September 2nd, 2012

Meaningful lessons from Bangalore

Controlling one’s voice and learning how to engage students are just some of the new teaching perspectives six teachers took home.

MARYATI Athan from SK Muhammad Saman, Perak was one of six teachers who returned to Malaysia from India with new teaching ideas.

The teachers, who were selected based on their contribution to the native speaker programme in their respective schools, had recently attended the three-day Asia Human Resource Development Congress 2012 in Bangalore, India.

“I was quite excited to be offered the chance to attend this conference as I thought it would enhance my professional development,” said Maryati.

“On the first day of the conference, we were asked to choose one out of the four pre-conference workshops available. I chose the one that introduced a training approach known as Jolt and was conducted by Dr Sivasailam Thiagarajan,” said Maryati.

Dr Sivasailam, nicknamed “Thiagi”, taught the participants how to use games and activities to provide training and teaching.

In one of the games, Dr Sivasailam gave a lecture, after which the participants were divided into teams and asked to complete sentences as well as come up with more points based on the lecture.

A summary of the lecture was then presented by each team followed by comments from the other participants.

According to Maryati, the learning activity did not take up much time but illustrated “one or more important learning points”.

“The workshop was very interesting as it provided insights and was highly engaging; it made me think, share and discover different perspectives,” she said, adding that she was offered the trip after winning the Creative Teacher Showcase at the 21st Melta International Conference 2012 in May.

The teachers’ trip was sponsored by the SMH HR Group. The group was awarded the contract to supply 120 trainers for the six states on the west side of Peninsular Malaysia.

Norizatul Azma Ismail, from SRA Al-Islahiyah, Perlis, took detailed notes on what she learned from each activity.

One of the lessons she took home was that a meaningful lesson is one that engages the participants. “You learn when you are happy or sad, but not when you are bored,” she noted.

SJK (C) Pui Ying teacher Ker Chek Wei summarised what he learned, saying that a trainer has to maintain a balance between activities and content.

“Without content, the activities are just fun and the students won’t learn anything. Meanwhile, if the trainer emphasises only on content, the students may learn but may not be engaged,” he explained.

Even at workshops that may not have seemed teaching-related, the teachers were able to take home lessons that were applicable to their careers.

At the workshop on the topic “Uplifting Service: Exceeding Customer Expectations One Action At A Time”, Ron Kaufman said that customer expectations were rising in today’s global economy.

“His presentation motivated me to do my very best for my students as they are my main clients. His packed presentation with real-life examples, powerful principles and tried-and-true techniques motivated and inspired me to uplift my service to my students,” said Maryati.

During the congress, some of the teachers also discovered that besides content structure and delivery method, there was another teaching fundamental they needed to learn — how to use their voices.

Norizatul learned that the voice was the most powerful thing in engaging learners.

“In our journey to uncover our voices, executive voice coach Cynthia Zhai guided us to the one big secret in achieving it, which is through our breathing,” she said.

Ker added that Cynthia taught them to breathe correctly by using their “complex vocal system”, which included the mouth, vocal cord and diaphragm.

“When we speak to the public, we may become nervous. The correct way in controlling your voice is to use our mouth to inhale and speak at the phase of exhalation,” said Ker.

“Never use your nose to breathe in while you are talking,” he added.

The teachers who attended the congress agreed they were happy and honoured to have been chosen to attend the three-day event, with Norizatul adding that she had gained a lot of valuable knowledge to apply in her teaching.

“All in, I found that the congress had given me the opportunity to enhance my professional development by being exposed to internationally renowned speakers and trainers who motivated me and helped to develop my skills as a teacher,” said Maryati.

By JEANNETTE GOON Source: The STAR Online Home Education Sunday Semptember 2, 2012

New paper, better benefits

Students are encouraged to think critically with the new format of the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examination for History.

CHRISTINE* feels that studying for her History subject is a chore.

“There’s just too much to memorise, and I’m always worrying about forgetting everything during the examination,” said the secondary school student from the Klang Valley.

Her classmate, Azura* added: “It’s pretty boring; I’d rather do my Mathematics homework during History lessons.”

Open book: The new History assessment format includes a third paper whereby students are required to write a guided essay and will be allowed to bring textbooks and other related printed material into the exam hall.Open book: The new History assessment format includes a third paper whereby students are required to write a guided essay and will be allowed to bring textbooks and other related printed material into the exam hall.

As they lamented their workload for the subject, the students’ teacher was busy drilling her class on answers to possible questions that may appear in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination.

“Have you all memorised the sample essays I gave you last week?” asked the teacher as a few students nodded their heads half-heartedly.

“If you don’t pay attention, then you can forget about getting your A’s,” reprimanded the teacher.

