By Clara Chooi
KUALA LUMPUR, April 25 — DAP MP Tony Pua picked apart Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin today for his second attempt at extolling Malaysia’s education standards, pointing out that even government performance agency Pemandu has disagreed with him.
He said that while Muhyiddin chose to cite a study that claimed Malaysians hold the country’s education system in high regard, Pemandu had yesterday admitted to poor local education standards, based on tests conducted by an internationally accredited study.
The Petaling Jaya Utara MP described Muhyiddin as the “most blinkered education minister” for praising Malaysia’s education quality, pointing out that many other international studies and surveys have said otherwise.
“We call upon Tan Sri Muhyiddin to provide his views on the above internationally-accredited studies on our quality of education and to publish all recommendations by Pemandu to his Ministry, to ensure all recommended measures have been or are being implemented,” Pua said in a statement here.
Muhyiddin, who is both deputy prime minister and education minister, had said on Monday that Malaysians in general have high regard for the local education system.
He said this in light of a recent survey by Introspek Asia, which revealed that 55 per cent of Malaysian adults believe that the local education system is comparable to other countries, while 35 per cent said it is “better than that of developed countries”.
Pua noted that on radio station BFM89.9 yesterday evening, Pemandu’s Tengku Nurul Azian, the Education NKRA (National Key Results Area) director, had highlighted the results of the Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) 2009+ study, which showed Malaysians lagging behind other countries in its education standards.
According to the study, Malaysian students were ranked in the bottom 30 per cent when tested against students of 74 countries; in terms of reading literacy, they were ranked a poor 55th. In Mathematics literacy, Malaysians ranked at 57th and fared only marginally better in Science at 52nd.
Apart from this study, Pua said, Muhyiddin also chose to ignore the results from other studies, which purportedly prove that the country’s education standards have continuously declined over the years.
Pua said this “drastic decline” was clearly reflected in the 1999, 2003 and 2007 results from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS), which, according to the lawmaker, is likely the “world’s most comprehensive study on student performance”.
According to the study, Malaysia’s score for Mathematics had declined from 508 to 474 points between 2003 and 2007, Pua said.
The 34 point drop, he added, was the highest suffered by the 60 countries studied. By comparing 2007 with 1999, the drop in score of 45 points was also the second highest in the study.
Similarly for Science, the study saw Malaysia’s score drop the most — by 40 points — from 510 to 471 from 2003 to 2007.
From 1999 to 2007, the country’s suffered a drop of 22 points, which was the second highest of all countries studied, Pua said.
“While the latest PISA study conducted in 2010 showed that we are ranked lowly in the world, the TIMMS data over 1999, 2003 and 2007 proved that the standard in education has been declining consistently and drastically over the past decade,” he said.
The next TIMSS report for 2011, Pua added, is expected to be published later this year and “we can only hope against hope that there will no longer be any bad news”.
“But instead of sounding the alarm bells and [taking] urgent actions to arrest the decline in our education standards, Tan Sri Muhyiddin has chosen to lavish praise on our outstanding education system as an example of the Barisan Nasional government’s impeccable leadership.
“If he continues to remain blinkered as he has over the past two weeks, then perhaps it is better that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak ... find a better replacement minister,” Pua said.