August 14th, 2016

Education targets being met

PUTRAJAYA: Three years after it was implemented, the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 is showing tangible results.

Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid said the First Wave (2013-2015) of the blueprint had managed to increase student enrolment, reduce the urban-rural divide and ensure 100% literacy and numeracy rates within the first three years of schooling.

“It was not an easy feat as it involved many different agencies and administrative levels at the states.

“However, to ensure that our children receive quality early education, we will continue intensifying efforts to achieve our target of 100% enrolment in the Second Wave (2016-2020),” he said when launching the 2015 annual report of the blueprint here yesterday.

Also present were his two deputies, Datuk P. Kamalanathan and Chong Sin Woon.

Mahdzir said pre-school enrolment had increased to 84.5% in 2015, up from 80.2% in 2012, while that for primary school reached 98% in 2015.

“These rates have exceeded the universal enrolment rate of 91% as reported by the United Nations Development Programme in 2015,” he said.

The ministry, said Mahdzir, had also successfully narrowed the gap between the academic achievements of rural and urban schools.

“I am happy to announce that we have surpassed our target (of 25%) to reduce the Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah achievement gap between urban and rural schools by up to 36%,” he added.

He said 99% of pupils mastered Bahasa Melayu and Mathematics by the end of Year Three while English literacy increased to 94.11% in 2015 compared to 78.3% in 2014 for Year Three pupils.

To better prepare students for the future, Mahdzir said it had been incorporating higher order thinking skills questions and school-based assessments into classroom teaching and learning, with 268,589 teachers having been trained so far.

At the same time, the ministry is also taking steps to ensure that teachers are well-trained to handle matters related to “21st century learning”.

Among the measures are the Repositioning of Teachers’ Core Duties initiative to ensure that they can focus on the teaching and learning processes.

The level of community and parental involvement in schools, said Mahdzir, had also increased.

The percentage of parents involved in major school events like registration day, Parent-Teacher Association meetings and sports day increased to 74.6% in 2015 from 57% in 2013, he added.

“Clearly, we have laid a solid foundation for developing holistic students capable of ushering the country into an era of global recognition.

“All these is possible by providing access to quality education as pro­mised in the blueprint.”

See Page 13 – Towards a world-class education. Full report in StarEducate this Sunday

Running for your life

IT’S Olympic season and it’s been hard to ignore the many exciting events that are being televised almost round the clock.

The high point for all Malaysians so far was the silver medal won by our super lady divers, Cheong Jun Hoong and Pandelela Rinong Pamg.

Armchair critics though most of us are, the sight of athletes living out the Olympic motto Citius, Altius, Fortius (Latin for “Faster, Higher, Stronger”) does something to the soul.

It’s a reminder to us that there are values worth pursuing – whether it’s excellence in sports or in other fields.

It helps us to dust off our disappointment in so many things that ail our nation of late, and to refocus on performing to the best of our ability.

If any of our athletes had been dejected by the state of affairs in the country, they did not allow it to get in the way of their sporting goals.

Likewise, I believe every ordinary citizen of Malaysia has a part to play to move the nation forward.

We may not regain past glory for years to come, but we can each focus on the mission we have been called to, however small, and to do it to the best of our ability. And I believe we’ll get there.

Furthermore, we need to remind ourselves that on this long journey, winning does not always involve glittering medals or applause from the crowds.

Sometimes victory comes quietly and without fanfare, like when the homeless are fed. Or unemployed youth are given a chance by caring corporations.

Or when a stand is made by professionals in their field to see things through colour-blind lenses. And we are able to unite as true Malaysians.

Yes, the Olympics reminds us that there is honour and glory worth fighting for. How much more worthy is the fight for unity among all communities in our beloved nation.

I believe there are enough of us who love Malaysia to stand up and make a difference – to counter the divisive cries of bigots and racists.

As you read this, thousands of Anak-Anak Malaysia are taking a walk in the heart of Kuala Lumpur early this morning.

They walk to highlight the country’s diversity and promote unity among Malaysians.

It is a timely event as we prepare for both Merdeka Day on Aug 31 and Malaysia Day on Sept 16.

I also rejoice with fellow Malaysians that our Nicol David has been named by British newspaper The Telegraph as one of the 20 greatest athletes in the world.

“Not many athletes can claim to have enjoyed the sort of dominance Nicol David has had in the world of squash,” the Telegraph said.

“The 32-year-old Malaysian was world number one for a record 109 months until September last year, and has won three gold medals at World Games, two Commonwealth golds, and a remarkable eight World Open titles.”

It is sad that despite her efforts, squash has yet to make it as an Olympic sport. Otherwise an Olympic gold medal could also be in her list of achievements.

But even so, Nicol can be proud that she has sown the seeds to bring this game onto the world sports stage.

Which brings me to the point that in our life pursuits, we can aim to be sowers so that those who come after us can reap the benefits of our efforts.

Our quest may involve big, life-changing projects, or it may simply be to do our best in whatever task we have been given – as good parents raising kind, upright children, or a loving spouse building a strong marriage, or filial children caring for aged parents.