The above is a typical scenario seen in many History lessons nationwide.

In the curriculum and assessment guidelines set out by the Education Ministry, the goals of History education include enabling students to understand the socio-economic and political development of the country as well as understanding and analysing historical facts in a rational manner.

For all the ministry’s good intentions of encouraging students to think critically and apply their knowledge, the reality is that lessons on the ground may not reflect this.

It is common for teachers to “spot” the questions and for students to memorise wholesale “analytical essays” to be regurgitated in the examinations.

“It’s very well to tell teachers to be more creative with their teaching, but if students don’t make the grade, we get the blame as well,” said a History teacher from Johor.

“Unfortunately, studying for the examination is still seen as being more important than making lessons meaningful to students.”

Compulsory pass

With History being a must-pass subject in the SPM from 2013 onwards, the Education Ministry has introduced a new format of assessment for the subject.

The current SPM History examination comprises two papers; Paper One is a multiple choice test while Paper Two requires students to answer structured questions and write essays. Come 2013, students will have to tackle an additional paper — a three-hour open book examination.

The move to make History a compulsory subject to pass in the SPM was first announced by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in 2010.

Muhyiddin, who is also the Education Minister, said then that putting more emphasis on history would create a deeper appreciation of the concept of “negara bangsa”.

He further added that History will be a core subject in primary schools from 2014 under the new Standard Curriculum for Primary Schools (KSSR).

The announcement, made during Muhyiddin’s winding-up speech at the Umno General Assembly, took everyone by surprise.

Media reports credited the move to calls made by several Umno delegates to place more emphasis on the subject; the delegates had apparently argued that the younger generation had scant knowledge of the nation’s history and its Federal Constitution.

In subsequent months, it seemed that everyone from politicians to parents had demanded a review of the History curriculum.

Finally on May 3, 2011, the Education Ministry appointed a 10-member committee to look at possible revisions to the current History syllabus — nation-building and correcting factual inaccuracies was to be the chief focus of the review.

Chaired by Malaysian Historical Society executive committee chairman Datuk Omar Mohd Hashim, the committee included former Universiti Teknologi Mara’s Administrative Science and Policy Studies Faculty dean Prof Datuk Dr Ramlah Adam and historian Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Kim.

At the same time, certain quarters still debated the merits of the History curriculum, claiming inaccuracies and bias in the current History textbooks.

One high-profile critic was the Campaign for a Truly Malaysian History (also known as Kempen Sejarah Malaysia Sebenar or KSMS), a 22-member committee consisting of parents, academics and representatives of non-governmental organisations.

KSMS was formed to provide independent input to the government-elected panel and its suggestions were forwarded to the ministry late last year.

Meanwhile, the government-appointed panel has also submitted its report to the ministry on improving the History curriculum, but it is unclear what exactly the changes will be.

As Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is set to launch an education transformation plan on Sept 11, it is likely that the panel’s recommendations will be included in these reforms as well.

New format

The new format of assessment was first detailed in an Education Ministry circular dated Aug 8, 2011.

Paper One (multiple choice) will have 40 questions to be answered within one hour, and accounts for 30% of students’ overall marks.

For Paper Two (subjective), students will answer four structured questions and can choose to write three essays out of the seven questions provided.

This paper lasts for two-and-a-half hours and carries a 50% weightage.

Accounting for 20% of the overall grade, Paper Three (tugasan or task) requires students to write a guided essay in three hours.

A month before the examination, students will be given the general topic of Paper Three so they can carry out their own research on the subject.

While the exact question will only be revealed during the examination itself, students are allowed to bring relevant printed materials such as textbooks, magazines and reference books into the examination hall.

It would appear then that the paper is a mirror to university-styled assignments, and intended at making students look beyond the confines of their textbooks.

An officer from the Malaysian Examinations Syndicate said that the reason for the new examination format is to encourage “higher order thinking skills” instead of rote learning.

“By allowing students to look at other resources (aside from textbooks), we hope to make them analyse and learn in a more in-depth manner,” she said.

“They should be able to formulate their own views on a topic, and support these views with empirical data.

“In that sense, they need to identify the difference between reliable and unreliable sources,” she said.

This method of assessment detailed above will be in place from 2013 to 2017; from 2018 onwards, the subject will be assessed using the Standard Curriculum for Secondary Schools (KSSM).

*Pseudonyms are used By PRIYA KULASAGARAN Source: The STAR Online Home Education September 2, 2012 

The challenges that gifted people face

TALENT without opportunity achieves nothing. This is the problem facing all gifted people, in society: how will a gifted person find or create opportunities appropriate to that gift?

The greater the gift, the more rarefied the opportunity needs to be, to allow that gift to flourish.

