Bid to get MUET global recognition

December 8th, 2016

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian University English Test (MUET) is set to become an internationally-recognised English qualification.

Malaysia Examination Council (MPM) chairman Prof Datuk Seri Dr Mohamed Mustafa Ishak said efforts were underway to align the Malaysian test with the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR).

“The plan is to have the new test and specification match the European standards so that it can be marketed internationally especially for international students planning to further their studies in Malaysia,” he told a press conference at Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia.

MUET is the English language competency examination taken by local students as a requirement to enter local public and private universities.

“The European framework is a benchmark (for English proficiency) and this would make the local test comparable to the International English Language Testing System (IELTS),” he said.

Prof Mohamed Mustafa said the decision to have the Malaysian test benchmarked against the European framework was made based on a study done by MPM, the Performance and Delivery Unit (PADU), the Education Ministry and Cambridge English Language, England, last year.

The study is to ascertain if MUET matches the standards outlined in the CEFR for ascertaining language proficiency.

Based on the findings of the report by Cambridge English Language, he said it showed the Malaysian test has an “almost similar” standard with the framework.

“This means that highly competent candidates would score a high band in both the tests,” he said.

He said the study revealed that Band 6 in MUET was equivalent to Level C2 in CEFR.

Both Band 6 and Level C2 are the highest grade one can score in these examinations.

He said Cambridge English Language would be helping and advising the MUET Test Syllabus and Specification Aligning Committee to ensure the English examination matches the European framework and was accepted internationally.

Prof Mohamed Mustafa added that the fine-tuning exercise was expected to be completed in 18 months.

He said MPM was planning to launch “MUET on Demand” in 2018, a form of e-testing that would enable candidates to take the examination at any time, rather than the fixed sessions held in March, July and Novem­ber each year.


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Analysing Skills Help Draw Students To Science

December 8th, 2016

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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 7 (Bernama) — Science educators in the country should use learning methods which emphasise analysing skills to attract students to the subject.

A Professor Emeritus at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Prof Datuk Dr Mazlan Othman said the skill would instill in the student a sense of curiosity, thus encouraging them to study science.

Mazlan, who was formerly the Director in the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) in Vienna, Austria, said the study of science using analysis skills would open up the minds of the students to think analytically what they were studying and looking at.

“For instance, when a person is using a microphone, we want the students to think about how it functions and not just knowing its function.

“This method would give a new dimension and view of the Science subject which was previously considered boring and difficult to understand,” she told Bernama after attending the Mini Ekspo Planet & Sains program organised InfoLibNews Bernama at Wisma Bernama here today.

She said the field which includes such subjects as Biology, Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics also had unlimited job opportunities.

“They can choose to get into careers connected to Science or others, as all the elements are needed and used in every job in the world,” she said.


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Sharing ideas through tech tools

December 7th, 2016
Carlson says that with the changes, teachers too must make sure they have relevant content that’s engaging for students.

Carlson says that with the changes, teachers too must make sure they have relevant content that’s engaging for students.

GROUP discussions used to take place with students sitting in circles with scribblings on sheets of paper. Now, collaborations involve staring intently at handheld devices while furiously typing or voicing out their ideas into tiny microphones.

In today’s era, students are no longer confined to just discussing topics with their classmates.

“They can even speak to their counterparts on the other side of the world,” says Microsoft Asia Pacific education lead Don Carlson after the British Education Technology and Training Asia 2016 conference recently.

Carlson was illustrating the point that technology can bridge barriers, and cross time and geographical zones.

“They can even speak to the researchers in research camps in Antarctica. That’s what happened when students in Thailand used their Skype-a-thon session last year to speak to these experts,” he adds.

With technology, the most inspiring speakers and the best minds can be brought right into the classroom from the other end of the world, and these are the kinds of changes in the way teaching and learning are being championed by the company, he says.

“We want to become partners in these kind of changes. How are we equipping education systems to be ready for the next wave of innovation?” asks Carlson, who adds that the company has been working closely with the Education Ministry to ensure students enjoy the educational benefits of using Microsoft’s tools such as Skype, a video and voice call service.

Teachers are also not left out in the equation, with Carlson saying that the company wants to connect educators to fellow educators so that they could easily share best practices, whether or not they are connected to the use of technology.

“We want them to share ideas even if they conduct their lessons creatively without technological tools.”

In any case, the company has worked closely with the ministry and schools to ensure that teachers receive the right type of training.

“We want to make sure teachers have relevant content that’s also engaging for students,” he adds.

One such collaboration is the Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Programme to recognise global educator visionaries who are using technology to pave the way for their peers for better learning and student outcomes.

With almost 500 MIEs in the Asia Pacific region (about 70 in Malaysia) from both private and public schools, Carlson says response to the programme has been “very positive”.


