February 10th, 2014

Kaya pengalaman dan kejayaan

SEBAGAIMANA sinonimnya Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad dengan kejayaan politik dan pembangunan Malaysia, begitulah juga sinonimnya Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud dalam dua aspek itu di Sarawak.

Perbandingan itu mungkin dipertikaikan kerana bagi penduduk Semenanjung, kehebatan Abdul Taib sukar dihayati secara mendalam. Namun bagi anak Sarawak, majoriti daripada mereka terhutang budi kepada Ketua Menteri selama 33 tahun itu.

Bagaimanapun, sudah menjadi lumrah bagi ahli politik untuk dibenci musuhnya. Abdul Taib tidak terkecuali dicaci maki dengan pelbagai gelaran. Serangan terhadap beliau tidak sekadar dibuat dari dalam bahkan turut dilancar dari luar negara.

Namun, siri serangan sedemikian tidak berjaya menjatuhkan anak kelahiran Kampung Sungai Merbau, Miri itu. Malah, jika beliau mahu terus bergelar Ketua Menteri untuk satu penggal lagi sekalipun, Abdul Taib dilihat tidak bermasalah untuk berbuat demikian.

Kaya pengalaman dan kejayaan



ABDUL TAIB MAHMUD cuba menggunakan senjata mesingan semasa melakukan tinjauan Latihan Kakar Malindo (Malaysia-Indonesia) di Sempadi, Sarawak pada tahun 1988.

Kehebatan sedemikian rupa pastinya disumbang oleh pelbagai pengalaman, bukan sahaja dalam aspek pentadbiran bahkan seni berpolitik.

Pengalaman awal Abdul Taib dalam pentadbiran Sarawak bermula pada 1961 sejurus menamatkan ijazah undang-undang di Adelaide University, Australia dengan jawatan pertama sebagai ahli Crown Council.

Pada 1963, beliau menganggotai Kabinet pertama Sarawak dengan portfolio Menteri Komunikasi dan Kerja Raya di bawah kepimpinan Ketua Menteri pertama, Tan Sri Stephen Kalong Ningkan.

Pada 1969 pula, beliau menganggotai Kabinet Persekutuan yang diterajui Perdana Menteri pertama, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj dan kekal di dalam Kabinet sehingga era Perdana Menteri ketiga, Tun Hussein Onn dengan jawatan terakhir sebagai Menteri Wilayah Persekutuan pada awal 1981.

Pada 26 Mac tahun yang sama, Abdul Taib dilantik sebagai Ketua Menteri Sarawak ketiga. Pada peringkat awal pentadbiran, beliau berusaha keras menyatupadukan rakyat Sarawak yang berbilang bangsa dan etnik dan apabila perkara itu berjaya dicapai, fasa pembangunan dirancang dan dimulakan. Apa yang berlaku selepas itu adalah satu sejarah.

Pencapaian terbesar beliau ialah perkembangan luar biasa ekonomi Sarawak berbanding 50 tahun lalu apabila berjaya mencatatkan Keluaran Dalam Negara Kasar (KDNK) sebanyak RM71.6 bilion pada 2012. Jumlah itu mewakili 10 peratus daripada KDNK negara sekali gus menjadikan Sarawak sebagai kuasa ekonomi ketiga terbesar di negara ini. KDNK per kapita pula meningkat lebih 57 kali ganda iaitu daripada RM688 pada 1963 kepada RM40,414 pada 2012.

Trend pertumbuhan positif itu turut menyumbang kepada pengurangan kadar kemiskinan daripada 56.5 peratus pada 1970 kepada 2.4 peratus tahun lalu.

Menjadi pelonjak kepada pertumbuhan ekonomi Sarawak itu ialah Koridor Tenaga Boleh Diperbaharui Sarawak (SCORE) yang pelaburannya setakat pertengahan tahun lalu sudah mencecah RM24 bilion. Pada peringkat operasi penuh nanti, SCORE yang dilancarkan pada 2008 akan mewujudkan 14,000 peluang pekerjaan.

SCORE merupakan pet project Abdul Taib dan kerana itu, perkataan SCORE ibarat 'zikir' dalam ucapan beliau dalam mana-mana majlis. Bagi Abdul Taib, projek berkenaan adalah sumber kekayaan baharu Sarawak berbanding balak dan minyak yang satu hari nanti pastinya susut.

Pada tahun lalu, beliau pernah mengarahkan semua wakil rakyat Barisan Nasional (BN) Sarawak dan pegawai kanan kerajaan menyertai 'lawatan sambil belajar' ke wilayah SCORE di sekitar Bintulu bagi memastikan mereka memiliki kefahaman yang mendalam tentang projek berkenaan.

Beliau khuatir rakyat tidak memahami signifikan SCORE sekali gus menyebabkan mereka tidak bersedia menghadapi ledakan peluang ekonomi baharu yang bakal terhidang.