Thus, the gifted person is confronted with an awkward conundrum: the more profound their gifts, the more unlikely it is that they will find the necessary opportunities to allow them to flourish.

There is another problem facing all gifted people in society.

A gifted person is one whose intellectual capacity is greater than the norm.

A moderately gifted person (the lowest level of “gifted”), with an IQ of 130, occurs with a rarity of one person in 44 in a population with a mean IQ of 100 and standard deviation of 15. That means they are brighter than 97.7% of the population.

Posing problems

Even at this low level of giftedness, the moderately gifted person faces discrimination of a different kind: the person presiding over any opportunity, job or a special situation, is not likely to be as bright as he or she is.

This presents a very real problem, as we shall see later.

However, the problem is even more acute for higher levels of giftedness.

The highly gifted person, with an IQ of 145, occurs with a rarity of one person in 741.

This means they are brighter than almost 99.9% of the population.

At this level it is almost certain that anyone empowered to decide over their fate, with respect to any opportunity, is not as bright as they are.

The exceptionally gifted person, with an IQ of 160 or more, occurs with a rarity of one person in 31,560. They are brighter than 99.997% of the population.

At this level, it is quite possible to live out one’s life, and never meet another person as bright.

Needless to say, anyone deciding on whether to offer them an opportunity, or not, is very likely to be less intelligent than they are.

In the worst case scenarios, for profoundly gifted people, the situation is essentially unimaginable.

According to standardised IQ rarity charts (which some evidence suggests may underestimate the abundance of the most gifted), someone of an IQ of 180, would occur in one person in 20,696,863.

This would mean that, in a country the size of Malaysia, there may not be another such person. Clearly, for all opportunities in their lives, the person deciding their fate will not be as bright.

Why is this phenomenon of relative brightness a problem? This matter was addressed by David Dunning and Justin Kruger in their research of 1999 which described the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Recognising skills

This is a psychological phenomenon, in which, for any given skill, an incompetent person is unable to recognise genuine skills in others, yet they tend to overestimate their own competence.

Furthermore, they are completely unable to grasp the degree of their own incompetence.

However, if they receive special training in the relevant skills concerned, they do show an ability to become aware of their lack of skills.

Applying the Dunning-Kruger effect to the matter of relative intelligence, and considering general intelligence to be a mental skill which manifests the various skills a person has; we can see that a person who is not as bright is incapable of recognising the talent of a brighter individual, in a typical case.

Such people habitually tend to overestimate their own skill in relation to that of the brighter person. In situations in which a gifted person seeks an opportunity in life and that opportunity is decided upon by a person who is not as bright, the gifted person is usually unappreciated. So, even if the gifted person has much to offer an organisation, or employer, they may in fact, be denied the opportunity they need.

This is most likely to occur to the most gifted people, because fewer people are equipped to appreciate their gifts.

Is there a remedy to this? Yes, there is. Those offering employment opportunities should ensure that hiring individuals are aware of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

They should make particular effort to evaluate the talents of those who apply to them, using objective tests and criteria, which do not depend on human judgement — such as IQ and other intellectual and job-specific performance tests, whichever may be appropriate in the circumstances.

Those in the field of Human Resources must therefore use objective methods of assessing candidates and must overcome the natural limitations of their human judgement.

Only in a world that makes extensive use of objective criteria, will gifted people have the chance to reach the station most appropriate to their gifts.

This is good for society, too, since a society that best uses the talents of its gifted is a society that will become the best it can be.

VALENTINE CAWLEY Source: The STAR Online Home Education Sunday September 2, 2012

Use new tools of the trade

Traditions die hard in the teaching profession, but educators must face up to the fact that 21st century tools are needed to teach digital learners.

AS AN educator myself, I have many friends who are teachers and they often seem happy and comfortable teaching the way they have been taught when they were in school.

I often hear that teachers are reluctant to use technology to teach because they see it as a waste of time.

Are you one of those teachers?

If you are, then dip your toe into the 21st century; it may be cold at first, but it will warm up very quickly.

You’ll find that technology is a tool that not only engages and challenges the student, but the teacher as well.

This is the 21st century and our students are 21st century digital learners!

We may not always have all the resources, but we can still find a way to not only educate but to engage our students, digitally.

What is digital learning?

According to the Digital Learning Day webpage:

Digital learning is any instructional practice that is effectively using technology to strengthen the student learning experience.

Digital learning encompasses a wide spectrum of tools and practice, including using online and formative assessment, increasing focus and quality of teaching resources and time, online content and courses, applications of technology in the classroom and school building, adaptive software for students with special needs, learning platforms, participating in professional communities of practice, providing access to high level and challenging content and instruction, and many other advancements technology provides to teaching and learning. In particular, blended learning is any time a student learns, at least in part, at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home and, at least in part, through online delivery with some element of student control over time, place, path and pace.

