Report Says Malaysian Students Less Anxious About Tests Than In Other Asian Countries

Only three Asian nations have lower anxiety percentages.

Cover image via New Straits Times

The percentage of test anxiety among Malaysian students is lower than most of their Asian counterparts

The rich data set of the analysis.

Image via McKinsey & Company

According to The Star, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015 Results (Volume III) provided that 67% of Malaysian students worry about taking a test.

The percentage is lower than Hong Kong (71%), Japan (78%), Singapore (74%) and South Korea (69%).

As a matter of fact, the only countries with a lower anxiety percentage than Malaysia are Thailand and China (Beijing, Guangdong, Jiangsu and Shanghai), both at 66%.

Interestingly, some of the East Asian countries that excelled academically have the highest test anxiety and the lowest life satisfaction

The report exhibited that anxiety related to schoolwork refers to the extent to which students are worried about getting poor grades, feel anxious when preparing for tests, and get nervous when they don't know how to solve a task.

In high-performing Asia, such as Hong Kong and China, even top performers are anxious.

However, the opposite is true elsewhere. Students in high-performing countries like Estonia and Finland have low test anxiety and high life satisfaction.

Li-Kai Chen, a partner of global consulting firm McKinsey & Company, explained why this is in contrast to many Asian countries with high test anxiety.

He said that, "If high-performing Asian countries are to sustain their reputation for having some of the best school systems in the world, they will need to work on creating more well-rounded students who not only ace standardised tests but can creatively apply that performance."

Malaysian students are better off than most of their Asian neighbours, but there is still room for improvement

McKinsey analysis.

Image via OECD PISA 2012, 2015.

Lower test anxiety is good but having zero anxiety isn’t necessarily beneficial because worrying can contribute to better performance,” said Chen, according to The Star.

He also noted that countries which showed high levels of test anxiety such as Japan and South Korea have some of the best performance systems in the world.

"There could be many reasons for test anxiety including high-stakes exams and culture," he said. "Test anxiety is a mindset. How anxious are you even though you're well prepared for an exam?"

Given Malaysia's GDP, the country is underperforming in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)

However, Chen noted that the outcome in 2015 showed improvement.

"Malaysia, which is only at the 'fair level', spends the same on education as high-performing Taiwan which is in the 'great level'," he said, but noted that Malaysian students performed below the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average.

"It's not about how much you spend on, it's what you spend on." 

The expert claimed that education reforms in many countries have failed due to misguided practices

Chen explained that, "There are no best practices in education system reform. What's more important is putting in the relevant reform."

"If your system is about making a journey from poor to fair performance, you shouldn't be looking at what Finland is doing now. You should be looking at what they were doing 20 years ago," he said.

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