Improving international education rankings [New Straits Time (Malaysia)]
(New Straits Time (Malaysia) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) KUALA LUMPUR: THE Education Ministry aims to enhance the standards of Mathematics, Science and languages in schools, measured through international assessments such as Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).
A special task force comprising various divisions in the ministry, agencies, and experts was created to look into methods in improving the mastery of the subjects.
The ministry's Curriculum Development Division director, Dr Masnah Ali Muda, said the task force is responsible for strategic and thorough planning, sharing of ideas and views through analysis towards results of previous TIMMS and PISA tests to implement the most effective measures in order to improve students knowledge and skills in this domains.
The task force, established in February last year also collaborates with other professional bodies such as the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT), Southeast Asian Ministers of Education-Regional Centre for Education in Science and Mathematics (SEAMEO RECSAM), Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM), Malaysian Institute of Chemistry and Petrosains.
"The recent PISA results indicated that most students who took part in the assessment needed the skill to apply knowledge and think critically outside of familiar academic contexts."
"We realise the importance of mastering these subjects, therefore, to improve the standards and achievements, a special plan and intervention was drawn up through the Malaysia Education Blueprint," she said.
TIMSS is held every four years, and involves 13 to 14-year olds, while PISA is held every three years involving students between the ages of 15 and 16.
Malaysia first participated in TIMSS in 1999 and PISA in 2009.
In the latest edition of PISA, Malaysian students showed an improvement in Mathematics, recording a score of 421 compared with 404 in 2009.
Science however showed a small drop with a score of 420 from 422, while reading fell to 398 from 414.
The current Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average is 496.
Masnah mentioned two schools that achieved the international average score of 500 for Science in TIMSS 2011, which are SMK Krian, Parit Buntar, Perak and SMK Damansara Jaya, Petaling Jaya.
She said the task force had identified the reasons behind students not doing well in the assessment, attributing it to unfamiliarity of format and that the questions were not yet in the curriculum of students.
Several long and short term programmes that are student- and teacher-centric, were created to improve performance in the international assessment.
Among them are revising the current curriculum of Mathematics and Science to give emphasis on higher order thinking skills and the continuous professional development of teachers.
"The new curriculum will emphasise higher-order thinking skills such as analysing, critical thinking, hypothesising and decision making. It will also encourage project-based learning, for instance, through the increased use of laboratory work, student-directed inquiry and ICT games-based instructional materials. The ministry will look into introducing adaptive learning programmes and blended learning models into schools."
A digital database was also built for materials that would help students to understand and practice on questions that are in the format of the both assessments.
She said capacity-building programmes were also created for teachers, giving them the opportunity to improve in the aspect of content, pedagogy and the ability to construct questions that boost higher order thinking skills.
"Aside from improving the curriculum, the ministry also looks into improving the input of textbooks and revision books as well as ensuring that students have reasoning and application capabilities.
"This strategic plan is comprehensive and not just to improve our standings in TIMSS and PISA, but for Mathematics, Science and reading.
"These programmes are in place to ensure the country meets the 60:40 science-arts policy, which was first introduced in 1967," Masnah added.
The aspiration is for Malaysia to be in the top third of countries in terms of performance in the international assessments, as measured by outcomes TIMSS and PISA, within 15 years.
"Ultimately, we want to improve the quality of education in our country, and comprehensive intervention is needed to ensure this goal can be achieved," she said.
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