English proficiency crucial in nation building

August 22nd, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: The education system must ensure that students are equipped with necessary skills including communication and English language proficiency to join the workforce and develop the nation.

Minister of Education and Innovation Datuk Dr. Yusof Yacob said education is in the forefront of all business and technological advances, and that Malaysia cannot afford to lag behind other countries particularly in the South East Asia region.

He asserted that graduates can no longer wait for jobs to come but instead, create jobs themselves and turn it into industries.

The Malaysian Education Blueprint 2015-2025, he added, has mooted the idea of an Innovation Ecosystem as one of the platforms to enhance the competency of future workforce, which was also a means to boost graduates’ marketability.

He further pointed out that Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir had stressed on the importance of teaching and learning English, giving English Language Teaching (ELT) professionals a fit in producing marketable graduates.

“He (Mahathir) also mentioned that proficiency in English can help generate more employment opportunities. Hence, the ability to master English is part and parcel of producing competitive graduates and the role of the ELT professionals cannot be disputed.

“No matter how good and skilled a person is, ideas remain as ideas if not communicated and utilized.

“English may be the lingua franca, but it is not our mother tongue. Thus, ELT professionals play a vital role in equipping students with essential communication skills to meet the needs of the industry,” he said.

His speech was delivered by assistant minister Jenifer Lasimbang during the opening of the 6th Malaysian International Conference on Academic Strategies in English Language Teaching (My_CASELT), and 3rd Language Invention, Innovation and Design (LIID) Exposition here Wednesday.

Dr. Yusof noted that the new generation of students presents a bigger challenge to educators as access to technological advances have turned traditional classroom into a dull and uninspiring place.

As such, he said educators have to be innovative while ELTprofessionals need to require autonomy in determining ways to connect with the new breed of learners.

“The use of novel ideas and out-of-the-box techniques should be encouraged and facilitated so that academic activities are lively and productive at both mental and emotional levels.

“Accordingly, empowering ELT professionals to use their discretion should be part of our academic agenda,” he said. The two-day event organized by MARA University of Technology (UiTM) Sabah Academy of Language Studies saw more than 120 local and international researchers presenting their research and showcasing their inventions and designs in ELT.

Themed ‘Empowering ELT professionals in a Globalised Environment’ and ‘Empowering Practitioners’ Innovation in Language Teaching’, it was aimed at providing platform for leading ELT experts to discuss and show their research findings on ELT.

According to UiTM vice chancellor Emeritus Prof. Ir. Dr. Mohd Azraai Kassim, it was critical as language fluency and effective communication abilities would enable individuals reach out better to the world.

Stressing on the vitality of language practitioners to move in tandem with today’s development, he said it is crucial to ensure that graduates have relevant knowledge and skills to take on future job challenges.

He added that practitioners need to rethink strategically and use their credentials to offer new learning experience and industry-relevant skills.

“It is also necessary that a lot of effort is put into exploring innovative learning and teaching resources and partnering with other institutions to provide fresh insights that will be of use to not only the academics and students, but more so the communities we serve.

“We must ensure that any new pedagogical thinking is complemented by continuous and innovative curriculum design, training and re-skilling so that no segment of the academic workforce is left behind.

“Hence, in the quest to strengthen students’ commands of English, I believe academics need to keep up with the latest teaching approaches and techniques to cater to the current and future generation of digital natives,” he said. His speech was delivered by deputy vice chancellor Industry, Community, Alumni and Entrepreneurship Network UiTM Prof. Dato’ Dr. Rahmat Mohamad.

By DK RYNI QAREENA.

Read more @ http://www.newsabahtimes.com.my/nstweb/fullstory/32971

Need to tell our young Malaysia’s real history

August 22nd, 2019

AN inclusive history – a truthful, unbiased and balanced historical narrative that encompasses all the facets of Malaysia’s plural society, and inculcates a sense of belonging and identity among Malaysians – is long overdue. We need to construct and build an all-encompassing historical narrative that incorporates the roles and contributions of all communities and captures the full spectrum of the Malaysian past.

An inclusive historical narrative is a vital component in our quest to build “New Malaysia”. It would enable Malaysians, especially the younger generation, to understand the origin of the nation’s plural society.

Unfortunately, our current history textbooks since 1996 continue to be plagued with factual errors, half-truths and blatant disregard of the critical role played by the non-Malays in the development of our beloved nation. An excellent case in point is the current Form Three History textbook which was first published in 2018. It has numerous factual errors, half-truths and omissions of important historical facts but I will only highlight a few.

First, the British North Borneo Company was officially established in 1882 and not 1881.

Second, it was not only the British who were involved in commercial agriculture (as stated in the textbook) but also the Chinese who played a significant role in cultivating pepper, gambier, tapioca and sugar cane. The role of the Chinese in the development of commercial agriculture in British Malaya during the 19th and early 20th centuries is completely ignored.

When I shared this with a leading Malaysian historian, he could not stop laughing. Then he stated bluntly that this is the price the nation pays for mediocrity.

Over the last three decades, high positions in government have become virtually the preserve of Malays, and when did “holding government positions” qualify as an economic activity?

