December 8th, 2013

Poor show in Pisa rankings

IN a lower secondary level Science question, students are asked to explain what happens when the muscles are exercised. Two options are given as answers — muscles get an increased flow of blood or fats are formed in the muscles. (The correct answer: muscles get an increased flow of blood.)

Compare that to a question asked in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa): Why do you have to breathe more heavily when you are doing physical exercise than when your body is resting?

Based on their knowledge of the blood circulation system, students are expected to extrapolate that heavier breathing is necessary to remove increased levels of carbon dioxide and to supply more oxygen to the body.

Under the assessment scheme provided by Pisa, the question above tested students on three areas — identify scientific issues, explain or predict phenomena based on scientific knowledge and use scientific evidence to make and communicate decisions.

SMK Tengku Ampuan Rahimah, Klang, Selangor, student Lysandra Koon was among the group of Malaysian students randomly picked to sit for the Pisa test last year.

The 17-year-old admitted that the questions she encountered at the Pisa test were nothing like the questions she was used to in her school tests.

“There were a few direct questions but most were indirect questions. We had to read the questions carefully in order to answer them correctly,” said Lysandra.

“I did enjoy answering the questions. The questions were not exactly tough but were focused more on ‘common sense’ that required critical thinking,” she added.

Close to 50 students from Lysandra’s school in Klang were selected to sit for the Pisa test.

Lysandra was given a booklet with 50 questions on Mathematics, Science and Reading although there were several students in her school who sat for the Computer Based Assessment of Literacies, a new interactive test introduced in Pisa last year.

Save for a slight improvement in Mathematics, Malaysian students fared below average in the Pisa 2012 results released on Tuesday.

Ranking 52 out of 65 countries which took part in the survey, Malaysia scored 421 in Mathematics, 398 in Reading and 420 in Science respectively.

The global average score was 494 in Mathematics, 496 in Reading and 501 in Science.

In 2009, Malaysia participated in the survey for the first time and scored 404 in Mathematics, 414 in Reading and 422 in Science.

Pisa is administered by the OECD every three years on 15-year-olds in both OECD and non-OECD countries and offers students questions in the main language of instruction in their respective countries. Each round focuses on one area of either Reading, Mathematics or Science.

Mathematics was the main focus in the Pisa test last year while financial literacy was also included as an element in the Pisa test for the first time last year.

Look to the East

It came as no surprise that Asian countries again topped the list in the ranking of the Pisa 2012 results.

Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea were the top five economies in the latest results released.

Vietnam which was ranked at the 17th gained attention as the only third world economy in the top 20 best-performing list.

A difference of 38 points on the Pisa scale was equivalent to one year of schooling. A comparison of scores showed that students in Shanghai were performing as though they had four or more years of schooling than 15-year-olds in Malaysia.

Malaysia which was continuously ranked in the bottom third in Pisa and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Studies (Timms) had set the goal to be in the top third of countries by 2025 in the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025.

Prof Lianghuo Fan, a consultant of Mathematics textbooks in Singapore and head of the University of Southampton Mathematics and Science Education Research Centre offered his insights into Asian students’ outstanding performance in Mathematics.

In an email interview, Prof Fan said, “In all high-performing countries, students overall showed strong motivation towards learning, which is particularly evident in the subjects, Mathematics and Science”.

“Those countries also have a very supportive social environment for education. For example, parents place more value on their children’s education and have higher expectation, which will affect students’ attitude and their behaviour in learning.

“In addition, the quality of teachers, teacher education and professional development in these high-performing Asian countries are also commendable,” he added.

Motivating students

When asked on how Mathematics can be effectively taught in school, Prof Fan said teachers must motivate students to enjoy and learn the subject in class.

He suggested different ways of motivating the students — effective ways to engage students, making lessons interesting and helping them understand that Mathematics is useful.

“Based on what I learnt from classroom teaching in less high-performing countries, it is not uncommon to see that teachers in some countries often need to spend a lot of time on classroom management and disciplinary matters.

“Also, teachers should let students do enough practice in Mathematics. I think in countries like China, students often have too much work; but in some countries, the problem is just the opposite — students do not have enough practice in the subject,” he added.

Retired Biology teacher Bhul Vindar Kaur, concurred, saying that teachers should play a key role in stimulating critical thinking among students.

She said the Education Ministry was on the right track in transforming the learning of Science and Mathematics in schools.

“Based on the question in SPM (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia) Biology Paper Two last year, I could see that there were more higher order thinking questions. Some of my students complained that the questions were too difficult. Students were very good at memorising facts, teachers have to now teach them how to probe and prompt,” she said.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Professor of Malay sociolinguistics and National Education Dialogue panelist Prof Datuk Dr Teo Kok Seong said higher order thinking skills was generally lacking among students.

“Higher order thinking skills is one of the main elements in the Pisa survey, our exam questions focus too much on testing students’ memory,” said Prof Teo.

He expressed confidence that the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 would level the playing field for a new generation of Malaysian students.

“It will take another nine years or so, but we hope to equip students with higher order thinking skills with a new curriculum and school-based assessment method,” said Prof Teo.




KANG SOON CHEN The STAR Online Home News Opinion 08/12/2013

Pendidikan Islam jadi teras UMNO

SAYA ucapkan terima kasih kepada semua pembahas usul yang telah sampaikan perbahasan dengan cukup baik, saya bagi gred A+ kepada yang telah pun mengambil bahagian.

Sementara kita adakan perhimpunan ini, kita sedar kita menghadapi masalah banjir di banyak tempat di seluruh negara. Kita ingin menyatakan kita bersimpati dengan rakyat yang sedang dilanda musibah ini.

Presiden parti telah pun turun untuk melihat sendiri keadaan di Pahang, saya sendiri sudah pun berada di Terengganu dan ramai pemimpin kita yang tidak ada di persidangan ini turun untuk membantu mangsa terlibat dengan banjir ini.

Selaku Pengerusi Jawatankuasa Bencana Negara, saya telah mengeluarkan arahan untuk membolehkan masalah yang dihadapi mangsa di seluruh pusat pemindahan ini ditangani dengan sebaik-baiknya, dengan menentukan agar bahan-bahan keperluan makanan, logistik, keselesaan tempat tinggal, rawatan perubatan dan keselamatan harta benda sentiasa dalam keadaan terpelihara.

Tentulah tugas sebagai Timbalan Presiden untuk membantu urusan parti dan kepimpinan parti yang diterajui Presiden kita. Saya ingin menyatakan bahawa saya akan terus setia kepada kepimpinan Presiden kita sekarang ini.

Cantik terbilang si bunga tanjung,

Dibawa tuan duduk di tangga,

Budi dikenang bakti disanjung,

Setiaku tuan padamu jua.

Anak muda memakai tanjak,

Wanita bergaya di Tanjung Puteri,

Patuh berkhidmat takkan berganjak,

Kepada Presiden setia berbakti.





