April 9th, 2012

Public Exams: Treat kids with respect

IT is sad to hear of teenagers taking their own lives. Maybe there is a need for an in-depth study on the phenomenon.

When handling kids who show sign of stress, we can do the following:

INSTILL confidence in them;

TELL them all is not over when they don't do well in exams. There are other options out there;

DON'T confuse them. Don't make promises you can't keep. This will make them distrust you;

DON'T make them feel small;

DON'T correct them in front of others. Talk to them in private;

DON'T discuss their behaviour in the heat of moment;

DON'T preach and nag;

DON'T take notice of their small faults;

DON'T be put off when they ask honest questions;

TREAT them like people and not things;

USE guidance, not force;

DON'T think it is beneath your dignity to apologise to them when you are wrong; and

DON'T suggest that you are perfect or infallible.

Be consistent, decisive, and respectful of your children. Teach them to respect teachers. Hold them accountable for their actions. Balance responsibility with forgiveness and love.

By B. S., Seremban, Negri Sembilan 
Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editors 08 April 2012 

Public Exams: Education should be enjoyable

THE death of E. Premkumar recently after failing his SPM examination is a dreadful episode. This is not the first time such a tragedy has occurred. Failure in an examination should not cause a student to end his life.

Unwarranted pressure and high expectations on the part of parents, the school and teachers can be cited as causes of such incidents. Society at large looks at examinations as a source of pride and honour for the family, school, Education Department and the Education Ministry.

There seems to be an academic rat race among students. After all, examinations are just part of the evaluation of the student's academic achievement.

Parents need to understand that examinations are not the only area of concern in education. Students should be taught to see education as wholesome. They must not study just to pass examinations. If a student has not passed his examination, does this mean he or she is not clever? Why ridicule the student for not passing ?

Parents should learn to accept their children as they are. Not everyone can score all As. It is demoralising for students when you compare one with another.

Scoring all As doesn't mean that the student will be successful in life. Straight A achievers are always appreciated and glorified, whereas non-achievers are not given any recognition or even acknowledgement from their parents, school and society at large.

The so-called low- and moderate-achievers also need appreciation for passing examinations. They also need motivation and assurance from all quarters. But, sad to say, this does not happen.

Perhaps, parents and teachers need to change their perception of education. We need to see education as wholesome. A student in his journey through schools and colleges should enjoy education, not mug and struggle to compete in a rat race with his counterparts. At the end of the day, education should mould a person to become better equipped to face the onslaught of life and succeed.

Let us all work together to do away with the stigma attached to examinations. Let our children learn to see examinations as just one facet of the education system.

We should not put undue pressure on children to the extent that they are psychologically disturbed. Show more love and compassion to children and prepare them to face exams positively.

By Dr S. Nathesan, Muar, Johor

Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editors 08 April 2012

Inspire student-centred learning, critical thinking

AFTER much clamouring from various parties, the Education Ministry (MOE) is doing a total review of the education system by holding a nationwide dialogue for feedback.

In 2010, MOE announced the abolishment of the Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) exam in 2016 despite objections from those who felt exams were needed to drive learning.

 MOE will need the same fortitude soon to make unpopular yet needed changes. There is none so critical now as getting rid of our test-centred, grades-obsessed educational culture to establish a public school system of choice for all Malaysians.

 Whenever our public exam results are released, the media would glorify the high scorers and high-scoring schools. Our educational culture views the ultimate goal of schooling as getting the highest possible grades.

 Students are streamed into classes based on their grades. Schools are under pressure to produce more high scorers  to get more funding, so teachers focus on what will be tested.

 Parents ferry their children starting from Year One to tuition classes where model answers are given for predicted exam questions. Coupled with heavy homework, our students find life a drudgery as they quickly lose their natural curiosity and childhood wonder.

 Those who fail to get the desired grades are looked down, driving some to find acceptance in gangs or escape by suicide.  

 This Asian educational culture probably originated with imperial China's examination system, which enabled ordinary citizens to enter the upper class of society.

  While the best Chinese minds were memorising facts to pass exams, the West valued enquiry and investigation of natural phenomena, allowing them to make discoveries leading to technological advance.

  Several Asian nations are now so good at exams that they regularly beat the United States in the Programme for International Student Assessment test, but they will be nowhere near the US when it comes to Nobel prizes.

 The founding president of Google China said  the next Apple or Google will not arise from Asia, but probably in the US, because "American entrepreneurs can think outside of the box because of their education".

 For Malaysia to compete in an innovation-led economy, we  need to change our educational culture.

 The positive side of the Western educational culture is that students are encouraged to generate ideas and express their thoughts, whereas students here are expected to keep quiet and agree without question.

 In the West, teachers value the opinion of even the academically weaker students who thus feel no rejection based on grades, while their top students are not worshiped by the press.

  In that culture, children grow up daring to venture without fearing failure. By contrast in Asia, exam grades are used to label a child as either clever or stupid, or a school as either good or bad.

 The Asian educational culture is perpetuated by teachers who practice teacher-centred learning, where knowledge is to be transmitted from teachers to students who absorb it passively like empty vessels. There is now a global shift towards student-centred learning, whereby students take responsibility for their own learning, with teachers  providing a conducive learning environment.