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Making remote learning a reality for teens

December 7th, 2016

RURAL and urban poor communities are now getting free after-school digital learning programmes from Maxis at internet centres known as the Pusat Internet 1Malaysia (PI1M).

The Maxis eKelas programme was designed to relieve the burden of communities who cannot afford to obtain extra classes or tuition after school, said Maxis head of corporate affairs Mariam Bevi Batcha. “Through technology, we will be able to provide students with interactive educational support.”

The communications service provider through eKelas, she said “is making remote learning a reality for students to study online with experienced teachers via live video tutorials”. “It is also in line with the Malaysian school syllabus. Teachers will prepare the lesson plan and make the learning session more fun and vibrant,” she said after the launching the programme on Tuesday.

It was launched by Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) Communications and Digital Ecosystem Cluster sector chief Datuk Mohd Ali Hanafiah. Also present was communications service provider and its chief executive officer Morten Lundal.

Mariam Bevi said eKelas focused on three core subjects, namely Science, Mathematics and English, focusing on Forms One to Four students.

She added that Maxis was targeting to reach 100,000 students over the next five years at PI1Ms nationwide.

Meanwhile, Mohd Ali said the PI1M, was an initiative under the commission in providing collective broadband access to the communities and at the same time, to address the digital divide in rural areas and urban poor.


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Malaysian students show good improvement under Pisa

December 7th, 2016

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysian students have improved in Mathematics, Reading and Science under the Programme for Inter­national Student Assessment (Pisa) 2015.

According to results released by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Malaysia scored 446 in Mathematics, 431 in Reading and 443 in Science in Pisa 2015. This was a marked improvement over Pisa 2012 where Malaysia was below the global average score.

Under Pisa 2012, Malaysia scored 421 in Mathematics, 398 in Reading and 420 in Science. In 2009, Malaysia scored 404 in Mathematics, 414 in Reading and 422 in Science.

Deputy education director-general Datuk Dr Amin Senin said the results achieved in Pisa 2015 survey showed that Malaysia was moving towards hitting the global average score of 490 in Mathematics and 493 in Reading and Science.

“We are on average, 50 marks from the global average in each domain. I am very pleased with the results and wish to congratulate all teachers, principals and students. Their commitment is commendable,” he told reporters following the release of the survey results at the ministry yesterday.

Pisa is administered by the OECD every three years on 15-year-olds in both OECD and non-OECD countries and offers students questions in the main language of instruction in their respective countries. Each round focuses on either Reading, Mathematics or Science.

For Pisa 2015, Dr Amin said 9,660 students from 230 schools were chosen at random to ensure a good representation. Malaysia was compared to 72 other countries.

Based on the survey results, he said more than 60% of the students who participated grasped the basic knowledge and skills of all three domains.

He attributed the improved results in Pisa 2015 to the implementation of the higher order thinking skills (HOTs).


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Digital literacy, a must for students

December 7th, 2016

AS not everything we read in the Internet can be trusted, we need to verify the contents first before believing or spreading them.

For that reason, future generations need to be equipped with adequate knowledge related to Internet safety, self-image, cyber-bullying, copyright, privacy, and safety in the digital world.

These issues should have a special place in our school curriculum as technology is reshaping education.

Today’s students are increasingly comfortable in an Internet-enabled world. They feel the need to be able to access information anytime and anywhere. This influences the way students learn even as they are constantly texting, tweeting, posting photos, updating their status, or accessing information for their interests.

On the other hand, the widespread use of social media also shapes the way they communicate and share information. Through this platform, students are exposed to both positive and negative content.

These new models of learning should be embraced in the field of education, though teachers need to be aware of challenges in utilising technology to generate greater student engagement.

Teachers’ responsibilities are not only teaching, but also empowering students.

Through media literacy, teachers can encourage students to express their opinions with respect. They need to be taught to probe deeper than most current media sources.

I am of the view that current social media use tends to be more to gossip rather than sharing meaningful information and fostering the collaboration on ideas. It is true that students spend so much time online merely chatting and gossiping.

For that reason, they need to be taught the rights and responsibilities of digital citizens, which is not much different from the physical world. Students need to be good citizens of the digital world, and that includes observing proper etiquette.

Teachers should be role models in developing media literacy. In the 21st century, teachers should be media literate due to the fact that information and communication technology is getting increasingly woven into our daily lives.

Unfortunately, we tend to focus on building the infrastructure without training teachers professionally.


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Do we really need unity?

December 7th, 2016

Forcing us to mix may actually cause resentment and discord, instead of promoting harmony.

LAST weekend at the Putra World Trade Centre, one Umno leader after another rose to the podium to call for unity.

Some were calling for Malay unity, some for party unity, some for Barisan Nasional unity and a small number for national unity. They talked about different things but they used the same word.

