Thoughts on TIMSS

Fix the curriculum

“My school was among those included in TIMSS 2019. Questions asked were very practical and based on basic concepts that students would have mastered. Most students at my school were able to answer the questions but we still need to do more to reach the level of top TIMSS 2019 nations. We can get there. The TIMSS scores are not just a bunch of numbers. It is very important as we will be able to see where our education system stands. These are figures showing us how our students have grasped two very crucial subjects to function in life. Our scores are mediocre. The TIMSS 2019 report, which shows a small, insignificant reduction in the percentage of Malaysian students achieving acceptable levels, is comprehensive – it indicates where we have gone wrong. Now we have to figure out what we can do to remedy the situation and how to get our bright minds to explore these subjects in the best possible way. A mere revision of the curriculum for Science and Mathematics would not suffice. Take the Science and Mathematics syllabus content back to the drawing board. We need a complete revamp. We should not be pointing fingers but that does not mean we should be dismissive of our weaknesses. We have to take a step back and also look at what others have done. Look at what Singapore has done – especially what is included in their curriculum – to come out tops. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is English, the country’s medium of instruction, that has helped them obtain the highest scores in TIMSS 2019. Our teachers have been doing a good job delivering content to their students but we should still tap into the knowledge of other educators around the world. Thanks to the Internet, we can seek help when needed and learn from others to ensure that education progresses in the right direction. Sometimes we lack confidence so we don’t want to learn from those who have done better than us but a teacher who continues to learn so that he or she is better equipped to teach students is better than one who is content believing that he or she knows it all.”

English teacher S. Sri Murugan, SMK Subang Utama, Subang Jaya, Selangor

Train teachers

“Prioritise training for teachers. It is not that our teachers are incompetent or incapable but continuous professional development is important to make sure that our approach is current and up to par. Our teachers are inspired and motivated to continue striving for the best. International benchmarking assessments are important as they give us an idea of what to improve on. I focus on giving my students the best experience in learning STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Students need hands-on activities so that they can also be ‘minds-on’. Activities keep lessons interesting, ensure that students are engaged and create a scientific mindset. Our teachers have done a great job in making sure that their students are learning. We will see progress and improvements in TIMSS in due time.”

Science teacher and Global Teacher Prize 2020 top 50 finalist Norhailmi Abdul Mutalib, SMK Jerlun, Ayer Hitam, Kedah

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