Embracing change: New methods of technology should be used to strengthen the learning experience in class.Embracing change: New methods of technology should be used to strengthen the learning experience in class.

Now, that’s a mouthful! To me, digital learning means:

·Allowing students to take control of their learning using technology as a guide;

·Creating comic strips to depict a situation in learning;

·Having discussions about shared books with students across the world;

·Completing research projects through chat or discussion groups online, using an Interactive Whiteboard (I have a Smartboard) to make your lessons interactive; or,

·Skyping with a student in another state to bring a story to life.

It means so many things; most of all, it means using technology as a tool to engage and challenge our 21st century learners.

But we teachers don’t need yet another “new and shiny tool” for our profession unless it does something powerful and relevant to the learning potential. Any new technology must first be couched in powerful and relevant learning potential.

Learn as you go along

The list above could make digital learning look like a scary prospect. Time is not something that a teacher has a lot of, either at work or home.

But you don’t have to do everything at once. It took me a while, and every day I still learn something new.

Take baby steps, try one new thing each month.

Students are, after all, digital natives who already know a lot and are comfortable with using technology and Web 2.0.

Teachers, therefore, need to be comfortable as well in order to be on the same frequency as students and engage them.

Let students show you or give you suggestions on what you can do with the myriad of resources that are available for use.

Grow your PLN (Professional Learning Network), then drop in on some of the “Teacher Chats” that are available. It’s amazing how much you can learn from your peers.

Of course, it is not as simple as saying, “Yes, I will integrate technology into all my teaching.” It is a complex and enigmatic situation that needs to take into consideration many things.

For example, you may need to change the pedagogy and practices so that integrating computers can be successful.

There needs to be a constructive approach where there is collaborative learning, and where students are taking responsibility for their learning.

Unless the environment is right, the technology will only be used as an add-on or as an information tool.

How is that better than using an encyclopaedia? No better really, except you get more information faster.

There needs to be an evolution to ensure technology is being integrated successfully into teaching and learning.

This has to do with the teacher, the pedagogy, attitude, experience and training. Ultimately it is the teacher who decides what technology to use, when and how to use it, or in some cases not to use it at all.

The bottom line

We are communicating, sharing, networking etc through digital technology and free or open source materials, and this is only going to increase in the future.

It cuts across social, religious, political, economic and cultural lines — poor and rich; educated and illiterate; white collar and blue collar; men, women and kids, and so on.

However, the education profession still tends to compartmentalise technology and regard it as a separate subject to master, such as computer programmes.

The days of keeping technology as a fixed subject, rather than integrated into our daily lives and learning, are well gone.

I believe that ICT integration helps learners develop understanding rather than simply absorbing what others tell them.

It requires teachers to shift from merely transmitting knowledge to helping learners gain meaningful understanding, and giving them guidance as well as autonomy to capture and present their thinking. This is the challenge for teachers.

As it is, teachers are given new software and hardware to use and then given an hour or two of “training” on the technical aspects of their use.

This does nothing to address the kinds of shifts necessary to achieve meaningful and powerful things with these tools. Training should be a by-product of meaningful experience in the use of technology by teachers.

The current one-shot in-service workshop or training is rarely followed up with feedback and support or follow-up training.

To improve professional practices, and consequently to improve student learning, teachers need opportunities for collaboration, sharing of ideas, feedback and assistance.

Peer coaching is a non-judgmental and non-evaluative process in which teachers work together for their own mutual benefit.

They can share new ideas, reflect, teach one another, conduct classroom observations, and solve problems in the workplace.

The writer is a senior lecturer at the School of Educational Studies in Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). Her main interest in research is in the area of ICT in Education and the use of Peer Coaching in technology integration in teaching and learning. Her most recent achievement is a Gold Medal in the Malaysian Technology Expo 2011 for creating a courseware using the SmartBoard. She is currently working on the development of an Interactive Teaching and Learning Lab in USM

By DR TERMIT KAUR RANJIT SINGH Source: The STAR Online Home Education Sunday, September 2, 2012

When age is not just a number

How old is old enough when it comes to sexual relationships?

DO you know the risk of pregnancy? Do you know about the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases (STD)? Do you know about contraception? Do you know about the social implications of what you are doing? Are you ready to face all the pressures from the consequences of what you are doing?

These are the questions that need to be posed (not verbatim) to any adolescent who is about to have consensual sex or have had consensual sex to see if they are mature enough to make a rational decision, says Datuk Dr Amar Singh, senior consultant community paediatrician at the Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun Ipoh, Perak.

The concept of consensual sex comes together with a person's competency to make a rational decision on whether he or she is ready for sex, points out the child health specialist.