Saya jangka pada April 2014 maka ia akan dapat kita laksanakan secara yang lebih berkesan dan tidak dianggap sebagai satu bebanan kepada pihak guru di seluruh negara. - Tentang PBS

MEMPERKEMASKAN GERAK KERJA

Sebagaimana yang kita sedari bahawa proses pemilihan parti sudah pun selesai, masa untuk kita bekerja sudah bermula dan tentulah kita memahami bahawa cabaran yang mendatang lebih hebat lagi, ini diakui ramai jurucakap pada persidangan ini.

Dan menjadi kewajipan kita untuk terus bekerja memperkukuhkan parti, memperkemaskan gerak kerja di semua peringkat, untuk memastikan perjuangan parti kita ini untuk membela orang Melayu dan bumiputera dan rakyat Malaysia akan terus dapat kita perkasakan.

Kita semua telah mengetahui bahawa apabila kita diberikan mandat dan kepercayaan dalam pilihan raya umum baru-baru ini, maka segala yang kita janjikan dalam manifesto parti kita hendaklah kita tunaikan dengan sebaik-baiknya, dengan seberapa segera.

Dan untuk itulah, saya nak mengajak saudara-saudara sekalian berganding bahu bersama kepimpinan parti menentukan supaya kedudukan kita terus kukuh dengan mengurangkan permasalahan yang timbul dalam kita menguruskan parti di setiap peringkat.

Penting juga untuk kita menentukan hubungan dengan komponen-komponen parti Barisan Nasional (BN) agar dapat terus kita perkukuhkan. Dan dengan cara begitu lebih banyak usaha, program dan aktiviti yang harus kita lakukan, hendaklah kita lakukan untuk meningkatkan keyakinan rakyat jelata kepada perjuangan parti Barisan Nasional kita.

PEMANTAUAN KPI

Seperkara yang telah disebut Presiden ialah tentang KPI yang akan dilaksanakan dalam tempoh tidak berapa lama lagi. Saya ingin menyatakan bahawa pendekatan seperti ini sudah lama dilaksanakan oleh kerajaan yang dipimpin Perdana Menteri kita.

Saya masih ingat sewaktu awal-awal diperkenalkan KPI, maka terdapat juga rasa kesangsian sesetengah daripada kita tentang bagaimana perkara itu hendak dilaksanakan. Mungkinkah ia dapat disempurnakan dan dengan KPI itu kita telah pun meletakkan timeline atau pun tempoh waktu tertentu untuk membolehkan ia dilaksanakan.

Hari ini dengan Dasar Transformasi Nasional, yang kita lihat telah menganjak kedudukan negara baik dari segi urusan kerajaan, ekonomi, sosial dan juga politik negara, maka terbukti pendekatan ini adalah suatu pendekatan yang cukup berkesan.

Maka dengan sebab itu kita harus menyokong inisiatif yang akan diambil oleh pimpinan kita yang meletakkan KPI sebagai satu cara untuk kita meningkatkan prestasi dan pencapaian parti masa akan datang.

Perkara ini pastinya akan dipantau dan saya percaya peranan di peringkat perhubungan UMNO negeri-negeri akan ditentukan, bagaimanakah KPI yang harus kita letakkan di setiap negeri dan bahagian serta cawangan dan tidak terkecuali KPI bagi Wanita, sayap-sayap Pemuda dan Puteri.

SISTEM PENGKADERAN

Seperkara juga yang disentuh dalam ucapan Presiden yang saya ingin sebutkan sedikit sahaja ialah tentang sistem pengkaderan parti. Kita ketahui bahawa UMNO adalah suatu parti massa, kita mempunyai sejumlah lebih daripada 3.4 juta ahli kita yang ada di 161 bahagian di seluruh negara.

Sistem pengkaderan ini sudah juga diamalkan oleh sesetengah pihak di mana latihan-latihan yang agak lebih terperinci dengan kursus-kursus pengkaderan diatur sepanjang masa, maka pimpinan-pimpinan UMNO terutama generasi baharu yang masuk ke dalam parti akan dapat didedahkan tentang sejarah perjuangan, idealisme, apa yang harus kita lakukan supaya kita meningkatkan kefahaman tentang erti perjuangan kita yang sebenarnya.

Maka dengan cara itu, kedudukan parti kita akan terus menjadi lebih mantap, lebih kukuh dan lebih diyakini kerana hasil daripada pengkaderan itulah maka kita dapat memikul tanggungjawab kita secara lebih berkesan untuk masa hadapan.

Mengenai sistem pemilihan baharu, saya telah pun dilantik Majlis Kerja Tertinggi untuk menjadi Pengerusi Jawatankuasa Penambahbaikan Sistem Pemilihan parti kita.

Pasti banyak yang mempunyai pandangan, tidak terkecuali Pengerusi Jawatankuasa Pemilihan kita sendiri iaitu Tan Sri Tajol Rosli dan rakan-rakan yang telah pun dipilih untuk memantau perjalanan proses pemilihan kita di semua peringkat bahagian dan sayap-sayap.

Saya ingin mencadangkan di peringkat perhubungan negeri supaya meneliti perkara-perkara yang berkaitan dengan proses pemilihan kita, apakah perakuan yang hendak dibuat untuk menambah baik proses pemilihan baik dari segi pentadbirannya, proses pemilihan itu sendiri, sistem yang telah kita guna pakai, syarat-syarat yang disebut untuk melayakkan seseorang itu bertanding dan sebagainya.

Oleh sebab kita mempunyai banyak masa, maka saya kira sudah sampai waktu bila selesai sahaja pihak negeri mengadakan mesyuarat dan berbincang dan mengemukakan perakuan ini kepada pihak jawatankuasa penambahbaikan sistem pemilihan, maka masa yang sesuai akan ditetapkan Majlis Tertinggi untuk kita mengadakan satu persidangan agung khas membincangkan proses prosedur dan juga peraturan-peraturan termasuk yang berkaitan dengan pindaan perlembagaan.

PROSES KEAHLIAN BAHARU

Sebagai Pengerusi Jawatankuasa Pengurusan juga, saya ingin menjelaskan sedikit, ada perkara berkaitan dengan urusan ibu pejabat iaitu isu kelewatan memproses keahlian baharu.

Ini juga telah dibangkitkan oleh beberapa pihak perwakilan yang minta supaya proses ini sepatutnya tidak menimbulkan apa-apa masalah kerana pindaan perlembagaan parti telah kita buat lama dahulu.

Saya sendiri telah membentangkan yang antara lain menyebutkan bahawa setiap orang Melayu berhak untuk menjadi ahli UMNO. Dan sebab itu proses untuk menjadi keahlian itu sudah pun dipermudahkan, lebih-lebih lagi kerana waktu sekarang kita tidak memerlukan apa-apa bayaran untuk menjadi ahli. Bermakna apabila seseorang Melayu memohon untuk menjadi ahli UMNO maka secara automatik dia diterima dan disahkan untuk menjadi ahli UMNO.

