April 28th, 2012

Pupils love fun and playful activities

WHY do children “walk to school and run home” in a figurative manner of speech? It is because the home offers them much excitement and fun.

 The children have access to the latest gadgets and technology that provide hours of entertainment and amusement.   

 The school, on the other hand, is mundane and “sleep-inducing”, as revealed in a survey  a few years ago on classroom teaching.

 The scenario in  primary school classrooms is  devoid of fun and play activity. Chalk and talk, textbooks, workbooks and worksheets are the order of the day.

 Primary schoolchildren are playful and love  fun activities.

 English language teaching has always been considered as difficult and boring because of the stereotype lessons and  a syllabus that is dry and dull.

 The report, “Pupils learn English the fun way” (NST, March 27), had 50 primary schoolchildren in Raub in a two-hour NST Niexus workshop learning English the fun way.

 Students  meaningful, exciting lessons away from the “chalk and talk”.

 Schools should organise more field trips, real-life experiences and self-initiated programmes to make learning fun

Teachers have a lot of responsibilities  and are unable to carry out their core business of teaching effectively.

 They are bogged down by  paperwork and clerical duties.

 The class size also makes it difficult for  teachers to carry out activity-based learning. Teachers have to handle 30 to 45  pupils  in a small classroom.

 Examinations are the biggest factor that takes  the fun out of  learning. Teachers are hard-pressed for time as they have to complete the syllabus and get the children prepared for examinations.

 If we are serious about making  schools exciting and fun for  children,  we have to revamp the  education system and make it less examination-oriented.


By Samuel Yesuiah, Seremban, Negri Sembilan
Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editors 27 April 2012

Have full-time administrators

THE Education Revamp Committee will deliberate on nine areas of our education system. "Teachers" is one of these areas.

The clarion call of today's teachers seems to be "Let Teachers Teach". Teachers lament that they are unable to concentrate on their teaching because too many non-teaching activities or responsibilities are thrust upon them.

There are the numerous analyses to do; reports to write; data to enter online; meetings, functions, seminars and workshops to attend; co-curricular activities to lead or guide; sports and games to coach; students to counsel; parents to engage or collaborate, and others.

Granted that some of these activities do have educational value that may indirectly contribute to classroom teaching effectiveness, teachers are not happy at the seemingly uncoordinated and inordinate manner by which they are called upon to be involved.

The contention is that much of the "paperwork" teachers are required to do served only the purposes of officials higher up.

Teachers do not see any direct or relevant benefits of these to their charges.

With all these distractions, the committed teachers are worried sick that they may labour in vain in their classroom teaching; or they have themselves burnt out. Others may have already insidiously thrown in the towel.

On the other hand, the less-than-responsible ones are enjoying the "outings" and "deviations" and unashamedly claim that teaching is after all an "easy" life. For the newly recruited teachers, this is indeed a confusing scenario.

Assuredly, there is a case for the ministry, state department and district offices of education to better coordinate and reassess the need for the loads of paperwork they are pouring down on schools and for the feedback to be uploaded usually in a maddeningly short time.

On the other hand, teachers must also recognise that some extracurricular activities are essential and, therefore, rightly become part and parcel of their duties.

Yet, with consent, approval and support from the authorities higher up, schools can do better. Here are my thoughts and suggestions.

A normal secondary day school with a student population of around 2,000 and running two sessions, will have a principal, three senior assistants, an afternoon supervisor, four heads of academic departments, five student counsellors and a teaching staff of about 120.

This means that the school has a total of 14 administrator-teachers, that is, about 12 per cent of the staff. Premier and other schools of acclaim are even better endowed in this respect. Smaller schools need no afternoon supervisors, have a proportionate number of counsellors while other positions are all intact.

These school administrators are called administrator-teachers because besides administering and managing their respective "office", they are required to also teach some (10 to 14) periods a week.

This may seem minimal compared with a normal teacher's load of 24 to 28 periods.

But consider the minds of these administrator-teachers. Their first concern must be that they administer well the "office" they have been promoted and assigned to. They must also realise that what they do and decide now affects more than their own classes. They are helping to administer the whole school.

Their teaching periods may average two per day. But the timetable could be such that it is one period in the early half of the day and the other period in the latter half of the day. Being conscientious and committed (why else are they promoted?), they are teachers who want to do excellently well in all their given tasks.

So, it is not just about going into classes for those 40 minutes per period. There must also be the necessary preparations to ensure that each lesson is enriching and benefiting to their charges. Even a two-period day has a full-day mental engagement for these committed administrator-teachers.

Usually, they are torn between the demands of their administrative offices and the teaching needs of their classes.

