World Bank report says Malaysian children not learning enough in schools

(NST) – The education budget has remained steady at around 3.2 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

The World Bank’s “Bending Bamboo Shoots: Strengthening Foundation Skills” report reveals that 58 per cent of students in Malaysia are proficient in reading by the end of Standard 5.

“However, the percentage of non-proficient students at the end of Standard 5, which stands at 42 percent, is higher compared to countries with similar gross national income (GNI) per capita, where it is 34 per cent,” it added.

The report pointed out that the situation is more dire among the most economically disadvantaged children, with 61 per cent failing to meet proficient levels.

The report also found that the average Malaysian child spends 12.5 years in school but learns the equivalent of only 8.9 years.

Comparatively, Vietnam, which is poorer than Malaysia and spends less on education as a share of GDP, provides 10.7 years of learning for 12.9 years of schooling.

The World Bank linked the low learning outcomes to insufficient early childhood education, inconsistent teacher readiness and commitment in primary schools, and a failure to implement teacher performance management according to policy guidelines.

“While preschool enrollment has increased, several challenges hinder progress toward achieving universal access, including limited awareness about the benefits of preschool education, inadequate availability of preschools in areas of high need, and affordability concerns,” it added.

The report recommends enhancing preschool education access and quality, while also measuring student learning outcomes and teacher performance against global standards.

Additionally, it emphasises evidence-based continuous professional development for teachers and the need for clear, feasible, and rewarding teacher policies.

“Malaysia needs to double down in certain areas for a bigger impact. It faces two types of challenges: improving learning levels in the aggregate and ensuring disadvantaged groups are not left behind,” it said.