Those who set and achieve such goals certainly deserve medals. Not at the Olympic Games, but in the marathon of life.

Olympics more than just sports

EACH time the Olympics comes around, family members, colleagues and friends will mysteriously “disappear” from my life and the office. Suddenly, they have to rush back to tend to their children, suffer migraine attacks or are simply unreachable on the phone.

Instead, milkshake in one hand and popcorn in the other, they are glued to the television set watching live coverage of their favourite sports at the games.

That has all changed. The 2016 Olympics can be watched anywhere and at any time.

(File pix) The Malaysian contingent at the 2016 Olympics opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Aug 5. Reuters Photo
There is no longer the need to scheme for an early exit from the office or to rush through dinner, as mobile phones and online media have transformed the way we tune in to sporting events worldwide.

In fact, as more than 800,000 people have downloaded the games’s official mobile app — available in Portuguese, English, Spanish, French, Japanese, Mandarin and Korean — the Rio 2016 organising committee expects up to 85 per cent of the estimated three billion global audience to watch on mobile devices.

The app will provide sports fans with real-time updates and results of every single competition throughout the two weeks, while enjoying exclusive features and behind-the-scenes content.

But, away from the technology, it is still the people who make the global event tick.

The 31st Olympiad features more than 11,000 athletes from over 200 countries who will compete in 306 events offering 2,102 gold, silver and bronze medals. Rio is the first South American city to host the Summer Olympics.

These sportsmen and women are supported by a workforce of more than 40,000 staff and contractors, in addition to more than 50,000 volunteers.

Let us not forget the 12,000 torch-bearers of the Olympic Torch Relay team who carried the Olympic flame from Greece to Rio for the two months leading up to the opening ceremony.

Yet, while the competition continues at 32 venues in Rio de Janeiro and five football co-host cities, the games have always extended beyond the sporting event itself.

Organised in th belief that sports can contribute to peace and harmonious development of humankind, the objective of the Olympics is to unite peoples of all cultures, ethnicities and religions.

There is a grave need for these values in today’s perilous world, where terrorism fills our newsfeed and street shootings have become the norm.

While Malaysians will undoubtedly be rooting for our own sportspersons like Azizulhasni Awang, Datuk Lee Chong Wei and Pandelela Rinong, I am particularly keen on the progress of the refugee team, a first for the Olympic Games.

The 10-member team featuring athletes such as Yiech Pur Biel (athletics) of South Sudan, Yolande Bukasa Mabika (judo) of Congo, as well as Rami Anis (swimming) and Yusra Mardini (swimming) both of Syria, received a boisterous welcome from spectators and fellow competitors when they marched in carrying the Olympic flag during the opening ceremony at the legendary Maracana Stadium.

At the onset of the Rio Games, IOC president Thomas Bach had expressed the hope that the team would be a symbol of hope for refugees around the world, and boost global awareness of the magnitude of the crisis.

“These refugees have no home, no team, no flag and no national anthem. We will offer them a home in the Olympic Village together with all the athletes ofthe word,” he said.

Such simple but moving words from Bach. He said these refugee athletes would show the world that despite the unimaginable tragedies that they had faced, anyone could contribute to society through their talent, skills and strength of the human spirit.

The Olympic Village truly epitomises the peace and solidarity of the games. This is where athletes from all over the world come together to train, live and eat under one roof in complete amity and harmony.

Nowhere else would it have been possible for South Korean gymnast Lee Eun-ju to gleefully take a selfie with her North Korean competitor, Hong Un Jong.

The Olympic Truce also allows participants from Olympic member nations to travel to and from the Olympic Games in safety. Coming back to our Malaysian contingent, while solidarity and safety are not the chief concerns of our athletes, their performance and results are certainly of great important to the rest of us.

It has not been the dream start we have been waiting for with our 32- member national team, with the disappointing show of our athletes in archery in the early rounds and nervous performances in shooting and diving.

Getting increasingly anxious and impatient as we watch our mobile phone screens for the country’s first gold medal win, we witness our neighbour, Vietnam, breaking their duck through Hoang Xuan Vinh in the men’s 10m air pistol event and judo exponent Majlinda Kelmendi becoming Kosovo’s first Olympic medallist as she took gold in the women’s 52kg judo event.

Although Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin stated that there were no specific targets for the Malaysian team this time around, perhaps we should set specific goalsfor future games, starting with the 2020 edition in Tokyo, Japan.

Just like Vietnam and Kosovo, we are also hungry for our first gold medal. As the legendary boxer Muhammad Ali would say: “What keeps me going is goals”.

Hard work, grit and determination...

A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work,” said Colin Powell, American statesman and former United States’ secretary of state.

This rings true for the feat accomplished by our Olympians, Sarawakian Pandelela Rinong, 23, and Perakian Cheong Jun Hoong, 26, who delivered the country’s first medal in the women’s 10m platform synchronised diving at the Rio Olympics 2016 in Brazil on Tuesday.

