by Elizabeth Zachariah
The Malaysian Insider
April 02, 2014
Malaysia once again fared poorly in a world student performance assessment test conducted in 2012, ending up in the bottom quarter among 44 countries – a result that reinforces the concern that the country’s education system is in tatters.
Malaysia ranked 39 with a mean score of 422 in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) first assessment on creative problem-solving, while neighbouring Singapore came out tops with a mean score of 562, said the report released yesterday by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The overall mean score for all countries was 500.
Malaysia had more than half of the share of low achievers, which means the students tested lacked the skills needed in a modern workplace.
In contrast, Singapore only had 8% share of low achievers. The mean share was 21.4%.
On the other hand, Malaysia only had 0.9% share of top performers compared with Singapore’s 29.3%. Malaysia’s share was below the average percentage of 11.4%.
This showed that only one out of 10 Malaysian students, aged 15, is able to solve the most complex problems, compared with one in five in Singapore, Korea and Japan.
Asian countries like Korea, Japan, Macau-China, Hong Kong-China, Shanghai-China and Chinese Taipei make up the top seven of the list.
Students from Canada, Australia, Finland, England, Estonia, France, the Netherlands, Italy, the Czech Republic, Germany, the United States and Belgium all scored above the average.
“Eighty-five thousand students from 44 countries and economies took the computer-based test, involving real-life scenarios to measure the skills young people will use when faced with everyday problems, such as setting a thermostat or finding the quickest route to a destination,” said the OECD, which carried out the tests.
Malaysians scored 29.1 on solution rate on tasks measuring the acquisition of knowledge and 29.3 on solution rate on tasks measuring the utilisation of knowledge while Singapore scored 62 and 55.4 respectively, way above the average score of all countries, which are 45.5 and 46.4 respectively.
“Today’s 15-year-olds with poor problem-solving skills will become tomorrow’s adults struggling to find or keep a good job,” said Andreas Schleicher, acting Director of Education and Skills at OECD.
“Policymakers and educators should re-shape their school systems and curricula to help students develop their problem-solving skills which are increasingly needed in today’s economies.”
Malaysia had also performed poorly in an earlier PISA assessment which measured how students in 65 countries did in mathematics, science and reading.
According to the PISA’s 2012 results, Malaysian students scored below average or ranked 52 out of the 65 countries. In contrast, Vietnamese students ranked 17 out of 65.
Just a week ago, a World Bank senior economist pointed out that the poor quality of Malaysia’s education system was more worrying than the debt level of its households.
Dr Frederico Gil Sander, who is senior economist for Malaysia, had said Malaysians should be “alarmed” that their children were doing worse in school than children in Vietnam, a country that was poorer than Malaysia.
Malaysia’s continuous dismal performance in international assessments highlights the weaknesses in the country’s schooling system, despite the fact that education gets the largest share of funds every year from the national budget.
Critics have pointed out that the PISA results contradicted Putrajaya’s insistence that Malaysia has a world-class education system.
Critics have also questioned the real worth of the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) which produces many students who scored As, but who can’t compete with their peers from Singapore, China and Taiwan.
Opposition politicians have relentlessly attacked Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin over Malaysia’s poor results in international assessment tests.
Muhyiddin subsequently announced that the ministry would set up a special committee tasked with elevating students’ assessments in these tests. – April 2, 2014.