August 25th, 2012

Capitalise on opportunities of Chinese education

QUALITY SCHOOLING FOR ALL: But English and Bahasa Malaysia must be improved

LAST week, I wrote about the strengths and weaknesses of the Chinese education system in Malaysia.

I tried to demonstrate that the weaknesses of Chinese education do not lie in the system itself, but in the fact that we have never had constructive, long-term solutions to the problems that we face.

Years have been wasted on politicising the issue when we could have capitalised on the strengths of the system to enrich our country's education.

The open-door policy of Chinese schools has been noted as one of the merits, as it offers an alternative for all children, regardless of race, to be educated in Chinese, moreover in an environment that emphasises discipline and industry.

With an enrolment of about 80,000 non-Chinese students, there is a valuable opportunity here to promote cross-cultural understanding and integration. A Chinese-Muslim mother told me that her children's friends in their Chinese primary school know little about the practices of other races and gain valuable insight from her children about Malay and Muslim culture.

Education in Mandarin is another strong point of the system, as the growing economic influence of China globally is a phenomenon that can be tapped into by graduates who are fluent in Mandarin.

These graduates, whose strengths are usually science and technical subjects, have a competitive advantage over professionals from Western countries who are now looking East as the American and European economies falter.

This provides an ideal opportunity for Malaysia to leapfrog over our neighbours, as our Chinese-educated graduates can use their talents to open doors to China and bring trade opportunities back to the country.

However, a big stumbling block to achieving this is the weak grasp of English among the Chinese-educated.

This precludes them from being employed in the commercial sector here, particularly in multinational companies where the trade prospects are the greatest.

Unemployment is not the only problem.

An even bigger threat is the eventual brain drain because these graduates will leave for Hong Kong, Taiwan and China where mastery of Mandarin alone can tide them over -- for now.

The civil sector is not a viable alternative either, as Chinese school leavers also lack proficiency in Bahasa Malaysia. This is one of the key reasons that Chinese recruits number so few among the civil service and armed forces, and that their prospects for promotion are poor.

It is not racial quota, as commonly believed, but simply the fact that with a small pool in the civil service, there are just not enough non-Malay officers who can move up the ranks.

This racial imbalance is a huge threat to our nation-building efforts, as we will not be able to achieve a truly Malaysian civil service which will affect everyday governance and administration of the country.

The language flaw in the Chinese school system is probably the greatest pitfall that the community faces. While the multiracial makeup of Chinese schools promotes inter-racial engagement, the system also leads to self-segregation as the community cuts itself off from the mainstream due to language differences.

What does it say when the prime minister himself has to set up a Mandarin Facebook page just to connect with the Chinese community?

We know that this weakness can be traced back to the lack of resources for Chinese schools and the limited talent pool to enable quality teaching or the development of a proper curriculum that emphasises other languages.

Yet, any move to resolve these issues is often hijacked by educationists or politicians looking to score cheap points.

At a time when our unity is being undermined by exploitative political warfare, we should be looking at Chinese education on its merits alone, instead of how it threatens one group over another.

It has nothing to do with the rights of any particular group, and everything to do with quality education for all Malaysians.

After 55 years of independence, our children should be able to go to different schools and still play together.

 Writer is a co-founder of the Centre for Strategic Engagement (CENSE) By Rita Sim  | Source: New Straits Times Columnist 23 August 2012  

The quest for truth, beauty and goodness

A DEVELOPED nation is more than high income or economic wealth. Real societal development shows evidence of the growth of cultural capital.

Cultural capital is linked to education, formal, informal and non-formal. Educational and other related institutions are to act to ensure that high culture is pervasive in society.

In society, at any point of time, there would be pockets of high culture, popular, folk and mass culture, culture of taste, sub cultures and counter cultures. High culture, like other cultures is, of course, an ideal type of culture which can be achieved.

Immersion in high culture should be deemed essential for leaders. Among the fundamental elements of high culture, which should be promoted by schools, universities and other institutions, are the following:

A culture of personal and community hygiene. This culture of cleanliness is at the individual, family, community and societal levels. Cleanliness would be evidenced everywhere and would be the shared value of all within the high culture society. Parental cultural capital should promote cleanliness, and if this is not done, the community must take the responsibility for education on cleanliness.

A high culture society is marked by its passion for knowledge and quest for wisdom in all the domains of existence. A high culture society is impassioned to scour for wisdom from sages and prophets, scholars and teachers and the lay person who experiences, examines and reflects upon life.

A high culture has a focus on maintenance and aesthetics in all aspects of its activities. This maintenance culture is taken as the collective responsibility of each individual, child and adult, young and old. Maintenance culture is about individual best habits, a system of operational efficiency and of first class infrastructure.

A culture of continuous improvements and of continuous perfection is the philosophy and practice of a high culture society. The striving for betterment is taken for granted as the culture would improve on the status quo and move on towards higher levels of betterment and excellence. A high culture society promotes cultural capital and cultural mobility for all.

A culture of ingenuity of craft is about openness, imagination and creativity. The culture supports those who embark on crafting new utensils, implements, inventions small and large, for the home and for the community. This culture applauds those who dare and fail and try again and the culture does not ridicule those who dare to be different.

A high culture society pays serious attention to matters of manners and etiquette, courtesy and civility.

In schools and universities, there are opportunities for high table dining and for culinary experiences from all corners of the globe. Good conversations among family members, community members, teachers and students and the wider citizenry would mark the society of high culture.

Time use by high culture society is of high accountability, not only to self, family or community, but also to society as a whole. A high culture society is sensitive regarding time use, particularly the wastage of other people's time or wastage of waiting time, and recurring mistakes and inefficiencies.

A high culture society enables its individual members to have leisure diversity repertoire in various domains of life. A high culture society is on the quest for truth, beauty and goodness. This is a quest for universalness, and permanence, not of the transient fad, or local or institutional fetish.

A high culture society is always learning lessons from the past (e.g. Stone Age) without necessarily emulating the past, for it creates its own excellence, based on its present realities and future visions.

A high culture society does not only exhibit dominant forms of symbols in public and private spaces, but also champions democratic rights and responsibilities, equality and freedom of expression.

High culture society promotes cultural, scientific and artistic goods, and the establishment and use of museums, theatres, art galleries, television, creative design and architecture.

High culture society does not surrender to the arrogant and ignorant sub culture leaders. High culture is to be guided by prophets, sages, the insights of noble scholars and the experiences of great leaders.

