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Malaysian students are poor problem solvers, survey says


By Patrick Lee (The Star Online)
PETALING JAYA: When it comes to problem-solving, Malaysian 15-year-
olds are among of the worlds poorest, a survey by Programme for
International Student Assessment (PISA) has determined.

The 2012 survey conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-


operation and Development (OECD) found that more than one in five
Malaysian students could not even reach basic levels of problem solving.
Malaysia came in at 39th with a mean score of 422 points among the 44
countries surveyed. In comparison, Singapore topped the list of countries
with 562 points.

Malaysias score also put it below the OECD average of 500 points.

The survey divided problem solving proficiency into six levels, with Level
6 being the highest and Level 1 being the lowest, though it was added that
there was a level below Level 1.

... and in Uruguay, the United Arab Emirates, Montenegro, Malaysia,


Brazil and Israel, more than one in five students do not reach this level
(Level 1), the report said. The PISA 2012 report said students proficient at
Level 1 can only explore problems given to them in a limited manner.

In general, students at Level 1 can solve straightforward problems


provided there is only a simple condition to be satisfied and there are only
one or two steps to be performed to reach that goal.

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According to the survey, students were given problems to explore and


come up with solutions. These included trying to figure out how to use an
MP3 players screen, and using the controls on an air-conditioner.

The students were then required to interact with the tests problems to find
out how they worked, and do it in the least possible number of clicks.

The survey also found that very few Malaysian students were likely to
achieve the top levels of problem solving proficiency.

... in Montenegro, Malaysia, Colombia, Uruguay, Bulgaria and Brazil,


fewer than 2% of students perform at Level 5 or 6, the report read.

In comparison, more than one in five students in Singapore, Korea and


Japan attained this level of proficiency.

The report added that there were strong positive correlations with regard
mathematics, reading and science skills, adding that students who
performed in these areas could also perform well in problem solving.

In December last year, results of a PISA survey showed that Malaysian


students scored below the OECD average in terms of mathematics, science
and reading skills.

However, the survey also showed that that in terms of individual


performances, Malaysian students scored better in mathematics, but fared
worse in science and reading than in 2009.

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Malaysia ranks 39 out of 44 countries in


problem-solving test for 15-year-olds, says
report

Malaysia once again fared poorly in a world student performance


assessment test conducted in 2012, ending up in the bottom quarter among
44 countries a result that reinforces the concern that the countrys
education system is in tatters.

Malaysia ranked 39 with a mean score of 422 in the Programme for


International Student Assessment (PISA) first assessment on creative
problem-solving, while neighbouring Singapore came out tops with a mean
score of 562, said the report released yesterday by the Organisation for
Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

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The overall mean score for all countries was 500.

Malaysia had more than half of the share of low achievers, which means
the students tested lacked the skills needed in a modern workplace.

In contrast, Singapore only had 8% share of low achievers. The mean share
was 21.4%.

On the other hand, Malaysia only had 0.9% share of top performers
compared with Singapore's 29.3%. Malaysia's share was below the average
percentage of 11.4%.

This showed that only one out of 100 Malaysian students, aged 15, is able
to solve the most complex problems, compared with one in five in
Singapore, Korea and Japan.

Asian countries like Korea, Japan, Macau-China, Hong Kong-China,


Shanghai-China and Chinese Taipei make up the top seven of the list.

Students from Canada, Australia, Finland, England, Estonia, France, the


Netherlands, Italy, the Czech Republic, Germany, the United States and
Belgium all scored above the average.

"Eighty-five thousand students from 44 countries and economies took the


computer-based test, involving real-life scenarios to measure the skills
young people will use when faced with everyday problems, such as setting
a thermostat or finding the quickest route to a destination," said the OECD,
which carried out the tests.

Malaysians scored 29.1 on solution rate on tasks measuring the acquisition


of knowledge and 29.3 on solution rate on tasks measuring the utilisation
of knowledge while Singapore scored 62 and 55.4 respectively, way above
the average score of all countries, which are 45.5 and 46.4 respectively.
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"Todays 15-year-olds with poor problem-solving skills will become


tomorrows adults struggling to find or keep a good job, said Andreas
Schleicher, acting Director of Education and Skills at OECD.

