July 1st, 2012

JULY MORNING (Byron/Hensley) ~ Uriah Heep

Intro Organ solo:

| Cm | Fm | Bb | Cm | <- played 4 times


Cm Fm

There I was on a July morning

Bb Cm

Looking for love


With the strength

Fm

Of a new day dawning

Bb Cm

And the beautiful sun


verse:

At the sound

Of the first bird singing

I was leaving for home

With the storm

And the night behind me

And a road of my own



Chorus:

Eb Gm Ab-Bb

With the day came the resolution

Cm

I'll be looking for you


Eb

La la la la

Gm Ab-Bb

La la la la

Cm - Fm - Bb

La la laaaaaaa



verse:

I was looking for love

In the strangest places

Wasn't a stone

That I left unturned

Must have tried more

Than a thousand faces

But not one was aware

Of the fire that burned



Chorus:

In my heart, in my mind, in my soul

La la la la etc..



Organ solo:

| Cm | Fm | Bb | Cm | <- played 4 times


Chorus:

In my heart, in my mind, in my soul

La la la la etc..


Bridge: (played twice)


Cm C Fm G

La-a-a La-a-a La-a-a Laaaaaa


MCA condemns Dong Zong

LABIS: MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek has condemned the United Chinese School Committees Association of Malaysia (Dong Zong) for bringing up an alleged agreement in the 1960s between the party and the Government to limit the number of Chinese independent schools.

“Dong Zong talks about this issue to frighten the Chinese community so they will hate the MCA and Barisan Nasional.

They hope the Chinese will not support us. - Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek

“They hope the Chinese will not support us,” he said.

He said that although MCA was not perfect, it was undeniable that the party was doing its best for Chinese education.

Citing an example, Dr Chua said Malaysia was the only country in the region that had a complete Chinese education system from primary to university level.

He was speaking to reporters after a ground-breaking ceremony for a double-storey building with 12 classrooms at SJK (C) Karas here yesterday.

Also present at the event were Labis MP and Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Deputy Minister Datuk Chua Tee Yong and Johor exco member Tan Kok Hong.

Dr Chua said whether or not the agreement existed in the 1960s was not important anymore as it had become history.

“The country needs more trilingual talent to increase its trade volume and the trade volume between Malaysia and countries that use Chinese as their main language is about 20% of the total.

“That's why we need to train more people to have good English, Bahasa Melayu and Mandarin,” he said.

“Today, Malaysia has a good relationship with China and the trade volume between the two countries has reached US$100bil (RM318bil),” he added.

On another matter, Dr Chua said Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had failed to answer if Pakatan Rakyat was going to build more Chinese primary schools, Chinese independent schools, institutionalise allocations for Chinese schools and recognise the Unified Examination Certificate should Pakatan take over Putrajaya.

“I have been waiting for the answer for the past two weeks,” he said. Dr Chua said Dong Zong should get the answer for the sake of Chinese education.




By CHRISTINA TAN newsdesk@thestar.com.my

Source: The STAR Onlne Home News Nation Sunday July 1, 2012

Designing learning spaces of tomorrow

Classrooms need to be redesigned to provide a better teaching-learning experience for all.

A CHALKBOARD, a wastepaper basket and notice boards, apart from the desks and chairs, are typical items that are to be found in most classrooms of government schools.

For additional comfort, many of them do have a ceiling fan and curtains to keep out the heat and the sun’s glare.

Ideal learning groun d: Visitors hanging out and reading at the children’s section of Perpustakaan Raja Tun Uda in Shah Alam, Selangor. The colourful layout of the area provides a conducive environment that encourages young people to read.- SIA HONG KIAU / The Star

Absent from these classrooms are computers, laptops and iPads — tools of today — to engage students and teachers in modern technology and the new age learning process.

Now that the Education Ministry is embarking on a journey to review the national education system and human capital development, it is imperative that it looks into the physical aspects which include the actual designs of schools and, in particular, its classrooms. The ministry should ensure that the classrooms are a centre of learning and technology.

A better and richer teaching and learning space should no longer be seen as a form of “luxury” reserved for only private school students, but a necessity for all educators and students to grow and strive for excellence in the 21st century.

Many studies have linked student achievement and behaviour to a building, its design and surroundings. It is found that a well-designed learning space can have a positive impact on our feelings, thoughts and demeanour.

