November 1st, 2016

Siswa hidup beragenda terhindar jerat 4K

PERJALANAN seorang mahasiswa, bukanlah ibarat berjalan di atas permaidani merah, sebaliknya ibarat berjalan di atas jalan yang berliku, penuh onak duri, demi menggenggam segulung ijazah.

Namun, di sebalik liku-liku hidup mahasiswa, baru-baru ini kita digemparkan dengan isu mahasiswa yang terjebak dengan budaya 4K iaitu Kuliah, Katil, Kafe dan Komputer.

Mahasiswa hari ini seolah-olah kaku dan lesu. Sebagai mahasiswa, saya akui di dalam kelas ada yang gemar bermain telefon bimbit daripada menumpukan perhatian dalam kuliah, berjam-jam di kafe sambil bersembang dan menonton televisyen, malas keluar dan lebih suka berehat-rehat di katil bilik dan asyik menelaah permainan komputer berbanding buku dan pelajaran.

Hatta WiFi perpustakaan pun mereka gunakan untuk memuat turun permainan terbaru dan episod terkini drama pujaan hati. Masa ibarat dibuang sia-sia, akhirnya apabila minggu menghantar tugasan tiba, baharu bersemangat nak buat kerja, menyebabkan hasilnya tak berkualiti.

Pensyarah pun hadir ke kelas dengan penuh kekeluhan dan kekecewaan.

MENYERTAI aktiviti persatuan dalam atau luar universiti dapat membentuk mahasiswa cemerlang dan mampu berbakti kepada masyarakat.

Apabila tiba masa bergraduasi, genggamlah mereka segulung ijazah, namun sedihnya tatkala melihat, keputusannya tidaklah cemerlang mana. Cukup makan untuk layak bergraduasi. Adakah mahasiswa sebegini yang kita mahukan?

Punca kelayuan

Melihatkan fenomena ini, saya makin tertanya-tanya, apa sebenarnya asbab kelayuan mahasiswa kita pada hari ini?

Selepas saya mencari dan meneliti realiti ini, antara punca yang menjangkitkan mahasiswa dengan fenomena 4K ini adalah kurangnya rasa tanggungjawab dalam memahami erti menjadi mahasiswa.

Ramai di antara sahabat saya yang hadir ke universiti dengan harapan ingin bebas jauh daripada kongkongan keluarga, daripada apa-apa tanggungjawab yang membebankan diri.

Namun, kebebasan mereka yang dipandu nafsu akhirnya terbabas jatuh dalam kancah kelalaian.

Mereka tidak menjiwai erti menjadi mahasiswa, tidak punya rasa tanggungjawab dan kesungguhan untuk cemerlang di medan universiti.

Minda mereka hanya mahu melakukan apa yang mereka suka, mencari jalan mudah dalam setiap perkara dan bersenang lenang berlibur bersama-sama. Hasilnya? Mahasiswa kita hari ini bergraduat dengan penyakit 4K yang saya amat khuatiri akan berjangkit di alam pekerjaan nanti. Apakah tiada harapan buat sang mahasiswa untuk merawat diri daripada terus terjerumus dalam dunia 4K ini?

Penyelesaiannya, pertama, mahasiswa sendiri hendaklah memahami dan menjiwai tanggungjawab sebagai penuntut ilmu. Saya masih ingat ketika di sekolah rendah, guru saya selalu pesan: "Amalina, tuntutlah ilmu sampai ke menara gading."

Bukan masa bersukaria

Hai sahabat, sedarlah, dalam beribu-ribu sahabat kita yang lain memohon untuk menyambung pelajaran melalui UPU, kita telah Allah rezekikan dengan peluang ke menara gading.

Hadirnya kita ke universiti ini bukanlah untuk bersenang lenang, bersuka ria, tetapi kita hadir dengan menggalas tanggungjawab untuk menuntut ilmu.

Kitalah pewaris tampuk pimpinan yang akan menerajui negara. Saidina Umar pernah berkata: "Pemuda hari ini adalah cerminan pemuda akan datang."

Mahukah kita melihat generasi anak bangsa akan datang semakin lalai dan layu atas kealpaan kita? Mahukah kita lihat kemunduran negara sendiri akibat kita tidak serius dalam menuntut ilmu?

Sedarlah mahasiswa, kaulah harapan yang akan memimpin negara. Selain itu, mahasiswa juga harus sedar masa itu sangat berharga buat kita. 24 jam yang kita ada, jika diurus dengan betul, macam-macam yang dapat kita lakukan. Pepatah Arab ada berbunyi 'waktu itu ibarat pedang, jika kita tak potong dia, dia akan potong kita.'

Jika majoriti masa kita hanyalah diluangkan untuk komputer (gajet, permainan komputer, menonton filem), bila masanya untuk kita melunaskan tugasan kita, mengulangkaji pelajaran? Sedarlah mahasiswa, kita ini dah mulai menjengah usia 20-an, ayuh sibukkan masa kita dengan perkara berfaedah, antaranya adalah dengan menyertai aktiviti bersama mana-mana persatuan dalam mahupun luar universiti.

Ikuti aktiviti berfaedah

Saya adalah aktivis Persatuan Belia Islam Nasional (PEMBINA) di UNIMAS. Sepanjang menjadi aktivis persatuan ini, pelbagai pengalaman dikutip, program ilmu dan kerohanian yang saya anjurkan dan sertai memberikan saya pelbagai pengalaman dalam bidang kepemimpinan selain mengubah persepsi saya serta membakar semangat untuk menjadi mahasiswa yang cemerlang dan mampu berbakti kepada masyarakat.

Walau sibuk beraktiviti, pelajaran tidak pernah saya abaikan. Keputusan peperiksaan saya juga masih berada pada tahap yang memuaskan.

Maka, beraktivisme juga mampu menjadi wadah untuk kita menyalurkan tenaga dan semangat kita ke arah perkara yang lebih bermanfaat, bukan membazir masa semata-mata.

Pada pandangan saya, sebenarnya, kunci kepada permasalahan mahasiswa 4K ini adalah apabila mahasiswa mulai hidup beragenda. Mahasiswa yang beragenda adalah mahasiswa yang sedar akan tanggungjawab dan kewajipannya menuntut ilmu, maka dia akan bersungguh agar menggapai keputusan yang cemerlang.