Policymakers and educators should re-shape their school systems and


curricula to help students develop their problem-solving skills which are
increasingly needed in todays economies.

Malaysia had also performed poorly in an earlier PISA assessment which


measured how students in 65 countries did in mathematics, science and
reading. According to the PISA's 2012 results, Malaysian students scored
below average or ranked 52 out of the 65 countries. In contrast,
Vietnamese students ranked 17 out of 65.

Just a week ago, a World Bank senior economist pointed out that the poor
quality of Malaysia's education system was more worrying than the debt
level of its households. Dr Frederico Gil Sander, who is senior economist
for Malaysia, had said Malaysians should be "alarmed" that their children
were doing worse in school than children in Vietnam, a country that was
poorer than Malaysia.

Malaysia's continuous dismal performance in international assessments


highlights the weaknesses in the country's schooling system, despite the
fact that education gets the largest share of funds every year from the
national budget.

Critics have pointed out that the PISA results contradicted Putrajayas
insistence that Malaysia has a world-class education system. Critics have
also questioned the real worth of the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) which
produces many students who scored As, but who can't compete with their
peers from Singapore, China and Taiwan.

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Opposition politicians have relentlessly attacked Education Minister Tan


Sri Muhyiddin Yassin over Malaysia's poor results in international
assessment tests.

Muhyiddin subsequently announced that the ministry would set up a


special committee tasked with elevating students assessments in these
tests. April 2, 2014.

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Malaysia capable improving its position in


PISA 2015
Bernama | Updated: December 11, 2013

Secondary school students sit in the exam - BERNAMA photo


KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is capable of improving its position in
the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015
through the implementation of the Malaysian Education Blueprint
2013-2025 (PPPM), hence be on par with international standards.
The Education Ministry in a statement here today, said the PPPM
would help the country in facing existing challenges and
transforming the national education system to meet the demands of
the more competitive global economy.

"Although the results of PISA 2012 were not so encouraging, the


ministry is confident that Malaysia is capable of getting a better
position in PISA 2015 through the implementation of PPPM, which
was launched on Sept 6," the statement said.

The ministry would continue to be committed to take the efforts and


initiatives to put the national education system among the top one-
third of the best education systems in the world. The statement said
Malaysia had participated in PISA for the first time in 2010 (2009+)
where approximately 5,000 students from 154 schools were
assessed.

The ministry had also identified the weaknesses in the existing


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curriculum, which gave little emphasize on Higher Order Thinking


Skills (KBAT) and caused students to have less ability to apply the
skills when answering the assessment questions.
According to the statement, as an immediate move, the ministry
had set up the Committee on Trends in International Mathematics
and Science Study (TIMSS) and PISA, led by the ministry's
Curriculum Development Division. The committee would identify and
monitor the initiatives needed to be implemented for a programme
for international student assessment like that.

One of PPPM's initiatives to boost Malaysia's performance in TIMSS


and PISA was to develop the exercise modules for Mathematics and
Science to close the gap in the content and skills tested in PISA and
TIMSS, as well as their question formats.

The ministry had also upgraded KBAT-related initiatives and


improved teachers' skills in a bid to boost the results of the learning
process for all students.

The statement also said that in order to make the initiative a


success, the ministry would be updating the curriculum for primary
and secondary schools so that they would be on par with
international standards.

The new Primary School Standard Curriculum (KSSR) and Secondary


School Standard Curriculum would be launched in 2017, according
to the statement.

"Besides, the ministry has also improved and upgraded the national
assessment system by inserting elements of KBAT in school
examinations. In 2016, 40 per cent of KBAT questions will be
inserted in the Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) examination,
while another 50 per cent in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM)
examination," the statement said.

The ministry was also in the midst of intensifying support for


teachers by organising various skill enhancing programmes, such as
the i-Think programme.

"Apart from that, the Literacy and Numeracy Screening (Linus 2.0)
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programme is also expected to help Malaysia in improving the


results of TIMSS and PISA," the statement added.

Story first published on: December 11, 2013 07:52 (MYT)

TIMSS 2011
Trends in International Mathematics and Science
Study 2011

TIMSS 2011 was the fifth assessment in the framework of the IEA Trends
in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). TIMSS 2011
assessed student achievement in mathematics and science at the fourth and
eighth grades, as well as trends over a 16-year period. The previous cycles
of TIMSS were conducted in 1995, 1999, 2003, and 2007.

