July 31st, 2016

Talent scouting is key , 1st Olympic gold within reach

1st Olympic gold within reach

WE wait with bated breath to win our first gold medal at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics from Aug 5 to 21. Achieving that honour rests on the shoulders of badminton world No. 1 and double Olympic silver medallist Datuk Lee Chong Wei.

But the good news that brings us great hope is that, this time round, our medal hopes, including gold, have more depth than ever before, including: men’s badminton doubles pair Goh V Shem and Tan Wee Kiong; mixed doubles pair Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying; women’s doubles pair Vivian Hoo and Woon Khe Wei and Tee Jing Yi (who competes in the women’s singles).

That’s not all. Khairul Anuar Mohamad (archery); Mohd Azizulhasni Awang and Fatehah Mustapa (cycling); Pandelela Rinong, the 2012 bronze medallist; and rising talent Cheong Jun Hoong (diving) are among medal hopefuls, together with others competing in diving, sailing, shooting, swimming, athletics and weightlifting.

Since we first competed at the Olympics years ago at the Melbourne Games in 1956, we have won six medals: three silver and two bronze in badminton and a bronze in diving.

To our Olympians who will travel to Rio this week, we say: “From the time Chong Wei bears our beloved Jalur Gemilang, leading Malaysia at the inaugural ceremony of the Games and through each event in which you participate, we will be rooting for you.” Rueben Dudley, Petaling Jaya, Selangor NST Opinion You Write 29 July 2016 @ 11:01 AM

Talent scouting is key

IDENTIFYING talent in sports can be a challenging task. From our Sukma Games, hopefully some hidden gems will be uncovered by our talent scouts who can nurture and develop them.

Currently, only a select few sports associations, such as hockey, squash, badminton, karate and bowling, have a well-structured talent programme in place.

Football, our country’s No. 1 sports, is in the doldrums, along with athletics. The Youth and Sports Ministry and FAM have undertaken a mammoth task to revive the beautiful game through the National Football Development Programme for children ages 7 to 17.

Khairul Hafiz Jantan. Pix by OSMAN ADNAN

To achieve the desired results at the regional level, it takes time, effective training and foreign exposure to upgrade our youths’ skills, maturity, professionalism and leadership.

Starting at a young age ensures the individual receives the 10-year pathway to elitism. In the absence of grassroots development programmes in many sports, the Sukma Games has become our shortcut saviour to harness talents below 20.

Athletics has not been up to expectations and hopefully, our sprint sensation, Khairul Hafiz Jantan, a semi-finalist at the recent World Junior Athletics Championship in Poland, rises to the occasion at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games in 2017.

Other notable talents, such as Jonathan Nypes, Badrul Hisyam Abdul Manap, Mohd Rizzu Haizad, Sheeren Samson Vallaboy, Kirthana, Nauraj, Ifran Shamsudin and Muhammad Hakimi Ismail, will form the bulk of our track and field team for the SEA Games, unless new talents surface from the ongoing Sukma Games for Malaysia to put up a decent fight against Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Singapore.

Like my ex-MB dad, I knew when to leave

RECENTLY, my status on Facebook read, “You have to go when you have to go”, which some thought was an attempt at tautology or cryptic humour on my part.

Actually, it was both. But it was also a simple statement of my personal belief.

To back this up, I can relate a personal experience of the events that led to the resignation of Tan Sri Dr Mohamed Said Mohamed as Negri Sembilan menteri besar in 1969.

He served the state government for 10 years, from 1959 to 1969. He was also my father. Dr Said was never a career politician as many are these days.

He joined politics late in life when he was persuaded by Tun Abdul Razak Hussein to stand as the Umno/Alliance candidate in the first general election.

He became the Linggi assemblyman and then the state’s first elected menteri besar. Being from the Bugis enclave of Linggi, Dr Said was never popular with the majority Minangkabau Umno members from Sungei Ujong, Kuala Pilah, Rembau, Jelebu, Johol and Tampin.

Neither did he endear himself to the Minangkabau chieftains of Negri Sembilan. However, his non-Malay MCA, MIC and even DAP colleagues had the highest regard for him, not only because he was a well-known doctor in Seremban but also because he was known as a well-educated, fair and honest man.