Dia juga sedar dan tahu, dia punya tanggungjawab yang harus dipikul di bahu, kerana suatu hari nanti dialah yang bakal mengorak langkah mendidik anak bangsa.

Apabila mahasiswa jelas dengan agenda dan tujuan hidupnya, maka, tiada lagi penyakit 4K yang melemahkan mereka, melainkan apabila mahasiswa itu mulai futur, kembali alpa dan leka.

Mahasiswa hari ini sebenarnya mampu untuk cemerlang seandainya mereka keluar daripada penindasan 4K yang sangat membazirkan tenaga dan masa mereka.

Mahasiswa ini sebenarnya aset penting negara kerana merekalah anak bangsa yang akan mencorakkan generasi akan datang.

Jika kita tidak berusaha untuk mengubah diri kita ke arah kebaikan, masih tidak mahu berganjak melakukan perubahan, apalah nasib negara kita pada masa hadapan? Tepuk dada, tanya selera.

Kemahiran generik tingkat kualiti TVET

BAJET 2017 adalah bonus kepada pihak akademik, instruktor dan pelajar aliran pendidikan teknikal dan vokasional (TVET) serta limpahan kepada industri yang menyediakan ruang dan peluang lebih luas kepada pelajar TVET menjalani praktikal dan latihan industri.

TVET diperakui pendidikan paling tepat untuk menyediakan modal insan yang sedia memasuki terus pasaran kerja pada peringkat separa mahir.

Peruntukan RM4.6 bilion untuk memperkasa institusi TVET perlu diguna sebaik mungkin bukan sahaja untuk pembangunan prasarana, infrastruktur dan fasiliti lebih bersifat fizikal, malah untuk pembangunan profesionalisme pelajar, pelatih dan juga pekerja.

Menyentuh mengenai kualiti graduan institusi TVET, selain pemerolehan kemahiran teknikal, kemahiran insaniah atau kemahiran generik juga perlu diperlengkapkan dalam diri mereka.

Maka pelajar dan pelatih serta bakal pekerja, perlu diterapkan dengan kemahiran generik hijau agar dapat membudayakan amalan hijau di tempat kerja.

Pada Persidangan Meja Bulat Belia bertemakan TVET Satu Pilihan pada 15 Oktober lalu di UniKL IPROM, Cheras, beberapa kelemahan ketara pekerja dikenal pasti.

Antaranya, soft skills dan nilai kendiri pekerja menyebabkan mereka tidak dapat bertahan lama dalam pekerjaan diceburi.

Lemah kemahiran generik

Ramai pekerja baharu berdepan kesukaran untuk survive dalam tempoh percubaan disebabkan ketidakcekapan dalam mempraktikkan kemahiran generik dan kegagalan membuat sesuatu keputusan dalam keadaan tertekan.

Justeru, antara resolusi dalam persidangan ialah memperkasa kemahiran generik pelajar dan pelatih TVET serta pekerja novis. Dalam mendepani cabaran teknologi dan alam pekerjaan masa akan datang, pelaburan dalam bentuk penyelidikan, penerbitan ilmiah dan harta intelek sangat berbaloi.

Sebagai contoh, keberhasilan industri berteknologi hijau pada masa depan sebahagiannya bergantung kepada ketersediaan modal insan dilengkapi kemahiran generik hijau.

Namun, sehingga kini belum ada profil kemahiran generik hijau bagi pekerja di industri berteknologi hijau. Pembangunan profil ini, aplikasi serta keberkesanannya boleh dilaksanakan menerusi peruntukan Bajet 2017.

Begitu juga dengan usaha memperbanyak bahan ilmiah dalam bidang TVET perlu dilipat gandakan agar Malaysia mampu menjadi hab Pendidikan Teknik dan Latihan Vokasional serantau.

Peruntukan RM4.6 bilion untuk memperkasa bidang TVET juga dilihat sebagai wadah merealisasikan Pelan Transformasi Pendidikan Vokasional bertujuan mengarusperdanakan pendidikan vokasional dan memperkukuh tadbir urus TVET.

Mengubah suai beberapa Institusi Pendidikan Guru menjadi Politeknik dan Kolej Vokasional juga dilihat usaha memartabatkan bidang TVET dengan memberi lebih banyak peluang kepada golongan muda memperoleh pengetahuan serta menguasai kemahiran sebagai persediaan ke pasaran kerja.

Ubah suai jadi premis latihan

Selain itu, pengubahsuaian institusi ini menjadi premis latihan wajar dipertimbangkan untuk menyediakan kemudahan melatih semula pekerja khususnya meningkatkan laluan kerjaya dalam bidang kepemimpinan TVET.

Justeru, bagi memantapkan ketrampilan, latihan industri menjadi elemen wajib dalam kurikulum. Kerjasama antara industri dengan institusi penyedia latihan adalah model pembelajaran dan latihan berkesan untuk memupuk sikap terhadap pekerjaan.

Potongan cukai dua kali ke atas perbelanjaan syarikat yang menyediakan Structured Internship Programme adalah satu lagi bonus kepada pihak institusi penyedia latihan dan imbuhan kepada majikan.

Dengan cara ini, lebih ramai pelajar dan pelatih TVET berpeluang menjalani latihan praktikal. Ini bagi memastikan kecekapan setiap pekerja tempatan setanding dengan ketrampilan pekerja negara maju dan memastikan ia sentiasa kompetitif.

Bagi pemain industri, bajet ini juga boleh dikatakan sebagai pemangkin memantapkan lagi jalinan kerjasama antara industri dan penyedia latihan TVET bagi memperkasa sumber manusia, memacu negara ke arah negara membangun dan berpendapatan tinggi.

Child sacrifices: Are we letting exams kill our kids?

OCTOBER 26 -- The recent news of an 11-year-old schoolboy from Singapore who committed suicide because he failed a subject should leave us all stunned. It should -- but probably won’t. Why? Because the cruel paradox is most parents remain stuck in the cycle of Die-Die Also Must Succeed (pun sadly intended).

In the Ancient Near East, certain tribes sacrificed their children to fire gods and fertility gods. Nowadays things haven’t changed much. We’re still offering up our children’s blood and happiness at the altar of Career and Capitalism.