Seorang pemuda Iban yang penulis temui di Bintulu pada tahun lalu memberitahu dia kerap mendengar Abdul Taib bercakap tentang SCORE di radio tetapi perkara itu tidak difahami.

"Dulu saya kerja toreh getah, pendapatan tak tentu. Apabila kilang-kilang SCORE nak dibina, saya pun kerja kontrak di tapak projek.

"Pendapatan boleh tahan, sampai mampu pakai Perodua Kancil second hand, kalau kilang (SCORE) siap nanti, saya nak kerja di sana pula sebab nak beli kereta baharu," katanya.

Justeru, pengunduran Abdul Taib boleh dijadikan petunjuk beliau sudah berpuas hati selepas berjaya meletakkan 'batu asas' peluang ekonomi yang luas melalui SCORE bukan sahaja untuk masa depan negara dan negeri bahkan rakyat Sarawak di setiap peringkat.

Cuma yang menjadi teka-teki, siapakah yang bakal meneruskan legasi beliau terutamanya dalam pembangunan SCORE yang telah pun memulakan operasi walaupun belum dalam skala yang penuh.

Tiga nama yang disebut-sebut iaitu Tan Sri Adenan Satem, Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg, dan Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan juga bukanlah satu rahsia. Nama itu telah lama disebut-sebut namun Abdul Taib sebagai seorang ahli politik berpengalaman tidak pernah memberi petunjuk yang jelas.

Adakalanya, beliau seperti mahukan Adenan, selepas itu berubah kepada Abang Johari, kemudian Awang Tengah dan putaran itu sering berulang.

Para penyokong pula memberikan pelbagai hujah. Bagi yang pro Adenan, mereka berkata bekas adik ipar Abdul Taib itu ada kemampuan, lebih dipercayai dan tajam fikiran walaupun sedikit keuzuran.

Abang Johari pula dihujahkan sebagai pemimpin yang setia, berpengalaman, memiliki sokongan padu dalam parti dan cemerlang di semua jawatan Kabinet Sarawak walaupun tidak diberikan portfolio kanan.

Awang Tengah dianggap penyokongnya sebagai blue-eyed boy Abdul Taib kerana sentiasa diberi portfolio kanan seperti Perancangan Sumber dan Alam Sekitar, Kemudahan Awam dan Pembangunan Industri walaupun lebih junior dalam politik.

Kata mereka, jika masa depan SCORE dijadikan indikator, Awang Tengah dilihat memiliki peluang yang lebih cerah kerana beliau terlibat secara langsung dalam pembangunan projek itu.

Namun, mencari jawapan kepada teka-teki ini bukanlah mudah kerana seni politik Abdul Taib amat halus dan berlapis-lapis seperti kulit bawang. Walaupun sudah banyak lapisan kulit dikopek, empulurnya masih belum ditemui dan jika dikopek secara kasar, kulit tadi akan terkoyak.

Seni politik itu jugalah yang telah menyelamatkan Abdul Taib dalam pelbagai badai politik terutamanya Peristiwa Ming Court pada 1987. Pemberontakan dari dalam itu menyebabkan beliau terpaksa menggunakan jentera pilihan raya yang terpisah daripada parti untuk memastikan tiada musuh dalam lipatan.

Kelicikan politik sedemikian rupa juga dipamerkan beliau dalam menamakan bakal pengganti sehingga para penganalisis politik Sarawak sekadar mampu berkata: "Semua calon ada peluang" manakala Adenan, Abang Johari dan Awang Tengah pula jika tidak menjawab "no comment", mereka hanya mengunci mulut.

Itu jawapan selamat kerana mereka sedar, percaturan Abdul Taib sukar diramal walaupun oleh orang yang berada di sekelilingnya.



SAIFUL HAIZAN HASAM pengarang@utusan.com.my Utusan Malaysia Rencana 20140210

Memahami tahap-tahap kreativiti untuk kebaikan sejagat

KREATIVITI merupakan perkataan yang sangat digemari masa kini. Frasa seperti individu kreatif, hasil kreatif, budaya kreatif, kreativiti dan inovasi, pembelajaran kreatif serta kreativiti dalam organisasi adalah antara frasa yang kerap didengari.

Namun, sejauh mana kita memahami kreativiti itu sendiri sering menimbulkan persoalan. Ini kerana makna kreativiti atau kreatif sering disalah anggap, disalahguna mahupun disalahtafsir. Apatah lagi bila kita membicarakan perkara ini dari sudut keagamaan.

Secara umumnya, menurut pengkaji kreativiti terkenal, Robert J. Sternberg dalam buku bertajuk Handbook of Creativity (1999), kreativiti merupakan kebolehan menghasilkan sesuatu yang baharu dan sesuai. Ini bermakna manusia menggunakan kebolehan kreatifnya untuk menghasilkan sesuatu yang baharu serta bersesuaian.

