KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 13 – A Royal Commission of Inquiry should be established to investigate the recent leakage of UPSR examination papers, which affected almost 500,000 students, said veteran DAP leader Lim Kit Siang. Lim said it was time a full-scale investigation be conducted into the frequent leaks involving national examination papers. “The frequent occurrence of leaks involving UPSR, SPM and STPM examination papers has undermined public confidence in the integrity of the education system.

“These are signs of a system of corrupt governance which appears to be getting from bad to worse,” Lim (pic) said in a statement today. Last week, the Education Ministry announced that 473,175 Primary Six pupils nationwide would take the English and Science UPSR papers on September 30. The UPSR examinations were supposed to have been held from September 9 to 11, but the leakage of the Science paper forced a postponement. Students had already taken the English paper, but a leak resulted in the ministry announcing that the paper also had to be retaken.

The leaks resulted in Deputy Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Education Minister II Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh issuing public apologies. Muhyiddin also announced yesterday the immediate suspension of exams syndicate heads Dr Na’imah Ishak and Dr Wan Ilias Wan Salleh, saying both senior officers were responsible for the ministry’s image being tarnished. “Muhyiddin must have been very embarrassed while attending the 8th Asean Education Ministers meeting in Vientiane last week,” Lim said.

“When news of the leaked examination papers was reported, Muhyiddin claimed that it could have been an act of sabotage to embarrass him and the ministry. “His allegation of sabotage is surprising but not credible as he appears to be the only person in the country who does not know that examination papers being leaked are not an unusual occurrence.” Lim said the ministry had set up a special task force last year to probe the leak of SPM and UPSR papers. “What has happened to the investigations? There has been nothing reported or published on the outcome of the probe,” he said.

Whatever Muhyiddin has said about getting to the bottom of this year’s leakage of UPSR papers should be taken with a pinch of salt, he said. “Perhaps on this occasion Muhyiddin is determined to get to the bottom of the case as he has been embarrassed before his regional peers.” Lim said the Royal Commission of Inquiry should be set up not only to probe the leaks, but the declining standards of education in Malaysia as well. “Across the board, primary, secondary and tertiary education standards in Malaysia are regressing while neighbouring countries are improving by leaps and bounds,” he said.

“It is not only the frequent incidence of leaks of examination papers for the various public examinations in Malaysia which must be the subject of rigorous investigation. “The whole education system needs a comprehensive examination by independent, knowledgeable and eminent Malaysians.” Lim said the Programme for International Student (Pisa) 2009 results ranked Malaysia in the bottom third of the 74 participating countries. Malaysian students performed worse than their peers in Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

This disparity widened further in the 2012 Pisa, reaching a stage where the 15-year-olds in Shanghai, Singapore and South Korea were outperforming their Malaysian peers by a wide margin. “The Malaysia education system is regressing while the best and most competitive of the national educational systems in the world have made phenomenal progress in the past 10 years.” The top 5% of Malaysian students are only about as good as the average Korean or Japanese pupil. “Most worrying is that more than half of Malaysian students (51.8%) do not reach basic proficiency levels in Mathematics. “Was somebody in the ministry or system trying to sabotage Muhyiddin with such dismal educational standards and results compared with high-flying educational systems in the world?” Lim said.

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