Malaysia doomed to middle-income trap?


(MM) – MP Zairil Khir Johari rang the alarm today for Malaysia’s future as the country’s best students were shown to be trailing behind their poorest regional peers in benchmark tests on mathematics, science and reading over the past decade.

The opposition lawmaker grounded his argument on a recent analysis of the 2013 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results by American news portal The Huffington Post, which he said showed the average scores for the top 10 per cent of Malaysia’s elite 15-year-olds to be far lower than the average scores of destitute students in a number of its Asian neighbours, including Singapore and Vietnam.

“In other words, it is not only the average Malaysian student who is badly performing, but even our richest, most privileged students are far behind their regional peers from the poorest, most under-privileged socio-economic backgrounds,” Zairil said in a statement.

He added that despite Vietnam possessing a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that was six times smaller, the bottom 20 per cent of its country’s students managed to surpass Malaysia’s elite scholars, which contradicted the widely-held assumption that the richer the student, the better the result.

The first-term MP expressed worry for the downward trend in mathematics scores, pointing out the subject is seen by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which groups the world’s First World nations, as “a strong predictor of positive outcomes for young adults” and their potential to draw high-pay in future careers.

“This essentially means that the Malaysia is facing an alarming crisis in education, and one that will have a negative long-term impact on our economic development if not addressed,” the Bukit Bendera MP said.