Namun, satu persoalan yang sering ditimbulkan sama ada manusia benar-benar boleh melaksanakan kreativitinya. Dengan kata lain, adakah manusia sebenarnya boleh berkreativiti atau boleh mereka cipta, sedangkan perkara itu adalah milik Allah SWT, Tuhan yang Maha Mencipta? Seperkara lagi, jika manusia boleh mencipta, maka apakah dia boleh mencipta segala-galanya, tidak kira benda atau perkara itu baik atau sebaliknya?

Hakikatnya, Allah adalah satu-satunya Pencipta yang Maha Sempurna. Lihat sahaja tubuh badan manusia, semuanya dicipta dengan sempurna. Namun, dengan rahmat-Nya juga, Allah menganugerahkan kebolehan mereka cipta kepada manusia. Ini bermakna manusia boleh menggunakan kreativitinya untuk menghasilkan sesuatu. Namun, ini ada syaratnya.

Syarat yang paling utama ialah manusia boleh mereka cipta tetapi tujuan ciptaannya itu hendaklah untuk kebaikan sejagat. Misalnya menggunakan kreativitinya untuk menghasilkan ubat-ubatan untuk merawat penyakit manusia.

Dengan itu, sesuatu ciptaan untuk memusnahkan serta merosakkan manusia dan kemanusiaan serta alam keseluruhannya adalah tidak dibenarkan sama sekali. Hasil kreativiti yang baik itu sebenarnya satu lambang kehambaan manusia kepada Maha Pencipta. Ini kerana, anugerah berkreativiti itu telah digunakan sebaik mungkin untuk membawa kebaikan kepada alam.

Oleh itu kreativiti sangat penting. Dalam hal ini, kreativiti penting pada dua tahap iaitu di peringkat individu dan di peringkat masyarakat. Di peringkat individu, kreativiti penting untuk menyelesaikan masalah seharian manusia. Ini kerana, pada setiap hari kita berhadapan dengan pelbagai masalah dan kreativiti diperlukan untuk menyelesaikan masalah itu. Di peringkat masyarakat pula, kreativiti perlu kerana kebolehan ini akan membawa kepada penemuan-penemuan sains yang diharapkan dapat membantu manusia menjalani hidupnya dengan lebih baik.

Berdasarkan kenyataan ini, memang wajarlah kebolehan kreatif seseorang dipupuk. Hakikatnya, setiap manusia mempunyai kebolehan kreatif tersendiri. Dengan kata lain, setiap orang mempunyai potensi untuk berkreativiti. Namun, potensi yang ada tidak berguna jika tidak dipupuk dengan baik. Dalam hal ini, memupuk budaya kreatif sewajarnya dilaksanakan dalam dunia pendidikan. Dunia pendidikan ini pula tidak hanya terhad dalam dunia sekolah tetapi memerlukan penglibatan ibu bapa di rumah dan juga masyarakat keseluruhannya.

Dalam hal ini, pemupukan boleh dilakukan dalam pelbagai cara. Namun, dalam konteks ini, penulis hanya ingin menyentuh tiga bentuk usaha.

Pertamanya berkaitan memberi ruang dan peluang untuk setiap individu merealisasikan kebolehan kreativitinya. Setiap individu, sama ada dalam keluarga, organisasi mahupun masyarakat, harus diberi peluang berkreativiti dan seterusnya diharapkan akan dapat menghasilkan idea, barangan mahupun perkhidmatan yang boleh membantu kehidupan manusia.

Keduanya, kebolehan berkreativiti ini juga memerlukan sokongan tertentu. Sokongan meliputi sokongan jiwa mahupun sokongan kebendaan. Misalnya, memberi kata nasihat, tunjuk ajar mahupun menyediakan dana untuk berkreativiti. Ketiganya pula, seperti mana yang disebut di atas, kerjasama semua pihak amat diperlukan dalam usaha membudayakan kreativiti.

Dalam hal ini, setiap individu dalam masyarakat perlu memahami kebolehan kreatif, potensinya serta bagaimana memupuknya. Lebih penting lagi, memahami aspirasi masyarakat tersebut untuk menjadikan kreativiti sebagai budaya penting dalam masyarakat itu sendiri. Justeru segala salah faham berkaitan kreativiti perlulah diperbetulkan.

Contoh salah faham yang lazim adalah anggapan bahawa kreativiti bermakna satu usaha yang pasti menghasilkan sesuatu dalam jangkamasa pendek.

Sedangkan usaha kreatif untuk menghasilkan sesuatu itu akan memakan masa dan mungkin akan berhadapan dengan pelbagai kegagalan sebelum usaha itu menjadi kenyataan. Ini bermakna, satu usaha kreatif tidak boleh menjamin penghasilan sesuatu yang baharu pada cubaan kali pertama.

