June 8th, 2017

Rewards come in other forms

MY colleague Noraini and I walked out of our university’s Human Resources Department after receiving our annual evaluation letters. We stopped to read them in the lounge situated a short distance away.

I stole a look at Noraini to see how she was accepting the content of her letter. We exchanged notes and made our way back to our block.

Understanding that we had been evaluated as mediocre members of the academic staff was difficult but we didn’t allow our inner turmoil to alter our expressions.

We cheerfully greeted other colleagues who were on their way to collect their letters.

I only allowed my facial muscles to relax when I reached my cubicle, a safe haven that I had created for myself.

I took the letter out of the envelope and began to read the content again carefully.

Then I got my calculator from my bag to work out the percentage that I had received as an increment and annual bonus.

It was after a while that I realised the commotion around me. The younger staff members were declaring loudly the percentage they had received and some were complaining while others commented that they were lucky to get a bonus in the first place because the organisation was not doing too well.

Only Noraini and I didn’t participate in the discussion. It was not because we didn’t want to; we just couldn’t bring ourselves to inform the others that we had received the same amount after serving the organisation loyally for more than 15 years.

I started to wonder if I had considered myself to be more valuable than I really was. I also began to question how I had evaluated myself so highly.

It was painful to admit but I truly believed that I deserved more than what I had been given.

As a lecturer, I gave my best to my students without being calculative of the amount of time or energy I had to sacrifice.

I never reported to work late or had unnecessary class cancellations. My classes started and ended on time.

Students’ assignments and exam papers were set and graded in a fair manner.

I understood that most students considered me a tyrant for making the choice to be right rather than popular.

I understood what my strengths were. I also understood my weaknesses, the first one being my inability as an apple polisher in order to enjoy career advancement.

The second weakness was that I worked hard silently without marketing myself well.

These negative attributes, combined with my mildly arrogant character, made it nearly impossible to get into my superior’s good books.

Noraini walked into my cubicle and held my hand. She smiled and said in a comforting manner, “Please don’t look so disappointed. God is fair and His rewards come in different ways.

“You’ve got wonderful children. Remember how you rejoiced when your daughter secured a scholarship to study overseas? Isn’t that more valuable than this? It is best for you to go back home now and concentrate on your son who will be sitting for his SPM exams.”

I smiled and agreed with her. Noraini’s famous words were, “God’s rewards come in other ways.”

It was very necessary for me to listen to this as I needed to remind myself to be thankful.

For the next few months, I continued to work as I always did.

I tried my best to ignore the tiny inner voice which kept whispering that I should learn how to take it easy and enjoy life a little more.

After all, the staff members around me who taught for an hour when they were supposed to teach for two received the same increment.

Many of those who waltzed in and out of the university as they wished received a better bonus than I did.

Noraini continued to motivate me with her powerful words whenever she heard me saying that I should learn to be like the others who took it easy.

It was a magical coincidence that Noraini was beside me when I received a call from my son one afternoon. I stood up as I listened to what he had to say.

Noraini had overheard me informing my son that I was about to make my way home so she stood up and gave me a worried look.

I turned around to give her a big hug and reassure her that it was good news.

My son had received a call to inform him that his application for a scholarship to study engineering overseas had been successful.

I whispered in Noraini’s ear, “God’s rewards come in other ways.”

Manju Kanaran  Nilai, Negri Sembilan The STAR Opinion Letters 8 Jun 2017

Second chance and continuity with TVET

EVERY year after the release of the SPM examination results, there would be much publicity on outstanding students who fail to secure the Public Service Department’s scholarships or places at local public universities. Comparatively, there appears to be little public awareness on the plight of those who fail in their academic pursuit.

A considerable number of them, including drop-outs who failed to meet academic requirements for further study or due to financial difficulty, opt for the job market.

Many of these youths who have not acquired any skill/qualification after leaving school often realise later on the value of a post-secondary qualification for their career advancement/development but often find that they do not qualify for admission into the government training institutes.

Many are in low-paying jobs and do not have the financial capability to enrol in private institutes, which also have to comply with entry requirements set by the Government.

A survey of government technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutes under the various ministries will find that although the upper age limit for many of these TVET institutes has been raised over the years, there is usually an age restriction and, in many cases, a requirement to have completed Form 5/passed SPM and/or to be single (not married) for admission.

At a time when the Government is calling for the workforce and SMEs to scale up their human resource capability, further liberalisation of the admission criteria into TVET institutes is necessary.

There are many late learners/starters who, if given a chance, can add value to their career and the national economy. They should be given a second chance.

Work experience acquired especially in the relevant fields should be suffice to substitute for academic credentials. There should also be more openings for skill-training leading to certification to reset the career of those trapped in mundane jobs with few opportunities for career advancement.

Most of the Malaysian TVET institutes award certifications up to Sijil Kemahiran Malaysia (SKM) Level 2 or 3. To progress with time, especially when Malaysia’s industries are moving to higher skill levels, it is essential to conduct more courses up to Level 4 and 5 to upgrade the workforce. Level 5, which is awarded at higher diploma level, is equivalent to a bachelor’s degree in the academic stream. In fact, the certification could be further taken to a higher level, that of master craftsmanship just like in the German dual vocational training system. This is equivalent to a master’s degree in the academic stream. This will also incentivize more youth to pursue the technical and vocational education route.

