The greatest disservice to the nation by the Deputy Prime Minister cum Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is his denial that Malaysia has been in the throes of an educational crisis for the past decade and making the bottom 40 per cent of Malaysians parents and students happy because of the delusion of a “world class” and quality education ensuring excellence for all.
In actual fact, educational standards in Malaysia, whether primary, secondary or university, have seriously deteriorated over the past decade.
What the CEO of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas), Wan Saiful Wan Jan, said yesterday should be serious food for thought for all Malaysians.
Wan Saiful accused the Barisan Nasional government of taking advantage of the trust given by the poor by creating an “illusion” that the education system in the country has been reformed.
He said that according to a study conducted by his think tank, the bottom 40 per cent of parents of school-going children are generally happy with the quality of schools and teachers in the country when the reality is that their children are struggling by regional and international standards.
Lamenting the wide gap between “perception and reality”, Wan Saiful said these parents seem to have a very positive perception about our schools, whereas when the products of these schools are assessed internationally, the findings are “near disastrous”.
Wan Saiful said that those in power seem to be “very good” at shaping how the poor view the quality of education in the country.
He said: “There are too many ‘illusions of reform’ created by the various announcements by the government. But we must remember that these are only announcements.
“The trust of the poor should not be taken advantage of. They need true school reform to help the next generation break away from the poverty cycle.”
Wan Saiful said that if Malaysians want to safeguard the future of their children, they must ensure that perception is about as close to reality.
“And the reality at the moment looks rather grim,” he said.
Wan Saiful is being very diplomatic to talk about “illusions” that the Malaysian education is “world class” which make Malaysian parents in the bottom 40 per cent of the parents “happy” that their children are getting a quality education.
I would not call this “illusion” but describe it as “delusion”, which Muhyiddin and the Barisan Nasional leaders have concocted by a neo-feudal enslavement and subjugation of the thinking of Malaysians, particularly those in the bottom 40 per cent of the population and those in the rural areas.
In the 2012 PISA (Programme of International Student Assessment), Indonesia topped the list for being the happiest students at school although Indonesian 15-year-old students scored poorly in PISA tests, ranked at the second bottom for maths, science and reading.
Indonesia is ranked at 64 from 65 countries participated in the three-year cycle test. The average scores for Indonesian students are: mathematics 375; science 382 and reading 396. This is just slightly better compared with Peru which is at the bottom of the list. Peru is ranked as the third of the 65 countries whose students are the happiest at school.
It would appear that Malaysian students and parents are emulating their Indonesian counterparts – “happy” at their educational levels although they compare most unfavourably with international standards.
In fact, in the PISA ranking of students with the highest percentage of students who are happy at school, Malaysia is ranked No. 6 after Indonesia, Albania, Peru, Thailand and Colombia with some 90 per cent of the students “happy at school” although Malaysia is placed at the bottom third, ranked No. 52 out of the 65 countries in the 2012 PISA academic tests.
Muhyiddin must bear a great responsibility for this educational “illusion” or more correctly “delusion” of Malaysian parents and students in the bottom 40 per cent of the households that they are world-class students with a quality education, for Muhyiddin had conspired to hide the fact from Malaysian parents of the crisis of confidence confronting Malaysia since becoming Education Minister in 2009.
In fact, Muhyiddin had continued to hide from Malaysian parents and public the disastrous performance of Malaysian students in 2011 TIMSS, with Malaysia producing the worst results out of 25 countries which participated in the 1995 or 1999 to 2011 TIMSS, chalking the worst total of decreases of 79 points for maths, when the two next worst countries were Sweden with decrease of 55 points and Thailand 40 points.
In 1999 TIMSS, Malaysia’s scores on both Mathematics and Science (519 and 492 respectively) were above in the international average, with a ranking of 16 among 38 countries in Mathematics and 22 in Science.
By 2011, the Mathematics score had dropped to 440 points (26th position among 42 countries), while the Science score benchmarks fell to 426 points (32nd among 42 countries).
Up to 38 percent of students in Malaysia did not meet the minimum benchmarks in Mathematics and Science in 2011, an approximately twofold increase since 2007, and five times higher than in 1999.
Muhyiddin had never confided in Malaysians that the country is facing a grave crisis of confidence about our educational standards, preferring to let Malaysians particularly the bottom 40 per cent of the population believe that Malaysia has a world-class education system which could become even better after the 13-year Malaysia Education Plan to catapult it to the top third of the nations of the world.
Up to now, despite the adverse 2011 TIMSS and 2012 PISA results, Muhyiddin has refused to come clean and admit that the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 for Malaysia to attain the rank of top third nations in TIMSS and PISA systems are unrealistic, unachievable and Utopian.
When will Muhyiddin come clean with the people of Malaysia about the crisis of deteriorating educational standards in the past decade as highlighted by the 2011 TIMSS and 2012 PISA, and stop the concoction of educational “illusions” and “delusions” so that Malaysians can wake up to the reality that the Malaysian educational system has a very long way to become world-class regardless of whether Malaysian parents and students in the bottom 40 per cent of the population are mistakenly or ill-advisedly “happy” or otherwise?
The time has come for Muhyiddin to go on live telecast to make such a confession of educational ineptitude and irresponsibility.