Their success story, like any other accomplished athletes, and the bumpy roads that they and their families have taken, en route to becoming what they are right now, are nothing short of inspirational for all of us. Coming from Kupuo (kampung) Jugan — a small Bidayuh village in Bau, Pendelela or Nong, the family’s nickname for her, is proof that one’s poor background plays a little role in one’s pursuit of excellence.

Like all kampung children back then, nature is their playground. Pandelela, who knew nothing about competitive diving then, started off by jumping from the bridge into the river in her village almost daily at the tender age of 5.
(File pix) Pandalela Rinong (left) and Cheong Jun Hoong winning the silver medal in the women’s 10m platform synchronised diving at the Rio Olympics on Tuesday. Pix by Rosli Rahmat

Her passion did not go unnoticed by her parents who went to the extent of building a small makeshift pool, made of bricks and cement, behind their house for Pandalela to quench her thirst for water and diving.

To cut the story short, realising her potential and with the dream and determination of turning her into a competitive athlete, the family decided to relocate to Kuching, allowing Pandelela to flourish under proper training.

Their sacrifice — money and time — paid off when Pendelela was elected as a state diver when she was 7 years old.

Her talent then brought her to Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) in Kuala Lumpur where she was further groomed and polished.

As a result of her hard work, she made her mark at various interna tional competitions, bringing home gold medals, and is now one of the world’s top divers.

She also became the first-ever Malaysian female athlete to win an Olympic medal and the first in any sport other than badminton when she won the bronze medal in the 10m platform diving event at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

As for Cheong, she is another example that a dream can be accomplished if you put your heart, mind and soul into it, and that there is no short cut to it. It had been her dream, since she started competitive swimming 17 years ago, to win an Olympic medal.

Hers is also a story of pure grit and hard work, beginning from the age of 4 when she was first sent to swimming classes in Ipoh by her vegetable dealer father.

At the age of 9, Cheong was recruited by the state diving team’s coach and she has not looked back since. But again, it was not without the support of her parents by enrolling her to a sports school in Gunung Rapat.

Like Pandalela, her talent also brought her to BJSS. As related by her mother, Cheong would insist on training even when she was sick. It had been an occasion also when she had thought of quitting due to an injury.

But, as the saying goes that your worst enemy in life is yourself, despite succumbing to other career threatening injuries, she rose above them all and decided against throwing in the towel.

On Tuesday, Cheong and her family stood proud of her achievement. So did the nation.

For us—lesser men and parents — the takeaways from their stories are a lot. For sure, as parents, we want the best for our children and for them to bring the best out of them, too.

Hence, we should be able to identify our children’s potential. We should also know that with our support and sacrifice, our children — if they are determined and hardworking — can be Olympians in their own ways.

I have always told my school-going children that they can be a mechanic, chef, journalist, academician, carpenter, stand-up comedian or whatever, but be among the best in their chosen profession.

Coming back to our Olympians in Rio, let’s us continue dreaming for more medals from our athletes.

Let’s pray for Pandelela and Cheong to continue to shine and our other Olympians, including Datuk Lee Chong Wei and ‘pocket rocket’ man Azizulhasni Awang, to also deliver them for the nation and be rewarded for their sacrifice, sweat and hard work.

And, of course, for the elusive gold medal for the country, and hopefully for my wishful thinking that a public holiday is declared!

Identiti bahasa Melayu mesti dikekal, dipelihara

KEDUDUKAN bahasa Melayu sebagai bahasa kebangsaan dan bahasa rasmi negara termaktub di bawah Perlembagaan Persekutuan Perkara 152 yang dijelaskan dalam Fasal 1:

Bahasa kebangsaan ialah bahasa Melayu dan hendaklah ditulis dalam apa-apa tulisan sebagaimana diperuntukkan melalui undang-undang oleh Parlimen.

Pemaktuban bahasa Melayu sebagai bahasa kebangsaan diperkukuhkan dengan Akta Bahasa Kebangsaan 1963/67 dengan keterangan dalam Seksyen 2 yang memperuntukkan bahasa kebangsaan hendaklah digunakan bagi maksud rasmi.

Penggunaan bahasa kebangsaan bagi maksud rasmi adalah keterangan yang sangat jelas terhadap penggunaan bahasa kebangsaan terhadap apa-apa yang disebut sebagai 'kebangsaan' atau nasional yang merujuk kepada perkara rasmi berkaitan dengan negara Malaysia.

Festival Filem Malaysia (FFM) yang dianjurkan oleh Perbadanan Kemajuan Filem Malaysia (FINAS) dan Persatuan Penerbit Filem Malaysia (PFM) membawa aspirasi kebangsaan, secara jelas menetapkan ciri-ciri kebangsaan yang menetapkan 70 peratus penggunaan bahasa Melayu sebagai filem kebangsaan.

Maka, pemisahan kategori Filem Terbaik dan Filem Terbaik bukan dalam bahasa Malaysia adalah tepat. Selepas Kongres Kebudayaan Kebangsaan pada 1971, Kementerian Kebudayaan, Belia dan Sukan diberi tanggungjawab baharu yang bebas daripada tanggungjawab asal sebagai agensi mengatur program dan aktiviti kesenian kelab belia semata-mata.