 This approach is needed now because what we teach today may be outdated tomorrow, hence our students need to learn how to find information for themselves and apply it to their situation.

 Our curriculum, particularly the sciences, should make full use of  inductive teaching methods, such as problem-based, enquiry-based and discovery learning. This requires students to be active and independent learners while fostering enquiry and critical thinking.  

 We need to inspire a love of learning through approaches that make learning interesting and that help retain information longer.

 Language teachers should make liberal use of  active learning methods like debates and role playing, and facilitate experiential learning through  field trips.

 Motivation can be improved with a greater range of Science and Arts subjects and removal of the Arts-Science class distinction.

 The abolishing of the PMR is an important first step in reducing exam-centric learning and  tuition culture. There should be minimal test questions asking for simple factual recall as these encourage rote learning of superficial knowledge. And there should be more questions requiring justification of answers or problem solving.

 Aside from written tests, marks can come from projects where students are graded for original thought, communication, teamwork and leadership. These are the skills needed in the k-economy where wealth is generated by creating new knowledge, not regurgitating old knowledge.

 Traditional Chinese education is teacher-centred, and the cane is used to ensure student compliance. However, the need now is not conformity, but creativity.  

 When MOE implemented the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English in 2003, many parents with children in Chinese primary schools were happy with the added benefit of increased exposure to the English language.  However, many schools ended up teaching in both Mandarin and English because their teachers were mostly incompetent in English.

  The MOE is  doing its most extensive education system review for a long time. We cannot afford to wait until the next review to change our educational culture.

 For many parents, the teacher-centred, exam-centred culture is the only one they have known for all their lives. It would take  extensive  roadshows highlighting the problems with this culture for them to see the need for change.

 That is why the democratic practice of collecting opinions from all stakeholders may not serve us well. Ultimately, what people want is not an educational system that incorporates everybody's suggestions, but one in which they are confident of sending their children to.

 The most important role of MOE is not to stitch together everyone's ideas into one consensus document, but to design an innovative, farsighted system and  rally the support of Malaysian parents by explaining to them why it is the best for their children.

Dr  William K. Lim, Associate Professor, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Sarawak

Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editors 09 April 2012 

'Dr M had a personal grudge against me'

REVELATION: In a candid interview with P. Selvarani, former MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, who is now Malaysia's special envoy for infrastructure to India and South Asia, claims former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad played a role in his shocking defeat to a political novice at the last general election in 2008

Question:  You held the post of MIC president for 31 years. What was the most painful part for you when you let go of the party leadership?

Answer: I let go of the post happily. While I was the president, I also became the minister of works and I had the political clout to do more things for the community. When I contested the last general election (March 2008), I decided it would be my last term in office.

I told my people that there are other younger leaders who should come forward and take over and manage the party. If I had been forced to go, it would have been painful. But it was a gradual and peaceful transition.

Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu

Question: Do you feel that you have left the party in good hands?

Answer: I have left the party. I don't want to make any comments. But I only hope that the party is built to the same strength it was.

Question: Are you disappointed with the way MIC is being run now?

Answer: I won't say I am disappointed. I am not the president of MIC but I still have contact with all the leaders. Some people think because I have left the MIC leadership, I am a nobody. But time will show whether I am somebody or not. Every day, I talk to branch leaders. They are the grassroots, that is where the votes lie. We make them happy, they bring double results. We don't make them happy, they feel rejected.

Question: Are you saying the party leadership is not touching base with the grassroots?

Answer: I feel the (election) machinery has not moved yet. It's not just about leaders moving here and there. At every place, the local machinery has to work. Similarly, the Indian voter machinery has to work. Otherwise, we may lose some votes here and there.

Question: How do you think MIC will fare in Sungai Siput this time?

Answer: I still go there to meet old friends. There is a coffee shop called Teratai. It's the first coffee shop in Sungai Siput. When I am there, people rush to shake my hand. I see a lot of change in the thinking of the Chinese, Indians and even Malay voters. The Malay votes are important.

The MIC candidate will stand a good chance this time because that constituency started developing from 1978 when I became minister. From that time, I had a master plan to develop Sungai Siput. You can go and see what I have done.

Question: You have defended the seat since 1974. What was the first thought that crossed your mind when you lost the seat to a relative unknown in the 2008 election?

Answer: It is nobody's mistake why I lost. We won all the previous elections. But when we attempted to bring back Sungai Siput voters from the outside to vote, 1,600 of them came (and) I lost the election. Don't blame the Sungai Siput people. And this time, 2,000 Indians moved out. All the outstation voters we brought in, voted against us.

(In the 2008 general election, Samy Vellu was defeated in the Sungai Siput parliamentary seat by Parti Keadilan Rakyat's Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj by a 1,821-vote majority. The independent candidate Nor Rizan Oon polled 864 votes. There were 1,001 spoilt votes.)

Question: Why did you lose?

Answer: Someone instigated the Malay voters not to vote for me.

Question: The instigator was from outside Barisan Nasional?

Answer: No, no, it was from within. The person was also in politics.

Question: What do you think of BN's chances in the next elections?

