Free breakfast scheme for ‘deserving pupils’ lauded

January 17th, 2020

PETALING JAYA: Parents welcome the decision by the government to provide free breakfast to deserving pupils in 100 schools.

Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education chairman Mak Chee Kin said it would be quite a heavy financial burden to provide free meals to all primary school pupils.

He said those who qualify for the living aid should receive the free breakfast.

“I would also propose that instead of free food, these children should be given cash vouchers to be used in the school canteen for them to buy food like any other child, ” he said, adding that this would remove the stigma of being identified as “poor” among the pupils.

Mak was responding to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s decision to provide free breakfasts for “deserving pupils”.

Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia honorary secretary Tunku Munawirah Putra said the free breakfast programme, which begins on Monday, was the same as the Supplementary Food Programme (RMT), and that stringent guidelines need to be set up and enforced.

“It is a fully subsidised meal plan for pupils from poor families, ” she said, referring to the RMT.

She cautioned that the right vendors need to be chosen and continuously monitored to ensure the standard of the food provided will be maintained throughout the programme.

“To provide breakfast to everyone means even those who are rich and (can afford to have breakfast at home) will get them too. So, it’s not fair, ” said Dr Mahathir, who is also acting Education Minister, after officiating at the Balai Islam Complex at Tenaga Nasional Bhd headquarters in Bangsar.

Former education minister Dr Maszlee Malik had previously stated that the breakfast scheme would be for all pupils regardless of their parents’ income status.

The programme was initially for all 2.7 million pupils in government and government-aided primary schools for both morning and afternoon sessions.

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Move to curb child marriage

January 17th, 2020

PUTRAJAYA: The government has outlined seven objectives, 17 strategies and 58 programmes and actions to address issues of child marriage through a five-year strategic plan.

The strategic plan will tackle six major causes of underage marriage.

Among the six causes identified are poverty, lack or no access to reproductive health education, lack of access to education and society’s stigma that marriage is the best choice to solve problems.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said the plan would not merely tackle the causes of underage marriage, but also indirectly help to overcome other social issues affecting families and children.

She said, for instance, the social stigma that child marriage was the best solution to address unwanted pregnancies must be removed.

“Underage marriage will have a profound effect on the health of a teenager and there are studies that found that girls aged between 15 and 19 who are pregnant face a higher risk of death during pregnancy or birth.

“We believe that if we can address the causes, the issue of child marriages can be eradicated, ” said Dr Wan Azizah, during the launch of the 16-page document at her ministry here.

The Women, Family and Community Development Minister said the societies need to change this mindset, as underage marriages would not solve problems, but in fact, could lead to even more troubles.

“In the past, underage marriages were practised because the socio-economic situation, education opportunities and the realities of life at that time made it normal.

“But today, education opportunities are better, technology is more advanced, the socio-economic outlook is more positive and there is higher awareness that children deserve the chance to expand their potential.

“With this, child marriages should not at all be the option or solution to any problems, ” she said.

Dr Wan Azizah also said the government would continue to publicise the existence of shelters for pregnant teens to prevent baby dumping cases.

“It is important that those who are pregnant but are not married do not dump their babies.

“We want them to be aware that there is a support system for them and that child marriage is not the solution, ” she said.

Dr Wan Azizah added that among the initiatives in the plan was strengthening the existing socio-economic and outreach support programmes, increase the minimum marriage age to 18 for girls as well as providing self reproductive health services that were children-friendly.

She said a steering committee spearheaded by Women, Family and Community Development Ministry and participated by all agencies would be set up to monitor the implementation of the plan.


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‘Higher Education Ministry’s revival needed’

January 16th, 2020
Malaysia’s higher education sector has been sidelined since the two education ministries; Education and Higher Education, were merged into one, claims Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) General Staff Union (Kepertama) president Mohd Razali Singah (2nd from right). – NSTP/ROSELA ISMAIL

SERDANG: Malaysia’s higher education sector has been sidelined since the two education ministries; Education and Higher Education, were merged into one, claims Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) General Staff Union (Kepertama) president Mohd Razali Singah.

He said this during a press conference held at UPM today in response to Prime Minister and interim Education Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad mulling whether or not to revive the Higher Education Ministry.

Voicing Kepertama’s support for the ministry to be revived, Mohd Razali, who is also the deputy president of the Joint Councils of Presidents and Honorary Secretaries of the Malaysian Universities Staff Union (Gakum) believed that this move would strengthen the focus on higher education institutions (HEIs) in Malaysia.

“From our observation, the progress of HEIs in Malaysia have lagged behind and we are not given the focus that we need.

