November 11th, 2015

10 things to know about Deepavali

AS the Festival of Lights descends upon us once again, it is time to reflect on the significance of the rituals that come with it.

In celebrating the destruction of evil and the triumph of goodness, Malaysia Hindu Sangam deputy president Kandasamy Velayuthan and International Society for Krishna Consciousness secretary general Simheshwara Dasa tell StarMetro about the symbolic meanings behind the festivities.
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Light of new beginning (left) and a clean house for good luck (right)
1. Light of new beginning
Fire plays many roles in Hindu rituals. Purification. Auspiciousness. Enlightenment. It also represents
a new beginning. More importantly, it’s symbolic of the victory of good over evil, as depicted in the battle between a triumphant Lord Rama and a vanquished demon King Ravana in Ramayana.

2. A clean house for good luck
   
A clean house, especially one beautified with bright lights, marks the beginning of a fresh start. This practice falls in line with the belief that a spruced up residence will have the blessings of Goddess Lakshmi, who brings wealth and fortune.
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Goodies to the fore (left) and festive new clothes (right)
3. Goodies to the fore
Sweets offered during this time hold significant meaning. The laddu, for example, is associated with Lord Ganesha who holds the sweet in his trunk. Eating this sweet symbolises the ushering of prosperity. It is also a representation of a new moon, and thus a new beginning. The exchange and serving of these festive goodies not only fosters goodwill but also brings about happiness.
4. Festive new clothes
Apart from affording the wearer a moral uplift, wearing new clothes is believed to bring good fortune and prosperity. The rule of thumb is to wear bright colours. Of late, sarees, Punjabi suits and lenghas have taken to sporting lots of bling, fitting further into the festive theme. One reminder – avoid black and dark blue as they are considered inauspicious colours.
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(Clockwise from left) Back to the scriptures, morning oil bath, and staying pure in mind and body
5. Back to the scriptures
The basic teachings of Hinduism lie in the scriptures. Only with knowledge can one gain deeper understanding. Together with the reading of scriptures is the encouragement to visit temples as it brings about goodness in the heart.
6. Morning oil bath
Starting the Deepavali celebrations with an oil bath is believed to be equivalent to having a dip in the Ganges. It is customary for family elders to bless their children by applying gingelly oil on their heads before the bath.
7. Staying pure in mind and body
The Hindu religion advises one to refrain from drinking alcohol, smoking and use of any substance and indulging in activities that are toxic to the body and mind. Gambling is also discouraged as it brings about cheating and untruthfulness.
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(From left to right) Worship, a time for giving, and vegetarian diet
8. Worship
Eternity, bliss and knowledge are most important in Hinduism. The act of worship brings about awareness of these god-like qualities and reminds devotees not to be consumed by hate, greed and ego.

9. A time for giving
Deepavali is seen as a special time for spiritual advancement. It is believed that individuals who give food to the poor or care for the less fortunate will be doubly blessed.

10. Vegetarian diet
During Deepavali, it is good to abstain from meat. Adopting a vegetarian diet is believed to bring about mercy in the heart. There is strong belief that happiness is directly correlated with respect and preservation of life.

What Did Famous Malaysians Study in College?

What does Joel Neoh and Yuna have in common?

They both didn’t end up working in a career related to their studies, and succeeded!

Don’t let your degree choice stop you from achieving success. Learning goes beyond the classroom! That’s what an education is really about.

Regardless of whether you eventually find a job related to your studies or not, what’s more important is that you are able to adapt and work hard in different work environments, as these are changing and evolving everyday.

Here are some good examples of successful Malaysians to inspire you:

Terima hakikat kenaikan kos sara hidup masalah global

SEKARANG, apabila ada yang berkumpul, antara yang menjadi topik utama dibincangkan ialah kenaikan kos sara hidup. Memang tidak dinafikan perbelanjaan untuk sara hidup kini semakin tinggi.

Bagi yang bekerja, belanja makan tengah hari sahaja kini sekitar RM10. Duit belanja anak sekolah pun sekarang tidak cukup lagi kalau sekadar RM2 atau RM3, tetapi sekurang-kurangnya RM5 seorang.

Bayangkan jika ada tiga atau empat anak yang masih bersekolah. Bagi yang menggunakan jalan bertol, kenaikan kadar tol baru-baru ini tentu menambahkan lagi perbelanjaan.