Answer: Barisan Nasional will not lose. It is a strong coalition and there is every reason for them to win. It is the only one which has ruled this country for more than 50 years and built a nation.

In the rest of the world, you can never see a nation like this. It's Barisan that built this. Barisan still can go forward provided they meet the needs of the new generation of voters.

Question: But there is still some squabbling in the coalition?

Answer: If you want to see squabbling, you look at the (political) parties in India. But here, the alliance that was forged by (first prime minister) Tunku Abdul Rahman is still there. It has been enlarged to become BN. And through his leadership, we can see the understanding and brotherhood built between the communities. Tun Hussein Onn was a strict man (when it came to) law and order.

Then came (Tun Dr) Mahathir (Mohamad). Dr Mahathir, prior to the (2008) election, told the people "Don't vote for Samy Vellu". Where did the 1,001 spoilt votes come from? Because of his advice (to) Malay voters. He told Umno (members) "don't vote for Samy Vellu".

Question: But why would he do that?

Answer: He had a personal grudge. But I don't hold a grudge against him. I always think of him as the greatest leader of this country. He is the builder of this nation. I'll say it again and again... the greatest experience I had was working with Dr Mahathir for 22 years.

Question: It must have really upset you when you found out?

Answer: It did upset me. After I lost, voters came to me and said: "Datuk Seri, tahu tak mengapa kita tak undi? Dr Mahathir sudah kata jangan undi Datuk Seri." (Datuk Seri, do you know why we did not vote for you? Dr Mahathir told us not to vote for you.)

That hurt a lot but it doesn't in any way reduce my respect for him. I call him the builder. Why is Malaysia so modern? Mahathir.

Why is Malaysia known to the world? Mahathir. Why do people feel we are tough? Because of the tough rule of Mahathir.

All this modernisation. I always say "Malaysia modernised by Mahathir... MMM" (smiles ).

When he said he resigned at the (Umno) general assembly, I cried. The first person I rang up was (Tan Sri) Rafidah (Aziz) and asked her what was happening. Then, we all came to Kuala Lumpur. To see him, talk to him.

You know, that's a different generation of leaders. Now, people can say Mahathir didn't do this properly, Mahathir didn't do that properly. It's easy to talk. He is a great man. I always pray for him. I ask God to give him (a) long life.

Question: Did you feel backstabbed?

Answer: You see, there are reasons he (Dr Mahathir) felt hurt. I'll tell you now. The people also must know. He was close to me. Why was he hurt? He wanted to bring the IPF (Indian Progressive Front), (the late Tan Sri M.G.) Pandithan's party into Barisan. Everybody (other BN component party leaders) agreed (but), I said no.

The third time, he told me: "I want them to be inside", I just kept quiet. Then when the voting was done, (I said) "No, sir, I don't agree". That is the reason the friendship we had is gone. It's because of IPF. Nothing else.

After I voted (against it), he looked at me like that (from the corner of the eyes), shook his head, shrugged and said: "Okaylah, we lost!"

Question: How is your relationship with Dr Mahathir now?

Answer: If he sees me anywhere, I just shake hands with him. I look at it this way, he is older than me. He may be right, I may be wrong.

Question: It's magnanimous of you.

Answer: I pray to God to give him (a) long life. Sometimes, when I am alone (welling up with tears), I think of him and cry. Because such a good leader, the country has never had before. Of course, besides Datuk Seri Najib (Razak).

He (Tun Dr Mahathir) is a great man. Great, great, great man. I don't think we will have one like him (voice starts to choke and he reaches out for a tissue). Great planner, great implementor, great thinker. I never said one word against him.

Question: Coming back to MIC, is it on the right track keeping in mind the current political scenario?

Answer: I don't think the country has ever encountered the kind of challenges we are facing now. This is the greatest challenge to BN in its existence of more than 50 years. To face these challenges, we have to re-organise ourselves and strengthen the grassroots by giving leaders on the ground more independence to do the work, get the voters and get ready for the battle. That is a big job for the party leadership.

Question: Are you saying that they did not have this independence before?

Answer: In the past, before the prime minister announced the election, I would have set up an election committee. We would have had meetings all over the states. And we'll meet every branch leader and find out the number of voters, both from within and outside MIC. We will then approach them and find out their problems.

Question: If that was what MIC was doing, why is it that many of the Indian votes did not go to BN in the last elections?

Answer: The reason is, to tell you the truth, the government did not understand the importance of the Indian voters all this while. I have been fighting in the cabinet for almost 29 years, putting forward their problems one after the other. Every time we have an economic conference, we present papers, the papers will go to the government but when they come back, there is nothing.

Question: Why?

Answer: Because at that time, BN was strong. And MIC was a small party. I think that was the attitude at that time. The Indians were angry because they lost so many things in the process. And they wanted to just show their anger. And that is what happened in the last elections.

Question: Were they also venting out their anger at MIC because it was the biggest party representing Indians in the cabinet? People are saying that if not for Hindraf (Hindu Rights Action Force) and groups like that, the government would not be giving Indians the kind of recognition that they are giving now.

