Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Declining Maths and Science Standards: The Ugly Truth

Prior to the TIMSS 2011 revelation, I had no idea that the standards of Maths and Science in Malaysia has shockingly plunged to such a pathetic level. Looking at the shiny results of our students in public examinations, who would have thought of the ugly truth concealed behind it. Obviously, the Ministry of Education has lowered the passing grades to give the impression of  a so-called "improvement", for whatever reasons that is. Just look at the 2012 PMR results for an instance. 24% of all candidates got an A in Science. Despite of how glorious this might make us feel, what use is this "glory" if these students cannot compete globally?

Now let's take a look at the real scenario, and judge for yourself.

Percentage of students who answered “What does xy+1 mean” correctly"

Percentage of students who answered “What is the chemical formula for carbon dioxide” correctly.

It's natural that when something bad happens, people will start pointing fingers. Instead of thinking of a solution, we are more interested in finding out who should take the blame. This time, instead of talking about the blame list, let's see what we can do now that our kids in school are no longer inclined to Maths and Science. Deputy Education Minister Datuk Wee Ka Siong said, "we will do something", but declined further comment. The government would study the report, identify Malaysia's weaknesses and take the necessary action.

I have some questions:
  1. Before the TIMSS report, does the government really have no idea of this declining trend? I doubt so.
  2. Why only now, when the dark secret has been revealed to the public, then only "the necessary action" is to be taken?

Perhaps this declining rankings has something to do with our overemphasis on what language should be used to teach Maths and Science. The PPSMI policy? Ring a bell? PAGE Malaysia chairman said:
"The government talks so much about science and innovation leading the country forward but this is not reflected in our education system. The focus has been too much on what language we will teach in. It is knowledge that will help us excel."
We should promote inquiry-based science education with an emphasis on getting students involved in laboratory experiments instead of merely learning from textbooks. Also, Malaysia should do a detailed analysis which will lead to an education reform if we are serious about reversing these plunging standards. We should perhaps start simply by telling the truth. Stop hiding facts and put more efforts on working together as a team, with the true 1Malaysia spirit. Stop pointing fingers, we all should take the blame. So let's contribute what we can to reverse the trends and show the world that Malaysia boleh!


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