Ku Li: Despite massive education funding, student performance still poor

Ku Li: Despite massive education funding, student performance still poor

Malay Mail Online - 15 Nov 2014

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Tengku Razaleigh noted that Malaysia’s high expenditure for education does not seem to translate into better education standards, noting that a change in focus was needed to boost productivity and the country’s economy. – AFP pic 

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 15 — Malaysia’s students are still falling behind when compared to their contemporaries despite Putrajaya’s huge allocation for education, former minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah observed today.

In listing down his worries about the Malaysian education system, Tengku Razaleigh said he was troubled by the poor quality of those churned out by the system.

“Although spending so much per capita in the education sector’s expenditure, we are still lagging in the standards or achievements of our students compared to other countries with equal income level or purchasing power as us,” the Gua Musang MP said according to a copy of his speech for an event at the Kolej Yayasan Saad in Malacca.

In Budget 2014, Malaysia set aside 21 per cent or RM54.6 billion for the Education Ministry, while Putrajaya allocated RM56 billion in the budget next year for the ministry.

To back his arguments, Tengku Razaleigh referred to Malaysia’s ranking in two international education benchmarks — the TIMMS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) and PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) in Science, Mathematics and reading.

In TIMMS, Malaysian students slid from a score of 520 in 1999 to 440 in 2001 for mathematics, while the country experienced a similar drop from 510 in 2003 to 426 in 2011 for the science subject, he said.

For PISA, Malaysia’s ranking in 2012 was below the average for other countries that had similar per capita income, he said, pointing out that this was despite Putrajaya spending far more on education.

Tengku Razaleigh, or Ku Li as he is popularly referred to, then expressed hope that the government’s Education Transformation Blueprint would help raise education standards here, also urging Putrajaya to focus on the teaching process and quality of teachers, instead of facilities alone.

Earlier in the same speech, Tengku Razaleigh noted that Malaysia’s high expenditure for education does not seem to translate into better education standards, noting that a change in focus was needed to boost productivity and the country’s economy.

“Unfortunately, this high expenditure for education as compared to the Gross Domestic Product is not worth it, at least doesn’t give return towards quality or increase in the standard in education,” the Kelantan prince said.

Malaysia now currently spends four times on higher education as compared to the primary and secondary education, but the government should instead focus on increasing the skills of Malaysians through the lower level education, he said.

“In this way, the country’s economic position will be better if the education level of the country’s workforce increases. This is the only way to raise the country to become a high wage economy — through increase of productivity.

“Not just chasing high-income economy to achieve developed nation status,” he said, pointing out that 85 per cent of the working population here are merely employees.

He also cited statistics by the Malaysia Productivity Corporation (MPC) that showed Malaysian workers lagging behind in productivity when compared against countries like Singapore, South Korea, Japan, UK and the US.

On average, Malaysian workers record an annual productivity value of RM43,952, while those in the US, Japan and Hong Kong hit annual figures of RM285,558 and RM229,568 and RM201,485 respectively, he said.

He also cited MPC’s conclusion that Malaysians have to work longer hours for lower returns.

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