Fourth, the textbook makes no mention of the role of Yap Ah Loy in developing Kuala Lumpur.

Fifth and finally, the role of the Indians and Chinese in the economic development of British Malaya is not given due emphasis, unlike in earlier History textbooks.

The real historical truth, as reiterated by the late Kernial Singh Sandhu (an internationally renowned historian), is that modern Malaya is “mainly the joint creation of British, Chinese and Indian capital, enterprise and labour.”

To conclude, history is a scholarly pursuit and not one which is driven by a political or self-serving agenda. Our beloved nation is the result of the blood, sweat and tears of various ethnic groups working together harmoniously.

We must take pride in our multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural heritage which helps to inculcate a sense of belonging and patriotism among our young.

by Dr Ranjit Singh Malhi.

Read more @ http://www.dailyexpress.com.my/read/3128/need-to-tell-our-young-malaysia-s-real-history/

Wildlife belongs to the wild, not homes

August 22nd, 2019

SEVERAL recent incidents highlighted a disturbing trend of individuals keeping wildlife as pets. The first incident covered in the media was about a sun bear kept in a private residence without a permit.

Within the same week, an endangered Brahminy kite was found in a cage in a private residence, where the protected bird had been illegally held captive for over a year. To the disappointment of Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM), the official custodian of our nation’s wildlife, Perhilitan, did not act on a resident’s complaint filed four times about the caged bird.

These cases are not uncommon.

People are motivated to own an exotic pet by a variety of psychological factors. These include prestige or the desire to be different, according to Dr Michael Gumert, a psychology professor at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.

Obtaining exotic animals is easy and rarely results in penalties. The animals are removed from their habitat in the wild and kept in substandard conditions without proper care, and die or are abandoned. Selling protected wildlife in pet shops or on the Internet is one of the largest sources of criminal earnings, following arms smuggling and drug trafficking. Popular animals sought after are chinchillas, sugar gliders, iguanas, tortoises and turtles, various primates, iguanas and snakes.

SAM’s growing list of concerns about exotic wildlife include:

l The well-known risk of disease transmission to humans.

l Conservation problems in the native countries due to demand of endangered species that contributes to the threat of extinction.

l The ecological effects from released or escaped exotic animals can be serious for local wildlife.

l Lack of eductation among the public.

l Poor regulation of the trade.

SAM strongly opposes the keeping of exotic wildlife as pets and believes that all commercial trafficking in these animals should be prohibited; all pet shops in the country should be monitored. SAM is also calling for a ban on the sale of exotic animals in pet shops. SAM welcomes news of the proposed legislation to ban online advertisement of sales of endangered animals in the amendment to the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010. High priority should be given to preventing this animal abuse and ensuring that species do not suffer at the hands of their captors. However, despite measures taken, the trade in captive wildlife will likely continue until people realise that wild animals are not something that can be confined or owned. Until then, the laws can help prevent these abuses and, hopefully, foster understanding that animals exist for their own sake, not merely to be possessed as “pets”.

By: Meenakshi Raman.

Read more @ http://www.dailyexpress.com.my/read/3140/wildlife-belongs-to-the-wild-not-homes/

Art of good handwriting is vanishing

August 22nd, 2019

IN today’s world, written communication is mostly done by typing on keyboards or screens, such as for emails and social media interactions. We rarely scribble a signature as forms are now digital and transactions are mostly online, which usually requires us to verify our identities by clicking a button or checking a box.

Handwriting is seriously at risk of disappearing. During its glorious era, handwriting was used in numerous forms of communication. Letters, post cards, thank you cards, journals and essays were hand-written. Handwritten letters evoke feelings in readers. It makes them feel close to the writers. They capture a little bit of the writer’s personality. A signature often makes the letter feel more authentic to readers. It is a form of revealing the writer’s identity to the reader.

A research by the National Pen Company in the United States suggests that handwriting gives clues about the writer’s personality. However, this research was conducted based on graphology, which is considered a pseudoscience.

Regardless of its limitations, the research makes some interesting claims. It says those who write in large letters are outgoing, people-oriented, outspoken and love attention. While writing small letters show that someone is shy or withdrawn, concentrated and meticulous. People who are well-adjusted and adaptable write average size letters.

Another aspect included in the research was the spacing between words. Wide spacing shows someone who enjoys freedom and doesn’t like to be overwhelmed or crowded, while narrow spacing is associated with people who can’t stand to be alone and can even be intrusive. The research also analysed the shape of letters, looping, dotting, crossing, pressure and page margins.

Handwriting was, once upon a time, an important subject in schools. Some countries have dropped the subject from the curriculum, but a few still teach it. Learning to write is a process about crafting our unique writing style. It is during this time that one finds his signature and handwriting style.

A research published in 2000 by professors from the University of Maryland, US, showed that instructions on improving a child’s handwriting can improve the child’s writing ability.

Sheldon Horowitz, senior director at the National Center for Learning Disabilities in the US, said children who practised handwriting performed better in reading and spelling tasks. The rationale behind the link, Horowitz suggested, was that forming letters by hand while learning about the sounds of the letters activates reading circuits in the child’s brain.