High culture is related to civic and citizenship education. Cultural literacy for all is a precondition for the building of high culture.

High culture is not just the prerogative of the elites but all citizens should have access to high culture. Universities and high culture academies of sciences and the arts must exercise strong leadership roles to foster high culture and great traditions among the citizenry.

Writer is a deputy vice-chancellor, INTI Laureate International University   By Datuk Dr Ibrahim Ahmad Bajunid  | Source: New Straits Times Columnist 24 August 2012 

Cutting construction red tape

IT is common for organisations to react to issues and problems by introducing new rules or making existing ones more complicated.

Don't get me wrong, I am not against rules. Rules are necessary for proper control and standards, and to ensure people's rights are protected. Without them, there would be anarchy.

But if rules are copious, inflexible and complicated, they result in the dreaded phenomenon of "bureaucracy" or "red tape", increasing inefficiency and costs, and stifling innovation and entrepreneurship.

Albert Einstein called bureaucracy the death of all sound work. My favourite is this anonymous definition of bureaucracy as a game where everybody stands in a circle and the first one to do anything loses.

The reduction of bureaucracy is the main objective of Pemudah, the Special Public-Private Sector Taskforce To Facilitate Business, initiated by the government in 2007, in pursuance of its values of facilitation and not hampering, and no more regulation than necessary. This is being progressively tackled with a great sense of urgency and determination by adopting the following approaches:

PROCESS REENGINEERING -- radical restructuring and simplification of processes and removal of antiquated laws;

GUILLOTINE -- deletion of licences and permits where their continued existence cannot be justified;

COMPUTERISATION -- online applications, removal of human interface and discretion;

CONSULTATION -- understanding the needs and concerns of businesses and feedback on changes before implementation;

DIFFERENTIATION -- one size does not always fit all; differentiating rules and procedures where necessary; and,

BENCHMARKING -- comparison with and learning from the best in the world.

There has been much success but much more needs to be done.

An area currently receiving urgent attention is construction permits, a complex process requiring submission of project documents; obtaining necessary clearances, licences, permits and certificates; completing all required notifications; receiving all necessary inspections; obtaining connections for water, electricity, sewerage, telephone lines, etc. In total, five ministries and nine government agencies are involved.

It is also timely that this area is being addressed as construction is one of the key drivers of Malaysia's economic development, recording a gross domestic product growth of 3.5 per cent to RM18.9 billion last year.

Volume of work over the next decade is expected to increase by 30 to 50 per cent with the commencement of seven construction-related Entry Point Projects under the Economic Transformation Programme -- KL-Singapore high speed rail; KL MRT; Revitalising Sungai Klang ; Greening Greater KL/Klang Valley; Creating iconic places and attractions; Comprehensive KL pedestrian network and solid waste management eco-system.

While Malaysia has progressively improved to an overall 18th position last year among 183 countries in the World Bank Doing Business Report, ranking of Dealing With Construction Permits slipped from 111th to 113th position, despite introduction of a one-stop centre and reducing the number of procedures involved.

The World Bank had assessed Malaysia to have 22 procedures compared with the best of six for Denmark and to take 260 days for processing compared with the best of 26 days for Singapore.

This is obviously unacceptable, requiring an urgent resolution with a more aggressive and concerted effort. Working with Kuala Lumpur City Hall, the initial focus will be Kuala Lumpur which will then serve as the model to be implemented throughout the country.

Beginning early this year, the focus group immediately went into action and has conducted a comprehensive series of engagements with involved parties -- developers, contractors, engineers, architects, etc. They have also gone on a benchmarking mission to Singapore and consulted with the World Bank expert. Arising from these activities, an improvement plan has been crafted involving the following main actions:

SEPARATE requirements for higher value projects with higher risks (e.g. construction of a tower block) and lower value projects with lower risks (e.g. construction of a warehouse);

IMPROVE the coordination between ministries and agencies to enhance the efficiency of the one-stop centre and make it the only party the private sector has to deal with;

STREAMLINE and combine procedures to reduce the number and eliminate unnecessary requirements;

INTRODUCE self-regulation but with heavy penalties for non-compliance;

EXPLORE outsourcing to the private sector the processing of submissions and inspections for low risk building; and,

IMPROVE online application system to integrate the entire process on a single platform for greater efficiency and reduce the time taken.

With the above actions being currently implemented, the focus group has targeted a reduction of procedures to 12 and the completion time to 105 days, and subsequently to 60 days. While the main aim is to improve the government service and delivery of the whole country, this improvement will further enhance Malaysia's ranking in the World Bank Report.

The focus group is confident of delivering but it will need the cooperation of the private sector in two aspects -- feedback on faults, problems and proposals for further improvement, and usage of online systems where the overall uptake has been disappointingly slow.

By Datuk Saw Choo Boon Source: New Straits Times Columnist 24 August 2012 

Taib makes it hard act to follow for any successor

SEALED AND DELIVERED: Sarawak chief minister can safely assume that the opposition won't be able to make inroads in the state

QUITE a few Sara-wakians fault their Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud for staying in office for more than three decades and not naming a successor all this while but developments this week show that he will indeed be a hard act to follow once he leaves, which still seems likely -- as he publicly committed -- before the end of the current state assembly term in about four years.

Speaking before the media at his Hari Raya open house in Kuching, Taib let on that he will be discussing with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak a review of the quantum of oil royalty paid to the state by Petronas.

As they say in politics, timing is everything. The opposition, both at the federal level and in Sabah (though not quite as noisily in Sarawak) has been harping on the issue for some time. As some members of Taib's state cabinet chimed in along the same lines lately, the chief minister made his move.

Taib said he would not be negotiating over the matter openly, preferring instead to use his quiet influence with Putrajaya to cut a deal. For all we know, the cake (about a higher royalty payment for Sarawak) may already have been baked but for the public serving.

When an announcement over a deal is finally made, count on both Putrajaya and Kuching to suggest how it was possible only because of the favourable rapport between both state and federal governments.

Barisan Nasional will again be in a position to claim it delivers what the opposition can only promise -- a fairer shake for Sarawak (and Sabah) to directly enjoy the revenues from the hydrocarbon resources of both states.

Taib pointedly took oblique aim at opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim when he (Taib) said a certain leader now promises higher oil royalties for Sarawak and Sabah but failed to agree when that leader was in a position to do so. Anwar was, of course, once deputy prime minister and finance minister.

