• The Ministry of Education is guilty of gross incompetence in administering the 2015 PISA test

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang,  Tony Pua, MP for Petaling Jaya Utara and Zairil Khir Johari, MP for Bukit Bendera, on the 29th of March 2017

    The Ministry of Education is guilty of gross incompetence in administering the 2015 PISA test

    The poor performance of Malaysian students in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2009, where Malaysia was ranked in the bottom third of all countries, was highlighted in the National Education Blueprint 2013 to 2025 (See Figure 1). Malaysia’s performance in the 2012 PISA test did not show significant improvement. Not surprisingly, there was much attention on the 2015 PISA test scores to see if the efforts of the Ministry of Education would be able to boost Malaysia’s performance in Reading, Mathematics and Science.

    Figure 1: Comparison of Malaysia’s PISA 2009+ ranking and scores against other countries (selected)

    Unfortunately, even though Malaysia’s scores for Reading, Mathematics and Science did show an increase from 2012 to 2015 (from 398 to 431 for Reading, from 421 to 446 in Mathematics, from 420 to 443 in Science), Malaysia was not included in the 2015 PISA ranking. According to the 2015 PISA report, “In Malaysia, the PISA assessment was conducted in accordance with the operational standards and guidelines of the OECD. However, the weighted response rate among the initially sampled Malaysian schools (51%) falls well short of the standard PISA response rate of 85%. Therefore, the results may not be comparable to those of other countries or to results for Malaysia from previous years”.[1]

    In a parliamentary reply to MP Tony Pua, on the 22nd of March, 2017, the excuses given by the Ministry of Education for this low response include: (i) students were not used to answering the questions using computers resulting in their response not being recorded and (ii) technical problems such as damaged data and data which were lost during the taking of the test.

    These excuses are unacceptable for the following reasons:

    • The Ministry of Education had at least 2 years, starting in 2013, to prepare for the 2015 PISA test.[2]
    • This is not the first time which Malaysia is going through the PISA process. In 2009, the response rate for the students selected was 99.3% and in 2012, it was 100.0%. How was it that in 2015, the response rate had dropped to 51%?
    • Before the release of the PISA report, the Ministry of Education had given assurances that both students and teachers had been adequately prepared for the taking and administering of the PISA tests.[3]

    The admission of these technical failures shows that the Ministry of Education was grossly incompetent in administering the 2015 PISA tests. In doing so, it has put Malaysia in an embarrassing situation of not being featured in the PISA rankings.

    The Ministry of Education should not be boasting about Malaysia’s improvement in its PISA scores since the PISA report has clearly stated that our 2015 scores cannot be compared to past PISA scores. Instead, it should issue a detailed report on why the sample of schools included in the PISA test and explain why the response rate of 85% was not reached. Deputy Education Minister, Chong Sin Woon, promised in December 2016 that such a detailed report would be released but till now, we have seen no such report.[4]

    Figure 2: Reasons given on why Malaysia only managed a 51% response rate for the 2015 PISA test

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    [1] PISA 2015 Results – Policies & Practices for Successful Schools Vol.II, pg. 261.

    [2] http://english.astroawani.com/malaysia-news/malaysia-capable-improving-its-position-pisa-2015-26809

    [3] http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2015/02/13/students-being-prepped-for-pisa-assessment/

    [4] http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/report-on-malaysias-pisa-disqualification-underway

  • How much did Pemandu Associates Sdn Bhd earn from organizing the Global Transformation Forum 2017?

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Serdang, on the 27th of March, 2017

    How much did Pemandu Associates Sdn Bhd earn from organizing the Global Transformation Forum 2017?

    Tony Robbins is a household name among those who follow management trends and self-help coaches. He has been a life coach to movie stars such as Hugh Jackman and world class athletes including Andre Agassi. For US$650, you can get nosebleed seats to a 3 day “Unleash the Power Within” Tony Robbins seminar in New York later this year. For US$2995, you can have a seat on the floor and access to the Premier Lounge.[1]

    If Tony Robbins were to come to Malaysia, the private company which has to pay his appearance fee would have to charge very high ticket fees in order to cover their costs and to make a decent profit. It would be hard to imagine this private company getting any funding from the Malaysian government to organize such an event. Perhaps some private corporations may be inclined to sponsor such an event so that some of their management can have special access to the man himself. But the risks and the rewards of organizing such an event would be in private hands, with little or no government involvement.