“While we acknowledge and appreciate the many reforms that the former minister Dr Maszlee Malik made, there is no denying that higher education has been sidelined.

“We are aware of the increasingly challenging higher education sphere. Hence, it calls for a specific ministry to focus on spearheading the direction of HEIs in the nation.

“With the split, we hope the new Higher Education Ministry will propel public universities to achieve a higher prestige in the global arena,” said Mohd Razali.

He highlighted several issues faced by the Malaysian HEIs that need to be addressed.

Firstly, Razali said the ministry has been too concentrated on improving schools in Malaysia, leaving universities to be set aside.

“We found it difficult to communicate with the ministry to share our wishes and complaints. The current ministry’s portfolio is too wide, as it comprises both school-level and tertiary education.”

Secondly, the proposed merger of Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) and Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA) was not well planned.

“We are not happy with the merger due to the universities’ very distinct specialisations. Unisza focuses on Islamic studies, management and medicine while UMT is marine-focused.

“It is not relevant to merge the two universities due to geographical convenience. It is more efficient for UMT which originated from our Fisheries and Marine Science Centre to merge with UPM.

“We are concerned that the ministry did not go through more consultation and engagement with the stakeholders. This might have happened due to the lack of focus.”

Thirdly, te university and academic staff’s burdens need to be addressed.

“There is a shortage of executive staff. As universities progress and the number of students increase, our welfare is getting more sidelined.

“For instance, issues relating to the appointment of vice chancellors which falls under the ministry’s purview can disrupt the university’s administration. Again, we are not blaming anyone, but we feel that the portfolio is just too huge for one ministry.”

Mohd Razali added: “We worry for the future of higher education in this country. On behalf of public universities, we hope that the government can take our aspirations into consideration.

“We hope to see a ministry which exclusively oversees higher education, led by an experienced minister. We are confident that Dr Mahathir will make the right appointment.”

By Rayyan Rafidi.

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Dr Habibah Abdul Rahim appointed as Education director-general

January 16th, 2020
Dr Habibah Abdul Rahim has been appointed as the new Education director-general effective Jan 10. – NSTP/HALIMATON SAADIAH SULAIMAN

PUTRAJAYA: Dr Habibah Abdul Rahim has been appointed as the new Education director-general effective Jan 10.

She took over from Datuk Dr Amin Senin who retired on Dec 21 last year.

In a statement today, the Education Ministry said 58-year-old Habibah will be the ministry’s 17th director-general and the second woman to helm the post.

“Habibah started her service in education in 1986 as a teacher in several schools in Selangor and Kedah, before leaving to serve under several organisations under the ministry.

“Among her positions were deputy director-general (policy and curriculum sector), Education Planning and Research Division (BPPDP) director, Performance and Delivery Unit (Padu ) executive director and senior lecturer at Institut Aminuddin Baki (IAB),” it said.

Habibah obtained a bachelor’s degree with honours in Biology from the University of Salford, United Kingdom in 1984.

Later, she furthered her studies in Education at University of Bristol, United Kingdom in 1993 and earned a doctorate in Education from Stanford University in California, United States in 2001.

With her expertise, experience and excellent achievements, the Education Ministry is confident that Habibah would be able to further elevate its achievements in line with the aspirations of the National Education Blueprint 2013-2025.

The ministry recorded its highest appreciation to Amin for his service.

By Hashini Kavishtri Kannan.

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Schools told to inform police of crime-related activities

January 16th, 2020

KOTA KINABALU: All schools in Sabah are advised to liaise with the police if any unwanted incidents, such as crime-related activities, among the students occur.

City Police Chief ACP Habibi Majinji said that the collaboration between the police and schools could eventually help prevent students from being further involved in criminal cases.

“Therefore, as the representatives of the authorities, the police hope that the schools could report and share any information regarding crime-related activities among students.

“We will also send an officer to monitor the situation in the schools as needed. Teachers can immediately report criminal offence involving students to PDRM mediators with the schools,” he said when officiating the Maktab Sabah Parenthood Seminar programme at its Perdana Hall here recently.

The programme was organised by the school and Maktab Sabah Parent and Teacher Association (PIBG) that aims to provide exposure to parenting knowledge, thus helping parents nurture their children into becoming better persons.

Habibi acknowledged that it is not easy to be a parent, especially in this age where parents or guardians need to understand the current situation and find the appropriate ways to educate as well as to guide their children.

“Therefore, it is the responsibility of every parent to equip themselves with the latest skills so that they can effectively carry out their role as parents.

“With all the technology advancement today, parenting is so much different compared to the past. It is more challenging for parents of this age because nowadays children are smarter, especially when it comes to digital technology and most of them already have smartphones as young as five to seven.”

