March 5th, 2012

Some concerns for SPBA review panel

I READ with joy but at the same time trepidation that the issues surrounding the SPBA will be resolved by next month.

I am delighted because the deputy prime minister has been quoted as saying that the prime minister "would give details on the format and how the scheme would be implemented". That the prime minister is prepared to do so underscores the seriousness and confidence of the government that the issues would be resolved in an amicable, just and transparent manner.

Why trepidation? It is not that the resolve of the government has never been stronger, but the very nature in which unions put forward the proposals and recommendations. Many a time, they have been found to be wanting – putting in proposals that only satisfy the majority of the voting members and that bring immediate benefits to themselves.

Here is a checklist for the review committee to scrutinise:
» Are Masters/PhD holders given a grade increase, or a few increments, or at the very least a promotional opportunity/advantage?

» In the case of teachers, does a relevant Masters/PhD qualification entail him/her to the post ofguru pendeta since this very word itself denotes knowledge/philosophy?

» Were the anomalies arising out of the last pay revision (where non-graduates got a 30-35% salary hike compared to only 10-15% for non-graduates) addressed? This issue is especially pertinent to newly-promoted graduates who found themselves getting salaries lower than their non-graduate counterparts.

» Now that even most primary school teachers have degrees, should not the experience of teachers with primary school experience be taken into account in its entirety? (Only three years of their primary school experience is counted.)

» Will those who made special contributions or are resourceful, such as speakers and trainers, be given special incentives, promotional opportunities or pay increases? For teachers, this includes those who sacrifice their holidays and demonstrate their commitment (and expertise) in marking public examination papers.

The government servants mentioned above make up only a minority in the civil service. Their voices are hardly heard. Any salary increase they get won't cost a bomb as they are a small group. But their morale will be boosted and the rewards to the civil service will be immeasurable.

SL Penang

theSundaily  Letters 5 March 2012

Is lack of quality teaching to blame?

I AGREE with the points made by J. D. Lovrenciear in his letter, "Parents fight this tuition menace" (NST, Feb 22).

I commend the writer for his in-depth assessment of the multi-million ringgit tuition industry, which seemingly is accepted by parents, and seems to be part and parcel of the education system for primary and secondary students.

 Sadly, the authorities have not assessed why our pupils have to resort to tuition and whether teachers nowadays are  doing their job with dedication, which may explain why  students require  tuition.

 It is not only those weak in their studies who go for tuition, but brilliant students also fill the seats in tuition centres across the country. This  means every student wants to have tuition if a centre is  in the vicinity.

 Rightly termed by Lovrenciear, tuition is a "menace" that should be seriously addressed by the  Education Ministry  as it reflects  a number of issues schools are doing wrong.


Our education system should incorporate ‘fun’ activities like music to make it less stressful for children

 Foremost is the question of whether school heads and teachers are doing their job. Otherwise, how do we account for so many tuition centres springing up   since 42 years ago when the first wave of students had to go for Bahasa Malaysia tuition when the subject was made a must-pass subject in the then Malaysian Certificate of Education examination?

 I do not know of any country, apart from Malaysia, where students go for tuition in such large numbers.

 Parents nowadays are struggling to make a living and having to include tuition fees into their budget is a financial strain in many homes.

 It is not about kiasu mentality that drives parents to send their children for tuition, but simply it boils down to the fact that our children are not receiving quality education. Therefore, tuition is an unwelcome menace they can't live without.

 The powers that be have to  look into the reasons why  many of our students are going for tuition and address the situation critically. They have to answer the question whether our students are receiving  quality teaching in the classroom.

By Dr Tan Eng Bee, Kajang, Selangor
Source: The New Straits Times Letters to the Editor 05 March 2012

'Less exam-oriented' but still 'tests' are around

Shifting away from test-centric education system, says deputy D-G

THE education system is set to be less exam-oriented with the introduction of a new system of assessment named Pentaksiran Berasaskan Sekolah (PBS). It will involve all primary and lower secondary students beginning 2016.

The assessment system which was introduced to Year One pupils last year and Form One students this year will also see the introduction of "an enhanced" Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) for Year Six pupils in 2016, and the discontinuation of Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) in 2014 for Form Three students.

Deputy director-general of education Datuk Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof said students would be assessed on academic and non-academic fields.

"Such assessment will be carried out continuously in schools by teachers for all subjects throughout the year. It will include school and central assessments; assessment of physical, sports and co-curricular activities; and a psychometric (aptitude) assessment.

"The questions for the central assessments will be prepared by the Malaysian Examinations Syndicate and it would be used by all schools.