Tujuan baharu kementerian ditetapkan 'untuk membentuk dan memelihara satu kebudayaan kebangsaan berteraskan kebudayaan rakyat asal rantau ini, satu masyarakat belia bersatu padu, berdisiplin dan bergerak maju dalam ekonomi dan sosial dan satu semangat kesukanan demi perpaduan kaum untuk negara' (Aziz Deraman 2000:77).

Pelihara budaya kebangsaan

Pelbagai agensi ditubuhkan di bawah kementerian selepas itu (juga kemudian bertukar pelbagai nama) dengan matlamat 'untuk membentuk dan memelihara satu kebudayaan kebangsaan,' yakni penekanan terhadap pemupukan keperibadian kebangsaan dengan ciri paling asas ialah penggunaan medium bahasa kebangsaan iaitu bahasa Melayu.

FINAS antara agensi ditubuhkan pada awal 1970-an bertepatan dengan aspirasi dan membawa matlamat membentuk dan memelihara kebudayaan kebangsaan. Ia asas utama kepada matlamat penubuhan FINAS, selain matlamat lain memajukan industri filem negara.

FFM-28 memunculkan dua kategori Filem Terbaik iaitu Filem Terbaik dilihat sebagai terkandung ciri-ciri kebangsaan (terutama bahasa) dan Filem Terbaik Bukan Bahasa Malaysia yang boleh dilihat sebagai filem menggunakan bahasa sukuan.

Lloyd Fernando (19973:164-166) dalam pernyataan beliau terhadap sastera kebangsaan menjelaskan apa yang disebut sebagai bahasa sukuan.

Fernando menegaskan kesusasteraan ditulis dalam bahasa Malaysia adalah kesusasteraan kebangsaan manakala kesusasteraan ditulis dalam bahasa Cina, Tamil, Inggeris, Iban, Dayak, Kadazan dan sebagainya termasuk golongan kesusasteraan sukuan.

Penjelasan Fernando ini terpakai dalam bidang seni lain dalam konteks pentakrifan penggunaan bahasa kebangsaan dan bahasa sukuan; sekali gus menjelaskan mengenai kategori kebangsaan dan kategori sukuan.

Maka pembahagian kategori dalam FFM-28 ini adalah tepat untuk bezakan antara filem dalam bahasa kebangsaan dan filem dalam bahasa sukuan, sekali gus usaha melaksana dasar memelihara kebudayaan kebangsaan atau apa-apa yang bersifat kebangsaan.

Menurut Hamzah Hussin, filem Melayu pertama diterbitkan ialah Nelayan (1938) dan Laila Majnun (1933 atau 1938).

Dua filem ini diterbitkan oleh Motilal Chemical Company of Bombay di Singapura. Filem Laila Majnun diarahkan oleh B S Rajhans dan dilakonkan oleh Tijah, Syed Ali dan M Suki.

Filem ini dinyatakan sebagai filem Melayu kerana tiada perkara lain selain daripada filem ini menggunakan bahasa Melayu sepenuhnya.

Kejayaan filem ini menarik minat Run Run dan Run Me Shaw dari Shanghai dan mula mengeluarkan filem Melayu bermula pada 1937 di sebuah studio kecil di Jalan Ampas.

Apabila Cathay Keris mengeluarkan filem berbahasa Cina pada 1960 di Singapura (Singapura ketika itu sebahagian Malaysia), filem ini diklasifikasikan filem Cina yang jelas memperakukannya filem dalam bahasa sukuan.

Apabila Malaysia ditubuhkan pada 16 September 1963, filem dinamakan filem Malaysia merujuk kepada filem yang menggunakan bahasa Melayu.

Maka apabila konsensus Dasar Kebudayaan Kebangsaan dicapai pada 1971, ciri-ciri kebangsaan merujuk kepada penggunaan bahasa Melayu.

Dalam FFM-28, tiada siapa menafikan kehebatan filem Ola Bola, malah filem Jagat serta filem-filem bahasa sukuan lain. Tetapi pada masa sama, tiada siapa juga dapat nafi filem ini tidak menepati konteks penggunaan bahasa kebangsaan secara holistiknya.

Sememangnya filem yang dikatakan menggunakan bahasa kebangsaan jika dilihat secara holistik juga tercemar dengan penggunaan dialek daerah, malah bahasa pasar atau bahasa slanga yang buruk.

Penggunaan dialek daerah

Penggunaan dialek daerah masih di bawah lingkungan 'kebudayaan asal rantau ini' tetapi slanga atau bahasa pasar yang buruk seharusnya tidak melayakkan filem itu dipertandingkan sebagai filem Malaysia (baca kebangsaan).

Kita juga tahu filem mempunyai bahasanya tersendiri disebut sebagai bahasa filem. Ia menyangkuti dengan apa disebut sebagai verisilimitude, iaitu menggambarkan realiti sedekat yang boleh.

Itu menggambarkan realiti masyarakat majmuk Malaysia tidak dapat tidak realiti pertuturan dalam pelbagai bahasa perlu digambarkan.