Cuma dari segi pentadbiran sahaja dan ini saya dimaklumkan oleh Setiausaha Agung kita, ada proses sistem secara online yang kita telah mulakan sejak 2010.

Dengan cara itu, sesiapa sahaja yang ingin mendaftar untuk menjadi ahli boleh berbuat demikian menerusi bahagian masing-masing. Dan yang penting ialah bagaimana bila sudah didaftarkan secara online, jawapan rasmi diterima bahawa mereka sudah diterima menjadi ahli UMNO.

SISTEM PENDIDIKAN

Dalam persidangan ini, usul yang berkaitan pendidikan antara lain, bersamaan usul agama telah pun dibentangkan. Saya ingin mengucapkan setinggi-tinggi terima kasih di atas sokongan daripada semua wakil dan perwakilan tentang usul agama dan pendidikan. Khususnya yang menyentuh tentang Pelan Pembangunan Pendidikan Malaysia iaitu pelan ini telah pun diuruskan pihak Kementerian Pendidikan.

Hasil perbincangan yang telah pun saya lakukan dengan Perdana Menteri yang juga Presiden parti bersetuju bahawa setelah hampir 40 tahun berdasarkan Laporan Razak yang telah pun lama dibentangkan dahulu, sudah sampai waktu dan ketikanya kita membuat satu kajian yang menyeluruh di manakah sistem pendidikan kita berada sekarang.

Apakah proses penambahbaikan yang perlu kita laksanakan supaya untuk tempoh mendatang ini maka menerusi sistem pendidikan kita akan dapat melahirkan satu generasi masa depan yang bukan sahaja terdidik dengan ilmu pengetahuan, kemahiran dan kepakaran tetapi juga akhlak, mulia, beretika dan mempunyai tertib, adab, sopan santun yang sesuai dengan kehendak masyarakat, agama dan negara.

Saya ingin menyatakan bahawa ia sudah pun kita laksanakan, mulai tahun ini 2013 menjangkau tempoh 13 tahun sehingga 2025.

Saya menyarankan supaya biro-biro pendidikan UMNO yang sudah lama tertubuh di semua bahagian mengambil peranan utama ke hadapan bukan setakat mengetahui tentang wujudnya Pelan Pembangunan Pendidikan Malaysia tetapi terlibat secara langsung bagaimana ia dapat diterjemahkan di semua peringkat, terutamanya di peringkat akar umbi kerana tidak ada satu anggota kita yang terkecuali daripada mendapat kesan dan faedah daripada Pelan Pembangunan Pendidikan Malaysia ini.

Seperkara yang telah disebutkan oleh berapa perwakilan yang berucap ialah tentang pentingnya kita bertegas dalam melaksanakan pelan ini, Saya ingin menyatakan selaku Menteri Pendidikan yang diberikan amanah, kerajaan tidak akan berdolak-dalik, kita akan terus bersikap tegas untuk melaksanakan segala perakuan yang telah pun dibuat dalam Pelan Pembangunan Pendidikan Malaysia ini.

Tidak kira suaranya datang daripada pihak mana sekalipun, kerana tujuan dan matlamat yang telah digariskan dalam pelan ini tidak lain dan tidak bukan adalah untuk mengangkat martabat masyarakat Malaysia ke suatu kedudukan yang lebih tinggi menerusi sistem pendidikan negara kita.

Seperkara yang telah pun saya sebutkan juga dalam ucapan terutama waktu saya merasmikan Persidangan Pergerakan Wanita, Pemuda dan juga Puteri ialah saranan saya supaya Pendidikan Islam Sepanjang Hayat dijadikan sebagai satu dasar utama untuk menyebar luaskan pengetahuan ilmu dan kefahaman kita tentang Islam itu sendiri.

Saya ingin mengucapkan terima kasih di atas sokongan semua pihak tentang saranan ini. Untuk itu saya telah berbincang dengan Perdana Menteri dan Presiden kita supaya Kolej Komuniti yang sudah pun kita tubuhkan sekarang dapat kita perluaskan peranannya, bukan sahaja mewujudkan Kolej Komuniti Islam, mengenai pendidikan Islam tapi Kolej Komuniti yang sudah sedia ada di mana program-program latihan khusus yang kita laksanakan sebagai satu bahagian program pendidikan sepanjang hayat dapat juga diintegrasikan dengan program Pendidikan Islam Sepanjang Hayat yang saya sebutkan.

Setakat hari ini sudah wujud 85 Kolej Komuniti dan program-program yang berkaitan dengan pendidikan Islam yang saya sarankan itu akan kita masukkan dalam program di kolej-kolej berkenaan.

Saya ingin memaklumkan bahawa model Pendidikan Islam Ulul Albab sebagai mana yang dicadangkan dalam usul pendidikan akan diperluaskan pelaksanaannya bermula pada tahun hadapan.

Pada masa ini terdapat empat buah sekolah agama bantuan kerajaan di Terengganu, yang telah pun melaksanakan model ini. Buat permulaan, perluasan pelaksanaan model ini akan melibatkan sebuah sekolah agama terpilih di setiap negeri - yang ini akan kita mula laksanakan insya-Allah pada 2014.

Menerusi model ini, selain daripada pelajar dapat mempelajari mata pelajaran-mata pelajaran biasa, para pelajar juga dapat disasarkan untuk khatam hafazan sebelum tamat SPM dan inilah sebahagian daripada tuntutan yang dikehendaki oleh sebahagian besar masyarakat Islam kita.

Program ini yang berasaskan prinsip Quranic, encyclopedic dan ijtihadic, diharapkan dapat membentuk pelajar yang bukan sahaja cemerlang dari segi pencapaian akademiknya tetapi juga cemerlang dari segi pengetahuan dan penghayatan agama Islamnya.

MENAMBAH BAIK PTPTN

Isu PTPTN juga telah dibangkitkan di persidangan ini. Ia disentuh oleh Mahasiswa Nasional yang minta supaya usaha dibuat untuk menambah baik PTPTN dan hendak ditentukan supaya ia lestari dan boleh sustainable untuk jangka masa yang panjang.

Cadangan telah pun dibuat untuk melihat bagaimana ia dapat diperbaiki lagi. Saya ingin menyatakan bahawa proses ini sudah pun bermula, kajian-kajian terperinci sudah pun dibuat, ada beberapa perkara yang akan kita kemukakan kepada pihak kerajaan tentang proses penambahbaikan termasuk cara pembayaran balik iaitu tentang dasar pinjaman boleh ubah.

Ada yang mencadangkan supaya kita perlu mengkaji dan tidak semestinya mahasiswa yang mendapat ijazah kelas pertama sahaja layak diberikan insentif dan potongan ataupun dijadikan ia sebagai biasiswa tetapi juga pencapaian pelajar bumiputera lain yang boleh diambil kira sebagai satu cara untuk memberikan galakan kepada mereka.

