The Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin should be the most excited man in the country, as he should be conscious more than anyone else that the new school year of 2014 is the most special, historic and even unique in the nation’s 56-year history.
This is because entering school this year will be Malaysia’s first batch of “miracle students” who would rank among the top-third of world students in international educational benchmarks for critical subjects, whether TIMSS (Trends in International Maths and Science Study) or PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), at the beginning of the next decade.
That is IF the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (MEB) launched by Muhyiddin in September last year is to achieve its objective, that by 2021-2025 or Wave 3 of the National Education Transformations under the MEB, the performance of Malaysian students in international education assessments like TIMSS and PISA would be in the “top third” of the systems.
The opening of the 2014 school year for 449,067 Year One pupils nationwide, which began yesterday for Johore, Kedah, Terengganu and Kelantan and today for other states, should therefore be specially exciting and challenging for Muhyiddin, if he is really expecting the present batch of Year One pupils to perform an “educational miracle” to double leap-frog from the present bottom-third to top-third of world educational assessments like PISA and TIMSS in a decade.
In fact, not only the eyes of the country but the eyes of the world should be focussed on the present batch of 449,067 Year One pupils to ascertain whether and how they could do what no other country or batch of students had ever done or attained, i.e. to achieve a triple “hop-step-jump” from the bottom-third to the top-third of international educational benchmarks in a decade.
One would have thought that with the first batch of “miracle students” which the MEB would produce entering school, Muhyiddin would have difficulty restraining his excitement by the occasion and would have nothing to talk about except the challenges and excitement of the implementation of MEB to produce “miracle students” not only in Malaysia but in the the world.
But strangely enough, the excitement of the occasion to produce the first batch of “miracle students” to perform “educational miracles” seemed to have passed him by!
Muhyddin visited several schools today on the occasion of the first day of the new school year in the federal territories of Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur like SK Presint 14(1), SMK St Gabriel in Kampung Pandan, SJK Tamil Kampung Pandan and SJK China Chung Hwa Setapak, but he had nothing to say on the “education miracle” to the horde of reporters covering his tour of schools.
Its not that Muhyiddin was totally reticent and uncommunicative. He was very forthcoming in giving full backing to Selangor Umno on the “Allah” issue and about State education department directors getting authority to approve school construction and maintenance projects worth up to RM5 million. He shied away from commenting on the Riza Aziz “hot potato” – the purchase of RM110 million condominium in New York by the step-son of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor’s son.
But Muhyiddin was completely mum about “educational miracles” or Malaysia’s adverse performance in the 2011 TIMSS and 2012 PISA and how Malaysia is to achieve the educational miracle of double leap-frogging from bottom-third to top-third of international educational benchmarks in a decade!
It would appear that he is not excited at all by the “educational miracles” the MEB expects the present batch of Year One students to perform in a decade!
The MEB was formulated to deal with the adverse performance of Malaysian students in the quadrennial 2007 TIMSS and triennial 2009 PISA, with the following objectives and time-lines:
• Wave 1 (2013-2015) to achieve a “turn-around” of the system of deteriorating educational standards;
• Wave 2 (2016-2020) where Malaysia’s performance will be at par with the international average of PISA and TIMSS benchmarks; and
• Wave 3 (2021-2025) where Malaysia’s performance on PISA and TIMSS will be in the top third of PISA and TIMSS assessments.
However, far from preparing the national education system for a “turn-around” so that Malaysia can be at par with the international average of PISA and TIMSS systems in Wave 2 and jump to the top third of PISA and TIMSS systems in Wave 3, Malaysia has fallen further down the educational ladder in the 2011 TIMSS and 2012 PISA.
Malaysia suffers the ignominy of being the only country in the world which suffered the biggest drop in scores among all participating countries for both maths and science in the series of four TIMSS in 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011: 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.
Although the latest PISA scores showed improvement in maths, the scores for science and reading fell in the 2012 PISA compared to 2010. Evidence also suggests that English proficiency has deteriorated over time.
As a result, Malaysia’s current educational standards are at an even lower level than that assumed by the MEB, making its objective to catapult Malaysia from the bottom-third to the top-third of the TIMSS and PISA systems in a decade an impossible task.
By keeping mum for a full month on the adverse 2012 PISA results, showing Malaysia is going backwards rather than forwards in educational standards, Muhyiddin is virtually admitting that the present batch of Year One students are not going to be “world beaters” let alone achieve “double miracle” in a decade to catapult from bottom-third to top-third of international educational benchmarks.
This is why Pakatan Rakyat is calling for a emergency session of Parliament this month on the educational crisis of falling standards which had afflicted the system for a decade as well as to revise the unrealistic and utopian Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2015.
Muhyiddin cannot continue to be responsible for Malaysians living under a lie that we expect the present batch of Year One students to be “miracle students” to perform a double miracle in a decade in international educational benchmarks, or he will be doing the greatest disservice to the nation in the field of education in the history of all Education Ministers since Merdeka in 1957.