Salah faham lain adalah berkaitan kefahaman bahawa penghasilan satu hasil kreatif bergantung pada hanya individu tertentu. Sebagai contoh, apabila adanya individu kreatif dalam sesebuah organisasi, dia diharapkan akan dapat menghasilkan sesuatu yang baharu demi melonjakkan organisasi itu ke satu tahap yang lebih baik.

Hakikatnya, satu hasil kreatif terhasil dengan usaha dan kerjasama banyak pihak. Misalnya, kreativiti individu akan menghasilkan satu hasil kreatif tetapi untuk tujuan pengeluaran dan pemasaran, satu usaha kreatif yang lain turut diperlukan bagi memastikan hasil tersebut dapat dimanfaatkan oleh pengguna.

Kesimpulannya, kreativiti perlu difahami barulah kebolehan itu boleh dicapai. Paling penting kefahaman di peringkat masyarakat. Jika semua ahli masyarakat memahami kreativiti maka lebih mudahlah kebolehan itu dibudayakan. Paling asas adalah keyakinan bahawa kita manusia ciptaan Ilahi yang paling bertuah kerana dianugerahkan kebolehan kreatif, maka gunakan kebolehan itu ke arah kebaikan sejagat.

AZRINA SOBIAN ialah pegawai penyelidikan Institut Kefahaman Islam Malaysia (IKIM) Pandangan IKIM Utusan Malaysia Rencana 20140210

Act now on education woes

Policies have been formulated to improve and facilitate teaching and learning at all levels, yet there are weaknesses in the system that need to be urgently addressed.

THE dismal performance of our students in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) in 2013, where 51.8 % of our 15-year old students failed to reach even the baseline level for Reading, Mathematics and Science, has rightly alarmed many concerned Malaysian parents and educationists.

It bears repeating that the quality of an education system simply cannot exceed the quality of its teachers, no matter how many billions of ringgit is used in educational development plans or blueprints to improve our school system.

Prominent lawyer, politician, columnist and author Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, could well be expressing the sentiments felt by many informed Malaysians when he wrote in his book I, Too, Am Malay, that many teachers, are “poor in quality” and the school curriculum is irrelevant while administrators are too political.

The fact that 70% of our English teachers failed to make the grade in the Cambridge Placement Test speaks volumes of why and how we continue to witness a decline in English proficiency in our schools and universities over the years.

If it is true that a large number of our teachers are incompetent, then policy-makers will have to get the views of all the major stakeholders, accept sound suggestions from various quarters, before they attempt to tinker with our school system.

M. Bakri Musa, columnist and author in his book An Education System Worthy of Malaysia, mentioned the greatest weakness of all our educational reforms is the government’s exclusive dependence on in-house or Education Ministry officers, who have somehow failed to improve the quality of our education system over the years, in spite of all their grand schemes.

Let’s review how effective, practical or meaningful the educational reforms have been at school level.

Motivating students

When the co-curricular points system was first implemented in our schools, it seemed like a good way to motivate our students to participate more actively in sports clubs and societies to make them well-rounded students.

In the first place, the system was never implemented in good faith.

Students sitting for the Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) exams face a serious handicap when it comes to applying for admission to local universities for some degree courses compared to Matriculation students, who study for a shorter period of time and sit for their relatively easy internally-marked exam papers.

And as if things are not bad enough for STPM students, it looks like the co-curricular points system was designed to make university admission even easier for Matriculation students. The system enables them to secure high marks for co-curricular activities which account for 10% of the entry-score requirement for public university admission.

In matriculation colleges, students who participate in co-curricular activities among hostel block members are awarded marks meant for district level events, while students who compete in activities in college are awarded marks that are equivalent to state level grades. When students compete in inter-college events, they are accorded marks equivalent to that of national level!

Any wonder why so many SPM students choose not to do their Form Six?

The system is biased as it favours Matricu-lation students over STPM students. Moreover the chances of STPM students who score 4As getting courses of their choice at varsity level is also uncertain.

Considering the circumstances, many bright students simply don’t want to continue with Form Six.

Why experience the mental agony of getting 4As in the STPM exams only to be denied places for courses like medicine and pharmacy?

Let me reiterate that the STPM is a tougher exam and the co-curricular point system for matriculation students gives the latter an unfair advantage.

Research suggests that superior learning takes place when classroom experiences are enjoyable and relevant to students’ lives, interest and experiences.

As such, it is rather unfortunate that at a time when our education system is already failing to provide students with appropriate problem solving, critical and analytical skills and knowledge content, especially in Science and Mathematics, our policy-makers see it fit to make all students take up History (now made a compulsory subject to pass in the SPM exam).