Like its predecessors, the study gathered information about the contexts for
learning mathematics and science from participating students, their
teachers, and their school principals, as well as data about the mathematics
and science curricula in each country. In this cycle, a number of new
context questionnaire scales were developed to offer greater insights into
home supports and school environments for teaching and learning.

As TIMSS and PIRLS were both conducted in 2011, countries had the
opportunity to assess the same fourth grade students in mathematics,

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science, and reading. The PIRLS Learning to Read Survey, which provides
information from parents about children's home learning experiences prior
to entering school, included for the first time questions concerning
mathematics and science as part of the TIMSS background data collection
at the fourth grade, for countries participating in the joint assessment. The
TIMSS 2011 main data collection was carried out in 20102011.

Target population
TIMSS 2011 assessed students enrolled in the fourth and eighth grades.

Participating education systems


Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belgium (Flemish),
Botswana, Canada (Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec), Chile, Chinese Taipei,
Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Finland, Georgia, Germany,
Ghana, Honduras, Hong Kong SAR, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland,
Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Kuwait, Lebanon,
Lithuania, Macedonia, Malaysia, Malta, Morocco, Netherlands, New
Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Oman, Palestinian National Authority,
Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia,
Serbia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain,
Sweden, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates
(with Abu Dhabi and Dubai as benchmarking systems), United States (with
nine benchmarking states: Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut,
Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina), and Yemen.

Key findings

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Student achievement in mathematics and science


There was a substantial range in performance between the highest and
lowest performing countries. In mathematics, the top-performing countries
were Singapore, Korea, and Hong Kong SAR at the fourth grade, and
Korea, Singapore, and Chinese Taipei at the eighth grade. Science
achievement at the fourth grade was highest in Korea and Singapore;
Singapore had the top scores at the eighth grade level, followed by Chinese
Taipei, Korea, and Japan.

In general, the highest performing countries also had the largest


percentages of students reaching the Advanced International Benchmarks,
and the gaps were especially large at the highest levels. In fourth grade
mathematics, Singapore had 43% of its students reaching the Advanced
International Benchmark, followed by Korea, Hong Kong SAR, Chinese
Taipei, and Japan with 30% or more. In science at the fourth grade,
Singapore and Korea had 33% and 29% of their students, respectively,
reaching this benchmark. In mathematics at the eighth grade, the highest
performing countriesChinese Taipei, Singapore, and Koreahad nearly
half of their students reaching the Advanced International Benchmark. In
science, about 40% of eighth grade students in Singapore reached this
benchmark, followed by 24% to 18% of students in Chinese Taipei, Korea,
and Japan.

More countries demonstrated relative strengths in knowing mathematics


and science (e.g., recalling, recognizing, computing, describing) than in
applying knowledge and reasoning.

Between 1995 and 2011, many countries showed significant improvement


in their overall mathematics and science achievement at the fourth grade.
At the eighth grade, there was more balance between growth and decline in

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both subjects. Similarly, there was more improvement since 1995 across
the international benchmarks at the fourth grade than at the eighth grade.

School factors and teachers


The most successful schools in mathematics and science tended to have
more affluent student bodies, better working conditions and facilities, and
more instructional materials (books, computers, technological support, and
supplies). Higher average achievement was also associated with students
attending schools that emphasize academic success, as indicated by
rigorous curricular goals, effective teachers, students that desire to do well,
and parental support. Students who attended schools with discipline or
safety problems and who reported more frequent bullying had much lower
achievement than their counterparts in safe and orderly schools.

Higher mathematics and science achievement at both the fourth and eighth
grades was also positively related to students' and teachers' reports of
engaging instruction, as well as students having more experienced,
confident, and satisfied teachers.

Home and background factors


The TIMSS findings also pointed to a strong positive association between
students' achievement in the fourth grade and their early learning
experiences. For instance, students with strong performance in
mathematics at the fourth grade had parents who reported engaging in
early numeracy activities with their children (e.g., counting rhymes,
playing with number toys), that their children had attended preprimary
education, and that they started school able to do early numeracy tasks
(e.g., simple addition and subtraction).

