• The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study has proven that the Ministry of Education has deliberately dumbed down our education syllabus and lowered our examination standards in order to produce more student passes and distinctions

    Joint Media Statement by Tony Pua, DAP National Publicity Secretary and Member of Parliament for Petaling Jaya Utara and Dr Ong Kian Ming, DAP Election Strategist in Kuala Lumpur on Friday, 14 December 2012

    In the recently released 2011 Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS), Malaysia’s ranking in Math fell from 20th in 2007 to 26th in 2011 while our ranking in Science fell by an ever greater margin, from 21st in 2007 to 32nd in 2011.

    In terms of marks scored, Malaysia was the worst performing nation of the 59 countries survey by showing the biggest decline since the study was first conducted in 1999. Malaysia’s average score for mathematics fell 79 points from 519 in 1999 to 440 in 2011.  By comparison, the next worst country Thailand posted an average score decrease of 40 points for mathematics.  Similarly, Malaysia’s average score for science meanwhile dropped 66 points from 492 in 1999 to 426 in 2011.  This decrease is higher than the next worst country, Macedonia whose average score for science fell 51 points.

    However, while the disastrous TIMSS results proved the failure of our education system, surprisingly our students continue to score better results annually for their Mathematics and Science examinations for the PMR and SPM papers.

    For example, the PMR results over the years, as measured by the Average National Grade (or GPN) has been steadily improving from 2.83 in 2008 to 2.78 in 2009 to 2.74 in 2010 and mostly recently to 2.71 in 2011 (the lower the grade, the better the score).  More specifically, those obtaining As in Mathematics increased from 26.7% in 2010 to 28.9% in 2011 and those obtaining As in Science increased from 18.5% in 2010 to 21.7% in 2011.

    At the same time, our SPM results in 2011 was reported to have been the best recorded in five years with the overall National Average Grade improving from 5.19 in 2010 to 5.04 in 2011 (the lower the grade, the better the score).

    In addition, the pass rate for Math and Science at the SPM level have also steadily increased since 2007 as indicated in Table 1 below.  For example, the pass rate for Math for those in the rural areas increased from 70% in 2007 to 77.5% in 2010 and the pass rate for Science for those in the urban areas increased from 85.9% in 2007 to 91% in 2010.

    Table 1: Pass rate for Math & Science SPM
    for those in the rural and urban areas (2007 to 2010)

    Subject / Area

























    Source: Ministry of Education

    The steep fall in our TIMSS 2011 scores which are measured objectively across 59 countries clearly contradicts the astounding achievements by the same students in our PMR and SPM examinations.

    One cannot help but to conclude that firstly, the Ministry of Education has been deliberately manipulating the Math and Sciences standards for the PMR and SPM examinations to artificially increase the pass rate.  Secondly, it also raises the obvious question that our education syllabus has been “dumbed down” so that more students will be able to do better for their examinations.

    In fact, this deliberate attempt to dumb down our syllabus and lowering the passing marks for the examination subjects is a key reason for the declining standard of our education system.  The Ministry of Education has over the years simplified the syllabus and lowered passing marks in order to give the perception of improving performance, which is measured by the number of passes and “A”s achieved in these examinations.

    The obvious outcome to such a skewed education policy is that our Malaysian young will learn less in school, while needing to know and understand even less to secure a pass or obtain an “A” in the examinations.  This saddening outcome is now proven by the TIMSS,  which showed how Malaysia is the country where its students suffer from the fastest declining standards for both Mathematics and Science.

    The New Education Blueprint (NEB) must openly admit and aggressively address the deliberate “dumbing down” of our education system.  The Preliminary NEB report has not only completely neglected the above, it has to the contrary, sung praises for our students’ academic achievements in the PMR and SPM examinations.  If the Minister of Education, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin fails to reverse the dumbing down process and start increasing standards in our examinations and syllabus, then he can be assured that not only the NEB will fail miserably, Malaysia will continue to drop down the TIMSS scores and ranking in the future.

    Tony Pua
    Ong Kian Ming