Instead of learning world history and exposing our students to lessons we can learn from major historical events, much of our Form Four History textbooks are devoted to specific topics all in the name of promoting patriotism and national unity.

And why bother to introduce the SPM open certification exam in the first place when we have no real intention to offer our students real flexibility in their choice of subjects and electives based on their interests, abilities and aptitudes?

In his best seller, The World is Flat, Thomas L Friedman, points out that in today’s world, how children are educated may prove to be more important than how much they have to learn in school.

If what he says is true, why should we stifle our students’ initiative, curiosity and creativity by burdening them with uninspiring and even unnecessary subjects that have made school life such a dreadful and boring affair.

And yet, despite repeated calls to scrap Moral Education, such pleas have fallen on deaf ears. It has been pointed out that Moral Education, instead of exploring how we can effectively teach and test moral reasoning, only serves to indoctrinate our students and subjects them to mindless memorisation of core values.

To make things worse, our policy-makers decided that learning Moral Education was not good enough; in order to make our students more civic-conscious and patriotic, they went on to introduce yet another subject called “Civics and Citizenship” for our secondary school students from Form One in 2005.

Holistic development

Our national education philosophy emphasises holistic development of our students. That being the case, won’t Physical Education (PE) play an important role in producing physically fit and well-rounded students?

And yet with our students experiencing so much stress in their school life, they have to make do with just two periods for PE!

If that is not bad enough, some schools even use PE periods to teach “more important subjects” like Health Education. And what about our school-based assessment?

Various quarters have already pointed out that simply scrapping the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) and Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) exams to introduce the current school-based system may not necessarily serve to enhance learning and make school life more enjoyable for students.

When the school-based assessment system was introduced to schools in 2011, it was assumed that teachers would be able to assess their students’ abilities and potential.

But with so many “poor quality” teachers it will not be fair to assume that they are sufficiently equipped to evaluate their students based on internally-prepared assessments, that they take pains to assess their students properly, and that they are unbiased towards their students.

Well, that’s really a tall order. Already, we have heard stories from schools of incompetent and indifferent teachers teaching weak classes and yet awarding their students Band Six, no less, in their respective subjects!

And as usual, many schools are already resorting to buying workbooks in the market instead of getting their teachers to come up with their own worksheets and materials to assess their students, making a mockery of introducing the school-based assessment in the first place.

But we can’t blame the teachers, not when they are burdened with so much paperwork and keying data online into the SPPBS (Sistem Pengurusan Pentaksiran Berasaskan Sekolah).

It is worth noting that our current school-based assessment at the end of the day, is not much different to the A-B-C-D-E grade system or even the Percentage Score system. So why should teachers need to waste time with the banding exercise when in their daily dealings they can easily discern the band(s) the students actually deserve for the topics taught?

Wouldn’t it be better to reflect on their teaching approaches and enhance their professional knowledge, rather than waste time with paperwork and keying data?

It is about time to address the problems facing our education system.

For a start, the government should really grant greater autonomy to good schools in both urban and rural areas to adopt a broad-based curriculum, save for a few core subjects under the supervision of the Education Ministry, to let students learn what they ought to learn in today’s challenging world.

Get dynamic school principals to manage such schools and empower them to make decisions on matters related to school operations with the participation of parents and the local school communities.

If the principals are allowed to hire competent teaching staff, and be accountable for their performance, then we stand a better chance to improve our education system at the school level, specially when we are in a position to compare the performance of such autonomous schools with our national schools.

And with so many parents paying for tuition lessons these days, they would gladly pay school fees to get their children to study in such autonomous schools.

When such schools, gain a good reputation, the tuition syndrome will slowly die and more parents would choose to place their children in such schools rather than vernacular or international schools, resulting in a win-win situation!

With the current rot in the school system, the authorities should no longer be so protective over their turf. They must have the courage to admit the serious shortcomings of their policies and display greater commitment to think out of the box. It is now in the hands of the ministry to make it all happen.

Henry Soon, a retired teacher, is still passionate about education. He hopes the Education Ministry will be bold enough to bring about changes for the greater good of students, teachers and parents. The STAR Home News Education 09/02/2014

Experience, the best teacher

AFTER the first week of the three-month teaching practicum which was part of their teacher education training, one of the teacher trainees looked a little worn out and said somewhat breathlessly, “I didn’t know teaching would be this challenging ... my four years of teacher education didn’t prepare me for this”.

“In fact,” she continued a little ruefully, “nothing I learnt in university can be applied to the set of students I am teaching now”.

It was admittedly a little dramatic but having been there ourselves, the more senior teachers tried to mask our smiles.

“Welcome to the real teaching world,” someone said.

“You have a long, long way to go,” said another teacher who had been teaching for 30 years and was near retirement.