“For teachers in schools, it is more challenging as students are now smarter and more exposed to digital technology, the internet as well as a variety of internal and external threats.

“Therefore, parents and teachers must be more knowledgeable about digital technology than their children and students,” Habibi said.


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Racial unity becoming fragile due to sensational news on social media

January 16th, 2020

PUTRAJAYA: The attitude of some individuals who prefer to read and trust sensational news on social media without verifying their authenticity or truth has contributed to racial unity in the country becoming fragile, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department P. Waytha Moorthy.

He said the situation was made worse when some people misused the the freedom of speech granted by the government to spread false information to create misunderstanding and tensions among the people of various races in the country.

“Not only in our country, but all over the world, the social media has become a major medium to disseminate news, including false and inaccurate ones.

“Before, the media was controlled by certain groups, but now with the borderless information, some people think that they have the power to disseminate their own personal ideologies and opinions.

“They don’t read many newspapers, or authentic news and books, instead prefer (to read) sensational news. When they are impressed with the news, they will viral it immediately,” he said in a special interview with Bernama in his office here recently.

The minister, who is responsible for the National Unity and Social Wellbeing portfolio, said this group of people had no care to know the news was real or fake.

They are not interested to know the truth, but are happy and more interested to get the sensational news across to netizens, he added.

Waytha Moorthy said some of the issues raised on the social media had undermined the country’s harmony and it had become one of the main challenges facing the Pakatan Harapan government, where precautionary measures had been taken to safeguard the interests of all parties.

The minister also expressed his sadness over the action of previous government leaders for deliberately raising certain issues to build up anger against the current government for their own political survival.

“Therefore, it is the responsibility of the people to remain focus and to live as citizens who practice diversity in a pluralistic society. We have to live with each other and as long as we are focused, we can accept what we have practiced before,” he said. –Bernama

The issue on abuse of the social media was also raised by AirAsia Group Bhd chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes on Tuesday, saying too many negative things, falsities and outrages on the platform had led to the shutting down of his Twitter account.

Commenting further, Waytha Moorthy said the people, especially those in the peninsula, should emulate the close relationships and tolerance of the various tribes in Sabah and Sarawak, enabling them to live in harmony without suspicion for one another.

He recalled his visit to Sarawak and Sabah and was impressed with the understanding and respect for the religious practices and cultural diversity displayed among the people of the two states.

He said the ministry would take into account suggestions from community leaders in Sabah and Sarawak in formulating a new policy to enhance national integration between the people in the peninsula and East Malaysia.

In addressing racial and religious issues, he said the ministry hoped to set up a special commission known as the National Harmony and Reconciliation Commission to act as an independent body that would resolve sensitive matters on race and religion.

“This matter is still in the proposal stage and I am looking into the practicality of using existing laws, including the Sedition Act and the Penal Code to resolve related issues raised on social sites.

“This is because I find that some of them are unaware that their postings are offensive to other religions and in this case, the Commission will call on the relevant parties to explain to them,” he said.

by Bernama.

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New class formats at some schools

January 15th, 2020

Ong visiting a Secondary 1 form class with students from different streams at Ping Yi Secondary School. – The Straits Times/Asia News Network

FOR Secondary 1 student Zayeed Ibrahim, the start of the new school year on Jan 2 was especially exciting because he was one of the first students in Singapore to have classmates from other academic streams.

The 13-year-old Normal (Technical) student is from Ping Yi Secondary School, one of 28 schools from this year to pilot full subject-based banding, start form classes with students of different streams, or do both.

“I am happy because we will get to spend time together in a class, but nervous because we haven’t gotten to know each other. I hope we can be good friends, ” said Zayeed.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, who visited the school in Chai Chee, said the changes mark a “big step ahead for our education system” in bringing out students’ potential.

The pilot schools are trying out new Sec 1 form classes with students from different streams.

The students will take a common set of subjects, which include art, character and citizenship education, and physical education.

Traditionally, students are sorted into Express, Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) streams.

Ping Yi Secondary has four Sec 1 classes, each with 30 to 35 students from different streams.

“Each class is carefully composed of students from different streams, different ethnic backgrounds, different profiles, special needs students.

“If you are a stronger student… you can play a part to teach other students who may not be keeping up as well in the academic subjects, and they in turn have something to teach you in sports, in values, in various subjects, ” said Ong.

Such changes, he said, are meant to help students break out of mindsets that constrain their achievements and how they perceive themselves.

Students at Ping Yi Secondary can also now study humanities subjects – geography, history and literature in English – at a more demanding level from Sec 2, if they have the aptitude. Previously, options were limited to English, mathematics, science and mother tongue.