Home resources for learning and high expectation by parents and students
for education were associated with higher average mathematics and
science achievement at the fourth and eighth grades.
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Student attitudes
The TIMSS results showed a strong positive relationship within countries
between students' achievement in mathematics and science, and their
attitudes toward those subjects (e.g., liking learning and feeling confident
in their abilities). Notably, substantially fewer students reported positive
attitudes toward learning mathematics and science at the eighth grade than
at the fourth grade.

Relationships among reading, mathematics, and


science achievement at the fourth grade
Among the 34 countries and three benchmarking systems that administered
TIMSS and PIRLS 2011 to the same fourth grade students, the majority
had at least 90% of their fourth grade students reaching the Low
International Benchmarks in mathematics, science, and reading. Over 35%
of students in Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Finland, Hong Kong SAR, and
the Russian Federation reached the High International Benchmarks in all
three subjects. Most countries were relatively more successful in one or
two of the subjects than another, particularly at the higher levels.

Findings for these countries also suggest that reading ability was
associated with mathematics and science achievement: greater reading
demands made the fourth grade TIMSS items more challenging for weaker
readers, although this varied across countries. In particular, the
mathematics achievement difference between good and poor readers was
significant in a number of countries. Analyses also indicated several
characteristics of schoolsbeing safe and orderly, supporting academic
success, and providing engaging instructionthat were associated with
higher achievement in these subjects, even after controlling for home
background.

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A home environment supportive of educational attainment was shown to


be important. The number of books in the home was related to the
frequency of early literacy and numeracy activities, and these activities
were related to the child's early literacy and numeracy skills at the
beginning of first grade. Interestingly, a stronger emphasis on early literacy
activities than on numeracy activities seemed to be associated with both
the level of children's literacy and numeracy skills when entering school
and their fourth grade achievement.

For more information, please contact the TIMSS & PIRLS International
Study Center.

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Major publications
Foy, P. (2013). TIMSS and PIRLS 2011 user guide for the fourth grade combined
international database. Chestnut Hill, MA: Boston College.

Foy, P., Arora, A., & Stanco, G.M. (Eds.). (2013). TIMSS 2011 user guide for the
international database. Chestnut Hill, MA: Boston College.

Martin, M.O., & Mullis, I.V.S. (Eds.). (2012). Methods and procedures in TIMSS and
PIRLS 2011. Chestnut Hill, MA: Boston College.

Martin, M.O., & Mullis, I.V.S. (Eds.). (2013). TIMSS and PIRLS 2011: Relationships
among reading, mathematics, and science achievement at the fourth grade
implications for early learning. Chestnut Hill, MA: Boston College.

Martin, M.O., Mullis, I.V.S., Foy, P., & Stanco, G.M. (2012). TIMSS 2011
international results in science. Chestnut Hill, MA: Boston College.

Mullis, I.V.S., Martin, M.O., Foy, P., & Arora, A. (2012). TIMSS 2011 international
results in mathematics. Chestnut Hill, MA: Boston College.

Mullis, I.V.S., Martin, M.O., Minnich, C.A., Stanco, G.M., Arora, A., Centurino,
V.A.S., & Castle, C.E. (Eds.). (2012). TIMSS 2011 encyclopedia: Education policy
and curriculum in mathematics and science (Vols. 12). Chestnut Hill, MA: Boston
College.

Mullis, I.V.S., Martin, M.O., Ruddock, G.J., O'Sullivan, C.Y., & Preuschoff, C.
(2009). TIMSS 2011 assessment frameworks. Chestnut Hill, MA: Boston College.

Mullis, I.V.S., Martin, M.O., Ruddock, G.J., O'Sullivan, C.Y., & Preuschoff, C.
(2012). Quadro di riferimento di TIMSS 2011 [TIMSS 2011 assessment frameworks].
Frascati, Italy: INVALSI.

Mullis, I.V.S., Martin, M.O., Ruddock, G.J., O'Sullivan, C.Y., & Preuschoff, C.
(2012). TIMSS 2011 Marcos de la evaluacin [TIMSS 2011 assessment frameworks].
Madrid: INEE.