As political greed and ambition would have it, his rivals in Umno conspired against him, reporting to the then prime minister that Dr Said was not an effective Umno leader.

One of the reasons given was that he had not built a state Umno building. In fact, he had built an Umno building for Seremban. Dr Said knew that his time was up when his compatriots turned against him at a hurried meeting with the prime minister.

He did not have the desire or inclination to rebut the accusations. He turned down Tunku Abdul Rahman’s kind gesture of offering him the post of health minister.

The mundane reason cited was that he did not like the socio-political life of a federal minister and the fact that he would have to travel throughout the country at his age. He was 62 in 1969.

The real reason was that he wanted to continue serving Linggi constituency, not having developed his backward kampung much for fear of being thought biased towards his kampung relatives or having vested interests.

As a daughter, I am proud that my father resigned on principle and is remembered by many today for having done so. I am thankful it is not said of my father that he overstayed his welcome. I hope that my recent resignation from an important post will be seen in the same light. Datuk Halimah Mohd Said, Kuala Lumpur NST Opinion You Write 29 JULY 2016 @ 11:00 AM

A country's survival depends on lifelong learning, Right thing is to write beautifully

Right thing is to write beautifully

AFTER marking exam scripts for a long time, I have seen many types of answers and handwriting. But this semester, I found an exam script that was so neatly and beautifully handwritten that my colleague at first thought that it was a computer font. In the age of keypads, where obsession with gadgets even among toddlers is widespread, there is less interest among the young in having neat handwriting.

When asked to write something down, many students prefer to snap pictures of the notes and keep them in their phone. Or they would rather type them on the computer and then print them out.

As we write, we need to focus on the letters, paper, line, ink and spacing, hence the brain ‘moves’ more.

Having beautiful handwriting was a pride in our younger days. We were in awe of those having neat handwriting.

Perhaps, in essence, that was what beautiful handwriting did then: it earned one the respect of penmanship.

To type a piece of work can be a waste of time, energy and resources because printing requires a printer, paper and ink.

Further, the ink required will be subject to the font size. If the font is big and bold, more ink is required.

Whereas, if one writes on a piece of paper in class, one requires only a pencil, an eraser and paper. If there is an error, it can be erased.

Time, resources and money are saved. If an error is found in print form, the piece of work has to be re-printed. In the 1960s, we were not only forced to write systematically but taught to write in cursive.

We were observed keenly by teachers. Fearing the teacher standing next to us, we wrote slowly and seriously. Viewed from a different perspective, as we write with the fullest attention, our involvement is deeper in the meaning of the words, phrases and sentences.

As we see, observe and think, we will be more aware of the spelling of words and the meaning of the text. It, too, gives the writers a better idea of how words and phrases sync.

Of late, there have been scientific research reporting on the benefits of handwriting.

The Washington Post’s Education section (July 26), quoting research, said learning to write in cursive engages the brain more deeply, improves fine motor dexterity and gives children a better idea of how words work in combination.

In cursive writing, letters are connected to each other or run into another in loops.

“Cursive” comes from the Latin word “currere”, which means “to run”. Considering the benefits of cursive writing, 10 states in the United States have passed laws requiring cursive writing be taught in public schools, it was reported.

There is wisdom in making the young learn handwriting as part of a formal subject, be it normal or cursive.

Writing is an act of producing a symbol by hand that requires the integration of many brain activities such as visual, memory and motor information.

Hence, it can be seen as a tool to improve one’s faculty. In this vein, there is a neuroscience study conducted by Vinci-Booher, James, and James, published in Trends in Neuroscience and Education journal this year, which showed that writing by hand made the children’s “functional pathways move from left visual regions to the left dorsal primary motor/somatosensory cortice” in their motor region brain as compared to typing.

These researchers concluded that there is visual-motor functional connectivity after the children wrote something instead of typing. This is understood.

As we write, we need to focus on the letters, paper, line, ink and spacing, hence the brain “moves” more. If this single research is reporting that handwriting can incur movements in certain regions of the brain instead of typing, there should be more studies on its good effect on our faculty.