Two of the school’s Normal (Academic) students are now taking geography at the Express level, and three are studying Express-level history. They are all in Sec 2.

Principal Ang Chee Seng said: “These students took humanities subjects at Sec 1, and based on their results last year, we are confident that they can cope with higher-level subjects.”

Sec 2 student Lim Tie, 13, who is studying Express-level mathematics, geography, history and science this year, said: “I want to learn more… I am quick with numbers and mental calculations.”

“I didn’t expect to be able to take Express subjects. I thought Normal (Academic) is Normal (Academic), and there is nothing you can do about it, ” he said. “In primary school, I was very playful. But now, I like studying and I feel happy about it.”

His classmate Hajamaideen Asimathul Jafriya, 13, is also taking four subjects – mathematics, science, geography and Tamil – at the Express level. She is keen to study geography to find out about the world.

“I want to work harder to go to junior college or polytechnic, and work even harder there, ” she said.

The pilot comes ahead of the roll-out of full subject-based banding to all secondary schools by 2024. The Normal and Express streams will be scrapped that same year.

Ong said teachers will have to cater to students of different abilities in one classroom. “Some students are more vocal, some students are more quiet… So, the teacher (has to) actually make a conscious effort to draw out the students who are more reserved.” – The Straits Times/Asia News Network

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Studying e-Commerce for accounting students

January 15th, 2020

E-COMMERCE is the buying and selling of products or services over the Internet. Also known as electronic commerce, money and data are transferred over the Internet to facilitate the online transactions. Electronic funds transfer, online transaction processing, automated data collection, electronic data interchange, and mobile commerce are some of the tools used in e-commerce. With e-commerce, buyers and sellers are able to transact without the barriers of distance and time.

There has been an upward trend in the growth of e-commerce worldwide in the last 14 years. According to online providers of market and consumer data, buyers spend an average of 36% of their budget on online purchases and that the number of such buyers may reach 2.14 billion in 2021.

As more people turn to the Internet for their shopping needs, the future looks promising for e-commerce. These days, for instance, people aged 24 or younger are more comfortable with e-commerce. They find it less of a necessity to touch and try a product before purchasing. For this group of buyers, lifestyle branding and social media presence are more important considerations when deciding on their purchases. Influence from this young group of buyers is also spreading to the older generation who are becoming more open to online shopping. In Malaysia, examples of the more popular online marketplaces are Lazada, 11Street, Shopee and Lelong.

Impact on businesses

E-commerce generally requires only minimal infrastructure for the seller. On the other hand, companies using traditional business methods, spend significant amounts of money in setting up their physical infrastructure. Such brick and mortar businesses are increasingly finding themselves being outperformed by the more competitive e-commerce businesses.

The management of information systems and finance are some of the background processes in operating a business. While these activities are not as visible as the marketing functions, they are still nevertheless affected by the implications that e-commerce brings. For example, businesses need to consider various remittance and payment processes using fintech or financial technology in order to provide convenient payment methods, such as e-wallets and in-app purchases, for their online customers.

Accounting for e-commerce

A vital operational component of any business is the financials. For the e-commerce business, the accounting aspect can be a challenging task. Areas such as sales tax, inventory management, transaction volumes, sales returns and accounts receivables collection can be daunting when it comes to e-commerce transactions. Examples of the complexities include the imposition of a 6% service tax in Malaysia on digital service providers from 2020, integrating and automating the inventory management system, payment of various fees for online transactions that could considerably reduce profits, managing thousands of monthly transactions, and the handling and categorising of customer returns. These are just a few of the complexities of e-commerce which the accountant has to address in order to enable accurate financial decision making.

Additionally, the accounting profession needs to consider that e-commerce brings changes to organisational structures and business processes and strategies. For instance, information systems such as the Enterprise Resource Planning Systems (ERPs) which have simplified and automated accounting tasks, will mean that businesses will want to hire financial personnel who have working knowledge of such systems. Audit practices and procedures will also need to be adjusted to accommodate e-commerce transactions.

As can be seen above, a business would require qualified personnel with the skills and knowledge to manage the financial and accounting complexities that come with e-commerce. However, the lack of workforce with e-commerce expertise and knowledge has been cited as one of the major hindrances to rapid growth of e-commerce. The lack of qualified personnel prevents small e-commerce businesses from developing quickly as qualified personnel tend to work for larger corporations. Indeed, accounting professionals who are well versed in e-commerce are valuable as they can provide much needed financial perspectives when devising suitable strategies for the e-commerce business.