It is essential that the TVET pathway be made easier for individuals to pursue at different times of their career. Perhaps we can envisage the scenario based on the famous slogan of AirAsia: “Now Everyone can Study”. Further upscaling of our workforce is critical in fuelling the human resource development of our industries, especially the SMEs, to ensure their competitiveness in the globalised world.

Wee Hui Beh Kajang The STAR Opinion Letters 8 Jun 2017

Teachers must embrace lifelong learning

THE national-level Teacher’s Day celebration 2017 was held in Johor Bahru on May 16. The theme for this year’s Teacher’s Day is “Guru Pembina Negara Bangsa” or “Teachers Foster Nation Building”. This theme emphasises the impact of teachers upon a nation.

Teachers’ contributions and commitments have always been appreciated and therefore, it is not surprising that Malaysian National Laureate Usman Awang also held teachers in high esteem in his poem, “Guru Oh Guru”. In it, Usman describes the teacher’s role in shaping a child’s journey up until he enters the working world.

Teaching is a noble profession whereby teachers play a critical role in building, developing and moulding the future generation. With the advent and advancement in education over the past decade, teaching is becoming more challenging and demanding. Teachers need to keep pace with the fast-changing world of education and meet the demands of the ever-evolving education system.

Teachers are required to develop their skills and abilities throughout their careers in order to make up a quality English teaching force

Teachers who are in the education system, be it those who are beginning their career or currently serving, need to be constantly equipped with new knowledge and skills related to curriculum change, assessment, integration of technologies and resources to meet the educational needs of the 21st century.

The teaching and learning approaches and strategies must empower our children with the Four Cs — Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration and Creativity. Teachers are at the forefront in delivering 21st century education in the language classroom.

The English Roadmap 2015-2025 addresses several important components which directly impact the quality of English language teachers in its aim to raise the standards and quality of English language teaching and learning in schools and higher education institutions to international levels.

The Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) has been adopted for selection into the teacher education programmes, pre-service ELTE curriculum, in-service training programmes and the accreditation of English language teachers.

All English language teachers should achieve CEFR C1 as a minimum requirement. Teachers are required to develop their skills and abilities throughout their careers in order to make up a high quality English teaching force.

The Professional Upskilling of English Language Teachers or known as Pro-ELT is one of the initiatives carried out to uplift the standards of proficiency.

Change is inevitable. If teachers are to remain relevant, they need to move with the times. They need to embrace change and be the agents of change. To uphold this profession and its demands, teachers should make continuing professional development a top priority in their agenda.

Annually teachers who serve in government schools are required to fulfill seven days of professional development by attending courses, seminars or conferences to upskill and upgrade their professional self.

The programmes are well-developed and designed so that teachers are able to transfer their knowledge and competencies into classroom practices which will benefit their students.

The Ministry of Education (MoE) provides a menu of courses that teachers can choose from throughout the year. Most of these professional development and in-service courses are organised and managed by the English Language Teaching Centre (ELTC), Ministry of Education.

Teachers can select the courses based on their needs and related to their field of work. More importantly, teachers are given the autonomy to chart, reflect and assess their own professional development and success.

It is the aspiration of the MoE to raise the percentage of school-based professional development activities or on-site training grounded in the classroom.

Schools are empowered to deliver professional development courses.

The Ministry of Education introduced professional learning communities (PLCs) to schools in 2012 as a professional platform for teachers to work together to improve upon the teaching practices in the language classroom.

The mentoring and coaching system is encouraged among teachers to provide continuous support. This system also enables teachers to learn from one another by sharing best practices.

The support systems to enable schools and teachers to manage changes in the education system are via School Improvement Specialist Coaches (SISC+) and FasiLINUS.

These officers facilitate, coach and mentor teachers by working hand-in-hand with them to address the challenges and issues in the classroom. This collaboration and communication among teachers to improve the quality of education delivered to students epitomises 21st century education.

Such initiatives have shown remarkable improvements in teachers’ professional development through the spirit of collegiality and inculcate a positive and conducive environment.

Becoming a teacher is a lifelong journey with true commitments. This journey includes equipping oneself continually with the knowledge and skills to be an effective and quality teacher.

Having high values and being passionate in teaching and learning is central for sustaining interest in the job.

Possessing a positive attitude towards the diverse learning styles of students and having the ability to accommodate to these varied learning styles requires a teacher to have strong pedagogical content knowledge.

The role of a teacher also includes ensuring that every student’s needs are catered to.

English teachers in the Malaysian context need to be adaptive to classroom situations with diverse students’ backgrounds which can be in the form of culture, ethnicity, languages and religion.

Only by addressing these needs can we ensure that students’ potential in English have been optimised. This is the ultimate aim of education that the nation aspires to and thus put in the hands of the teachers.