    Malaysia now has its equivalent of a Tony Robbins ‘make yourself feel good session’ in the form of the Global Transformation Forum (GTF). The first forum was held in 2015 and the headliners to this forum included Arnold ‘the Terminator’ Schwarzenegger and former Olympians Carl Lewis and Sebastian Coe. Fast forward to 2017 and this year’s headliners include businessman and philanthropist Richard Branson and 8-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt.[2]

    For GTF 2015, ticket prices started at RM427 for a university student and went up to a maximum of RM1424 for a regular delegate (Figure 1). For GTF 2017, ticket prices were jacked up to a starting price of RM4,000 and went up to a maximum of RM10,000 (Figure 2).

    If this were a purely private event organized by a private company, this Member of Parliament would have no beef with the ticket prices nor with the hosting of the event itself. But this is not a purely private event. Nor was it funded purely by ticket sales to individuals and the private sector.

    Figure 1: Ticket prices for the Global Transformation Forum 2015

    Figure 2: Ticket prices for the Global Transformation Forum 2017

    The first issue I have with this event is that it involves taxpayers’ funds. The first GTF in 2015 was organized with a government subsidy of RM10 million (Figure 3). Despite the higher ticket prices in 2017, the government subsidy was increased to RM15 million (Figure 4).

    Figure 3: Parliamentary Reply on the cost to the taxpayer for organizing GTF 2015

    Figure 4: Parliamentary Reply on the cost to the taxpayer for organizing GTF 2017

    Since this event is mostly accessible to those who are affluent, because of the high ticket prices, it does not make sense for the government to pour in millions of Ringgit to subsidize this event organized by the rich, for the rich and of the rich. It makes even less sense that the government subsidy increased by 50% from RM10 million in 2015 to RM15 million in 2017 when ticket prices in 2017 have been raised significant and there are no discounts for students and the less affluent.

    The second issue I have with this event is that the revenue for GTF 2017 goes directly to a private company. GTF 2015 was organized by BFR Institute, a company which is 100% owned by PEMANDU Corp, which is a company limited by guarantee under the control of the Ministry of Finance Incorporated.[3] GTF 2017 is organized by PEMANDU Associates Sdn Bhd which is a private company that is co-owned by its CEO and President Dato Seri Idris Jala (Figure 5).

    Figure 5: Ownership of PEMANDU Associates Sdn Bhd (downloaded from the Companies Commission of Malaysia / Suruhanjaya Syarikat Malaysia website on the 26th of March, 2017)

    Since the GTF is no longer organized by BFR Institute, which is a government owned and government controlled company, but by a private company, namely PEMANDU Associates Sdn Bhd, how much of the sponsorship of this event, including the RM15 million set aside by the Government of Malaysia, which is going into the pockets of this private company that is co-owned by Idris Jala?

    The third issue I have with the GTF is that a private company, PEMANDU Associates, is using this publicly subsidized event to increase its own public profile, perhaps in the hope of selling its consultancy services to the government, Government Linked Companies (GLCs) and other companies.

    PEMANDU Associates was set up on the 16th of December 2016 as part of the transition for PEMANDU Corp to hand over its responsibilities back to the civil service. According to PEMANDU’s website, “all staff in PEMANDU and BFR Institute will move to PEMANDU Associates Sdn Bhd, a private consultancy firm newly established by PEMANDU management and staff”. In addition, “under our agreement with the Government on 5th January 2017, PEMANDU Associates will be deploying 45 people to the National Transformation Program (NTP) work under the supervision of the Civil Service Delivery Unit in 2017. This number will reduce to 30 in 2018. The current employees not deployed to the NTP work will be doing business development work, as well as to provide consultancy services to public sectors abroad and business turnaround”.[4]

    In other words, PEMANDU Associates will be paid by the Government of Malaysia in 2017 and 2018 for its consultancy services. This means that PEMANDU Associates will have access to the inner workings of various government ministries and agencies. As far as I know, Idris Jala, who was appointed as the Chairman of Heineken Malaysia as of the 1st of January, 2017[5], has not officially resigned from his position as CEO of PEMANDU Corporation or as chairman of the BFR Institute. What assurance is there that PEMANDU Associates will not abuse its position and knowledge of the civil service in order to sell its consultancy services to other government departments or private companies who want to have access to the civil service? The fact that Idris Jala has not clarified his position and role as the CEO and President of PEMANDU Associates Sdn Bhd, the CEO of PEMANDU Corporation, the Chairman of BFR Institute and the Chairman of Heineken Malaysia does not give any public assurance that conflicts of interest arising from the holding of these various positions will not arise.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    [1] https://www.tonyrobbins.com/events/unleash-the-power-within/new-york-area-07-20-2017/#pricing

    [2] One of Usain Bolt’s relay gold medals was recently taken away because of a positive drug test for one of the relay runners (not Bolt).