Adequate lighting, appropriate colour choices, and good ventilation are some of the environmental factors that could increase concentration and develop better study skills in class.

The authorities will only be able to effect change but transform the education system with the right learning space and conditions. Without a conducive learning environment in our schools, it will be difficult to nurture young minds to be creative, competitive and critical thinking individuals.

Drawing plans: When designing a school, many factors such as lighting, ventilation and even choices of wall colours have to be considered. - AZMAN GHANI / The Star

Love it or loathe it, school is a major part of every student’s life. Whether it is inspiring or otherwise, is a subjective matter. However, a survey carried out on teachers and students who spend no less than seven hours in class on a school day, has shown that many of them are uninspired by their teaching and learning space.

“Uninteresting” and “plain” is how many students have described their classrooms.

A fifth former says his classroom reminds him of a colourless square.

“What I’d like to see is something more contemporary ... the authorities can perhaps start by replacing our existing desks and chairs with furniture similar to that of colleges,” he says. Another teen from Petaling Jaya, Selangor, says that she and her friends feel somewhat “disconnected” from the “outside” world whenever they enter their classrooms.

She says that her friends find their learning space “dull and boring” and would prefer to have computers in class so that they can work on their projects while seeking information through the Internet.

Sturdy structure: The bamboo classroom project designed by Eleena was built in Camarines-Sur of the Bicol Peninsula in the Philippines

In reality, authorities have for so long only prioritised furniture and buildings that are durable. They have taken precedence over the design of the learning space.

When the learning space with over 40 students does not compare to the comforts and facilities that they get at home or elsewhere, students are obviously not going to enjoy school nor score the desired grades. The same applies to most teachers who feel they cannot deliver their best under such conditions. This is the reality and the authorities should take note of this.

Taylor’s University School of Architecture, Building and Design dean Tony Liew says it is high time to re-examine the design of the classroom to reflect the current state of teaching and learning. With a touch of creativity, different classroom configurations can promote better teaching-learning experience and encourage interactions during class time.

“This is in tandem with the technology and new teaching approach which calls for attention on aspects such as the class size. There are things that we can do within our constraints ... re-configure the desks, the chairs, and replace the blackboards with smartboards or incorporate videos to increase students’ interest in learning.

“Comfort in terms of the ergonomics is very important, especially in our warm and humid climate. While the furniture should be durable, it should also be comfortable. The furniture in our schools are very functional and are meant to last but they may not be comfortable,” he says.

In the case of furniture, he says, a one-size-fits-all approach should be avoided because schoolchildren grow at different rates.

“Everybody has a different threshold of comfort and it is not possible to please everyone. We have to think about accommodating both children and adolescents,” he says.

The One Academy of Communication Design interior design school head Eric Leong says steps must be taken to solve the issue of overcrowded classrooms.

“The classroom is a platform for students to learn, express, and inspire one another so it is very important that it is designed to achieve the objectives,” he says.

Embracing change: Students chat in the open area during recess at SMK (P) Air Panas Setapak, Kuala Lumpur which was recently renovated.

Leong says he is going to launch a community project to help selected schools to transform their classrooms into more pleasant and conducive learning environments.

The interior design guru says it does not need to cost a bomb to redecorate the classroom. Giving the walls a fresh coat of paint, for example, is an easy and inexpensive way to “update and upgrade” the look.

“A change of colour can redefine the entire look and feel of the learning space which is critical in the teaching and learning process. It will also help create a sense of belonging among the students,” he says.

He says it is also a good idea to appoint lighting specialists to check if the lighting in the schools is adequate.

RENG Design Group Sdn Bhd managing director/chief executive officer Richard Eng says the private sector should take the initiative to convince the Government to transform the national schools.

Eng, who is an architect, says national schools could learn and emulate the innovative learning environment at private schools.

“There are things that we can do to make the national schools an attractive option for parents and students. I am sure most of the parents are happy to send their children to national schools because children can socialise with students of other races,” he says.

He cautions that traditional classrooms may not work well for digital natives or those who have grown up using the latest technology gadgets. He says that there are children who from the age of three have been exposed to using computers or an iPad, so a traditional classroom may not be the best environment for them to learn and develop their creativity.

Wishful thinking aside, what can be done to change the design of schools right now?