Answer:  No, no, no, no. If Hindraf is responsible for this, why didn't they do it 10 years earlier? It was a political gimmick. Of course, they created some unrest in the mind of Indians. There are two ways of doing it. One is to go to the streets and do it. The other is to sit with the people and discuss with them, ask them for their support.

Question: Why is it that despite MIC fighting for the rights of Indians all these years, it is only recently over the past two years that the government is recognising the needs of the community, such as giving stateless Indians citizenship and MyKad?

Answer: I call this "mentality change".

Question: On the part of?

Answer: The government. If Najib was not the prime minister, this won't happen. It's one man. One man decided change must be made. That one man is running throughout the country. Everybody is thinking that one man's work is enough. I don't. But the BN government has changed its attitude and has come out with new programmes. You can see this change.

Question: What is your most memorable moment as party president?

Answer: It's the completion of the Asian Institute of Medicine, Science and Technology (AIMST). I still enjoy looking at the architecture of the building, which was done by Hijjas Kasturi, one of the best architects in the country. Second, is the establishment of the Maju Institute of Educational Development (MIED) which has now educated 14,500 students.

And we concentrated on the Tamil schools. I started in 1985 to build Tamil schools after a big struggle with Dr Mahathir to get the money. Dr Mahathir is the first one who gave money to the minister of works to start. He gave me RM5 million. Later, Tun Daim (Zainuddin) and he jointly approved RM14 million. Then another RM20 million. During my time, I built about 78 new Tamil schools. Tamil schools are my life because I came from a Tamil school.

Question: Recently, you were quoted as saying that Indians should be grateful to BN for building and repairing Tamil schools and you received a lot of flak for that statement.

Answer: I didn't say that. I said that Indians should be thankful to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak for having taken so much interest in the rebuilding of Tamil schools. I was misquoted.

Question: But isn't it the duty of the government to provide such facilities?

Answer: It is the duty of the government but it is also in our culture to say thank you. So even if it is your duty to feed me, I still say "thank you". The reason I say Tamil schools is important is because (the issue of) Tamil schools can be political sometimes. Datuk Seri Najib has given about RM350 million now to Tamil schools. And if the government goes on like that, all Tamil schools in the country will have a new image.

Question: After the last election, we find a lot of young voters talking about moving away from race-based politics. What are your views?

Answer: Fundamentally, we are Malaysians. When we are Malaysians, we still entertain other cultures. I think people are moving closer together. There will come a day when I won't say I am an Indian, somebody won't say he is a Malay, another won't say he is a Chinese. But it will take a lot of time.

Question: In the light of this new kind of thinking, do you think MIC will still be relevant?

Answer: MIC is still relevant for the community. Otherwise, there will be no one to raise their needs to the government.

Question: Your detractors have always accused you of ruling with an iron fist when you were MIC president, to make sure that everyone toes the line. Do you think it was a fair portrayal of your leadership style?

Answer: (Laughs) I have never used a fist to ask people to toe the line. I ask them to follow the Constitution. The Constitution is above anybody else. During my time, you would have seen a lot of people becoming state assemblymen, members of parliament. They never made any complaint. When I was there, unity was there. I united this party into one. Even if I see an enemy, I will say "hey, how are you?" and shake his hand.

Even when there were suggestions that Subra (former deputy MIC president Datuk S. Subramaniam), who used to contest against me, and I work together, I said "okay". We had a meeting at the Hyatt Singapore over lunch one day, we discussed. You know how long we discussed? Only five minutes. After that, we worked together for many years.

Question: So, all this talk about your deputies falling out of favour with you are not true?

Answer: Some people created them purposely to degrade MIC.

Question: So, there was no friction between you and Datuk Subramaniam?

Answer: No, no. Sometimes, Subra contested against me for the presidency. Then after that, I won, he lost. We go for makan, and we finish it there (laughs).

Question: In all your years in politics, do you have any regrets?

Answer: Human beings always feel that something should have been done and I am still continuing to do it, sitting at MIED. We are still working on the education part. And then on the university side, we want more students to come and we are trying to find more ways to help the poor.

We have the Yayasan Pemulihan Sosial which helps the poor. I am now chairman of Yayasan MIED and AIMST. I have no regrets. I am happy and my mind is clear now.

By P. Selvarani 

Source: New Straits Times General Sunday Interview 08 April 2012 

Dr M: I have no grudge against anyone, including Samy Vellu

PUTRAJAYA: Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad says he does not harbour any grudge against anyone, including former MICpresident Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu.

In a speedy response to revelations contained in an interview given by the former MIC chief published in the New Sunday Times, Dr Mahathir said he was 'very unhappy' when Samy kept removing capable leaders such as former MIC deputy president Datuk S. Subramaniam and the late Tan Sri M. G. Pandithan who had "the potential to take over from him (Samy)."

Dr Mahathir also refuted claims that he played a role in Samy's shocking defeat in the Sungai Siput parliamentary seat in the 2008 General Election.

"In 2008, it is not only Samy who lost but a lot of (other) people (also) lost (in the general election)," he said, adding that "it is not because of me," and cited the leadership of his successor, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, as one of the reasons for the poor showing by Barisan Nasional.

