Past 13 years, three Education Ministers have each produced Education Blueprint but Malaysian education standards have gone from bad to worse

When launching the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 yesterday, the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the government is not in denial over Malaysian students’ poor ratings in international assessments and vowed to move our students from the bottom one-third to the top one-third of the world.

Najib doth protest too much as his claim that the government is not in denial can easily rebutted, and I will give two instances:

Firstly, the ludicrous claim by the Deputy Prime Minister cum Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin early this year that the Malaysian education system is one of the best in the world and that Malaysian youngsters are receiving better education than children in the United States, Britain and Germany.

Secondly, the government’s refusal and denial for almost four years to admit Malaysia’s disastrous showing in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2007, the four-yearly international comparative assessment of the achievements and attitudes towards mathematics and science of Year 4 and Year 8 secondary students, and ascertain the causes to immediately arrest and reverse such decline.

At the eighth grade level of the TIMSS evaluation, Malaysia plunged from No. 10 placing in mathematics in TIMSS 2003 to No. 20 placing in TIMSS 2007, dropping a hefty 45 score points from 519 points in 1999, 508 in 2003 to 474 in 2007 (500 is the TIMSS mathematics scale average).

With the disastrous showing in mathematics at the eighth grade level, Malaysia not only lost to the five top Asian countries which took the first five places, namely Taiwan (1), South Korea (2), Singapore (3), Hong Kong (4) and Japan (5) but also to Hungary (6), England (7), Russia (8), United States (9), Lithuania (10), Czech Republic (11), Slovenia (12), Armenia (13), Australia (14), Sweden (15), Malta (16), Scotland (17), Serbia (18) and Italy (19).

Imagine Malaysia having worse ranking in student mathematics attainments when compared to countries like Hungary, Russia, Slovenia, Armenia, Malta, Serbia and Italy, and yet we have an Education Minister who could boast of the country having one of the best education systems in the world!

The incontrovertible fact is that in the past 13 years, Malaysia has three Education Ministers and each has produced an Education Blueprint but Malaysian education standards have gone from bad to worse in this period.

Tan Sri Musa Mohamad who was Education Minister from 1999 to 2004 produced the 10-year Education Development Plan 2001-2010 while Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein who was Education Minister from 2004 to 2009 set it aside and produced his own blueprint, Education Development Master Plan 2006-2010.

Will Muhyiddin’s Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025 break the jinx of one Education Blueprint after another resulting in further deterioration in the educational standards in the country?

What is there to make Malaysians believe that Muhyiddin’s Education Blueprint will be more successful than Hishammuddin and Musa’s blueprints, as to catapult Malaysian students from the bottom one-third to the top one-third in international assessments?

If Najib is sincere and serious that the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025 should effect a transformation of the entire education system, “lifting achievement for all students”, then he should support the establishment of a Parliamentary Select Committee on Education when Parliament reconvenes on Sept. 24, which should be given three months to submit its report on the 12-year Malaysian Education Blueprint.

One of the terms of reference of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Education should be to find out why the two previous Education Blueprints of the two former Education Ministers had the opposite results since 1999, causing Malaysian student performance in both mathematics and science to fall below the international average with a commensurate drop in ranking – and worse of all, hiding such a crisis of the Malaysian education system from the Malaysian public in the past four years!

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh Timur