Taib is in a good position to stymie Anwar's latest political game plan to try to create a bandwagon effect within the Sarawak BN following the recent defections of two leaders in Sabah to the opposition.

That opposition effort has apparently been thwarted as far as Sarawak is concerned.

State Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg appears to be unimpressed with the personal calibre of the two Sabah defectors and intimated to this writer how Anwar was able to draw a crowd of only some 300 in Abang Johari's own constituency in Kuching after news of the Sabah defections came out.

Another state minister, Tan Sri Dr James Masing, went on record publicly this week calling Anwar a political chameleon.

The bandwagon, such as it is, may have already stalled in Sabah itself. In any case, the proliferation of parties within the opposition alliance there makes opposition unity just so much more difficult now.

The oasis of political calm that is the Sarawak BN owes much to Taib's astute helming of the state. This is all the more remarkable considering he does not have coercive powers that he needs to use to bring any political recalcitrant to heel.

He knows he gets a free hand from Putrajaya running the state for so long as he delivers his end of the bargain: Sarawak's "fixed deposit" of its crucial vote bank.

Sarawak under his leadership seems in fine financial shape. It alone among the states gets its own sovereign credit rating which improved on its previously already creditable ranking lately despite a rather disastrous state investment in a wafer-fabrication plant some years ago in an attempt for the state to leapfrog into the high-technology field.

Although a Muslim, Taib is relaxed about other faiths and recently visited a Catholic church in Mukah where the local Melanaus are almost evenly divided between those who adhere to both the Muslim and Christian faiths.

He is known to have cultivated a life-long friendship with a senior local Catholic priest, the Reverend Datuk Lawrence Chua.

Probably alone among political leaders in the nation, Taib never faced any serious challengers to his leadership after seeing off a grave political threat orchestrated by his uncle-mentor and predecessor, Tun Abdul Rahman Yakub, in the mid-1980s.

The final act in the chief minister's long political career promises to be as intriguing and interesting to watch.

By John Teo | Source: New Straits Times Columnist 24 August 2012 

Tunku's indelible international footprint

TUNKU Abdul Rahman envisioned Malaysia as a nation founded upon the noble principles of liberty, human rights, natural justice and the rule of law, possessed of a leadership committed to serve the welfare, happiness and peace of the people as a whole, devoid of discrimination of any sort.

He resolutely believed in the supremacy of the Constitution, which he deemed must always be respected by all Malaysians, regardless of social standing, ethnicity, political preference or religious persuasion.

He firmly held that the principles of good governance enshrined in the political ideal of constitutionalism served as a permanent and reliable guarantee for the stability and the very continuity of the nation.

Prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman (right) with his Indian counterpart, Jawaharlal Nehru, at New Delhi airport on the former’s 10-day visit to India in October 1962.
He launched a drive and raised a million dollars to help India defend itself against communist Chinese armed attacks.

Driven by his ingrained political creed of liberalism and a deep consciousness of the country's plural heritage as well as of his own immediate maternal Thai extraction, the Tunku embraced a liberal approach to the country's rich and diverse cultures and religions throughout his life.

Little wonder that the Tunku was so fondly revered as Bapa Malaysia among Malaysians from all walks of life. This was true not just during the period he held the helm of the country as the first prime minister but right up to his very last days. Only a few world leaders can boast of such continuing adulation.

We also owe it to the Tunku's insight in statecraft, sagacious statesmanship and diplomatic adroitness that we achieved political independence earlier than most people expected, and in such a healthy and amicable fashion.

This was all the more creditable in light of the challenges posed in garnering a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious populace into a cohesive and progressive nation that was to confidently take on its role and responsibilities in the international arena.

From its birth as an independent country, Malaya was drawn into the thick of the Cold War that was characterised by a fierce rivalry between the democratic world led by the United States of America and Western Europe on the one side and the communist bloc of countries represented by the Soviet Union, the Peoples' Republic of China and Eastern Europe on the other.

The Tunku chose to steer the nation's foreign policy in a distinctive pro-Western direction. Having experienced the atrocities and wanton destruction the internal communist insurgency had inflicted on the people since 1948 and overcoming the subversive communist threat in 1960, the Tunku could not help but be sensitive to the threats communism posed elsewhere in the world.

He never hesitated to take a strong stand against these threats. For a small, newly independent country to pursue a stridently anti-communist foreign policy most certainly constituted a courageous, principled stand.

The Tunku was among the very first to stoutly condemn communist China's "rape of Tibet" when in 1959 Communist Chinese troops "subjugated" the people of Tibet. In the same anti-communist fervour, the Tunku vehemently castigated China for "naked aggression against India" when the Sino-Indian border-conflict flared up in 1962.

The Tunku was in India on that fateful day on an official visit. In several Indian cities, as part of his itinerary, he vehemently condemned China's aggression and repeatedly reiterated Malaya's support for India. I am told that, as a symbolic expression of camaraderie, he donated his blood for the Indian jawans (soldiers) who were bravely fighting in defence of democracy.

His spontaneous gesture was rewarded with profound appreciation by the government and the people of India from all across the country. On his return home, the Tunku embarked on a bold initiative in launching a public campaign, the "Save Democracy Fund" which raised over a million dollars to help India defend itself against communist Chinese armed attacks.

The Tunku's spontaneous support in India's hour of need had the electrifying effect of winning the hearts and minds of Indians. Thus, although he was a leader of a relatively small nation, the Tunku was held in high esteem in India for years to come. Our students located all over India can vouch how they were embraced with the warmest of hospitality by complete strangers and treated with brotherly affection because of the Tunku's unequivocal support for India.

On a personal note, I nostalgically recall the "special treatment" accorded to me at the official level, as well as in private Indian circles, during my diplomatic stints as Assistant High Commissioner in Madras (present day Chennai) from 1969 to 1973, and subsequently, as Counsellor in our High Commission in New Delhi from mid-1973 to 1975.

Many a leader from among far more powerful countries was somewhat perplexed over the Tunku's anti-communist policy stance which was distinctly vociferous even in comparison to the non-communist posture which neighbouring Singapore opted to adopt.

No doubt the Tunku's staunchly anti-communist foreign policy was drawn from historical experiences of combating the internal communist insurgency and the steady spread of communism in the region.

