October 21st, 2012

Be realistic about issue

All stake holders especially policy-makers should be brutally honest and accept English as an indispensable language both at the local and global workplace.

MORE often than not our English experts are sheepish when discussing the importance of English, favouring politically expedient statements over frank ones.

“Let’s ensure our educational policies with respect to English are transparent, fair, and rises above racial, religious and political agendas.

“We need to convince our policy-makers that proficient bilingualism, or trilingualism is achievable and not a threat to Bahasa Malaysia”.

“If we’re honest, noble and do what’s right for the people, we’ll always be politically correct,” said Mark Suresh, a businessman from Johor Baru.

Mark, a participant of The Star’s recent English forum and a vocal English proponent, said that most of what was said about the language had been said before.

Former Education Ministry deputy director-general Datuk Noor Rezan Bapoo Hashim was the moderator of the forum.

The panelists were Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Shamsuddin Bardan, British Council English Language Services director Sam Ayton, Albukhary International University deputy vice-chancellor Prof Emeritus Dr Omar Farouk Sheikh Ahmad and Talentcorp Corporation Bhd CEO Johan Merican Mahmood.

“The speakers were statistically spot-on in their presentations, but it was mostly material most us are already aware of,’’ said Mark.

“The only exception was the British Council’s findings on the perceptions that different sectors have on the importance of English in the workplace cited by its English Language Services Director Sam Ayton in her presentation.

“I was aghast at the data Ayton presented — none of our ministries viewed English as important in the workplace. I would’ve expected at least five to six percent of them to see its importance.

“The rationale being that, surely more senior officials in the Education, International Trade and Industry, Foreign, Finance, Human Resources and Tourism Ministries, to name a few, would view English as an indispensable lingua franca in their line of work,” he said.

Navigating negotiations

He added that their course of work entailed dealing with an entire spectrum of people in English, both foreigners and locals alike. From navigating negotiations to comprehending the nuances of language in contracts, English he said, was important.

“I’d like to quote an article written by Dennis Ignatius, a former Malaysian Diplomat in The Star’s “Diplomatically Speaking” column as reference to the worrying findings revealed by Ayton.

“In the article, he explained how the government has increasingly relied on foreign advisors and public relations firms to manage its foreign agenda.

“Ignatius blamed Wisma Putra’s (Foreign Affairs Ministry) mediocrity for this situation, using the degradation of the English language proficiency among its staff as an example,” he said.

“The entire nation will be economically disadvantaged as Wisma Putra can’t even proffer “intelligent responses to important issues of concern”.

“Isn’t it frightening to learn that foreign advisors are providing strategic advice to the government due to Wisma Putra’s lack of communication skills?

Mark said that the millions of ringgit spent on retraining unemployable undergraduates are wasted because policy-makers have their priorities wrong. Beneficial student outcomes should be maximised for every ringgit spent, he added.

“Abysmal English and a lack of communication skills of local graduates are the main lamentations cited by employers. Retraining programmes curtail the number of hours in which English and Communication skills are taught. Other less important modules are given more prominence — much to the detriment of unemployed graduates”.

Another forum attendee and English trainer Chew Seng Choon said Malaysians suffer from a colonial hangover, an ingrained mentality where the learning of English is somehow related to race, politics and religion.


“Look at the the language for its functionality and don’t relate it to race, religion or politics. Look at how learning English helps you communicate and improve yourself,” he said.

Noor Rezan said she was a product of an English medium school and it made her colour blind instead of being racist.

“I remember my days in secondary school, my friends were of all races and we did everything together. Perhaps English brought us together instead of pushing us apart,” she said.

Debbie Pozzobon from Leaderonomics, a local company, said her native country, South Africa, faced an almost similar situation to apartheid, but foreign languages were not seen as a colonial hangover.

“English is seen as a subject to be learnt with no association to politics, race or religion. Languages are taught without any relation to the three.

“It is imperative that the solution comes from top to bottom. Nelson Mandela reinforced the belief that we can still retain our mother tongues, and English and other languages can complement it,” she said.

Retired teacher Rita Tan Siew Lee who also attended the forum, spoke on the importance of using one’s voice properly when speaking English, and how it was important to train our teachers to use their vocal chords for improving learning outcomes among students.

“I’m glad to hear panel members talking about the importance of oral communication. If that is the case, what are we going to do about retraining our teachers so that they have good pronunciation and know how to use their voices when teaching.

“Very often we hear our children complaining about their teachers being boring and monotonous in the way they speak and who do not motivate enough,” said Tan.

She added that teachers need to have several types of voices to teach in the classroom — neutral, supportive, dramatic and authoritative.