Very few parents (not least in Singapore) are going to stop viewing their kids like billionaire football players for whom every minute goalless is a universal disgrace. Very few parents are going to give thanks to heaven that despite treating their children like prized bulls, their kids endure and haven’t yet hurled themselves off 20 stories.

And the cycle will continue because when bad things happen only occasionally, we miss the terribly fragile nature of things.

If we received news every day of friends getting a stroke, we would surely cut down on that oily food and shit. But because our friends only kick the bucket once every few months or years, we find it suffices to a) shake our heads, b) write a meaningless quip on WhatsApp about healthy eating and c) maybe take one less prawn at the next meal.

If every day (instead of every few months) someone we care about gets bankrupt, then – and only then – may we be concerned about the way we spend our money.

Likewise, it will require one student suicide per day before we realise two indisputable facts:

1. Shoving our kids towards delusional paths of success (which begets non-delusional pain and trauma) isn’t love -- it’s insanity

Newsflash: Not every child is a junior Stephen Hawking, not every child is Steve Jobs in the making, not every child will solve string theory.

For an entire society to be obsessed with academic achievement is like a country training everybody under 12 to be the next Lee Chong Wei or Joseph Schooling, failing which the child is made to feel like he should crawl back into the garbage dump from where he was picked up.

Students like Master H jumped because he was stuck, cornered, given zero options. His whole life boiled down to being forced to succeed at something he – like 99 per cent of students – hated with all mind, body and soul.

Such students have their minds shut off from other possibilities e.g. home-schooling, excellence in sports, the love of art, the power of friendship, full-hearted support from parents regardless of material achievement. The tragedy is that he wasn’t given the chance to excel in anything other than what his parents forced him to do.

Again, this is like expecting everyone in the office to be able to deliver great speeches on pain of having one’s monthly pay deducted.

2. When nothing short of "world-class achievement" is acceptable, we will always feel like losers

The system is making our children feel like failures and losers, and parents are helping. Because the way things are wired, only sky-high goals are celebrated. Assume Ahmad got 94 per cent in Science – how long before his mum demands 95 per cent and above for the next exam? So now not only does he no longer feel like he’s actually achieved something, he will always feel like a loser until he scores 95 per cent, followed later by 96 per cent.

Should he obtain 91 per cent, he’s a goner. May as well slit his wrists right there, no? The fragility is astounding i.e. the only acceptable way is Onwards and Upwards with the slightest decline proof of abject failure. In other words, there was no grace in such a life. The prospect of "salvation" demanded work, sweat, infinite accomplishments.

Dammit, even writing this makes me want to jump out the bloody window.

Only upsides, few downsides

Imagine if every student didn’t fear failure or low marks because the only thing which would produce a "commotion" was doing well. Imagine if they bombed, say, their Geography or Maths, neither Daddy or Mummy will make a fuss; no one will rap them on their knuckles or make snide comments about winners and losers; no one will compare them against their higher-performing cousins, no one will force them into many more hours of prison (I mean tuition) time.

No downside, only upside. We must engineer this asymmetry into our children’s lives. They must know they are already loved and accepted, there’s nothing to "prove" anymore. Everything is smooth sailing from here, regardless of whether they get 92 per cent or 29 per cent.

Imagine if every student faced absolutely no stress from exam time because only successes will be highlighted and, whilst improvements can be discussed, failure or "non-performance" are not detrimental to their very personhood. In other words, like in JK Rowling’s case, nobody cares if 10,000 people refuse to read Harry Potter & the Cursed Child – all that matters are those millions who do.

Downside? Nobody would even dare.

To all the parents out there with kids in school, if the right column below is even close to how you’re treating your kids, please reconsider. And do so fast. Our kids deserve better than that. And, heck, maybe we should try on the left column for size?

Why don’t our students enjoy school?

OCTOBER 31 — I thought you’d never ask.

1. Have you been in a school lately? Every student looks like they’re on Death Row. The very best thing that can happen on any given day is Class Cancelled. Either that or an asteroid hits Earth.

No wonder each day, every one of us schemes up some ploy to avoid school. Flu, diarrhoea, alien abduction — anything. That girl from Sunway whose Mummy chained her to the pole (because she refused to go to school)? Did you notice that the news report didn’t say anything about her crying or begging to be unchained?

Why do you think that’s the case? My answer is simple: School is like Planet A and the rest of the world is Planet B. And Planet A stands for Planet Aiya Damn Boring. At least go prison also can see people fight; in school only see grown-ups talk like they know more than us kids.

Which is not even true because I see many teachers don’t even know what a Learning Management System is or what is SnapChat, or if they know also like don’t want to use like that.

2. My teachers — surprise, surprise — often look like they too are hoping a calamity will strike. Their eyes tell me anything would be better than the catastrophe of their job.

They walk into class like their Honda just totalled a traffic light and their beloved Arsenal lost to Watford 6-0. Some of them are so bored they look like they prefer to watch paint dry.

They even spend the whole lesson sitting down and talking like the voice on National Geographic i.e. like they’re waiting for the spider to finish building its web bungalow. At least that commentator sounds like he’s having fun; my teachers sound dull and tortured at the same time.

Aiya, if she’s pregnant or sakit never mind lah, but they are neither mah! In fact, I think schools should remove the teacher’s chair in the class so they are forced to stand lor.

3. My teachers are so predictable. The smarter ones among us have already read up on the chapters prior to the class, we already know the stuff, and we’re not impressed with what “Mrs Lee” has to add which, most of the time, is nothing.

No jokes, no exotic stories, no provocative questions — nothing but a grey recap of the key points of the subject, some exercises and, okay, next class. The thing is we often don’t even blame her because how much lesson-enjoyment can be covered and shared in the average 40-45 minutes per class period?

This is even assuming that class starts on time which will only happens after Semenanjung Malaysia shifts below Tasmania.

4. There is only one class that is fun — P.E. But almost no adult thinks that’s important, except for the P.E. teacher and even he doesn’t always sound convincing. My dream school: To have outdoor classes every day, or physical activities more than 80 per cent of the time.

Or just an hour of something genuinely exciting. Many of us want to experience a lesson as more than just gloomy words from a book. The way things are going now, the teacher may as well stand at the door and hand out Valium.

