Sunday, January 11, 2009

Malaysia losing ground in maths and science

The Malaysian Insider, which I write a weekly column for, has just published an op-ed by former Leader of the Opposition Lim Kit Siang, blasting Education Minister Hishammuddin Hussein for Malaysia's atrocious performance in the 2007 edition of the quadrennial Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

This is the first I'd heard of this, and Lim is quite right that the mainstream media and the government have been conspicuously silent about our poor showing, despite their trumpeting of our success in the 2003 TIMSS. We have fallen ten spots in the maths rankings, from #10 to #20, and fallen one spot in the science rankings, from #20 to #21.

The most worrying thing about this is that when you look at our performance in absolute terms, we're falling ever further behind. We've gone from 519 points for 8th grade maths in 1999 to 474 in 2007; for science, from 492 in 1999 to 471 in 2007. The average score is supposed to be 500, so we have been consistently underperforming, which is terrible news for a middle- to upper-middle-income country such as ours.

I encourage you to read the whole op-ed by Lim Kit Siang, and maybe write to your MP asking them to debate this in Parliament. We need to have a public dialogue about what is wrong with our school system, and hold our government accountable for its stagnation.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

So long as there is no transparency in the authorities you cannot expect much from the education system both in the private and public sector. The fall is like UM's fall in rankings due to poor governance and ethnic preferences rather than through merit. This is going to be a big problem for decades to come and will be so so long as the skewed policies continue to take place.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry, everything work fine. We did improve our English with the present administration and policy, is this not what we want?

Now we teach math n science in English to improve English, later on we will teach English in math and science to improve math and science. by 2020, we will be no 1 in all three subject, thanks to Mahathir of course.

Anonymous said...

Read this:

http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_325155.html

Anonymous said...

Oh by the way did you know it was Dr M who did away with English in 1979 when he was minister for education? Then in early 2003 he brought back English and was hailed a hero.

Anonymous said...

"Oh by the way did you know it was Dr M who did away with English in 1979 when he was minister for education? Then in early 2003 he brought back English and was hailed a hero."
- Oh. Did he have the cheek to claim credit? LOL

Anonymous said...

Yes! It was mahathir that did the change. These politicians are better than david copperfield and david blaine combined

Fikri said...

I think this is something that applies across the board for a lot of people in other areas as well. Whenever someone/something foreign says nice things about us, we take it to the high heavens and promote the hell out of it. But the reverse, of course, isn't true.

In general, I suppose a lot of Malaysians like to listen only to the good stuff.

NickP said...

My hope is that our country will learn how to treasure talent like this:
http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_325455.html

I believe we have the talent to excel and I am sure there are more in Malaysia but if the education system continues to be as fickle, thanks to our politicians. I fear that more brains like Hua, would seeking other countries that appreciates her talent.

NickP said...

Correction, the name is Haw. Even the student that is close behind her in terms of her O' Level result is a Malaysian.

NickP said...

Another clarification, when i mentioned politicians in my first comment, I refer to our politician in the current government. Sad case

Anonymous said...

If we keep on arguing over basic literacy issues like which medium to teach science and math rather than teach science and math, getting teachers who know science and math to teach science and math, Malaysia will continue to slide.
In good school districts in America, a kid entering Grade 1 (primary 1) is able to read by himself/herself. The same applies to Taiwan a number of years ago. These kids are ready to learn science and math without a language barrier. A lot of countries are dead serious that their kids learn math and science well, so there is no artificial barrier place between science/math and the kids.
English is important, but it is a myth to think that you have to be taught in English to be good in science and math. When I was taking graduate EE courses at Stanford U, the first surprice I got entering the exam room on a semiconductor device physics class was the number of Asians (majority), English was never their first language. If you ever attend the International Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in the 1980s, there were many papers on DRAM design presented by the Japanese engineers, they could hardly speak English, but we all listened very carefully, cos they had some thing good to say. It is substance man!
If you want to improve your kids math performance, go get the Singapore text books, there are quite good at the primary level, at higher level there are better ones. For a motivated student, he/she can complete one year's material in half year. At higher levels you may look at computerized courses at EPGY. If they can keep up at that rate year after year, they will do very well in math. Please make sure it is what your kids like to do too, otherwise you can burn out the kids at this rate.

regards,
frank chong

WY Kam 甘永元 said...

previous comments deleted?

Thanks Kian ming

Anonymous said...

Alot of top schoools in Singapore no lonnger take the o or a levels. Its' either direct entry or IB, or SATs (think they did away with that). So to say that the 2 top students in singapore are malaysians is kind of misleading...
Even singapore has the foresight to diversify their education system...
Look at ours...