“If teachers want to tell a story to the class, they should speak in a dramatic voice.

“If you speak in a monotonous, robotic voice, do you think the students are going to listen to you?” asked Tan.

Furthermore, Tan said teachers should take good care of their “vocal health” to reduce absenteeism which was often due to sore vocal chords.

English is more than just the universal language of diplomacy, business, science and technology. It opens the door to more job opportunities, good universities, career advancements and increased earning power. English for More Opportuni-ties is part of The Star’s on-going efforts to highlight the importance of the language in helping people get ahead in life. To share your views and inspiring stories or give us feedback, please email englishformore@thestar.com.my 

AMINUDDIN MOHSIN educate@thestar.com.my The STAR Online Home Education Sunday October 21, 2012

Clearing the air on rankings

Funding is not the main focus in the THE rankings as research outputs and other indicators are just as crucial in determining the world class status of a university.

FINANCES inevitably play a major role in any organisation and universities are no different. Huge sums are needed to run both the institution as well as generate the research and development aspects.

There are many types of rankings available but the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings is the only global rankings that take into account a university’s resources.

Phil Baty who is THE World University Rankings editor, said that in the real world, money is highly relevant to a university’s world class status.

“It takes money, after all, to attract and retain the leading scholars, and build appropriate facilities for top class teaching and research,” he said.

Universities with world-class aspirations are by definition operating in a single global marketplace, he said.

Baty was responding to a statement by Universiti Malaya (UM) vice-chancellor Prof Tan Sri Dr Ghauth Jasmon that the THE rankings gives substantial marks for research funding, incomes and endowments.

In the THE World University Rankings 2012-13 released on Oct 4, there were no Malaysian public universities on the list.

Baty said although Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and Universiti Putra Malaysia participated in the rankings this year, both varsities did not make the top 400 and so did not have a ranking position. UM and Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) did not take part in the rankings.

<b>Rankings not reflective:</b> Prof Ghauth says the university does not want to be part of an exercise when the ‘starting line’ of the competitors are already at a disadvantage.Rankings not reflective: Prof Ghauth says the university does not want
to be part of an exercise when the ‘starting line’ of the competitors are already at a disadvantage.

The THE World University Rankings is an annual list of the world’s top institutions, using 13 separate performance indicators across five areas — industry outcome, teaching, citations, research and international outlook to comprehensively measure and assess all the core missions of a university using objective data over subjective opinion. The California Institute of Technology topped the list for the second consecutive year.

When responding to the THE rankings, Prof Ghauth said the criteria for research funding, incomes and endowments was unfair to universities in the third world, developing countries and relatively smaller economies like Malaysia.

<b>Financial considerations:</b> Baty says money is relevant to a university’s world class status.Financial considerations: Baty says money is relevant to a university’s world class status.

Different culture

“Our country does not have the culture of giving endowments unlike other countries,” he had said.

Prof Ghauth explained that the QS World University Rankings measured outputs and outcomes whereas THE measured incomes as well.

In an immediate response, Baty said it was important to put this into the correct context.

“We use 13 separate performance indicators to assess the full range of a university’s activities, across the teaching environment, research, knowledge transfer and global outlook. Only three of the 13 take into account a university’s income.

“To help us to better understand a university’s teaching environment, we look at its total income, scaled for the size of an institution. This is worth just 2.25 percent of the score.

“In examining research, we look at an institution’s total research income, scaled for its size (six percent) and, to assess its ‘third mission’ activities, we look at its ability to attract funding from business and industry, weighted at 2.5 percent,” he said.

He explained that ‘third mission’ activities in higher education are broadly defined as stimulating and directing the application and exploitation of knowledge to the benefit of society’s social, cultural and economic development.

“So while we believe it is crucial to examine income and helpful for countries looking to compete with the best in the world to compare their investment in higher education with competitors, these indicators are collectively worth just a fraction over 10 per cent,” he said.

Baty said that only 10 percent of the methodology was actually concerned with funding and income.

Level playing field

Explaining further, he said in every case, the numbers for purchasing power parity is adjusted so that all nations, rich or poor, competed on a level playing field.

“The largest of all our indicators actually concerns itself with research output, that is citations per paper and for this indicator we not only normalise the data for subject mix, but we also normalise it to take into account different national contexts.

“We think this approach is fair and appropriate,” he said.

Responding in turn to Baty’s comments, Prof Ghauth said marks given for research funding and incomes automatically “knocks off marks from universities like us which are low in research incomes and funding compared to those in the United States and Europe”.

“We do not want to be part of an exercise when the starting line of the competitors are already at a disadvantage,” he explained.