An article published in the Reading Rockets magazine talks about the importance of handwriting as a basic tool used in any subject in school, from taking notes, taking tests and doing classroom work to homework. It argues that poor handwriting can have a negative effect on school performance.

A more recent research published in 2012 in the Trends in Neuroscience and Education journal analysed the effects of handwriting experience on functional brain development among pre-literate children and found that handwriting is vital for early recruitment in letter processing of brain regions related to successful reading.

Whether we like it or not, technological gadgets have invaded our world; reading and writing are no exceptions. Most people now read news and books digitally. Crossword puzzles and sudoku, used to be completed with a pencil, are now available as mobile apps. Recipes, used to be written and compiled in a book, are now available as tutorial videos on YouTube. In this shift, pens, pencils and paper will soon be artefacts of the past.

When handwriting no longer exist, some information may not be traceable anymore. Information on whether the writer was in a hurry or took time crafting a letter cannot be discovered through print writing or digital texts. For instance, a piece of writing with multiple misspelled words simply means the writer can’t spell well. The beauty of handwriting may not survive. It may one day be gone and treated as artefacts in museums.

By: Dr Astri Yulia.

Read more @ http://www.dailyexpress.com.my/read/3138/art-of-good-handwriting-is-vanishing/

Edu fund for deserving youths urged

August 20th, 2019
By: David Thien

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s unemployment rate of more than 5 per cent can be lessened with up-skilling education of the unemployed in workforce.

The Persatuan Institusi Pendidikan Tinggi Swasta Sabah (PIPTSS), supports Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Mohd Shafie Apdal for Sabah to reinforce its quality human capital with the focus on producing educated and talented workforce with good values.

PIPTSS President Datuk Seri Panglima Wong Khen Thau said he supports Shafie’s call “to ensure quality human capital to lead the future development of Sabah particularly in industrialisation.”

Wong said “Education is the catalyst to sustainable economic growth,” adding that PIPTSS aims to provide educational opportunities to deserving students in Sabah, especially student from poor rural districts or families.

“A developing state like Sabah needs such emphasis to educate and train our youths to become catalyst of transforming Sabah’s economy and industries.

“Investment in education is for the benefit of the state and for the benefit of the people of Sabah,” he stressed.

Wong is also the Honorary Life President of the Federation of Sabah Industries (FSI), besides being the Chairman of Malaysia International Chamber of commerce and Industry (MICCCI) Sabah Chapter.

“Without quality human resource capital, it will be difficult for Sabah’s industries, companies, employers and the state to compete and progress forward in an increasingly borderless global market with rising challenges,” he said.

PIPTSS to appealed to Shafie for support to establish an education fund bank for the sole purpose of helping deserving youths, particularly from the smaller towns and interior of Sabah.

Research shows the core challenge for youths from the rural interior and smaller towns of Sabah is the higher costs of living in Sabah’s capital city.

Many of their families lack the capacity to make ends meet, what more to support their children in continuing their higher education.

Many students are marginalised in Sabah. By this we mean that those who may have interest in continuing their education, but are hampered by financial constraint and do not pursue higher qualifications.

According to Wong, with an annual support fund allocation provided by the State government, needy students can apply for study fund such as transportation, accommodation, meals and a token living allowances with proof of eligibility of their total family income below RM3,000 with four or more siblings or dependents, with disability or ailment, evaluated and approved by a PIPTSS panel.

“PIPTSS will handle the administration and disbursement of the fund in a coordinated and transparent manner to serve the purpose of providing for the under-privileged and deserving students.

“PIPTSS wants to help our youths and give them the opportunity to study at higher institutions which eventually bring them out of poverty by transforming them into a skilled and knowledgeable work force and ultimately improve the economy of Sabah and Malaysia,” Wong said.

He p ointed out that PIPTSS members offer many training courses and academic programmes, which are directly relevant to the economy of Sabah.

The fields range from business to science, medical sciences, technology, hospitality, tourism and even to the emerging creative arts of studies such as music, arts and design.

He highlighted that data from the Ministry of Education Enrolment Statistics shows about 40,000 students sat for the SPM (32,000) and STPM (8,000) each year in Sabah, half of them did not proceed to pursue any kind of higher education.

“This is an alarming number and if this problem is not addressed, it will not only bring long term economic impact to the state but will also bring about social issues in the long run, if the state does not leverage on these youths and help them gain a role in our nation building process.

“This has a bearing on Sabah’s ability to elevate from the doldrums of being categorised as a poverty state, despite the richness of its resources.

“Sabah competitiveness will be degraded and impacting more reliance on foreign workers and talents. This will present a threat of unbalancing the social status of the people of Sabah.

“If PIPTSS does not take action with regards to the deterioration of our human capital, the progress of Sabah’s economy may be stalled in the very near future due to the lack of qualified personnel and talents, Wong elaborated.

Therefore, he said, PIPTSS seeks to address these issues by providing all youths in Sabah a deserved opportunity to seek higher education.