Kepada yang merokok, jika tidak dihentikan tabiat itu atau sekurang-kurangnya mengurangkan bilangan yang dibakar setiap hari, kesannya kepada perbelanjaan harian amat mereka rasakan.

Jika seorang perokok menghabiskan sekotak sehari - sebulan 30 kotak. Dengan kenaikan harga RM3.20 sekotak, maknanya mereka perlu berbelanja tambahan RM320 sebulan.


Apabila bercakap mengenai kenaikan kos sara hidup, yang menjadi sasaran semestinya kerajaan.

Kerajaan dituduh menjadi puncanya apabila mengurangkan atau menghentikan subsidi bagi barangan atau perkhidmatan yang selama ini harganya rendah kerana disubsidi.

Malah, sesetengahnya seperti minyak dikatakan menjadi penyebab kenaikan harga barang dan perkhidmatan lain. Ini pun tidak boleh dinafikan, tetapi ada kalanya kita perlu realistik.

Minyak umpamanya, kerajaan boleh terus memberi subsidi besar untuk memastikan harga kekal rendah, tetapi bebannya tentu bertambah setiap tahun mengambil kira pertambahan bilangan penduduk.

Pada tahun 2000, penduduk negara ini hanya sekitar 23 juta, tetapi jumlahnya sekarang sudah mencecah 30 juta dan ia bertambah pada kadar sekitar dua peratus setahun.

Jika setiap penduduk purata menggunakan seliter minyak sehari sahaja, maka minyak yang perlu disubsidi kerajaan sudah bertambah tujuh juta liter sehari. Ini belum diambil kira perubahan gaya hidup yang menyaksikan peningkatan penggunaan bahan api itu.

Purata harga minyak dunia pada tahun 2000 pula hanya sekitar AS$30 setong berbanding AS$50 setong sekarang. Justeru, jika kerajaan mahu terus memberi subsidi besar untuk minyak dan pelbagai barang dan perkhidmatan lain, ia ada dua pilihan.

Pertama, potong belanja pembangunan dan kecilkan sektor kerajaan bagi mengurangkan belanja pengurusan. Tetapi jika ini dilakukan orang ramai juga akan marah kerana tiada pembangunan, manakala mutu perkhidmatan awam terjejas.

Tiada pembangunan bermakna tiada pertumbuhan ekonomi yang tentu memberi kesan lebih buruk kepada kita sebagai rakyat. Kedua, terus menambah hutang bagi menampung belanja subsidi itu yang bermakna kita senang sekarang, tetapi sengsara kemudian.

Berkaitan kenaikan kos sara hidup, ada yang berpendapat penyelesaiannya ialah dengan menaikkan pendapatan rakyat. Maksudnya menaikkan gaji kakitangan awam dan swasta, sementara petani di luar bandar pula dibayar lebih tinggi bagi hasil pertanian mereka.

Nampak mudah, tetapi hakikatnya jika gaji dinaikkan tanpa perubahan dalam produktiviti, ia akan menyumbang kepada kenaikan harga lebih besar kerana perlu diingat, gaji adalah antara kos terbesar mana-mana organisasi dan juga syarikat.

Jika petani dibayar lebih tinggi bagi hasil pertanian mereka pula, maka harga di pasaran akan meningkat. Sebenarnya masalah kenaikan kos sara hidup ini bukanlah isu Malaysia sahaja, tetapi global yang berkaitan perkara asas ekonomi, iaitu penawaran dan permintaan.

Bajet 2016 legakan pengguna khidmat prabayar

PEMBENTANGAN Bajet 2016 memberi nafas lega kepada pengguna telefon bimbit khususnya pengguna perkhidmatan prabayar. Keputusan kerajaan menawarkan rebat bagi jumlah yang dibayar untuk Cukai Barang dan Perkhidmatan (GST) untuk perkhidmatan telefon mudah alih prabayar berkuat kuasa 1 Januari hingga 31 Disember 2016, amat dialu-alukan.

Rebat bagi pengguna telefon kad prabayar diumumkan dalam Bajet 2016 hanya akan beri manfaat kepada rakyat tempatan dan tidak membabitkan warga asing. Menteri Komunikasi dan Multimedia, Datuk Seri Mohd Salleh Said Keruak, berkata kerajaan tidak memberi subsidi bagi caj telefon bimbit kepada bukan warganegara.

Keputusan beri rebat kepada pengguna kad prabayar menunjukkan kerajaan mendengar kebimbangan dan permintaan rakyat. Malah rebat ini, adalah tanggungjawab bersama yang dibayar oleh kerajaan dan syarikat telekomunikasi untuk rakyat.