For architect Eleena Jamil, it is about pushing forward ideas in whatever little way she can. Having designed a secondary school currently being built in Desa Park City, Kuala Lumpur, she shares her experience of working within the existing limitations.

“It’s mostly the small things really, like including ‘fins’ by the side of building and having an extended roof to minimise heat,” she says.

“There’s also a feature in the school to allow for rain water harvesting. The major thing for me was tweaking the layout to minimise isolated corridors; I think it’s extremely important for school environments to have a sense of openness.

“This idea of the entire school being a common space, for everyone to be able to see each other, would help in terms of safety and discipline.”

She adds that even pushing for small changes can be an uphill task at times.

“I think our original layout scared them (the authorities) a bit, because the arrangement of the school blocks was completely different to what they were used to,” she says with a laugh.

“We (architects) shouldn’t be given a blank sheet for designing schools, but it would be productive to have a bit more room to experiment with new things. The education system itself keeps changing ... so we need to be thinking about designing schools that are flexible enough to adapt to the future.”

A school project that Eleena had plenty of space to exercise her creativity on was her design entry to the Millennium Schools Design Competition in 2008.

Organised by My Shelter Foundation, the competition called for a low-cost school structure made of sustainable materials that could withstand the strong typhoons that affect the Philippines.

Eleena’s winning design, using bamboo, a traditionally woven-reed ceiling and a raised concrete platform, was built in 2010.

“Bamboo was a great choice because it is inexpensive, durable and flexible. As long as you shield it from direct exposure to outside elements, and treat it well, it can last from 10 to 15 years - this is about the same lifespan as Grade Two wood we use in construction here,” she explains.

At a more local level, Eleena hopes to one day build her idea of an architecturally perfect school.

“I would love to design a primary school, because I feel like I could play around more with the design. For children of that age, it’s about creating a space that encourages play and exploration — non-linear pathways, using materials of different textures, and injecting more colour. Many people think that the ideal school would be away from the city with wide open spaces, but I think there is room for schools within the city - it’ll just be a different challenge to design them well,” she says.





BY TAN EE LOO educate@thestar.com.my Source: The STAR Online Home Education Sunday July 1, 2012

Care to care?

Kindness, compassion and patience are positive attributes that make some teachers stand out from the rest and endear them to their students.

IT WAS Leornardo da Vinci who said that people of accomplishment rarely sit back and let things happen to them. In fact,he said that “they went out and happened to things”.

Learning to care is a lot like that. You have to go out and happen to things. To learn the mechanics of doing so is a deeply personal journey. That is why every teacher’s sojourn along this path is an individual story.

In my years of teaching, I learnt that my job would have been made so much easier if I hadn’t cared as much as I did — about myself, my self-development, my career, the people I worked with, the projects I was assigned to do, or even the way I conducted myself, taught and felt about my students.

To care is an emotional investment and it takes a huge amount of patience, professional pride, perseverance and presence to do so.

The down-side of caring is that you can get hurt or be subject to misperception. I’ve hit my fair share of rough spots in my professional life because some people misunderstood my good intentions, my refusal to take sides, or my openness to all manner of opinions and people.

“How can you talk to her!” and “I don’t know if I can trust you ...” I get remarks like these thrown to me because I don’t limit my world.

I never belonged to any cliques at school simply because I didn’t believe in them. I found them too restrictive for the likes of me.

But I often found myself riddled with the niggling thought that perhaps I shouldn’t care so much — that I should leave things be, or let sleeping dogs lie.

Hitting a bump, I would ask myself, “Why care?”

Of course, the rational mind would advise, “Don’t let this matter bother you. Let it go. Don’t allow this to affect you.”

It helped that I could at times take a deep breath and say, “This too shall pass.”

However, I must say that no matter how I feel about an event, a colleague, a student or a situation — I have discovered that while giving and forgiving makes one vulnerable, and opens the door to potential hurt, conflict, disparaging remarks, negative perception, ridicule and even misunderstanding, among other things, — it also leads to productive reflection, self-discovery, learning, personal growth and improvement. It is for this reason that I allow my instincts to guide me where my relationships with my superiors, colleagues and students are concerned.

In particular, despite all contrary advice, I have made sure that I cared enough about my work and students.

A senior teacher in the first school I taught told me: “Do what you can for your students but there is no need to go all out as it may not be worth your effort.”

