Learning mathematics is a key fundamental in every education system that aims to prepare its citizens for a productive life in the 21st century. As a nation, the development of a highly-skilled and well-educated manpower is critical to support an innovation and technology-driven economy. A strong grounding in mathematics and a talent pool in mathematics are essential to support the wide range of value-added economic activities and innovations. Many countries are paying attention to the quality of their mathematics education.
At the individual level, mathematics underpins many aspects of our everyday activities, from making sense of information in the newspaper to making informed decisions about personal finances. It supports learning in many fields of study, whether it is in the sciences or in business. A good understanding of basic mathematics is essential wherever calculations, measurements, graphical interpretations, and statistical analysis are necessary. The learning of mathematics also provides an excellent vehicle to train the mind and to develop the capacity to think logically, abstractly, critically, and creatively. These are important 21st century competencies that we must imbue in our students, so that they can lead a productive life and be life-long learners.
The quality of mathematics education in Southeast Asia region varies but mostly is unsatisfactory with the exception of that of Singapore. This claim is mostly based on the result of the international achievement tests such as Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). The following table presents the evidence from TIMSS where the mathematics achievements in Southeast Asia with the exception of Singapore are still below the international average scores.
TIMSS International Mathematics Scores for 8 Graders
SEAMEO Regional Centre for QITEP Mathematics (SEAQiM) proposed the development of a home grown region wide assessment system, namely Mathematics Regional Wide Assessment (MaRWA) for the region. The MaRWA project aims to gather the relevant data on Grade 5, 8, and 10 students’ competencies and readiness in learning mathematics in SEAMEO member countries. It is hoped that through the MaRWA project the Centre will be able to provide relevant training for mathematics teachers in the region.
Important Points of MaRWA
- MaRWA is a diagnostic test. Its results can be used to diagnose students’ strength and weakness in learning mathematics.
- MaRWA is able to help teachers finding the problems of student learning.
- MaRWA can provide input for teachers education providers (e.g. SEAQiM and SEAMEO RECSAM) to conduct relevant training for mathematics teachers in Southeast Asia region.
- MaRWA does not replicate either PISA or TIMSS. However, both assessments will be used as the references.
- MaRWA does not rank among participants.
Goals of MaRWA
- Improves the teaching and learning of mathematics in the Southeast Asia region;
- Determines the extent of students’ understanding of mathematics concepts;
- Diagnoses the strength and weakness of student learning, and
- Provide input for regional Centre on the nature and direction of teacher training.