"Teachers will evaluate both the school and the central assessments in their respective schools," he told the New Sunday Times.

Pupils in Year One, Two and Three, however, Khair added, would not be involved in the centralised assessments.

For UPSR, he said, 40 per cent of the final results would be based on school assessments with the rest to be divided between centralised assess and the public examination.

"Points accumulation will begin from Year Four based on school and central assessments. The public examination will only contribute a small percentage to the overall UPSR results," he said, adding that the objective of the PBS was for all primary and secondary schools to focus more on learning rather than examinations.

Khair also said that although Form Three students would no longer sit for a public examination, they will be evaluated and certified based on the school and central assessments.

"They will be evaluated based on their performance from Form One up to Form Three.

"This means students who are in Form One now would have begun accumulating their points which will add up to their final results in Form Three."

The Education Ministry, he said, would give out an achievement certificate to Form Three students based on their performance.

Khair, however, said the ministry had yet to name the certification.

Teachers, Khair said, would conduct formative assessments and also summative assessments during the learning process, which are normally carried out at the conclusion of a learning unit or at the end of a semester or at the end of the year.

"This does not mean that teachers have to create test papers or handouts as instruments every time they have to assess pupils' achievement.

With these assessments in place, school-based tests and examinations would be reduced, he said.


Source: The New Straits Times Letters to the Editor 04 March 2012 

Nothing changes if nobody complains

I AM with the sentiments expressed by columnist Wong Sai Wan in “We CAN complain and gripe” (The Star, March 2). It is good for us to complain. If you have something to say, say it. And if not you, who will?

And I agree, too, that we must know the difference between a gripe and a grievance, and what is important and what is trivial. Stop being petty when complaining. Get to the real stuff.

Complaining is a means for people to assert their rights and stand up for themselves. I do that many a time in the newspaper columns. My wife says no one complains more than me! I wish more people would complain.

Instead of feeling empowered, the average citizen may see complaining as both futile and an unsavoury act.

There could be a host of reasons why nearly three quarters of our population will not make a complaint. Some can’t be bothered with the hassle, others don’t know how to go about it, some don’t want to be seen as moaning, and many don’t think it will do any good.

And often we grumble to our friends about being charged too much for a slapdash floor fitting, or how their over-priced train commute is regularly delayed. But, they just don’t want to actually do anything about it.

A food and drinks website survey revealed that 38% of people would never complain about a bad restaurant experience no matter how terrible it was, and 20% of customers don’t complain about unsatisfactory products.

But if nobody complains about substandard products and services then nothing will change.

To complain is to assert one’s rights; to stand up for oneself and not be ripped off or taken advantage of.

It might involve demanding a product replacement, compensation or simply the satisfaction of telling someone that his service is just not good enough.

But it also has significance beyond the personal, because to complain is to say the system is flawed and needs to be improved, and the implications of this can benefit other people and the service providers themselves.

In fact, the word “complain” has more in common with positive action words like “protest” and “feedback”, and less in common with whining self-pity.

A prime example of this positive side is the growing trend of organisations to welcome complaints from its customers.

Forward thinking companies or organisations are always looking for ways to improve their services, and complaints provide an invaluable aid to see where they have gone wrong and what they can do to improve.

This positive attitude towards their more critical audience also helps to maintain customer loyalty.

That said, it is time consumers learn how to make an effective complaint and get redress. I note, and sadly, that many do not know how to lodge a complaint.

In making a complaint please make your letter brief and to the point. The letter should contain all the important facts about your purchase.

Describe your purchase, including any information you can give about the product or service such as serial or model numbers or specific type of service.

Be sure to include the date you made your purchase and location of the store, if appropriate. State what you feel should be done about the problem and how long you are willing to wait to get the problem resolved.

Make sure that you are reasonable in requesting a specific action.

Include copies of any documents regarding your problem, such as receipts, warranties, repair orders, contracts and so forth.

Be reasonable, not angry or threatening, in your letter. Remember, the person reading your letter may not be directly responsible for your problem, and can possibly help resolve it.

Finally, keep copies of your complaint letter and all related documents for your own records, and you may want to send a copy to a state consumer body or to Fomca, the national consumer body.

If you are unsuccessful in getting your complaint resolved directly with the company and must contact other sources for assistance, make reference to your letter.

If you have to contact other sources, such as the Better Business Bureau, or a trade association, be sure to give information about what you have done thus far to get your complaint resolved.

You may also write to the Prime Minister’s Department, which has a bureau for consumer complaints. It can assist you.


Source: The STAR Home News Opinion Monday March 5, 2012