I mean, I don’t expect my teachers to be as terror as those TED Talk punya orang, but I do expect them to put a little more effort in — what’s that word they use? — engaging us students. We kids are not cruel, we also wish the best for our teachers one but the sad thing is many of them don’t appear to want to be “in our worlds”, know what I mean?

5. Yes, I don’t deny that many of these textbooks have pictures — and that’s nice — but it’s the whole mood of school which makes us want to stick our heads in the canteen freezer. What mood? That culture, spirit or “atmosphere” of school which proclaims that The Sum Of Life Reduces To My Exam Results.

I hate this from the bottom of my cat’s butt. I hate being judged primarily by my academic performance, I hate being made to “feel bad” because I scored “lower than average” for Maths (which I struggle with all the time). Worse still, when my Art is top in class, my parents hardly think it’s a big deal, saying some crappy thing like artists “can’t make any money” blah-blah-blah.

6. Funny thing is, the other day I overheard some of my teachers talking about the “Uberization of Schooling”? Jokers! It’s been around the past 30 years and it’s called tuition, dammit.

Anyway, many of my teachers work part-time in tuition centres, a situation which is illogical on so many levels: If tuition centres were so good, why don’t we kids just study there and skip school? If teachers perform better in tuition centres (which, I gather, is something taken for granted) why don’t they simply quit their school-jobs and work full-time in these centres?

Or start their own private tuition? Is this a reason why many private schools are popping up all over town like mushrooms? Better pay = better teaching = better students, etc.? But, of course lah, how many parents can afford those crazy private school fees? More than RM1,000 a month — my parents die lah!

I even know of this guy who sends two of his kids to private school, after that he also got no more money so sometimes he skips meals or eat peanuts. Damn siao lor, but at least his children enjoy lah.

7. I also don’t know what’s the big fuss over Science and Maths anyway. All my parents’ friends all get into their oh-so-awesome “5 Science 1” classes also never become scientists; everybody end up doing business and nobody use Add Maths.

Ya I know lah one or two become doctor or engineer, but how many people are like this lah? So few, right? In that case, why force everyone to study Physics, Chemistry and Bio? Since so many people end up working in the “corporate world” shouldn’t we be learning things like Negotiation, How to Manage Risks in Real Life, How To Raise Funds (no need 2.6 billion lah, just a few thousand also good mah), etc.? Why not make those subjects compulsory?

Some more, in Malaysia, how many famous scientists we got? Other than a young lady win some world-class research award every 20 years, you where got see any well-known local scientists one?!

And let’s be honest, most Malaysians look up to rich people only. Clever no use one. Can play music no use one. Can so terror design and sculpture all also no use one. In the end must make money. See lah, if our Olympic medal-winners don’t earn a lot people also don’t respect them, right?

So you know what I’m saying? In the end, students like me also know that it’s about money not about knowledge. And once we realise that, we will only value our academic “journey” to the extent it helps us earn more.

And every genius or dropout also know that doing well in school hardly adds up to a higher salary, right? So tell me again: Why should I study so hard?

Finally, here’s something I found on Twitter. What do u call a museum with cool stuff? A science centre. A science centre without any cool stuff? A school.

Sigh.   Alywn Lau Malaymail Opinion Monday October 31, 2016 7:59 AM GMT+8

UPSR science questions too challenging

I RECENTLY reviewed the UPSR Science 2016 Paper 1 and was utterly shocked by the difficult questions purposely created for our 12-year-olds. Our Science and Mathematic papers are victims of our obsession towards the debatable Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings.

Supposedly by training the students to answer questions filled with graphs, diagrams and applied knowledge, our rankings would improve.

The paper was purposely created to have so many tricky questions that students had to be very careful (questions 1,3,5). For question 32, even students who have long been taught that constellation could be used to find directions stumbled when the exam writer added “daylight” to the question.

For question 8, students were given a complex figure and told to count omnivores. Is “what is an omnivore?” no longer a valid question to test the scientific knowledge of Malaysian students?

Applied science questions asked in UPSR 2016 failed to take into account the complexities and richness of the lives of the students in Malaysia. For question 14, students might consider “tiles” as a good method to prevent slipping if they come from households where bathroom tiles have patterns to prevent slipping. For some students, anti-slip mats only belong in public bathrooms and not in every single bathroom. This kind of complex experience needs to be taken into account by the exam writers. Applied science questions must have a space for justification and should not belong in a multiple-choice question paper.

For all the excellent students who will be scoring a B in Science UPSR 2016, please don’t hate Science and give up on it. It is NOT your fault. I strongly recommend parents to seek an alternative science education for their children as our UPSR and PT3 Science papers are purposely created to be difficult and have been ruined by the small numbers of Science teachers and policy makers. Science is not difficult and should not be viewed as difficult by our children. A Concerned Scientist Baltimore, US The STAR Home News Opinion Letters Monday, 31 October 2016

Teach with all your heart

THIRTY years ago I decided to be a teacher because I liked teaching. Watching my mother teach in informal settings also gave me the inspiration to be a teacher.

There have been many opportunities for me to take up other professions, but my heart was, is and will forever be in teaching.

When I went to do my medical test to enter a teacher training college, the doctor asked: “Why become a teacher? It is lowly paid. Why not become a doctor like me?”

I clearly remembered answering: “If all your teachers thought like you, you would not have become a successful doctor as you are today.” The doctor nodded shyly and changed the topic.

On the humorous side, I can say I have become a “doctor” for the holistic development of humankind; yet I am a teacher, an educator who educates from the heart.

Being a teacher is not a call for remuneration, but a call to service so that human beings can better themselves. A teacher needs to be alert, at all times, to the environment and how the world is transforming.

Many a time, I have seen teachers get emotional in class and give students “a piece of their mind”. They nag about how terrible their students are and what they are going to face if they do not study, finish their homework and get good grades.

Do you think the students are listening? Maybe a small percentage will, but the majority are so used to this kind of drama in school, and at home, that they “switch off” and start on their own mental adventure.

So, giving students “a piece of the teacher’s mind” is a drain of energy for the teacher and a waste of precious curriculum/teaching and learning time. If a teacher is upset with students, it is always effective to silence the class and express how he feels about students who do not have an interest in the lessons.

For example, I enjoy showing video clips to my students in Moral Education class as it is a quick way to provide a scenario to help students understand the topic of the day. It is quite tedious and takes hours to select a 10-minute clip.