"I did not tell the people in Sungai Siput not to vote for Samy, but my criticism of the leadership of Pak Lah (Abdullah) affected the thinking of lots of voters and because of that, they did not support Barisan Nasional and along with it, of course, Samy.

"That was the situation. It is not a question of grudge. It is a question concerning the strength of BN (Barisan Nasional) and its component parties," he told reporters at a press conference here on Monday.

Samy claimed that Dr Mahathir had a personal grudge against him as he (Samy) was the only one who voted against the Indian Progressive Front (IPF) from joining Barisan.

However, Dr Mahathir explained that the proposal to bring in the late Pandithan and IPF into Barisan was to strengthen the Indian community's support for Barisan, but Samy was against it.

"We have to have total agreement in Barisan before we can admit any new party. So, there was nothing I could do about it. As a result, I think MIC became weaker," he said.

When asked about the effects of removing leaders of a certain calibre and following in a political party, Dr Mahathir said this would only bring more harm than good as these people usually left with their supporters.

"Everytime he (Samy) sees somebody who has potential, he makes sure they are removed. When you remove the leader, it is not (that) one person who goes off but he takes away his supporters (as well), and as a result, the MIC shrinks," said Dr Mahathir.

Citing his own experience, Dr Mahathir said he had welcomed leaders such as Tengku Razaleigh HamzahTan Sri Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzirand Abdullah who had campaigned against him during the days of Semangat 46, and had even appointed them as ministers.

"I want Umno to be strong and I have to accept them, and even gave them positions in the government...you expel them, you also expel their followers and this will weaken the party," he said.

On MIC's position today, Dr Mahathir said it was much stronger now after Samy handed over the party's presidency to his successor, Datuk Seri G. Palanivel, after 31 years.

"Many people are coming back. Some of those who are not happy with Samy are coming back now. I hope MIC will regain its strength in the next general election," he said. - Bernama

Source: The STAR Online Home News Nation Monday April 09, 2012

Saluting the stalwarts

This article pays tribute to the early Stti lecturers who made the difference by inclucating in their students a deep understanding of a subject that was given scant attention before.

IT WILL be remiss on my part not to mention the three men and a lady (for that would be a more gracious way to describe the only woman), who managed Specialist Teachers Training Institute’s (STTI) Physical Education Department in 1962, which is the subject of this article.

The defining factor in the success of any course is much determined by the quality of its staff. The initial appointments of the staff in STTI consisted of Teoh Teik Lee (Now Datuk) and Lim Hock Han; the first year (1960) of its operation being confined to men teachers.

In 1962, we had Dennis D’Silva who was transferred from MTC Penang and Mohd Nor Che Noh and Mary Ghouse to join the teaching staff.

Lim was later transferred to head the PE department at MTC, in Kuala Lumpur and eventually left to join the Ministry of Education, Singapore.

From left to right: Wong Siew Hoon, Ivy Khoo, Ho Chee Eng, Ho Peng Yoong, Datuk Teoh and Datin Teoh.

These were lecturers who made a great impact in our lives.

They were the epitome of men with values of discipline, commitment, proper work ethics and passion for hard work. It was indeed our good fortune to have studied under such dedicated teachers.

They had remained faithful to their calling until their retirement from teaching. Even after retirement, they remained our firm friends.

Today, Teoh continues to remind his former charges the benefits of a healthy body through the sound practice of physical education in life, as epitomised by the well-defined body of an octogenarian. Sadly the others have passed on.

The writer can be reached at stti.classof62@yahoo.com

An exemplary teacher

Teoh Teik Lee (now Datuk) was appointed senior lecturer to head the Physical Education (PE) Department when STTI opened its doors to its first intake of students – qualified teachers – for specialist training in a number of subjects. Before assuming the post, he was assistant superintendent of PE and had been organising in-service courses for teachers throughout the country.

Thus, he had come to the institute well-informed of the needs of the physical education programmes in schools as well as that of the teachers.

Placed in such a position, he was able to plan wide-ranging programmes of training for PE teachers in schools.

A man of a few words with a rather reticent nature; initially, it did not help to ease an apparent serious atmosphere between lecturer and student.

However, as the months passed by, we realised the value of his firm, yet fair way of doing things. The “serious” atmosphere soon gave way to a friendlier one which contributed to a happier working condition. And, more importantly, we came to understand him better.

In time, he was soon to join us in a number of games – hockey, volleyball, badminton and softball - against visiting sides and in away matches. His participation in our activities and inter-club matches helped to break the ice and endeared us to him especially since he was a player of strength in our teams.

He had earned his colours, so to say, for he was in the teams on merit. And, I think he enjoyed playing with us — and winning!

The PE department seemed to be his second home. He was always seen at the Institute, on week-days often till late at night when there was an inter-club match. Except for the occasional Sunday, week-ends would see him and his two sons and daughter swimming in the pool and the two boys would put us to shame as they lapped the pool. His presence was ever pervasive and it was difficult not to notice his love for his work at the institute.

It can truly be said that through his exemplary ways in running the department, Teoh had imbued in us the values of belief in the subject, commitment and good work ethics which were to be a feature of our career. In his lessons, particularly in swimming and gymnastics, he was ever vigilant with safety foremost in his mind.

