From Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim, via e-mail
We refer to the NST report,’Local education system ranked 8th in the world’ on Feb 15, 2011. In August 2010, Newsweek conducted a survey called ‘The World’s Best Countries’, ranking 100 countries in terms of health, education, quality of life, economic dynamism and political environment.
The Newsweek article ranks Malaysia at 36th place in education with a literacy rate of 88.8% and a score of 86.43 .
Malaysia is ranked 8th in education only if compared to countries within the upper middle-income category, falling behind, Kazakhstan, Poland, Cuba, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia and Belarus.
According to the article, the top 10 best countries for education are Finland, South Korea, Canada, Singapore, Japan, Switzerland, Estonia, United Kingdom, Ireland and Netherlands, all of which happen to be high-income nations.
The director-deneral of the Ministry of Education should have qualified his statement that “the Malaysian education system has been ranked number eight in the world by newsmagazine Newsweek” as it is rather inaccurate and care should have been taken to avoid misleading the public.
NST should have also corrected that statement instead of implying its error, by single quoting the headline ‘Local education system ranked 8th in the world’.
Interestingly, Newsweek goes on to say that, “It’s not hard to see why rich countries excel in education or why educated countries prosper but this second-tier category caught our eye.
It includes a striking number of former Soviet-bloc states that have historically put high priorities on science and math. Even in nations that have fallen on hard times, the fruits of this emphasis are still paying off in high test scores.”
Nonetheless, it is encouraging to see that the government’s efforts to improve students’ performance towards transforming the country is a step forward in the right direction.
We strongly believe that students and parents in Malaysia should be given the option to choose English as the preferred language for learning science and math as it is the lingua franca of these two core subjects.
Studying science and math in English should not be limited to the privileged few who can afford private education. Having the option would certainly fast-track Malaysia into achieving a high-income nation status.
The writer is head of the Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE).