Archive for the ‘General Topics’ Category

What Singapore teaches us about succession planning.

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019

THREE years ago, while delivering a live televised National Day speech, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shocked audiences when he started to keel over.

Lee, then 64 years old, was quickly rushed backstage where a team of doctors attended to him.

He returned to the rostrum almost 90 minutes later, to a standing ovation, and the cancer survivor attributed the episode to fatigue and heat.

He continued his speech and highlighted that what the audience witnessed was a stark reality of everyone’s mortality and the need to be prepared.

“What just happened makes it even more important to talk about succession,” he said.

Lee and the People’s Action Party (PAP), the ruling party in Singapore, quickly put in place a succession plan where it was decided at the party level to anoint Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat as successor.

Heng was elected deputy president of PAP and Lee appointed him the country’s sole deputy prime minister – the prime minister designate – doing away with the traditional two deputy premier posts.

This sent the message to party members, Singaporeans and investors that should there be a sudden vacancy at the top, there will be someone – a specific person – to step in and take over the reins.

These calmed investors and the Singapore Stock Exchange saw improvements.

Heng, a stroke victim himself, was also assured of a capable team to assist him during and after the transition. This was seen in the Cabinet reshuffles and party endorsements.

Lee also demonstrated that he was empowering Heng for the top job by stepping out of the spotlight at national and international meetings and events to allow his successor to shine.

This includes giving way to Heng to co-chair the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) between Singapore and China, an annual forum that maps the direction of Singapore-China relations.

This not only would help Heng to ease into his role as prime minister but also allow the public, businesses, investors and foreign leaders to be familiar with Heng and his style.

“I think it is very important to try to plan ahead and to arrange for orderly political succession,” Lee had told a global forum recently, adding that he plans to hand over the reins within 18 months after the next election.

This timeline, he said, was to give his successor the time to build his team as well as the confidence of the people.

Lee’s neighbours in the north are having their own muddled version of a succession plan.

The man set to take over as the eighth prime minister is not yet in Cabinet.

The current Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, continues to give mixed messages over his commitment to hand over the reins to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Dr Mahathir, who is six years shy of a century in age, has said on many occasions that Anwar will take over, although this commitment has been peppered with caveats.

And most recently in an interview with The Financial Times on Nov 8, he said he will not step down until he has resolved the problems facing the country.

This is extremely vague. Which country has no problems?

And he repeats the mantra: there is no actual date or time mentioned for him to step down.

Despite constant reassurances that “Anwar will succeed me” (a similar statement he made 20 years ago), Dr Mahathir went6 on to tell the Times that: “I have made many mistakes in appointing my successors, so I don’t want to make another mistake this time”.

By Terence Fernandez

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Welcome competitive advantage Gen Z brings

Monday, November 11th, 2019

Currently, the workplace is a highly diverse and interesting environment comprising a few generations who present myriad characteristics. That said, organisations should shift their focus to the youngest group in the workforce, post-Millennials, known as Generation Z or simply Gen Z. Unicef broadly defines this tech-savvy generation as those born after 1995.

This is a generation raised on internet and smartphones and, hence, very comfortable with electronic communication and interaction. In short, they live and breathe technology. They use digital tools and quickly adapt to new devices. They are intelligent, brave, practical and fast, often requiring less supervision. However, it has been suggested that Gen Z has an attention span of merely eight seconds!

With the early Gen Z now in their twenties and rapidly joining the employment market, questions on this generation’s values and workplace expectations need to be addressed. First, Gen Z job-seekers tend to use Linkedln in their search for employment. Apart from the expected active-ness on social networking sites such as Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook, they favour Linkedln to build their “brand” and make their presence known in the job market, according to a study on graduating Gen Z students. Personal branding – being able from the outset to naturally identify and showcase their prominent dispositions to interested employers – is highly instinctive for them.

This is a generation who – despite or because of growing up in a world conscious of terrorism and public fear, due to acts of terrorism and mass violence – believe that they can make a difference in the world. Gen Z possess greater awareness and support diversity, equality and inclusivity. Therefore, in their search for the ideal job, they are attracted to organisations with a cause – a company that is socially responsible and actively contributing to the betterment of society and/or the environment. Once they find an organisation that matches their values, they will be focused and highly committed in their job. It is unsurprising that they are then willing to settle for lesser pay to work in a company that champions causes they believe in. In other words, Gen Z find such non-financial rewards more attractive.

In line with this characteristic, many organisations now practise sustainable human resource management, where the sustainability agenda is delivered through workers, including Gen Z. This creates a win-win situation of person-organisation fit, in which 1) the organisation becomes more ethical and socially and/or environmentally responsible, while 2) drawing potential Gen Z employees.

Another appealing point of this up-and-coming generation is how driven they are – often setting high expectations of themselves and of their employers. Having witnessed the stereotyping of Gen Y, this succeeding generation strives to uphold their own professional brand and prove that they are equally capable when they are offline. Based on extensive studies conducted by Ranstad US as well as Corey Seemiller and Meghan Grace, authors of Generation Z Goes to College, Gen Z students have high entrepreneurial spirit and some have intentions to be self-employed upon graduating. What is striking is that this preference for entrepreneurship is not just a conscious choice but rather a mechanism for survival in today’s world, having come of age during the Great Recession of 2008-2009.

Opportunities that explore and encourage the use of technology are also what Gen Z look for in their work. Spending an average of three hours a day on social media, this generation is innately keen on and capable of accessing online materials, particularly social media, in getting the job done. Despite that, they are generally more aware of online privacy issues, having learnt from Gen Y the risks of over-exposure and divulgences on the internet. Such combined superior technical and language proficiency, along with their online security risk savviness, suggest that they indeed add value to the workforce.

In addition, Gen Z prefer hands-on activities as they focus on acquiring skills necessary for their career. Two unique aspects of this generation are: 1) observation before trying out something themselves, such as viewing videos on YouTube or other social media video-sharing sites, and 2) broader application of their knowledge.

They also enjoy playing games and thus, find the gamification of tasks highly appealing. A focus on how jobs can be gamified so as to hold their attention and enthusiasm is the way to go. Compared with their Gen Y and Gen X predecessors, Gen Z are stronger in the field of IT or creative works, and they perform poorly in monotonous activities. Instead, jobs that allow autonomy and individuality are ideal.

Furthermore, Gen Z expect to receive instant feedback at work. They are bolder and want their ideas to be heard. They will only engage in teamwork when forced to, unlike Gen Y who believe in the power of collaborative efforts. Then again, Gen Z are more eager to share knowledge compared to Gen Y, albeit online rather than face to face.

To sum up, Gen Z job-seekers favour workplace flexibility, immediate job satisfaction and recognition, as well as careers that allow them to reap immediate rewards or progression. These are distinctive and highly independent people who are happiest when their work has significant social impact, and are confident using technology in general and social media in particular. Let us welcome them to the workforce and embrace the competitive advantage they bring to organisations!

By: Dr Liew Su Ann, a lecturer at Sunway University Business School.

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Stop reprimanding Gen Y for mistakes

Monday, November 11th, 2019

OVER the years, I have had the pleasure of dealing and growing with the Gen Y, which is mainly attributed to my career as an educator.

I also run training sessions on Creating a Generation Action Plan (G.A.P) at the workplace and have had the pleasure of listening to views from different generations about the Gen Y. But let us take a step back and understand why the Gen Y are the way they are.

In one recent training session one participant highlighted that the generation that is critical of the other is the same one that raised them.

We are products of our predecessors. Having said this, I would like to bring your attention to the story of Lucy. Many would have read about Lucy on social media and the internet so, let me summarise it here.

Lucy is part of Generation Y, the generation born between the late 1970s and the mid 1990s.

Lucy also makes up the Gen Y Protagonists and Special Yuppies (GYPSY) who think they are a main character of a special story.

So Lucy’s enjoying her GYPSY life, and she’s very pleased to be Lucy. However, Lucy is unhappy. To understand why, we need to unearth what makes someone happy, which brings us to this simple formula:

Happiness = Reality-Expectations

It’s rather straightforward: when the reality of someone’s life is better than they had expected, they’re happy. When reality turns out to be worse than the expectations, they’re unhappy.

With a transient, more positive life experience than that of their own parents, Lucy’s parents (weighed down with infants and a mortgage) raised Lucy with bounds of optimism and unbounded possibility. And they weren’t alone. Baby boomers all around the country told their Gen Y children that the sky was the limit, instilling the special protagonist identity deep within their psyches.

This left GYPSYs feeling tremendously hopeful about their careers, to the point where their parents’ goals of a green lawn of secure prosperity didn’t really do it for them. A GYPSY-worthy lawn has flowers.

Amid these challenges, the Gen Y have to grapple between reality and expectations. Some have survived while many are still coming to terms with reality and through this ardous process have fallen into the jaws of debt.

However, admirably, being force fed the mentality that passion should guide their career pursuit by the predeceasing generations, Gen Ys have subjected themselves to a “Hustle” mentality.

Tons of Gen Ys are launching start-ups becoming their own employers in lieu of working for “the man”.

While the dream is free, the hustle is sold separately. This hustle mentality has led Gen Y to become the “slasher generation”. They are no longer simply a journalist or server or an engineer. They are a barista, a screenwriter or even a dog groomer.

An accountant might do web design in his spare time or a bartender may be the author of a budding foodie blog. Such confidence and risk was never reflected among the Boomers or Gen X, who were not risk takers or probably, complacent with their times.

Personally, I am a firm believer in the idea that making mistakes is important, if not fundamental for personal development. While we may have our flaws, we need time to learn what they are before we can learn from them.

So maybe it’s time we stop chastising the younger generation for the mistakes that haven’t even been made yet and applaud what they bring to the table. As singer Kanye West said, It’s time for the rest of the world to stop musing over “back in the day”, because … “Homey, this is my day!”

By: R Murali Rajaratenam.

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Start saving now for a fulfilling retirement

Friday, November 8th, 2019
Pension is very important in our lives because it guarantees the future as we age.

MALAYSIANS face many challenges when it comes to planning their retirement years, such as insufficient savings or increasing medical expenses.

Most think saving can start later, rather than earlier.

However, they need cash to live on in their retirement years, as well as to finance their healthcare. Commitments can be fulfilled if there is financial planning.

The best way is by saving 10 per cent of your monthly income for retirement. Sometimes, people do not save their money, but spend it on luxurious items and lifestyle.

By having this kind of lifestyle, people delay paying off their debts and preparing for retirement.

Retirement planning ensures people can save enough to live the lifestyle they want when they retire. Those with a low income need more financial planning than others.

To prepare a retirement plan, one must have a financial plan prepared by a professional or downloaded from apps.

Next, don’t cash out on all investments once you’ve retired. This will ensure that your retirement assets continue to grow optimally

In preparing for retirement, young workers search for information based on technology.

But there is a lack of knowledge among employees about health, lifestyle and new professions.

A pension is important because it guarantees our future as we age.

Create a retirement plan that enables retirees to identify income and expenses.

It is not too late for young workers to set their financial plans today to have a brighter future.


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Let’s be proud of our youths

Friday, November 8th, 2019
Youths at a public lecture on Poverty and Future of Youths at Universiti Malaya last month. Malaysians must look at the bigger picture — we should be proud of our youths, who have shown they possess the talents, attitudes and values to succeed in a challenging environment. — NSTP Archive
November 8, 2019 @ 1:01am

WE often label youths as our saviour and future leaders. This was most evident prior to the 14th General Election as youths were touted as game-changers in the political equation.

They responded positively. They went home and voted. University, college students and professionals braved challenges to cast their votes and fight for their rights.

Youths’ spirit inspired the nation.

One year on, the mood has changed.

Youths are dismayed. They are not seeing results.

Recently, Parliament heard that the biggest challenge faced by the government is that youths were unwilling to take up 640,000 jobs.

Malaysians should be proud of their youths, who have showed that they possess talents, attitudes and values to succeed.

Reports on engineers becoming food delivery riders and graduates resorting to freelance jobs dominated the airwaves and social media.

Statements by politicians and union representatives are demotivating. These people cite lack of skills and poor work ethic as the reasons for youth unemployment.

However, these people ignore factors such as selective workforce intake, foreign labour influx and the desire to remain financially prudent.

Malaysians must look at the bigger picture. If we exert strict control on youths, the majority of future leaders will be stuck in a bubble.

The value system is the key to having a right mindset.

Parents and guardians should act as facilitators and supporters of children’s passion and talents.

Traditional values must be cultivated. Educational methods must be recalibrated to suit youths’ needs and lifestyle.

Essential skills and knowledge would still be significant, yet the more crucial piece would be to ensure youths can identify their life goals as well as direction.

Critical thinking and problem-solving are two areas that children and youths must be exposed to.

Youths must understand complications, and resolve intricacies from young.

The entrepreneurial spirit and skills can be catalysts for driving youths.

We may see the emergence of enterprises and businesses helmed by youths if there’s early guidance in management, teamwork, financial planning and strategic analysis.

Our youths are skilled and gifted, although occasionally misguided in their quest to make it big.

But they must be supported by stakeholders

The government’s National Youth Policy promotes greater youth development.

This is the time for change. We need to be more inclusive in our approach.

Fairness and merit-based employment must be advocated, and equal opportunities must be pursued.


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Losers, winners and words

Thursday, November 7th, 2019
The 35th Asean Summit and Related Summits took place in Bangkok recently. From left are State Counsellor of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and other leaders posing for a picture at the event. EPA PIC

THERE were two casualties, one big winner and plenty of strong words at the recent Asean and other summits in Bangkok.

The United States did itself no favours by sending low-level representation to the summits. Seven Asean states in response did not have their leaders attend meetings with the Americans. There were, thus, no leaders’ summit with the US whose president snubbed Asean’s big event which, in appearance at least, accorded the regional grouping the centrality it often claims.

By not giving Asean this recognition, which really does not cost much, the process of diminishing American engagement and weight in Southeast Asia continues on its downward slide.

An American initiative to arrest this — the geopolitical Indo-Pacific idea which was searching for its economic dimension — came to very little in the Bangkok conference around the summits.

It is also not likely Asean leaders will take up the invitation by President Donald Trump to visit him in Washington in three months’ time, a kind of mountain going to Muhammad, which the US president certainly is not.

Even if there were to be a new US President in the coming year, he or she would have a steep hill to climb to just make up for lost ground, let alone to return to the American position in the region before China’s rise.

The other casualty was India jumping out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) after some years of dragging its feet, which was one of the main causes of delay in getting the grouping established.

Essentially, India wanted to protect its markets against primarily Chinese goods. Made-in-India v Made-in-China. These situations are tricky, the desire to protect the domestic interest against the greater efficiency that would come from open competition.

The expressed hope that India would at some time in the future join the RCEP 15 is a forlorn one as the terms of entry then would be harsher than those it had sought to achieve before crashing out. It has been seven years since the RCEP, an Asean initiative, was first conceived in Phnom Penh, and now it will not wait for or on India.

All the years of negotiation by India might be seen to have been in bad faith. India’s efforts in recent times to get closer to Asean, particularly after past neglect, could be affected as Asean moves forward and closer with its five RCEP partners.

China, which has been steadfast in its economic relationship with Asean, gained the most among those who attended the summits. Beijing takes care of the symbolic gestures that matter to Asean year in and year out, even if on the substance on non-economic issues it can be resistant.

Thus, in the South China Sea it continues to take measures, including belligerent ones, to establish a fait accompli for its claim to almost all of that strategic waterway. Possession is nine points of the law.

With the code of conduct, the scrap it has thrown to Asean, China makes all the right noises as the code meanders its way through first reading to the next stage of negotiations, an ironic use of parliamentary nomenclature by a country based on the communist political system.

China understands how to manage Asean. Lock in the economic benefits. Arbitrage the divergent interests. Always turn up suitably, make the right gestures and utterances, acknowledge Asean centrality, even if China knows only too well it is just symbolic. Big winner.

Ultimately, it is Asean itself which must realise its strengths by implementing the so many blueprints and economic plans which by their numbers alone make it seem as if it has been done. There was a strong call to actually do it. Let’s see.

There was also a call for Asean to speak with one voice on major economic issues facing the world, especially on the trade war the US has declared against China, and violation of the rules-based world economic order.

Actually both on implementation and speaking with one voice, the Asean Business Advisory Council (Asean-BAC) is emerging as a useful driver and catalyst, something recognised in the Asean chairman’s statement at the end of its summit.

I had proposed use of the term “world economic peace” and more vigorous representation of united Asean views on economic matters with Asean economic ministers last September, and it seems to be gaining traction. But, again, we will have to see how Asean moves into action after using the words.

More importantly, implementation is necessary of economic integration measures, after the Asean Economic Community (AEC) was pronounced in 2015 and the Blueprint 2025 was adopted to make it a reality.

As chairman of Asean-BAC in 2015, I had lobbied for Asean-BAC to be recognised as the apex business organisation, which was acknowledged in the blueprint. Since then, Asean-BAC has been doing stellar work in coordinating and representing the views of so many other business councils from inside and outside the region, and in proposing cross-border Asean projects.

There are a few such projects such as what I had initiated now known as Asean Financial Inclusion Solutions (AFIS) and Thailand’s digital trade connectivity this year.

These “legacy” projects are real business initiatives which should obtain the support of Asean governments. Just as Asean leaders should also take heed of the many problems facing the business sector brought to its attention by Asean-BAC, and their proposed resolution for realisation of the AEC.

By Munir Majid.

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The power of cultural diplomacy

Thursday, November 7th, 2019
To gain recognition as a country possessing an impactful nation branding and cultural diplomacy like Japan and South Korea, Malaysia needs to go beyond batik and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). — NSTP Archive

WITH its sight set on ensuring a successful Visit Malaysia Year 2020, the government has been working hard to ensure the message is spread around the world through cultural diplomacy.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has had a full calendar of visits, and international and regional meetings since September.

They include the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Baku, Azerbaijan, last month and the Asean and Related Summits in Bangkok, Thailand, recently.

acy is the most efficient way to score winning points to repel the bad publicity thrown at the country lately.

As an example, our palm oil has been making the news once again, and Dr Mahathir’s comments on several international and bilateral issues considered “critical” by the countries concerned have once again attracted a fair amount of bad media attention locally and abroad.

Most recently in Norway, five Malaysian children were separated by the authorities from their parents on accusation of child abuse.

Through cultural diplomacy, the government is hoping that negative perceptions of the country and its people could be reduced and managed.

It is within this context that I would like to commend the Foreign Ministry for organising, through its Institute of Diplomacy and Foreign Relations, a training programme on cultural diplomacy

In a recent programme, I addressed the 15 participants from different countries on nation branding and cultural diplomacy. Why the topic?

Malaysia has been at the forefront of international efforts to bring developing countries together to provide a “strategic reframing” of values and cultures to assist these countries to thrive in nation branding and cultural diplomacy.

Such a “strategic reframing” can be achieved by considering several factors.


Today, there is a noticeable change in the conduct of diplomacy between countries.

Distinctly, this has to do with the difference in the practice of the old and the new diplomacy.

The former thrives on staying on with norms and precedents. There is neither experimentation nor exit. The latter emphasises novelty and naivete.

There is room for being unconventional. But there is space for manoeuvrability.


The essence of a successful nation branding exercise is that it should be visible, different and relevant.

The elements to be considered are those tied to the values and cultures in the country.

While values are more subjective, cultures tend to be more objective, and are visible and closer to the senses. The latter includes what we see, touch and taste like architecture, tradition, food and shopping.


A country embarking on
nation branding and cultural diplomacy has to, firstly, assess and rank its internal strengths and weaknesses against the impact of external opportunities and threats.

The factors that will come into play include history, geography, economics, culture, security, media, technology, education and science.

To gain recognition as a country possessing an impactful nation branding and cultural diplomacy like Japan and South Korea, Malaysia needs to go beyond batik and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).


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Overcoming the language barrier

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019

(From left) Nurul Akmar, sign language interpreter Goh Soo Leng, Nur Saadah and Tengku Arman Harris communicating in BIM on the online course.

NOW, everyone can learn Malaysian Sign Language or Bahasa Isyarat Malaysia (better known by its Malay acronym, BIM).

This is because the Malaysian Federation of the Deaf (MFD) has launched an online version of its Level One BIM course on OpenLearning.

Its education development officer Nurul Akmar Abdul Aziz says there has been no BIM course offered online in Malaysia to date.

“We are delighted to get the public to learn BIM through an easily accessible medium, ” she explains, adding that the course covers the basics of BIM.

“We feel that we can reach more people who are far away via an online course. The content is exactly the same as our face-to-face classes, ” she says.

“MFD conducts BIM courses on-site throughout the year. However, due to the limited number of instructors and other logistics issues, not many people can benefit from these courses, ” says Nurul Akmar.

In Malaysia, BIM is the standard sign language used in schools, government agencies, as well as formal events involving the deaf community.

Nurul Akmar says a benefit of learning BIM online is that someone can always play back the video if they have forgotten or need to review something.

“We created the course to be easy, ” she says, adding that she is one of those who created the course and monitors the participants’ progress.Sign to us

MFD strongly encourages society to learn BIM as the deaf should not be marginalised because of communication issues.

Nur Saadah Zulkefli, who is one of the instructors at the federation’s centre in Puchong, says she has faced countless problems when dealing with people over the counter.

She says they would scribble their explanations to her and sometimes, she can’t understand what is written.

Even when she visits the doctor, she finds it hard to get a proper consultation due to the doctor not being able to explain clearly what he is trying to convey.

“Even when they ask ‘What is the problem’, they can’t understand what I am trying to tell them, ” she explains.

“For me, communication is very important and learning BIM will help a lot, ” adds Nur Saadah.

“Teachers and parents especially should learn sign language so that our education system would be more inclusive and accessible, ” says Nurul Akmar.

“The same goes for employers as a lot of deaf people work in the food and beverage industry and in factories.

“I think the issue with educating the deaf is not a cognitive issue but a communication issue, ” she says.

“If we can overcome this language barrier, we can tap into their potential, ” she explains.

She adds: “Communication is the first step towards making our society more inclusive towards the deaf.”

MFD president Tengku Arman Harris Tengku Ismail says there are around 38,000 deaf people registered with the social welfare department but believes the numbers are actually higher.

He adds that the online course makes it much more accessible for everyone to learn BIM, so that they can communicate easily with the deaf community.

BIM is unique in that it is its own special language, says Nurul Akmar.

“There is no “Bahasa Malaysia or English version of sign language, ” she adds.

Although it is a language that is understood by the deaf community, it is not exactly the same around the world.

“Each country has its own sign language.

“So in Malaysia, we have BIM, in the United States, we have the American Sign Language and then we have the British Sign Language and so on, ” she says, adding that there are some similar signs among the different sign languages.

Nurul Akmar says they started with the project to create the online course in February and launched it in September.

She adds that there are five people on the team who created the videos and also monitor the course.

The entire online course is conducted by instructors who are deaf and consist of 12 topics ranging from alphabets, numbers, places, greetings, colours and others.

“It took us a while to make sure the content and our explanations are correct, ” adds Nur Saadah.

She says that it was challenging to come up with the content because they needed to make sure the participants could understand and learn BIM without having an instructor in front of them to immediately correct their mistakes.

“Creating the course was very challenging because it has always been a face-to-face class, ” says Nurul Akmar, adding that teaching sign language is literally “hands-on.”

“It was a challenge to convert it to an online format and it took us quite some time to come up with the best format so that we can capture what we want to deliver in terms of the signs and how the students can respond to us, ” says Nurul Akmar.

She adds that interaction between the student and the instructor cannot take place spontaneously in the online course.

This is where they have made it interactive with participants able to post questions and comments, and receive replies not only from their instructor but other participants as well.

She says that there are now 38 participants enrolled with some already having completed the course.

She adds that one participant, who is studying dentistry, finished the entire online course in 24 hours!

While others, mostly those who are working, can take up to three months.

“We have university students, parents with deaf children, people who are friends with deaf people and also employers working with deaf people.

“There are also those who want to learn the language because they have seen deaf people signing to each other, ” she explains.

“It’s very heartwarming as an instructor when we hear why some of them have enrolled in this course, ” she says.

Currently, the online course is only available in Bahasa Malaysia but Nurul Akmar says they are planning on launching the English version soon together with Level 2 and Level 3 of the BIM course, and also Islamic Sign Language.

An interesting feature of the online course is that participants have to record a video of themselves at the end of every topic.

Nurul Akmar says the course is “open and self-paced” and electronic certificates are given once a participant completes the online course.

“You can register and complete the online course at any point of time.

“The good thing about an online course is that you will always have access to it.”

The course can be accessed via

The online course costs RM250 with unlimited access to the course content, and an electronic certificate will be given upon course completion.

The face-to-face class is priced at RM300 and those who complete it will also be given a certificate.

There is a special price for students.

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Journalists simply have to do more: Editor

Tuesday, October 29th, 2019

“Today, journalists have to contend with social media which has changed media consumption habits in a big way….,” said James.