When one or two students do not pay attention, I will tell them to see me after class but I do not stop or reprimand the whole class as it is not fair to do that to all of them.

I have had students who shed tears by the end of my five-minute pep talk. Well, the students might not transform into angels during the next lesson but they did receive a piece of my heart.

The point I am making here is that when you reach out to students with your heart, through the use of loving and caring words, even the toughest of student will melt and start reflecting.

That is why it is important for teachers to share empowerment in the classroom and give every student a piece of their heart. The more teachers give, the more they receive, and in many ways.

At the end of the day, it’s our heartfelt lessons and experiences that our students bring home and remember. Dr Vishalache Balakrishnan NST Opinion You Write 28 OCTOBER 2016 @ 11:00 AM

Earning a PhD in humility

LAST week I attended a hooding ceremony, an event to honour 70 students graduating with doctoral degrees or known as Doctor of Philosophy.

The ceremony was also attended by parents and loved ones of the graduates, who watched the hooding with pride and happiness.

One of the graduates was Salina Alias, whom I co-supervised. She had earned her doctoral degree in Civil Engineering. Completing a PhD is no small feat. This academic path is extraordinarily exhausting, physically and mentally.

To accomplish it requires complete obligation from supervisor and supervisee.

Those who are more humble do better academically.

There are many books written to advise doctoral candidates and supervisors on the dos and don’ts.

These include selecting the right topic, knowing the objective of the thesis well and having regular meetings with supervisors.

But one thing often overlooked is humility.

While there are difficult supervisors who can’t be tamed even by humility, my experience teaches me that it does play a role in the success of doctoral studies.

As far as Asian culture is concerned, most supervisees are humble and very respectful of supervisors.

But in my case, my supevisee’s humility humbled me — such was her exemplary humility.

Humility is often undervalued but a study by Rowatt et al (2006) shows that “those who were more humble did better academically”.

In a doctoral supervision, both supervisor and supervisee should be humble.

The supervisor extends lots of criticism, which can be hard at times. If criticism is extended politely, it can be accepted with an open heart, and the necessary modification or improvement will be done willingly.

This can result in the smoother completion of the thesis. But if a student thinks that the criticism is a slap on his face, he has to nurse his hurt first before working on the correction.

Correcting PhD thesis work is no easy task. Doing so grudgingly makes it harder. In some circumstances, there are parts of PhD work, that have taken a long time to complete, for example a year, that have to be abandoned due to the supervisor’s advice.

If a candidate is humble, it is easier to accept this hard advice. An egoistic student may retaliate, which can create tension between the two. Being humble does not mean one lacks knowledge.

Rather, it shows willingness to be open-minded, which is important because often, a candidate’s methodology, experiments, reporting and arguments are open to improvement or can simply be wrong.

This is where the supervisor steps in. An open-minded person can accept the need for corrections even though the work is already halfway through, but an egoistic person may find it difficult to change what he believes is right though it is wrong.

A doctoral study takes a minimum of three years and six months to complete. But most take longer. The necessity for a supervisee and supervisor to communicate regularly over such a long period, compounded by the rigours of academic criticism, can be challenging and result in relationships going sour.

A lot of patience is required. But if both are humble, good relations between the two can be maintained.

A study by Davis et al (2012) says that those with deeper humility traits are “able to repair relationships and built stronger bonds”. Those who are humble usually have a keen appreciation of others.

True to the laws of nature, if you are good to other people, they will be good to you. Similarly, if a PhD candidate is always appreciative of the supervisor’s teaching, he will earn the supervisor’s appreciation.

As a result there will be a harmonious relationship between the supervisor and supervisee, which will be of tremendous benefit to the candidate.

An Indonesian proverb says: “A smart man is usually humble.” But humility is definitely not the first trait on the list when advising PhD candidates on how to succeed in their academic pursuit.

But, after interacting with humble supervisees, I have concluded that it is as important as academic characteristics. It paves the way for a fine balance.

Discussing and criticising in humility results in a peaceful academic atmosphere, and makes the mentally-draining journey less exhausting. And, the academic relationship blooms, benefiting the bigger academic tapestry.

Developing quality relationships at work

ONCE you have a work-life fuelled by purpose, you will find that your attitude will align itself to this purpose. This consequently sets the stage for the next level in your quest for results.

Everything you ever achieve in life generally, and at work specifically, is significantly impacted by the relationships you forge with others.

This includes your relationships with bosses, colleagues, suppliers, customers, as well as your business associates and mentors. You will need the goodwill of others to progress.

And you can only expect that, if you actively choose to cultivate good relationships. Most people underestimate the value of building good relationships. In 2001, Dr Daryll Hull and Vivienne Read, from the University of Sydney, with backing from the Business Council of Australia, undertook a study to examine some of the top- performing workplaces in Australia, and analyse the reasons for their success. The research then offered insights on what these workplaces had adopted as their best practices.

Their work identified 15 major factors that separated excellent workplaces from the generally good ones. These factors or “drivers” were present to varying degrees in all the outstanding workplaces they surveyed.

The study advocates that organisations can create excellent workplaces. And the characteristics that support an exceptional workplace are discernable, measureable and manageable. It even went on to say that there is no magic in this process. The first of the 15 drivers identified was “the quality of working relationships”.

This simply means that people relating to each other as friends, colleagues and co-workers played a major role in making an excellent workplace.

Organisations that have people supporting and helping each other to get the job done are the most successful ones. In simplistic terms, you are happy to wake up and go to work, with a spring in your step, when you like the people you work with.

Conversely, if you end up working in an organisation with colleagues who are insufferable nitwits who don’t support and help you, it really disheartens you. Many of you spend more of your waking hours with co-workers than your spouses or families.

As such, it is really essential that you work at building quality relationships with the people that you work with. In my experience with training and coaching, team cohesiveness happens only when co-workers forge decent relationships based on mutual respect and understanding.

When I started my firm, EQTD Consulting in 2002, I focused primarily on conducting team building and team dynamics sessions. And you most likely know this narrative.

Your human resource department organises a session where you and your co-workers get bussed to either a seaside location or a hilltop resort.

You all then proceed to spend the next two to three days engaging in all manner of team-building activities that may include jungle trekking, kayaking and some other weird or strenuous action events.