Prof Ghauth said THE also uses a a 10-year period for ISI (Institute for Scientific Information) citations whereas Scopus (database of academic publishing) uses a five-year period.

“The idea of research universities in Malaysia started about five to six years ago and I became vice-chancellor of UM four years ago.

“Universities such as Cambridge, Oxford and Harvard have been in the High Impact Research business a long time. We would certainly do better given more time, but to participate in THE rankings now would be quite unwise,” he said.

Baty explained earlier that institutions were invited to participate in the rankings exercise but were not compelled to do so.

“The invitation to take part is issued by our data provider Thomson Reuters. If they (varsities) do not want to do so, they are not included as is the case with UM and USM.

“We would like to encourage more institutions to work with us so that an even clearer picture of higher education in Malaysia can be formed, allowing it to create a better benchmark for itself against the world’s very best,” he said.

A total of 655 universities from 69 countries this year submitted data toThomson Reuters and were therefore assessed for the rankings.

KAREN CHAPMAN educate@thestar.com.my The STAR Online Home Education Sunday 21 October, 2012

Just for the grown-ups

As the learning style for adults is different, teachers must take into consideration methods that can help these ‘students’ excel at their lessons.

IN the last Exploring English column, the global problem of adult illiteracy was highlighted.

This week, the objective is to impart knowledge that will encourage those bearing the task of teaching adults with English language impairments to review their teaching methodology.

It will also reinforce the importance of giving due cognisance to the different ways adults learn, especially those with low literacy skills.

Understanding how people learn and how teaching, tutoring and training methods impede or facilitate that process is the key to maximising the effectiveness of any learning or training session.

In the case of impaired adults, the challenge is even greater because unlike learners in a normal education system, adult learners do not usually have to be present at the session.

There is no compulsion to attend and they often need to be convinced that what they are doing is definitely to their personal benefit.

<b>Free and easy:</b> An informal study environment is good for adult learners. —File photoFree and easy: An informal study environment is good for adult learners. —File photo

These 12 recommendations are based on the Adult Teaching module used when conducting Certificate IV courses in Teaching English To Speakers Of Other Languages (TESOL) in South-East Asia.

1. Adults must want to learn. To get adults to participate in English language programmes, they need to have a strong personal motivation and willingness to gain new skills or acquire particular knowledge.

2. Adults prefer to learn what is practical and beneficial. They have a mindset when it comes to learning anything.

<b>Hands-on:</b> When adults are given the opportunity to practice what they have learnt, they will be able to remember and understand the subject better.Hands-on: When adults are given the opportunity to practice what they have learnt, they will be able to remember and understand the subject better.

They think along the lines of “How will this help me with what I am doing right now?” and “How am I going to personally gain from learning these things at my age?”

3. Adults learn by doing. Active participation and hands-on involvement in the learning process is a characteristic of adult-learning.

Retention can be increased when adult learners have the opportunity to practice or use what they have learned.

4. Adult learners like to know “Why”. Most adults query and question.

They like to know “why” something applies in a situation. They should not just be expected to accept what they are being taught.

They like to be told about any “rules” that may apply and have them explained to them in logical terms.

5. Adults are problem solvers. Many adults learn faster when a “problem” — “solution” approach is used for teaching English concepts, especially in the area of grammar.

To this end, common “problem” errors in speech and writing can be examined and the adult learners can be given the task to work out the “solution”.

6. Adults draw on their past. When faced with specific problems, adult learners draw on their past experiences to work out practical solutions.

7. Adult learning is affected by “experiences”. The major difference between adults and children as learners is that adults have had many life experiences.

This can turn out to be an asset or a liability. Negative feelings or failure attached to past experiences may hamper new learning.

8. Adults learn best in an informal environment. Many adults have unpleasant memories of school days.

They will respond to adult education programmes if the learning “environment” does not remind them of their negative, childhood, school day experiences.

9. Adult teaching requires a variety of methods and strategies.These strategies need to be adapted to suit their learning goals.

If the main purpose is to impart information, the most efficient method would be to carry out a different version of the lecture.

If the purpose is to bring about change in the conduct, behaviour, attitudes or ideas of the learner, then the learner must be involved actively in the process.

10. Adults want guidance, not grades. Competition, such as grading, can have a negative effect on adult learning.

At the same time, adult learners are always keen to know how they are doing and if what they are doing is “right”.

11. Adults know if they are achieving. They know whether their performance has measured up to their goals.

They don’t like false praise or flattery.

Adult learners should be encouraged to measure their own progress or work on teams that can compare each other’s progress.

12. Adults need to believe they can “do it”. Negative past education experiences linger on and in a new learning situation, adult learners need to be convinced that they can “do it”.