Perkara ini insya-Allah akan kita teliti dan kita halusi dan kita akan umumkan dalam tempoh masa yang tidak lama lagi.

PENTAKSIRAN BERASASKAN SEKOLAH

Sistem pengurusan Pentaksiran Berasaskan Sekolah yang disebut secara ringkasnya PBS, ini juga dibangkitkan di mana dinyatakan bahawa ia menyebabkan sebahagian besar tenaga pengajar, guru kita menghadapi masalah.

Saya nak nyatakan, hasil daripada kajian yang telah pun dibuat oleh pihak Kementerian Pendidikan beberapa tahun lepas, iaitu mengambil kira pandangan masyarakat umum bahawa sistem pendidikan di negara kita ini banyak menjurus kepada peperiksaan. Maka atas dasar itulah kita telah pun mengubah sistem itu kepada sistem Pentaksiran Berasaskan Sekolah ataupun school basesystem. Masalah sekarang bukan dasarnya, yang menjadi masalah ialah cara pelaksanaannya yang dikatakan menyebabkan bebanan terpaksa ditanggung oleh guru-guru.

Saya memberi jaminan bahawa perkara ini akan kita atasi dengan sebaik-baiknya. Langkah sudah pun bermula dan saya telah mengarahkan kementerian agar mengambil inisiatif membaiki sistem akses kepada maklumat yang hendak disampaikan kepada pihak kementerian.

Saya jangka pada April 2014 maka ia akan dapat kita laksanakan secara yang lebih berkesan dan tidak dianggap sebagai satu bebanan kepada pihak guru di seluruh negara.



Utusan Malaysia Online Rencana 20131208

Lessons from the terror-fic teacher

FORMER physical education teacher Salim Mohamed Nasir has traded in his sports shoes for weighty lesson plans on how to keep at bay the “terrorism” beast.

Rather than train students to keep fit in body, he now works with young people in Singapore to keep their minds sharp and their hearts in the right place, so their value systems help them reject extremist views on religion that might lead them astray.

He visits schools in the island republic, giving talks on terrorism and engaging the young to think of different ways of promoting racial understanding and resolving conflicts.





Preaching compassion: Salim says that the need for revenge will no longer exist if people are taught about love and empathy.

In 2009, Salim was seconded to a think-tank as a research fellow in 2009 from the Education Ministry. Since then, he has held about 60 sessions in schools with over 5,000 students.

The sessions can be a 40-minute school assembly talk, a two-hour talk or a two-day seminar on the topic.

In school, the genial man with a wide smile approaches the topic of terrorism by looking at its historical evolution, its manifestations and solutions.

With younger pupils, he nudges them to speak frankly as the subject itself is sensitive and difficult to comprehend.

This gentle reassurance is needed as pupils often cast nervous glances at their teachers seated behind them.

“I tell the children to be brave and that all their questions will be answered,” he says.

When he refers to terrorists as nasty bullies, some begin confiding in him, revealing that their classmates are bullying them.

He offers a solution by advising them to fight fear since bullies usually use fear to intimidate people.

Some of the students’ questions are revealing. Some have asked why they must work with children from different races during group work.

He urges them not to look at a person’s race but to accept him or her as a human being. Instead of using words like tolerance, which can connote a person’s inferiority, he suggests the word “compassion”.

Why compassion? “The value of compassion is love, showing empathy and understanding. The need for revenge will no longer be there if there is compassion,” replies Salim.

Challenging questions

With older students, the tone of discussion changes and they pelt him with tough questions. They discuss topics of brutal deaths, revenge and justice.

In the classroom, two clerics who are research analysts in the island’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) — Ahmad Saiful Rijal Hassan and Nur Irfani Saripi — help out.

Once, when Salim spoke of how it was wrong to use violence to achieve political aims, students retorted swiftly by asking him how then would he justify the controversial United States’ Central Intelligence Agency’s drone attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen.

These attacks, argued the students, have killed not just terrorists but unarmed civilians too.

He admits that while foreign policies are meant to protect their own security and sovereignty, some policies are difficult to understand.

Not satisfied with his reply, some retorted that drone strikes can also be seen as an abuse of sovereignty by the superpower and the cause of civilian deaths.

“Sometimes even adults can’t answer that question,” he admits.

His reply that terrorists should not resort to terror in the first place, brings the discussion back to the subject of terrorism.

“I tell them two wrongs don’t make a right.”

While he acknowledges that schools are doing a lot to strengthen race relations, his own approach is to provoke and stimulate thought.

When he asks students to rattle off from their mobile phones the names of their five best friends from a different race, the class is silent.

His anecdote resonates with a survey finding this year by the Institute of Policy Studies on the health of race relations in Singapore.

The survey found that of the 4,131 Singaporeans aged 18 and above, only 45 % said they had a close friend of another race.

But Salim is not unduly worried about the responses on race in his sessions.

“Schools have their own ways of transmitting messages on racial diversity and unity, and the awareness levels of students on topics on terrorism are quite high.

“I’m coming in from a different perspective and my questions are meant to trigger thinking.”

Living textbook

Salim, 52, is referred to as Cikgu Salim by his colleagues in RSIS, where he is an associate research fellow. He is married to a teacher and they have seven children.

His research expertise is on keeping community engagement at the heart of a nation’s counter-terrorism efforts.

This year, he co-edited a book, Countering Extremism: Building Social Resilience Through Community Engagement, with RSIS terrorist experts Rohan Gunaratna and Jolene Jerard.

Why not seek justice through proper systems and procedures, he asks the students.

His sessions are not just for students but their teachers and principals as well.

To teachers who ask him how social resilience can be built, Salim tells them that it all starts with the individual and how each individual must make the effort to get to know others better.

“If, every day in school, you spend five minutes to talk about these approaches to students, in no time they will not see racial or religious differences. They will see each individual as a unique personality,” he concludes.

Salim holds two master’s degrees. In 2001, he obtained one on educational management from the University of Western Australia.

Three years ago, he collected his Master of Science in International Relations at Nanyang Technological University.

For his classroom lessons on terror, Salim draws on his real-life encounters with terrorists and students find this aspect of his work fascinating. He has been to war zones and even interviewed terrorists in jails overseas.

“Some of them are remorseful but others cling stubbornly to their violent ideologies. They looked at me with suspicion, didn’t want to talk and even asked me what right I had to be in their cells,” he recalls.

He has also been to Peshawar in Pakistan where he conducted a workshop on how to rehabilitate terrorists. In Yemen, he exchanged views on counter ideology, community engagement and terrorist rehabilitation.

“My world view has changed and I have become a living book. Instead of going to a library to read about terrorism, the students get to open and go through the pages of my life,” he says.