Everyone gets to hold hands and sing along to rousing music that espouses the virtues of working together.

Upon completion of the programme, you would be invited to declare your newfound commitment to your organisation and pledge to work together for a common vision.

But three days after coming back from your trip, when the euphoria of the “ra-ra” session subsides, you would look around your office and nothing much would have changed from before the team-building session.

The people you dislike, continue to annoy you. The conflicts that were present before, remain. Until next year’s team-building event, of course.

Yes, this is the narrative, is it not? I started my life as a corporate trainer conducting these sessions. After some time, it dawned on me that these programmes served a very shallow purpose. The feel-good factor had a limited shelf life.

The commitments that participants made were not sustainable. The motivational element never lasts in people if they are themselves, not grounded on some meaningful purpose.

No amount of team-building activities can create good vibes in an organisation, if co-workers do not establish meaningful relationships.

And meaningful relationships cannot be forged in an artificial or forced environment. After some years of dabbling with the run-of-mill team-building programmes, I recalibrated EQTD’s programme and rebranded it “Making Teams Work”.

The focus became building workplace relationships by first establishing personal purpose for each participant. This was followed by helping them align their personal goals with their organisation’s goals.

Finally, the session would get anchored on co-workers establishing appropriate communication strategies that will help them build strong bonds.

The emphasis moved away from “motivation” to “education”. Team connectivity depends on mature and professional relationships.

And you will function more smoothly together when there is a personal element to your relationship with others in your office. The most successful leaders exemplify how to do this effectively.

They take the trouble to be genuinely interested in the lives of their colleagues, without being obtrusive. Aside from this, you also tend to not contribute ideas in groups that you are unfamiliar with, unless you are an extroverted person.

The situation in Malaysia often gets exacerbated because of our general “over-politeness”. Good ideas get waylaid simply because you don’t communicate with people you are unacquainted with.

Common goals that are clearly communicated, positive after-work experiences and problem-solving successes will contribute to the consolidation of workplace relationships.

Focus on developing good relationships with your co-workers based on respect and trust because this will help you get the results you want. Shankar R. Santhiram NST Opinion You WRite 29 OCTOBER 2016 @ 7:53 AM

Making school days memorable

MANY memories of school days are hard to erase. Remember your first crush? Perhaps your English teacher or the cutie in the next classroom.

Sports day often turned out to be a mini Olympics, thanks to our imagination and enthusiasm. We had a whale of a time during recess, often wondering why friends’ lunch boxes seemed more enticing than ours.

Naturally, getting up early to prepare for school was an irritating task and receiving punishment for being late was a bit of a downer. Yet, it was all worth it because of the friends — our childhood friends, who have proven to be real pals, unlike those we encountered when we entered the workforce — we meet every day. Many Malaysians often say that the best moments of their lives were spent in school.

Many Malaysians often say that the best moments of their lives were spent in school. File pix by IQMAL HAQIM ROSMAN. RECOMMENDED


The recollection of their time in the classroom, school field and with friends remain fresh in the minds of many, often shared each time they gather for a reunion.

They see the school as their second home. Education should be a wonderful experience and not a terrifying one.

Yet, for many young Malaysians today, reminiscing about their childhood would most likely be a painful experience.

They would have few colourful stories to make friends and loved ones laugh, and school reunions are occasions to open old emotional wounds and bring fresh pain in their lives.

They would remember their schools as places where they lost their confidence and carefree ways. They would need hours of therapy for a complete attitude reversal and heal those past scars.

Recent media reports suggest that Malaysian schools are increasingly becoming unsafe for the young — the range of unwelcome things include bullying, gangsterism, truancy, faulty equipment and food poisoning outbreaks.

School administrators and teachers also have to deal with mass hysteria cases, snake bites, mercury contamination, suspected student involvement in terrorism and the shocking alleged rape of a schoolgirl in Malacca by two older pupils.

When violence and other petrifying occurrences emerge in school, they prohibit learning. Some pupils, especially the victims, do not show up because they are frightened.

Those who do not stay away become distracted. They spend their energy worrying. This cannot continue, and keeping pupils, teachers, other staff and visitors safe is something we should care about. How to do it without turning our schools into armed fortresses?

The school head’s first job is to keep pupils out of harm’s way and safety starts with strong leadership. The school administrator and those under his watch must always follow the standard operating procedures because if they do not, they may be liable if something goes wrong.

This include taking precautions to prevent crises and making tough decisions when the unexpected happens. The question is, how many Malaysian schools are observing this practice?

Granted, principals have an important role to play, but they require assistance not only from their staff, but parents as well.

As a society, we must do everything we can to give young learners and teachers the safe spaces they need.

Whither the humanities?

THE scenario of higher education in the world today is characterised by two paradoxical phenomena. On the one hand, there seems to be an unprecedented proliferation of higher educational institutions represented by universities, colleges, academies and research centres.

The internationalisation of education has occurred in a manner unimaginable a few decades ago. On the other hand, the opening up of new institutions, which, while encouraging some innovations, has actually constricted the choice of disciplines and subjects rather than liberalise learning.

The quantitative expansion of higher learning institutions, which resulted in an exponential increase in student enrolment, has not been matched by the qualitative growth of knowledge disciplines, good curricula or teaching methods. In fact, it has instead led to the stultification of many disciplines considered of lesser value to some other disciplines.

Historically, the Humanities have been central to education because they have been seen as essential to creating competent democratic citizens.

The phenomena of democratisation, marketisation, commercialisation and globalisation have indeed had a major impact on education at all levels and the way it is now conceptualised, perceived and pursued.

The goals of education seem to be rapidly changing. Education is no more just about the refinement of the mind and the embellishment of the soul, nor the classical pursuit of the “truth” as it used to be in the past.

Educational empowerment can mean any number of things.

Esoteric, academic and aesthetic knowledge now appear to be less appreciated than practical, technical and hands-on subjects.

The vocational trend of higher education highlighting the skills that it offers, the technology that it brings and the financial rewards that it promises is very obvious. Universities are now more industry- or market-focused and tend to be run by a distant management class at the mercy of student consumers or politicians.

The tendency to compartmentalise knowledge, inherent in this trend, creates and perpetuates perceived value differences between the different kinds of knowledge.

