Pointless to have another toothless education panel, says PAGE

A student sleeps inside a classroom during the first day of school at an islamic local school in Kuala Lumpur on January 4, 2012. — AFP pic
A student sleeps inside a classroom during the first day of school at an islamic local school in Kuala Lumpur on January 4, 2012. — AFP pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 12 — A special panel to assess Malaysia’s slide in a global education benchmark will be futile unless it is empowered to enforce its recommendations, a parents group said today.

Describing Putrajaya’s formation a special panel to assess Malaysia’s declining standards in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) as predictable, the Parents Action Group for Education (PAGE) said the panel will lead to an equally knowable outcome if it is not invested with the power to reform the education system.

Pointing at the special panels set up for the Education Review in preparation for the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (MEB), PAGE said that not all the recommendations were adopted despite their merits.

“What good would another panel do if the recommendations are trumped in favour of political expediency or tweaked to align itself with the Minister of Education’s firm grip on the MEB?” it said in a statement today.

In the latest edition of the PISA, Malaysian students lagged far behind their peers in Singapore, who placed second behind top-scorers in Shanghai, China, as well as 15-year-olds in Vietnam and Thailand.

The combined results meant Malaysia was 52nd overall out of the 65 countries, and firmly entrenched in the bottom third of the survey.

Yesterday, the Education Ministry said a committee has been instituted as a response to identify and monitor initiatives to boost Malaysian students’ performance on the PISA and other global yardsticks.

But PAGE asked today what will happen should the committee arrive at suggestions that were not politically palatable.

“What if the panel then recommends for autonomy for certain schools to continue with PPSMI?,” PAGE said, referring to the now-abandoned Policy to Teaching Science and Mathematics in English.

Pointing out that a previous panel had made the exact suggestion, only for this to be rejected, it challenged the ministry to show how a similar snub would not greet the new panel.

“Let’s not waste time and resources on setting up panels. We already know what we need to do. We need an education transformation with a substance,” Azimah said.

“Have we the political will and the guts to do it?”

Aside from the stagnant PISA performance, Malaysia has also face a continued decline in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) benchmark in which the country once performed well.

While Malaysian students were once above the international average between 1999 and 2003, their scores in TIMSS began to decline sharply in 2007 and further in 2011.

Among the stated aims of the MEB is to raise the performance of Malaysian students from their current position in the bottom third of the PISA ladder to the opposite end.

PAGE was started as a response to the Education Ministry’s decision to abandon PPSMI in 2010, just seven years after its introduction, in favour of a pro-Bahasa Malaysia policy.

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