July 3rd, 2012

Parents and teachers should do no harm

IN the travel feature “The Van Gogh Trail” (The Star, June 23), the writer Z.R. Yang ended the story with: Visiting Van Gogh has reaffirmed to me the importance of a healthy soul. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the external circumstances may be ... our hearts need healthy relationships and self-esteem.

I totally agree. Recently I read a book by Dr Terry Lynch, titled Beyond Prozac: Healing Mental Suffering Without Drugs, and it struck me how often a lack of self-esteem and self-belief seems to be a major factor in depression, bipolar disease, schizophrenia, anorexia and suicide. As Dr Lynch says: “People with high self-esteem tend not to take their own lives.”

As parents we all want what is best for our children, but our priority must be to give them a sense of self-esteem, self-respect and the feeling that they are loved and accepted for who they are, no matter what.

Sometimes it’s very easy to forget our priorities. If the teenager crashes the car, it is more important to step back, take a deep breath and remember that the person uninjured is more important than the car damaged, and he/she needs to be told that.

We live in the age of TVs, smart phones and computers, and it seems there is less time for sitting down to chat. But if we don’t tell and show our kids that we love and value them, they may think that we don’t.

Teachers also play a big role in helping our children develop high self-esteem. My son had the misfortune of having a teacher in Form Three, who uttered “Bodoh!” every time he saw my boy, despite his good performance in school. That started a very rebellious stage in my son’s life.

Fortunately, my son came around and is now doing very well. Perhaps parents and teachers should take an oath to do no harm, like doctors.

CONCERNED MOM Kuching Source: The STAR Home News Opinion Monday July 2, 2012

Science students struggle in Arts

I AGREE with MMA who wrote “A student’s cry for help” (The Star, June 28).

I was an Arts/Accounts Stream student two years ago. Teachers in my school never paid much attention to the “back classes” too. A teacher even told my class that she had no will to conduct lessons in the “back classes” because she knew that they wouldn’t listen and she would be wasting her breath.

The way I see it, this is because of the stereotype that Science Stream students are smarter/better.

It used to be, if a student wants a career in the scientific field, they go for the Science Stream which gives them a foundation in Biology, Physics and Chemistry, while the Arts Stream is for those who choose professions such as fashion design or the performing arts. However, the thinking these days is that Science Stream is for the intelligent while Arts is for slow-learners.

Many of my friends who were in the Science Stream took up Arts courses in college. And many college students from the Science Stream who got straight A’s in SPM have difficulty with basic economics or accounts. If they had been in the Arts Stream, they would have the basics. So why go for Science Stream in the first place?

My friends said they didn’t want to be thought of as “stupid”, so they went for the Science Stream even though they had planned to take up interior design or culinary arts in college. People today are kiasu and most students just want to be in Science Stream to be on top of the social ladder, and not because they are planning for a career in the science field.

It’s time we drop the stereotype. Students should go for what they have planned for their future, rather than join a class for the sake of popularity in school.

T, Shah Alam Source: The STAR Home News Opinion Monday July 2, 2012 

The need to think

I REFER to P. Gunasegaram’s article “Making sense of history” (The Star, May 23) where the writer posed the question: Is it really necessary to make a pass in History compulsory to ensure better understanding of how this country developed?

In October 2010, Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced that Sejarah (History) had been made a compulsory subject. This means that for students to pass SPM as a whole, they must pass this subject which is equivalent to BM as a compulsory subject.

Additionally, History will be made a core subject in primary school starting in 2014. This represents a step forward for History which is currently part of the Local Studies (Kajian Tempatan) subject.

But before the implementation, it is necessary to consider whether we have enough History major teachers to teach the subject competently at Form 4 and 5 level.

It was also announced that the new format of the Sejarah SPM Paper 3 will be an open book test, whereby students can consult reference materials during the examination. What is the rationale behind this open book test format? Is it just to help students pass the test?

As a layman, I agree with the move to make History a compulsory pass subject, because students should know more about the nation’s history and also that of the world. However, the Jawatankuasa Pusat Kurikulum (curriculum committee) should revise the way History is taught in school. This subject should not be “memorise then vomit it all in the exam”.

The same goes for Moral Studies (Pendidikan Moral) in SPM where the exam format of this subject is so rigid that students are forced to memorise the 36 “values” and their definitions. They are then required to regurgitate word for word what they have memorised when sitting the SPM paper.

History should incorporate more analysis. In the British curriculum, History examination questions are set with the objective that the students use their knowledge to analyse and explain. It revolves around the proposition that analysis – like scientific thinking in science instruction and mathematical thinking in math instruction – is central to history instruction and that students should become more competent as historical thinkers as they progress in school. But developing analytical skills is not in our syllabus.

Sejarah records high failure in most schools in Malaysia. Students tend to think that history does not bring any future benefit, so they don’t mind failing the subject. This is definitely the wrong attitude. It’s a pity that students tend to disregard subjects that they perceive to be useless, and hence do not put in their effort.

Also, are there any practical benefits from the constant changes made to the education policy affecting national schools in this country?

JACK WONG KIN TUNG Ipoh Source: The STAR Home News Opnion Monday July 2, 2012

CTI, PCI - New principles for civil servants to live by

PUTRAJAYA: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has listed six principles for civil servants to adopt to help them move beyond a "business as usual" mindset.

He outlined two new acronyms - CTI, which stands for cepat, tepat dan integriti (swift, accurate and integrity) and PCI or produktiviti, kreativiti dan innovasi (productivity, creativity and innovation) - as new call signs for better service to the people.

PM: 'What is important is not the output but the outcome'.

"I believe these two acronyms mirror the process of renewal that we need to carry out, a process that is more innovative, which we want as a civil service, constantly seeking new ideas, good ideas that are not so conventional.

"What is important is not the output but the outcome," he said when addressing staff of the various agencies under the Prime Minister's Department during their monthly gathering here this morning.

In giving an example of the success of the PCI, Najib cited the success of the government in creating the Urban Transformation Centre in Malacca recently which, according to him, could be developed swiftly.

He said this was a significant innovation when the government agencies in the states and at the federal level could be placed together under one roof to make it easier for the public to carry out official transactions.

The Prime Minister, who is a 'football fan', subsequently cited the success of the Spanish football team in lifting the Euro 2012 title by beating Italy 4-0 early this morning.

According to him, Spain won when the team adopted a new approach of playing without strikers but instead depended on the six midfielders to score the goals.

"This was an unconventonal formation, one that was untested, but yet it succeeded to make Spain as the European champion. As a government, we are also looking for ideas that are unique," he said.

By JOSEPH SIPALAN Source: The STAR Home News Nation Monday July 2, 2012