Some knowledge is considered more equal than others and, therefore, is believed to be more valuable. It is profit-oriented universities that now seem to prevail as a result of which the academia is becoming more competitive rather than collaborative.

Universities which claim to be motivated by philanthropic ideals often tend to be more engaged in “conscience laundering”.

Funding is sometimes pumped into universities and educational institutions supposedly to fulfil the corporate social responsibilities of business corporations and philanthropists, although they have often been accused of doing all this to avoid paying income tax. It was against this backdrop that there seems to be little room and respect for the Humanities.

This is probably due to the general perception that the Humanities have lost their appeal, value and usefulness. A degree in the Humanities is believed to be the least sought after. It is further imagined that the Humanities lack a clear disciplinary focus.

The multidisciplinary or transdisciplinary nature of the Humanities is not appreciated. Probably the tendency to use the sustainability or profitability criterion to judge the value of an educational programme has led to the distortion of perspectives.

The value of knowledge has suddenly become reduced to dollars and cents. The measure of the worth of a particular kind or branch of knowledge now tends to be judged on its commercial premise.

Education has been reduced to a tradable commodity. Universities are losing their status as intellectual centres and are increasingly perceived to be merely degree-awarding mills.

The debate that is going on today is not just about the pros and cons of the Humanities as a field of study, but also about how they will fit into the new globalised scenario that is emerging.

One of the negative elements of globalisation is that it tends to standardise everything, including education which is now subjected to global-benchmarking.

There is also a greater inter-relatedness between education, politics, economics, foreign aid and even diplomacy. Bench-marking is now preferred to maintain uniformity.

University ranking is also conducted extensively to monitor and control, and of course, to enhance reputation, positioning and branding of institutions.

There are basically two issues which dominate the debate. One maintains that the value of any discipline, including the Humanities, will be primarily determined by the market.

Thus, the value of the Humanities will be decided by the consumers and the field of study is subjected to the law of supply and demand.

The widespread assumption is that as of now, its value is depreciating very fast because graduates of Humanities are least wanted in the job market.

This line of argument holds that investments in liberal arts education may not be a worthwhile endeavour because they do not necessarily lead to job creation.

The view that education must relate to jobs is now becoming the dominant view everywhere. The other side of the argument resists the attempt to associate the value of Humanities as a field of study in economic terms alone.

The danger of the tyranny of materialism is often emphasised by its critics. It is argued that Humanities, as a field of study, surely have their own worth beyond monetary value.

One of the principal proponents of this position is Martha Nussbaum, the celebrated philosopher who is unwavering in her arguments on the importance of Humanities at all levels of education.

Citing cases in the United States and India, and drawing upon the philosophical ideas of Western and Indian scholars like Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, she argues that there is a direct correlation between the Humanities, democracy and global citizenship. She undercuts the idea that education is primarily a tool for economic growth.

She strongly believes that economic growth does not necessarily translate into a higher quality of life. To her, as the central pillar of liberal education, the Humanities, which encompass a diversity of disciplines and knowledge domains, have been crucial in producing students who are open-minded, able to think critically and are knowledgeable and civic-conscious citizens, who are capable of defending and promoting their rights and responsibilities.

Nussbaum argues that historically, the Humanities have been central to education because they have rightly been seen as essential to creating competent democratic citizens.

Recently, however, thinking about the aims of education has gone disturbingly awry everywhere, including the US, although the tradition of liberal education at all levels of schooling is still relatively strong compared to other nations.

Nevertheless, the obsession with national economic growth has led nations to treat education as though its primary mission is economic productivity rather than to promote thinking, caring, knowing and empathetic citizens.

Nussbaum urges that we resist efforts to reduce education to become a tool of the gross national product. She makes an impassioned call for education to be reconnected to the Humanities to help students become equipped with the right skills and knowledge to assume their democratic responsibilities.

She has also correctly pointed out that “all over the world, programmes in arts and the humanities, at all levels, are being cut away, in favour of the cultivation of the technical. Indian parents take pride in a child who gains admission to the Institutes of Technology and Management; they are ashamed of a child who studies literature, or philosophy, or who wants to paint or dance or sing.”

The spirit of the Humanities, which has promoted critical thought, encouraged daring imagination, developed empathetic understanding of different human experiences and the understanding of the complexities of the world we live in, must not be underestimated.

Omitting Geography to promote History bad for the young

THE Education Ministry has made a pass in History compulsory in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia in 2013 and has introduced it as a subject to Year Four pupils since 2014.

The move to make History as a compulsory subject for SPM students has sidelined the importance of Geography in secondary schools.

Several schools in Seremban have dropped the subject from their SPM list since it is an elective and this, in turn, has seen fewer candidates sit the subject in the Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia examination.

Up to the 1980s, until Form Three, Geography lessons covered all the continents and the subject was compulsory for science stream students in Forms Four and Five. Geography is the study of Earth, which is the fifth largest planet in the solar system, and it is known as Boomi Nool in Tamil, meaning Earth Book.

It helps one to have an understanding of countries and capitals so that one can relate to what one reads in newspapers or watches on television. Studying this living subject helps you to know the climate, fauna and flora of countries.

From trade and commerce, you will know countries’ imports and exports, natural disasters, vegetation, weather, population, occupations, transportation, economy, demography, wildlife, forests, fishery, poultry, urbanisation, agriculture, industries, mining, energy resources, continents and oceans.

Contrary to popular belief that the Netherlands produces only cheese, it is the largest producer of soy sauce in the world. In short, studying Geography helps you to know ethnic groups, cultures, religions and languages of countries.


The move to make History as a compulsory subject for SPM students has sidelined the importance of Geography in secondary schools. Pix by ZUNNUR AL SHAFIQ.

It will help you to plan your travel overseas for vacations as well as to pack the right clothes according to the seasons of the country.

With fewer students studying Geography from Form Four onwards, Malaysians will one day become like the Americans in the 1970s, who thought we were living on trees.

With the present Geography focusing more on Asia, even youngsters are clueless about where football World Cup-winning countries — such as Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Germany, Italy, England and Spain — are located. I recall reading about 11-year-old Tilly Smith, from Oxshott, Surrey, the United Kingdom, who spotted key tsunami signs in the sea in Phuket, Thailand, which she had remembered from a geography lesson two weeks earlier.