Kira-kira 33 juta pengguna perkhidmatan kad prabayar di negara ini, menjadikannya sehingga 80 peratus jumlah pengguna telefon bimbit.

Daripada jumlah itu, dianggarkan lima juta dipercayai pengguna warga asing.

Bagaimanapun kad prabayar masih tertakluk kepada GST tetapi pengguna akan mendapat rebat dan dapat menggunakan masa bercakap bersamaan dengan jumlah yang dibayar.

Sebagai contoh, sekiranya pengguna membayar RM10, masa bercakap bernilai 60 sen dikreditkan ke dalam akaun.

Kelajuan internet ditingkat

Usaha ini juga selaras dengan peningkatan kelajuan internet luar bandar yang akan ditambah kelajuan lima kali ganda daripada lima Mbps kepada 20 Mbps yang akan juga dinikmati pengguna prabayar.

Pengguna warga Malaysia, akan mendapat kembali rebat bersamaan dengan jumlah GST yang dibayar, yang akan dikreditkan terus ke dalam akaun perkhidmatan prabayar mereka.

Menurut Indeks Belia Malaysia 2015, skor indeks keseluruhan bagi domain penggunaan media ialah 73.59, memberi gambaran bahawa, belia Malaysia membabitkan diri secara sederhana dalam menggunakan telefon bimbit, menonton televisyen, mendengar radio, mengguna komputer, melayari internet dan membaca surat khabar/buku (selain buku pelajaran)/majalah.

Hasil kajian mendapati masa untuk menggunakan telefon bimbit paling tinggi berbanding media lain iaitu selama 5 hingga 6 jam sehari dan diikuti dengan melayari internet selama 3 hingga 4 jam sehari.

Bagi penggunaan komputer dan menonton televisyen mengambil masa 2 hingga 3 jam. Indeks mendapati mendengar radio, membaca buku (selain buku pelajaran) dan surat khabar memperuntukkan masa 1 hingga 2 jam sehari.

Bagi membaca majalah paling rendah tempoh penggunaannya 1 jam sahaja. Ini menunjukkan skor belia Malaysia bagi domain penggunaan media khususnya penggunaan telefon bimbit lebih tinggi secara relatif.

Pelihara kebajikan pengguna

Oleh itu, bajet ini perlu disokong kerana keputusan kerajaan berhubung layanan GST ke atas kad prabayar mudah alih demi memelihara kebajikan pengguna.

Rebat ini juga menggembirakan pengguna muda khususnya golongan belia, pelajar sekolah dan pusat penggajian tinggi serta mereka yang baru memulakan kerjaya dalam bidang pekerjaan masing-masing.

Sebenarnya isu mengenai pengguna perkhidmatan kad prabayar terpaksa membayar GST pada peringkat awal pelaksanaannya, telah menimbulkan ketidakpuasan hati khususnya golongan anak muda.

Walaupun pelaksanaan harga asal kad prabayar mustahil dilaksanakan kerana syarikat telekomunikasi perlu membuat konfigurasi terhadap sistem dan perisian komputer di seluruh negara.

Syarikat telekomunikasi mengenakan caj enam peratus GST pada kad tambah nilai prabayar berkuat kuasa serta-merta sejak 1 Mei 2015.

Cuma, pelanggan akan ditawarkan tambahan kredit masa berbual dan khidmat pesanan ringkas (SMS) pada kadar nilai melebihi cukai enam peratus.

Begitu juga bayaran kad prabayar ini turut membabitkan pembayaran melalui bank serta pembayaran secara elektronik selain ia membabitkan 30,000 ejen seluruh negara dan perubahan perisian dan sistem perlu dilakukan bagi memastikan ia lancar.

Pengumuman Bajet 2016 ini menjadi titik tolak mencari jalan penyelesaian kepada permasalahan perkhidmatan prabayar.

Harapan kita supaya syarikat telekomunikasi mencari jalan terbaik agar wujud keadaan 'menang-menang' di antara kerajaan, syarikat pelaksana dan pengguna.

Perbincangan dan pelaksanaan secara kolektif serta berkesan mengenai mekanisme pelaksanaannya dengan Kementerian Komunikasi dan Multimedia serta Suruhanjaya Komunikasi dan Multi-media Malaysia (SKMM) sudah tentu memberi manfaat kepada pengguna perkhidmatan prabayar.