“In our society and culture, where our children are not taught about sex and their consequences, I'm not sure if they have the competency to make a rational decision for consensual sex,” stresses Dr Amar Singh who has worked extensively with child abuse victims.


While there are those who are quietly admitting that the reality in our society is that our children are having sex at a younger age, Dr Amar Singh believes that Malaysian youth are not equipped to make an informed decision before jumping into a sexual relationship.

As he puts it, even if the adolescent professes to undying love, one will need to take into account what that implies when it comes to consensual sex.

“For instance, what does love mean to a 12-year-old? For many, it is infatuation especially if they are in love with an older person. Most of the time it is because the older person has shown the child some kindness or paid him or her some attention.

“A young person usually falls in love' with an older person who has more persuasive ability, more skills, more confidence and is more financially able. I think it is an unmatched relationship,” adds Dr Amar Singh.

In most cases, he says he would also ask, “Did your boyfriend say maybe we should talk to your parents first?”

As he points out, in many instances in life, parental consent is always needed for important decisions pertaining to a child's life, even one as simple as whether a child is allowed to go on a school excursion.

Crucially, he stresses, the maturity of the child is important and in a diverse society like ours, where many frown upon even the word sex, it is difficult to decide on whether a young person is ready for it.

“A young person's maturity will have to be decided on a case-to-case basis. But it is dangerous to leave the age of consent for sex flexible when it comes to the law, as it will open the door to harm for many young girls. That is why we need a standard minimum age (for consent for sex) to protect the girls. That is why we have the statutory rape law,” he stresses.

In Malaysia, the minimum age of consent is 16. Hence, many child rights activists and concerned members of the public argue that there should be no debate on whether there is consent or not when it comes to sex with minors.

Dr Amar believes that this is why the law is there, to protect young children from sexual abuse and rape.

Another concern is the plight of the young girls involved in statutory rape cases.

Haunted by trauma

“The trauma from the experience (of having sex at an early age) will continue to haunt these young girls. Having worked with childhood survivors of sexual abuse for many years, I can say that the girls involved will face much emotional and psychological pain for years to come.”

Although not all who have sex with minors cannot be classified as paedophiles a person is considered a paedophile only if he or she repeatedly commits sexual crimes against children Universiti Sains Malaysia criminologist Assoc Prof Dr P. Sundramoorthy points out that there is doubt that there is consensual sex if there is age disparity between the sexual partners, particularly if one is legally an adult.

“Just because someone is biologically mature, it does not mean that the person is psychologically and emotionally mature. Is there adequate knowledge and experience of their body needs and the consequences of sex? It is questionable.

“Are they (the adolescents) capable of making rational decisions to have sex, in these cases with an adult? At a young age, they may have thought that they are ready but they can be remorseful later.”

That is why we have a law against statutory rape, Dr Sundramoorthy notes.

“The law is clear that even if it is consensual, it is still rape when it comes to sex with a minor.”

This is clearly enshrined in both the Penal Code and the Child Act which are based on the UN Convention on the Rights of Children, Dr Amar Singh opines.

By HARIATI AZIZAN Source: The STAR Online Opinion Sunday September 2, 2012

Consent should not be a consideration

THE issue of consent should not arise at all in a case of statutory rape, opines retired Court of Appeal judge Datuk Shaik Daud Ismail.

“Whether as a defence, or even in mitigation, the issue doesn't arise. Because if you take consent into the picture, then why bother having a special provision for statutory rape?

“It would just be the same as a (non-statutory) rape case,” he points out.

Under Section 375(g) of the Penal Code, statutory rape is defined as someone who has sexual intercourse with a woman “with or without her consent, when she is under 16 years of age”.

“That is definite. It has been clearly defined already. So consent' as a defence cannot be used at all. And in my view, it should not even be used as a mitigating factor,” he says.

On the matter of consent, it is not merely about the girl giving her consent for sex, but “whether she is old enough to understand the consequences, and if she is capable to deal with responsibility of a pregnancy and a child”.

“All these things are what needs to be considered when you are talking about whether a child is old enough to give her consent',” he argues.

Another point that needs to be considered is the age of the perpetrator, he says.

The Child Act 2001 defines a child as a person “under the age of 18”.

In relation to criminal proceedings, juveniles are those under 16, and they would be tried in the juvenile court, says criminal lawyer S.N. Nair.

He refers to Section 82 of the Penal Code, a provision for absolute doli incapax, where “nothing is an offence which is done by a child under 10 years of age”.

For a child between the ages of 10 and 12, Section 83 of the code states that nothing is an offence if the child “has not attained sufficient maturity of understanding to judge of the nature and consequence of his conduct on that occasion”.

