The government's education policy cannot continue dishing out A1s to students simply to make parents feel good, says PKR director of strategy Rafizi Ramli.
Rafizi related his days when working for Petronas where he was part of a scholarship committee that almost all applicants had come in with 10 A1s, but found that they struggled when sitting for General Certificate of Education Advanced Level (A-level) exams.
"There is a big disconnect between the national examination and the real quality of education and politicians must come to terms and fix this.
"I have a feeling we have been dumbing down all along... we need to call a spade a spade.
"If it means only 10 people in the country will get 10 A1s then so be it," he said at a forum entitled ‘Malaysian education system: Can we bring back the quality’ in Kuala Lumpur today.
He added that as long as the education policy kept dishing out A1s, people will think everything is still jolly good and it will be hard to address the real problems with the country's education quality.
"We need to start with a clean slate and do a proper benchmarking of international standards," said Rafizi, who is also the Pandan MP.
Also present at the forum organised by the Edge Media Group were Inti International University chancellor Arshad Ayub, Parents Action Group for Education chairperson Noor Azimah Abd Rahim, Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Shamsuddin Bardan and Federation of Manufacturers Malaysia Yong Poh Kon.
'Dumbing down schools'
Later, the Edge Media Group chief executive officer Ho Key Tat who moderated the forum queried if any government officers were ready to respond whether schools were indeed being dumbed down, to which Performance Management Delivery Unit (Pemandu) director on education Tengku Azian Shahriman stood up.
Tengku Azian lamented that even Pemandu was having trouble accessing the data on education but pointed to data by earlier presenters at the forum which showed that students were getting good grades for the English language in Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) but were performing badly in the Cambridge GCE Ordinary Level (O-level) with regard to the English language.
"There the answer lies," she stressed.
However, Tengku Azian said the government is planning to introduce tougher questions in exams but said there are resistance from parents and teachers.
"It will mean that students will get less As, so are parents willing to see their children score less As?" she asked, to which the room of some 300 people responded "Yes".
Rafizi (left) echoed Tengku Azian's difficulty in obtaining data on education, stating that the government had often claimed that they were protected under the Official Secrets Act 1972.
Elaborating on the need to improve education, Rafizi said before the quality is addressed, the main issue is the distribution of resources or efficiency in the education system.
He pointed out that despite the government spending 5.8 percent of its gross domestic product on education - one of the highest in the region - it is performing poorly.
Rafizi said that magnitude of spending can afford the country better teachers with better pay instead of buying school laptops with over-inflated prices.
Meanwhile, Noor Azimah said by convention, students normally receive their SPM English language results first and the tougher O-level results for the same paper much later.
"The results should be presented together so that parents will know that their children's English language is not as good as they think," she noted.