While Malaysia has made strides in access to education for all children under the age of 17, the quality of education is questionable, the World Bank said today.
World Bank country director for Malaysia Ulrich Zachau said it was of concern that Malaysian pupils had performed well below their peers in standardised international assessments.
“The peers who Malaysian pupils are being assessed against are those in the high-income economies which Malaysia aspires to compete with," Zachau said in a press statement.
He cited the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) in which 65 countries participated. Malaysia came 52nd for mathematics, 53rd for science and 59th for reading.
The World Bank today released its report, “Malaysia Economic Monitor: High Performing Education”, which emphasised the importance for Malaysia to build a high-performing education system.
Zachau said the system was important as Malaysia transformed into a high-income, sustainable economy.
"The access and quality of learning are both vital. International experience has shown that when children from all backgrounds have access to quality education, they have better opportunities.
"When children do better than their parents and scale greater heights, they break the poverty cycle."
He acknowledged that Malaysia had achieved near universal access to education, offering affordable schooling to children from all income groups.
"Among the Southeast Asian countries which participated in Pisa, Malaysian pupils only outperformed their Indonesian peers. Malaysia was even behind lower-income Vietnam.
"Not only has the performance of Malaysian pupils been below expectations, but evidence also suggests that it has not been improving.
"Raising the quality of education in the country is critical for Malaysia to achieve a high-performing education system which provides the human capital needed for a high-income economy."
But the challenge now was to turn schooling into learning with three main priorities – moving decisions to schools, providing information to parents and moving good teachers into classrooms.
Zachau recommended that Putrajaya introduce several institutional reforms, including improving the incentives and recruitment of teachers.
Other recommendations included moving decision-making closer to schools and parents and providing more information to parents so that they could demand a quality education for their children. – December 11, 2013.