• Did the Ministry of Education try to rig the PISA 2015 sample schools in order to artificially boost Malaysia’s scores?

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 8th of December, 2016

    Did the Ministry of Education try to rig the PISA 2015 sample schools in order to artificially boost Malaysia’s scores?

    When the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015 results were released on the 6th of December, 2016, officials from the Ministry of Education (MOE) took pride in the fact that Malaysia’s PISA’s scores for Mathematics, Reading and Science had improved from 421, 398 and 420 respectively in 2012 to 446, 431 and 443 respectively in 2015.[1] No doubt, Ministers, Deputy Ministers and politicians from the Barisan Nasional (BN) will use the latest PISA scores as ‘proof’ that Malaysia is on the ‘right track’ when it comes to the standard of education in the country. What they would have conveniently left out is the fact that Malaysia does not feature anywhere in the 2015 PISA rankings for Mathematics, Reading and Science.

    The official reason stated in the PISA report for Malaysia’s non-inclusion is:

    “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 sample 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.”[2]

    Why was it that only 51% of the schools initially chosen for the PISA test participated in the test in 2015? Was it because the Ministry of Education wanted to over-represent students from better performing schools and leave out students from low performing schools? This 51% participation rate raises many suspicions since Malaysia’s participation rate was 99.3% and 100% in PISA 2009 (151 out of 152 schools participated)[3] and PISA 2012 respectively.[4] It is hard to imagine any school principal not allowing his or her school to participate in the PISA 2015 test if the Ministry of Education had already chosen that school to be in the original sample.

    One suspects that the Ministry of Education over-sampled the high performing schools in the PISA 2015 sample and excluded some of the lower performing schools from the sample. For example, according to the website of the Negeri Sembilan Department of Education[5], the 14 schools listed as the PISA 2015 sample schools include all 7 (100%) of Negeri Sembilan’s secondary-level High Performing Schools or Sekolah Berprestasi Tinggi (SBT), and all 8 (100%) of its Fully Residential Schools or Sekolah Berasrama Penuh (SBP). The average student from a SBTs or SBPs will clearly outperform an average student from a regular secondary school.

    The evidence of a biased sample in favour of high performing schools can also been seen in PISA 2015’s own data on Malaysia.[6] Out of a total sample of 8861 students, 2661 or 30% were from fully residential schools (See Table 1 below). This is clearly an over sampling of students from fully residential schools since they only comprise less than 3.0% of the 15-year-old cohort in 2015.

    It is highly likely that those overseeing PISA 2015 saw that the Ministry of Education in Malaysia was trying to rig the sample size in order to artificially boost its scores. Is this why Malaysia was ultimately excluded from PISA 2015 rankings? The Minister of Education should explain so that we are not fooled into thinking that all is well and good in our education system as ‘evidenced’ by the latest PISA scores.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    [1] http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2016/12/06/malaysia-sees-improvement-in-pisa-scores/

    [2] From PISA 2014 Results (Volume 1), p. 340 (https://www.oecd.org/publications/pisa-2015-results-volume-i-9789264266490-en.htm):

    [3] See http://research.acer.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=pisa, p. 103

    [4] See https://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisaproducts/PISA-2012-technical-report-final.pdf, p. 181

    [5] http://www.spa.jpnns.gov.my/v4/viewpage.php?page_id=1

    [6] The document “Codebooks for the additional files for Albania, Argentina, Kazakhstan and Malaysia” (https://www.oecd.org/pisa/data/2015database/Codebook_CM2.xlsx, see the variable named “STRATUM”) states that students in Malaysia’s sample came from the following types of schools

  • 150MW Solar Farm awarded to 3 companies with no experience in solar installations

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 17th of November, 2016

    150MW Solar Farm awarded to 3 companies with no experience in solar installations

    It was announced on the 3rd of November, 2016 that Tenaga Nasional Bhd had signed Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with three Special Purpose Companies (SPCs) – Quantum Solar Park (Melaka), Quantum Solar Park (Kedah) and Quantum Solar Park (Terengganu) – that were set up by a consortium of three private companies to build three 50MW solar farms in Jasin in Melaka, Gurun in Kedah and Merchang in Terengganu. TNB said that these solar farm projects were awarded to this consortium by the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water (KeTTHA).

    I had asked in February this year for the Minister to reveal the identity of the consortium which was awarded the right to build a 150MW solar farm.[1] The Minister was not willing to divulge this information even when I asked him directly during a parliamentary sitting. We had to wait until TNB’s bourse filing earlier this month to find out the identity of the consortium.

    None of the three companies in the consortium – Maltech Pro Sdn Bhd, Cam-Lite Sdn Bhd and ItraMAS Technology – seems to have any experience in solar installations.

