Archive for the ‘International Education benchmarking’ Category

State of emergency to be declared?

Sunday, October 25th, 2020
Reports these few days suggest that the government of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is planning to declare=Reports these few days suggest that the government of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is planning to declare a national emergency in the fight against the coronavirus. – NSTP/MOHAMAD SHAHRIL BADRI SAALI

THE buzzword for this week is “emergency”. It came late on Friday, and it replaced last week’s “vote of no confidence”, and before that it was “who has the numbers”.

Alas, the volatility of our favourite national pastime. When previously we were talking about who had the majority, now we are talking about who has the promise of support.

Anyway, reports these few days suggest that the government of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is planning to declare a national emergency in the fight against the coronavirus.

Details from the government are nil and apart from pictures on social media of the prime minister and a coterie of ministers, politicians, senior civil servants and armed forces guys meeting the king — ingredients ideal for baking the emergency conspiracy — it has largely been a fill-in-the-blank opportunity for speculation.

Thus, we now have responses ranging from thoughtful, measured analyses to wild speculation to outrage of lightning-and-thunder proportion.

Hence, in the next few days, we can contemplate either a novel way to address Covid-19 or the end of democracy as we know it.

There are too many moving parts and too many people with vested interest, and too many people talking at the same time. At times, I am at odds with myself over what to believe and who I should listen to.

We have now a by-election, a looming Sarawak state election, as well as politicians ready at the gates, chomping to bits for a general election.

These, some suggest, and following the Covid-19 fallout of the recent Sabah polls, are reasons to declare an emergency lest the government falls foul of some aspects of the Constitution, such as when an election cannot be held.

While we are at it, many of us are speculating the nature of the emergency to be employed, if at all.

Will it be the suspension of parliamentary democracy as per the one after the racial riots of 1969? Or the 1948-1960 one declared by colonial Britain essentially to protect investments in tin mines and rubber plantations? Or perhaps an emergency allowing the government to suspend part of the democratic processes, like an election, or parliamentary sitting? Or drastic executive measures like currency control during the height of the Asian financial crisis?

Is Covid-19 worse than a racial riot or terrorist insurgency? At the moment, it does not seem so, but then again time will tell. It is a global issue with health, economic and security concerns, and no one knows where it could take us.

If indeed there were to be an emergency, the government must articulate it clearly, and soon. While we can be charitable in our thoughts of the prime minister’s actions, many nevertheless are suggesting it is merely Muhyiddin’s ploy to remain in office following suggestions that he has lost majority support.

Incidentally, we have also seen an unlikely participant in the form of the palace where some are using it to justify their politics and politicking, or trying to get cover from the pomp and purpose of the palace.

Since early this year, the gates of Istana Negara have seen politicians, from all sides of the aisles, being driven in and out, carrying letters and documents, with details of conversation we can only deduce.

I do not believe as a democracy we should be getting the palace to weigh in on political matters beyond the scope and function defined in a constitutional monarchy.

The Constitution is clear of the role and responsibilities of our elected officials and the royal houses, where the former would propose and govern and the latter would assent.

Thus, I am of the opinion, if indeed the current government decided to implement emergency measures, or alter its component parties, or reshuffle its cabinet, or call an election, such a plan should be thought out politically first, before getting the endorsement of the palace.

While it is wise and becoming to seek opinions and blessing from the king, for instance, the palace must not be co-opted into the messy work of governing. It should be protected to remain above the political fray and politicking.

I do believe political problems must be resolved by political means. It is after all the proverbial art of the possible; where we common folk would flounder, politicians would thrive.

If indeed the Constitution demands certain things, and the current situation discourages greatly, our elected leaders of all parties and stripes must come together, talk and come up with a solution that will take care of constitutional obligations as well as, say, the pandemic.

Even if it means having an election during a pandemic, we democrats would not like to surrender our means of determining the direction of the country even if we should all suffer the health consequence of unfettered politics. We will, however, remember them politicians, for that.

This is the burden and responsibility hoisted upon us by the Constitution. I believe that the political process should remain supreme and be allowed to carry out its course, and even be the final arbiter of our decision-making.

Ideally, an emergency, if it ever happens, should not come with a royal seal of approval.


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Getting ready for International Education benchmarking

Sunday, November 27th, 2016

THE Malaysian primary and secondary education system will come under the spotlight next Tuesday when the TIMMS 2015 (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) result is released.

Either more good news or bad news will ensue one week later, when the result of the PISA 2015 (Programme for International Student Assessment) is released.

TIMMS is a large-scale survey to give an international overview on the teaching and learning in mathematics and science so that participating countries can make informed decisions about educational policy and practice. TIMSS conducts comprehensive assessments of mathematics and science for students in Year 4 and Year 8 (Form 2 in the Malaysian context), while taking into account data about country, school, and classroom learning environments.

First conducted in 1995, TIMSS reports every four years on the achievements of Year 4 and Year 8, and Malaysia has been participating in this exercise since 1999 by allowing its Form 2 students to be assessed by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), which in turn is directed by the TIMSS International Study Center at Boston College of the United States in collaboration with the network of organisations and representatives from participating countries.

In 2015, TIMMS surveyed the education systems across 39 countries, and in the case of Malaysia, the researchers randomly chose 9,726 students from 207 schools.

Meanwhile, PISA is administered by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on 15-year-old pupils from more than 80 economies to determine their performance in mathematics, science, and reading.

In 2015, PISA assessors chose 9,660 students from 230 schools, also in random fashion to ensure good representation when Malaysia was compared to 71 other economies in the round of assessment focusing on science.

According to Dr Ahmad Rafee Che Kassim, deputy director at the Education Ministry’s Educational Planning and Research Division, these international benchmarking exercises are very different compared to school-based assessments (such as UPSR and SPM) as the latter are nationwide exercises involving everyone.

“TIMMS and PISA are about sampling a cohort of students, with the students chosen on a random basis by the agencies behind TIMMS and PISA.

When the results are announced, it can be extrapolated to the whole cohort. However, there won’t be factors like which one is the best performing state or school as it (global benchmarking) is not that kind of exercise,” he said in an interview last week at the ministry accompanied by his fellow deputy director from the same division, Dr Habibah Abdul Rahim.

For Dr Habibah, TIMMS 2015 is a test not just for students, but also for the primary and secondary education system.

“This was because the 2015 assessment came two years after we implemented the Malaysia Education Blueprint (2013-2025), where things like Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) were introduced. We shall see the outcome of this soon,” she said.

The Education Ministry’s cautious optimism at the impending release of these two global indices is understandable, as the country did not fare too well in the TIMMS 2011 and PISA 2012 cycles.

“Earlier on, we were above the international average (in TIMMS) by being in the top one-third of the grouping. But in 2011, we slid down to the bottom third, and that became a push factor for us. Our target is to claw our way back to the top-third by 2025. If we can see improvements in the latest results, it would be a great achievement for us,” said Dr Habibah.

In TIMMS 2011, Malaysia came out in the 26th place for Mathematics, and 32nd for Science, when compared to 44 other countries – placing


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