March 26th, 2016

Bride side: Wives of Malaysian Prime Ministers, Part 2

Soaring above the trivializing, tiresome cliché of “Behind every great man is a great woman”, the wives of Malaysia’s six Prime Ministers stood/stand tall on their own, behind absolutely no one.

Tun Endon Mahmood Ambak 1940-2005

Spouse of: Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Malaysia’s 5th Prime Minister

Tun Endon and her identical twin sister, Noraini, were born in Klang in 1940 to a Japanese mother and Malay father (Datuk Mahmood Ambak). Along with 9 other siblings, the twins spent much of their childhood in Kampar, Perak, where their Department of Mines employee father was posted. Tun Endon first attended Kampar’s Anglo-Chinese School, before continuing her education at the venerable St Mary’s School in Kuala Lumpur. She began her career in the early 1960s, entering into civil service at the Federal Establishment Office, where she worked until the mid 1970s.

It was while on the job that Tun Endon crossed paths with a young Tun Abdullah, who had just joined the Malaysian Administrative and Diplomatic Corps after graduating from University of Malaya with a B.A. in Islamic Studies. Following a brief courtship, the two were wedded in 1965. Tun Endon continued her career in the civil service, as her husband rocketed through the political ranks, clinching the weighty roles of Director of Youth at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, followed by Secretary of the National Operations Council. After years of dedicated service, Tun Endon bid adieu to the Federal Establishment Office upon her husband’s election as Member of Parliament for Kepala Batas in 1978. In 2003, one year before Tun Abdullah took on the paramount role of Prime Minister, Tun Endon was shatteringly diagnosed with breast cancer – the same disease her twin sister was already battling and would shortly succumb to. In spite of years of aggressive treatment both in Malaysia and the US, Tun Endon was felled by the disease in 2005, passing away in the Prime Minister’s residence in Putrajaya, surrounded by family. Her funeral was nationally-televised, and a public holiday and state of mourning was observed four days later.

Tun Endon and Tun Abdullah have a son, business tycoon Datuk Kamaluddin Abdullah; and daughter, Nori Abdullah, Chairman of Penyayang and wife of the Minister of Youth and Sports, Khairy Jamaluddin.

Tun Endon spearheaded a range of charity initiatives which benefitted children as far afield as North Korea and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Her greatest contribution is perhaps to traditional Malaysian arts and crafts – in particular, her beloved batik, which she championed as an invaluable cultural heirloom. Tun Endon’s Malaysian Batik Movement has contributed tremendously towards raising awareness and standards of the local batik industry.

Tun Jeanne Abdullah Age: 62

Spouse of: Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi

Tun Jeanne was born in Kuala Lumpur in 1953, the eldest of four siblings in a devout Roman Catholic family of Portuguese-Eurasian ancestry. Most of her childhood was spent in Petaling Jaya, and she received her primary and secondary education at the renowned Assunta School. While in her early 20s, she met Othman Mahmood – younger brother of Tun Endon – and a romance blossomed; they married when Tun Jeanne was 23, following her conversion to Islam. She also kicked off a veritable romance with the hospitality industry, in which she built a sterling career that saw her assist in managing such illustrious five star properties as the Kuala Lumpur Hilton and the Pan Pacific Hotel. Tun Jeanne’s marriage to Othman hit a rocky patch in the early 1990s however, and they divorced in 1992. In the early 2000s, while her former brother-in-law Tun Abdullah was Deputy Prime Minister, Tun Jeanne was appointed supervisor of his official residence. Upon his assumption of the premiership, Tun Jeanne ascended to the role of manager of the Prime Minister’s Putrajaya residence, Seri Perdana.

Aside from overseeing the smooth running of the Prime Minister’s household, Tun Jeanne helped nurse her cancer-stricken former sister-in-law, Tun Endon Mahmood, until her death in 2005. Two years after her passing, to the pleasant surprise of many, Tun Jeanne became the widowed Prime Minister’s second wife at a private ceremony held at her former place of employment, and future residence, Seri Perdana.

Tun Jeanne has two daughters, successful businesswomen Nadiah and Nadine, from her first marriage.

Establishing her credentials as an environmentalist, Tun Jeanne was instrumental in the creation of Lanskap Malaysia, an NGO which raises awareness on the importance of rainforests and their preservation. She also helped found the Tropical Rainforest Conservation and Research Centre, for which she is Chairman of the Board of Trustees. Additionally, Tun Jeanne is Patron of PUSPANITA and the Malaysian Paralympic Council; and Chancellor of The Open University Malaysia.

Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor Age: 64

Spouse of: Datuk Seri Najib Razak, current Prime Minister

Datin Seri Rosmah was born in Kuala Pilah and raised in nearby Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, the daughter of Minangkabau parents whose forefathers hailed from Lima Puluh Kota District, West Sumatra province. (In 2014, during a visit to her ancestral homeland, she was bestowed the “Darjah Kebesaran Kerabat Yang DiPertuan Gadih Minang” by the Minangkabau royal family.) Datin Seri Rosmah received her secondary education at Seremban’s Tunku Kurshiah College; her tertiary education from University Malaya, from which she graduated with a B.A. in Sociology and Anthropology; and postgraduate instruction from Louisiana State University, where she earned a Master’s degree in Sociology and Agriculture. She began her career in the late 1970s as an executive with Bank Pertanian; years later, she was appointed Business Development Manager by famed property developer, Island and Peninsula Bhd.

Datin Seri Rosmah made the acquaintance of Datuk Seri Najib while he was Menteri Besar of Pahang in 1986, shortly before his appointment as Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, and UMNO Deputy Youth Chief. In 1987, the high-profile couple tied the knot. Following her husband’s entrance into the federal cabinet and rise through the political ranks, Datin Seri Rosmah withdrew from the corporate world and began involving herself in various non-profit causes and associations. In 2009, Datin Seri Rosmah became spouse of the 6th Prime Minister of Malaysia. In an interview with Radio Bernamaearlier this week, Datin Seri Rosmah confided that she had to forfeit many of her personal and career ambitions upon her marriage to her politician husband, but philosophically chalked it all up to destiny, and expressed contentment with her role as wife of Malaysia’s current premier.

Datin Seri Rosmah and Datuk Seri Najib have four offspring.

Datin Seri Rosmah is Patron of myriad organizations, including Children in Hope Foundation, The Malaysian Nature Society, The Malaysia AIDS Council, The National Heart Institute Foundation, The Foundation for the Development of Underprivileged Children, The Malaysian Medical Welfare Fund, Society of the Orthopedically Handicapped Malaysia, and The Thalassemia Association.

Takut biar bertempat

DUA hari lalu Kunta Kinte sarapan di medan makan dekat Ibu Pejabat Polis Persekutuan, Bukit Aman. Seorang pelanggan ucap tahniah kepada Kunta Kinte. Kunta Kinte tanya, tahniah pasal apa? Dia kata, pasal Datuk berani.

Kunta Kinte kata, nak takut apa kita bukan berada dalam hutan. Apabila orang kata Kunta Kinte berani, Kunta Kinte hairan.

Adakah tahap ketakutan di negara kita begitu tinggi dan ancaman ke atas kebebasan bersuara begitu besar? Teringat Kunta Kinte masa kanak-kanak dahulu.

Masa itu, kalau boleh kita tak akan lalu dekat balai polis pasal takut kena tangkap. Tak buat salah pun kita takut pasal kita dimomok-momokkan dengan cerita polis tangkap orang dan masukkan ke dalam lokap.

Takut kepada manusia ada had

Tak salah kita berasa takut. Ada orang kata, takut adalah satu motivasi.

Tapi takut kita itu biarlah ada sebab, tempat dan batasan.

Takut kepada larangan Tuhan itu wajib. Takut kepada sekatan undang-undang perlu.

Tapi takut kepada sesama manusia wajib ada hadnya.

Kalau nak takut, memang ada sahaja sebab.

Malah, ada masa dan tempat kita boleh dapat balasan baik dan habuan besar dengan tunduk kepada ketakutan.

Tapi kita boleh rugi kerana berani. Selepas krisis Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim kena pecat daripada UMNO dan kerajaan pada 1998, Kunta Kinte diancam oleh seorang kepercayaan kerajaan masa itu. Dia ancam nak tuduh Kunta Kinte pecah amanah bersabit perniagaan yang Kunta Kinte wakili.

Ironinya, dia dan Kunta Kinte pernah pada pihak yang sama - pernah rapat dengan Anwar.

Malah, bila orang ini jatuh, Anwar yang masa itu jadi Timbalan Perdana Menteri merangkap Menteri Kewangan selamatkan dia.

Ditakdirkan Anwar jatuh, dia naik. Kunta Kinte kata, terpulanglah kepada dia kerana Kunta Kinte yakin Kunta Kinte tak buat kesalahan yang dia ancam itu.

