication on Dec 3, the Education Ministry has announced a special committee to “elevate” the ranking of Malaysian students in PISA.
The first thing that this special PISA committee should examine is whether the MEB objective for Malaysia to make the double quantum jump from the bottom third to the top third of the international education benchmarking by 2021 PISA is a realistic and achievable one, or whether it is too utopian and impossible to achieve and should be scrapped and replaced by another more practical and realistic target.