Implementing these 12 points is not a panacea to the problem education systems face in attracting illiterate adult learners but experience has shown that acknowledging them in a positive way will make the task much easier.

More importantly, adult learners must be treated as adults, not as kids!

Keith Wright is the author and creator of the 4S Approach To Literacy and Language (4S) — a modern, innovative and proven method of accelerating the learning of English.

The 4S methodology and the associated Accelerated English Programme (AEP) mentioned in this fortnightly column are now being used internationally to enhance the English proficiency of people with different competency levels. E-mail contact@4Sliteracy.com.au for a free copy of the PDF charts on Teaching Methodologies.

EXPLORING ENGLISH By KEITH W. RIGHT The STAR Online Home Education Sunday October 21, 2012

Universal character of Malaysian universities

QUALITY: MQA has helped make our higher education a brand of Malaysian excellence. 

IN the 1990s, four decades after independence, Malaysia articulated the agenda of Malaysia as a Centre of Educational Excellence.

Democratisation of education was also articulated in the wake of the reformulation of the concept of lifelong learning and e-learning and smart schools. The importance of visioning and setting and articulating a clear agenda is demonstrated when, one-and-a-half decades later, Malaysia has become the preferred destination for education of students from throughout the world.

Malaysian universities had never really been parochial because of the long and intimate connection with the English language as an international language of knowledge, and the British and British Commonwealth education systems.

The books in English in the university libraries and public libraries are evidence of the close intellectual and scholarly ties with the Western world. The bookshops also show evidence of the relative openness of the Malaysian mindsets and the passion to pursue knowledge from all sources.

The early generations of Malaysian academicians were educated mainly in the English-speaking world. The thousands of masters and doctoral theses written by Malaysians who studied in universities in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Hong Kong marked the intellectual indebtedness in almost all fields of knowledge to the western world.

Malaysian scholars were also educated in Taiwan and China and the various countries of the Middle East. The medium of learning and research as well as the reading and writing cultures in the Malay, English, Arabic and Chinese languages assured the global and universal ethos of Malaysian universities.

Although typically school and university systems are parochial, to date the Malaysia system has managed to remain universal and global and has not been enmeshed in parochial traditions in knowledge domains although there is always the politicisation of education.

The University of Malaya in Singapore and the Universiti Malaya in Kuala Lumpur were modelled after the Oxbridge tradition. The leading schools such as the Malay College Kuala Kangsar were also modelled on the Eton-Harrow boarding school tradition.

There were, of course, Islamic schools based on the Madrasah and the Al Azhar tradition. Although these were colonial and cultural models, the outcome was a mindset of graduates shaped by the weltanschauung (world views) of cultures and histories outside of Malaysia.

Malaysia inherited a system of education whose curriculum contents were the body of knowledge in all disciplines considered as worthwhile and shared throughout the British Commonwealth through the syllabuses of the Cambridge Examinations Certificate.

Although the Curriculum Development Centre, Ministry of Education, (established in the 1970s) contributed to the existing knowledge with Malaysian perspectives, the mathematical, natural and social sciences remained universal in methodological and substantive contents.

Of all the institutions in society, the National Accreditation Council, which later became the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA), contributed significantly to ensure the universal character of Malaysian higher education. The MQA has close relations with other quality assurance agencies of the world.

The contents as well as procedures of its quality assurance mechanisms, much like the International Organisation for Standardisation, promote and share quality standards which are universal in character.

The internationally recognised stringent protocols and credibility of this dynamic institution under professional leadership has contributed to establish Malaysian universities and their accredited programmes as world class institutions.

More than the political business of university rankings, the accreditations by MQA have placed Malaysian education on the world map. This institution, with its instruments of the Malaysian Qualifications Framework, Code of Practice for Programme Accreditation, Code of Practice for Institutional Audit and Programme Discipline Standards and Guides to Good Practices, has transformed the fledgling Malaysian higher education system into one of the leading systems in the world.

The celebration of five years of the MQA is a celebration of world class quality assurance and the universal character of Malaysian higher education in spite of the forces of parochialism.

Malaysian academicians who have contributed to the work of MQA as audit panellists or as the thousands of those who studied and wrote the contents of Quality Documents of their institutions, responding to MQA Quality Procedures, should be justly proud for contributing to make Malaysian higher education a brand of Malaysian excellence.

Those dedicated personnel and leadership of MQA have quietly and unobtrusively developed a quality culture which is second to none in spirit and in substance.

