The country has had 15 Education Ministers in the past 58 years since 1955, and the second to the sixth Prime Ministers had all previously helmed this important Ministry starting with Tun Razak (1955-57), Tun Hussein Onn (1970-73), Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad (1974-78), Tun Abdullah Badawi (1984-86) and Datuk Seri Najib Razak (1995-99).
Others who had been Education Ministers include Tan Sri Mohamed Khir Johari (1957-59, 1965-69), Tun Abdul Rahman Ya’kub (1969-70), Tun Musa Hitam (1978-81), Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (1986-91) and Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein (2004-2009).
But it is Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who took over the Education Ministry’s portfolio more than four years ago in 2009, who is in danger of being known as the worst and the most irresponsible Education Minister in the nation’s 58-year history.
The question thinking and concerned Malaysians have been asking is 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 and the World Bank’s adverse report on “High-Performing Education” in the past two weeks?
Muhyiddin had not said a word about the 2012 PISA since the results were released two weeks ago on Dec. 3 or the publication of the World Bank’s Malaysia Economic Monitor themed “High-Performing Education” a week ago on Dec. 10.
A responsible and conscientious Education Minister would have gone to Parliament whether on Dec. 4 or 5 (as the Dewan Rakyat was still in session and the Education Ministry would have advanced information about the 2012 PISA results) to give a Ministerial statement on Malaysia’s performance in the 2012 PISA, especially in relation not only to the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (MEB) but also why the Education Ministry’s TIMSS and PISA Task Force which he had set up to improve on Malaysia’s performances in the 2011 TIMSS and 2012 PISS had been such dismal failures.
When I moved a RM10 salary cut motion against Hishammuddin as Education Minister in Parliament on 27th November 2006, I gave three reasons for the motion of censure and no-confidence against him.
A censure and no-confidence motion against Muhyiddin as Education Minister will have more than ten reasons as justification, which is an indictment of his stewardship of one of the most important and critical Ministries in government as it will affect the future of our country and the new generation of Malaysians.
Yesterday, even the Minister for International Trade and Industry, Datuk Seri Mustapha Mohamad has joined in the chorus in a forum to commemorate the third anniversary of the Economic Transformation Programme calling for an “urgent overhaul” of the country’s educational system to produce the skills and human capital urgently needed for inclusive and sustainable economic growth.
May be the time has come for a national debate whether Muhyiddin should step down as Education Minister if Malaysia is really serious about wanting to become a high-income, sustainable and inclusive economy with concerned Malaysian stakeholders giving their reasons why the country urgently needs a committed, dedicated and visionary Education Minister who can arrest the slide in Malaysian educational standards at all levels in the past decade, from primary, secondary to tertiary, and transform Malaysia from a nation of increasing educational mediocrity into a world-class nation of educational excellence.
I am shocked by the statement by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Idris Jala who said that despite Malaysia’s goal to be a high income nation by 2020, the Malaysia Education Blueprint (MEB) will only start bearing fruit in 20 years’ time.
It would appear that the RM20 million spent on McKinsey & Co to prepare the MEB has resulted in a con-job, as Malaysians had been told until now that it is a 13-year educational transformation plan which would achieve full results by 2025.
Idris appears to be endorsing my critique of the MEB as “Miracle Education Blueprint”, setting goals which are not practical, realistic or achievable in its three Waves of transformation in the 13-year education plan from 2013-2025:
• Wave 1 (2013-15) to “turn around system by supporting teachers and focusing on core skills”;
• Wave 2 (2016- 20) to “accelerate system improvement”; and
• Wave 3 (2021-25) to “Move towards excellence with increased operational flexibility”.
I had said that the MEB should more appropriately be known as “Miracle Education Blueprint” as the objective of MEB to raise the quality of the education system in 13 years to be ranked the top third of countries participating in PISA and TIMSS would require three educational miracles by Malaysian students , i.e. a miracle to be performed in each of the next PISA tests in 2015, 2018 and 2021:
• In 2015 PISA, leap out of the bottom third of countries, i.e. getting at least 450 points for maths or an improvement of 29 points from the 421-point score in 2012 PISA;
• In 2018 PISA, achieve at least PISA international average of 500 points; and an increase of 50 points; and
• In 2021 PISA, achieve the threshold of 532 points for the top third of countries, i.e an increase of 32 points.
In other words, in the next three PISA tests in 2015, 2018 and 2021, Malaysian students must perform three educational miracles, i.e. an educational miracle in each PISA test as to collectively increase the maths score by 111 points from 421 in 2012 to 532 in 2021.
No country had ever achieved such a single educational miracle to improve on its previous scores in PISA, as in the 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2012 PISA series, countries which chalked up the biggest improvements in maths through four PISAs are Brazil (35 points), Tunisia (29), Poland (28) Mexico (28) Turkey (25) and Portugal (21).
I fully agree with Idris that no one should play politics with education and that Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat must work together to ensure that the education system is a success – that BN and PR may disagree on other issues but this should not cover education which must be improved to ensure Malaysia remains competitive.
But do the other BN Ministers and leaders agree with Idris – to put party politics aside and put the interests of the educational future of our children as the topmost priority so that Malaysia can succeed as a competitive, high-income, sustainable and inclusive economy?
For a start, is the Cabinet and the Barisan Nasional leadership prepared to end the educational mirage of the MEB, and to work with the Pakatan Rakyat to arrest the slide of our educational standards by introducing genuine educational reforms to ensure educational excellence for all students and not just for 1.3% of the student population with over 51% failures as highlighted by 2012 PISA?