PETALING JAYA: After being “baffled” over the poor command of English among students in the country, Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is now “shocked” by local students’ poor scores in global tests.
Muhyiddin, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister, reportedly admitted he was shocked with the poor performance of Malaysian students in international assessment tests such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) despite the millions being spent to improve the education system.
Education is usually the biggest recipient for budget allocations with this year being no exception with a RM56 billion allocation.
Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE) chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim however is “horrified” that Muhyiddin is shocked over the matter.
“I don’t think he should be even saying this. Everyone already knows that. When you respond that way, people make fun of you. You are just inviting criticism. You should be presenting solutions.
“Retaining the PPSMI (the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English) could have been one of the solutions in the sense that when you are more proficient in English for that subject, you tend to read more about the subject in English due to the abundance of reading material and audio visual learning tools in English,” said Noor Azimah.
She said that a more well-read child would be more inquisitive and tend to enjoy learning Science and Mathematics more.
“They will also be more excited about learning. This is especially true about technologically savvy children of today, where even a toddler knows how to use an iPad. This learning using cutting edge technology should be enhanced and not suppressed,” said Noor Azimah.
The change of policies that accompany every new Education Minister is also one of the factors contributing to the decline in students’ performance.
“The flip-flop policies of every new education minister that comes in have overwhelmed the students and teachers.
“The teachers have reached a stage where these changes are not important anymore. They just take one day at a time as they always have.
“All these new policies are just something which each new minister wants to call his own so that when he leaves that ministry, he will be able to show his supposed achievements on record. Whether or not the policy is implemented well is not his concern,” said Noor Azimah.
Muhyiddin had reportedly said that Malaysia invests something like 21 per cent of the federal budget into education and that this is clear proof that it is a lie if some parties accuse the Barisan Nasional government of not paying attention to education.
He added that this was why the education ministry had implemented the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025, and parents and teachers must understand that changes in the education system needed time.
"Who can wait for 12 years, that is quite a long time. But that is the reality because we cannot make drastic changes as there will be those who question why the new minister would want to change this and that,” Muhyiddin was quoted as saying.
This prompted Noor Azimah to ask: “What about PPSMI, which was abolished after six years? They should have waited three complete cycles which would have taken 13 years to decide if PPSMI is a failure.
“During the duration of the 13 years, intervention programmes should have been put in place to ensure that the policy is on track and that is what Tan Sri Musa Mohamad was doing when he was Education Minister but all this fell apart after the change of minister.”
Noor Azimah stressed that one of the most important elements that needed to be tackled in bringing about a better quality of students was the base itself, namely the teachers.
“The Education Ministry should provide statistics on teachers who do not teach and who are not good enough to teach. Accountability and exit policies need to be tightened up. Teaching should be made into a high level attractive profession.
“Audit trails should also be conducted as to where the budget for education goes and its reasonableness of value,” said Noor Azimah.
Muhyiddin had said: "The issue that we are facing, not only the ministry but also as an education minister, is why our education system is not as advanced as developed countries despite the huge funds being pumped into the education sector…”
The answer is obvious. Stop changing policies. There must be continuity in policies for results to be seen.
Look at students and teachers, who end up being the victims of the constantly changing policies.
They had PPSMI, then it was withdrawn and replaced by the “Upholding Bahasa Malaysia and Strengthening English” (MBMMBI) policy.
Now the Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) has been replaced by the Form Three Assessment (PT3).
Teachers too have been bogged down by the school-based assessment that has been riddled with problems since its inception.
Just drawing up blueprints that chart the way will not work if the path is changed every few years.
Not to mention the money wasted as well with more than RM8 billion apparently spent on PPSMI.
Draw up a policy and stick to it long enough for it to bear fruit.
The future of the nation lies with the students of today and that should be more important than, as Noor Azimah pointed out, leaving one’s achievement as a minister on record.