Being strict

I was only a 26-year-old then, and as a result of what she had said, I was somewhat firm and unbending in that first year. Afraid that my authority would be questioned, I was resolute, determined and intent on letting my students know who the boss was — Me!

Years later, I met a woman at an airport who walked up to me and said, “I think you were my Biology teacher in 1986! My, were you strict!”

She was obviously married and had two children with her.

With a laugh, she said to my questioning look, “You threw me out of your class one day for talking too much during your lesson!”

I was aghast. Had I really?

But that was back then. I know I had changed very soon after. I had come to realise in the early years of my teaching career, that I was not born to be a dragon breathing fire but to be a kind and engaging person. Over the years, as I became more confident of myself in the job, I realised that unlike some teachers who could maintain a strict or even harsh demeanour, a “you-stay-where-you-are” and “I-am-your teacher” stance, I was not able to draw a clear line of demarcation between me and my students.

For me, the lines often blurred. I usually crossed over to their side. When I didn’t, my conscience would bug me until I did the right thing.

As Brazilian writer Paul Coelho had mentioned in his novel Zahir, I too needed to be zahir which is to be present and available.

This also brings me back to one of my students who was an introvert. At 15 years, while his friends pranced and prattled around him, the teenager would often sit alone with his head bent, never looking up or talking to anyone.

Most teachers ignored him but I couldn’t.

I remember coming into his class and over time, becoming acutely aware of his isolation and his desire to curl into himself and become almost non-existent.

Every morning, after greeting my students, I would stop by at his table and wish him. He never looked up but he could obviously hear me.

When I told a colleague about him, she said to me, “Oh, he’s a hopeless case. That boy doesn’t talk, doesn’t communicate ... I don’t know why you even bother.”

But I did not give up, I wished him every day. I taught him and whenever I passed his table, I would still say a few words to him. When he made mistakes in his written work, I corrected them with my red pen. I am not sure if it was the best way or approach in dealing with the teen, but it is something that came instinctively to me.

An unforgettable moment

One day, as usual I walked up to him and said, “Good morning. How are you today? Good, I hope.”

I was about to walk away when suddenly he looked up and greeted me. It was an unforgett-tabale moment and brought tears of joy to me.

It is moments like these that have made my years of teaching so memorable.

For me, caring for my charges can come in the form of hours of coaching and some in the moment you offer that word of encouragement during their time of need.

Caring also comes in the form of couching your words appropriately, in not always saying what is uppermost in your mind, in not retaliating, in listening, in not being judgmental or prejudiced but keeping an open mind and being mindful of the effect that words and actions have.

I learnt not to turn my back on my students. Even with arrogant and rude students, I chose not to see manifestations of their behaviour, but the underlying problems they had and the blossoming that happens when the effect of caring takes root.

It is a fact that only by caring can you convert or truly educate.

By saying “I couldn’t care less” or “Why should I care?”, you are only adding to the problem.

By being careless with your words or ruthless in your actions, you are only propagating a vicious cycle.

The two most positive traits for a teacher is not only to care for her charges but to show that she cares for them. Both actions have a tremendous impact on students.




Teacher Talk by NITHYA SIDHHU Source: The STAR Online Home Education Sunday July 1, 2012

How to retain good workers

Organisations must formulate strategies to tap the skills and potential of their employees to the fullest and keep the best from leaving.

RETENTION is a noun in the English language that simply means to keep something rather than lose it. In an organisational context, employee retention means the capability of the organisation to keep or retain people who work for them rather than lose them.

There are many reasons why organisations are unable to retain their employees. They include downsizing, when the organisation is not making enough profits which in turn leads to reducing the number of its workers to cut costs. It also includes corporate re-engineering, where the organisation thinks it is not being effective, which means it would liquidate or combine some departments to reach higher effectivity.

While these reasons are fundamental and need serious attention in an organisation, any talk or references made to “retention” usually refers to keeping its good or best employees happy so that they will not leave.

So why is employee retention important to organisations? It all boils down to keeping the operational costs as low as possible. When an organisation hires an individual, a financial investment has been made to attract, select, and train that individual for a suitable job.

Every time an employee leaves, a replacement has to be found and the process of attracting, selecting and training a new employee has to be conducted all over again.