Research of this type is important as parents buy screen gadgets for their toddlers and children “to type” or “press buttons” in the hope of improving their offspring’s mind.

Certainly, we cannot dismiss gadgets altogether, as the young can learn something from them. But as we know scientifically that handwriting benefits a child more than typing, hence it would be good if we sit with them to teach them to write.

Other than improving their minds, it is spending time with them. They, too, may grow into adults with beautiful handwriting, earning respect for their penmanship, like the kind that impressed us examiners in an exam recently.

A country's survival depends on lifelong learning

AS Malaysia moves towards a high- income economy in four years, Malaysians need to understand that education should no longer be seen as an endeavour for children and youth. It should, instead, be a personal pursuit of Malaysians, young and old, working or unemployed, to consistently seek education to enrich themselves to meet the changing skills needed to achieve a high-income economy.

Lifelong learning is the ticket for the country to realise its aspiration of becoming a developed nation and increasing its economic competitiveness.

Lifelong learning is so important to the survival of the country, in line with the Malaysia Education Blueprint (2015-2025) for Higher Education, which provided a road map and action plans, of what it hopes to achieve in terms of the development of skilled talents to meet the growing and changing demands of industry.

The mindset of our society that university education is the sole pathway to success does not hold water.

Technical and vocational education are equally important because of its hands-on training and practical experience that are valued by employers.

Lifelong learning is the ticket for the country to realise its aspiration of becoming a developed nation and increase its economic competitiveness.

The government has created a framework for recognising prior learning, including the establishment of pathways for re-entry into the education system, a national system to enable accumulation of course credits over time, and stipulating criteria for recognising experience.

OUM, as an open and distance learning institution, has been championing the cause since it started accepting learners in 2001. Enrolment for OUM programmes is not based on academic criteria alone.

Those with lesser qualifications but with prior learning experience are given a second chance at higher education. Learning can be done on the move, any time, any where.

If we look at Internet penetration in Malaysia, it stands at 67 per cent, the seventh highest penetration rate in Asia.

This puts Malaysia in a good position to harness the power of online learning to widen access to good quality content, boost the quality of teaching and learning, lower the cost of delivery, and take Malaysian expertise to the global community.

What OUM is doing is in line with what the government is trying to implement, which is to use technology to provide Malaysians with greater access to education and by offering more personalised learning experience to students.

It wants to make online learning an integral component of higher education and lifelong learning. The move is commendable because Malaysia needs to move away from classroom delivery to one where technology-enabled innovations are being harnessed to dem-ocratise access to education.

Everyone should continue learning, either to improve oneself career-wise or for personal satisfaction. By dedicating oneself to learning, one can get ahead in life.

All it takes is commitment and discipline. Living in the digital age, we are fed with information, both good and bad. I want to touch on etiquette when using social media. Statistics by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission revealed that last year, there were more than 20.1 million Malaysians who were active Internet users.

Of the total, 16.8 million were active on social media. Undoubtedly, social media benefits people as it allows speedy access to information and issues. But there is also a negative side.

There are incidences where social media is used to convey information that promotes racism or for hate groups to recruit or promote propaganda online.

Cyber bullying is on the rise where people send intimidating and threatening messages online, thus causing emotional trauma and can even lead to suicide. Criminals use social media to commit crimes.

There are plenty of stories about homes being robbed when owners are away on vacation. Robbers can track their whereabouts through social media.

Sexual predators find, stalk and assault victims through social media while sexting (texting sexual content) is becoming common. As social media users, we should exercise restraint by not revealing too much about ourselves. This is important as it protect yourself from unwanted attention.

For students, social media can be beneficial because it allows them to access reading materials online and to interact with peers to discuss educational matters.

To me, parents play a crucial role in ensuring that children use the Internet responsibly. A country will prosper when learning becomes a way of life and noble values a cultural norm that guide the way we live, work and play.

The way forward to reignite interest in Science , Poor grasp of percentages

Poor grasp of percentages

PERCENTAGE is a Mathematics topic introduced in Year Six and reinforced in lower-secondary classes. It is fundamental in the study of other Mathematics topics, essential in the study of Science, and used in subjects like Geography, Principles of Accounts, Commerce and Economics.