His ability to successfully steer the development and progress of our infant nation in the face of serious challenges encountered in the international arena is largely attributable to his enlightened vision, sagacious statesmanship and diplomatic acumen.

The leadership qualities, personal skills and gentility which the Tunku personified and brought to bear in the country's diplomacy and conduct of foreign affairs were in fact a unique feature of the Malay royal families, aristocracy and elite that merit appreciation in a separate article.

By Datuk Dr Ananda Kumaraseri | Source: New Straits Times Columnist 24 August 2012 

Reclaim education's true ethos

HUMAN CAPITAL VS BEING HUMAN: The craft of education is slowly being hijacked by various interested parties

AS the Keeper of the Royal Seal announced that last Sunday would be the start of Aidilfitri, I received a distressed email from a colleague at Albukhary International University, describing the melancholic experiences of its Syrian students.

Some of them are worried about their family members who are in danger due to the prevailing uncertain situation in the home country. Others are gravely concerned that some of their close ones are already missing in action.

In all, the depressive mood cannot be more apparent against the background of a festive season that celebrates peace and harmony. This is further exaggerated knowing full well how secure they have been since arriving in this country; something that Malaysians think little of.

While we can be sure to blame the warring parties for the massacre in Syria and other places, it is also obvious that this is not the full story. I cannot help but recall the depth of it all from a letter written by a war victim to a teacher. It reads:

Dear Teacher,

I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no man should witness:

Gas chambers built by learned engineers. Children poisoned by educated physicians. Infants killed by trained nurses. Women and babies shot and burned by high school and college graduates.

So I am suspicious of education.

My request is: help your students become human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Eichmanns.

Reading, writing, arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more human.

Being embroiled in education for a number of decades now, this letter continues to haunt me each time the question "What is education for?" is raised. Admittedly, it is not about making our children more human. Today, the buzz word is "human capital", not "human being".

Why this is so can be easily gauged from the response of yet another war victim, Elie Wiesel, when he spoke at the Moscow Global Forum in 1990. He said: "It (education) emphasised theories instead of values, concepts rather than human beings, abstraction rather than consciousness, answers instead of questions, ideology and efficiency rather than conscience."

I find it difficult to disagree with this perception as "education" is slowly being hijacked by various interested parties, especially as an industry. Like the military-industrial complex of President Dwight Eisenhower (1961), increasingly today's university seems to be undergoing a similar fate.

The difference is that while the former feeds into a "war-for-profit" modus operandi, the latter is prone towards "education-for-profit". In other words, profitability in the guise of "human capital" comes first instead of the state of humanity -- be it in war and education today. More often now, the two serve the interest of each other.

Innovation is tactically fast-tracked as the main business of the education-industrial complex with profitability, through commercialisation, being the ultimate good. Innovation is indeed the bedrock of advanced weaponry, to make killing more precise and seemingly invisible.

It is now an open secret that much of the scientific advancement that we see today piggy-backed on sophisticated war technology, from lasers to the Internet.

As educational institutions get more and more competitive in marketing themselves, they begin to adopt several techniques well known for promoting and sustaining wars.

War-related jargon is now invading the education sector too, with its own notion of "global strategy" and "strategic alliances" to "recruit" talents as part of a long-term "mission". Many, too, have their version of "war rooms" where all this is clandestinely conceived and tracked. To be sure, these were all alien to education before the days of Otto Adolf Eichmann, one of the vicious war criminals against humanity.

Hence, unless we dare to reclaim the true ethos of education that upholds humanity and human dignity rooted in virtues that nourish humanitarian values universally, we will be fighting a losing battle to bring peace and harmony through education.

We need to work harder, beginning with the awareness created by Syria's bloody anarchy -- because it is not possible to stop violence, what more waging wars, if the education system fails to extricate itself from being turned into subtle tools of global war machines.

The worst would be if citadels of learning are the places to spawn violence, ranging from bullying to gunning down fellow students, instead of havens of learning to live together, as long advocated by one of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation's four pillars of learning.

Unfortunately, we are still a long way off in translating peace and harmony into tangible learning goals and outcomes if we have no interest in learning how to live together!

By DZULKIFLI ABDUL RAZAK | Source: New Straits Times Columnist 25 August 2012 

A tale of three remarkable women

MAK GAYAH can't remember the exact date she was born. The one stated on her MyKad is wrong.

Her younger sister who died last year was seven years older on record. Her children believed she's in her early 90s although officially, she is 85.

It doesn't matter. In an enclave known as Parit Gantung, in the village of Sungai Balang Besar, Muar, she is the oldest person alive. She's remarkably healthy though, very alert and still walking around the village alone.

Ask her about the pre-Merdeka days; she has a lot to tell. She was born "somewhere in Batu Pahat" of Javanese descent, married to Dayat when she was hardly 17.

Dayat, who went to Mecca and changed his name to Haji Abdul Rahman (a normal practice at the time), died almost 30 years ago. They had eight children, many of them my childhood friends.

I remember Dayat well, for he was a frequent visitor to my house. He came for borak-borak (chatting) sessions, sometimes until the wee hours of the morning. The one thing I remember most about him is that he took a lot of ubat cap kaki tiga, the famous Haw Par product (in powder form). I imagine him puffing his Signal cigarette while my father had his Rough Rider.

Mahbob, their fourth child, left school before Standard Six. It was my father who taught him to tap rubber and until today, he still works for the family, taking charge of our oil palm plots.

We grew up with him and his siblings, going mengaji (learning the Quran) together. Mahbob and Masri were my companions for berkubang (splashing) in the river next to my house. Masri joined the army and came back to the village. He's now cook extraordinaire to my congregation.

Mak Gayah saw it all -- how her husband, my father and the pioneers of the village felled trees to build huts. Tigers were still roaring, pythons were terrorising the livestock and the myth of mawas (bigfoot) abounded.

Mak Gayah survived all her friends, including my mother who died 10 years ago, even those younger than her, and three of her own children. She was devastated a week before Hari Raya when her youngest daughter, Milah, 43, broke her back.

She was preparing for mengunjung, a Javanese society ritual of sending ketupat and rendang to in-laws and neighbours a week before Raya. She was lifting a pot-full of lodeh when she just collapsed and was unable to stand up. She was hospitalised but allowed to go home for Raya.

A spinal cord injury (SCI) is a serious matter. She felt numb and lost her sensation. She wanted to believe her condition is temporary. Her husband drives a lorry and is a noja (assistant imam) at my surau. They have three children, the eldest is 10 and the youngest, 7.