Tetapi konsep verisilimitude ini perlu dilihat secara kontekstual. Dalam beberapa hal realiti negatif serta bertentangan dengan aspirasi pembentukan nilai kebangsaan perlu dinilai kembali.

Akhir sekali merenung tulisan Fernando yang mengutip Teilhard de Chardin dalam merenung keanekaragaman manusia menyatakan setiap kebudayaan yang dikenali adalah seperti seurat benang, dan semuanya berkembang begitu rupa sehingga suatu hari nanti, semuanya akan berubah.

Tetapi, walau apa pun perubahannya, sifat kebangsaan sesebuah kebudayaan itu haruslah kekal dipelihara - paling khusus identiti bahasa. S M Zakir Berita Harian Kolumnis Ahad, 14 Ogos 2016 @ 8:07 AM

On target in meeting blueprint goals

Meeting selected education transformation objectives so far paves the way for Malaysia to raise its standards, and be on par with the best globally.

IT took a lot of effort to bring various parties together, but after countless evaluation sessions over the last three years, results from the First Wave of the Malaysia Education Blueprint that began in 2013 now has a report card of its own.

The Education Ministry released the 2015 annual report of the Blueprint, an ambitious undertaking that will transform the education system in three Waves orGelombang, with the first from 2013 to 2015, the second from 2016 to 2020, and the final one from 2021 to 2025. Within the Blueprint are 11 Shifts or Anjakan that will take the country to where it needs to be nine years from now.

The Blueprint contains 100 initiatives of which 25 came under the Blueprints’s First wave.

In brief, the ministry claimed that it had “surpassed the targets it set for itself” when launching the latest annual report at its headquarters at Putrajaya on Tuesday.

Based on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals to ensure “education for all”, the First Wave aimed to increase student enrolment, reduce the urban-rural divide, and ensure 100% literacy and numeracy (Linus) rates within the first three years of schooling.

Greater inclusivity

On inclusivity, Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid said more students with special needs have been enrolling in national schools.

“The integration of special needs students with mainstream students in daily school activities has been enhanced through the usage of a more holistic and inclusive education model,” he said.

This is done through the Inclusive Education model which saw an increase to 16,899 (23.2%) special needs students in 2015, up from 10,700 (18.4%) students in 2014.

Besides just studying with their mainstream peers in classrooms, students under this model are also included in school events such as the morning assembly and co-curricular activities.

Overall, Mahdzir said the number of special needs students enrolling in schools have increased from 58,006 in 2014 to 72,715 in 2015.

Preschoolers are also not left out of the inclusive education programme.

Wave of success: Mahdzir (third from left) says there have been positive outcomes from the First Wave of the Blueprint. With him are (from left) Education director-general Tan Sri Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof, Deputy Education Ministers Chong Sin Woon, Datuk P Kamalanathan and Education secretary-general Tan Sri Dr Madinah Mohamad.
Wave of success: Mahdzir (third from left) says there have been positive outcomes from the First Wave of the Blueprint. With him are (from left) Education director-general Tan Sri Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof, Deputy Education Ministers Chong Sin Woon, Datuk P Kamalanathan and Education secretary-general Tan Sri Dr Madinah Mohamad.

As of 2015, 46 children have been included in this programme.

There are 860 special needs children in 197 preschool classes nationwide guided by trained special education teachers.

Permata Kurnia director Prof Dr Hasnah Toran, a leading authority on autism in the country, said: “The ministry’s Special Education Division has taken a number of positive steps to improve education for special needs children.”

Firstly, they have increased the number of children with disabilities into mainstream schools.

“And they don’t just leave them there,” stressed Dr Hasnah, who is herself a mother of an autistic child.

The integration programme provides for a “shadow aide” (guru pendamping), where a teacher is tasked to be extra watchful over a student. Teachers and parents are also trained on teaching and caring for these children, while other students are taught to be more empathetic to their fellow special needs schoolmates.

The ministry is also trying to improve the quality of special education by introducing Pentaksiran Alternatif Sekolah Rendah (PASR), which is equivalent to UPSR, but designed for students with special needs.

“This will make teachers more accountable and allows us to track a child’s progress,” said Dr Hasnah.

Then, there are the opening of new vocational schools, such as Sekolah Menengah Vokasional Pendidikan Khas Merbok in Kedah in 2015.

Bigger intake: The annual report states that student enrolment in schools has increased since the launch of the blueprint. – File photo
Bigger intake: The annual report states that student enrolment in schools has increased since the launch of the blueprint. – File photo

The vocational schools teach skills such as baking and wiring. They also encourage special needs children to find jobs in these fields after graduation.

To keep the not-so-academically-inclined in schools, Mahdzir said his ministry has been actively pushing for more students to enrol in technical and vocational education and training (TVET) in schools.

He said 5.3% of students enrolled for TVET courses at the lower secondary level in 2015, compared to 4.6% in 2013.

He also said that the Upper Secondary Vocational Education piloted last year has already attracted 343 students.

Students who opt for this programme will graduate with both Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) and Sijil Kemahiran Malaysia (SKM) certificates.

