It completely defies belief that our Minister of Education of pronounce Malaysia as having better quality of education than United States (US), Britain and Germany.
Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also our Deputy Prime Minister, based his statement on one partial study in the World Competitiveness Report by World Economic Forum (WEF) on quality of education. In that specific study, Malaysia was ranked 14th as opposed to Germany (17th), Britain (20th) and United States (26th).
However as an Education Minister, he must surely have found out how the above "rankings" were arrived at. In essence the survey asked 87 local businessmen "How well does the educational system in your country meet the needs of a competitive economy?" by rating it between a scale of 1 to 7.
Two agencies were entrusted to do the survey by WEF - government-linked Institute Strategic & International Studies (ISIS) and government-owned Malaysia Productivity Corporation (MPC).
Surely such a tiny survey with such "surprising" outcomes must be benchmarked against other credible international studies before it is accepted at face value. And surely, as the Education Minister, he would have seen many objective studies on the quality of our education and students.
In the latest Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) 2009+ released late last year showed Malaysian 15 year olds being far behind the rest of the developed world. The PISA study reviewed the literacy, mathematics and scientific understanding of 522,000 students across 74 countries, with nearly 4,999 students coming from Malaysia.
Malaysian students were ranked well below the Organisation of Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD) average, and specifically against the US, UK and Germany in all 3 tested areas.
In terms of reading literacy, we were ranked a poor 55th out of 74 countries. In Mathematics literacy, it was 57th and faring only marginally better in Science at 52nd.
The conclusion of the report on Malaysia was even more damaging when it was reported that “56% of students are estimated to have a proficiency in reading literacy that is at or above the baseline level needed to participate effectively and productively in life.”
For Mathematics, only “41% of students are proficient in mathematics at least to the baseline level at which they begin to demonstrate the kind of skills that enable them to use mathematics in ways considered fundamental for their future development.” And for Science, “57% of students are proficient in science at least to the baseline level at which they begin to demonstrate the science competencies that will enable them to participate actively in life situations related to science and technology.”
Why did Muhyiddin not cite the PISA 2009+ study which he is fully aware of which is objective in its study across countries by using standardised tests? PISA 2009+ was also conducted with the cooperation of the Ministry of Education. Instead Muhyiddin decided to endorse and boast of a survey of 87 local businessman on a single subjective question.
The Deputy Prime Minister appears to be suffering from the “jaguh kampung” syndrome where we only measure ourselves based on criteria which will make ourselves look good but fail to be objective in evaluating our performance and achievements which have been lacking and declining in the recent decades.