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Is our education system still 'world class'?

MP SPEAKS In a recently released Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) rankings in Science and Math, which is the most comprehensive study to date, the top 5 places were all taken by Asian countries, namely Singapore (1st), Hong Kong (2nd), South Korea (3rd), Japan and Taiwan (joint 4th).

Meanwhile, Malaysia finds itself being ranked 52 out of 76 countries.

In Southeast Asia, Malaysia is ranked below not just Singapore but also Vietnam (12th) and Thailand (47th).

Malaysia is also ranked below Ukraine (38th), Turkey (41st), UAE (45th) and Kazakhstan (49th).

The full details of this study will only be released at next week’s World Education Forum 2015 meeting in Seoul, Korea where the UN, led by UNESCO, will deliberate and decide on the post-2015 education agenda to replace the targets and objectives set out in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

But the initial findings should send a strong message to our education ministers that we are far from being anywhere close to a "world class" education system at the primary, secondary or tertiary levels.

The fact that our ministers still insist that we have a "world class" education system, in the face of overwhelming evidence stating otherwise, shows that we are still not acknowledging the full extent of the educational challenges we are facing.

Lesson from Sweden

The lesson of Sweden should be a lesson to our ministers.

Sweden used to have one of the better education systems among OECD countries but experienced a sharp decline in its PISA and TIMSS scores from 2000 onwards.

This decline prompted the Swedish government to ask OECD to review its education system in 2014.

In this latest OECD rankings, Sweden came in at the 35th position, one of the lowest ranked OECD countries.

In the case of Malaysia, if our policymakers do not acknowledge the weaknesses in our current education system, we may even fall further behind our Asian neighbours and continue to lose out in terms of our economic competitiveness.

ONG KIAN MING is MP for Serdang.

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