Teoh certainly brought out in us the spirit of working together and enjoying the camaraderie of friends.

He was seen as a man of principle, to the point of being rigid which often prevented us from asking a favour of him. To dare was sometimes to be rewarded. Although he said, “No”, to an assignment to be handed up a day later, he did permit us to attend a cricket game in which the world-renowned Gary Sobers and his side played a Malayan team at the Selangor Padang. (now Dataran Merdeka).

Perhaps, it is this ability of seeing things in perspective that he was made, twice, acting principal of the Institute when the principal was on leave prior to retirement.

Teoh is also the founding president of two national organisations. In 1961 he formed the Physical Education Association of Malaya, a professional body, aimed at promoting physical education and sports in the country.

In 1964, at the request of Lord Mountbatten, he established the Life Saving Society of Malaysia to promote water safety and life saving. He has served in these two community-oriented organisations for decades; the former for 15 years and the latter for nearly 50 years.

Even in retirement, his former charges continue to seek him out for advice and to chat over old times.

A natural sportsman

The late Dennis D’Silva, was in his late twenties and closer to our age, had a better lecturer-student relationship with us as he regarded us as his friends. However, we still respected him as our lecturer.

Simply, his demeanour was friendlier, less intimidating and more approachable to our queries in or out of lectures.

He proceeded to Laborough College of Physical Education after completing his teacher training course at Kirkby, England. He began his career as a PE lecturer in MTC before being transferred to STTI in 1962 as one of the three lecturers under whom we were tutored. He was later transferred to MTC, Johor Baru where he retired as the senior lecturer of the PE department there.

D’Silva was a successful sportsman, cricket being his forte, and having represented the country in that sport. He was also strong in hockey and rugger, the two games he enjoyed playing with the STTI college teams.

Likewise, we welcomed him into our teams; with his robust physique he was a great asset, in particular rugger. With his sinewy arm muscles, one could understand his interest in javelin throwing and the crack of the hockey stick as he sent the hockey ball down the line.

He was fond of the out-of-door life in the wilds and was much inclined to hunting.

The PE ‘historian’

Mohd Nor Mod Noh who has since passed on, was definitely ‘one of us’.

Although about half a dozen years older than us, he had started his teaching career late and was in the first batch of STTI students. He, too, was a product of the MTC, Kirkby, and was known to a number of us before coming to the Institute.

Rather gregarious and with his affable and carefree mannerism, Mohd Nor was accepted as one of “us”. He was our friend.

However, it was different when it came to lectures. He was able to command our respect with his lively delivery and, putting aside friendship, we had great admiration for his efforts especially in leading us in the study of the history of physical education.

Well built and active, he had played rugger for his state and naturally became a valuable player in the STTI team which at that time was of some repute. He was quite adept at shot putt and the discus throw and lectured us in Athletics as well.

All credit to Mohd Nor for his determination in bettering himself in the field. After finishing at STTI, he took it upon himself to secure his PhD in a local university and for a time, even extended his services to Brunei. He was one of the earlier pioneers in blazing the trail for a degree programme in PE.

The ‘lady lecturer’

The late Mrs Mary Ghouse was much involved with the women in their activities such as dance and educational gymnastics in which the men were not involved.

Her only contact with us was by way of activities for the whole class during our camping trips where both the men and women worked together.

Although Ghouse did not conduct any lectures for the men, she was always friendly towards us and we found in her a sincere and helpful person whenever we were in need of assistance.

We were fortunate to have lecturers who were par excellence in their work, imparting in us a deep knowledge of the subject, and we left the institute with much hope and vision for the future of physical education in our schools.

By Ho Chee Eng

Source: The STAR Online Home Education Sunday, April 09, 2012

Teacher stereotypes

Time and again we come across people at work who seem to have similar streaks and characteristics of other annoying colleagues.

WHILE the following is probably true of other professions and people in general, every once in a while in your teaching career, you do come across someone who bears an uncanny resemblance to someone else you know, or work with.

Many times, the similarities are not just based on the way they look, but on certain character traits that strikingly remind you of another person you know. In fact, of several other people you know.

You may have never believed in stereotypes or classifying people into categories by their unique or character traits or “trademarks”, but sometimes you may find it unavoidable.

And if you have been a teacher long enough, you will know that stereotypes do exist at least to a certain extent, because you seem to be bumping into the same kind of people in the six different schools you’ve been.

What is worse, you bump into them during meetings or courses with teachers from schools in different states in the country and this strengthens your belief in this whole stereotype thing. In fact you may be wondering if you are a stereotype yourself and how others are viewing you.

One of the first on the list of teacher stereotypes would definitely have to be the teacher who knows it all, or rather appears to know it all.

Well even if she doesn’t know quite everything about everything, she makes it a point to let you know that she certainly knows more than you.

Mention a certain news article you read recently about global warming and she’ll tell you about the melting of glaciers, rising sea levels, climate changes and NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) findings on the subject.

Ms know-it all

Talk about the impending changes in the curriculum, and she knows all about it already.

In fact, if you heard her right, she was the one that the decision makers consulted before there was even any talk of change.