This process takes time, energy and financial resources which the organisation would much prefer to invest elsewhere. In order for it to be able to retain employees, we can refer to the framework proposed by Benjamin Schneider (1987) called Attraction-Selection-Attrition (ASA). What this framework introduces is a step-by-step method that organisations can utilise in an effort to prevent their employees from leaving.

Attraction

The first step is to draw the interest of individuals who have the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics (KSAO) suitable for the job as well as the organisation, to apply for the job. As an example, hiring a store manager for a retail business would mean that they meet certain requirements and that includes knowledge of the retail sector, the ability to think on their feet due to the job’s fast-pace, people skills which will enable one to communicate well with others, and a bubbly personality

Once the KSAO for the job has been determined, the organisation or establishment may then want to think about the image that it would like to present to attract the most suitable applicants and achieve the best person-organisational fit.

Every organisation has its own culture, that is, language, values, attitudes, beliefs and customs; its climate, which is the collective view of the people within the environment in which they work; and practices, that is the policies, structures and actions of the organisation. These factors are determined by the people working within the organisation itself.

Every individual’s interest and personality is different, thus, it only makes sense that they would be attracted to different career choices.

In general, people would crave work environments that fit their personality. One of the main reasons of voluntary turnover where individuals decide to quit their respectve jobs, instead of being forced to, is because they no longer “fit in”. This is why presenting the correct image is important in attracting the right people to an organisation.

Selection

The second step after attracting the right people who meet the KSAO is to choose the best amongst them. This is where the person-job fit is important. When an organisation is selecting new employees, they would choose those whom they think are the most compatible with the organisation and the job.

As an example, A and B apply for a store manager’s post. Based on the KSAO, both meet all the requirements, but the organisation may decide to hire B instead of A because B has the personal attributes that fits better with the organisation.

Selecting the right people for the job is important for employee retention because when an individual has the KSAO requirements for a job, they would perform better and usually be rewarded by the organisation.

With the reward comes the feeling of being appreciated, which would lead to being satisfied with one’s job. Satisfaction with their job is usually one of the main reasons why employees stay in an organisation.

Training

Individuals do need to have the basic KSAOs required to do the job upon being hired. However, organisations, just like individuals, have a need that changes across time to adjust to the ever-changing global conditions.

To meet these needs, organisations need to invest in providing continuous opportunity for growth for their employees, thus, enabling them to keep up with the changes.

An example of such development would be to provide training for store managers when the organisation decides to diversify its market. This is called Diversity Training.

Such a move will enable the managers to cope better with the changes of their customers and employees. An employee’s intention to leave may occur when during its “organic” development, organisations overlook the need to train their employees.

In such situations, employees realise that the organisation no longer fits with their goals and personality, and they would move on to other organisations that in their opinion is a better fit for them.

When an employee is provided with growth opportunity, they would feel more appreciated and that will improve their job performance. Individuals who are satisfied with their job are less likely to leave the organisation.

Attrition

The process of employees leaving the organisation because they think that the organisation no longer fits with their personality and life goals can be called attrition. When people leave the organisation, a more “homogeneous” group stays.

They are the people who were initially interested in the organisation.

Although homogeneity may be good, because everyone in the organisation shares the same vision and mission, it may also not be so beneficial.

When an organisation is filled with like-minded people, it may become stagnant and unable to grow due to lack of new ideas. Therefore, although organisations should recognise the compatibility of employees who stay after attrition, they also need to consider the side effects of homogeneity.

Role of I/O Psychologist

The role of the Industrial and Organisational Psychologist or commonly known as I/O psychologists, is to help develop strategies that build a better organisation by applying psychological principles and methods to critical issues related to business, including talent management, assessment, selection, training, organisational development, performance, and work-life balance.

Such psychologists, who may be hired as internal or external consultants by organisations, will be able to help such establishments in retaining their best employees.

An I/O psychologist would be able to identify the culture, climate and practices of the organisation and suggest ways to attract, select and train new employees.

By being clear about the KSAO required for a job, organisations would then be able to formulate strategies to attract and select the most compatible people.

With a slight investment in training, these establishments would also be able to avoid unnecessary turnover, and instead encourage attrition and retain the best people.

> The writer is an industrial/organisational psychologist and lecturer at the Department of Psychology, Sunway University, Petaling Jaya 
By DR ALIA AZALEA Source: The STAR Online Home Education Sunday July 1, 2012


Aceing Asians not that smart

A’S ARE not everything. Typical of the Asian community is the great deal of pressure placed on the younger generation to achieve academic success.

