Archive for the ‘21st Century Teaching and Learning.’ Category

Tap into 21st century skills

Thursday, October 17th, 2019
Given the widespread availability of information today, students no longer need educators to lecture them because information is readily available and often in more engaging formats than a typical classroom lecture. PIC BY ROSELA ISMAIL

THE term 21st century skills refers to a broad set of knowledge, skills, work habits and character traits that are believed by educators, school reformers, college professors and employers to be critically important to succeed in today’s world, particularly in collegiate programmes and contemporary careers and workplaces.

Generally speaking, 21st century skills can be applied in all academic subject areas, and in all educational, career and civic settings throughout a student’s life.

It should be noted that the “21st century skills” concept encompasses a wide-ranging and amorphous body of knowledge and skills that is not easy to define and that has not been officially codified or categorised.

While the term is widely used in education, it is not always defined consistently, which can lead to confusion and divergent interpretations.

In addition, a number of related terms, including various skills in applied, cross curricular, cross disciplinary, interdisciplinary, non-cognitive and soft skills, amongst others, are also widely used in reference to the general forms of knowledge and skills commonly associated with 21st century skills.

Increasing graduation rates and levels of educational attainment will accomplish little if students do not master 21st century skills.

As Rohiman Haroon wrote in his article “Of Reskilling, Upskilling Youths”, graduates need to be reskilled and upskilled in every sense of the word, according to the requirement of the industry.

Yet, efforts over the last several years have focused much more on increasing the number of students who go to college than on improving the education they receive once they get there.

By concentrating so heavily on graduation rates and attainment levels, policy-makers are ignoring danger signs that the amount that students learn in college may have declined over the past few decades and could well continue to do so in the years to come.

To truly improve teaching of 21st century skills over time in a sustainable way, it’s more about mindset, curiosity and a sense of progress and belonging.

All good educators comprehend that imparting 21st century skills require constructing a bridge between what students know and what they need to learn. However, to do that requires embracing students’ cultural backgrounds which has largely been left out of current debates on what makes teaching effective.

If you don’t know anything about the everyday living experiences of your students — the cultural backgrounds, the dialects, the family, the home and the community — educators tend to pull the examples for teaching from their own experiences.

And, hence, those connections are not made for students.

Culturally responsive pedagogy starts with the premise that diversity matters, and that some institutions fail to send diverse students signals that they belong.

To make sure all students feel valued, educators need to be aware of their own biases, work deeply to understand their individual students, find ways to bring students’ heritage into the classroom and hold all students to a high academic standard.

Being very knowledgeable in one’s field of study is also a crucial stepping stone to impart 21st- century skills.

It’s true that even the most successful educators don’t know everything. But, the more one knows, the easier it will be to teach students and to offer them prompt answers to their questions.

Learning never stops and that’s why, being an educator, one needs to feed their mind with as much information as it can take in. Remember that students always prefer consulting educators who are known to possess in-depth knowledge about a specific field. Knowledge indicates authenticity.

In today’s world, information and knowledge are increasing at such an astronomical rate that no one can learn everything about every subject. What may appear true today could be proven to be false tomorrow, and the jobs that students will get after they graduate may not yet exist.

For this reason, students need to be taught how to process information, and they need adaptable skills they can apply in all areas of life — just teaching them ideas and facts, without teaching them how to use them in real-life settings, is no longer enough.

Educators need to adapt and develop new ways of teaching and learning that reflect a changing world.

The purpose of education should be to prepare students for success after graduation, and therefore institutions need to prioritise the knowledge and skills that will be in the greatest demand, such as 21st century skills deemed to be the most important by employers.

Merely teaching students to perform well is no longer sufficient. Given the widespread availability of information today, students no longer need educators to lecture them because that information is readily available, and often in more engaging formats than a typical classroom lecture.

For this reason, educators should use class time to teach students how to use information, rather than present information.

In such a setting, educators can leverage on technology to create an engaging and personalised environment to meet the emerging educational needs of this generation. No longer does learning have to be one-size-fits-all or confined to the classroom.

The opportunities afforded by technology should be used to re-imagine 21st century skills, focusing on preparing students to be learners for life.

By R. Murali Rajaratenam.

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Govt launches Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 to ‘turbo-charge’ economy

Sunday, October 6th, 2019

(FMT) – Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad today launched Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 (SPV 2030) outlining the government’s plans for the future.

Mahathir said SPV 2030 will be fullly implemented from 2021.

“In 2021, we will hit the ground running and pursue the Shared Prosperity Vision full steam,” he said at the launch at KLCC this morning.

SPV 2030, he said, aimed at achieving fairer economic growth and adding value to the economy, making Malaysia attractive once more to foreign investors.

Mahathir said the global economy had changed much over the years and while Malaysia had successfully transformed from an agricultural to industrial nation, it was now time for the next step.

Sadly, he said the economic development direction in the past decade, which saw premature liberalisation, the pursuit of gross domestic product (GDP) values and a high-income nation, had turned the country into a low-value economy with a high reliance on cheap and low-skilled labour.

He said this was proven when more than 60% of the jobs created in the past decade were low-skilled with an average salary of less than RM2,000.

“The effect of the economic structure in the past two decades actually widened inequality among the people, be it among income, ethnic and regional classes and even within the supply chain.

“The gap between the Top 20% and Bottom 40% widened from RM2,000 in 1990 to more than RM10,000 in 2016.”

Mahathir also cited the growing inequality among Bumiputeras and non-Bumiputera, urban and rural areas, and between East and West Malaysia.

He said corporate equity data up to 2015 showed Bumiputera equity dropped to 16.2% while non-Bumiputera equity dropped to 30.7%, and foreign equity increased to 45.3%.

In 2011, he said, Bumiputera equity stood at 23.4% while non-Bumiputera equity stood at

So, Mahathir said, the Bumiputera equity target of 30% under the New Economic Policy has yet to be met.

As result of this and corruption, he said the Bumiputera empowerment agenda has been affected and that the blame lay with corruption and abuse rather than the Bumiputera agenda itself.

Shared prosperity, he said, meant that no one was left behind and this included the Bumiputeras, who were lagging behind other communities.

“At the same time, as I always stress, the Bumiputeras should not just wait for the government’s help and support.

“When we understand we are left behind, we need to realise we need to run faster to chase those ahead of us.”

He called on the people to work towards realising the goals of SPV 2030.

Also present at today’s launch were Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali and Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

Mahathir first announced SPV 2030 a few months ago but until today, there have been few details.

The objectives of the 10-year roadmap, from 2021 to 2030, are to ensure development for all, address wealth and income disparities and build a united, prosperous and dignified nation.

Among its key targets is for Malaysia to attain a RM3.4 trillion gross domestic product (GDP), employee wages to be at 48% of GDP, an equal salary median among the races and a Gini Coeficient of 0. 34, down from 0.39 in 2016.

SPV 2030 has seven strategic thrusts, consisting of a business and industry ecosystem, key economic growth activities (KEGA), human capital, labour market and compensation of employees, social wellbeing, regional inclusion and social capital.

Each of these thrusts has its own targets like SME and microbusinesses contributing to 50% of GDP, the building of new sectors like renewable energy, and Islamic Finance Hub 2.0.

It also targets 60% of SPM leavers to pursue TVET, a discrimination-free labour market, the measuring of poverty using a relative poverty index, and the introduction of a religious harmony index, among others.

On top of that, SPV 2030 also outlines specific KEGAs for each state, including being logistics or financial hubs, eco tourism and heritage tourism, manufacturing or agriculture.

By MT Webmaster.

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Changing the classroom and beyond

Saturday, September 21st, 2019
Teach For Malaysia fellow Kuan May Yin (left) and the Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching (right) co-teaching Geography to Form Two students at SMK Pendamaran Jaya, Klan

LOCATED in Klang, the locals used to regard SMK Pendamaran Jaya (SMKPJ) as a school for hoodlums until Teach for Malaysia (TFM), a nonprofit organisation aiming to help children in Malaysia attain an excellent education, started sending its “fellows” to this school.

The fellows are actually young graduates and professionals recruited to teach at highneed public schools for a period of two years.