In the course of baraan (or marhaban) I met Kak Safiah. Her husband, nicknamed Hassan Bai, was one of the best footballers in the village. She was one of the village beauties back then. Five years ago, she had a stroke. She opted to live in Kuala Lumpur with one of her children.

Two years ago, I was surprised to see her condition. She had lost her exuberance, her signature laugh and her normal immaculate dressing. I could sense her anguish and feeling of hopelessness.

I told her how I felt about her when I was young. I even had a crush on her. She laughed and we talked about other things.

This time, I saw a different Kak Safiah. She was very much her former self. She was in her late sixties but she doesn't look her age. She had difficulty moving her right hand but she looked dignified, with her red dress, traces of lipstick and all. She had moved back to her home in the village.

"I belong here," she said. I am happy for her.

Every Raya brings back memories of the days I grew up in the village. Many of the old people I knew have gone, others are in their seventies and eighties. The young have all gone elsewhere.

But in a Javanese village like mine, baraan is one ritual everyone must join in. Visiting all the 28 houses in the enclave is no easy feat, but for many anak perantauan like myself, it is about taking stock of your past and to go down memory lane. And to meet the ever tenacious Mak Gayah and the charming Kak Safiah, not to mention wishing Milah well.

Memories are made of these.

By JOHAN JAAFFAR | | Twitter @Johan_Jaaffar Source: New Straits Times Columnist 25 August 2012 

Free Education: Govt should come out with a good plan

EDUCATION is the most valuable asset in one's life. In my opinion, no cost is too high when it comes to education. After all, education leads to the birth of innovation and gives rise to a society that is intellectual and enlightened.

What exactly constitutes a "free education plan"?

Tuition fees are a given, of course, but what of the cost of living for the students?

Do we wish to offset this cost to the parents? Or will there be a provident fund set aside for students by the government? If so, would it be state or Federal Government? Many questions need to be answered, and a detailed analysis should be done.

In European countries, a monthly stipend is given to students in higher education institutions as part of their welfare plan. Is this possible in a developing country like Malaysia? And how much would such an allowance be?

It is disheartening to see so many Malaysian youth in debt soon after they graduate. Many fresh graduates are deep in debt, even before they are employed.

Private higher education institutions that have mushroomed all over the country are making the situation worse. With so many education providers and competition, education is being turned into a commodity. It is big business these days.

The government should come out with strict regulations to control the fees structure in private higher learning institutions. This can help to bring down the financial burden of graduates. A standardised fee structure based on course modules and for fees in private institutions should be introduced and controlled by the government.

For example, the course fees for an engineering programme varies between RM40,000 and RM80,000 in private institutions. A National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) loan is given to cover the fees and their own expenses as well.

Roughly, when the fee is RM40,000, a student is eligible to get a loan up to RM70,000. Fresh engineering graduates in the private sector earn only RM2,200 to RM2,500. How are they going to settle their education loan when they also need to get a vehicle for themselves and a home a few years after they graduate?

Kauselya Muniandy, Ipoh, Perak Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editors 21 August 2012

Olympics: An event that united all people

GRAND, colourful, extravagant. That sums up the 2012 London Olympics. The Olympics saw the best of us.

The spectators were awesome. There was a close bond between the athletes and spectators. Everybody cheered for everyone, regardless of nationality. The spectators lived the Olympics through the athletes.

The feeling that "I was there" or "I witnessed it live on TV" is something to treasure for the rest of our lives.

If all humans continue to get along together like in the Olympics, the world will surely be a beautiful place to live in. During the closing ceremony, all the athletes walked through the crowd to the centre of the stadium. They came in together rather than by country and mingled with each other.

Inspiring stories, the tears and joy on the faces of athletes left us speechless.

It was also a dynamic transformation from the 1948 London Olympics, when the athletes slept in military barracks and boarding schools.

The Olympics provided a fair battlefield for everyone, regardless of race, religion, colour, creed or nationality. It united the human race.

S. Mathana Amaris Fiona, Puchong, Selangor Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editors 23 August 2012

Sports: There's much to learn from Olympians

THE 30th Olympic Games has come to an end in London. The opening and closing ceremonies were spectacular. More than 10,000 athletes from 204 nations competed in 300 events in 26 sports, showcasing the high standard of human talent and skills.

Each event is fascinating in its own right. However, the 100m dash seemed to draw the most interest. That Usain Bolt could run 100m in 9.63 seconds makes us wonder how that is even humanly possible. He could even do five push-ups after the run, whereas we would have been breathless and gasping for air. Is it in the genes, mind, environment or something else?

Likewise, the middle-distance African runners left us equally in awe. Physically, some are thin and slender and while running, they did not look as if they were gasping at all. What makes them so strong? They looked desperate only when dashing towards the finishing tape.

The marathon is a gruelling event. It requires another array of qualities: strength, perseverance and endurance.

As we watched the gold medallist Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia win the women's marathon, we gasped in admiration, looking at her gritting her teeth.

We were the ones left breathless, thinking about how a woman could run 42km in three hours when most of us would be panting, climbing five flights of stairs.

The Olympics also displayed a contrast in performances. As much as strength and endurance is required in the running, jumping, and swimming events, rhythmic gymnastics required grace and precision. Athletic qualities are judged by the ease of movement with the apparatus, a blend of fashion, artistry and strength.

Their moves are timed with the music, which can be anything from a classical strum of the violin to a James Bond tune. While the runners, swimmers and jumpers can express their feelings by screaming and fist-punching, rhythmic gymnasts have to keep their emotions under wraps.

It was not only the athletes, but the London spectators who were a sport. As the world can bear witness, stadiums were filled to the brim. The crowd cheered and applauded, showing merriment for medallists and encouragement to all competitors.

For example, although Ireland's Caitriona Jennings came in last in the marathon, she received cheers just as loud as the gold medallist.

In short, the Olympics was a display of discipline. The competitors and coaches spend years training to achieve a high-level of self-control, making great sacrifices. How good it would be if this was practised in other areas in life such as education, science and innovation, politics, business and international relations. The world would be a more peaceful place for mankind for sure.

Megawati Omar, Shah Alam, Selangor Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editors 24 August 2012

Education: More to life than scoring As

I REFER to the teenager in Malacca, who allegedly consumed pesticide and died after getting poor Sijil Pelajaran Malayisa results ("SPM failure takes own life" -- NST, March 23).