This sort of culture is counter-productive to the development of the younger generation as it stymies their self-discovery and muddles their life experiences.

Young people can reach a point where they cannot cope with the chronic stress of trying to measure up to the high expectations of society, their parents or themselves, as seen in the tragic suicide of 12-year-old Subashini Sivakumar of Sungai Jawi, Penang, who killed herself over her UPSR examination results.

Something must be done to change the present mindset which equates academic achievement with success in life.

Children should not be made to measure or base their self-worth on grades and certificates, or compare their academic performance with their peers. A healthy mental state and positive outlook on life are just as important as academic success.

Children do not need to know the definition of education, but that it is important in helping them gain and apply knowledge and understanding. They should be taught that education itself is not the key to life, but instead the key to appreciating and celebrating life in all its glory.

The current method of assessing Malaysian students only tests their ability to cram and memorise large chunks of texts and formulas.

Students sitting for examinations learn by rote and their temporary retention of knowledge allows them to beat the system.

In order to create a more productive and less stressful environment for learning, exams should be abolished and monthly assessment of skills and knowledge should be considered, to gauge students’ overall progress.

Furthermore, the practice of force-feeding students information, facts and figures should be stopped.

Punishment for getting bad grades should also be discouraged, especially among teenagers. Instead, an incentive or reward could be offered to inspire, not squeeze, good results from students.

Research shows that successful people do not depend on luck or other people, but on their own determination and desire to succeed. Asian youths should not allow academic success to rule their lives. Life is so much more than passing exams with flying colours.

There is no doubt that education enhances one’s quality of life, but so do things like art, love, nature, sports, and music.

Malaysia has yet to reach a mature level of thinking with regards to education. But with the hi-tech revolution allowing our voices to be heard, there is great potential for reform.

Empathy and logic are needed to improve the Malaysian education system to protect the well-being and fragile emotional states of the young and vulnerable.

The writer is a Year 10 student at an international school here 
By LEONG ZUE WE Source: The STAR Online Home Education Sunday July 1, 2012

Moving towards a better education

A FACILITATION Fund grant agreement for RM25mil was signed recently between Epsom College (a British-style boarding school) in Malaysia, and the Public Private Partnership Unit (Ukas) of the Prime Minister’s Department in Putrajaya.

The signing of the grant, which supports the development of the college campus in Malaysia, was witnessed by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop, and the college’s board of governors chairman Tan Sri Tony Fernandes.

Signing the MoU are former Ukas director general Datuk Dr Ali Hamsa (who was recently appointed as Chief Secretary to the Government), Bank Pembangunan Malaysia Berhad vice president and business banking head Zakaria Saad and the college’s director Kahlil Anwar Kamal.

Signing the agreement are (from left, seated) Kahlil, Dr Ali and Zakaria. Looking on are Nor Mohamed (left) and Fernandes.

The campus, currently under construction on a 50-acre site at Bandar Enstek, Negri Sembilan, reflects the college’s first international venture.

With a history of providing education to many Malaysians and other international students in the United Kingdom, the college’s development on Malaysian shores is a natural extension designed to further expand its tradition of excellence and all-rounded education to a wider scope of international students from Asia.

It is also in accord with the nation’s efforts to develop the country’s potential as the region’s global education hub.

The campus in Malaysia will open its doors to students in September 2013.

“We are very grateful to the Government of Malaysia, and in particular Ukas and the Prime Minister’s Department for the support of this project.

“We have started work on site, and through this facilitation grant support, we will now be able to speed up the work on site and launch the school by September 2013,” said Fernandes, who was an alumnus of Epsom College UK.

The project will cost almost RM150mil in total.

The college is aiming to attract around 900 students from all over Asia.


Source: The STAR Online Home Education Sunday July 1, 2012

Give science students a break

FOR the past few months, I have been observing my son who is studying in Form Four Science this year.

I understand that there are too many subjects to study. Subjects such as History and Moral Studies which are not relevant at all to their field of study are included in their syllabus. These two subjects require a lot of unnecessary memorising which can be very time-consuming and stressful for science students. During my time, when I was a science student, we did not have to study these two subjects.