Since 2012, SMKPJ has hosted 11 TFM fellows. Currently, four fellows are working there with multiple TFM alumni programmes to empower the students.

“Ever since the TFM programme started, the school’s standard has increased,” said Yap Lee Sin, the father of Yap Wei Cheng, a former SMKPJ student.

Yap, who works as a fisherman, said that he has observed a lot of positive changes in his son.

“He has learnt to embrace different cultures and religions. Even now as a school alumnus, Wei Cheng still comes here every Saturday to help students in science and technology.”

For Yap Wei Cheng, 18, his experience with TFM started in Form Three when a fellow, Loh Chee Hoo, began to teach him Mandarin.

“Instead of just referring to the textbook, he would teach us about Chinese values, history and culture. Sir Loh has really impacted my life.

“His best advice to me was to respect everyone equally and not to label or demonise others,” said Yap.

Having been involved with a TFM alumni programme called Chumbaka, Yap was able to undergo life-skills training through technology.

“Through Chumbaka, I learnt about innovation, entrepreneurship and problemsolving. As a result of the training, my group members Yus Amirul Wafiq and Shahril Hashim, and I, came up with an invention called Bonus Clean.

“The invention rewards students with points which they can redeem for items sold at the school co-op, like food and stationery.

“We wanted to encourage students to throw rubbish in the bin to keep the environment clean. Bonus Clean has also brought us to international-level competitions such as The Kuala Lumpur Engineering Science Fair,” said Yap.

Aspiring to be an engineer, Yap said that Chumbaka has taught him leadership skills and teamwork.

“Aside from entrepreneurship and innovation, I also developed a better understanding of the Malaysian society.

Working with my diverse team, I was able to learn more about them and the different races in the nation. It was a great opportunity

for us to collaborate with each other.”

Yap added that the most important lesson he has received from TFM fellows is empathy.

“Think before you speak and feel before you judge. Last year, while I was mentoring my juniors, I realised that some of them

have family problems or mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. It’s important to have teachers who listen to students,” said Yap.

SMKPJ fifth former Jeetha Nagantheran, 17, said that TFM fellows always set up interactive games in class to encourage critical thinking.

“For example, in Form One, I really loved learning English with a TFM fellow, Mr Gabriel Samson. He implemented a reward and penalty system, which motivated me to read more and speak up in class.

“Each time we answered his questions, we’d receive a token to participate in a lucky draw. He gave us stationery and food as presents.”

The experience helped Jeetha to break out of her shell.

“After studying with Mr Gabriel, I became more confident. I learnt that it’s important to voice out your ideas and share them.”

Jeetha also took part in an alumni programme called Project ID (Impianku Destinasiku) which she regarded as an eye-opening experience.

“We were only 13, so we hadn’t really thought about our future. But Project ID gave us the opportunity to go to Kidzania and meet lecturers from universities. We were also exposed to various education pathways and careers,” said Jeetha.

Founded by the 2012 cohort of TFM fellows, Project ID prepares students for their future careers through workshops and activities.

Jeetha Nagantheran

A Food Technology graduatefrom Universiti Sains Malaysia, Kuan May Yin, 26, teaches Geography at SMKPJ.

Teaching had never crossed Kuan’s mind until her coursemate died while they were in the final year of their studies.

“It made me think about my purpose in life. I believe that I have a mission to help others. When it comes to the education system, Malaysians like to complain on

social media. It shows that we care and are concerned. So, I thought to myself, why don’t I turn that feeling into action?”

Having learnt a lot as a teacher, she said: “At school, I don’t deal with robots or computers, but I work with different children every day.

“I learnt that respect is earned. When I step into the classroom, I need to show that I respect my students. When you show your respect and love for them genuinely, they’ll return it.

“I also learnt to love the students who are the hardest to love. There are students who don’t bring their books and always come in late, but they have hard stories to tell. From divorced parents to abusive families, I’ve heard it all when they open up to me.”

Kuan added that teachers can leave an impact on the most difficult of students.

“One day, while I was teaching, I struggled to raise my voice as the class next door was very noisy. Then, a student, who always misbehaves in class, asked for my permission to go to the washroom. He actually went next door and told the students to keep quiet.