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TIMSS 2011: An Analysis of Malaysias Achievement


Posted by: Anas Alam Faizli on January 24, 2013 in Education

By Zul Fikri Zamir and Anas Alam Faizli

One Brazilian academician brought revival onto the critical pedagogy


concept. That man was Paulo Freire. Freire persistently battled the
prevailing concept of education where students were mere empty bank
accounts for teachers to deposit into. This was the very education
concept which saw students being forced upon with bulks of information.
This information vault conceptualization is hardly education!

Freire proposed an intimate two-way relationship between teachers and


students where both play complementary roles to each other. He stressed
upon the teachers responsibility to teach and at the same time learn
from the students; while students learn but also teach their teachers.

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As a developing country made of a rich medley of various cultures and


ethnicities, Malaysia is in an arguable dilemma between its own national
education standards and an international education standard. The first issue
that needs to be addressed here is the feasibility of a country as socio-
culturally unique as Malaysia to make other countries with highly-touted
education models such as South Korea and Finland as reference templates.
There is also the issue of the Finnish and South Korean education models
being vast opposite extremes of each other; where one is extremely open
and flexible while the other adopts a very closed and structured system.
How can any of these two different systems be suited to the Malaysian
context?

On this issue, we side on the affirmative of Malek Bennabis (1905-1973)


views in his article Basics of Social Education, where it is largely worth
quoting that:

It is truly a waste to refuse guidance from the experiences of others, or


gain benefits from their successes. However, every act of borrowing or
emulating must take into consideration the cultural and fundamental social
elements of that borrowing state.

Interestingly, he added: In other words, we must be creating within our


own countries, necessary rules and conditions, so as to guide us in using
any solution to solve our own unique problems.

Malaysia has emerged bottom in three separate studies conducted by


standardized international indices. The UN Education Index ranked
Malaysia 98 out of 181 countries. The Program for International Student
Assessment (PISA), which evaluates levels of literacy amongst 15-year
olds in Mathematics, Sciences and Reading skills, as well as critical
problem-solving as opposed to memorization, placed Malaysia 55 out of
74 countries.
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Just as we attempt to gasp for some breathing space, there is the result
from the study of Trends In Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2011
which revealed a significant drop in the performances of Mathematics and
Sciences across all four temporal occasions of evaluation in the period
beginning from 1999.

The TIMMS 2011 report revealed a plummeting trend in the position of


Malaysia in the Mathematics subject where the rank fell from 16th (1999)
to 10th (2003), 20th (2007) and 26th (2011). Meanwhile our position in the
rank for Science subject is 22nd (1999), 20th (2003), 21st (2007) and 32nd
(2011).

Similarly, our average marks for the Mathematics subjects fell from 519
points (1999), to 508 points (2003), 474 points (2007) and 440 points
(2011); dropping by 79 points. Average marks in the Sciences subject also
witnessed the same downfall from 492 points (1999) to 501 points (2003),
471 points (2007) and 426 points (2011); a shortage of 66 points. It is
worth noting that marks less than 500 points are considered as
unsatisfactory.

Ironically, there is this bizarre contradicting trend prevailing at home


where the Gred Purata Nasional (GPN) for PMR examinations (undertaken
by 15-year old Form 3 students in public schools) showed steady increases
in the past five years. The GPN climbed from 2.83 in 2008, to 2.78 in
2009, 2.74 in 2010 and 2.71 in 2011.

Specifically, the number of students who obtained A in Mathematics


increased from 26.7 percent in 2010 to 28.9 percent in 2011, while the
number of those who obtained A in Science increased from 18.5 percent in
2010 to 21.7 percent in 2011. In addition, the record for SPM examinations
in 2011, deemed as the best achievement ever recorded in five years, saw
GPN increase from 5.19 in 2010 to 5.04 in 2011.
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Why the contradictory results?

Preliminary Analysis

In our preliminary analysis of these results, we allow for technical


difficulties such as the unfamiliarity with the English language utilized as
medium for the TIMSS, the problem of coordination for differences in
exam timing, and the randomized presentation of questions compared to
the typically more structured style of Malaysian exam papers. These may
contribute to the dismal achievement of Malaysia on a global level.