History is boring and full of dates, names and other factual details. Our country needs science professionals more than historians and archaeologists.

As for Moral Studies, it is important to inculcate good moral values in young people. However, a lot of unnecessary rules have made it a burden.

For example, “grateful” (bersyukur) is no longer considered a moral value in upper secondary school. Each moral value has two key words and a definition, which have to be memorised word for word in order to pass the Moral Studies exam.

For 20 moral values, a student has to memorise a total of 60 keywords and definitions. The words memorised must be exactly the same as the original words. If a student gives the meaning of a moral value in his own words it is considered wrong.

Students are also required to write essays in the Moral Studies exam. The same goes for History.

Due to such difficulties and unreasonable expectations, how can we expect science students to concentrate fully on important subjects like Mathematics, Additional Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry and Physics? These science subjects require a thorough understanding of facts, theories and formulae, not to mention extensive calculations and lots of practice. But at least they are relevant to careers in medicine and engineering.

More subjects to study means more homework for science students and burning the midnight oil. Some will give up and opt for the Arts and Vocational streams. Perhaps this is why fewer students have opted for the science stream. As reported earlier this year, the percentage of science students has dropped drastically over the years.

Malaysia aims to achieve developed nation status by the year 2020 and a lot of expertise and professionals from the science stream will be needed. Therefore, I urge the Education Ministry to look into the plight of our science students and do something about it.


T. J. PHANG Source: The STAR Online Home Education Let's Hear It Sunday July 1, 2012 

Shortfalls in delivery system

THE Education Revamp Committee is reviewing and deliberating on nine areas of our education system. “Delivery and administrative system of the Education Ministry” is one area.

If delivery is taken to mean the Ministry’s successes in delivering promises and achieving set targets, then it must be congratulated and lauded for having delivered on most counts. Nevertheless, there is room for improvement.

First, the Ministry should refrain from indiscriminately quoting statistics to justify, rationalise or neutralise some “bad” happenings in its system. Improperly used, statistics can misinform. As the saying goes: There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.

Let me illustrate. Our student population totals 5.1 million and the number of schools stands at 10,019. [Statistics as stated in the Ministry’s website.]

So, to hear education officials say that student discipline problems involve less than 0.1% of the overall student populace is to not “deliver” and address the problem in its correct perspective.

Second, when a problem crops up in school, very often a committee is set up with the task of investigating and submitting a report to the Ministry for deliberation and action. The composition or setup of some of these committees at times calls into question their neutrality and impartiality. Take, for example, the occasional fighting/bullying reported in a school dormitory.

Normally, the school principal heads the investigating committee. Now, how impartial can a principal be in reporting “dirt” found in his own backyard? Would his report indicate inefficiencies in the school administration?

Even when Ministry officials turn up for on-the-spot inspection (turun padang), they are given guided tours. Chances are, all blame will fall on the students. So, does the report honestly deliver the truth to the authorities?

Third, some “little Napoleons” in schools do not strictly follow the directives from above. They implement Ministry policies according to their own myopic interpretations at best, at their whims and fancies at worse. This detracts from the noble intentions of the Ministry.

A problem still bothering some parents is the implementation of the “soft-landing” approaches in some schools in the aftermath of PPSMI (the Teaching and Learning of Science and Mathematics in English). What is happening in some school classrooms and laboratories is certainly non-delivery of the Ministry’s soft-landing directives.

Granted that schools need some leeway or even liberty to run in accordance to local specifics and peculiarities, a better check-and-balance mechanism should be put in place to enhance the Ministry’s delivery system.

LIONG KAM CHONG Source: The STAR Online Home Education Let's Hear It Sunday July 1, 2012

System overload

I REFER to the article Excelling the stress free way (Let’s Hear It, June 24).

I fail to understand why the Cabinet agreed to this assessment via School-Based Assessment (PBS) in 2010.

There is an on-going National Dialogue to revamp the Education System and the opinions put forward will be collated to come up with a new system which will be put in place.

In the year 2010, many systems were put in place for education, including the introduction of the PBS, the abolishment of the Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) examination, the introduction of Upholding Bahasa Malaysia and Strengthening English (MBMMBI), the abolishment of the Teaching and Learning of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI), compulsory passes in History at the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) level etc.

