MOE guilty of gross incompetence in administering the 2015 PISA test

The poor performance of Malaysian students in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2009, where Malaysia was ranked in the bottom third of all countries, was highlighted in the National Education Blueprint 2013 to 2025 (See Figure 1). Malaysia’s performance in the 2012 PISA test did not show significant improvement. Not surprisingly, there was much attention on the 2015 PISA test scores to see if the efforts of the Ministry of Education would be able to boost Malaysia’s performance in Reading, Mathematics and Science.

Figure 1: Comparison of Malaysia’s PISA 2009+ ranking and scores against other countries (selected)

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Unfortunately, even though Malaysia’s scores for Reading, Mathematics and Science did show an increase from 2012 to 2015 (from 398 to 431 for Reading, from 421 to 446 in Mathematics, from 420 to 443 in Science), Malaysia was not included in the 2015 PISA ranking. According to the 2015 PISA report:

“In Malaysia, the PISA assessment was conducted in accordance with the operational standards and guidelines of the OECD. However, the weighted response rate among the initially sampled Malaysian schools (51%) falls well short of the standard PISA response rate of 85%. Therefore, the results may not be comparable to those of other countries or to results for Malaysia from previous years”.[1]

In a parliamentary reply to MP Tony Pua, on the 22nd of March, 2017, the excuses given by the Ministry of Education for this low response include: (i) students were not used to answering the questions using computers resulting in their response not being recorded and (ii) technical problems such as damaged data and data which were lost during the taking of the test.

These excuses are unacceptable for the following reasons:

  • The Ministry of Education had at least 2 years, starting in 2013, to prepare for the 2015 PISA test.[2]
  • This is not the first time which Malaysia is going through the PISA process. In 2009, the response rate for the students selected was 99.3% and in 2012, it was 100.0%. How was it that in 2015, the response rate had dropped to 51%?
  • Before the release of the PISA report, the Ministry of Education had given assurances that both students and teachers had been adequately prepared for the taking and administering of the PISA tests[3]

The admission of these technical failures shows that the Ministry of Education was grossly incompetent in administering the 2015 PISA tests. In doing so, it has put Malaysia in an embarrassing situation of not being featured in the PISA rankings.

The Ministry of Education should not be boasting about Malaysia’s improvement in its PISA scores since the PISA report has clearly stated that our 2015 scores cannot be compared to past PISA scores. Instead, it should issue a detailed report on why the sample of schools included in the PISA test and explain why the response rate of 85% was not reached. Deputy Education Minister, Chong Sin Woon, promised in December 2016 that such a detailed report would be released but till now, we have seen no such report.[4]

Figure 1: Reasons given on why Malaysia only managed a 51% response rate for the 2015 PISA test

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Dr Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang

Tony Pua
Member of Parliament for Petaling Jaya Utara

Zairil Khir Johari
Member of Parliament for Bukit Bendera
DAP Parliamentary Spokesperson for Education, Science and Technology

[1] PISA 2015 Results – Policies & Practices for Successful Schools Vol.II, pg. 261.

[2] http://english.astroawani.com/malaysia-news/malaysia-capable-improving-its-position-pisa-2015-26809

[3] http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2015/02/13/students-being-prepped-for-pisa-assessment/

[4] http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/report-on-malaysias-pisa-disqualification-underway

NB: This press statement was released on 29 March 2017 in Kuala Lumpur.

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