Funds are needed to provide three different type of assistance to deserving students:

l Full sponsorship that covers tuition fees, accommodation, transportation, meals and a token living allowance.

l Partial sponsorship that covers (a) tuition fees, and a token allowance, (b) accommodation, transportation, and a token living allowance, (c) a token living expenses to deserving students.

l Full loan that covers tuition fees, accommodation, transportation, meals and a token living allowance.

“The funds will be administered directly between the institution and PIPTSS, without being disbursed through the student to prevent any mismanagement or misuse of fund by the students, i.e. except for the living allowances token where it will be disbursed on a monthly basis.

He also revealed that the reduction of PTPTN loan has also contributed to a drop in student enrolments to study in institutions of higher education.

“The PTPTN loan has been cut by 25 per cent and consequently, the students are only getting 75 per cent of their need which is not sufficient to cover even their programme fee itself.

“The implication for students, especially those from outstation rural areas is severe considering their need for living expenses from transportation, accommodation, meals etc.

“It’s not surprising many financially challenged students dropped out of institutions of higher learning before graduation, with the burden of having to service their PTPTN loans.

“Since the government have been supporting the independent Chinese school, PIPTSS would also like the Sabah government to support local private educational institutions of higher learning (IPTS) and to develop Sabah as an education hub, just like Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Sarawak and Johor Bahru.

“With the education autonomy given to Sabah and Sarawak and the government’s initiative to increase the workforce’s minimum salary to RM1,100 towards RM1,500 eventually, PIPTSS would like to work and help the state government in fulfilling the arduous task of creating a huge pool of very productive human capital for economic growth.

“PIPTSS members have the capability and capacity to train and provide education to as many students as possible by encouraging students who have completed their SPM and STPM levels to study in local colleges and universities and thereafter, contribute to the economy of Sabah.

“The quality of education in Sabah is at par with those in Peninsular Malaysia and other parts of the world. It is noted that education in Sabah is one of the cheapest in Malaysia,” Datuk Wong Khen Thau stressed.

The Persatuan Institusi Pendidikan Tinggi Swasta Sabah, also known as PIPTSS, was registered in 2005.

Presently, there are 12 members altogether, namely:

1.     Kinabalu Commercial College (KCC), established 1968.

2.     AMC, The School of Business, established 1985.

3.     Sabah Institute of Arts (SIA), established 1990.

4.     Kolej Teknikal Yayasan Sabah (KTYS), established 1990.

5.     INTI College Sabah (INTI), established 1995.

6.     Asian Tourism International College (ATI College), established 1996.

7.     MSU College (PTPL College), established 1999.

8.     Institut Sinaran, established 2002.

9.     SIDMA College, established 2003.

10.  Almacrest International College, established 2004.

11.  North Borneo University College, established 2006.

PIPTSS is committed towards helping Sabah youths in overcoming their financial challenges, with the help of the Sabah government, so that our youths can be qualified as quality human capital assets who are able to strongly impact the economic landscape of Sabah and forge a better future for all in Malaysia

By: David Thien

Read more @ http://www.dailyexpress.com.my/news/139585/edu-fund-for-deserving-youths-urged/

3,000 jobs up for grabs at 2nd Sabah Career Roadshow

August 17th, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: Over 3,000 job vacancies will be up for grabs, offered by 125 companies as the 2nd edition of the Sabah Career Roadshow revs up the state capital beginning on August 19.

“There will be wider job prospects awaiting job-seekers being offered by quality and credible employers joining the five-day roadshow from throughout the country, with minimum salary starting at a range of RM1,100,” said Director of Sabah Labour Department, Kamal Pardi at the press conference announcing the event yesterday.

Calling on job seekers and local youth to join the event, Kamal noted prospective employers include reputable and renowned firms such as Korean tech giants, Samsung and other companies which offer numerous benefits, including excellent boarding services for those interested to start their careers in Peninsular Malaysia.

“For youths who haven’t found jobs or those looking for better jobs, this is a priceless opportunity to kickstart your future careers at the career roadshow which will begin at Tabung Haji Kota Kinabalu,” said Kamal, noting this installment of the programme will take the roadshow to five districts throughout Sabah.

He noted the programme, headed in a joint collaboration between the Sabah Labour Department and the State Human Resources Department, was initiated at the request of Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, who is expected to officiate the launching of the event on August 19.

The career roadshow, involving teams of 4X4 vehicle convoy, will travel to selected locations which include Kota Kinabalu (August 19), Kudat (August 20), Kota Marudu (August 21), and Ranau (August 22) before the closing ceremony at Keningau (August 23).

Kamal highlighted the programme had a high rate of success in helping job seekers find employment, noting the first edition of the roadshow, held earlier this year had managed to help over 4,000 job seekers land jobs.

“Through this roadshow, we look forward to bringing job opportunities closer to home for job-seekers and youths who can save the cost of traveling long distances in search of jobs,” he said.

He reminded job-seekers to be punctual, dress decently and appropriately for job interviews which will be arranged by employers who are keen to hire suitable candidates on the spot if the interview is successful.

Adding on, Kamal also invited members of the public to join the roadshow, noting there will also be numerous skills training opportunities being offered during the programme. Among those who attended press conference included Principal Assistant Director of the Department of Human Resources Development (Skills Taining Sponsorship Division), Celestina Aaron.