Tapi Kunta Kinte tak diam macam itu sahaja. Kunta Kinte bagi tahu bos dia berkenaan ancaman itu. Orang itu jadi begitu berpengaruh sampai hal ehwal media massa pun dia boleh masuk campur.

Lepas itu barulah Kunta Kinte tahu yang ancaman adalah cara dia dapatkan sokongan dan taat setia. Kerana bos dia sangat percaya kepada dia, dia dibagi kuasa ambil alih dan susun semula banyak syarikat milik Bumiputra dan UMNO yang alami masalah hutang akibat krisis kewangan Asia 1997/98.

Orang ini adalah survivor yang sangat hebat. Dia berpengaruh dari zaman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad sampailah hari ini. Itu nasib dialah. Hanya Allah sahaja tahu penghujung cerita setiap makhluknya. Kunta Kinte pun tak gaduh dengan dia.

Kena siasat BPR

Lebih kurang pada masa yang sama, Kunta Kinte kena soal siasat oleh Badan Pencegah Rasuah (BPR) - pendahulu Suruhanjaya Pencegah Rasuah Malaysia (SPRM) - sebagai saksi kes akuan berkanun seorang bekas pegawai bank yang buat beberapa tuduhan terhadap Anwar. Memang gerun.

Setiap sesi beberapa jam lamanya. Semuanya hampir 20 jam. Jadi kalau kita tunduk kepada perasaan takut atau kita memang seorang penakut, banyak benda kita tak berani buat, walaupun ia hak kita dan kita di pihak yang benar.

Kalau zaman dahulu, takut keluar rumah waktu malam alamatlah kerbau, lembu, ayam dan itik habis kena sapu oleh pencuri dan penyangak.

Zaman sekarang motosikal atau tayar kereta yang kena curi. Dalam sistem demokrasi yang kita amalkan, kita dibagi hak bersuara dan berhimpun secara aman.

Kalau kita takut atau kita ingat kepada periuk nasi kita saja, lama-kelamaan hilanglah hak itu. Dalam Perlembagaan ada, tapi dalam amalan tak ada.

Natijahnya, bukanlah sangat soal berani atau takut tapi sama ada kita peduli atau tidak kepada amanah Allah dan sama ada kita lebih takut kepada manusia atau kepada Tuhan. Wallahuaklam.

Do not kill interest in Science at early age, make it interesting by relating it to everyday life

Make science interesting by relating it to everyday life

THE article by Shamsun Nisha Shahul Hamid “Do not kill interest in Science at an early age” (NST, March 23) is timely and appropriate.

Science can be an enjoyable subject if it is taught in the right way, particularly by a competent teacher.

The beauty and enjoyment of science are simply killed off when pressure is applied to such an extent that a child becomes confused.

In this case, it is not only the child, but some university graduates who are also ill-informed in the field of science.

Armed with low scientific knowledge, students proceed to university education. When they graduate, they cannot find jobs. Science is closely related to everyday life.

For example, the extreme temperatures we are experiencing are due to environmental processes related to human activities such as cutting down forests and opening up of new townships, without the necessary environmental impact reports.

The hydrological systems are disrupted, rivers are polluted and scenic streams have become drains. New townships are becoming savannah. These current events should be explained to young minds.

The fact that rivers and canals are mostly without water should be explained scientifically based on the local knowledge of hydrological cycles, which are connected closely with human activities.

Most problems are human-made and require a lot of explanation. The world is a nature laboratory.

Observing and listening to the chirps of birds, especially in the morning, should bring life to young brains.

Humans need creativity and innovation. A lot of things can be learned from nature. Newton discovered the Law of Gravity when sitting under an apple tree.

Darwin and Wallace discovered the theory of evolution when they travelled out of England. Science can be interesting when you relate it to life and everyday happenings.
Mashhor Mansor, Professor, School of Biological Science, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang The NST Home News Opinion 24 March 2016 @ 11.00AM

Do not kill interest in Science at early age

THE dwindling number of students entering the Science stream is a matter of great concern. To produce a strong, reliable workforce in science-related fields in the future, we must first educate more students in the discipline.

The subject must create a genuine interest and passion for children to master it at the highest level. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lack of interest, judging by the number of students in the Science stream.

The reason is how the subjects are taught and tested at primary level. In lower primary, Science classes are fun, but in upper primary, the classes get tedious, and some children start to dislike the subject.