Many benefits in rote learning

WHAT is rote learning? Let me explain the term with a story.

In 2011, Mike Ebersold, a neurosurgeon from La Crosse, Wisconsin, the United States, was summoned to a hospital emergency unit to treat a deer hunter, who had sustained a gunshot wound to the back of the brain. A bullet had lodged in his brain, about an inch deep.

Now, Dr Ebersold is a renowned surgeon, whose patients include former US president Ronald Reagan and United Arab Emirates president Sheikh Zayed Sultan Al Nahyan.

When Dr Ebersold extracted the bullet, blood gushed out from a vein in torrents — two pints of blood were depleted in five minutes. He knew he had to fix the problem quickly.


It was a formidable task, and he had to do it differently and delicately. If he had sewn the wound the traditional way, the hunter’s tissues would have torn and his ligature leaked. Instead, he transported little pieces of muscle from the patient’s skin and sewed them on the ends of the ruptured vein.

This method was the culmination of years of experience and not found in any medical book. In the end, the hunter, who had a close shave with death, recovered.

That was a real test in Dr Ebersold’s life and it was one of the biggest “medical exams” he had to go through.

He later described his learning in the book Made To Stick. He reflected on his practice in surgery, day in and day out, and refined it delicately and diligently.

He further espoused the importance of memorisation in the book: “You memorise the list of things that you need to worry about in a given situation:

Steps A, B, C, and D. “Unless you keep recalling this manoeuvre, it will not become a reflex before you’ve even had time to think.

Recalling it over and over, practising it over and over. That’s just so important.”

Many people curse “memorisation” and “rote learning” when, indeed, they are the very things that tipped the balance in Dr Ebersold’s favour.

“Exercise in repeatedly recalling a thing strengthens the memory,” Aristotle wrote in his essay on memory. I couldn’t agree more.

Take me, for example. If I do not listen to, read, speak and write in English all the time, my grasp of the language will deteriorate.

If a football team does not regularly practise and compete, and recall its set-piece of manoeuvres well, it will not be able to survive and excel in the league.

Recently, education in the West has made a U-turn to focus on testing as a means of learning. It has renamed testing as “retrieval practice”.

A mounting body of research has shown that effective testing, including pretesting and post-testing, used as a learning tool can greatly enhance students’ recall of facts and deepen their learning, as compared with an education without exams.

Our students need to embrace examinations as a given because wherever they go, there is an exam in life waiting.

They just need to forget the negative connotations of the word “exam”.

Last but not least, in the NST report on Nov 1, “SPM candidates worry about letting their parents down”, I find it worrying when I read the account of Dr Christine, a mother of a Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) student, who said she made sure her son, Irfan, had a good night’s sleep of six hours daily. Only six hours?

When I asked my SPM students in the past, they all said they had only six hours of sleep a night. Teenage students studying for exams need at least a deep sleep of eight hours to recover from fatigue and consolidate their memory.

A mere six hours would make them sleep-deprived and struggle to recall facts from memory. That’s why a vast number of students is under immense stress during the SPM exam.

Jesse Payne, an author and educator, notes that if teenagers do not get adequate slumber before they turn 25, in the short run, they face decreased performance, memory impairment, decreased alertness, stress in relationships, increased possibility of bodily injury and cognitive impairment.

Worse, in the long run, such teenagers are linked to ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), poor quality of life, high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, heart failure, depression, anxiety, mental impairment, obesity and a whole lot more.

The Education Ministry may need to delay school start times to allow over-stressed and sleep-deprived students more sleep time. In China, the US and the United Kingdom, school starts one to two hours later than in Malaysia.

Likewise, parents have a duty to ensure that their children sleep at least eight hours a day for their young brains to function at their best.

An ace in school but not in working life

WANSON (not his real name) is a news intern who scored A+ in SPM English but after he enters the working world, he realises that his command of the language is extremely weak and this factor is pulling him down. Below is Wanson’s take (heavily edited) about how he has wasted his chance to learn the language during school and how it has brought him to his present dilemma.

“Wanson, can see your answer ah?” is one of the phrases I often hear from my classmates every time before English lesson starts in school. Each class bell that rang signifies a moment of salvation for us students who have not yet completed our homework. In that short break period between classes without any teacher, my classmates will start to seek out anyone in their class who is most proficient in certain subjects depending on which homework they want to finish last minute.