Last year, Ngee Ann Polytechnic invited him to its campus for a Heroes Seminar where students listened to his thoughts on battling terrorism.

One student wrote in a feedback form after the session: “Mind blown! Really enjoyed the short session behind closed doors.”

Another wrote: “A very smart and influential guy. We need more people like him to educate young kids so that they will not go astray.”

The cikgu says that as long as the terrorism menace remains, he will wage battle against its extremist ideology and champion mainstream ideology.

“We must reach out to people and share different ways of solving problems.

“We can’t keep this knowledge to ourselves. We must share and that is my philosophy,” he states. — Asia News Network

The STAR Online Home News Education 08/12/2013

The lure of schooling on foreign soil

NOW that you know you want to study abroad, how do you decide where exactly to go?

We at StarEducate managed to speak to students on the factors that make them select a particular country as their study destination Finland

Touted to have one of the best education systems in the world, students who come to its shores will not have to worry about tuition fees as education is free up to tertiary level. Students who come to its shores to study at its tertiary institutions need not have to worry about the cost factor as there is no tuition fee, says Giam Yee Feng from the country’s Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK) . Other factors that drew the media student to the varsity was its course content and its location.

Australia

The Land Down Under has plenty of kangaroos and students from around the world.

Students favour the country because of its location - it’s much closer to home - and the university’s ranking says Gunjan Malekar from RMIT University in Melbourne.

Indonesian Yohana Rexana, who is also from RMIT, likes the fact that the institution has a good reputation.

United States of America

Almost everyone harbours a dream of making it big in this nation dubbed the “The Land Of Opportunity”.

For Design Institute of San Diego student Christle Clare Silva Tan, it has been the desire to build a career in the United States, not to mention the presence of family that took her across the Pacific ocean.

United Kingdom

Big Ben, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Football may be big attractions but for Shaun Jonathan Krishna his decision to pursue higher studies in the UK was the field and the ranking of the university he chose.

As for Rachel Wong Jia Xuan, it is the “high standards of teaching recognised worldwide” that has drawn her to the country. She’s also impressed and happy to be in London – a melting pot of diverse cultures.

France

While the Eiffel Tower’s imposing presence is synonymous with France, its role and and connection in the cosmetic industry is undisputed.

It is for this reason that Jonathan Wung decided to pursue his studies in the country.

Wung’s other reasons — to learn French and immerse himself in a new culture and lifestyle.

The STAR Online Home News Education 08/12/2013

When rote learning matters

THE 2013 Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) Moral Paper debacle exposed the teaching and learning style of our school examination students.

There was a big furore over the questions for the SPM Moral paper that required students to answer the questions using their thinking skills instead of merely “regurgitating” memorised moral values.

In the past the trend was for students to memorise the 36 core moral values and regurgitate them word-for-word in the examination.

This year the Education Ministry’s Examinations Syndicate required the students to answer the questions using their thinking skills. This virtually put them off because it was not the norm — they had been taught and drilled differently by their teachers.

The format of the Moral paper was still the same. The only change was the manner of answering the questions but this was in line with the thinking skills that is advocated in our education system.

The examination syndicate should have forewarned teachers and students of this change.

Students sitting for major public examinations such as Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR), Penilaian Menengah Rendah, SPM and Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) are taught techniques on how to answer and score in examinations.

The students are given specific guidelines on the format of the question paper and the structure of the answers.

Experienced and senior teachers who mark examination papers are quite skilled in imparting the techniques of answering and scoring examination questions.

Students are given numerous workshops to master the techniques of answering the examination questions. They are exposed to model answers to the questions.

In this context, there is no thinking skills incorporated in the examination system.

The questions are generally taken from past year papers and students are trained to answer the past year examination papers for the respective subject.

Examiners who mark the examination papers are provided with the standard answer scheme for the questions.

The examiners are briefed on how to mark the papers. And examiners have to abide by the answer scheme and structure strictly in awarding marks.

In such a scenario, there is no room for candidates to come up with answers that are “out of the box”.

The students have to conform to the standard answer pattern that they have been taught.Candidates are penalised for anything that is not in the answer scheme.

All this points to the fact that memorisation still plays an important part in our teaching and learning system.

Through memorisation and rote learning, good students are able to get As in the examination.

Incorporating “thinking skills” into our education system that emphasises on critical, creative and analytical learning is a challenge to our examination system that still tests on rote learning.

Samuel Yesuiah  Seremban Negeri Sembilan The STAR Online Home News Education Opinion 08/12/2013

Two public varsities in new Times ranking

UNIVERSITI Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) are the only Malaysian institutions in the inaugural Times Higher Education (THE) BRICS and Emerging Economies Ranking 2014.

THE World University Rankings editor Phil Baty said this new exercise examines universities from developing economies on a more level playing field and in a more appropriate economic context.

“It shows that while Malaysia is invisible in the overall world rankings, it does have institutions that can compete against peers in emerging economies.

“Malaysia has some universities that are not too far from the top global standards, and clearly have the potential to rise up the rankings in future,” he said in an interview.

What's the ranking of ... ?



On rankings: Baty says although UKM and UPM are featured quite low in the top 100 table, making the list is still an achievement.

Baty said UKM is ranked 77th and UPM is in joint 95th place with Egypt’s Cairo University.

China’s Peking University and Tsinghua University are in the top and second spots respectively followed by the University of Cape Town in South Africa. The other countries represented in the top 10 are Taiwan, Turkey and Russia.

“We can see that both UKM and UPM are competitive when the playing field is levelled.

“But there is still a long way to go before Malaysia’s best can hold their own against the developed world’s finest,” he said.

Although both institutions feature quite low down in the top 100 table, he said making the top 100 is still quite an achievement.

The top universities, he added, from 22 nations including China, Brazil and India which all have much bigger economies and populations than Malaysia, were considered for this innovative new ranking, so to be among the top 100 is impressive.

“UKM’s stand-out strength is in its international outlook indicators and score, which is much higher than some of the top universities in the list.

“This is a good sign for the future, because having a strong international outlook, namely recruiting international students and academics, and collaborating globally in research can also help drive up a university’s reputation and stimulate future improvement in research, which we also measure in the rankings,” he said.

UPM, he added, is also reasonably strong here. It is also quite strong with its ability to work with business and attract private research funding.

Baty said these new annual tables is the world’s first ranking for universities in Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa and 17 other emerging economies.

The emerging economies are defined by the FTSE Global Equity Index Series Country Classification, September 2013 update.

The new list is based on the same trusted methodology used in the THE World University Rankings covering all aspects of a modern university’s core missions namely teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.

“This ensures consistency of results and allows the emerging economy institutions to benchmark themselves against the same exacting standards as we hold Harvard University and Oxford University to,” he said.

THE, he added, is responding to strong demand to provide more data on a wider range of institutions to allow more institutions from the developing economies to benchmark their performance against the rigorous standards set by THE world rankings.