“The number is expected to jump to 4,260 in 2016 due to the high demand (for TVET courses),” he added.

“It was not an easy feat as it involved various agencies at the state levels. However, to ensure our children receive quality early education, we will continue intensifying efforts to achieve our target of 100% enrolment in the Second Wave,” he said.

Mahdzir said preschool enrolment increased to 84.51% in 2015, compared to 80.2% in 2012, while primary school enrolment rates reached 98% in 2015.

“These (enrolment) rates have exceeded the universal enrolment rate of 91% as reported by United Nations Development Programme 2015,” he said, adding that the ministry is aiming to achieve universal preschool enrolment for children aged four and five by 2020.

Education for all: Muspirah Ahmad Salim, a teacher at Sekolah Menengah Pendidikan Khas (penglihatan) reading out the blueprint’s annual report to her visually impaired students after the launch.
Education for all: Muspirah Ahmad Salim, a teacher at Sekolah Menengah Pendidikan Khas (penglihatan) reading out the blueprint’s annual report to her visually impaired students after the launch.

More literacy

The report also states that Year Three pupils have achieved 99% Bahasa Melayu literacy and numeracy, while English literacy stood at 94.11% in 2015, up from 78.3% in 2014.

However, those in the education field beg to differ.

Firstly, many English teachers argue that English standards among pupils have declined these few years, a period that coincided with the First Wave.

A recently retired English teacher from Shah Alam, Selangor said many English teachers feel that literacy levels are poor because Science and Mathematics are no longer conducted in English.

“This reduces students’ exposure to the language,” she pointed out, adding that it is only during English Language lessons that pupils are exposed to the language.

A primary school teacher from Perak said that the ministry’s annual report suggesting that 99% of pupils have mastered Bahasa Melayu and Mathematics by the end of Year Three sounded too good to be true.

“The figure does not seem true for my school, for Mathematics at least,” said the teacher with over 30 years of experience in teaching English.

On English, she claimed that the literacy rate has remained stagnant in her school.

“The pupils don’t have the urge to do anything extraordinary. Many of them have lost interest,” she added.

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Test in session: Primary school pupils have to undergo Linus screenings to ensure they can grasp how to read, write and count.

National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Datuk Lok Yim Pheng said it is up to teachers to ensure their pupils are able to read, write and count, which is important to reach the 100% literacy and numeracy rates desired by the ministry.

“Teachers do have enough resources and training from the ministry,” she said when commenting on the ministry’s claim that Bahasa Melayu literacy and numeracy rates have reached 99%.

She maintained that teachers need to be creative and innovative to ensure their charges can read, write and count.

“With advancements in digital technology, the teacher can download resources and come up with something for the children,” said Lok, who added that teachers regularly stay back with their pupils to ensure they can grasp the three basic skills.

“By hook or by crook, the teacher has to do it, because if the child can’t read, write or count, they can’t proceed to the next step,” she said.

An English teacher from Malacca said many of her pupils who come from English speaking backgrounds have the ability to express themselves rather well in English.

“The Primary School Standard Curriculum (KSSR) is good, and if teachers are teaching accordingly, there shouldn’t be any problem,” she said.

She added the increase in achievements for Mathematics could be due to the relatively “simple” questions posed.

“My colleagues tell me the questions are easy, which would have contributed to the high increase in Mathematics scores, as stated in the annual report.”

Parent Action Group for Education chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim shares similar sentiments as the teachers.

While noting that it’s good that there has been improvements for English and Maths, she argued that equal emphasis should be given to the Sciences.

On ways to teach effectively, Mahdzir reminded teachers, especially long serving ones, to embrace the fact that students now are nothing like those they encountered when they first started teaching.

“School-goers these days are digital natives and need to be taught using 21st century learning methods,” he said.

When asked whether teachers are adequately equipped to teach digital natives, a teacher from Klang said that it may be tough for the older teachers to keep up with the changes.

“However, the government is providing sufficient digital courses for teachers, so they (teachers) should be ready for these (digital) changes,” she added.

Community engagement

The onus to improve the quality of education falls not just on schools and teachers. In this regard, the ministry has been taking concrete steps to get the community and parents involved in the education process.

Mahdzir said that since the Blueprint was implemented, more parents have been actively involved in school activities.

The percentage of parents involved in six major school events – including registration day, Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) meetings, and sports day – have increased to 74.6% in 2015. It stood at 57% in 2013.

The number of schools adopted by private companies also rose to 539 in 2015 from 323 in 2013.

SMK Assunta Petaling Jaya PTA chairman Allan Goh Wai Choong said the increase of parental and community involvement in schools is a “good sign” in the long run.

“As parents, we play an important role to help improve shortcomings on issues involving education. We need constant communication with the district education office as well as the ministry to solve issues hand-in-hand,” he said.

Goh also pointed out that all parties play a role in increasing parental and community involvement in schools.

“The ministry is encouraged to conduct more dialogues and activities with parents, while parents would also need to reciprocate the ministry’s efforts and participate,” he said.

Parents would also need to take the initiative in asking their children about their daily activities and the issues they face in school.