    Maltech Pro Sdn Bhd, which was incorporated in April 2012, is in the business of ‘mobile applications, devices and equipment’, according to its company profile. It was in the news in 2012 for selling the first Malaysian made tablet – 1 Malaysia Pad – at RM999.[2] At the time of writing, it is unsure if any of these tablets were ever delivered to buyers, especially since Maltech Pro’s website is no longer functioning (http://www.maltechpro.com/).

    In addition, the shareholders of Maltechpro Sdn Bhd also raises concerns. Sohaimi bin Shahadan, who owns 35% of the company and is its executive chairman, is also a member of the UMNO Supreme Council.[3] Ahmad Zaffry bin Sulaiman, who owns 20% of the company, is an UMNO leader in Shah Alam.[4]

    Was this one of the considerations when this 150MW solar farm award was given to this consortium?

    Cam-Lite Sdn Bhd was established in 2007 and is in the business of ‘trading in electronic products’. Its two shareholders are Zainoor bin Sulaiman (90%) and Zeliza Binti Zainoor (10%). It does not have any website and in its last filing to the Companies Commission of Malaysia, its revenue for financial year ending in 2012 was RM131,359 with a profit of RM1,397.

    The third company in the consortium, Itramas, has a website (http://www.itramas.com/about.aspx) and has three core areas of business namely Intelligent Transportation System (ITS), Security and Surveillance, and LED lighting products. Its revenues in 2014 was RM44million and it made an after-tax profit of RM413,189. But there is no record of this company having any experience in solar installations.

    Given the lack of any track record of these companies in the consortium, why were they awarded this contract? Especially when there are many other more qualified companies who are bidding for these solar farm projects in Malaysia? What is the value of the PPA which they signed with TNB? I call upon KeTTHA to allow the Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA) to conduct open tenders for these solar farm projects to ensure transparency.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

  • Will Donald Trump’s victory encourage UMNO to pursue a similarly divisive path in Malaysia?

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, 9th of November, 2016

    Will Donald Trump’s victory encourage UMNO to pursue a similarly divisive path in Malaysia?

    I, like many others, am still reeling from the shock of Donald Trump’s unlikely victory in the US presidential elections. Most polls showed Hillary Clinton having narrow to comfortable leads in the swing states. Most prediction models including fivethirtyeight.com and the New York Time’s Upshot were predicting a Clinton victory. While much will be said in the next few days by academics, analysts and pundits, to explain Trump’s unlikely victory, my greater fear is what his victory may spell for us in Malaysia.

    Donald Trump eked out his stunning victory despite running a divisive campaign that played on the fears of the majority vis-à-vis the minorities, that made appeals to a narrow base of voters, that compelled Americans to look inwards rather than outwards and that was populist and short of policy substance. Not to mention the allegations of sexual assault that plagued his campaign just a month and a half ago.

    My fear for Malaysia is that UMNO may be following a similar playbook in the run up to the 14th general elections. There may be some who hope that Trump’s victory over an establishment figure like Hillary Clinton may be a precursor to a BN-UMNO defeat in GE14 brought about by Malaysians who are sick and tired of the ruling regime. But what is more likely is that UMNO will use the same politics of fear and divisiveness to pit the majority against the minorities and to win by appealing to a narrow base.

    We can already see some elements on this playbook in action. The tactics of the red shirts led by Jamal Yunos may be a precursor to more threats of violence. The recently proposed delimitation exercise was designed to dilute the effect of ethnically heterogenous or ‘mixed’ seats to enable UMNO to win by appealing to a narrower base. The attempts by UMNO to cosy up to PAS by allowing the amendment to Act 355 Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act to be tabled in parliament is also part of this playbook. My fear is that even more divisive strategies will be thought of and carried out in the run up to GE14.

    These steps were already in UMNO’s playbook before Trump’s victory. My greatest fear for Malaysia is that Trump’s victory will only embolden those in UMNO seeking to maintain power by emulating and expanding the Trumpean ‘winning’ strategy.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

  • The Government should ratify the Doha Amendment of the Kyoto Protocol along with the ratification of the Paris Agreement

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Serdang, on the 27th of October 2016

    The Government should ratify the Doha Amendment of the Kyoto Protocol along with the ratification of the Paris Agreement

    In the parliamentary question and answer session on Tuesday, 25th of October, 2016, I asked the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment to explain when the government will ratify the 2nd commitment period (CP2) of the Kyoto Protocol also known as the Doha Amendment.[1]

    In his verbal reply to me in parliament, the Minister said that the focus should be on the Paris Agreement instead of the Kyoto Agreement. (The clip of his verbal reply can be found here on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mlFP-i7cQQ&feature=youtu.be). His reply was given coverage in the Star newspaper the following day (See below)

    The Minister also said that countries were no longer interested in the Doha Amendment since only 70 countries (as of September 2016) had ratified this amendment which requires 144 countries (or 3 quarters of all the parties to the Kyoto Protocol) to ratify.[2] He highlighted the fact that the United States and Canada are among the two countries who have not signed up to the Doha Amendment as proof that ratifying this amendment was no longer a priority.