Pretty soon it begins to seem as if “smarter-than-you teacher” has first-hand and complete information about everything that’s happening in the world, country and staffroom.

At times, she makes you feel that she knows more about you than you yourself do.

On the positive side, you can always count on her to provide significant information you may need from time to time, like when the principal will return from his China trip, who is in line for promotion, and how to get the measurements of ingredients right on a frozen cheese cake (only yours will never turn out quite as good as hers).

A close relative of “smarter-than-you teacher” is of course the better-than-you teacher who is always a notch or two higher than you on any scale and who takes great pains to demonstrate it.

Always better

This is the kind of person you should avoid when you are especially pleased with a certain outcome of your lesson or feel proud about a good review you’ve received from your students.

Don’t ever mention this in the presence of “better-than-you” because chances are that your joy of achievement will be diluted by her reference to the numerous, wonderful compliments she’s received about her teaching and the many cards and gifts of appreciation lavished upon her by eternally grateful students.

Nothing anyone has ever experienced compares to hers.

Talk about how you thought you got a really good deal with the fish you bought at the local market, and she’ll tell you how she managed to get fresher fish of a higher quality at a cheaper price elsewhere.

If you talk about how you got only four hours of sleep the previous night trying to finish grading students’ exercises, she’ll let you know that she only had three. And if you complain about how you had to come to school despite the bad headache, guess who is in school despite a migraine, back-ache and bad tummy?

“Better-than-you”, however is still possibly preferable to the “perennial-pessimist”, the one who is always negative and has nothing good to say about anything or anyone.

She is constantly telling you about how terrible the school administration, canteen, hall, field, toilet and staffroom are, and how she herself is victimised.

She’ll tell that all’s bad with the world and especially the education system, and that there’s no hope left for the next generation of students. According to “perennial-pessimist”, everything about school in general is doomed to end in failure.

Spending more time than necessary in her presence makes you feel depressed and you come away feeling a little drained of both energy and enthusiasm.

Then of course there will always be the “over-zealous and stickler-for-rules” teacher who makes flexibility sound like a bad word. This is the one who follows the letter to the dot and can sometimes make life miserable for others who aren’t overly obsessed with formalities.

She is also super-efficient, completely disciplined in her personal habits and could at times be a health and fitness fanatic.

So take care not to munch those oil-dripping curry puffs in front of her. Her work and everything else about her is always up to the mark. Hers is the record book you wouldn’t want to place yours next to when you send it in to the principal’s room for weekly checking.


There is however a tendency to be examination-obsessed which results in a loss of soul and passion in the teaching-learning experience in her classes.

On the other extreme is the laid-back, carefree and almost bohemian teacher whom you have never known to get worked up over deadlines or duties no matter how ridiculous they maybe.

Nothing perturbs or rattles her and she works at her own pace, in her own unconventional manner (which some of course equate to not working at all). Surprisingly though, she does manage to finish her work at the eleventh hour.

She is the nightmare of all principals and school administrators but turns out to be a good friend and listener and someone you could tell the most horrible thing about yourself to without the feeling of being judged.

On the bright side, you would rather have her company than the others and, you are always secretly (and shamefully) relieved that there will always be someone who turns in their work later than you when deadlines are imposed.

There probably is no end to stereotypes when you come to think about it, and most of us are probably in the overlapping zones of several types ourselves. Still it is a little amazing sometimes that people are not so very different from each other after all, and quite possibly the things we dislike most in someone else could be a reflection of ourselves that we see in them.


Source: The STAR Home Education Sunday April 08, 2012

Allow students to think and reason

I READ with interest the article under the heading “ Thinking out of the box” by Mallika Vasugi (StarEducate, March 25) and yes, I concur with her thoughts and would like to add my views on the subject of reading, reflecting and responding. After all isn’t that what reading of literary texts is all about?

The problem arises when teachers start “grooming” students to answer comprehension questions according to exam requirements.

That, to me, takes away the joy of reading literature texts, and we wonder why students don’t read!

How about “talking” and “doing” things about what has been read?

This requires the teacher to gently and progressively guide students through literal level of understanding to evaluation and appreciation of both the content and structure of the text. It also means that the teacher has her heart in the right place because she values students’ holistic engagement with the text at the cognitive, affective, and psycho-motor levels for a rewarding learning experience.

Such treatment of a text ensures that students’ higher order thinking skills (HOTS) are engaged apart from their usual lower order thinking skills (LOTS) which we give them lots of when we use only the basic 4Ws of literal comprehension line of questioning. Even the basic 4Ws (who, where, what and why) can be made challenging if we choose to do so.

After all, the Ministry is perhaps already asking teachers to give students more of the HOTS than lots of LOTS when they are told to teach CCTS (critical and creative thinking skills). The fact that we are still talking about it means there is a problem.

During my reading workshops with teachers I note that only a few teachers will venture into formulating “why” and “how” questions. Many are content to stop at the 4Ws.

If students are not guided to think of what is contained in their own “box” first, how can we expect them to stretch and think “out of the box?” It is also frightening when teachers think that no more than one answer is acceptable all the time!