By MOHD IZHAM HASHIM

Read more @ http://www.newsabahtimes.com.my/nstweb/fullstory/32841

Create education system that’s ours

August 16th, 2019
The Jawi-khat issue just scratches the surface of the pluralistic Malaysian community. Until we stop being suspicious of each other and build an education system that is uniquely ours, we will remain fragmented. — NSTP Archive

TO understand the Jawi-khat issue, we should refer to the historical development of education in Malaysia.

As much as we have tried to mould an education system that is distinctively ours, the current system is one that began during the British colonial period.

During those years, communities were segregated according to economic activities. This was done purposefully.

Each community had a role to play.

The British assumed the governing role, Malays were responsible for cultivating the fields, the Chinese to manage mining and businesses, while Indians were confined to rubber estates and plantations.

This segregation was solidified when the British allowed each community to chart its own educational endeavour as there was no clear education policy.

The Malays had their own schooling system, which provided education up to primary level.

The Chinese imported teachers and textbooks from China, which had strong Chinese ideology.

Tamil-medium schools were run by untrained teachers in rundown facilities.

Finally, English-medium schools were reserved for the royals and elites.

As the multiple education systems had no coherence and cohesion, it exacerbated the division among the communities.

During the pre-independence era, there were two important education reports — Barnes Report (1951) and Fenn-Wu Report (1952).

The Barnes Report, written by the British, proposed a national school system, where primary vernacular schools maintained one single standard curriculum.

The Chinese objected this as they felt the recommendations centred on Malay supremacy.

This led to the Fenn-Wu Report, which stated that while the Malay language is to be treated as a principal language, there should be provision to recognise Chinese and Tamil as important components in defining the then-Malaya identity.

One of the core arguments was that unity could still be achieved, albeit through multiple mediums of instruction in schools.

The Barnes Report was unsuccessful and to avoid conflict, English-medium national schools were implemented according to the 1952 Education Ordinance.

As much as we have developed over the years, embracing modernity and a progressive mindset, our historical education system continues today.

May 2018 was a monumental moment. For the first time in its history, Malaysians changed the government.

New Malaysia — we thought we have moved away from race-based politics. But the current political scenario appears very much to be linked to race-based ideology.

Malays are reflected through Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia or Bersatu, and to some extent PKR, while DAP represents the Chinese and Indians.

In today’s market-driven world, education is strongly correlated to the economy.

A good education system is a precursor to a strong economy. How is the education system preparing our citizens to face the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

How can Science and Mathematics in English make Malay-sians marketable and employable, regionally and internationally?

Why isn’t coding implemented in English?

Why is the education system lagging behind Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand in international assessments such as The Programme for International Student Assessment?

The narrative has always been “us versus them”, typically used to highlight the ethno-religious division of Malay Muslims against Chinese and Indian non-Muslims.

Everything in Malaysia is interpreted from a racial lens.

The race-based political parties and education system magnify our differences.

Education reforms will merely act as a Band-aid as the wound runs deep.

Often, Malaysians love to draw comparisons with Singapore.

The first thing Singapore did upon being a separate country in 1965 was to fix its diverse education system to have a single-stream primary education.

The Jawi-khat issue just scratches the surface of the pluralistic Malaysian community.

Until we stop being suspicious of each other and build an education system that is uniquely ours, we will remain fragmented.

By PRAVINDHARAN BALAKRISHNAN.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/letters/2019/08/513153/create-education-system-thats-ours

NST Leader: How have we come to this?

August 16th, 2019
New Malaysia is no place for bigotry and slander

MALAYSIANS, for the longest time, have always been divided over issues of race, but never more so now. The propensity to quibble about the most trivial to the most controversial, be it in politics or social relations, is particularly trying. In recent weeks, a metamorphosis of sorts seems to have occurred.

Almost everything has a racial tone to it, from religion and education to culture and tradition. The “us-versus-them” mentality has taken over, and some Malaysians are acting with reckless abandon.

Values dear to our forefathers are set aside — we don’t acknowledge the differing views and we’ve stopped all manner of decorum. Of course, communal tensions are nothing new. But fanning them repeatedly with subliminal messages is dangerous.

How have we come to this? Where is the respect and honour? Inflammatory utterances by controversial preacher Dr Zakir Naik, for instance, have further fuelled the fire of racial antagonism and diluted the cohesive unity of post-Merdeka Malaysia.

He should have known better. As a strong advocate of peace, he should remain tactful, especially when confronted with a sensitive social construct such as ours.

True, Zakir’s crusade is as sincere enough as it is with other Muslim missionaries, but it is that sincere message which is mistaken and potentially dangerous. It may be necessary to remind Zakir that Malaysians are born here, hence, he should not be allowed to offer views on our affairs, or compare Malaysia’s political landscape with India.

To cite an example, a well-known acupuncturist from Kuala Terengganu, who had been toiling Malaysian soil as one of her sons for seven generations, would be devastated at such a brazen attack, moreover by a foreigner who has taken asylum here.