Children at this age are keen to learn about the world around them and beyond. They are naturally curious about how and why things work and would like to have their questions answered.

Questions such as how an eclipse occurs, why the coconut tree can withstand strong winds and why iron rusts. But instead of presenting them with interesting images, facts and figures, they are bombarded with charts and tables, followed by questions pertaining to the experimental aspect of the topic.

Take, for example, a lesson on friction.
For primary school pupils, Science should be a fun subject.
The topic is well explained in the beginning, with examples of how useful or damaging friction can be in our daily lives.

It is followed by an explanation on how to reduce or increase friction accordingly.

However, later, in an examination, a different approach is used to test the children’s understanding of the subject.

Not having enough time to conduct experiments (the practical textbook is hardly used beyond the first few experiments), children are unable to understand a table showing the results of a finding on the effects of friction on a constant variable.

Obviously, this is meant to test whether they understand the constant, manipulated and responding variables. They even have to write down the inference, predict an outcome and provide a suitable conclusion for the experiment.

How can children at the age of 10 to 12 handle that? Those able to grasp concepts quickly can manage the questions. Most, however, struggle to understand the terminologies.

Are they supposed to learn the facts in an interesting way or memorise the answer, taking care not to miss a word or two because this may cost them an A in the examination?

Even if they are interested and good with explanations, they must know how to place the words correctly for the question on the inference and objective of the experiment.

All this drilling to regurgitate the correct sentence for the highest possible mark has, sadly, killed any interest in the subject.

Of course, students learn that stability is affected by height and base area, for example. If asked to compare two brick towers of different heights, they may be able to point out which will topple first.

But when given an elaborate table of numbers or bar graphs showing the time taken for both towers to topple and asked which is more stable, they freeze.

Why? They fear not being able to string a proper sentence to explain why. Why does Science for primary school have to be so complicated?

Can’t children just learn the simple facts and later, in secondary school, learn the objectives, inferences and determination of variables?

I am sure students in the 1980s will well remember the Alam Dan Manusia subject. It was fun learning and easy enough to be digested by children.

We also did not have Science as part of our Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) examination. Teachers focused on grammar skills, both in Bahasa Malaysia and English, and we had ample time to improve our computational skills.

It is important to note that Mathematics must be mastered at primary level before proceeding to learn Science at a higher level.

This strong foundation allowed many of us to enter the Science stream and become professionals in the fields of medicine, engineering, etc.

Unfortunately today, children don’t even have time to memorise multiplication tables and get their basic arithmetic correct. They enter Year Six, only to struggle to relearn the basics and eventually fall behind their peers.

There is also too much on their plate. Subjects like Kemahiran Hidup, Kajian Tempatan and Pendidikan Sivik take up to three hours a week, time that can be used to polish language and mathematical skills.

For the next Kurikulum Standard Sekolah Rendah cohort, there’s also a lot on the weekly timetable. Are ICT and Design (Rekabentuk Dan Teknologi) as standalone subjects absolutely necessary?

Can’t these be integrated into the Science subject? For a smooth transition to secondary school, a child needs a strong foundation in language to read and write well in both Bahasa Malaysia and English, a good grasp of Mathematics and an introduction to Science, without being put off by complex charts, tables and graphs.

Perhaps the government can consider removing Science from the UPSR examination, so that children will not shun the subject in secondary school. Keep the teaching and learning of Science simple and fun.

Teaching profession's no bed of roses, Equip teachers with skills

Equip teachers with skills

WHEN Moral Education was introduced as a core subject in 1983 in all primary schools, society had mixed feelings about it.

In 1993, the first cohort of non-Muslim students who took Moral Education had to sit the paper for Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia.

Many parties were unhappy with the way the subject was taught, assessed and evaluated. The curriculum covered aspects on moral thinking, moral feelings and moral actions.

However, in the examination, all answers were based on moral thinking, although questions did cover aspects of how you would feel and what you would do in that given moral dilemma.

But students were drilled to answer questions according to the requirements of the curriculum.

Since the curriculum focused on specific values, what they meant and how they could be applied in daily life, students were asked to memorise the values, their definitions and answer examination questions accordingly.

It was very superficial, and students, parents and individuals were enraged by the system. It was disheartening to see so-called Moral Education expert teachers using creative ways to teach students to memorise values.