The same thoughts would have gone through most of our heads but thankfully no one retorted: “If you at your age are exhausted after a mere one week of teaching with just two classes to handle and 10 teaching periods, what about we senior teachers who have been in the service for 20 years or longer with a much bigger workload, and having to balance both career and families?”

The sense of indignation that lingers around most staffrooms seemed to creep up once again to remind us of our “griping rights”.

What about us, when we first started out some 20 years ago?

We were not handed a complete manual of teaching with detailed instructions on how to deal with our students, school, colleagues, extra- curricular activities and all the other things pertaining to teaching.

We were not told what to do in classes where prescribed text-books or curriculums simply could not be used.

Along the way we learnt how to adapt, modify and adjust although at times extreme adaptations and major revisions needed to be done in order to reach the students we were responsible for.

No pointers

This we did not learn during our own teacher training days. Perhaps we should have. Neither were we given pointers on how as novice teachers, we had to settle into a staffroom full of older and more experienced teachers.

They were not always sympathetic. Some were too busy worrying about their own duties to take time off and listen to a fresh teacher’s concerns and doubts.

We learnt it on our own, though at times it seemed as if we were groping in the dark.

We had our fair share of bruises and stumbles but we managed to pull ourselves up. There was no one to show us the way, to take us by the hand and lead us through the first tentative steps of teaching.

So why shouldn’t they, the new generation of teachers learn through the school of hard knocks as we did?

There’s no sense in mollycoddling them. After all, experience is the best teacher, even for teachers.

There is I suppose a fair amount of justification in the senior teachers’ reasons for their less than enthusiastic responses when it comes to helping novice teachers find their foothold in the teaching scene.

Their own workload by comparison is much heavier and they hardly have time to complete their own teaching duties let alone do voluntary “mentoring” work for new teachers.

While teacher education programmes in institutes of higher learning do expose their undergraduates or teacher trainees to the various teaching methods, pedagogy, education philosophies and classroom management among other things, they can never completely prepare you for the real world of teaching.

The truth is nothing actually prepares you for teaching but teaching itself.

They cannot for instance teach you how to deal with the student who cries every time you ask her why she hasn’t finished her homework assignment.

Nothing during teacher education prepares you to deal with students who sleep through your entire lesson despite your best attempts to wake them up, simply because they had spent the entire night working.

Nothing also prepares you to deal with situations where your best planned and prepared lessons don’t work due to situations beyond your control like technical glitches in the school resource room or simply because your students haven’t reached the minimum competency required for that level.

There are times when novice teachers have confessed they have actually shed a tear or two in private after a lesson which had been so carefully and painstakingly planned, had gone dreadfully wrong due to reasons not of their own.

These are times perhaps when experience really has to be the best teacher and novice teachers or teacher trainees can draw comfort from the fact that things like this happen frequently to most teachers.

This is why a teacher always needs to have Plan B at the back of her mind.

But even plan B comes with the knowledge that is acquired through experience, the “what to do if” situations that can never be entirely taught by theory or the best crafted teacher pedagogy courses.

It can only be acquired through the daily grind of teaching accompanied by the hits and misses.

It would of course not hurt at all, if senior teachers remember the situation of these younger teacher trainees even though they may be just temporary members of the teaching staff.

These few months or weeks of their practicum would actually be their first real taste of the school scene and a representation of what is in store for them once they qualify.

Nuggets of wisdom

And as it is with so many other things, they are indeed most vulnerable at this stage, eager to learn and probably would consider whatever words of advice or exhortation from a senior teacher as nuggets of wisdom from a “guru”, from one who has travelled the road before them.

There are of course less than pleasant stories that come from both sides.

We sometimes hear comments from the senior teachers that bear an almost accusatory tone, about these trainee teachers being either completely clueless or unable to manage the classes they have been allotted.

Another commonly heard concern from teachers whose classes are being temporarily taught by the trainees is about how they are “afraid to give their classes over to the trainees because they will not be able to teach them properly”.

‘Owning’ trainees

On the other hand, there are teachers who think trainees are their own private property on loan to them for the entire duration of their practicum, and therefore they are entitled to get them to do every task or duty that they themselves are responsible for.

But what is usually the case is that we are more or less indifferent to their presence unless they are actually assigned to us to mentor or to co-teach in a particular class. If they belong to another subject option, the indifference is even more marked.

If you are a trainee teacher doing your practicum for the first time, chances are that launching out and testing your teaching wings may turn out to be a bit of a shock at times, when you realise that the real classroom hardly fits the image of what you had come to expect during your training day. Occasionally you may even return home with singed wings.

Many things may be strange and new to you and you may feel even more nervous and less sure of yourself than the students you have to teach.

The thing to remember is to be professional and be aware that there are behavioural expectations from you as a trainee teacher.

So be respectful of everyone including your colleagues, senior teachers, administrators and non-teaching staff.

Be organised, dress appropriately and always be punctual. Do not expect perfection either from yourself or from others.