To deport Zakir or strip him of his permanent resident status will lead to more controversy in the Muslim world. Malaysia has done much in providing a safe harbour for Zakir, so it is only common decency for him to keep his tongue in check.

Otherwise, a gag order may be warranted, especially on combustible issues. Let this serve as a reminder to other permanent residents that peace and harmony are essential to a nations’s security and should be protected.

And what of Dong Zong? The educationist group should live up to its name as a proponent of education, culture and development. Over the years, the group has morphed into a Chinese hardliner, insensitive to the interests of other races.

Indeed, times are exciting for Malaysians with such mercurial issues for media organisations to deliberate and publish, but industry players must bear in mind that we have a duty to disseminate fair and unbiased information, as well as good and happy news and as purveyors of peace in line with journalistic ethics.

Racial disunity will lead to a volatile climate and not only affect peace and public order, but the economy will be the hardest hit. Let our commonalities prevail over our differences and let not the introduction of Jawi or other matters divide us. Accept and embrace.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/leaders/2019/08/513155/nst-leader-how-have-we-come

Educational dilemmas rest on social dilemmas

August 15th, 2019
Education success in plural societies should address the issues which drive social disintegration and enflame social distrust. (NSTP/SHARUL HAFIZ ZAM)
By James Campbell - August 14, 2019 @ 10:32am

IN plural and ethnically diverse societies, the success of educational reform depends upon the extent to which the broader society can address the problems of communalism, social division and fragmentation.

A sense of inclusivity, what some may call much needed social integration or social cohesion, is needed to overcome the constant pull of sectional division in ethnically divided societies.

Given the seemingly interminable way in which racial and religious divisions impact on educational debates and the best efforts of reformers, social reintegration and cohesion are both laudable and necessary objectives if much needed educational reform in societies such as Malaysia is to succeed.

J.S. Furnivall, who is well known to historians and political scientists for his critique ‘Plural Society’, is arguably not as well known for his observations in regard to education.

Yet Furnivall’s observations with respect to education are worth pointing out since they point to an essential characteristic of the educational dilemma in plural societies that stares at us plainly and uncomfortably.

According to Furnivall, “Education, then, is the sum of all those processes which fit the youth for social life.”

Note that education here is not defined simply as instruction nor is it limited to what goes on in educational institutions such as schools and universities.

Furnivall argues in fact that there is “a tendency to confuse education with instruction”.

Education in Furnivall’s opinion is wider and more complex than the narrow confines of formal instruction in universities and schools although it obviously includes that.

In this observation, Furnivall appears to be in good company. Educational thinkers such as John Dewey, to cite just one example, point out that education properly understood is a broad process of growth and social development.

As Furnivall points out, if a society is utterly fragmented, lacking in social integration and cohesion, then this begs the question to what extent such societies can achieve their educational aims.

What does it mean to say one is educated in circumstances where social division distrust and animus crowd out efforts at understanding and social integration?

In extreme cases of communally divided societies where any reform or positive step is torn apart by sectional interests and division, it can be tempting to ask if a society understood in any normative and integrated sense exists at all.

Furnivall argues much the same when he points out regarding the legacy of colonialism that: “Everywhere in the Tropical Far East there has come into existence a Plural Society, held together not by tradition or religion but by little more than the steel framework of the law in a society in which distinct social orders live side by side but separately within the same political unit.

“In circumstances such as these, the social life within each community tends to be disintegrated, and there is, moreover, no all-embracing social life. In the strict sense of the word, there is no society. If, then, education is the sum of all the processes which fit the child as a member of society, how can he be educated where society does not exist?”

The problem of education in plural societies is thus according to Furnivall a problem closely connected to the way in which society is integrated and made cohesive.

Wider cultural social, political and economic dynamics inform what it is to be educated. These wider dynamics impact on the discourse of educational reform and instructional practices in diverse ways.

Some people may think that if only politics, social issues, economics and culture could be kept out of education, then educators could focus on the practical problems of instruction free from outside influence. This, however, is a pipe dream.

The problems of education have always been deeply cultural, economic and political. In plural societies, the problems of social division, distrust conflict and competition are never far from educational debate.

Rather than viewing such forces as somehow extraneous to education, as if we could somehow ignore them, we need to view them as a critical part of our educational problem.

Societies divided by sectional interests, ripped apart by racial and religious division, will necessarily view all educational reform and proposals through the prism of conflict and social competition.

In such societies the problem of education and the success of educational reform will ultimately rest on addressing the wider inequalities and divisions which result from the colonial inheritance of plural society.

Educational success in such societies is therefore not simply limited to how we advance practical instruction within schools, universities and other educational institutions. Rather, success in educational reform rests ultimately upon addressing the issues which drive social disintegration and enflame social distrust. These issues incessantly pose basic dilemmas for policy makers, educators and citizens alike and their resolution would greatly add to the success of educational reform.

By James Campbell.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/education/2019/08/512679/educational-dilemmas-rest-social-dilemmas

Is university research good for teaching?

August 15th, 2019
Research-inspired scholars and academics will be able to expose their students to new ideas, discoveries and knowledge through first-hand experience.