Then, Moral Projects were introduced as a component of the Moral Education evaluation for SPM. It was a way to reduce cognitive weightage and instead focus on teaching the values through community service and volunteerism.

Again, because there was a lack of experts in disseminating knowledge about how to conduct the moral community service projects, the focus was more on reports and grading.

The Moral Projects component became a mockery as upper secondary Moral Education students resorted to posing as if they were cleaning the classroom or helping to sustain a clean environment for picture evidence.

Teachers forced weaker students to copy project reports for grading purposes.

There were genuine cases where teachers, trained to conduct Moral Projects, collaborated with other school authorities and community leaders to provide avenues for students to perform community service.

If Moral Education teachers are trained professionally, with support of the Education Ministry, and the state and district education offices, Moral Education would have championed the notion of formative and summative assessment, which is being introduced and evaluated in the Malaysian examination system.

Currently, more than 50 per cent of teachers teaching Moral Education have no formal training in teaching the subject.

This is based on my research titled “Moral Education in the 21st Era in Malaysia: Empowering Moral Education Educators with Appropriate Skills and Values”, conducted from 2013 to last year.

It is indeed a mockery to have teachers teaching a subject that they have little knowledge of or skills, and who use the trial and error method to disseminate the curriculum.

It is more destructive when Islamic Studies teachers teach Moral Education using the religious lesson approach.

If we want to transform the students and the education system, it should start with the basics.

Where Moral Education is concerned, it is vital to train Moral Education educators professionally and equip them with the right knowledge, skills and values.
Dr Vishalache Balakrishnan,  Senior lecturer, Faculty of Education, University Malaya Kuala Lumpur 26 March 2016 @ 11:00 AM

Teaching profession's no bed of roses

Recently, I had a chat with a friend. According to her, teaching is not a bed of roses anymore. I couldn’t agree more. Being an educator for more than a decade, I can feel the heavy workload that teachers have to bear.

Meeting the daily teaching and learning and behavioural needs of the students makes teaching a stressful job. By and large, a teacher’s job is not confined to teaching and educating.

Teachers are required to equip themselves with the latest teaching methods, knowledge and skills in order to be a role model to students.

The expectations are rather high. For example, teachers are required to practise the 21st century teaching styles where students are given autonomy in class to run the show.

The teacher’s role is only to facilitate them. Teachers need to educate them on Higher Order Thinking Skills questions to make the students think out of the box.

Over time, the teaching perspective has evolved according to the current needs. In a nutshell, the demands of teaching are heavy.

Not forgetting the amount of clerical work that they have to do on a daily basis such as taking attendance, conducting programmes, preparing documentation, getting the students ready for the zone and district level competitions, just to name a few.

We have so many roles to play: caretaker, babysitter, educator, discipline master, entertainer, etc. We also have to put up with some overprotective parents who are critical of our good intentions. Are the students always right?

Shouldn’t we, teachers, have the right to correct their mistakes or reprimand them when they misbehave? Spare the rod, spoil the child.

Yes, teachers moan and groan. We are only human, but we are dedicated to our profession. Like any other job, we have our fair share of sad stories.

Some teachers even bring home their school work, such as marking books and exam papers. So, I disagree when some say teachers have a good life with half a day’s work.

It is not fair. We have our KPI (Key Performance Indicator) to meet, too. After school, we have endless meetings to attend. We have to return to school during school holidays if we are asked to.

At times, short courses are conducted during the school holidays. In addition, we have inspectorates and education district officers who visit the schools often.

They just pop into the classrooms and observe us at work. So, we have to be on our toes all the time. Some teachers are experiencing burnout with the increasing workload.

Burnout saps the joy out of teaching and infuses dread into the job. Some teachers resort to psychiatric treatment when they can’t cope with the stress.

Some even opt for early retirement because of health reasons. Teachers should go for holidays, either locally or abroad, at least once a year with family or friends.

I believe at times we have to go away “into the woods and scream” to help us unwind and relax. Then when we return to work we are rejuvenated, refreshed and ready to teach again.

So teachers, take a step back, meet up with friends over a cup of tea or catch a movie, listen to music, go swimming, exercise deep breathing, or do meditation.

These are some of the ways to overcome stress. Just as life-changing speaker, bestselling author and behavioural science academic Steve Maraboli said: “You must learn to let go. Release the stress. You were never in control anyway.” Sumati Muniandy, Kuala Lumpur The NST Home News Opinion You Write 25 March 2016 @ 11:01 AM