“When parents don’t ask, the children won’t tell,” Goh said.

On his part, the minister seems unfazed by the reactions from teachers and parents so far.

“Clearly, we have laid a solid foundation for developing holistic students by providing access to quality education as promised in the Blueprint,” said Mahdzir.

Tiga tahap kebodohan

SABAN hari, ada sahaja orang menulis dalam Facebook de­ngan cara berkongsi pautan sesuatu berita, kemudian mem­buat ulasan sendiri. Pasti ramai menjawab ulasan di dinding Facebook manakala berpuluh-puluh lagi menekan bu­tang LIKE atau imoji mulut terlopong dan sebagainya.

Inilah teknik untuk menyatakan pendapat peribadi ma­sing-masing. Lagi bisa, lagi ramai LIKE. Lagi ramai SHARE. Lagi ramai minta jadi sahabat Facebook. Ini definisi populariti zaman Facebook ini. Sama jugalah dengan Instagram, dan mung­kin Twitter terhad sikit disebabkan had perkataan yang ditetapkan.

Pendapat yang diutarakan itu pula ada pelbagai kriteria.
Per­tama: Hal diri sendiri semata-mata iaitu sarat dengan selfie, gambar makanan dan lokasi. Golongan ini tidak berba­haya selagi mereka tidak bermain Pokemon Go.

Kedua: Hal semasa negara. Individu ini akan mencari apa sahaja berita semasa yang kemudian diletak pada dinding Facebook, dan dibidas seteruk-teruknya. Jika ada yang mengemukakan hujah balas dalam pernyataannya, orang itu nescaya tidak lagi jadi sahabat kerana dianggap tidak sepintar dirinya.

Ketiga: Kaki provokasi. Musim bola, dia siram minyak terha­dap semua pasukan. Siapa menjawab provokasi, mesti kena belasah. Bukankah adat bersukan, mesti ada penyorak. Sesiapa boleh 'cucuk’ dengan mengacah penyokong lain tetapi ia hendaklah dua hala. Yang menyucuk kenalah bersedia dicucuk balik. Kalau tidak boleh, tolong tutup Facebook anda.

Secara umumnya, kri­te­ria kedua adalah paling ber­bahaya berban­ding dua lagi yang disebut di atas. Ini kerana wa­lau­­pun orang akan me­nyan­jungnya sebagai 'bera­ni bersuara’, akan ada ju­ga yang melihatnya se­­ba­gai berat sebelah (wa­­lau­pun berulang ka­li dia menafikan sede­mi­ki­an) kerana bila ada hu­jah membalas, ia tidak di­en­dah malah penu­lisnya di­sum­pah seranah. Hu­jah dirinya sen­diri saha­ja betul. Dan lagi, orang lain tidak berhak ber­suara dalam dinding Face­­book miliknya. Be­bas­lah sangat!

Ini belum lagi me­nyen­tuh soal kesahihan maklumat. Dia petik pa­­u­tan portal berita ber­­­­wibawa, itu tidak me­nga­pa. Ini petik mana-mana blog yang kandungannya dicuri dari laman web rasmi atau 'melanun' artikel orang lain, diolah semu­la dan diketengahkan benda yang sensasi semata-mata. Sebarkan berita dengan cara di atas memang pantas da­pat sejuta LIKE.

Perlakuan orang kurang pandai ini, mengingatkan kepada satu artikel berkaitan kaji selidik saintifik berkenaan tiga je­nis kebodohan manusia, yang setiap satunya dirumuskan sebagai lebih teruk daripada yang lain.

Sepasukan penyelidik dari University of Budapest pada tahun lalu telah mengumpul sampel 180 kisah daripada blog dan forum, serta menemu bual 150 orang mengenai 'apa sebe­narnya yang ditaktrifkan sebagai kebodohan’.

Hasil daripada kajian itu, kata jurucakapnya, Profesor Balazs Aczel, sebanyak tiga jenis kebodohan dirumuskan iaitu 'keangkuhan dalam keyakinan’; 'otak kosong’ dan 'ketia­daan kawalan’.

Angkuh dalam keyakinan ialah bila seseorang memikirkan mereka boleh melakukan sesuatu sedangkan tidak memiliki kemampuan, ketahanan atau kekuatan untuk melakukanya. Kaji selidik ini mendapati ciri di atas adalah tahap tertinggi kebodohan.

Misalnya dalam pemilihan jawatankuasa persatuan, semua ahli sepakat untuk memberi laluan kepada orang baharu. Masa pemilihan, seorang daripadanya melanggar kesepakatan demi mengejar jawatan pengerusi tetapi AJK baharu tidak sehaluan dengannya. Dalam istilah lain, ini disebut 'bodoh sombong’.

Otak kosong ialah ketiadaan deria praktikal disebabkan orang ini tidak memberi perhatian atau tidak peduli apa yang berlaku di sekelilingnya. Sama ada dia berpura-pura tidak tahu, orang yang memandang pasti sudah melabelnya sebagai tidak pandai.

