Not a Surprise That Our Students Are Weak in Science and Maths

sonia_ramachandran         by Sonia Ramachandran 

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia has done it again.


We have once again ranked poorly in education, coming in at number 52 out of 76 countries according to the findings released by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which ranked countries based on the performance of 15-year-old students in Science and Maths. 

In fact, we ranked lower than Vietnam (12), Ukraine (38), Kazakhstan 49), Turkey (41), UAE (45), Iran (51) and Thailand (47). 

On the other end of the spectrum, Singapore came out tops, topping the rankings and beating Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, United Kingdom and the United States. 

Noor-AzimahParent Action Group for Education chair Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim (right) told Theantdaily that the root cause of the problem was the teachers.

“Most of the current batch of teachers are a product of local universities. Thus, their degrees in Science and Maths would be from these universities. Maybe the teaching and learning of these subjects should be looked into. 

“The current batch of teachers are a product of the era where Science and Maths were taught in Bahasa Malaysia, while the text books were in English. These were the complaints we received from some of the teachers concerned. We must realise that the lingua franca of these subjects is English,” she said. 

Due to these factors, said Noor Azimah, the teaching of Science and Maths too would not be efficient.

“When we have these graduates teaching in schools, the teaching is not as efficient as it should be as the teaching and learning was not effective when they were undergraduates.

“Their mediocrity spilled over,” she said. 

Noor Azimah also pointed out that it didn’t help matters that the language of the Internet for Science and Maths is English.

“There are approximately over 2.8 billion Internet users, of which over 800 million communicate in English, followed by Mandarin.

“Due to these factors, the teaching of Science and Maths in English policy (PPSMI) would have served our students better as the resources available to boost the learning of these disciplines are largely in English,” she said. 

When asked if she was disappointed with the OECD results, Noor Azimah said: “Of course I am disappointed because I feel our children have potential and they are very capable if guided properly and if the proper resources are made available. 

“It is shameful we are behind Vietnam, Thailand and Kazakhstan. It is about time this is addressed seriously.” 

She said the government should seriously think about reverting back to English for Science and Maths as it would be the children who will be left further behind their peers internationally otherwise.

“As we increasingly become a regional educational hub, we have to offer these disciplines in English to international students. 

“If we don’t prepare our own students for this, our local universities might just be filled with foreign students instead of our own as they would not be able to compete with the international students,” said Noor Azimah. 

According to the BBC, the OECD economic think tank said the comparisons, which are based on test scores in 76 countries, show the link between education and economic growth. 

"This is the first time we have a truly global scale of the quality of education," OECD's education director, Andreas Schleicher was quoted as saying in the report. 

The report said the analysis is a much wider global map of education standards than the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) tests, which focus on more affluent industrialised countries. 

It said the rankings are based on an amalgamation of international assessments, including the Pisa tests, the TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) tests run by US-based academics and TERCE (Unesco's Third Regional Comparative and Explanatory Study) tests in Latin America, putting developed and developing countries on a single scale. 

jusohWhile Second Education Minister Idris Jusoh (left) has guaranteed that Malaysia will do better in Pisa 2015 (Malaysia ranked 52 out of 65 countries in Pisa 2012), it is disturbing that the country is faring so badly in the “much wider global map of education standards” than Pisa. 

It is also worrying that Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was recently quoted as saying that Malaysian youth were receiving better education than children in the United States, Britain and Germany.

Muhyiddin reportedly said Malaysia was ranked 14th among 142 countries and second in Asean for quality education according to the World Economic Forum global competitiveness report. 

But according to the OECD, United States, Britain and Germany all ranked higher than Malaysia.

If the OECD rankings are not credible, why are we trying to climb up the rankings in OECD’s Pisa tests? 

Why also does the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 say that Malaysia aspires to be in the top third of countries in terms of performance in international assessments, as measured by outcomes in TIMSS and Pisa, within 15 years?

Singapore must be doing something right to constantly feature among the top in education rankings. 

Maybe it is time we take a page out what they are doing right and follow suit. 

Otherwise, our children will be the ones who lose out in this increasingly globalised world.

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