There will be days when you feel like a failure and days when you feel like a champion and as the days proceed, the days that you feel like a champion will begin to outnumber the other not-so-great days.

Some senior teachers will be kind to you, some will just ignore you and others may for whatever private reason of their own, resent your presence.

But when it’s all said and done, you will find your own niche, experience your own joy in teaching and draw from it, the same kind of fulfilment that has spurred countless generations of teachers before you.


The STAR Home News Education 09/02/2014

Bringinging 5S to schools

IN an effort to create a more conducive learning environment, the Malaysia Productivity Corporation (MPC) has been working on instilling the 5S culture among school employees and students.

The 5S culture that originates from Japan, is a systematic approach to maintaining workplace cleanliness based on five phases — sort, straighten, shine, standardise and sustain a productive work environment.

Recently, three Selangor schools — SMK Rawang, SMK Seri Garing and SMK Tun Perak — were 5S certified and were honoured at a special ceremony. The event was held at SMK Rawang.

Present at the ceremony was MPC director-general Datuk Mohd Razali Hussain, its senior director Abdul Rahim Yusoff, project coordinator Mustapha Sufaat, 5S ambassador Kapt Jamel Abdul Rahman, Panzana Enterprise Sdn Bhd managing director Datuk Ahmad Sufian Abdul Majid, SMK Rawang Batu 16 principal Hamidah Husin, SMK Tun Perak principal Siti Endon Mohamad Dahlan and SMK Seri Garing principal Ho Chee Lean.

The Quality Environment Certification (5S) has been awarded to schools since 2008, the first being awarded to SMK Taman Dato’ Harun, Petaling Jaya. To date, 30 schools nationwide have been 5S certified.

Mohd Razali while praising the three schools also urged other institutions to follow suit.

By using the concept, schools have benefited by inculcating a continuous learning culture and good habits.

The STAR Home News Education 09/02/2014

King of Fruits: It's not pungent, just very aromatic

IT annoys me that most of our own writers use the Western perception of "durian" in their description of this remarkable king of all Malaysian fruits.

Westerners tend to describe it as "a pungent fruit with a smell that is so malodorous and revulsive that most of the major hotel chains have banned it".

If we are going to sell it in the world market, we have to describe it as "a soft succulent fruit which is the most aromatic of all the fruits, with a delightful fragrance and a sublime taste".

It is also highly nutritious, rich in energy and has a high content of fibre, thiamin (Vitamin B1), pyridoxine (Vitamin B6), niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid (B5), Vitamin C, as well as a balanced concentration of proteins, car-bohydrates and unsaturated fat.

It's not pungent but aromatic



The durian should be described as a soft succulent fruit with a delightful fragrance and a sublime taste.

In addition, it contains minerals like manganese, copper, iron and magnesium. It is also a very rich source of potassium which is an important electrolyte of cell and body fluids and helps control heart rate and blood pressure.

Also present are high levels of essential amino acids and tryptophan (also known as nature's sleeping pill) which metabolises into serotonin and melatonin in the body.

These neuro-chemicals have important functions like sleep induction and are used in the treatment of epilepsy.

Cholesterol is absent and sodium is present only in minute quantities.

It really is the king of all fruits!



Dr H.W. Hooi, Kuantan, Pahang NST Opinion Letters-to-the-Editor 10/02/2014

More than just a leader

RULING WITH A FIRM HAND: He is a fatherly figure to so many in the state

FOR workers who spent most of their lives serving under the state chief executive, Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud was more than an iconic leader, a visionary and experienced politician.

To them, Taib, the man who experienced the early years before Malaysia was formed, is a fatherly figure and will always be one.

This was demonstrated clearly when he patted and hugged Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu junior members after Saturday's PBB supreme council meeting, surrounded by the faithful as he walked out accompanied by deputy, Tan Sri Alfred Jabu.

Slowly, one after another, shed tears to their patriarch but instead of maintaining composure, Taib returned the gesture like a father comforting a distressed child.

"Don't worry...don't cry. The party will be in safe hands."

Abdul Taib Mahmud has an audience with Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah after being sworn in as assistant minister



in the Prime Minister’s Department at Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 10, 1970. Also present is then prime minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein. File picture
These words don't seemed consonant with the leader who rules with a firm hand and other unflattering adjectives as he comforted a weeping elected representative.

Pak Uban or Pek Mo (white hair in Hokkien) are favourite nicknames synonymous to Sarawakians who grew up with the only leader they know in the manner peninsula Malaysians regard Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

But little is known of the man who served 33 years in office, who loves to take his wife for a 40km joyride in his free time, sometimes without any visible escort, to the discomfort of his security detail.

"He would tell us to follow him from behind in another car and try not to be conspicuous," said Corporal Murad Ngadimun, 50, who had been Taib's main escort rider for 17 years.