Apart from E. Premkumar, there have been  many teenagers who committed suicide after   such exam results.  

 We must put a stop to  this.  We must stop pouring scorn on low achievers.

 No doubt getting 10As  is good and this bodes well for a wider path in education.  

But scoring 10As is not everything.  Possessing  skills and abilities is equally important.  

 Thus, while advising children to study hard and pass exams, we must also tell them that life is about a balance between doing well at   exams and having other skills.

Life is wider than the sphere of exams.
Our children's passion to pass exams with as many As as possible is driven by a need to earn respect from from parents and other  children.   This  is the start of the  rat race. And what is at stake is character.

 To counter this, we can tell children that they  need not only earn respect by scoring many As in  SPM, but also by being more skilful than the rest.

 There are many things they can excel in, for example, as tailors and cooks. Therefore, there are other things  than  scoring  As.

Another measure of life is success.   But success can come from   other arenas and skills developed from   discipline.  Thus, life and success are subject to  a person's discipline, not just good scores in exams.  

 As such, self-discipline should be developed at home.

We should explain to children that a good life can also stem from self-knowledge.  Hence, we first have to recognise children's likes and wants, and later, their goals and values.

  Appreciating their values and wants will likely produce confident teenagers.  Confidence  allows them to withstand setbacks in life, such as  dismal SPM results.  Encourage children to jot down their ambitions and plans.  No matter how childish the dreams look, show that we appreciate them.

 Likewise, make children see the wisdom of  improving themselves.  They do not have to compete against their peers.  Many teenagers, especially those who are hooked on Facebook,  compare themselves to others.  Excessive comparison may result in low-self esteem.

 In the larger picture, the upbringing of young citizens differs from nation to nation.  It is subject to a nation's  culture and development.  In a  poor nation, bringing up children could be about fleeing poverty.

 But in a rich country, bringing up children is more complicated.  So our task  is tougher as we are an almost developed nation.

The state of the economy also influences the way we bring up children and it  differs from  decade to decade.  For example,  in the 1970s, it was about preparing children to step out of poverty. Now, 40 years later, the aim is to turn them into people with character.  

 Character  will show up in a person who can  mix well.  There is no point of scoring 10 As if one cannot socialise with others.

  Thus, a person who  does badly in exams but can  socialise well, speak confidently and is rich with ideas, has an equal chance at success.

 A person who can  work in a group has a good chance of succeeding because we need to work in teams.

 To be in a group, one has to project patience and tolerance.  Also, we must teach children to be  respectful and confident.   

 Many successful men and women, who had contributed to society, were not multiple A scorers.

 They were  mediocre, some even dropouts, but they were hardworking, confident and positively different.  

Tan Sri  P. Ramlee didn't attend any music school but he composed songs and directed films successfully. Virgin boss  Sir Richard Branson dropped out of high school and Bill Gates quit in his first year at Harvard University.

 These talented people, who beyond the grasp  and understanding of the common person,    succeeded in their  enterprises to earn respect.  

 Children can learn from those around them, so parents can take them to see how the disadvantaged and deprived live. Awareness of  this will add to their character.

 Parents must instil the message  in them that to succeed in life, one must be disciplined first.

 We do not want to see more  teenagers dying because they  fared badly in exams.  Stop putting them in perpetual fear of failing.  Life is wider than the sphere of exams.

 Perhaps we can learn from the wisdom of this proverb: if a man does only what is required of him, he is a slave, but if a man does more than what is required of him, he is a free man.

By Dr Megawati Omar, Research Management Institute, Universiti Teknologi Mara, Shah Alam, Selangor Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editors 27 March 2012

Widen scope of literature

I’M greatly heartened by the Prime Minister’s call to include English Literature in the school curriculum.

Being a firm believer in the adage “Reading maketh a man” and a long-time advocate of English language and literature, I truly hope that the Education Blueprint, which will be revealed shortly, will confirm the (re)introduction of literature as a component of the English curriculum.

To allay the fears of students, teachers and parents who think that English Literature comprises only the classics of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens, Wordsworth and Lawrence, perhaps what needs to be clarified is that the field is much wider than just these well-known authors, poets and playwrights.

Perhaps “Literature in English” or “Readings in English” are better terms to use, as they can be extended to include all kinds of writings in English be they by British, American, African, Chinese or Commonwealth authors and poets.

There are many commendable works by writers and poets who are not British or Americans, including those from India and Malaysia.

Both classics and contemporary works can be included as well as the more modern genres like newspaper reports and feature articles.

Both complete works or abridged editions can be used depending on the language proficiency of the students and the teachers who teach them.

What needs to be systematically done is to list and categorise the works in terms of their themes, subject matter and levels of linguistic complexity.

Schools can be given a choice as to which novel, play or collection of poems and articles they prefer. At the lowest levels, fairy tales and Enid Blyton can be part of the collection.

I would like to suggest that rather than introduce Literature/Readings in English as a stand-alone subject, it should be incorporated into the greater English Language curriculum.

A practical approach would be to add two extra periods where teachers and students are exposed to a variety of narratives, writing styles and genres using a wide range of vocabulary.

Classroom methodology can include reading aloud, pronunciation drills, dictation, role play, writing summaries and book reports, identifying quotations and interesting idioms and turns of phrase.

Films and recordings can be presented to motivate both the teachers and students and sustain their interest.

Assessment of learning can be in the form of individual or group projects and/or answering subjective questions in the relevant section of the English Language test/examination paper.

Without being utterly boring and harping on the good old days when people of my generation learned and loved the English Language through English Literature, I would like to assert that any extra reading especially of good writings, will only enhance one’s capacity to use the language well and to communicate effectively whether passively (in reading and listening) or actively (in writing and speaking).

HALIMAH MOHD SAID Kuala Lumpur Source: The STAR Online Home News Opinion Saturday 25 August 2012 

Cutting wedding costs

YOUR wedding day is meant to be the day of your dreams. The reality of it all, however, is that it's probably going to be the most expensive day of your life as well!

The cost of a typical Malaysian wedding could range anywhere from RM10,000 to RM500,000, although some can even creep into the millions.

While most people tend to go all-out when it comes to their wedding costs, that doesn't mean one can't practise some frugal spending habits.

Here are some pointers to help you avoid triggering alarm bells - when you're expecting wedding ones.

