LEAD Freedom Summit


This paper seeks to understand why Malaysia’s improving performance in basic education indicators does not translate into good performance outcomes in the international TIMSS assessment. We begin by briefly describing Malaysia’s performance in the TIMSS assessment over the years and across the Asia Pacific region. We find that Malaysia’s performance has deteriorated from 1999 until 2011, and only improved slightly in 2015. Compared to other countries, Malaysia consistently does worse. This could be due to the quality of teaching and the level of parental involvement in Malaysia. While there are enough teachers in Malaysia, they spend relatively little time in the classroom per day teaching and are not sufficiently equipped with the skills to effectively deliver mathematics and science content. Additionally, while parents are generally committed to spending appropriately on their children’s education, their direct involvement, for example, helping with their child’s homework is limited. This is further exacerbated by the proliferation of tutoring, which creates a disincentive for teachers to teach effectively during formal hours and restricts social mobility since only better-off households can afford better quality tutors.