“By filtering out universities from traditionally dominant higher education nations, and allowing room for those institutions and nations which have thus far been unable to secure a place in traditional global rankings, this new ranking has been able to allow dynamic, up-and-coming institutions to shine,” he said.

For more information, log onto http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/.

The STAR Online Home News Education 08/12/2013

UPM is in the top 100

UNIVERSITI Putra Malaysia (UPM) has been ranked among the world’s top 100 universities in the fields of Agriculture, Forestry and Education, outdoing more than 2,000 other universities from around the globe.

According to the latest review by the QS World University Rankings 2013/14, in the fields of agriculture and forestry, UPM is placed among 51 to 100, sharing its place with other Asian universities such as Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, Japan; Zhejiang University, China; National Taiwan University, Taiwan; Kyushu University, Japan; Korea University, South Korea and Chiang Mai University, Thailand.

In total, seven Asian universities are ranked among the top 50 in the fields of agriculture and forestry.

Meanwhile, in the field of education, UPM along with Universiti Malaya; Beijing Normal University and Peking University in China as well as Seoul National University, South Korea, are placed among 51 to 100.

Four other Asian universities among the top 50 in educational studies are the University of Hong Kong and Chinese University of Hong Kong; Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and National Taiwan Normal University.

UPM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Fauzi Ramlan said the results are evidence of the university’s success in developing an international reputation for academic standards and quality of graduates.

“The QS rankings of top universities use a variety of performance indicators: academic and employer reputation, faculty to student ratio, citations per faculty, international students and international faculty.”

Prof Mohd Fauzi also said UPM has made some improvements in its internationalisation activities that include lecturers and students’ mobility programmes, researches and publications, recognitions and citations in high-impact journals, and book publishing for international markets.

“In the area of teaching, the revised curriculum focuses not only on compulsory courses but also elective courses in which to improve graduates’ savoir faire,” he added.

In addition, Prof Mohd Fauzi said UPM always encourages its researchers to continue producing high-impact products with significant commercial potential such as Satiri grass, bio-fertiliser Bacto-10, Akar Putra chicken breed and Ajib fertiliser.

The STAR Online Home News Education 08/12/2013

Downplaying varsity degrees

With thousands of unemployed graduates, the government plans to cap campus enrolment.

IT is clearer now why the government had been discouraging Singaporeans from depending too much on university degrees.

The reason is that the pool of unemployed graduates is expanding in this wealthy city, despite a general shortage of workers.

Almost by the week, new cases are being reported about well-educated professionals struggling to find jobs or being retrenched.

The latest example: A 29-year-old accountancy and finance graduate wrote of his failed job hunt for two years, saying: “I am deeply worried.”

Posted on a website, www.transitioning.org, which helps unemployed professionals, his is one of many such tales, including the following:

> A 51-year-old jobless graduate who earned S$4,000 (RM10,133) per month said he might have to become a security guard. “On some nights, I would wake up breaking out in cold sweat and worrying about my future.”

> A 28-year-old arts graduate has been jobless for one year, surviving on her savings.

> A 35-year-old Malay graduate ex-teacher and single mum is jobless and going homeless soon.

> A jobless 47-year-old graduate had only one offer in seven months – for a S$6 (RM15)-an-hour temp position.

> A 35-year-old jobless graduate and mum of two kids surviving on her security guard husband’s salary and with less than S$10 (RM25.30) in the bank.

There are others, all of which make sad reading, pointing to a deterioration of life quality for many middle-class Singaporeans as bosses prefer to hire “cheap” foreign workers.

The situation could worsen in the near future with nearly 10,000 graduates coming on-stream from seven local universities every year, seeking work.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) recently, a further 18,000 Singaporeans were studying in foreign universities – half of them in Australia.

Unemployment among the highly educated has risen from 3.3% to 3.6% in the first half of 2013, worse than the national average of 2.1%.

Actually, Singapore is not unique. Countries in the developed West, too, suffer from rising graduate unemployment – with one exception.

Unlike these countries, densely populated Singapore openly promotes immigration. Last year it admitted another 27,000 “foreign talents”.

Unable to create enough meaningful jobs, the government is doing the next best thing – downsizing the Singaporean ambition for higher education.

Several Cabinet ministers recently began to talk down the importance of a university degree.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said that paper qualification is not the only route to success.

And National Development Mi­­nister Khaw Boon Wan sparked controversy when he said: “You own a degree, but so what? You can’t eat it. If that cannot give you a good life, a good job, it is meaningless.”

Earlier, a Wikileaks document revealed a government decision to keep the local university population from increasing too much.

It quoted a senior Education Ministry official as saying that the government had no plan to encourage more students to go for university studies.

The campus enrolment rate would be capped at the current 20%-25% of total Singapore students. The labour market, she added, did not need more graduates.

That report came as a shock to Singaporeans who worship higher education as a god of success.

It led to speculation that the government is doing it to bring in foreign graduates en masse, since it is cheaper and faster than to produce them at home.

Given past records, this is unlikely to be the whole truth. The government has always given priority to developing Singaporeans to play an economic role.

To economists, however, there are wider fundamental reasons for it. The demise of the manufacturing era has significantly altered the job market.

Many of the newly created jobs today are in services that do not require formal four-year university training.

“A degree is nice to have, but we need something else,” is a regular employer comment.

For example, the opening of the two resorts required some graduates to be retrained as casino dealers and roulette operators.

Getting Singaporean parents to cut back on their children’s education is Mission Impossible. Many have suffered sacrifices to get them into a top university.

Social commentator Lucky Tan said any cutback would work against lower-income Singaporeans because the rich could easily send their kids abroad.

Not all are against the government being cautious.

“It is important to maintain a balanced, orderly labour market for the sake of social order,” said one writer.

Years ago former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew spoke of the dangers of educating hordes of graduates and being unable to provide them jobs.

He noticed that many tended to end up roaming the streets and making violent revolution.

And later Lee remarked that Singaporeans were not getting smarter, only better educated.

From many indications, the economy may intervene in the debate.

A research expert said: “I expect employment, including of graduates, to start to slow over the next few years.”

As quality jobs decline, it may further reduce the arrival of foreign professionals, even if the government were to do nothing.

Seah Chiang Nee is an international journalist of 40 years, many of them reporting on Asia. The views expressed are entirely his own. The STAR Online Home Opinion Columnist 07/12/2013

Do things right to get on Pisa top three

OUR performance in the international benchmarking test for the quality of education based on Programme for International Student Assessment 2012 (Pisa) is as we should have expected.

Pisa 2012 ranks us at 50 out of 63 countries. On the other hand, Pisa 2009+ ranks us at 53 out of 71 countries.

According to the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (MEB), the main objective for the quality of our education system is to be ranked the top third of countries participating in Pisa and TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Survey) within 15 years.

