KUALA LUMPUR, May 15 — Low quality educators are behind Malaysia’s placement among poor third-world nations in an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) study on education, parent groups asserted.

Parents Action Group for Education (PAGE) chairman Datin Noor Azimah Rahim said weaknesses in how teachers were recruited and trained were compounding systemic flaws in Malaysian education.

“Yes, definitely the result of our education infrastructure,” she said, in response to Malaysia being ranked 52nd out of 72 countries based on the proficiency of its students in Mathematics and Science.

“Because the problem also rests with the  selection and training of teachers, the monitoring and measuring of performance of teachers, the remuneration and reward of teachers and school management.”

Concerned Parents of Selangor (CPS) coordinator Shamsuddin Hamid asserted that the decline in teaching quality coincided with the relaxing of entry requirements at training colleges.

He added that many who now take to the profession no longer do so out of choice, but circumstances.

“We need to upgrade teachers’ training. But I suspect the growing numbers of teachers, people taken to do teaching, are from unemployable graduates. You do not get the best graduates,” he said.

This was reflected in the decline in esteem for teachers here, he noted when comparing this to the exclusivity of educators in South Korea were less than 5 per cent of the population qualify to take teaching tests.

“Teachers are very looked up there. Here? Cikgu is nothing,” he added, using the Malay word for teacher.

Malacca Action Group for Parents in Education (MAGPIE) attributed the low quality of local teachers to their lack of passion and attitude, which it also blamed on how the group was recruited.

MAGPIE chairman Mak Chee Kin said teachers were not selected based on merit, resulting in mediocrity.

“Again, the quality of our teachers. They have no commitment and are not academically progressive. It hinders our progress,” he said.

They also concurred with the OECD’s conclusion that Malaysia’s economic output would increase five-fold if the country ensured all its 15-year-olds received a basic level of education.

Mak said there was a link between education and economic growth that he said “go hand-in-hand”, while Noor Azimah noted that a high-quality education could contribute to higher income in the country.

Yesterday, an OECD’s study shown that Malaysia ranked 52nd out of 76 countries, several rungs behind Thailand (47), Kazakhstan (49) and Iran (51), based on students’ test scores in Mathematics and Science.

Singapore was ranked first, followed by Hong Kong and South Korea while Japan and Taiwan were joint-fourth, in an Asian dominance of the top five spots in the study.

The study also estimated Malaysia’s growth potential at 505 per cent of its current GDP if it improved its education, indicating a direct correlation between education and economic growth and stating that country’s standard of education is a “powerful predictor of wealth”.