“I didn’t ask him to do it, but he took the initiative to help me. It was a very powerful moment as it shows that students are capable of making a change despite coming from challenging backgrounds.”

On Aug 1, Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching joined Kuan to co-teach a Geography lesson at SMKPJ.

The session was held as part of the annual TFM Week, where key leaders are invited to spend time as teachers in underprivileged schools.


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5G: Five things to know

Monday, May 20th, 2019
5G is already available in South Korea and for fixed Internet lines in some US cities. It is also available in parts of Estonia, Finland and Switzerland. — AP

5G is already available in South Korea and for fixed Internet lines in some US cities. It is also available in parts of Estonia, Finland and Switzerland. — AP

PARIS/LONDON: It is heralded as an essential step to a brave new world of technology, but in the here and now, super-fast 5G networking is already pitting China against the West.

Here are five things to know about the fifth-generation successor to today’s 4G technology, which is a decade old and struggling to keep pace with global broadband demand.

What is 5G?

5G promises radically quicker transfers of data, instigating major changes to an array of products and services from self-driving cars to “telemedicine”.

The market for streaming videogames, a rapidly growing area, will get a huge lift, as will the “Internet of Things” – domestic appliances, lighting and other at-home technologies connected and operated remotely.

It’s not just about speed of downloads and uploads. 5G promises much lower “latency” than 4G. That is the time lag between a command being sent by a user and a device acting on it.

In the real world, that brings into play the possibility of factory robots being operated remotely or surgeons operating on patients from far away using augmented reality glasses.

The most visible gain from lower latency could be with the widespread advent of self-driving cars. But these will need 5G networks to cover large areas, which is some way off.

When’s it coming?

5G is already here in South Korea and for fixed internet lines in some US cities. It is also available in parts of Estonia, Finland and Switzerland.

The global breakthrough – widespread ultra-fast mobile networks on a par with 4G today – is still in the works.

Japan and China are targeting 2020 for nationwide rollouts. The rest of Asia and Europe will follow over the decade.

But mobile communications industry body GSMA, which represents 800 operators worldwide, estimates 5G will account for just 15% of total global mobile connections in 2025.

And when will most of us see 5G smartphones? China’s Huawei was set to launch a 5G phone May 16 in London.

But broad adoption by consumers depends on 5G networks spreading far enough, and for the handhelds’ chips and other architecture to be capable of handling the added workload.

5G, give us a wave

Governments first need to harmonise standards for the award of so-called millimetre-wave (mmWave) spectrum, which will carry the vast data flows promised by 5G.

That high-frequency mmWave spectrum starts at about 30 gigahertz. In contrast, 4G networks operate at lower than 6 GHz.

That means not only ultra-fast broadband but also much greater bandwidth for many more users and devices to be connected to the network at the same time.

Who’s building it?

To bring the promised speeds to the masses, 5G requires a whole new infrastructure of masts, base stations and receivers.

Among the networking companies in the race are Huawei, Sweden’s Ericsson and Nokia of Finland. South Korean giant Samsung and China’s ZTE are other infrastructure players.

Huawei says it offers better technology at a lower cost. The Chinese leader, however, is hitting hurdles in the global race.

What’s the fuss?

The US government says Huawei – founded by former Chinese army engineer Ren Zhengfei – is a security risk and has urged allies including Britain to shun its equipment over fears it could serve as a Trojan horse for Chinese intelligence services.

The US government has banned all federal agencies from acquiring Huawei equipment. Others including Australia, Japan and India have followed suit.

Against the backdrop of a US-China trade war, on May 14 US President Donald Trump went further by effectively barring Huawei from the US market.

China then formally arrested two Canadians already being held on suspicion of stealing state secrets in a case seen as retaliation over Canada’s arrest of a Huawei executive on a US extradition request.

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English teacher who turns classroom into a beach wins PAK21 teacher campaign

Friday, April 5th, 2019
Dr Maszlee Malik (second from left) presenting the prize to the winner of the 21st Century Learning Teachers Campaign (PAK21) Muhammad Nazmi Rosli (second from right) at the prize giving ceremony accompanied by Datuk Dr Mohd Gazali Abas (left) and Datuk Dr Amin Senin (right). NSTP/MOHD FADLI HAMZAH.