But we cannot discount the bigger problems that these clear declining
trends must reveal. After a simple comparative analysis of some of the
sample questions in the various testing systems, we conclude that there are
a few notable issues that may be responsible for these differences:

First; the teaching and learning system in Malaysia is heavily


examinations-based. Teaching is structured and geared towards exam
preparations especially for the major government testing systems like PMR
and UPSR. Therefore, students with excellent academic records tend to
receive more monitoring and support, unfortunately at the same time
effectively de-prioritizing the less affluent students.

Second; the sampling method for students chosen to take the TIMSS and
PISA is randomized. This means that the results reflect that of both top and
bottom students. Given the huge gap between these two groups of students
in Malaysia, the average marks may have potentially brought down

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average marks when compared to PMR and UPSR, where focus tend to be
put on those who made the most As.

Third; while it is no doubt that effort has been made to incorporate and
encourage critical solutions problems via KBKK in PMR and SPM
questions, the relative percentage of these type of questions remain
negligible. This essentially results in a moral hazard issue; it permits
students to populate as much as possible marks from the type of questions
that require memorization. More difficult sub-questions with KBKK
elements can easily be tactically left unanswered, without necessarily
affecting overall marks in a major way or failing the students.

Fourth; Most of the questions in PMR and SPM are structured in more
predictable ways compared to that of TIMSS and PISA, thereby allowing
for memorization of the major themes, topics and subtopics. Mushrooming
private tuition have also become a must, contributing towards the
encouragement for students to memorize answers and anticipate
predicted questions. The more a student memorizes, the better he
performs in exams. The proliferation of private tuition centers is further
complemented with a variety of seminars offered at a fee, which crams
students in halls over two days and essentially drilling them into
memorizing multiple sets of exams answers. Herein lies the difference; our
students are not trained to answer questions like those of the TIMSS and
PISA where analysis and synthesis are required, but rather only at levels
like those of the PMR and SPM where merely understanding and
application skills would already suffice.

Fifth; we observe with interest that the standard of SPM and PMR
questions are not too far off when compared to PISA and TIMSS
questions. Therefore, if our students do not do well in PISA and TIMSS,
we can infer logically that they should not do well in PMR and SPM either.

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This is where we raise concern on the marking standards in the PMR and
SPM; or whether the grading have intentionally been lowered at the
calibration stage for the overall population results, so as to exhibit an
increasing performance trend on a nationwide basis?

In general, we recognize some of these achievements as a direct result of


government efforts, through Ministry of Education, to help raise the
performance of students, including amongst special needs children
especially underachieving students, orphans, minorities and Orang Asli
students.

It is thus unfortunate that in the Preliminary Report for The National


Education Blueprint (PPPM 2013 2015), issues of students with special
needs are only attended to briefly in Chapter 3: Current Performances,
Education Quality and Equity in Education Policy but is left out from
Chapter 8: Application and Action Plan. We believe that if the national-
level performance assessments begin focusing on efforts to elevate the
achievement of this special needs group of students as one of its indicators,
the general level of achievement on a national basis will increase
simultaneously. It is further unfortunate for education to be perpetually left
as exam-oriented, static, and remain not empathetic to the philosophy of
knowledge development as an enabler of critical thinking.

Going Forward: Our Proposal

Recognition is due to Ministry of Education for countless efforts to


improve the current system by introducing the School-based Assessments
(Penilaian Berasaskan Sekolah, PBS) for example, to replace previously
heavily exam-oriented systems, and executing the iThink program through
the Malaysian Innovation Agency (Agensi Inovasi Malaysia) amongst
school teachers, apart from many other various programs.

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Here we table suggestions of some early steps which can be taken by the
authorities, as alternatives and improvements onto the current programs.
From our observations, there has yet to be any specific program to help
groups of students left clutching onto the peripheral walls of the current
education. These include marginalized underachievers, orphans, poor
students from underprivileged households, Orang Asli, Orang Asal and
students from rural parts of Sabah and Sarawak. Our analysis show that if
taken seriously, these suggestions can help to boost the national education
achievement level up by 40 percent within 2 years.

Firstly, a special committee of education experts from across Malaysia is to


be commissioned. The committee is made of retired teachers, local
university academic experts, young teachers for their zeal and as a strong
implementing workforce, and even business persons which are expected to
contribute their organizational skills in ensuring a robust, fair and effective
distribution system.