THE main role of academics at universities is to teach and do research. There are differing points of views that argue the two activities could either complement or contradict each other.

In fact, there have been allegations where academics who are too focused on research fail to bring the same level of enthusiasm to the lecture halls in their role of imparting knowledge to their students, thus affecting the quality, or bringing about a negative impact on teaching.

Associate Professor Dr Wan Zuhainis Saad, the director of the academic excellence division at the Ministry of Education’s department of higher education, noted that for academics it is very easy to quantify research work in terms of the amount of grants or number of publications, and in many promotion exercises, research outputs were given big scores.

“For young staff, the career path is very clear for promotion through research but not so in teaching. Subsequently, teaching staff will focus more on their research work and just fulfil the minimum requirements of teaching,” she pointed out.

“Research can be impactful in a positive way for teaching if researchers are able to connect their findings to the relevant courses or give opportunities to undergraduate students to participate in the research work in their labs,” Wan Zuhainis added.

But she remarked that it would be different or the other way around if researchers were doing research merely for the sake of it, with no connection to the curricula or undergraduate teaching.

THE IMPORTANCE OF RESEARCH

Being involved in research as a student will increase independence of thought, bring about a more intrinsic motivation to learn, and enable for a more active role in learning.

Professor Dr Ishak Yussof, the pro-vice chancellor (Strategy & Corporate Development) at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), said research projects bring new information and knowledge that should be shared with students.

“The traditional roles of a university are teaching and research with the aim of developing society and contributing positively to the national economic development. Thus, the function of universities apart from offering education necessary for personal development, is to provide professional training for high level jobs required by the country’s economy. It is crucial to ensure that the university’s research is being used in the teaching and learning processes,” he revealed.

Professor Mahendhiran Nair, the deputy president (Research and Development) at Monash University Malaysia, said, “Research connects us to new knowledge in the field; identifies limitations of current knowledge; informs us on what needs to be studied, re-examined and researched further; and what measures to take to overcome the limitations of current knowledge. Research is essential to update one’s knowledge base and to enable a horizon of new possibilities,” he said.

“Only research-inspired scholars or academics will be able to expose their students to new ideas, discoveries and knowledge through first-hand experience. All others are borrowed experiences and ideas.

“Furthermore, research-intensive universities across the globe are also at the forefront of innovative and creative course curriculum design and teaching pedagogy. Through their research, they will not only continuously improve their courses, but keep these courses updated in a world that is constantly changing at a rapid pace,” he divulged.

“Research is not just about extending and generating new knowledge, but it is also about solving problems and evaluating current policies and practices,” said Professor Dr Mohamad Kamal Harun, deputy vice-chancellor (Academic and International) at Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM).

“Any part of research — identification of the problem, the theories, the methodology or the findings — can be teaching topics and classroom discussion points. Academics are tasked to nurture critical thinkers and innovators, thus students too must be exposed and able to dissect current problems and provide possible solutions,” he said.

RESEARCH IN THE CLASSROOM

According to Professor Dr Noorsaadah Abd Rahman, deputy vice-chancellor (Research & Innovation) at Universiti Malaya, given the right pedagogy and lesson plans, research and teaching can complement one another.

“For example, lecturers who are doing research on a particular topic would be able to formulate assignments and group work that are more hands-on and practical, hence allowing for a deeper sense of thought towards the topic rather than imparting superficial or second-hand knowledge from textbooks or references provided by third parties — such as the authors,” she pointed out.

At Universiti Malaya, in addition to research in their respective fields, Noorsaadah said lecturers are also encouraged and given support to conduct research on their own teaching practice, through a relatively small grant known as Learning Improvement & Teaching Enhancement Research (UM LITER).

“Lecturers who undertake Scholarship of Teaching & Learning (SoTL), Action Research and Educational Research, are able to use the findings from their research to update their curriculum design, improve teaching delivery and most importantly, enhance student learning,” she said.

“For a research university like UKM, it is normal to bring research to the classrooms, not only for science or technical-based subjects but also among the social sciences classes.

“For science-based subjects, it is compulsory for the students to get involved with laboratory works which are frequently closely related to research projects especially among postgraduate students. For technical subjects like engineering or IT (Information Technology), students are frequently being asked to come up with projects to produce prototypes which are also research-based,” said Ishak.

Research elements are also embedded in the teaching and learning of social science subjects.

“Students conducting surveys or undertaking special investigations on specific issues will present their findings in the classroom under close supervision by their lecturers, which is a norm among social science students.

“To strengthen and further encourage such practices, UKM has decided to award 50 per cent of the tuition fees in the form of research grants to lecturers who supervise research students. In doing so, we believe that students will benefit in terms of pioneering frontier knowledge through research activities,” he revealed.

To bring research to the classroom, Mahendhiran said traditional and didactic teaching approaches must give way to more creative and experiential learning approaches, supported by building strong fundamental knowledge to discover the truth using the best scientific methods, innovations and knowledge.

“Sound fundamental knowledge supported by experiential learning with a dash of passion and inspiration will go a long way in helping students contextualise and apply what they learn in life. It will be an excellent recipe to enrich their learning experience and quality of life,” he said.