Looking at all these, why wouldn’t teachers as well as students be stressed out? When we want to revamp a system, we should not enhance or introduce new things until we have a clear picture of what we want. The cabinet should have, in my opinion, allowed the National Dialogue panel to finish its job before introducing new systems.

Planning is important when we deal with human capital and resources. Children are our future. We have changed our education policies every time we changed our Minister. Children do not finish a proper cycle when learning. When this happens, why blame them for turning out to be poor quality graduates? It is like constructing a high-rise building without a proper foundation.

Teachers are overloaded with paperwork. There is a lot of duplication in the requirement of data by the Education Ministry. I fail to see how the introduction of PBS will reduce the teacher’s workload. In fact, I think there is more unwarranted paperwork at the teacher’s end.

Teachers are not attending classes due to unnecessary courses and activities organised by both school and department. A teacher’s job is to teach, so let them teach. In the past, teachers were in school to teach and only to teach. Students then did not attend tuition. Today, they attend because they have to.

I think that all new systems introduced last year and this year should be put on hold until the finding from the panel is put forward.

Revert to the old system. Do not confuse students, teachers and parents until the findings and recommendations of the panel are put forward.

Let us build a good and solid foundation for the future human capital of this country. We want quality and not quantity in terms of graduates.

Parents should be convinced that the national education system of is good and of quality.

We do not need international schools to open their doors to us. For me, learning in an international school is not patriotic because you have more faith in other people’s system rather than your own.

Buying Malaysian products means learning in Malaysian schools, be it national or vernacular schools, not international. All policymakers, please walk the talk and think of our children before decisions are made.

Just check with international schools to see if their system of education has changed as often as ours. Even Japan and South Korea which we love to compare ourselves with, do not change their systems as often as ours.

SARALA POOBALAN Source: The STAR Online Home Education Let's Hear It Sunday July 1, 2012 

Can cane but better not to

WHEN it comes to corporal punishment for schoolchildren, some are for it, others against it. The Children’s Court, however, has the power to cane naughty children. As a Children’s Court advisor, I can tell you that children can be caned in Malaysia, though we try not to.

They can be caned under Section 92 of the Children’s Act 2001, subject to the following stipulations:

·the child shall be examined by a medical officer to certify that the child is in a fit state of health to undergo the whipping;

·the person shall use a light cane with average force without lifting his hand over his head so that the child’s skin is not cut;

·after inflicting a stroke, he shall lift the cane upward and not pull it;

·whipping may be inflicted on any part of the body except the face, head, stomach, chest or private parts;

·the child shall wear clothes; and if,

·during the execution of the whipping, the medical officer certifies that the child is not in a fit state to undergo the remainder of the whipping, the whipping shall be finally stopped.

If we apply the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the UN assembly in 1989 – that a child has civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights – we should be convinced that caning must go. It has no place in civic society today, Malaysia included.

Seeing that Malaysia is one of the 193 countries that has ratified the convention, we should see the caning of young offenders as a thing of the past

And perhaps amend the clause in the Child Act which allows for caning.

BULBIR SINGH Source: The STAR Online Home Education Let's Hear It Sunday July 1, 2012

Male teachers fill a niche

THE recent article by Nithya Siddhu, titled A rare and special species (StarEducate June 17), is excellent.

There are few male teachers nowadays, and it must be remembered that primary school boys need a role model of sorts to look up to.

Even young girls can benefit from having a good, strong male figure in their lives.

Girls can learn to be competitive, assertive, confident, and what it means to persevere.

With many households lacking a father figure, male teachers can to a certain extent play a role.

TEEO Source: The STAR Online Home Education Let's Hear It Sunday July 1, 2012

Online test tricky for over 50s

I REFER to the article Don’t fear test, teachers told (The Star, June 21). I understand that the English Proficiency test is being conducted online using computers and headphones.

Some elderly teachers (50 and above) who were not proficient in handling computers or had hearing difficulty were frustrated when they sat for the half-hour test.

Therefore, to these senior English teachers the challenge is not the English Proficiency Test but using the computer and headphones. The test result may therefore not be reflective of their proficiency in English.

The Government should take note of this group of teachers who are proficient in the English language but not computer-savvy. They should be given the option to take a written test instead of the online test. This is important as we are extending the retirement age to 60.

K.S. GOH Source: The STAR Online Home Education Let's Hear It Sunday July 1, 2012