This special committee will be responsible to identify the locations of


special needs students and analyze the problems related with them. The
pilot result of this study will consist of a tabulation of location, population
and specific problems faced students in extracting as much from the
prevailing education system, while opening and aggregating suggestions
from the public and stakeholders from various segments of the society such
as experts, curriculum planners and school teachers, to populate rich
information and arrive at conclusions with policy implications.

The committee will then conduct comprehensive studies to create a special


module taking into account the special needs of these students, with open-
based input mechanisms from local educationists and new theories from
public research. We propose a two-step analytical process in attempting to
solve the needs problem. Firstly is to analyze the outward exogenous

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issues like infrastructure and utilities, namely classrooms, tables, chairs,


books and teaching tools. Second and more importantly is to not neglect
the inward endogenous problems usually relating to emotional stress
stemming from disruptions in the familial institutions, economic restrains
or cultural differences, in the case of Orang Asli children.

Roots of each problem will be identified to help improve the formal


teaching process later.

The next step is for these special modules to go through a pilot test using
a group of the best and most willing teachers within the respective selected
schools. Findings from this test are then discussed again to get second
opinions. Finally, this special module can be launched as an alternative for
groups of students with special needs.

The one-size-fits-all national education system currently in practice is not


able to effectively impact this group of students. Students from poor
families, orphans, Orang Asli kids and children from rural locations have
very specific problems which cannot be catered by the current systems;
this is why they are unintentionally left behind in the mainstream national
education system. Shifting the focus of the national education system from
high achievers to actually improving achievements among special needs
students, we believe widened gaps in education

can be narrowed within two years of the implementation of such policy


and is directly and positively correlated with the overall performances of
students.

A Unique Country, the Best Teachers

Malaysia is a unique country, and we know that from the multi ethnic and
multi cultural dimensions that exist in various geographical polities across

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the peninsular and East Malaysia. The national education system is not
supposed to be a complete imitation of models from other countries
because of the obvious differences in challenges that each face. Lets
perhaps commence with something as simple as reallocating the best
teachers in each school to be responsible to the bottom-ranked classes.
Teachers from that particular school will know and understand the
composition and predispositions of its students better compared to school
inspectors from other areas.

To ensure these efforts are realistic, attainable and sustainable for the years
coming, the ministry has to ensure only the best candidates are chosen to
enter the teaching profession. Candidates should be exposed with ample
field experiences rather than only theoretical-based trainings, while
granting them suitable social recognition as much as that of other
professions, including salary levels.

Next, a study of students performances needs to also be carried out


independently from the ministry themselves, by education faculties of
public universities as an alternative form of performance assessment.
Information revealed from these studies becomes check and balance
alternatives to those officially reported by the ministry. If necessary, these
universities should also be incentivized to adopt specific schools under
their monitoring portfolio, especially schools with low performances with
a Band 6 label.

On manpower, these selected teachers is suggested to undergo lateral


evaluation processes which include the student performance itself, student
responses and constructive student opinion polls on teachers, as well as a
monitoring process. Research by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
(2013) showed that teacher evaluation models using the three items above
have more reliability compared to traditional models. Schools also need to

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shift its paradigm, its environment, mentality and attitude, from measuring
achievements based on percentage of students with excellent grades and
passes, to measuring percentage of students which have progressed from
failing to passing.

Finally, monitoring from private bodies, the corporate sector and non-
governmental organizations onto selected schools will help ensure good
governance of the suggested programs. To improve transparency and
accountability, two school inspectors from the ministry is dedicated to
these selected schools with special needs programs for one whole annual
academic session, rather than pre-announced scheduled visits by arbitrary
members of the inspection force from the ministry.

By implementing two core thrusts namely a National Scale via the special
steering committee and a Local Scale via self-assessments undertaken by
school teachers, we believe that the time has come for us to begin to
appreciate our differences, embrace our weaknesses and move together
towards a better education system.

In Critique, Contextualism and Consensus, Jane Green quoted Charles


Sanders Peirce of Cambridge University in order to learn, you must
desire to learn and in so desiring not to be satisfied with what you already
inclined to think. Green explained further, From this, there follows one
corollary which itself deserves to be inscribed upon every wall of the city
of philosophy: Do not block the way of inquiry. Quoted from
Conformism and Critique in Liberal Society, 2005.

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