    [3] https://www.pemandu.gov.my/media-room-idris-jala-holds-no-shares-bfr/

    [4] https://www.pemandu.gov.my/pemandu-begins-transition/

    [5] http://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2016/12/01/idris-jala-to-become-heineken-malaysia-chairman/

  • Why is the government of Malaysia spending RM15 million to subsidize an event for affluent Malaysians and big corporate organizations organized by a private company?

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 23rd of March, 2017

    Why is the government of Malaysia spending RM15 million to subsidize an event for affluent Malaysians and big corporate organizations organized by a private company?

    The Global Transformation Forum 2017, featuring internationally renowned speakers and celebrities such as Sir Richard Branson, Jack Ma and Usain Bolt, is currently taking place at the KL Convention Center from the 22nd to the 23rd of March, 2017.[1] It has a number of corporate sponsors including Tenaga, Hong Leong Bank, YTL, MMC Gamuda, KL Kepong and many others. The cost of entrance for this forum starts at RM4,000 for a basic package (“Club Pass”) and going up to RM10,000 for the most expensive package (“Signature Pass”). As of today, tickets for the Circle Pass (RM6,000) and the Signature Pass (RM10,000) has been sold out and only a limited number of Club Passes (“RM4,000) are left (See Figure 1 below).

    Figure 1: Cost and Benefits of the Club Pass, Circle Pass and Signature Pass packages for the Global Transformation Forum 2017

    If this was a purely private affair, organized by the private sector for the private sector, it would be no business of mine as a Member of Parliament (MP) to question the costs of organizing such an event. But a similar forum had previously been organized in 2015 at a cost of RM10 million to the taxpayer.

    In the parliamentary reply given to me today, the cost to the taxpayer for organizing this event has escalated to RM15 million! (See Appendix 1)

    When government funding to our universities and our hospitals are being cut left, right and center, and government subsidies for essentials such as sugar and cooking oil are being cut, why is the government subsidizing an event that will be almost exclusively attended by affluent and well-connected Malaysians? So that the Prime Minister will have more opportunities to take selfies with celebrities? This is a slap in the face of Malaysians who are suffering because of increases in the cost of living and cuts in government expenditure. The organizers of the event should be ashamed of themselves for asking the government for RM15 million to organize this forum for the rich, of the rich and by the rich.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    [1] http://globaltransformation.com/

    Appendix 1: Answer to my Parliament Question of the Government Allocation for the Global Transformation Forum 2017

  • Intention to designate the old MATIC building (Dewan Tunku Abdul Rahman) as a heritage site must be fulfilled

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Serdang, on the 19th of March, 2017

    Intention to designate the old MATIC building (Dewan Tunku Abdul Rahman) as a heritage site must be fulfilled

    On the 8th of December, 2016, the Commissioner of Heritage published a public notice to de-gazette the national heritage status of three plots of land on the Malaysian Tourism Center (MATIC) which is located along Jalan Ampang in Wilayah Persekutuan (See Appendix 1 below). This public notice raised many concerns including the president of the Badan Warisan Negara, Elizabeth Cardosa.[1] Some feared that the Dewan Tunku Abdul Rahman (currently known as the MATIC building), where Malaysia’s first Agong was installed in 1959 and where the Malaysian parliament first met in 1959, would be demolished and go the way of the Bok House.[2]

    I put in a question to the special chamber of parliament during the ongoing parliament sitting, specifically asking about the status of the MATIC building and I received an official reply from Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, the Minister of Tourism. In his reply, the Minister stated that the reason why the three plots of land were degazetted as heritage sites was because only one of the plots namely Lot 139 Section 58 has heritage value, namely the Dewan Tunku Abdul Rahman building. In his reply, the Minister also stated that the public notice to state the government’s intention to designate this building as a heritage site has already been published on the 26th of January 2017 (See Appendix 2 below).

    The Minister also gave me his verbal assurance that any construction that will take place in the plot of land adjacent to the Dewan Tunku Abdul Rahman would be in line with the conditions stipulated in the National Heritage Act 2005 including having the necessary buffer zone as a protection against the heritage site.