Currently, our achievements in Pisa show that the quality of our education is at least two years behind the last country in the top third of Pisa 2012, Slovenia.

Based on Pisa 2009+ and the MEB, we do not have any school performing like the average schools in Singapore, which are ranked as “Great”. Only 7% of our schools is ranked as “Good”, which was the ranking of average Slovenian schools for Pisa 2009+.

An overview of Pisa 2012 focusing on what 15-year-olds know and what they can do with what they know says that 51.8% of our Malaysian 15-year-olds fail to reach the baseline level for Reading, Mathematics and Science.

This means that, at best, they can only handle the simplest and most obvious tasks and most can be expected not to continue education beyond compulsory schooling, and therefore risk facing difficulties using mathematics, reading and science concepts throughout their lives.

Aiming for big improvements by talking about education transformation while just making cosmetic changes is such a waste of time and effort, not to mention wasted investments which could have been put to better use to tackle the core underlying problems.

What we need is education transformation with substance and, most importantly, without political interference. We also need to be concerned with the type of investments in education that should take precedence and priority for what we are trying to accomplish, without prejudice or benefit to certain parties.

Firstly, let’s talk about the teachers. We know that the quality of an educational system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers. We need to have the best teachers in the system, take care of them, reward them well and at the same time maintain strength and stamina to purge out the bad apples.

There are many good ones who get demotivated with the system and leave. However, we should have a better retention programme to ensure they stay.

Let’s put some serious efforts in making the teaching profession a desirable one, hence people of better calibre would be attracted to this profession and would be retained. We also need to make it easier for those outside of the teaching fraternity to consider teaching as a lucrative profession.

Why can’t we spend our money on this most important weapon for the battle?

A red flag should be raised when teachers who are coming out of training colleges are only dependent on the Government for teaching jobs, unable to secure jobs that are outside of the scope of teaching.

What does it say about our teacher training pedagogy? We train our teachers to train our children to secure good jobs in the future but they themselves are unable to get other jobs apart from teaching in the national schools.

As long as we allow this status quo, teachers will never realise what it means to compete and improve themselves to stay ahead of the game.

Secondly, the curriculum, teaching methods and teacher training pedagogy need to be relooked to match international standards. Our rote learning methods, archaic learning techniques, superfluous social engineering push and too much emphasis on examinations even under the school-based assessment need to be restructured and restrategised.

What would be the point of our national examinations if they constantly show improvements year after year but are plagued with allegations of manipulation and fraud?

In addition, they also give us the wrong sense of reality whereby our students seem to be performing well in national examinations but choke on international examinations and thinking skills.

Finally, we must adhere to some kind of quality management system in education to establish high standards, perhaps an International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) certification for education so that we do not chop and change the system according to our whims and fancies.

This is something we should seriously consider throughout the education chain to maintain a certain kind of standard and quality without prejudice, and based on merit.

PAGE has been advocating the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI), but it does not mean the restructuring discussed above for a meaningful transformation is not a priority.

What we are saying is, fix the system, take care of the teachers especially but do not remove PPSMI.

The system will not magically transform itself by removing PPSMI. We must put more resources in helping the low achievers perform better but at the same time, let the ones who can proceed go ahead.

Even Finland, which has been ranked as the top three consecutively since Pisa was started in 2000, was jolted by the Pisa 2012 result. Kicked out of the top 10, Finland now realises that in its perseverance to achieve education equity, they may have let down their brightest students. The brighter students from East Asia and other European countries have caught up with them.

As for us, we need to get back the mojo of our immediate post-Merdeka “can-do” spirit and pay attention to making education the economic driver once again. For as long as we keep making excuses, give in to mediocrity, neglect proper enforcement, and are weak in helping, motivating and mentoring teachers and students, stepping into the top third of the Pisa table will remain a dream.

> Tunku Munawirah Putra is honorary ­secretary of PAGE Malaysia, an educational lobbyist that serves as a channel between ­concerned parents, Education Ministry and other educational stakeholders. With PAGE, parents have a platform to voice their ­opinion and feedback on educational issues ­collectively. The views expressed are entirely the writer's own. The STAR Online Home Opinion Columnist 08/12/2013

To all the good teachers, with love

A DEAR teacher who taught me how to craft things from metal and to draw lines with a T-square in my early years in secondary school reconnected with me recently.

His three-page handwritten letter could not have come at a more appropriate time. I was immensely touched by his sharing, and of his remembrance of me as his student, one of the thousands who have crossed his path.

The teachers we remember the most are the ones we love. They are the ones who made a difference in our lives because they did not only teach, but they gave us an education. (Of course we also remember those we hate, but that is another story.)

I liked this teacher because he was kind and humble. In the first year I entered the premier school in Penang, the school authorities made two decisions – one was to let our class take Modern Maths (it was at an experimental stage then) and the other was to let us take Industrial Arts (IA), a departure from previous years when the top classes would study Commerce while the lower classes took IA.

This teacher taught me technical drawing and metalworks, while other IA teachers taught us woodwork and power mechanics.

I loved IA because I came from a neighbourhood where doing things with one’s own hands was the norm. Growing up, I would make my own toys and build cabinets and shelves from the remnants of wood that my uncle took home from the lumberyard.

And this teacher also played tennis with us.

I am particularly attached to teachers who, like him and the others I have mentioned before in this column, do not look at us based solely on our achievements. In premier schools where results and achievements in examinations or extra-curricular activities matter, the reality is that only a small portion of the student population actually will make the honours list.

Most of us remain ordinary students. But it is the special teacher who knows that the life of a student goes beyond his schooling years. Many ordinary students bloom in their later years and the teacher who is able to recognise that potential is the one we are most thankful for.

In his letter to me, this teacher attached two poems, Lessons from Life by Ronald Russell and Desiderata by Max Ehrmann. I know these two poems well for they contain lessons that transcend age and era.

In my column last week, I wrote about reaping what we sow and this is essentially what Russell’s poem is about. Some of the lines immortalised in this poem include: “A child that lives with ridicule learns to be timid; a child that learns with criticism learns to condemn; a child that lives with truth learns justice; a child that lives with sharing learns to be considerate.”

And what about the Desiderata? Desiderata, written in 1927 by Ehrmann, is Latin for “desired things”. What are our “desired things” if we were to write a similar poem today?

How can one not be touched by this poem where the opening lines just strike deep into the heart?

“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.”

Our world is full of noise and we often have to strain ourselves to listen to the real gems. And I am thankful for the gems shared by this dear teacher who took the trouble to pen me a letter (because he had read in this column that I treasure handwritten mail) even after losing contact with me for 35 years.

> Soo Ewe Jin (ewejin@thestar.com.my) is thinking of another poem, “If” by Rudyard Kipling, as he reflects on the life of one incredible man who truly lived a legacy and left a legacy. Farewell, Madiba. The views expressed are entirely the writer's own. The STAR Online Home News Columnist 08/12/2013

Waking up to a good history lesson

History is interesting if we learn to live it, rather than just treat it as another examination subject.