PATHWAY CHOICES

But does this mean that academics should put more focus on research at universities?

Professor Dr Kamila Ghazali, the deputy vice-chancellor (Academic & International) at Universiti Malaya, said the institution puts equal emphasis on both teaching and research.

“We do not lose sight of one over the other as both are very important for the university and country. In terms of annual appraisals as well as the promotion exercise, research is assessed based on the output and acquisition of grants, while teaching is assessed based on student evaluations of courses taught and supervision of postgraduate students.

“Many universities including Universiti Malaya are now offering lecturers the option of building their academic careers either via Research Pathway or Teaching Pathway, where theoretically, innovative curriculum design, excellent teaching, along with impactful research in Teaching & Learning (T&L) will be assessed,” she shared.

At UiTM, four pathways are adopted in determining an academic’s career — Inspiring Educators, Accomplished Researchers, Experienced Practitioners and Institutional Leadership describe the attributes needed to be an accomplished academician.

“While they cannot be mutually exclusive, in most cases, academics tend to display some strengths over another. Researchers, for example, tend to fare better in research activities compared to institutional leadership and as such, their promotional exercises shall consider all indicators and outputs like research grants, publications, patents etc,” said Mohamad Kamal.

“However, academics who spend more time in the classroom and curriculum construction such as those in the teaching and learning track are also expected to do research in order to enhance innovation in teaching and learning.

“This also includes action research. The findings of this type of research is equally publishable and can make an impact in the teaching of the subject matter. There are many learning problems that are yet to be solved, and there are also advanced technologies bringing new challenges that require exploration and research as to how students can learn the best,” he said.

STUDENTS’ SAY

Muhammad Afiq Hariz Khatem, who is studying for a Bachelor in Business Administration Entrepreneurship at UiTM, believes that academicians who are heavily involved in research make good teachers.

But they have to be able to also focus on their students through an innovative way of communication and learning to make sure that students are well taken care of even if the lecturers have time constraints.

“For me, the best is if the academician has field work experience in the courses that they are currently teaching. The sharing of past research and being involved in research as a student would increase independence of thought, resulting in a more intrinsic motivation to learn, and a more active role in learning,” said Muhammad Afiq.

On being involved in a lecturer’s research, he said the university should set some rules on the extent of student involvement to avoid them being used unscrupulously.

“The student should have a minimal role that is based on the consensus of the students and the university, and they should also receive certain credits in terms of financial aid or other benefits in some way as they are fully committed in the research,” he said.

Ummie Carmiela Norsam, a Bachelor of Mass Communications (Honours) Public Relations student at UiTM, also shares similar concerns about time management where academic-researchers are concerned.

“Based on my experience, some of my lecturers who are doing research and teaching simultaneously, don’t really know how to use their time properly. They will come late to class or they would not show up at all. They rarely do class replacements, instead they give extra assignments which I doubt will be of benefit to students,” she said.

On being involved with the academics’ research, she said it would be a win-win situation for both parties.

“It will benefit the lecturers as they will be able to garner different perspectives from their students, and the students will most likely gain knowledge by helping their lecturers.

“However, when the lecturers main motive is only to get ideas from the students then it becomes unfair, unless the lecturer credits them in his or her research. Thus, it’s more preferable for a lecturer to focus on one thing at a time,” she opined.

Samuel Loh Yung Jian, who is pursuing a Bachelor of International and Strategic Studies at Universiti Malaya, commented that academicians at institutions of higher learning need to have exposure to research. Not only does this improve their soft skills, he said it also helps to provide knowledge and insights from a more empirical perspective.

“If my lecturers have a holistic portfolio, that enhances their ability to deliver knowledge and educate. Nonetheless, there are those who are too academic and incapable of delivering what’s needed to their targeted audience, and heavy involvement in research does increase such a risk,” he remarked.

Loh also said that being involved in a lecturer’s research is a matter of personal preference.

“Personally, I like the challenge that comes with involvement. Not only does it help me to learn new things outside of the lecture hall, it also improves my soft skills in many areas. However, depending on the course, I too prefer having lecturers that are focused on teaching — at the very least, lecturers who can make time for their students for consultations. Lecturers from my department balance that well, and I am able to meet them outside the classroom for consultations, despite their busy schedules,” he said.

Fardila Mohd Zaihidee, who is pursuing a PhD in Electrical Engineering at Universiti Malaya after obtaining a Master of Engineering (Mechatronics), is of the opinion that researchers do make good, if not better, teachers.

Research projects bring new information and knowledge that should be shared with university students.

“Every academician can teach theories to students, but only those who are involved in research can relate the theories to current scenarios and future developments in their field. Furthermore, with an in-depth understanding from their experience in research, they can provide relevant examples and analogies to further support the theories being taught,” she said.

For Fardila, hands-on activities enable her to understand theories better, which helps to generate interest in her area of study.

“As the field evolves, research activities allow me to connect the theories I have learnt to recent enhancements in that field. Involvement in research creates a more effective learning environment, where theories are applied in real-world situations.

By Rozana Sani.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/education/2019/08/512695/university-research-good-teaching