Kota Kinabalu: Journalists regardless of whether in print or broadcast must be willing to do more than what is required of them if they wish to stay relevant in a media landscape that keeps changing, a session at the recent Word Power event held here heard.

“Already the public is regarding social media where they get much of the latest news now as the alternative media.

“We have to make sure it stays as the alternative media but not become the substitute media,” warned Daily Express Chief Editor James Sarda, JP.

James said competition used to be among peers until CNN pioneered 24-7 reporting with the first Gulf War in Iraq in 1990.  Soon others followed as people expected to be briefed hourly on the latest happenings.

“Then came Cable TV and Satellite TV broadcasts until the Internet again changed the parameters again.

“Today, journalists have to contend with social media which has changed media consumption habits in a big way, resulting in many newspapers worldwide downsizing or going out of business due to failure to evolve and stay ahead of the changing trends,” he said.

He recalled his visit to the Sharp Corporation headquarters in Japan in 2000 and the Chairman proudly telling the visiting journalists how the company’s employees get to know all the latest news on a digital screen installed inside the lifts while waiting to take them to their respective floors every morning.

“That was in 20 years back and handphones were 2G and had not yet transformed into smartphones. Now hand-held gadgets offer a window to the latest happenings and many of you here must be  right now as I speak aware of what’s happening locally and abroad via watsapp, facebook, twitter, etc.

“Information is king. We (traditional media) used to enjoy that role but it has been taken away from our hands,” he said.

James likened what the traditional media experienced post-2000 to the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg that began producing Bibles by the thousands so much so that priests in churches in 1800s lost their monopoly over the Word of God.

“People realised they knew what God said, including about two nudists being expelled from the Garden of Eden over an apple incident, without having to attend Sunday Mass.

“Similarly, we have lost the monopoly over information to social media,” he said. This has given rise to a new phenomenon, i.e. that of Citizen Journalists who need no journalism training except to be at the right place at the right time armed with a smartphone.

“What happened next is that terrorists took it to the next level by deciding to live-stream their acts as in the bombing of churches in Sri Lanka and the mosque massacre in New Zealand,” said James, who has a Masters in Journalism from Cardiff University and is a Chevening scholar.

“Thus the information including images went straight from the perpetrator (terrorist/s) to the consumer via Facebook without needing a journalist to interpret and say what happened,” he said, adding this begs the question of whether journalism degrees from universities are relevant or useful anymore.

On the bright side, James said the traditional media has been regaining lost ground due to the fake news phenomena that have become a headache for governments and authorities worldwide due to the public’s desire for cheap, unsolicited and unverified information.

“It (fake news) is now seen as perhaps the best thing to happen to journalism as it makes the public appreciate the role of bona fide journalists even more”.

In fact, he said, even what constitutes fake news is not fully understood and its meaning differs to different people.

He said much fake news only comes into play during elections and cited the victory of Donald Trump where fake news originating from Serbia helped Trump secure millions of crucial Christian votes by falsely reporting that the Pope approved of his candidacy.

James said because of these recent developments in the industry, he would not advise youngsters to make journalism their first-choice career unless they really think it is their calling.

“It still remains one of the few professions that offer a fantastic opportunity to contribute to society meaningfully. This alone should be a motivation for those who wish to do so.

“But once you are in it, become the best journalist that you can ever be. Reporting not only on given or scheduled assignments but undertaking research-based work on your own that help the community understand themselves better or research into events that had an impact on their lives.”

He said there are lots of opportunities to do this in Sabah because there is a lot about the State that even Sabahans don’t know about because it is not in the school syllabus.

He cited the Malaysia Agreement, Kinabalu Guerillas which was the only local untrained armed resistance in Malaysia to take on the Japanese and defeat them temporarily in Jesselton (now KK) during World War Two and the Death March where close to 2,000 Allied soldiers died after being forced to march barefoot and without food by the Japanese from Sandakan to Ranau as examples.

“These are stories that are still not fully told. The information is all out there if you can find it and the Daily Express never misses an opportunity to do so,” he said, citing the Archives page that appears every Saturday which highlights events that matter to Sabahans who were not born then.

“Journalists can take on the extra role by recording the stories of those still alive so that even if the history books and government failed in their duty, the information will not be lost,” he said.