    I welcome this decision by the Minister to ensure that an important building in Malaysia’s history in the heart of Kuala Lumpur will be preserved and protected under the National Heritage Act 2005. As citizens who care about the history and heritage of our nation, we must continue our efforts to protect important heritage sites not just in Wilayah Persekutuan but all over the country as well. In the meantime, we will be waiting for the publication of the public notice confirming that Dewan Tunku Abdul Rahman has been officially been designated as a heritage site (since the public notice on the 26th of January only states the intention of declaring this building as a heritage site).

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    Appendix 1: Public Notice degazetting three plots of land on the Malaysian Tourism Center (MATIC) as a heritage site

    Appendix 2: Federal Government Gazette stating the intention of designating the Dewan Tunku Abdul Rahman as a heritage site

    Further References:

    1. Parliamentary Reply on degazetting of heritage sites: 1, 2 and
    2. P.U. (B) 57 Notice to Designate MATIC as a Heritage Site 

    [1] http://www.nst.com.my/news/2017/01/202296/status-revocation-not-provided-law?d=1

    [2] https://cilisos.my/for-the-first-time-in-history-malaysian-heritage-buildings-are-going-to-be-de-heritaged/

     

  • More mistakes by the Election Commission in the 2nd Public Display of the 2016 Delimitation Exercise (or “Syor 2”)?

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament of Serdang, 17th of March, 2017

    More mistakes by the Election Commission in the 2nd Public Display of the 2016 Delimitation Exercise (or “Syor 2”)?

    Yesterday, I highlighted two possible mistakes by the Election Commission in the 2nd public display of the 2016 delimitation exercise (referred to as “Syor 2” here on). There was a case of a ‘missing’ polling station in Johor and also a case of a new polling station in Pahang.

    In today’s statement, I want to highlight 10 cases where the number of voters in polling stations have been changed from the first public display (Syor 1) to the second public display (Syor 2). Why is this an issue? Think of the delimitation exercise as one big jigsaw puzzle. Each polling station is one piece of the jigsaw puzzle. From Syor 1 to Syor 2, the Election Commission can shift polling stations from one state seat to another, but it cannot change the size and composition of the individual polling stations. The reasoning is simple: If voters are shifted from one polling station to another between Syor 1 and Syor 2, there is no way for the voters to know if they are the ones who have been shifted. This would obviously affect their constitutional right to object to the delimitation exercise under Syor 2.

    For example, in Syor 1, the Taman Temiang Jaya polling station in the N12 Temiang state seat under the P128 Seremban parliament seat had 2994 voters (See Figure 1 below)

    Figure 1: Taman Temiang polling station with 2994 voters in N12 Temiang under the P128 Seremban parliament seat

    However, under Syor 2, the number of voters in the Taman Temiang Jaya polling station has decreased from 2994 voters to 2412 voters (See Figure 2 below). Note that the number of voters for the other polling stations remain the same. Note also, that I am not challenging the ability of the EC to shift polling stations from one state seat to another, which is what it has done to the Kampong Nee Yan polling station (from N12 Temiang to N11 Lobak). What I am challenging is the EC’s ability to change the composition of the individual polling stations and hence the number of voters in each polling station from Syor 1 to Syor 2.

    For example, if I am one of the 2994 voters in Taman Temiang Jaya in Syor 1, I have no idea if I am still a voter in Taman Temiang Jaya in Syor 2 or if I have been shifted to another polling station. So, I cannot make an objection even if I wanted to since I have no idea which polling station or which state seat or which parliament seat I will be voting in if Syor 2 is passed in parliament.

    Figure 2: Number of voters in Taman Temiang Jaya reduced from 2994 in Syor 1 to 2412 in Syor 2

    Another example of this mistake made by the EC is found in the Sura Gate polling station in the N27 Sura state seat under the P39 Dungun parliament seat. In Syor 1, the Sura Gate polling station has 1387 voters (Figure 3 below). In Syor 2, the number of voters in Sura Gate has been increased to 2550 (Figure 4 below).

    Figure 3: Sura Gate polling station in N27 Sura state seat in P39 Dungun parliament seat with 1387 voters in Syor 1

    Figure 4: Number of voters in Sura Gate polling station increased to 2550 in Syor 2

    In total, I identified 10 such cases, whereby the number of voters in each polling station was changed from Syor 1 to Syor 2. The full list of polling stations is listed in Table 1 below.

    The EC needs to state if it has made a mistake in changing the number of voters in these polling stations from Syor 1 to Syor 2. The failure to do so may mean that the constitutional right of certain voters to voice their objections to the delimitation exercise proposal in Syor 2 are affected.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    Table 1: 10 Polling Stations where the number of voters have changed from Syor 1 to Syor 2

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