Misalnya, sekolah sentiasa berdepan masalah ketiadaan bekalan air. Ibu bapa jadi hairan bila guru memesan anak-anak membawa air untuk wuduk. Apakah ibu bapa atau guru atau PIBG yang'`otak kosong’ membiarkan isu air terus berlarutan?

Ketiadaan kawalan diri ialah situasi seseorang yang tidak boleh ditolong walau bagaimana kita kasihan dan mahu menolongnya. Individu ini tahu mereka harus berbuat sesuatu tetapi tidak terbuat-buat.

Profesor Aczel memberi contoh: “Orang yang memba­tal­kan rancangan keluar bersama rakan-rakan semata-mata untuk membolehkannya terus bermain permainan video di rumah’’.

Bagaimanapun beliau memiliki satu lagi pandangan iaitu perkara paling bodoh seseorang boleh lakukan ialah menjangka diri mereka boleh melakukan semua perkara yang mereka mahukan atau terlebih yakin.

"Ia memberitahu kita bahawa anda tidak perlu memiliki IQ rendah untuk bergelar tidak pandai. Di mata orang, me­lakukan sesuatu di luar kemampuan adalah tindakan bodoh,’’ ujar beliau.

Rumusan ringkas penyelidik University of Budapest terse­but adalah jika seseorang mahu mengelak kelihatan bodoh, jangan terlebih melampau yakin atau merasa diri sudah cukup besar.

"Perkara paling teruk seseorang boleh lakukan ialah bertindak yakin tetapi masih tidak rasional. Itu bodoh namanya,’’ kata Profesor Aczel.

* Hasil kajian saintifik University of Budapest

What medical ‘experts’ hide: Nicotine does NOT cause cancer

Strange as it may sound, the key substance used in many medical therapies aimed at helping wean people off smoking – is nicotine.

Why is this so if cigarettes – which are addictive because they contain nicotine – are widely acknowledged as harmful and also proven likely to cause cancer in the long run?

Such seemingly opposite stands were better explained by Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos – a world-renowned cardiologist based in Greece, who is in Kuala Lumpur to present the results of a survey conducted among Malaysian vape device users.(see story below)

“Nicotine does not cause cancer,” he explained. “All medical experts around the world know this to be a true fact. And yet, many continue making the mistake of associating nicotine with cancer.”

And given the widespread perception many untrained – but self-proclaimed – ‘medical experts’ still spout about nicotine being carcinogenic, Dr Farsalinos pointed out that it is possible to consume nicotine without ever touching any tobacco.

“Cauliflower, eggplant, potato and tomato are among the common food people eat without realising these contain nicotine. Capsicum, pepper and tea also contain nicotine. Should we slap warning labels on these?”

So, if nicotine does not cause cancer, what does?

Dr Farsalinos explained that substances produced when a cigarette is lit – tar and chemicals in the smoke vapour – cause cancer.

“It’s the burning which cause the harm. Consuming nicotine without any burning is same like getting a caffeine rush from drinking hot coffee.”

It is due to this confusion that many – smokers and non-smokers alike – scoff at smoking cessation alternatives like nicotine patches, lozenges and sprays – having the misconception that these still have high cancer risks because of the nicotine content, he added.

“The same misconception applies to vaping because most people don’t understand it is simply evaporated nicotine. More importantly, there’s no tar produced because vaping has no burning involved.

“Besides, when the composition of vapour from an e-cigarette is analysed, nicotine accounts for at most 0.09% of the vapour total. Most people don’t understand that the vapour exhaled by an e-cigarette user contains nothing nastier than a tiny amount of evaporated nicotine.”

As such, Dr Farsalinos said vaping has become established as the most successful smoking cessation tool in many countries for psychological reasons as well as physiological.

“Many people switching to vaping also choose liquids that don’t contain nicotine. Hence, while it may look and feel the same, risk of harm is reduced considerably.

“Of all the smoking cessation therapies available today, vaping comes closest to providing this psychological aspect to mimic what smokers feel they need to kick the habit which they readily admit is filthy and harmful.

“As such, electronic cigarettes have proved to be, in all countries where they are available to adults, far more effective in enabling smokers to quit cigarettes and stay off them; other cessation therapies are markedly less successful.”

Since vaping also doesn’t lead to consumption of tar, Dr Farsalinos said it’s time to put aside the mistaken linking of cancer to nicotine-based alternatives and for regulations to be framed accordingly.

“Can you imagine how ridiculous it will be if regulations imposed against nicotine-based products, while aimed at helping you reduce the harmful effects of smoking cigarettes, also meant you have to see a doctor to buy potatoes and tomatoes?”


Biggest vaping study ever in Malaysia

Just a few months ago, what is probably largest ever cross-sectional survey of adult electronic cigarette users living in Malaysia was carried out – eliciting responses from more than 7,000 participants.

The response from vape users found that most used it rather than cigarettes because they wanted a less harmful way to continue nicotine consumption. Other major findings:

  • 84.2% reported improved ability to exercise since switching to e-cigarettes

  • 92.3% reported better breathing capability

  • 75.4% had improved quality of sleep

  • 90.3% had better sense of smell

  • 89.1% could taste better.