Time to address low reading literacy scores, says PAGE

PETALING JAYA: The Education Ministry must set a clear goal to stop the rot, especially in reading literacy among students, says Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim.

The Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) chairman said schools must also do what is best for their students.

“Despite all the constructive criticism and recommendations offered to the ministry, it continues to be in a ‘world of its own’.

“This is where autonomy is most crucial which the World Bank has highlighted.

“Have regular monitoring and interventions until the target is met. It is not a difficult task to get children to read.

“Once children like to read, the world is their oyster,” she said, adding that specific teaching methodologies may have fallen short in motivating students to learn the English language, especially during the pandemic.

Following the recently announced Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) 2022 results, Malaysia, like many nations globally, confronts a concerning decline in reading, mathematical and scientific literacy due to the unprecedented challenges faced by students during the pandemic.

The most jarring result, however, revealed in the Pisa 2022 was Malaysia’s low performance in reading literacy, scoring 388 compared with 415 in Pisa 2018.

The country’s mathematics and scientific literacy scores stood at 409 and 416 respectively, dwindling by 31 points for mathematics and 22 points for scientific literacy compared with the previous Pisa conducted in 2018.

National science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) Association president and founder Prof Datuk Dr Noraini Idris said there must be alternative teaching approaches beyond the conventional.

She said most of the Pisa questions demand good problem-solving, decision-making and critical thinking skills from students.

As such, she said, it is important for teacher training programmes and institutions to revisit their curricula and teaching methodologies to address these shortcomings.

She said students faced difficulties in maintaining or enhancing their STEM skills amid the pandemic due to limited Internet access and a lack of proper facilities.

“Having dedicated significant effort to encourage STEM education, particularly in rural areas, the lack of access to technology and facilities is concerning.

“Hopefully Budget 2024 will be used effectively to tackle this problem,” she said.

Educationist and former Universiti Malaya professor Tan Sri Dr T. Marimuthu said that Covid-19 has been a disruptive force, both in terms of education and social relations.

“One can imagine it would have had an effect on the learning and teaching methods with regards to achievement but in spite of that, I believe our teachers and education professionals have put in considerable effort to bounce back.

“Now that we see there has been data showing the decline in the three Pisa domains, we will have to think of strategies to improve,” he said.

He said much needs to be done to enrich students in terms of skills and knowledge.

This, he said, could only be achieved with increased face-to-face interaction with teachers.

“We have enough resources, with a significant portion of the budget allocated to the education sector,” he said.

“This should ensure that there should not be an issue for funding when it comes to enriching the knowledge of our students.”

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