Her action saved more than 100 tourists during the 2004 tsunami.

I love History, but killing Geography to promote History is like robbing from Peter to pay Paul, which will be detrimental to the younger generation, who should be taught to love Earth and care for it. I have never regretted studying Geography because I know that I have learnt many things that the rest of the subjects will never be able to offer.

Are these exams really needed?

MORAL and Islamic studies have been part of the national curriculum for primary and secondary schools for many decades. Both are core subjects assessed in the SPM examination and contribute towards the overall academic evaluation of the students.

One question that needs to be seriously asked, however, is whether it is essential to assess students for these subjects via the conventional examination process.

Having obtained A1 in Moral Studies in SPM more than a decade ago, I have to admit that I benefited little from the examination other than improving my memorising techniques.

It still does not make any sense to me how knowing the definitions of moral values or matching a situation with the correct moral values can transform a student to a noble person, which is supposed to be the aim of the subject.

Having to study multiple subjects, Moral Studies merely augments the stress of a student sitting for an examination. To make things worse, this subject has a rigid schematic approach when it comes to the examination, thus further defeating the purpose of the subject especially when open-mindedness happens to be one of the values taught.

Abolishing the Moral Studies examination might be a step in deviating from our current exam-oriented education system. The syllabus should be redesigned to include social work, reading inspiring biographies and watching videos/documentaries about self-discipline or history showing how morality affects humanity.

Instead of having a “dry” learning session, classrooms can be made more interactive by engaging students to discuss the motivation and inhibition they possess to instil moral values in their routine. In addition, students can be guided to keep a diary where they can note and monitor the moral values they have applied in their daily lives. These techniques can help the students to have a better connection with and personal experience of the moral values being taught, thereby achieving the purpose of Moral Studies.

As for Islamic studies, I may not be in the position to comment on how the classes are conducted since I’ve never attended one.

However, I would like to hear from my Muslim friends whether this subject should be an examination-based subject or just a core learning subject without the need for any assessment. Probably, the assessment can be an option for those interested, i.e. those who aspire to have a career in religion, while the rest can just focus on applying the Islamic principles that are being taught.

As knowing and learning are two different acts, examinations can only assess the former but not the latter, which is subjective in nature.

As such, having examination for Moral and Islamic studies, which essentially deal with attitude and application rather than the knowledge itself, has little value in intellectually shaping the students.

It is hoped the Education Ministry would come up with new approaches to enable students to reap the full benefits of the effort, time and money spent on these subjects. Dr Sathya Narayanan Patmanathan The STAR Home Opinion November 1, 2016

Helping teachers to develop professionally

AMONG the reports on Budget 2017 that was announced recently, there was one on the future of the existing 27 Teacher Training Campuses (TTC) in this country.

According to a Bernama report, the Education Ministry explained in a statement last week that nine of these teacher training campuses would be turned into vocational colleges or polytechnics in line with the needs and expansion of technical vocational education and training. Two would be transformed into Permata Development Centres while the others would remain as TTC and would continue to take in new teacher trainees.

Primary and secondary school teachers can expect more continuous professional development (CPD) courses from next year in the TTCs.

CPD courses are vital for in-service teachers in line with the Education Transformation Programme. CPD courses are aimed at equipping teachers with the latest techniques and teaching methodologies and exposing them to critical thinking skills, innovations and higher order thinking skills which they could use when conducting lessons.

Hopefully, coordinators who conduct CPD courses, seminars and workshops for in-service teachers will deliver challenging and innovative presentations and content that will provide participants with an enriching and enlightening experience.

Among the reasons most teachers cite for their dread in attending CPD courses are the nature of the courses and poor course presenters.

To address these problems, the course coordinators should select and appoint presenters who are well versed with the content required. The presenters must be experienced, thorough in their knowledge of content and proficient in their delivery.

Some courses that can be considered for English in-service teachers are How To Train Children for Public Speaking Competitions, Spelling Competitions, Choral Speaking Competitions, Story Telling Contests, Essay Writing Contests and Debating Competitions and How to Organise English Camps, Educational/Field Trips, English Day/Week Activities and English & Nature Games. Information technology (IT) courses would also be a breath of fresh air to teachers.

Finally, organise courses that will train teachers to be markers for the respective papers in examinations such as UPSR (Year Six), PT3 (Form 3), SPM (Form 5) and MUET/ STPM (Form 6).

Such courses will expose teachers to examination marking techniques and how examination scripts are graded and this will help them guide their students on how to answer and score during examinations.

Courses that are conducted for teachers must be relevant and based on their needs analysis so that they will be enriched and in turn enlighten their students in the teaching and learning experience. Samuel Yesuiah The STAR Home News Opinion Letters November 1, 2016

PAC: 1BestariNet plagued by contract mismanagement

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 1 — The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has found the Education Ministry guilty of contract mismanagement in their RM4 billion 1BestariNet project for schools.

In a report tabled at the Dewan Rakyat today, the PAC found the reasoning given by the Education Ministry unacceptable.

"The issue which was raised is from weakness in contract management.


Hasan will be visiting schools that are involved in the project in both cities and rural areas. — Picture by Choo Choy May

"The Parliament PAC cannot accept the reason submitted by the Education Ministry that it was not aware on the value management lab circular," the report read, referring to an Economic Planning Unit (EPU) 2009 circular that makes it mandatory for projects worth RM50 million and above to go through a “value management process”.

The PAC found that the 1BestariNet project did not go through that process.

The committee also recommended for the Auditor General's Department to have a follow-up audit on the project.

“PAC has decided that the Auditor-General’s Department [carry] out a thorough follow-up audit related to the matters raised and to carry out rectification as there are a lot of doubtful expenditures.

“The PAC also wants the Auditor-General’s Department to carry out a study on the effectiveness in implementing the 1BestariNet project,” the PAC said.

The PAC added that further scrutiny should be given in order to "protect government importance".

The PAC led by Rompin MP Datuk Hasan Arifin will also be visiting all schools that are involved in the project in both cities and rural areas.

The project is expected to take 15 years to complete, worth RM4.077 billion involving 10,000 schools.

The 1BestariNet project that aims to provide high-speed 4G Internet access to schools began in 2011. Last year, the Auditor-General’s Report found that the software and equipment were used by just one per cent of students in the participating schools.