Malaysia’s slide in maths, science rankings unsurprising, says PAGE
By Zurairi AR
December 22, 2012
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 22 — Malaysian students will continue their slide into mathematics and science mediocrity if the current education policies do not change, an education lobby group has warned.
Parent Action Group for Education’s (PAGE) response came after the latest results last Wednesday revealed Malaysia had continued its alarming slip down the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) ranking over the years.
“We expected the results to be that ... If we continue what we’re doing now, we’ll continue to do worse,” PAGE chief Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim (picture) toldThe Malaysian Insider.
According to Azimah, the Malaysian education system only teaches content knowledge, knowledge recall and rote learning, which unfortunately only make up a minor portion of TIMSS, unlike reasoning and problem solving.
“We haven’t done anything to prepare our kids in TIMSS ... Might as well we don’t take the exams, what a shame,” she said.
TIMSS assesses fourth and eighth grade students (equivalent to Standard Four and Form Two students in Malaysia) over 63 countries in four international benchmarks since 1995.
Malaysia had sent only Form Two students to participate in the study, and 5,773 students from 180 schools took part last year.
For the latest survey in 2011, Malaysia scored 440 in mathematics and 426 in science, below the TIMSS Scale Centerpoint of 500.
In 2007, Malaysia had scored 474 in mathematics and 471 in science. The scores were 519 and 492 respectively in 1999, when Malaysia first participated.
Azimah expressed her cynicism over the government’s plan in the New Education Blueprint to benchmark Malaysian examinations to TIMSS, and reach a top third ranking by 2025.
“If we’re serious of doing well, change,” stressed Azimah, whose group has been championing for Malaysia to continue teaching mathematics and science in English.
Putrajaya has decided to abort the policy that was initiated by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad despite some encouraging results.
“Don’t just give rhetorics, we need to sit down and actually change the curriculum ... so that it’s more inclined towards problem solving and reasoning. We need a total revamp.
“The question mark now ...how are we going to get there?” Azimah asked.
The PAGE chairperson conceded that lack of reasoning and problem solving was an unfortunate consequence of our conservative teacher-centric education.
“Kids should be encouraged to speak up and ask questions,” she suggested.
“They don’t do it because the teachers will reprimand them if they ask the wrong question.
“They’re afraid to make mistakes, they’re ashamed and they don’t want to ridiculed by their friends, so it is best to keep quiet.”
The solution, Azimah explained, is to go back to the root of the problem and overhaul teacher training to move towards making education student-centric.
“The focus should be on the child, not on the teacher.
“Teachers should be more engaging, they should encourage the students, for them to be opinionated,” Azimah added.
TIMMS is run every four years by the International Study Center of Lynch School of Education, Boston College.
Besides examinations, TIMSS also collects contextual information on school environment and location, native language, teachers and family background from the students, teachers and principals.
In 2011, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan led both the mathematics and science rankings by a substantial margin.
Countries declining in science besides Malaysia included Hungary, Macedonia, Norway, Sweden and Thailand.
The same countries also declined in mathematics, with the addition of Japan, Jordan, Romania and Tunisia.