Understanding percentages is necessary in daily life. School-leavers should have a good grasp of percentages.

Schools should teach students how to understand and appreciate Mathematics and its uses.
Go to any outlet that displays discounts in percentages. It is not uncommon to see customers and even sales personnel struggling with the calculation to get to the discounted prices.

A calculator may be at hand. But, see how they go about using it.

For instance, an item is originally priced at RM250, with a 20 per cent discount offered. The calculator will be used to work out the discount amount (RM250 multiplied by 20 per cent, which makes RM50).

Then, the amount is deducted from the original price, which works out to RM200. With the correct understanding of percentages, one would straightaway use the calculator to work out 80 per cent of the original price (RM250 multiplied by 80 per cent, which makes RM200).

Better still, mentally calculate eight multiplied by 250, which makes 2,000. Common sense tells you that the answer should be just 200, making the discounted price RM200.

You do not need higher-order thinking skills to solve the problem, as it requires only a good understanding of percentages and simple mental arithmetic skills.

Another common error is in the calculation and expression of percentages. Usually, there is no problem in figuring out that five out of 100 makes five per cent.

But, when it is 25 out of 300, the answer unsuspectingly quoted is 0.083 per cent, when it should be 8.3 per cent. Here is an example of how percentages could be wrongly calculated.

It was reported that 300 of 40,000 university intakes would be subjected to the new Integrated Cumulative Grade Point Average assessment system.

It was quoted that this made up 0.0075 per cent of the intakes. The correct percentage should be 0.75 per cent. To get that, it is necessary to multiply by 100 the result of 300 divided by 40,000.

Only three students make up 0.0075 per cent of 40,000. We have to be careful.

Sometimes, to prop up, strengthen and legitimise our arguments, we resort to quoting numbers, numerals, statistics and probabilities.

But instead of making us sound rational, empirical and “scientific”, we become the laughing stock of those who are knowledgeable in the subject.

Schools should not teach students only how to solve Mathematics problems, but also how to understand and appreciate the subject and its uses.

The way forward to reignite interest in Science

MUCH has been reported on students’ declining interest in Science programmes at the tertiary level. The issue is related to the 60:40 policy introduced by the Education Ministry a few years back.

As an academician, I believe that examinations are important to grade students and gauge their understanding of a subject.

Being part of an exam-oriented system, we tend to focus on grades rather than the essence of learning, particularly in core subjects, like Science and Mathematics.

(File pix) This photo taken on July 25, 2016 at the department of Zoological Sciences of Addis Ababa University in Addis Ababa shows a scientific instrument used to measure mosquito scent. AFP Photo

Participating in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, as well as the Programme for International Student Assessment, has become our “grand challenge”, and we prepare our students to compete at the international level.

And yet, the assessments have bound us to producing students who are good only academically.

No assessment has been carried out to evaluate students holistically.

Therefore, introducing activities based on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in other subjects is worth considering. How do we make students enjoy learning Science? And, how can they benefit from it now and in the future?

These are points to ponder when incorporating STEM in the learning process. STEM was created to meet the requirement of all subjects involved.

Incorporating STEM-based activities in other subjects activates the thinking process. Issues like climate change become easier for students to grasp if STEM elements are incorporated.

Each element in STEM can be addressed so that students get the idea that Science is not a stand-alone subject. It is more exciting if they are allowed to take part in hands-on activities.

Learning through investigation helps them develop their confidence, and working as a team teaches them the importance of teamwork in problem-solving.

STEM-based activities are relevant to 21st-century education trends. Furthermore, learning Science through STEM-based activities presents students with equal opportunities.

Learning a single subject via the traditional approach is no longer practised these days.

Creativity in the classroom

WHEN we think of the teachers who have helped us the most — in and out of the classroom — we remember those who taught us more than skills and knowledge.

Their words and deeds taught us to believe in ourselves, to have hope for the future and to keep trying harder. They taught us lessons big and small, often at the same time, and in ways we thought were fun.

