Is the Ministry of Education handing out ‘A’s for examinations to meet the Government’s KPI?

Media statement by Tony Pua Kiam Wee and Dr Ong Kian Ming in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, 9th January 2013

We would like to congratulate all of the PMR students who successfully passed their PMR exams especially the 30,474 students who successfully scored straight As. We applaud their efforts in putting in the hard work necessary to achieve these results which were announced two weeks ago on 18th December 2012.

Based on the results released by the Ministry of Education, 28.8% achieved an ‘A’ in Mathematics while 23.7% did the same for Science. On the surface, Malaysians should be extremely proud that approximately a quarter of all our 15 year olds are able to achieve top results for the two key subjects.

However, when we compare the PMR results with the recently released Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2011 report, we find that only 2% of Malaysians managed “Advanced” scores in Mathematics, while another 10% achieved “High” scores.

Similarly for Science, only 1% and 10% of Malaysian 15 year olds managed to achieve “Advanced” and “High” scores respectively.

What worries Malaysians is the fact that compared to 1999 when 36% of our 15 year olds scored an “Advanced” or “High” scores in 1999, only a miserable 12% did so in 2012. For Science, this % has decreased from 24% in 1999 to 11% in 2011. (The breakdown is shown in the Table 1 below.)

The question to ask then is are our examination standards set so low that 28.8% of our students will score an ‘A’ in Mathematics even though by international standards, they are far from it?

While the above may be worrying, what is shocking is the performance of Malaysian students at the bottom. While the PMR examinations showed nearly 90% passing rates for students in Mathematics and Science, the TIMSS study exposed the fraud in our examinations.

The number of students who scored “Below Low” for Mathematics increased from only 7% in 1999 to an incredible 35% in 2011. For Science, the percentage rocketed up from 13 to 38. If the students who scored “Low” were taken into consideration, 64% and 66% of Malaysian students scored “Low” and “Below Low” in Mathematics and Science respectively.

The performance of the educational achievements of our students is unacceptable. The Ministry of Education and the Government has failed our young Malaysians. In the pursuit of quantitative Key Performance Indicators such as the number of “A”s or the percentage pass rate, the Ministry of Education has severely simplified our education syllabus as well as dumbed down our examinations at the expense of our students.

We call upon the Minister of Education Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to explain how our education and examination standards have declined so drastically over the past decade. He must also thoroughly review our examination system and our education syllabus to increase the standards of education for our young. We are also extremely concerned about the complete lack of urgency over our underperformance, as well as the lack of substantive measures in the preliminary Education Blueprint which has been launched at the end of last year.

Table 1a: Malaysian Students Performance for Mathematics (TIMSS 1999 to 2011)

Mathematics 1999 (%) 2003 (%) 2007 (%) 2011 (%)
Advanced (625) 10 6 2 2
High (550) 26 24 16 10
Intermediate (475) 34 36 32 24
Low (400) 23 27 32 29
Below Low (<400) 7 7 18 35

Table 1b: Malaysian Students Performance for Science (TIMSS 1999 to 2011)

Science 1999 (%) 2003 (%) 2007 (%) 2011 (%)
Advanced (625) 5 4 3 1
High (550) 19 24 15 10
Intermediate (475) 35 43 32 23
Low (400) 28 24 30 28
Below Low (<400) 13 5 20 38

Tony Pua Kiam Wee, DAP National Publicity Secretary & MP for Petaling Jaya Utara
Dr Ong Kian Ming, DAP Election Strategist