Mass wedding ceremonies are popular during auspicious dates in Malaysia. These 68 couples chose to get hitched on Valentine’s Day.Mass wedding ceremonies are popular during auspicious dates in Malaysia. These 68 couples chose to get hitched on Valentine’s Day.

Avoid auspicious dates

It's quite common for certain cultures, such as the Indian and Chinese cultures, to select auspicious dates for weddings. Places where wedding receptions are commonly held, such as hotels and restaurants, tend to jack-up prices during these times to maximise profits.

“Over the past decade, it's become a popular trend to marry on dates when the digits of the day, month and year of the calendar tally,” says Gregory Lam, a Kuala Lumpur-based wedding planner.

“Dates such as July 7, 2007 (7-7-07) or Aug 8, 2008 (8-8-08) became auspicious days for mass weddings. Each year, this trend is growing, and so are the hotel and restaurant bills,” he quips.

Melissa Ram, who's been married for over three years, says her husband and her chose a date that was “outside the peak period.”

“We avoided the peak season for weddings which usually takes place towards the last two months of the year or on special auspicious dates. Instead, we chose a date somewhere in the middle of the year,” she says.

Cheaper location

Akashdeep Singh, who was married in 2010, chose to have his wedding at a community hall.

“We chose a location that was not only cheap, but it was also simple and easy to get to,” he says.

Lam, meanwhile, advises would-be couples to explore their options and compare rates if they want to have their wedding reception at a hotel.

“Sometimes, the not-so-popular hotels can still be posh and look grand but at the same time, offer good rates. You just need to do your research.”

Melissa says having your wedding beyond the city centre can be a cheaper option.

“The hotel we chose was in the outskirts of the city as opposed to having it in the city centre.”

Limit the wedding list

Cutting down the number of people at your wedding is easily one of the best ways to cut down cost, says Gowri Arumainathan, who was married in 2009.

“It's definitely a cost effective way to just keep your wedding small and sweet,” she says.

Melissa, however, believes that “trimming the invitation list” is a task that's easier said than done.

“Limiting the number of guest is one of the toughest tasks of anyone's wedding. You would have to allocate invites to both sides of the family, extended family members and sometimes, their extended families!”

Melissa says her husband and she prepared their guest invitation list some six to nine months ahead of their wedding in an effort to “keep things within their budget.”

“Once you have the final figures, only then can you decide on the venue and whether it can accommodate your guests. It is not an easy task as in our Asian culture, you may offend some individuals if you don't invite.”


In an effort to cut cost, it's not surprising to find many couples doing most of the preparations themselves rather then to outsource it to an expert, like a wedding planner.

“We came up with the concept and design of the wedding card and that helped to cut cost,” says Gowri.

“We researched a lot on the Internet and came up with a design that suit our wedding-colour theme. Many visits to the printers made sure that he got things just right. We didn't use a wedding planner at all,” she adds.

Melissa also says that she did not seek help from a wedding planner.

“We reused a lot of items from the wedding for the reception as well, like the projector for our slide show, which was provided complimentary by the temple management,” she says, adding that having friends that can help out was a bonus.

Akashdeep says he had two “videographer friends” to help out at his wedding.

“They were attending our wedding anyway so it was only natural to ask them to do the video.”

For her wedding, Melissa says the decorations were “kept to a minimum.”

“We kept it to a minimum as flowers do cost a lot. For the ceremonial event, we got our traditional garlands and corsages directly from the wholesaler. For table decorations at the hotel, we just took the standard decor (that the hotel) provided instead of having anything specially made.

“In terms of photography we took a package which had the pre-wedding photos, wedding day photos and videography, which works out to be cheaper.”

Borrow or rent

It's cheaper to rent or borrow an item if you're only going to use it once.

“Of course, to cut cost further, you can also elect to use any of the gowns provided by the photo studio which does your bridal photography, which is offered to you at no cost at all,” says Melissa.

Akashdeep says that for his wedding, he borrowed his brother's traditional shoes while his wife rented jewellery.

“There's a business of renting out these kind of things and it's a cheaper alternative,” he says.

Limit the alcohol (not for Muslims)

In non-Muslim cultures especially, a wedding is often an occasion to get together, drink, rejoice and have more drinks!

Cutting down on the alcohol might tone down the mood a bit, but it would help to reduce cost.

“Bring your own drinks! Buying your own alcohol helped in cutting the cost,” says Gowri.

“We just had to haggle with the hotel sales representative to subsidise the corkage for the alcohol. However, this will only make a difference if your reception included alcohol,” she adds.

Melissa, meanwhile, says that for her wedding reception, it was decided that only wine and beer was provided.

“We did not provide hard liquor as a means to cut cost,” she says.

By EUGENE MAHALINGAM Source: The STAR Online Home Business News Saturday August 25,  2012

Your 10 questions with Tan Chade-Meng

Author of Search Inside Yourself answers ....

What prompted you to write Search Inside Yourself (published in April)?

In 2007, my team and I launched an experimental, cutting-edge emotional intelligence curriculum in Google called Search Inside Yourself. The main innovation was to develop emotional intelligence by training the mind. It became very successful. Many students tell us the training changed their lives. Search Inside Yourself soon became very popular. In order to offer the course to more people, I had to train more teachers, so I started writing down in detail the contents and practices we were teaching. As I was writing detailed notes, I quickly realised I was actually writing a book, so I turned it into a book project.

The motivation behind the creation of Search Inside Yourself (the curriculum) is to create the conditions for world peace. I feel that if we have inner peace, inner joy and compassion on a global scale, it will create the conditions that lead to world peace. In order to do that, I feel we need to align those qualities with success of individuals and companies. In other words, if we can help people and companies succeed in a way that inner peace, inner joy and compassion are the necessary and unavoidable side effects, then those three qualities will spread. And I feel the way to achieve that is with an effective curriculum for emotional intelligence for adults. That is why I gathered a team of experts to create that curriculum in Google.

Author of Search Inside Yourself answers ....

Hence, you can say that the ultimate reason for writing the book is to create the conditions for world peace.

Are you someone who needs to go through the writing process which can be a painstaking one for some in order to bring clarity to your emotions?

The writing process itself was fairly easy for me. I wrote the entire book in just 14 weeks. I was already very familiar with the content, so it flowed easily; the hard part was trying to make every page fun to read. I didn't just want to write a beneficial book, I wanted first and foremost to write a book so fun to read that even a very busy person like me would want to read it. To achieve that, I found it very useful to maintain a calm and joyful mind during the writing process. Happily, that gave me a lot of opportunities to practice what I teach in the book.