They used songs to teach us English, which we thoroughly enjoyed, and it helped us improve our pronunciation. We later discovered that they were passionate about music and played a variety of musical instruments.

We did not know it then, but they were what experts refer to as creative teachers who bring to the classroom more than just a knowledge of teaching.

They were educated in other areas and drew on their experiences and outside interests (music, for example) to make their lessons interesting and motivate learners.

These are the type of teachers the Education Ministry wants to nurture and it is taking steps to ensure that these educators have the freedom to conduct classes in ways they see fit within the parameters of the syllabus.

The second wave of Malaysia’s Education Blueprint (2016-2020) puts a premium on teaching effectiveness and the role teachers play in the classroom.

Teaching will no longer be a top-down approach and teachers do not need to follow the prescribed packages any more.

They can come up with their own approaches with help from the schools. The move help teachers identify their students’ problems and come up with solutions.

For educators who want to make a difference, Palestinian teacher Hanan al-Hroub, 43, is a role model of innovation, and her ingenious teaching method recently earned her the Global Teacher award, dubbed the Nobel Prize for teaching.

She was selected from a field of 8,000 candidates from around the world. Hroub grew up in a refugee camp in Bethlehem and became a teacher after her daughters were shot at by Israeli soldiers.

The judges were impressed with her delivery in which she used everyday items in her “play and learn” technique. Hroub’s pupils — aged between 6 and 10 — live in a violent environment, often displaying disruptive behaviour and some even engaging in brutal acts themselves.

Hroub frequently wears a clown’s wig and red nose to class and uses games to get children to work cooperatively in teams, besides building trust and respect, and rewarding positive, non-violent behaviour.

She has written a book about her teaching philosophy, called We Play We Learn. Hopefully, the initiative by the ministry to allow teachers to decide on their teaching approach will inject a creative spark into the classroom.

The idea is to refrain from micromanaging teachers, and all agencies must support this enterprise. Reviewers and examiners should focus on teachers’ progress instead of looking at their teaching methods.

Teachers are second only to parents in the influence they wield in shaping the next generation.

Given the importance of that task, teachers should be respected as professionals, well-paid and universally held in high regard
NST News Opinion Editorial 31 July 2016 @ 11:09 AM

Monster bosses need not be tolerated

I have heard numerous complaints from a number of friends about how horrible their bosses are, and how unsympathetic certain companies are towards their employees.

Everywhere I go, I hear more horror stories than anything else. These aren’t made up either, as a recent survey by SkootJobs has found that many people aren’t happy with their jobs.

Ashley Greig, a lecturer at Sunway College, is a Malaysian-born Eurasian with Scottish/Japanese/Indian lineage. She believes in a tomorrow where there is no existence of racism and hatred

The torment some employees receive from their bosses may slowly consume them from within, and may one day lead them to end their lives. Pic by Munira Abdul Ghani

The survey quizzed 15,000 Malaysian youths about their attitude towards their occupations, and a only small percentage of 14.8 per cent either liked or loved what they were doing.

That isn’t really what surprised me. A shocking 33.3 per cent hated their jobs, and an alarming 26.6 per cent revealed that they were suicidal over issues related to their jobs.

I almost choked on the French fries I had been nibbling on when I read that. As someone who goes around openly declaring “I have the best job in the world”, I couldn’t understand how the results were what they were.

Perhaps, I have been blessed to be able to study something I have always been passionate about, and then later on, getting a job that I wouldn’t give up the world for.

I am further blessed with a remarkable employer and wonderful colleagues. My only complaint? Having to wake up at 5am daily. So, it was only natural (and perhaps, naïve, admittedly) for me to assume that most people would have a similar pleasant experience in the pursuit of their careers.

A recent chat with a few close friends opened my eyes to the horrors of having a monster boss.

I found out that the management of an international private school in Johor has been abusing employees to extents that I could never have imagined.

The owner of the school allegedly has a nasty habit of verbally abusing teachers of all ages, usually preferring to do so in front of other people.

He also supposedly fires his employees without a valid reason, ordering them to leave with immediate effect. I did not study law, but I am very sure that no employer is legally allowed to fire a permanent staff member without legitimate grounds.