More often than not, our school structures and expectations being such, their administrative duties take precedence. To accommodate, the more experienced administrator-teachers opt to teach "less important" subjects and classes. This has resulted in their teaching becoming, much to their own chagrin, less than exemplary to their colleagues. And, worse, those less-than-responsible ones make comments and use this to justify their own lackadaisical demeanour.

This sad scenario begets the question: why not allow the administrator-teachers to be full-time administrators? They can then just focus and concentrate on the administrative tasks, take over much of the "paperwork" now being assigned to teachers, "represent" the teachers in many of those out-of-school activities and, most importantly, remove those burdens that are not teaching-centric from teachers.

After all, these administrator-teachers have to prove their efficiency and effectiveness in administration rather than teaching for their next career upward move. And, which officials in the district office, state department or Education Ministry are required to teach a few periods per week? They are all former teachers though.

So, we need a transformational change here. Would the ministry allow schools to be administered by full-time administrators who were teachers before?

We do not want to see a scenario as at present, where full-time teachers need to do part-time administrative work and appointed administrators have to be also part-time teachers. The present arrangement is certainly a "lose-lose" situation. Let's turn it around to be a win-win proposal.

Only then, I believe, would teachers' aspiration "Let Teachers Teach" be fully realised.


By Liong Kam Chong, Seremban, Negri Sembilan 
Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editors 24 April 2012

Learn from the past for class-based assessments

I STUDIED under a school system practised in the post-war period before Merdeka (1946 to 1956), where promotion to the next higher class depended on passing the two-term examinations and the final year-end examination. The two-term examinations contributed to 30 per cent of the marks in the final year-end examination.

Coursework recorded in the science lab logbook of the students also contributed some marks to the final year-end examinations.

The examinations were set and corrected by the class teachers who taught the various subjects. Failing the year-end examination for the first time in one's school career meant being retained for an extra year in the same class.

Failing for the second year in one's school career meant being expelled from school. The teachers then wielded much power to make or break a student's career.

Teachers being humans with normal weaknesses -- of prejudices, likes and dislikes, coupled with the power to make or break a student's career -- led, in some cases, to abuse of power.

It was not unusual for teachers giving private tuition to favour such students by coaching them on the answers to the examination questions set by the teacher and/or favourably marking their answer scripts.

A teacher may develop a prejudice against a pupil who asks awkward questions that expose the teacher's shortcomings in his knowledge, and embarrasses him in front of the class. Or he could have a grudge against the pupil's father and take it out on the son. Worse still, he could pass on his prejudice to other teachers who he regularly meets in the staff room or outside.

So a prejudice formed by a teacher against a pupil in the lower classes tends to stick with him throughout his school career until he sits the Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (OSC) examination, which is an independently conducted public examination.

The results of the OSC examination, in some cases, produces surprising results, with some teachers' favourites getting disappointing results and some "black sheep" performing spectacularly.

There is also uniformity in grading in centrally conducted public examinations regardless of which school the pupil attended or even if he or she is an independent candidate. But then, there is also the obsession by some schools to produce good results.

So, now that the Education Ministry is working towards class-based assessments, could we learn from the past and could the assessment system be tweaked to produce better results?


By M.G.D., Kuala Lumpur
Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editors 24 April 2012

Too much homework

WHY are vernacular primary school students loaded with loads of homework each day?

 My child returns from school at 2pm, showers, has lunch and  starts doing his  homework.

 The homework stops at midnight and continues at 5am. This is done  to hand over the completed work at 7am.

 Can the Education Ministry  check on this  practice?
 
 Load students with homework during weekends and  holidays,  but please be considerate about weekday homework.

 If  children have tuition on  weekdays, they have my sympathy.

 A child cannot carry on like this. Please, school administrators and teachers, hear our cries and be considerate.


By C.J., Kuala Lumpur
Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editors 27 April 2012

Umno members: Don't let BN pawn our country

 pre-Bersih 3.0 rally last night raised eyebrows when Tamrin Abdul Ghafar, son of former deputy prime minister Abdul Ghafar Baba, made his debut by urging the crowd to throw in their support for the April 28 sit-in protest at Dataran Merdeka to demand for free and fair election.
NONEEarlier, Tamrin (right) took to the stage and declared: “I have a clarification to make, I am still an Umno member.”

This invited laughter and some jeers from the nearly 2,000 people who filled the muddy field in Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur.

“But today, I have decided to come down to the ground with you because I can no longer bear to see the electoral system being manipulated for the sake of maintaining power,” he added.

Tamrin claimed that it was his first time speaking on stage since 1986. He was last spotted in 2010 with Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim at a ceramah, but he was then a guest and made no speech.