PUTRAJAYA: With pupils having little to no access to the outside world, English teacher Muhammad Nazmi Rosli from Sarawak decided to bring the world into the classroom. He transformed his classroom into a beach, hospital and pet shop to let the pupils capture the experience being in those places and situations.

Muhammad Nazmi was announced the winner of 21st Century Learning Teachers Campaign (PAK21) – a campaign organised by the Ministry of Education through the Education Performance and Delivery Unit (PADU).

His school, Sekolah Kebangsaan Long Sukang in Lawas is tucked in green mountains about 660 kilometers away from Kuching.

“The pupils have never seen a beach so I decided to bring the beach to them. Once they are exposed to the outside world, they are allowed to dream bigger dreams and believe that they could do more.

The resourceful teacher added that he made use of old boxes and plastic bags lying around the school grounds in creating the props.

PAK21 is an initiative to get teachers to incorporate simple yet different ways of teaching that will help to foster communication, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and values and ethics amongst their students.

“Some assumed that PAK21 is all about technology but, I wanted to prove that providing the best education is possible even without technology and access to the internet,” he added.

Present at the closing ceremony were Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik, Education director-general Datuk Dr Amin Senin and Education Ministry secretary general Datuk Dr Mohd Gazali Abas.

In his speech, Maszlee said the campaign was introduced to find an extraordinary teacher applying PAK21 into their classrooms. He added that teachers who went the extra mile deserve recognition and should be an inspiration to others.

“They are the backbone of change and deserve our appreciation, admiration and gratitude.”

The minister called for all teachers to continue fighting the good fight until every student feels the impact of PAK21.

He said there is a need to shift to 21st century learning methods as they teach transferable skills that are irreplaceable by the threat of automation.

Citing the Khazanah Research Institute’s recent ‘School-to-Work’ study, he said that employers are looking out for a mastery of soft skills like communication and collaboration to scale up the value chain, which are taught through PAK21.

A Science teacher of Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Jerlun, Kedah, Norhailmi Abdul Mutalib emerged as first runner-up while English teacher at SMK Pasir Gudang, Johor, Emira Nabila Ramli won the third place.


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Educating today’s students for tomorrow’s world

Monday, February 18th, 2019
TIMES have changed, and so have schools. Gone are the days of sitting in rows, poring over textbooks, memorising facts. Advances in pedagogy, the latest academic research and technological developments have all helped shift our understanding of what great teaching and learning looks like.
Students as learning leaders
At Taylor’s Schools, learners are empowered to take control of their learning. Through the adoption of enquiry-based curricula like the IPC (International Primary Curriculum) at Nexus Malaysia and the integration of world-leading pedagogical approaches such as Quantum Learning at Taylor’s International School and Visible Learning at the Australian International School, students are nurtured to become resilient, curious and analytical thinkers.

Taylor’s Schools also understand that it’s important to offer students outstanding learning environments to support great learning.
The award-winning campus at Taylor’s International School Puchong is just one example of this, while the innovative learning environments at Garden International School and open-plan classrooms at Nexus Malaysia also help to inspire and engage students.

However, it is the quality of teaching that makes the greatest impact on children. Good teachers should be qualified, experienced and above all, passionate about what they do. In addition, strong professional development programme and regular opportunities for professional collaboration- featured in all Taylor’s Schools are crucial to ensure that teachers are able to bring out the best in every child.

Nexus Singapore: A centre of excellence .

Nexus Singapore will welcome students to its innovative new campus in 2020.

Here in Malaysia, Taylor’s Schools are well known for the high quality of education they offer, but Nexus Singapore is also well known for being a centre of excellence. The school’s recent “Topping Up” ceremony, at which guests and dignitaries gathered to ceremonially complete the foundations of the main campus building, marked an outstanding achievement for the Nexus brand.

Outstanding learning environments are important to support great learning.

Beating stiff competition from some outstanding competitors, Taylor’s Education Group won the bid for an outstanding piece of land in the centre of Singapore upon which to expand Nexus Singapore – an overwhelming endorsement by the Singapore government.