If these teachers somehow manage to stay on, they aren’t well taken care of by their employer. For example, it is alleged that if a teacher falls ill and produces a valid medical certificate, it would be rejected by the management, and the teacher would still be required to turn up to work and carry on with day-to-day duties, including teaching.

They are also not allowed to socialise at work, where chit-chatting among colleagues is reported and further action is taken by the management.

In most cases, it ends with either getting a warning or being told to leave the company at once. You can only imagine how my stomach churned when I heard about this, and how angry I was when I found out that everyone there was either too afraid to report to the authorities about the blatant abuse by their employer or just didn’t care to speak up.

Even the ones who were wrongfully kicked out refused to say anything. I had a lot of trouble comprehending that. The main reason I’m relating all this to you is because I do not wish for something unfortunate to happen before realising that something else could’ve been done to avoid it.

Some people accept the bullying and tolerate the abuse by keeping mum. Some people move on and pretend that it never happened.

Others, on the other hand, are not so lucky. The torment slowly consumes them from within, and will one day lead them to end their lives.

If you had known them, the guilt from their death would present you nothing but agony and suffering, with the question of “What if I had said/done something earlier?” forever lingering in your mind.

So, if you are in an unfortunate situation like this, please do not hesitate to do what’s right.

Even if you refuse to think about yourself, think about others around you.

Do the right thing and clear your conscience. Do not wait for a suicide to make you act on something because, at times, ignorance can kill.

Write what you can’t say — Azizi Ahmad

JULY 31 — When we take a look at each other in our life, we see that there’s not much different between us actually. We use the same language and maybe dialect, and we breathe regularly. There are numbers of ways that we are different, some of which are physically, where some are tall and others are short, however a significant number of them need to do with conduct.

The distinctions in the way individuals carry on structure what we call their identity or personality.whatyouthink-new-logo_200_200_100.jpg

Among the core aspects of personality found by psychologists and a standout amongst the trademark is agreeableness or appropriateness. It reflects how important it is for us to get along with others. If we are pleasant, make our life and the people around us happy and warmly towards us. And if we are not pleasing, then we don’t really care much about how the people around us feel about us.

We might say that being agreeable is generally a good thing and that being disagreeable is not. If we are disagreeable, we may get people angry with us or we might turn off our friends.

Disagreeable people may come off as judgmental or cold. But people who are highly agreeable are often too nice.  And that can be a huge problem.

If we are highly agreeable, we do want other people to like us.  We may not want to say things to other people that might upset them. We will not be ourselves in lots of situations. We may not want telling others that we are not interested in going to an event that they want to attend. We may not tell others that they have upset us too.

Nice people often speak indirectly when they want to criticise or to disagree. If you and your friends are deciding on a plan, and someone suggests something that you don’t enjoy doing, don’t say something vague like, “I guess that is ok or that’s not what I want to do.” Be more direct, just say what you mean. It is ok to say, “I don’t enjoy that.” You may not always get your way, but at least your opinion will be known.

Rather putting ourselves in a position resenting others, find some ways to communicate with them. When we don’t express ourselves directly, we may end up resenting people who always get their way.

Writing can help.  When we write a note or email to someone else, we distance ourselves from their direct reaction. That can be helpful for starting a difficult conversation. While it is always better to speak to someone directly than to write to them, it is better to write than to say nothing at all. Write what you can’t say.

We may assume the worst, in when we are afraid that our saying might offend someone. We would believe that someone else will take what we have to say in the worst possible way. We fear of negative reaction.

In those cases, get a neutral friend and explain the situation. Talk to them on what we plan to say and get their reaction. Sometimes, engaging true friends may suggest other ways of approaching the interaction. But, often, your friends will help you to realise that your complaint is not going to cause a huge rift. That can give you the confidence to say what you need to say.

The key is to make sure that you communicate with people as directly as possible. When you are a nice person, communication can be difficult. But, in the end, it will make our relationships stronger.

aziziahmad_mstar.jpgAzizi Ahmad is an educator. The Malaymail Online What You Think Sunday July 31, 2016 07:47 PM GMT+8
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