IT’S a bit hard to swallow. Imagine you are a housing developer in an area like, say, Xian in China with its terracotta soldiers, or around Stonehenge with its ring of standing stones in Wiltshire, England, and you say you have no idea of their significance.

Can you believe anyone working or living in the area when they say they have no idea of these historical structures?

Take it to a Malaysian level. Here we have a Malaysian developer who wants to build houses in Lembah Bujang – known internationally as a historical area of archaeological significance – telling us exactly that.

The developer isn’t working in Jalan Alor or Jalan Petaling but is carrying out work in Malaysia’s largest archaeological discovery site.

And this is what Bandar Saujana Sdn Bhd project manager Saw Guan Keat said after his workers flattened a candi, one of the ancient structures on that site. The contractors subsequently removed and disposed of all the material that made up the structure.

“We had a site visit before land clearing started in September. We saw a stone structure (the candi). We did not know what it was,” he said.

This must be one of the most incredulous and outrageous statements of the year. And we thought that such statements could only come from our politicians.

According to Saw, they carried out a land search at the Kedah Land Office on Jan 14 this year before buying the eight lots of land from the previous owner, another housing developer.

“The search clearly stated that the land has no encumbrances. The company proceeded to buy the land in February. When we did another search at the Land Office on July 30, again we did not find any encumbrance,” he said.

In simple language, an encumbrance means any obstruction, impediment, hurdle or claim that stands in the way. In other words, legally speaking, there was nothing to prevent him from starting work on the area.

The company, he said, only knew it had demolished a candi after reading about it in news reports.

“If we had known the structure was a historical site, we would not have cleared it. Our company merely took over the project, which was approved back in 1994 or 1995.”

Saw lodged a report on the incident at the Merbok police station on Nov 29.

Well, that’s a bit late now as the damage has been done. But if it is possible for the candi to be rebuilt, using the same ancient materials, then it has to be done.

But the positive aspect of the demolition of the candi and the controversy it has sparked off is that even the most ignorant Malaysians are waking up for a good history lesson.

Located near Merbok, Kedah, between Gunung Jerai in the north and Muda River in the south, the Lembah Bujang area comprises ruins that date back more than 2,000 years ago. There are reportedly more than 50 ancient tomb temples, called candi, that have been unearthed so far.

It has been reported that in the area of Lembah Bujang known as Sungai Batu, excavation works have revealed remains of jetties, iron smelting sites, and a clay brick monument dating back to 110AD, making it the oldest man-made structure to be recorded in South-East Asia.

As one who studied Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals) and history up to Form Six, and subsequently at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, I have always had an interest in the period of Hindu-Buddhist influence in our country.

Reading the writings of Sabri Zain in his website, which has a section on the history of the Malay peninsula, we learn that when a Malay speaks a sentence of 10 words, five would be from Sanskrit, three from Arabic and the remaining of English, Persian, Chinese or other origins.

The words of foreign origin include guru (teacher), asmara (love), putera (prince), puteri (princess),syurga (heaven), samudra (ocean), belantara (ocean), kenchana (gold), sukma (soul) and even sambah(pray). So is the often-used term “bumiputera” for prince of the earth or “puasa” for fasting.

For the Chinese, many Taoists may not be aware that the famous deity, Guan Yin, isn’t of Chinese origin but of Indian origin, with her Sanskrit name Padma-pani, meaning “Born of the Lotus”. It is already well reported that the Goddess of Mercy was originally male.

History is interesting if we learn to live it, rather than just treat it as another examination subject.

History is not about dead people, ancient culture, races that disappeared, disregarded stone structures or dates that we have to commit to memory. Rather, it is about how these historical events have affected our daily lives. Without the past, there is no present and surely no future.

Of course, there are many people and regimes that seek to rewrite history to their advantage.

But those who seek to re-write history to suit a political agenda will learn soon enough that it will never work because the past has a way of creeping up on us.

The views expressed are entirely the writer's own

WONG CHUN WAI The STAR Online Home News Opinion Columnist 08/12/2013

65pc quit work to manage family

WHILE most modern women seek to be well educated and obtain degrees, entering the workforce is not a natural progression for many.

Many opt to become homemakers after marrying and having children, while those who do enter the workforce may not remain there for long.

One of the key findings from a recent study, titled "Retaining women in the workforce" and conducted by TalentCorp and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, revealed that 65 per cent of women were, in fact, leaving the workforce to manage their families.

Malaysian representative to the Asean Commission of Women and Children Datuk Dr Chiam Heng Keng said this was especially prevalent among senior women.

"Women who have reached managerial levels or seniority in their professions are leaving the workforce to become homemakers."

One such person was Wan Rahiza Wan Zainuddin, 42, who gave up her job as an electrical engineer after giving birth to her second child. She said returning to work had never crossed her mind.

"It is quite a challenge being at home and doing housework. You must be mentally strong and have a firm belief in yourself in order to be a good housewife," said the mother of six from Seremban.

"My happiness comes from my family. If you are not happy to stay at home, you can never make your family happy."

She also believed that it was untrue that full-time homemakers managed their families better than women who had to work, a sentiment echoed by Dr Chiam.

"It is not only about parents being constantly present, but also how they treat their children and what sort of values are taught to them."

For single mother Wan Azieda Abdul Rahim, 51, spending time with her children was a major motivation.





Single mother Wan Azieda Abdul Rahim enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, Maya Suraya Faliq and Seth Emaad Faliq, just like she did with her children. Pix by Surianie Mohd Hanif
"It was never an option to leave my children in childcare centres or with other family members.

"I felt they should be able to wake up in their own home every day," said the mother of two, who divorced her late former husband after several years of marriage.

She was never interested in a full-time career or accumulating wealth because providing a good upbringing to her children was the main aim in her life.

"My advice to mothers who chose to work part-time is to dedicate not more than five hours per day to work," said Wan Azieda, who earns a living as an independent beauty consultant now.

Additionally, the increase in the number of Internet-savvy women had undoubtedly given rise to homemakers who are able to generate income from home through online businesses and teleworking.

TalentCorp chief executive officer Johan Mahmood Merican said today's advanced technology and fast Internet connection allowed women to work from home at "flexi-hours".

This, according to former women, family and community development minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, had provided women with more opportunities beyond the general perception of homemakers.

"A woman, whether educated or otherwise, should not be made to choose between family and work. She should have both," said Shahrizat.

Capital FM general manager Lynette Ow added that as long as women were taking an "active role" in society, it did not matter if they decided to work or be full-time homemakers.

The radio station, with its tagline, "Women, the new capital", worked towards helping women to expand their circle of influence, she said.

"The more active a role women take in society, the more influential and powerful they become."



New Straits Times Opinion Letters-to-the-editor 25 Mac 2013