The new Nexus campus will welcome its first students in 2020 and will include innovative and flexible learning spaces, world-class theatre, music recording studios, sports fields and an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

Find out more about Nexus Singapore at

Great facilities support an outstanding education experience
A heritage of excellence
In Kuala Lumpur, Taylor’s College has been delivering an outstanding Sixth Form experience and consistently impressive results for many years. Recently, the college celebrated its 50th anniversary – an outstanding achievement, which highlights the robust academic foundations and impressive heritage of the college. At the celebration, hundreds of alumni gathered to share some of their fondest memories of being a Taylorian and how their education at Taylor’s institutions played a key role in their personal and professional success.
Both in Malaysia and in Singapore, Taylor’s Schools deliver an outstanding education that ensures students are “future ready”.

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All set for digital learning

Sunday, February 10th, 2019
(From left) Azizi, Roslan and Badrul Hisham checking out the tablet on how TM ONE can help to transform the national education landscape.

(From left) Azizi, Roslan and Badrul Hisham checking out the tablet on how TM ONE can help to transform the national education landscape.

TM ONE wants to equip schools and ensure they are ready to carry out 21st century learning techniques.

TM One chief executive officer and executive vice president Azizi A Hadi says the company has the necessary infrastructure to support interactive digital learning.

He adds that it needs the green light from the Education Ministry but once they have it, it can deliver on their promises.

Azizi says TM aims to “enable” 85% of Malaysia’s over 10,000 national schools with high-speed Internet access, to use fibre technology within the next six months.

“That’s about 8,700 schools,” he says, adding that this will include both urban and rural schools.

TM, he says, has a network of over 50,000km of cables nationwide, adding that “fibre is the best solution for schools.

“We feel this is our uniqueness. We have the readiness to equip the schools.

“We want to fulfil the ministry’s aspirations to be quick and impactful while being cost-effective.

“TM’s network is secure and we can provide security to the whole infrastructure and protect from hackers,” says Azizi.

One of its key focuses is to ensure nationwide access to education, he says.

“We want to become the digital enabler in a very hyper-connected ecosystem,” he adds.

Azizi says its key stakeholders are the students and teachers, while parents are also important.

TM One has engaged with other stakeholders such as the state education departments, district education offices and the National Union of the Teaching Profession to understand their needs so it can create the best learning environment.

Over the past two years, TM One has learned that the company needs to meet the technological demands of the 21st century classroom and Education 4.0, which aims to equip students with the necessary skills to meet the fourth industrial revolution.

Azizi says teachers have a “wishlist” and want to see augmented and virtual reality being used in the teaching and learning process one day.

Teachers, he says, would also like to not have to rewrite their lesson plans or attendance list.

“Why rewrite something when it can be digitised?”

“They want to use rich content, they want it to be interactive. Teachers want to be able to discuss with their counterparts in other places or teach multiple classes at the same time,” he adds.

But, Azizi points out, “to do all these things, we need the platform and the connectivity.”

“This is where, we believe we can come in and help all these stakeholders,” he says.

“To do this you need the right infrastructure and technology to do it.

“TM has our (ready) data centres (nationwide) and we have the infrastructure to store all the content.”

Azizi says that with the right connectivity and technology, all kinds of things can be possible in the future.

As an example, students can use a smartcard for almost all their daily schooling needs.

“Just imagine, everything from recording attendance by tapping into readers, to purchasing food in the canteen,” he explains.

He says parents can even check if their child has boarded their transport home, so increasing the safety and security aspects too.

“Items such as smartcards and e-wallets can be part of this solution.”

This is not the first time TM is getting involved in education, he says.

“We started way back in 2004 when we started providing SchoolNet to schools.

“But now, we want to play a bigger role in Malaysia’s education so that we can bring our nation into the next level, which is the fourth industrial revolution,” he adds.

TM One chief operation officer Roslan Rashidi and senior director Badrul Hisham Besri were also present.