 Datuk Dr Ibrahim Ahmad Bajunid  | iabaiw@yahoo.com  is a deputy vice-chancellor, INTI Laureate International UniversityNew Straits Times Columnist Sunday, October 21, 2012 

Places: Nothing Silly at Kg Bongek

ATTRACTION: It may sound silly, wacky, or perhaps even fabricated to the untrained ear, but the quiet village of Kampung Bongek, near Rembau here, is drawing fame for its unusual name and its hot spring, writes Maizatul Ranai

FIRST-TIME visitors might  laugh when they see the  name Kampung Bongek as the name it  brings to mind a colloquial term  the Malays normally use to tease  people.

For the layperson, bongek is sarcastically used, especially by  teenagers, when referring to a  senseless but funny act by a person.

However, locals here have always  pronounced it with a straight face,  without the slightest hint of it being any thing to laugh about.

The village, which is  located about 6km  from Rembau, Negri  Sembilan, has been  the talk of the town  because of its  name.

Villager Basri  Hasan, 71, said many  people did not know  that the word ‘Bongek’  was derived from historic historical chronicles dating back to the 1770s.

The former head master of Sekolah Kebangsaan Bongek  who  is also a native of the  village, said the origin of the  name  originated was from a  combination of two  words — Boncah and  Jangek.

Boncah, he said,  refers to a swamp  while Jangek is a food  produced from cowhide.

How ‘Boncah’ and  ‘Jangek’ turned into  Bongek is a tale worth digging into.

Kampung Bongek had existed  since 1773, when Raja Melewar  from Pagar Ruyong in Sumatra was  invited by the fourth Undang to  head Negri Sembilan.

Pagar Ruyong was then the administrative centre for the Kings of  Minangkabau. It is now a village in  a sub-region in West Sumatra.

 According to Basri, during the  arrival of Raja Melewar to the state,  his followers (the Minangkabau  people or also known as the Minang) set up settlements in the  village, as it was located near Astana Raja and Kampung Penajis,  where the installation of Raja Melewar as the first Yang Dipertuan Besar Negri Sembilan was going to  be conducted.

 He said in the village back then,  there was a swamp with hot water,  or hot spring as it is now known.

  “The Minang, who emigrated to the state at that time, called the swamp   ‘Boncah’ while the hot water was  referred to as ‘Angek’, which was a  Sanskrit term,” Basri added.

  He said at that time, the Minang  were also popular well known for a type of  food made from cowhide. cow hide.

  “In order to prepare the food, one  had to clean and wash the hide  using the ‘Angek’ from the ‘Boncah’ (hot spring). And the food pro duced was called ‘Jangek’.

 “Everytime“Every time the villagers wanted  to make the food, they would need to go to  the ‘Boncah’. They would say ‘Nak  ke Boncah untuk cuci Jangek’ (I  want to go to the Boncah (hot  spring) to wash the food (Jangek)),”  he said.

  As the phrase was frequently re peated, Basri said the villagers  eventually shortened it to ‘Bo- Ngek’.

  And that was how the name  of Kampung Bongek  came about.

  “I was told that during  that time, the village  did not have a name  yet,” he said.

  The hot spring can  still be seen today,  right by the riv er bank and  with shrubs  growing  around it.

 Basri said  there were sug gestions and ef forts to develop  the hot spring to  attract more  tourists to the  village, in view  of its history.

  “However, the  land belongs to  someone who is  not willing to  give it up yet so  we have no right  to develop it.”

  Basri, who is  now a lecturer at the Islamic  Teaching Educational Institution   ‘Diniyyah Puteri Padang Panjang  in West Sumatera, said the Kampung  Bongek villagers had encountered a lot of   many people who made fun of the  village name.

  “But it doesn’t bother us much as  we are used to such sarcastic re marks and smirks. Most people do not know  the history behind the name, so we  don’t blame them,” he added.

   Kampung Bongek village head  Abu Hashim Omar, 70, said the  village had also produced many  successful sons who had contribut ed to the country.

  “It is so ironic since a lot people  have been making fun about the  name of our village. In fact, there  are also some who are ashamed to  admit they are from here for fear of   people cracking silly jokes about the name,” he  said.

  Among those who hail from  Kampung Bongek are High Court  judge Datuk Azmir Maamor and  Kolej Universiti Islam Malaysia  deputy rector Prof Dr Mohammad  Alias.

   Hashim, who had been residing  living in  the village since 1985, said they also  had an active association called ‘Sireh Pu lang ke Gagang’, which was set up  to conduct activities for the benefit of the vil lagers.

 “Among the programmes was a  charity golf tournament to raise  money to set up a tuition centre for the  students in the village, especially  those who are sitting for the major  examinations,” he added.

Maizatul Ranai New Straits Times General 21 October 2012