The Juvenile Courts Act 1947 defines a young person as a person who has “attained the age of 14 years and is under the age of 18”.

By LISA GOH Source: The STAR Online Home Nation Sunday September 2, 2012

When rap for rape is too low

The question of when to be lenient in rape is not just touchy but perplexing and rather subjective.

RECENT court decisions which saw convicted rapists get away with non-custodial sentences must call into question the kind of legal system that permits this to happen.

The public at large is understandably outraged that two rapists have got away without jail sentences when the law – Section 376 of the Penal Code – under which they were charged provided for up to 20 years in jail and whipping.

The courts seem to have been swayed by the view that since there was consent, there was no force used. Since there was remorse, they could use Section 294 of the Criminal Procedure Code which allows those guilty to be bound over instead of undergoing custodial sentences.

Section 375 of the Penal Code states the conditions under which rape is committed.

One of those conditions is when sexual intercourse takes place with or without the consent of a girl when she is under 16 years of age, commonly called statutory rape.

Punishment for rape is set out under Section 376 which states plainly that whoever commits rape will go to jail for not less than five years and not more than 20 years and shall also be liable to whipping.

The courts, including the Court of Appeal, however seem to have used the provisions of Section 294 of the Criminal Procedure Code for first offenders, part of which is as set out below:

“When any person not being a youthful offender has been convicted of any offence punishable with imprisonment before any Court if it appears to the Court that regard being had to the character, antecedents, age, health or mental condition of the offender or to the trivial nature of the offence or to any extenuating circumstances under which the offence was committed it is expedient that the offender be released on probation of good conduct, the Court may, instead of sentencing him at once to any punishment, direct that he be released on his entering into a bond with or without sureties and during such period as the Court may direct to appear and receive judgment if and when called upon and in the meantime to keep the peace and be of good behaviour.”

Section 294 has been used by the Court of Appeal to justify its decision in the rape case involving national youth squad bowler Noor Afizal Azizan who was bound over for RM25,000 to be of good behaviour for five years after he pleaded guilty to raping a girl aged 13. He was 19 at the time.

Following upon Noor Afizal’s case earlier this month, two days ago mechanic Chuah Guan Jiu avoided custodial sentence when he was found guilty of raping a 12-year old girl when he was 21. The Sessions Court judge ordered Chuah to be bound over for three years on a RM25,000 good behaviour bond.

While the law seems to allow latitude for judges in almost any case of first offenders by using Section 294, the public will naturally be quite upset if it goes against what it perceives as justice.

Notwithstanding the Court of Appeal’s written judgment in the Noor Afizal case, there are legitimate concerns that are raised by the judgments.

First, the two rapists in this case were adults, over the age of 18, when they committed the offences.

Second, the offence was inflicted upon girls who were minors whom society looks upon as children. It does not mean that a person is no longer a minor on attainment of sexual maturity.

Third, such sentencing is likely to encourage similar behaviour among more adults who could plead for leniency under Section 294 as first-time offenders who have other redeeming qualities.

Fourth, there was quite a difference in age between the accused and the victim. For the first case, the difference was six years (19 and 13) and in the second case nine years (21 and 12).

As young adults, it would be a stretch to imagine that both rapists did not think they were dealing with little more than children.

The issue of consent certainly arises in terms of mitigation but many would disagree that it carries so much weight that Section 294 should be applied to this case.

Clearly society at large feels that a girl of under 16 does not have sufficient maturity to decide on sexual matters.

It is to protect them that the law has decreed that a person commits rape when he has sexual intercourse with a girl below 16, with or without consent.

The matter can be considered differently if both parties are under 16, in which case the provisions for youthful offenders would apply. But to make allowances for an adult who rapes a minor is stretching the law a bit too far.

One of the concluding remarks for the Noor Afizal case by the Court of Appeal in its judgment was this:

“In the present case, if the appellant had been older, or he had used force, coercion or violence on the victim, or he had tricked the victim into submitting to him or he had not cooperated with the police and had not shown any remorse to his act or there is no guarantee that he will not be committing the same offence in future, we would not have any hesitation, as we have done in many other cases of similar nature, to impose a lengthy custodial sentence.But before us is a young boy who was extremely remorseful for what he had done and had thrown himself to the mercy of the court by pleading guilty to the charge.”

There will be many who disagree with that simply because they do not consider rape a trivial offence. They will disagree too over whether the offender was a “young boy”.

It looks like the question of when to use Section 294 is not only touchy and perplexing it is quite subjective – perhaps too subjective.

It remains to be seen if the Attorney-General will call for a review of the Court of Appeal’s decision. If that fails and if the public still remains indignant, the only recourse may be to change the law to stop Section 294 being used to avoid custodial sentences in cases of serious offences such as rape.