He said similar work which the paper was involved in was researching and producing evidence about Sabah’s Kinabatangan being the subject of the world’s very first wildlife documentary following visits by pioneer Hollywood couple Martin and Osa Johnson in 1920 and 1935.

James has won many journalism awards including three coveted national-level main prizes for reporting by the Malaysian Press Institute (MPI).

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Best practices at the school canteen

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019
Kafe Rimba using nature in its concept to nurture love for environment among students.
A student utilising 3R recycling bins in maintaining the canteen’s cleanliness.

AT SMK Baru Miri, Sarawak, students clean up after themselves after a meal. No used plates and utensils are left unattended.

“Cloths are provided at every table for the students to wipe the table after eating,” said canteen “ambassador” Syed Haziq Hadif Wan Saifuddin.

This is to encourage common courtesy and good hygiene, he added.

The school canteen, Kafe Rimba, clinched the Gold Award in the secondary school category at the Canteen Services Best Practices 2019 for its efforts at increasing awareness on cleanliness, implementing healthy food menus and promoting school activities.

Kafe Rimba is no ordinary school canteen.

Its concept of nature with waterfall and fish pond surrounded by plants present a junglelike setting to inculcate the love for nature among students.

As the canteen “ambassador”, Syed Haziq has to ensure that all students participate in maintaining the cleanliness of the canteen.

“Our objectives include taking care of the environment, practising 3R (reduce, reuse, recycle) and encouraging innovation among students.

“We identified two main waste from the canteen — used cooking oil and kitchen waste such as vegetables and fruit peelings.

We attempted to recycle these waste into new products.

“Used cooking oil, if not managed properly, will cause clogged pipes in the school canteen. Hence, we took a proactive step by collecting the used oil and recycled it into soap. These soaps were placed at the canteen to be used by students.

“We also gathered kitchen waste to produce organic fertiliser using the technique of bokashi composting. We mix the waste and bokashi powder in a container and ferment it for a week. Bokashi is Japanese for fermented organic matter.

“The process of making bokashi is easy, cheap and environmentally-friendly,” said the Form Six student.

These projects are spearheaded by the school’s Innovation Club, he added.

“It is my responsibility as a canteen ambassador to make sure that the implementation of these projects take place efficiently.

“In an effort to reduce littering, we have also placed trash cans around the school compound.

“It’s good to see that students spend time at the canteen, not only to enjoy a meal but also study. I hope with the recognition, we can be a role-model and inspire other schools to come out with similar initiatives,” he said.

Principal Jerrah Pandin revealed that the canteen’s atmosphere improves student attendance and learning attitude.

“Students generally spend a lot of time in school. Some are here as early as 5.20am to wait for their breakfast before lessons begin at 7am.

“They enjoy being at the school canteen as it provides a sense of tranquillity with its nature concept,” she said.

“Most of our students are from low income backgrounds, hence we want to create a conducive environment and provide nutritious and balanced meals at school for them.

“The canteen operator prepares healthy meals according to the correct serving size and portion. The calorie count for each menu is displayed for students to track their intake.

“We have introduced the no-plastic campaign to raise awareness on taking care of the environment.

“To succeed in our objectives, the collective efforts of all stakeholders are essential. I am thankful to all 862 students, 81 teachers and workers, parent-teacher association members and the canteen operator who gave their full commitment in making this project a success,” she added.

“Parents especially are supportive of our initiative. They volunteer to do gotong-royong and repair damaged chairs and tables at the


Jerrah hoped that this project teaches students to eat right and stay fit to achieve a normal Body Mass Index.

Organised by Holstein Milk Company in collaboration with the Education and Health Ministries, Canteen Services Best Practices is

an annual initiative to inculcate healthy eating habits and promote safe practices in school


The programme also gives special recognition in the 3R Campaign, Healthy and Fresh Canteen, and Generasi Farm Fresh

Video categories. It received 58 entries from 30 primary schools and 28 secondary schools nationwide this year.

SMK Malim and SMK Raja Perempuan Ipoh received the silver and bronze awards respectively, in the secondary school category.

For the primary school category, the gold, silver and bronze awards went to SK Pauh Jaya, SK Bandar Tasik Kesuma and SJKC Chung Hua Pujut respectively.

The prize money is split into three portions — 60 per cent goes to the canteen operator, 30 per cent to the school while the remaining is channelled to the PTA.

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