Coming from an English education background with a decent command in English in a co-ed public school in Kepong makes me their best friend as they butter me up with compliments so as to borrow my exercise book before our English teacher steps in to inspect our homework. It is annoying to let them copy every answer which I have taken hours to complete and have them ravage them in a matter of minutes. But I wouldn’t deny that I felt good about myself every time they come looking for me.

I felt like a king every time when it comes to English lesson. Over the years I kept scoring A+ for my English without any lifting my finger to study. Praises continues to pour in from my classmates and that have made me too proud of myself. Because of that, I did not take English lesson seriously.

This is my way of telling my classmates “I don’t need to hear this nonsense because I am already good at it”. It’s this arrogant mindset that would spell my doom in the coming years.

Besides that, I have never picked up any of my English textbooks to read, let alone study them. Having an English education background and having spent much time watching Hollywood movies and MTV, have allowed me to score an A easily for my English test in the public school. Although my grammar is poor, my vocabulary is still good enough for my teacher. If someone were to ask me the meaning of Simple Present Tense or an example of it, I would just freeze like an idiot.

Maybe it’s the question used in the test or how interesting the English teacher I get during my secondary school years that had affected my grasp of grammar.

How could anyone take grammar seriously when questions such as “fill in the blanks” or “underline the mistake” are given in the test? Such tests, you would think, is only given to a mere primary school pupil.

Finally reality came crashing down on me and the fantasy of being “king of the world” is over once I entered college. Scoring an A+ in SPM has exempted me from taking Basic English subjects in college. So I was more focused on other subjects that emphasised on contents and hardly anything on English lessons especially about grammar.

This situation has pitted me against others who have better command of the language and make me realise how arrogant and foolish I was in the secondary school. However, the marking scheme in the college was still more focused on the contents so I didn’t see the need to improve my English.

As years passed by, I realise that my grammar skills are near zero especially when I started to enter the working world. I started to see how important grammar is because language accuracy is imperative to deliver a clear message to the readers, audience or bosses.

If the message is not clear, the output of my work will be badly affected. No amount of regret is going to absolve my poor attitude, arrogance and indifference to the importance of English. Sigh!

The STAR Home News Nation 11 November 2015

‘Students aren’t keen on learning’

PETALING JAYA: Students are poor in English because they have no interest to learn and not because they are not capable.

Poi Lam High School English teacher Yong Ah Yong, 69, said the students had no interest or were unwilling to learn the language.

“We can only tell them the importance of learning English for their career development, global interaction and science and technology,” said Yong.

He said they could not teach ­higher-level students taking the GCE, Cambridge International Exami­nation (CIE) and SPM level exams the fun way like in primary schools as they required logical thinking and linguistic proficiency.

Yong and several other teachers approached by The Star are disappointed and saddened by the poor state of English proficiency seen in their students.

They are equally dismayed about a report run by The Star on Monday, which quoted the Malaysian Medical Association as saying that some 1,000 medical graduates were no longer keen on becoming doctors despite completing their two-year housemanship as they had problems coping with English.

Yvonne Moses, 58, who has 38 years of experience teaching in local and international schools, said the level of English among students today had deteriorated.

She added that children should be made to start reading from a very young age and that primary schools should focus on filling their libraries with books with pictures to catch their attention.

“As soon as they can walk, they are ready to read and parents can also start by reading to them.

“It is very disappointing that our system does not help children realise that language is very important and that is why they don’t improve,” she said.

Rachel Sharmala, 46, a teacher at SMK Rawang, said getting students to like them was the tough part but once they did, they would turn to the teachers.

“We have to make them understand the purpose of learning the language and show them you care, even if there are only two students in class,” said Rachel.

“I’m not saying it is easy as every child has his story and stubbornness. Six to seven months is a battle in Form Four – even if there is slight improvement, it is a reward.”

Rachel has ways to win the interest of her students such as getting them to use technology and photography to present their work, making them interview the gardeners and canteen workers, and teaching them nature by going to the garden.

A rural secondary school teacher in Sarawak, who wanted to be known only as Andrea, said reducing the paperwork and non-teaching related workload of teachers was one way as it demotivated them, which in turn caused students to lose interest.

“English teachers are also under pressure these days, with all the attention in the news and education officials always coming to monitor classes.

“This means less time and focus to prepare for classes and make them interesting, so sleepy teachers go back to the textbook style of teaching which makes students themselves sleepy,” said Andrea, who is head of her school’s English department.

She added that the Government should also make English the medium for teaching Science and Mathematics and stop politicising and changing the issue.