    It would be a mistake for Malaysia to simply give up on ratifying the Doha Amendment and simply rush to ratify the Paris Agreement for the following reasons:

    1. The Doha Amendment Commitment Period (CP2) runs from 2013 to 2020 while the implementation of Paris Agreement will only start in 2021.[3] Therefore, there is no overlapping between the CP2 of the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. So, while waiting for the Paris Agreement to ‘kick-in’, the global community needs to ensure that measures to decrease carbon emissions continue to take place and that would happened only when the CP2 enters in force. It was quite shocking for me to hear the Minister say that there is an overlap between the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. This does not bode well given that this Minister and his Ministry is leading the negotiations on behalf of the country for an agreement that will have far-reaching environmental, social and economic impacts on us.

    2. Even if the Doha Amendment does not enter into force because an insufficient number of countries have ratified it, Malaysia should not dismiss it from a principle and moral stand point. In fact, we should have ratify yesteryear to contribute to the numbers needed to ensure that it comes into force sooner rather than later. Precisely because only developed countries have obligation to cut their emissions under CP2, it is painless for Malaysia as a developing country to ratify CP2. This is also in line with holding the developed world accountable to its historical responsibilities towards climate change. And CP2 is that last chance.

    3. Malaysia should act as a responsible global citizen and do its part in ratifying the Doha Amendment, just like 7 out of 10 countries in ASEAN.[4] Besides Malaysia, the only other two countries in ASEAN which have not ratified the Doha Amendment are Laos and Myanmar which are from the category of Least Developed Countries (LDC). Is Malaysia regressing from an advanced developing country to become a LDC? Can Malaysia be an effective advocate on climate change and other environmental policies in ASEAN if it does not even ratify the Doha Amendment?

    4. Ratifying the Doha Amendment would show that Malaysia has a sustained and consistent plan towards addressing climate change beyond just going to New York to take part in high profile signing ceremonies.

    I call upon the Cabinet to give approval for the Government to ratify the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol along with the ratification of the Paris Agreement.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    [1] http://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol/doha_amendment/items/7362.php

    [2] https://unfccc.int/files/kyoto_protocol/doha_amendment/application/pdf/frequently_asked_questions_doha_amendment_to_the_kp.pdf

    [3] http://www.wri.org/faqs-about-how-paris-agreement-enters-force and https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/CN/2016/CN.735.2016-Eng.pdf

    [4] https://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=XXVII-7-c&chapter=27&clang=_en

  • Severe cuts to the Monitoring and Enforcement Budget of the Department of Environment (DOE) needs to be reversed

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 27th of October, 2016

    Severe cuts to the Monitoring and Enforcement Budget of the Department of Environment (DOE) needs to be reversed

    One of the regular complaints that I receive from residents in my constituency is the issue of noise and emissions of smells by factories which sometimes operate late into the night. When these complaints were highlighted to the Department of Environment (DOE), which oversees the monitoring of these factories, the usual response I receive is that they don’t have enough enforcement officers and a sufficient budget to carry out their monitoring and enforcement duties. More recently, the serious pollution of Sungai Semantan and Sungai Semenyih which resulted in water disruptions affected more than half a million households, was traced back to illegal discharge and dumping of pollutants into the river by irresponsible parties.

    At a time when more resources should be dedicated to monitoring and enforcement, I was shocked to learn that the budget for these activities have been cut from RM105 million in 2016 to RM76.5 million in 2017, a reduction of RM28.5 million or a 27% cut (See Figure 1 below)

    Figure 1: Cut in the budget for Monitoring and Enforcement Activities, 2016 to 2017

    This large cut in the budget for monitoring and enforcement activities will inevitably jeopardise the ability of the DOE to effectively monitor the illegal dumping of pollutants into our rivers by factories and other irresponsible parties.

    At a time when our rivers are increasingly vulnerable to pollution, the monitoring and enforcement budget should be INCREASED by 30% rather than cut by almost 30%. These cuts are unacceptable and I call upon the Finance Minister to reverse these cuts and increase the allocation for monitoring and enforcement activities under the Department of Environment.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

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