The desire for unity is not new. In our own history, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra once said, “We are all Malaysians. This is the bond that unites us. Let us always remember that unity is our fundamental strength as a people and as a nation.”

Fast forward to more recently, the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) was established on Sept 11, 2013.

According to a government website, the NUCC is an effort of na­­tional reconciliation to reduce ra­cial polarisation and build a uni­ted Malaysian nation.

The NUCC was supposed to draft some sort of blueprint for national unity. But until today, I have not seen any real advocacy of such a blueprint to the public.

The NUCC submitted a report to the Prime Minister on June 19, 2015, and after that I am not sure what happened to it.

To me, the biggest hurdle to national unity is the structure of our political system. Our politics is dominated by ethnic-based political parties. Being ethnic-based, their survival is dependent on us, the voters, continuing to be divided along ethnic lines.

If voters are no longer thinking as different ethnic groups, then the ethnic-based parties will find it difficult to survive.

If a Malay feels that it is OK to have a non-Malay prime minister, if a Chinese feels it is OK to have an ustaz as their representative, if a Hindu feels it is OK to have an atheist as their spokesperson, then it would be meaningless to remain as a Malay, Chinese or Indian party.

The same applies to the Melanau, Bidayuh, Dayak, Kadazan, Seranis and so on.

Ethnic-based parties need society to remain divided along ethnic lines because otherwise they will not be able to survive.

This is why when any ethnic-based party feels weakened, they will work hard to cleave society.

This is Divide and Rule 101. The more successful you are at dividing society, the more likely you are to rule over them.

But even though the hurdle preventing national unity is not too difficult to identify, there are two bigger questions that should be, but are rarely, asked. The questions are: do we really need unity, and what is unity for?


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GST, rising prices take centre stage

December 7th, 2016

RISING prices and complaints about the Goods and Services Tax (GST) did not escape the attention of the Umno General Assembly.

Kedah delegate Datuk Abdullah Hasnan Kamaruddin called for the setting up of a dedicated GST Board to collect and manage the tax.

He said a dedicated GST Board can, among other things, better explain to Malaysians the issues related to the tax.

“Some RM20bil in GST was collected but we do not know if the bulk of it comes from businesses or from the pockets of the people.

“The GST Board can supervise and manage the tax while at the same time help explain its importance to the people,” he said when debating the motion on the economy at the Umno General Assembly yesterday.

On the rising cost of living, the Kuala Kedah Umno division chief suggested that the Government give incentives to the 13,176 cooperatives nationwide to set up Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia-type stores.

“We hear both city and rural folks complaining about the rising cost of living and the prices of goods.

“We must create more places where people can buy essential goods at prices they can afford,” he said.

Abdullah Hasnan said the use of cooperatives would help eliminate middlemen who often push up the prices of goods.

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Gen Y ‘does not want to rely on crutches to succeed’

December 7th, 2016

THE new generation of Malays does not want to rely on a tongkat (crutch) to succeed, said the Wellington Umno Overseas Club.

Afiq Adham Muhammad Fadhil, an undergraduate, said Gen Y and Gen Z, especially young professionals and those studying abroad, preferred a narrative from Umno that would give them hope in charting their own future and that of the country.

He cited the 2050 National Transformation (TN50), announced during Budget 2017, that was aimed at kickstarting a national discourse by young Malaysians of all races.

TN50 has been entrusted to the Youth and Sports Ministry under Khairy Jama­lud­din.

“TN50 is an important effort to change the perception of this generation,” he said, adding that the vision matched the aspirations of the young generation.

Debating the motion of thanks on the president’s keynote address, Afiq Adham said: “I believe that my peers, who had stayed away from the party, will soften their stance now that TN50 was on its way.

The new generation of young people wanted to be given a chance to play a bigger role in making TN50 a success, he added.

He appealed to the Umno leadership to produce more young icons for them to look up to.

Likening TN50 and the will to transform Malaysia to “a pick-up line, money, perfume and trendy clothes”, he said what was needed now were inspiring icons.

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Umno AGM: Don’t make students guinea pigs, says Wanita rep

December 7th, 2016

KUALA LUMPUR: The Education Ministry has been urged not to make students as guinea pigs in trying out policies or examination formats as this could confuse them.

Pasir Salak Wanita Umno head Datuk Dr Wan Norashikin Wan Noordin (pic) said any changes in exam format should be done from the early schooling years and not introduced suddenly.

“The Education Ministry should not constantly be changing the education formats or policies, do not make students their guinea pigs by changing the approaches half-way or suddenly.

“If the policy has been drawn up, let it continue from Standard One to STPM (Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia) and then start with a new one,” she said, receiving thunderous applause from the delegates at general assembly here.


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