"He just wants to have a private moment with his wife."

Taib is also a sharp wit when it comes to word games, making sure he is always has his game on, especially with a handy crossword puzzle, which he works on when time can be spared.

"He would always want me close," recalls Sergeant Jemaiee Yahu, 52, who served as security detail for 17 years. "I remembered him telling me that in solving puzzles, it keeps the mind sharp. I lost count how many puzzle books that he possesses."

Taib is a stickler for punctuality, instructing always his driver to be ready in 30 minutes before he leaves home.

"He never wants to be late. He even advice me to respect time because punctuality helps to make your day easier and you get more things done when time is respected," said Abdul Shukor Nazari, 52, who has been Taib's driver for eight years.

Regardless of the sometimes harsh criticisms leveled against Taib over the years, his economic chops is strong -- Sarawak has the third largest state economy and poised to the richest state by 2030.

State per capita increased 57 times from RM688 in 1963 to RM40,414 last year, reflecting Taib's benevolent leadership.

Socially, Sarawak's indifference to racial and religious segregation remained strong under Taib's careful management.

A key rule that Taib will insist on his successor as he would to all Sarawakians is that state and Sarawakian rights must be at all times protected.

This decree will not be compromised in Taib's patriarchal vision -- an advice passed down by a father to son so that his flock is fully entrusted to care for the good name of the family, which is called Sarawak.



DENNIS WONG NST Opinion Columnist10/02/2014

The good and bad of certification

DUBIOUS VALUE: Certification is a guarantee of quality that increases business cost

CERTIFYING something as genuine is not new. It may have started during the gold rush when buyers requested experts to certify the authenticity of the metal.

Initially, the process of certification would involve the expert simply biting on the metal to declare whether the gold was genuine. Later came the more sophisticated chemical analysis method to certify the purity of the gold. There was also the practice of certifiying a letter or an examination certificate.

I still remember the days when we wanted to apply for a scholarship, our school certificate had to be certified by the village head or a senior government officer. It was all free then.

All such practices became necessary because people have the tendency to cheat. That tendency is still with us. Therefore, there comes a need for some process, legal or otherwise, to impose trust and minimise cheating.

What started as an instrument to ensure trust has developed into a major global business. With globalisation, the business of certification is a flourishing one.

It has, in a way, developed into an instrument of exerting control over business. How can you trust a parts supplier coming from a country thousands of miles away to deliver according to your agreed specifications without some means of assurance on quality?

In fact, how can you be assured that the products you have just purchased from that company arrive according to the agreed terms? And now with online businesses, the mechanism of assurance has become even more challenging.

In recent years, certification has even gone beyond products and services. Now, there is a growing business in certifying even the production and management systems of organisations.

Companies looking for suppliers of automotive parts, for example, would insist on the suppliers being certified to some quality management system, such as ISO 9000.

And with growing consumer preference for safe and environmentally-friendly products, such companies are enlisting new certified management systems. These include variations of ISO 14000 for the environment and ISO 18000 for health and safety.

As expected, some companies use certification as an instrument to compete in the marketplace. They have even developed their own, more stringent in-house standards, which are normally improvements over the minimum set by the ISO family of standards.

Japanese companies are especially active in devising such improved versions, as seen in the famous Toyota Production System and others, such as Six Sigma and Lean Management.

Now, with sustainable development very much on the global agenda, the business of certifying sustainability is on the rise.

Apparently, consumers in developed economies prefer products that demonstrate better sustainability performance. Years ago, the attention was on timber products.

The argument was that logging for timber was reaching worrying proportions in terms of deforestation and other environmental consequences. It was decided by certain groups, especially non-governmental organisations, purportedly in cohort with Western timber users, that timber production has to be certified as conforming to sustainability criteria.

The criteria are normally concocted by environmental groups. Those certified were also guaranteed higher prices for their certified timber.

Not all timber producers subscribed to the programme and they still continue to find ready buyers for their timber. Those certified have not benefited from premium prices either.

Now, exactly the same scheme is being promoted to the palm oil industry. Many predict palm oil will eventually face the same end result as timber. Disillusioned!

Lately, the certification business has begun encroaching into education. Many believe the recent spate of interest in university rankings is the beginning of a new certification scheme.

Certification brings with it a host of other businesses, such as consultants who provide advice to companies planning to be certified to whatever scheme.

Then there are trainers who train the company's staff on how to effectively implement the scheme. Auditors to regularly ensure the documented procedures and processors are closely followed. Otherwise the company may be judged non-complying.

There is no doubt that such requirements will add to the costs of business. In the case of the palm oil industry, small farmers may have difficulty complying with the criteria.

Certification is definitely a growing business. But at whose expense? And at what cost?



Dr. Ahmad Ibrahim New Straits Times NST Opinion Columnist 10/02/2014