LONDON: The Malaysian Education Minister has finished his trip to England – and the highlight of it was about English education in Malaysia.
His three-day visit comes at a crucial time as debate rages over the level of English proficiency in the country.
Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, attended the Education World Forum 2014 and squeezed in a few meetings with key people involved in his plans for the country’s future – the Malaysia Education Blueprint (2013-2025) and on the standard of English.
Besides presenting Malaysia’s view on the direction education should take, Muhyiddin also had the opportunity to discuss matters with members from the blueprint’s International Review Panel as well as the Cambridge Language Assessment panel.
Asked if his meeting with Muhyiddin was a chance for him to revisit the work done for the blueprint, panel member Dr Andreas Schleicher said the document was already “very ambitious.”
“Malaysia has invested a lot in education but the success of the blueprint depends on careful and systematic implementation,” he said.
Dr Schleicher, who is behind the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) and is now doing a survey on the education systems of 65 countries, said Malaysia’s top performing schools already showed what could be achieved in the country.
“There are already world-class schools in Malaysia but there are still many which have a long way to go,” he admitted.
If the Pisa survey, added Dr Schleicher, had only been carried out for schools in Kuala Lumpur or the Klang Valley, as was done in Shanghai, the ranking would have “significantly improved”.
In the latest Pisa ranking, Malaysians scored 421 in Mathematics, 398 in Reading and 420 in Science.
Overall, Malaysia’s ranking was 52nd out of 65 countries while Shanghai – but not the whole of China – is first.
However, for Dr Schleicher, the fact that Malaysia’s Pisa ranking in Mathematics had improved to 421 in 2012 from 404 in 2009, was already a positive sign.
Urging Malaysians to be patient, he said they should be able to see systemic improvement within five or six years.
While the blueprint represents the country’s hope for the future, the Cambridge Language Assessment project was to look at the “hard truths” about the local proficiency of English.
Despite criticisms about the deteriorating standard of English however, initial findings of the Baseline Project: Measuring the English Language Standard and Establishing an Evidence-based Baseline for Malaysian Schools was “positive”.
The Cambridge group’s research and international development head Dr Hanan Khalifa said for Malaysia to carry such a comprehensive study on where its teachers and students really stood in English was already commendable in itself.
Project director Martin Robinson said work could now begin for the Education Ministry to set “real, achievable results.”
“We can create a 2013 baseline against which subsequent improvements over the years can be measured,” he said.
Muhyiddin also witnessed the launch of the collaboration between Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and Imperial College London to develop low emission vehicles, which were lighter and consumed less fuel.