Last night’s rally, marking the 10-day countdown to the massive protest expected on April 28, saw several participants clad in the trademark yellow Bersih T-shirt sitting on makeshift mats on wet grass to listen to speeches by some 31 activists, student leaders and politicians.

Drawing contrast to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s administration, Tamrin said the premier’s father who in 1969 had absolute authority as de facto prime minister under the National Operations Council following the May 13 riots, had willingly surrendered his power.

“But today, I am saddened to see our country can simply be sold to foreigners for the sake of winning (the general election),” he said.

Pointing to media reports that tens of thousands of foreigners were being granted instant citizenship in exchange for votes, Thamrin related that he too, had come across a Pakistani taxi driver, who was in fact a Malaysian citizen.


NONEThe Umno member also conveyed a message to the crowd from Umno veteran and Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah or more popularly known as Ku Li.

“Ku Li has clearly said that he supports what Bersih is doing and he is also supportive of calls by Anwar and allies for PTPTN to be abolished in favour of free education, this is the best investment for our country,” he said.

Don’t let them steal the election

Another surprise guest was former information minister Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir who urged the audience not to allow BN to “steal the election”.

“I was an Umno member for 56 years and it was a party owned by the members, the leaders were clean. But as time passed, it appeared that it had become their (selected few) fathers’ party.

NONE“They stole this and stole that, I could no longer tolerate it and quit as a minister at the peak of my career.

“After I quit, I remained silent but the stealing became worse. Millions were no longer enough, its now in the billions, in the end I could no longer take it and quit the party,” said Abdul Kadir.

The former Umno veteran added that elections cannot be called until the government provides fair access to the media and stops abusing government machinery, police and the army to give it an upper hand in the polls.

“Don’t forget that 48 percent of people voted for Pakatan Rakyat in 2008 without media access, half of the country was being blacked out... this is not a democracy,” he hit out.

Abdul Kadir who claimed that he had secretly supported the two Bersih rallies in 2007 and 2011, pledged to show up on April 28. He was then handed a Bersih T-shirt which he put on.

Among others who spoke at the rally were PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu, PKR deputy presidents Nurul Izzah and Tian Chua, PSM secretary-general S Arulchelvan, former Perak menteri besar Nizar Jamaluddin, Bersih steering committee members Maria Chin Abdullah and Hishammuddin Rais, Himpunan Hijau steering committee member Clement Chin and Solidariti Mahasiswa Malaysia chief Safwan Anang.


NONEAlso to grace the event was Anne Ooi who shot to fame during the Bersih rally last July when she was photographed standing in front a phalanx of Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) officers holding a yellow flower and drenched in acid laced water.

The retiree, accompanied by Kota Raja state assemblyperson Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud, cheekily told the crowd to give Najib “a headache”.

“Are afraid of the police? Are you afraid of Umno? Are you afraid of the Kuala Lumpur City Council (DBKL)?” she asked, to which the crowd roared “no.”

Dataran Merdeka, the main venue for Bersih 3.0 which is also expected to be simultaneously staged in more than 50 cities locally and globally, comes under the jurisdiction of DBKL.

Rally for justice, no more deaths

Meanwhile, Azhar Mohd Kassim the newphew of Baharuddin Ahmad who had passed away amid the chaos of police crackdown in the last Bersih rally, appealed to the crowd to fulfill his late uncle’s last wish.

“When my uncle left for the protest, he said he was doing it for justice... I hope that you can join the rally to uphold justice,” he said.

However, Azhar said he hoped the rally this time would not face similar police crackdown and result in injuries and deaths.

NONEAs Bersih co-chairperson A Samad Said or more fondly known as Pak Samad took the stage, marking the final lap of the night’s rally, the audience huddled around in the mud to listen to the 77-year-old national laureatte.

“We have received hurtful answers from the Election Commission that constantly favours those in power... it is time for everyone to take responsibility if our democracy is tainted.

“April 28 will be an important day to voice our dissatisfaction for what has happened in the last 54 years,” he said.

Pak Samad also commended the student activists who have taken a two-week head start to camp at Dataran Merdeka albeit harassment from DBKL authorities.

“If they (authorities) insist on evicting you from Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square), then it is Dataran Penjajah (Colonialists Square), therefore anyone that stop our rights from gathering at Dataran Merdeka are colonialists,” he said.

Later, some 300 people visited the students at Dataran Merdeka as they entered the fifth day of camping there.

Police and DBKL officers have remained mum so far on whether Bersih will be allowed to hold its rally at Dataran Merdeka. However, the organisers say they will go ahead with the rally with or without the authorities’ consent.



HOPE TO SEE YOU AT DATARAN MERDEKA ON 28 APRIL 2012

via kaneshk05@yahoo.com