They don’t realise they are curtailing thinking – their own and that of their students. How can such a teacher grow? Leave alone her students. This is what happens if you teach only for exams; you are not educating, you are not helping them develop skills to handle any reading texts they may come across, you are only “grooming candidates” for exams – exams which unfortunately are restrictive and don’t measure formative learning.

Some teachers are not even aware of the reading comprehension taxonomies that are available to them. I often recommend Barrett’s reading comprehension taxonomy with its five categories and sub-skills under each category to gently and progressively guide students to stretch their thinking modalities.

Teachers must know that good readers use a variety of reasoning abilities, their previous knowledge and experience, to derive meaning from the text. Creating a rich learning context is important for a rich learning experience.

Teachers must also know that low or high level questions will in turn merit low or high levels of thinking, and by extension, limit or facilitate student achievement. I also often wonder why teachers cannot tweak their reading comprehension activities to make them more engaging.

One example, ask students to formulate questions instead, of graded levels of difficulty. Such skills also teach them that reading is never done in a vacuum; one needs to use a basic mechanism of reference and that context is important.

If teachers care to look, there are many ways to make a reading lesson interactive and innovative but most teachers prefer remaining conventional than being creative.

It still remains a puzzle ... if the Ministry fervently desires that CCTS be effectively taught and practised, then why does the examination body restrict student responses to a single “acceptable” answer in the exam for questions where other answers may be possible or plausible?

Shouldn’t the guide to examiners include “ ... or any other acceptable response”?

That said, I believe teachers with HOTS know that they are teaching for a higher cause than only for exams and it is these teachers who will do well by their students. Trust me, HOTS-students in turn will much appreciate this!


Source: <a text-decoration:none"="" data-cke-saved-href="http://thestar.com.my/education/story.asp?file=/2012/4/8/education/11015939&sec=education" href="http://thestar.com.my/education/story.asp?file=/2012/4/8/education/11015939&sec=education">The STAR Home Education Sunday April 09, 2012

Look into needs of under-performers too

WITH schools in celebration mood after the recently announced 2011 SPM results, a pertinent question to ask is: Are our schools doing enough to help students who are below-average and way-below-average in their studies?

With schools eagerly aspiring to achieve high-performance-school (HPS) status, their main focus seems to be on the “average”, “better-than-average” and “way-above-average” students.

These students are perceived to be the “sure bets” to secure good grades in public exams and therefore bring honour to their school. They are the more treasured students.

Any wonder then that in many schools some classes both at primary and secondary school level are simply left on their own. The teachers are not motivated; neither do they motivate students in these classes.

The students are considered “hopeless” cases since they are lagging too far behind. Why? Because they don’t seem to have language skills; no idea and knowledge of the subjects taught and are undisciplined.Schools are assiduously selective in implementing their improvement programmes. Students are streamed based on their performances in earlier school exams. For classes in examination years (i.e. the UPSR / PMR / SPM classes), the “best” teachers are assigned to the “best” classes while “difficult” teachers get the “difficult” classes. Some “difficult” classes are even deprived of the use of science laboratories and special purposed rooms purportedly due to lack of facilities and or to prevent vandalism.

Schools have done the mathematics and strategise accordingly on how best to secure those high percentage passes and top grades in public exams. The school authorities think that it is alright to “sacrifice” a class or two so long as the best classes are pushed to their limits in their scoring. The perception is that it is no use working on the “hopeless” classes.

Their improvement, if any at all, will have little impact on the overall results which is what really matters to the schools.

The Literacy and Numeracy (LINUS) programme has ensured that students master the very basics in languages and Mathematics. It does not, however, prescribe that students must also master the different subjects for exams.

Students who have begun to lag behind in their earlier years of study, for instance during the level one (Years One to Three) in primary school, will find the going tougher and tougher as they are automatically promoted every year.

By the time they reach secondary school, they are totally lost. And, secondary school teachers complain that they are no longer “salvageable.”

There are supposedly remedial lessons/classes for those who are keen to study but they are in effect half-hearted attempts by the school authorities and do not bring about the desired results.

Schools are more driven by enrichment rather than remedial programmes for there is where the honour and rewards are. Granted that there are students who are not studying and performing for a myriad of reasons, there are also in their midst students who are lost not out not of their own doing nor for want of trying. These are the children, whom the schools MUST help.

Have schools done any survey or possessed any means to separate the wheat from the chaff?

In their pursuit for excellence, perhaps schools need also to give fair consideration to the needs of the below-average performers. No doubt, greater efforts and much hard work are required in this area. But, all children who want to study deserve all the attention and help their schools can give.

Perhaps the Education Ministry should also look at what and how schools are doing for the lowest 20% of their students. What patterns are the grades distributions for this group of students in the various subjects they take? Have they shown any improvement over the years? Or, this is simply the neglected group whose grades distribution is “flat” all through the years concerned; hovering at grades “D-E-F” or have they remained unchanged?

It is time the Education Ministry also assesses and audits schools looking at the other end of their performance curve or graphs. Such assessments and audits are indicative of the true and indiscriminate efforts by schools in educating their charges.


The STAR Online  Sunday April 08, 2012