It looks like it may have to come to that.

> P. Gunasegaram is NOT a lawyer. 

QUESTION TIME BY P.GUNASEGARAN Source: The STAR Online Columnist Thursday August 30, 2012

Rape: Judgment must send clear message to people

I AM concerned about the message the two recent court decisions on statutory rape is sending to the public.

The Sessions Court, in the case of Chuah Guan Jiu, had little choice but to follow the sentence meted out by the Court of Appeal in the case of national bowler Nor Afizal Azizan.

The public can see clearly whether the reasons given by the two courts for the sentencing are unreasonable and unacceptable, or otherwise.

We can also see from the decisions whether the two courts paid importance to the interests and welfare of the two minor victims or that of the accused(s).

It is of paramount importance and in the interests of the public to protect and safeguard the victims, especially the minors, and not the perpetrators.

It is a known and acceptable fact that courts will generally impose a deterrent sentence on sexual assault cases involving minors.

I hope non-governmental organisations and pressure groups will assert sufficient pressure on the attorney-general to appeal against the decisions of the two cases so that justice will not only be done, but also seen to be done.

S.T. Raj, Klang, Selangor Source: The New Straits Times Letters to the Editors 31 August 2012

Rape: The question could also be, when Safeguard the interests of underage victims

I REFER to the recent court cases regarding the rape of minors. The judiciary appears to have given two precedents where "having a bright future" is a reason for escaping punishment for raping underage girls.

So, young and innocent girls can be raped by rapists as long as they have a "bright future".

Also, since some religious groups allow "contract" marriages, the rich can rape young girls in the name of "contract" marriage and continue their activities without any punishment. In either case, the the rapist escapes.

Women are perceived as "property" of men to be used or abused as they please. In marriage, the fathers (men) give/donate/present their daughters to the men and call it holy or legal.

In all cases of religions and laws, the men are in power. Other women give their consent and cooperation in the continuation of this subjugation of their own kind.

An old man can marry a girl without any comment from anyone whereas an old woman is condemned if she marries a younger man. A widower can have ready offers for another marriage but a widow is condemned if she were to desire to marry again.

Society calls this equality and women believe it. What an irony.

Gursharan Singh, Kuala Lumpur Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editor 31 August 2012 

Rape: It is rape when the law says so

WHEN is rape not rape? The question could also be, when is sex considered as rape? Non-consensual sex is rape. And minors under 16, by law, cannot consent, making that sex non-consensual. Therefore, national bowler Nor Afizal Azizan had committed rape because his partner (the victim) cannot consent.

Children neither know what they do nor the consequences of their actions. Alternatively, children are not expected to know what they do or its consequences. At some time in the future, however, they are expected to know and the law expects them to know by 16.

So, when is rape not rape? It can only be rape if the law cries rape, not the victim. So, when does the law so cry?

That will depend on what the law says and that, in turn, depends on the understanding of society on when a child can be considered matured. If society says a child is only mature upon 18 years of age, then the law will cry rape if the partner is under 18.

Spain has the lowest age of consent, at 13, and Turkey the highest, at 18. In other words, a crime in Turkey is not a crime in Spain. Therefore, what the national bowler did is not an offence in Spain but an offence in Malaysia. There can be no partners under 16, only victims. They are victims because the law says they are victims, and this makes the male partner the perpetrator. Is that fair? Fair to whom -- the bowler or victim? This will depend on which side you're on.

She followed him to a hotel. Of course, he cannot be blamed for being a great athlete and an idol -- a natural aphrodisiac. Anyone will be honoured by his acquaintance. The other side of the coin is, the man should be on guard as to whom his acquaintances are.

The 13-year-old may or may not know the consequences of her actions. Or at least the law says she does not. The real question may well be: would the girl have followed the man to a hotel had she been 16, or matured, or had known better?

If my child was the girl, then I would think that she is very young and a male who is 19 should have kept away from her. Otherwise, it would mean that he acted on purpose; knowing fairly well of her naive state and vulnerability.

So, a three-judge panel at the Court of Appeal unanimously ruled to release Nor Afizal on probation in the statutory rape case, overturning the High Court's decision of five years' jail ("Court: It was consensual" -- NST, Aug 28). He was 19 and she was 13.

The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality is troubled that the perpetrator's potential for "a bright future", presumably derived from his status as a national athlete, was used as one of the grounds for sentencing. Following this is the decision in George Town, where the victim was 12 years and 10 months at the time of "crime" ("Electrician escapes jail sentence" -- NST, Aug 29).

According to the Court of Appeal judge, however, both made a mistake in engaging in premarital sex. No doubt, an offence was committed, but is a custodial sentence the only safeguard to ensure similar offences of consensual sex among teenagers will not happen?

