KUALA LUMPUR, April 28 — The wide gap between Malaysian students and their counterparts in first-tier Asian countries like Korea, Singapore and Taiwan could threaten its ambitions to be a high income nation said the UN 2010 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) report released today. The report states that for the mathematics benchmarks in TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) 2007, fewer than 20 per cent of Malaysian students achieved the high benchmark and about 50 per cent achieved the intermediate benchmark, compared with 70 per cent and 85–90 per cent respectively for the first-tier Asian economies.
“The Asian region has a clear gap in the distribution of achievement between the first tier Asian economies represented by the Republic of Korea, Singapore and Taiwan, China; and the second-tier countries represented by Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand,” said the MDG report. Malaysian students’ performance had also declined at all levels from 1999 to 2007 but the report said it was partly because some of the cognitive domain specifications tested in TIMSS 2007 had not been covered in Malaysia’s mathematics curriculum.
“Nevertheless, the TIMSS 2007 mathematics and science results need to be further analysed, as they may suggest some obstacle to Malaysia’s ability to realise its ambitions of becoming a high income nation,” it said.
The Najib administration is attempting to transform Malaysia into a high-income economy by 2020 with an emphasis on productivity, efficiency and innovation. But observers contend that it would require significant structural reforms, including in education that so far appear to be lacking. Malaysian universities also lag behind their Asian counterparts.
No Malaysian university made it to the Times Higher Education (THE) 2010-11 ranking of top 50 Asian universities or the ranking of top 200 global universities. In contrast, Singapore had three universities in the THE top 200 global universities, Hong Kong had eight, while Japan and Korea had five each. The MDG report noted, however, that Malaysia is close to achieving the MDG goal of ensuring that all children will be able to complete a full course of primary education by 2015.