E-commerce courses can expose accounting students to how e-commerce relates to financial functions in the current business environment. Integrating e-commerce to accounting studies offers accounting students a more practical perspective of the environment that businesses operate in. In this way, learning institutions can meet the demands of employers sourcing for accounting graduates with knowledge and skills to handle e-commerce. The e-commerce component can be a core or elective subject or it can be integrated into the various finance and accounting subjects.

Universities are generally viewed as a source of potential recruits to fulfil the demands of businesses. One such university in Malaysia offering e-commerce-related subjects is Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman in Perak. As part of its accounting undergraduate degree programme, subjects offered relating to e-commerce include Information Technology for Management, Accounting Information Systems, Applied E-Commerce, and Introduction to Internet of Things.


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Breaking the ice on the first day

January 15th, 2020

A teacher introduces various traditional kuih to pupils in class to break the ice on the first day.

EVERY year on the first day of school, we as teachers want to create a positive vibe so that everything will be smooth sailing throughout the whole year.

For examination classes, the students are the ones who are always tensed.

We try to make them feel calm and relaxed so there is no nagging on the first day and everything is cool. I make sure I shake their hands and wish them ‘Happy New Year’ and bribe them with sweets and chocolates, a wish that the whole year will be prosperous. I do this for all the classes that I teach.

This year I brought traditional kuih to class. (see the photo of the kuih I brought to school) It was sad that not all students got the names correct.

These kuih were famous during the 1970s and 1980s and many teenagers fancied them.

Nobody knew what “asam ketok” was, after tasting it, they knew it was something sweet and sour.

When we were kids we ate them and there were a lot of seeds in them and our tongue would turn red, what a memory! We should introduce our traditional kuih to these young children too.

In some primary schools, they have mascots on the first day. These include – Spiderman, Batman or Superman. But there are none in secondary schools.

The only time we had mascots was during Chinese New Year when the different animals according to Chinese Zodiac such as rooster or rat came to the school.

There was also a lion dance troupe.

Thanks to the Chinese Language Society and the Chinese teachers for having these traditions in school.

It was a happy celebration for the students and school community.

I should bring more traditional delicacies which are famous in Malaysia to school.

School is still the best place to introduce everything about culture.


New international school opens

January 15th, 2020

Unveiling the school plaque at the opening of Tzu Chi International School Kuala Lumpur.

TZU Chi International School Kuala Lumpur (TCISKL) was officially opened on Jan 6, following more than two years of construction after the groundbreaking in September 2017.

With blessings from over a thousand guests gracing the inauguration ceremony, the first batch of 750 students started on their new learning journey. This also marked a significant milestone of the Tzu Chi education mission in Malaysia.

The flag-raising ceremony was carried out by three student representatives. Twenty guests, including Representative of Taipei Economic and

Cultural Office in Malaysia Annie Hung; Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman president Prof Dr Ewe Hong Tat;

Tzu Chi Kl and Selangor CEO Echo Chien; TCISKL principal Lim Siew Li; Master De Rang, Master De Ge and Master De Yuan from Jing Si Abode, Taiwan; Tzu Chi Foundation vice president Lin Pi-yu; Tzu Chi Charity Mission deputy CEO David Liu; Tzu Chi Education Foundation CEO Wang Pen-Jung and Tzu Chi Senior High School principal Li Ling-hui, officiated at the inauguration of TCISKL by unveiling the school plaque.

Although many international schools have been established in Kuala Lumpur, Tzu Chi hopes to lay a strong foundation in the development of students’ character development as well as life and living skills and inculcating propriety and virtues.

TCISKL adopts the internationally recognised Cambridge IGCSE curriculum, and incorporates Tzu Chi’s humanistic lessons into its syllabus, to nurture the students into all rounded individuals with a wide range of knowledge, global perspectives, independent thinking skills, innovative and creative mindset, as well as humanistic spirit. This will prepare the students to face the competitiveness and challenges of the 21st Century, an era of artificial intelligence.

Tzu Chi set up its first Da Ai Kindergarten in Kuala Lumpur in 2007. Now, with the opening of TCISKL, the education offered will extend from preschool to primary and secondary school level; and in the future, pre-university level, forming a comprehensive education system.

TCISKL was built with generous support from people. The building contractors visited the construction site almost daily to monitor the progress.

The journey of two years and four months saw the educational institution being constructed from ground up. The school will be able to accommodate 3,500 students on the completion of its second phase of construction.

Tzu Chi Foundation founder Dharma Master Cheng Yen, conveyed her blessings through Dharma Masters from Jing Si Abode. She said that Tzu Chi has carried out its missions in Malaysia for more than a quarter of a century.

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