There are heaps of books written about the importance of emotional intelligence. How is Search Inside Yourself set apart from all of them?

Some books talk about emotional intelligence but do not describe how to become emotionally intelligent. Other books I know of only give behavioural advice, which means they try to tell you how to behave in certain situations. Search Inside Yourself takes an entirely different approach, by showing you how to train mental and emotional competencies.

For example, it does not tell you how to react in an emotionally difficult situation, but it shows you how to train yourself to become calm and collected in an emotionally difficult situation so you can think clearly and choose for yourself how you want to respond. I think this emphasis on developing core emotional skills is the main feature of Search Inside Yourself.

In addition, Search Inside Yourself has a strong scientific foundation, its methods are already shown to be effective in a work setting (in Google, no less), and it is taught in a highly accessible language.

That is why the book is endorsed by former President Jimmy Carter of the United States, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, executive chairman Eric Schmidt of Google, and many other top political, spiritual and business leaders. I do not know of many books endorsed by so many top leaders.

You described your childhood as “very unhappy”. At what age and under what circumstances was this sense of unhappiness replaced by a sense of balance and finally, a happier sense of well-being?

Everything started changing in 1991, the year I turned 21. That year, I began learning various forms of meditation, the most important of which was Mindfulness Meditation, which may be the single most important thing I have learned in my life.

Meditation is really just mental training. It is a lot like exercise. Exercise is physical training and if you exercise a lot, eventually you will be healthy and fit, and your dominant physical experience may be a profound sense of wellness. Similarly, meditation is training for heart and mind. If you meditate a lot, the mind becomes calm and happy, and your dominant mental and emotional experience may also be a profound sense of wellness.

A few years ago, I reflected on this experience and it occurred to me how profound the shift has been for me. Before 1991, if nothing good or bad happens, I was very unhappy. By 2001, if nothing good or bad happens, I was very happy. In other words, my “baseline” happiness shifted profoundly. That reflection motivated me to bring meditation to my friends in Google.

Would you say religion and you being a Buddhist since 1991 has contributed largely to your mind set and overall positive outlook?

No, I would not say so. It was not religion that had that big impact on me, it was spirituality. There is a big difference. Religion is the belief in one or more gods. In contrast, spirituality is about looking within, and by looking within, going beyond self. It is important to recognise that they are qualitatively distinct. The most important implication is that even though not all people are religious, everybody can be spiritual.

The biggest change for me occurred when I looked deeply within and discovered a calm mind to be a joyful mind. Just as importantly, I discovered kindness (both towards oneself and others) to be a sustainable source of happiness. I think these insights can be beneficial to everybody.

You mention that one needs to have a deep sense of self-knowledge and self-honesty in order to sustain self-confidence. There are many confident people some of them top corporate figures who seem to lack self-awareness and self-honesty. How do you account for that?

In my experience, people without strong self-knowledge and self-honesty may also exhibit a lot of self-confidence, but there is one major limitation: Their self-confidence is contingent on things going well for them. When things start going badly for them, they become overwhelmed with self-doubt and often engage in destructive behaviours.

There is a simple reason: failure forces you to confront unpleasant truths about yourself. In general, failure is a nasty experience, of course, but if in the midst of failure, you are also forced to confront the unpleasant facets of yourself that you previously tried to hide from, the experience is made much more difficult.

In contrast, if your self-confidence is built upon self-knowledge and self-honesty, while failure is still nasty, you don't get to go through the extra jarring surprise of having to confront your unpleasant facets.

Instead, you are already comfortable with your weaknesses and you already know your inner resources quite well, so you can quickly and calmly compensate for your weaknesses and utilise your inner resources. Hence, you can recover more quickly.

In other words, the type of confidence based on self-knowledge and self-honesty is far more sustainable.

What are the three most important lessons you would like to impart to your 12-year-old daughter and why?

1. Be healthy by learning to take care of the body.

2. Be happy by learning to take care of the mind.

3. Be compassionate by learning to take care of others.

I cannot think of anything more important than health, happiness and compassion.

What are the three most important lessons your parents taught you about life and survival?

1. Be good to people. Always care about people's feelings.

2. Don't compromise on your morals. Be brave about doing the right thing.

3. Always do your very best and never stop learning.

What has the Western world taught you about yourself and raising a family there?

Living in the West has taught me that the East and West can each benefit hugely by learning from each other. Just take Buddhism, for example, a subject I'm familiar with.

Buddhism developed mental understanding and training to such an advanced degree it was vastly ahead of anything available in the West, so a lot of my Western friends benefited tremendously from learning Buddhist insights and training.

However, it turned out that the benefit was not just flowing one way. When the West learned Buddhism, they also made it a subject of scientific enquiry and applied it to diverse fields like conflict resolution and mental healthcare. Through their efforts, they made Buddhism vastly more understandable and accessible that anything I have seen in the East. So everybody on both sides benefits.

This is just one example I'm familiar with, I'm sure there are many others. Hence, I want to encourage all my friends, both my Eastern and Western friends, to not be afraid to learn from each other.

About raising a family. What I really like about living in the West is the different way in which they express their love for their children. In the East, the way parents express love for kids is by doing whatever it takes to make them achieve good grades in school. The theory being that if they do well in school, they will do well in life and be happy. The downside is kids are under a lot of pressure. In the West, they have a different idea of good parenting and so parents don't put the same type of pressure on their kids.

Personally, I think that there are only three important things for my child: that she grows up to be a healthy adult, a happy adult, and a compassionate adult. That is all. If she does that, I consider myself a successful parent, even if she makes minimum wage. If not, I consider myself a failed parent, even if she becomes a multi-billionaire entrepreneur who conducts the symphony orchestra in her spare time after finishing her second term as President of the United States.

Hence, I like the Western model of parenting a lot more, there is a lot more laughter and affection, and a lot less pressure on the kids.

How and what is your measure of success?

Warren Buffett said, “Basically, when you get to my age, you'll measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to love you actually do love you. If you get to my age in life and nobody thinks well of you, I don't care how big your bank balance is, your life is a disaster.”

I'm adopting that as my own measure of success until I find a better one.

Source: The STAR Online Home Business news Saturday August 25, 2012