Abraham Mathew, Kluang, Johor Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editor 31 August 2012

Rape: How consent is obtained matters

IF girls who are still minors, that is, below 18, are capable of understanding the consequences of having sex, why are they not capable of understanding the much simpler act of casting votes in elections or the act of entering into contracts? Why does the law bar them from voting and entering into any contract?

The reasoning by the judges in the cases involving two girls, aged 12 and 13, that they had consensual sex is puzzling. Are children of this age capable of understanding the consequences of having sex?

Minds can be manipulated in more than one way, for example, through promises, threats, physical harm and creating fear of the unknown. All the sweet promises can turn out to be otherwise after what is desired by the perpetrator has been achieved.
All the threats could be false, but they can incite enough fear to make them do the bidding of the persons making the threats.
Beating and other physical acts can cause actual bodily harm and make people submit to a perpetrator's demands.

The issue is not consent per say. It is the circumstances under which "consent" is obtained and the intention of those who obtain such "consent" that matters.

Agreeing to have sex is a contract between two persons. It is no different than other contracts. When one party in a contract is in a stronger position than the other, the contract and the circumstances under which it was entered into must be examined with a very fine comb to see the fairness in it.

In the two recent rape cases, the girls are so young. The law has, for a long time, recognised that minors are not capable of understanding the consequences or implications of many things and, hence, need to be protected.

Nowadays, even 12-year-old children ride motorcycles, albeit illegally. So, would it be fine for them to sign hire-purchase agreements to buy motorcycles?

Is it possible to brainwash minors, with no physical violence, to get their consent despite them not understanding the consequences of what they were sweet-talked into?

What about the intention of rapists? Do they not have the intention to have sex with young girls and to use whatever means possible to get their so-called "consent"? Is such intention not criminal as it is to perpetrate statutory rape?

Statutory rape is statutory rape and cannot by any stretch of the imagination be converted into consensual sex when the person is below 18. We might as well allow those below 18 to vote.

Courts are wrong to think that their duty is done after making their decisions. The far-reaching implication of court decisions is that they educate the people about complying with laws.

A "promising future" has been introduced by the courts as an escape route for criminally-minded young men out to take advantage of young girls.

Courts are also said to make "judge-made laws" through their judgments. So, does this mean that a new law has been made allowing rape of young teens as long as you do not assault or batter them?

Where is our justice system heading?

Ravinder Singh, Penang Source: News Straits Times Letters to the Editors 31 August 2012

Education Policy: Teach them how, not what, to think

ONCE again, we return to the perennial question of the kind of education system that we have.

There seems to be a grave confusion with regard to what we want from our students against the interest of the general system.

Extrinsically, we are encouraging them to memorise and get high marks, even perfect scores.

Yet, intrinsically, we are also demanding they must possess critical thinking, creativity and persuasive discourse. This is a contradiction.

How could we expect students to possess critical thinking when we are not encouraging them to speak their minds?

How can we expect students to express themselves if they lack the necessary training?

Teachers are obligated to inspire and guide their pupils to think, to wonder unceasingly, to dare to ask questions, to speak their minds courageously, and to be confident.

It is my fervent belief that the ultimate duty of the teacher is to teach his students not what to think, but how to think.

A true teacher is the one who can gear his students to think for themselves independently of the teaching and the rearing and the training of the teacher himself.

He or she must teach them to craft their own paradigms, to discover and consequently construct their own truths, to nurture and create their own structures and foundations, to posit and to simultaneously answer their own queries and questions.

By Jose Mario Dolor De Vega, Subang Jaya, Selangor Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editors 02 September 2012 

Education Policy: Bring focus of schools back to students

THE government's efforts to gauge and listen to public views on the education system is commendable. As a parent, I have always been following school affairs as parent-teacher association president and committee member for a number of years.

Schools should be all about the students. Examinations and tests should assess students' understanding of a subject, rather than to trick or fail them.

I have also observed that teachers are always busy with administrative matters, leaving classes frequently unattended.

The PTA, too, is often used just to raise funds for programmes that benefit the school and teachers rather than the students.

PTAs must be a platform to improve the achievements of students.

To improve, one must be open and willing to accept the reality. I acknowledge that there are selfless and dedicated teachers who have been voicing their grievances.

Examinations should assess a student’s understanding of a subject, rather than to trick or fail them.

The fact that there are those who send their children to private and international schools is a clear manifestation of the frustrations of parents. The quality of education and educators in an international school that my daughter goes to is vastly different from a national school.

I humbly hope to see some resoluteness in this upcoming revamp of the education system.

By Concerned citizen, Putrajaya Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editors 02 September 2012