By Rebecca Rajaendram
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Advancing science with humanity in mind

Thursday, January 24th, 2019
‘We want to replicate some of the early success we have and create new sub-industries driven by Malaysian companies’ – JOHAN MAHMOOD MERICAN, Finance Ministry National Budget Office director

AT the inaugural Asean Emerging Researchers Conference in Sunway University last month, Tunku Besar Seri Menanti Tunku Ali Redhauddin Tuanku Muhriz said science should not serve scientists alone, but humanity as a whole.

Therefore, he said the emphasis of research should be on finding solutions to issues faced by the community, and helping those facing the toughest challenges within the community — solutions that are accessible, affordable and culturally acceptable.

The conference aims to create a platform for Asean scientists and its diaspora to promote research excellence in the region. Its objectives are to enhance interdisciplinary knowledge-sharing and to identify emerging areas that Asean researchers can champion to address local needs and global challenges.

It was endorsed by Asean, the Malaysian Education Ministry; the Malaysian Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Ministry; and, the Thai National Science, Technology and Development Agency.

Tunku Ali Redhauddin Tuanku Muhriz (first row, seventh from left) with attendees and speakers of the Asean Emerging Researchers Conference at Sunway University. PIC BY NUR ADIBAH AHMAD IZAM

It was supported by the Academy of Sciences Malaysia, Oxford and Cambridge Society Malaysia, Malaysia Research University Network, Nanyang Technology University Singapore and International Network for Government Science Advice Asia.

Addressing some 300 researchers, Tunku Ali Redhauddin, a Cambridge University graduate, highlighted the region’s future as it continued to be shaped by science, technology and innovation.

“The socio-economic transformation of our nations has been achieved through the growth of critical technologies that provide for basic needs and improve our quality of life.

“In coming years, as we go through the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the changes will only continue to be good, with the development of artifical intelligence, big data analytics and machine learning making our lives better.

“But the world ahead is not without its challenges. Environmental, economic and social risks are ever increasing. Worryingly, the gap between the have and have-nots is widening.

“The population is also aging, with a smaller percentage of working individuals looking after a larger retired population.

“Automation also means jobs will be lost, or at least evolve, and people will need a new set of skills. In addition, social media may allow us to stay connected, but does it also mean that we are giving up our freedoms and privacy?

“No doubt you would have read about the initiatives to rank people based on their social behaviour. And finally, if we are not able to save ourselves from environmental destruction, then is there any point to all these development anyway?” he said in the opening speech.

In her address, University of Cambridge’s Wolfson College president Professor Jane Clarke said today’s research environment is multidisciplinary and international in nature.

Without international cooperation, without interdisciplinary expertise, researchers have nothing much to learn or gain.

“It is vital to have mobility for researchers as it is important to have diversity in a research project. It is important to have a research environment where people have different skills and can look at problems in very different ways,” she said.

Clarke also emphasised that “research is a leap into the unknown and basic research is an investment”.

She said if societies want to develop something, investments must be made in fundamental research.

Professor Datin Paduka Dr Khatijah Yusoff (left) fielding a question during a forum.

“Out of basic research, comes new technology, comes new ideas. Many start-up founders are young scientists — PhD students and post-doctorate scholars who have an idea from their fundamental research. They then develop their ideas to change the world,” she said.

World Academy of Sciences vice-president Professor Datin Paduka Dr Khatijah Yusoff concured with Clarke.

“Fundamental research is very difficult. But it is important because that is where we get our designs, our patents and so forth. Nevertheless, translational research, which is taking your research to be used by the community and industry, is also important.

“We need the right objectives and goals to carry out our research, which I think should allow for a little bit of freedom.

“Now, in Malaysia, if I get a research grant, I have to be accountable and persistently produce statements of expenditure at every stage throughout my project.

“Whereas for Professor Clarke, she may be allowed to do whatever she wants, and in five years’ time, she produces something novel.

“We need to take big bold steps like that. We need to take risks. Without the risks, we are just going to produce low-hanging fruits, just like simple supplements and not real drugs.”

Khatijah also expressed concern over current restrictions, like the cutback on postgraduate scholarships, which may affect the momentum of research and development.

“I’ve had students, particularly Malaysians, who have registered to pursue a PhD under my supervision, but they have to defer their studies because they aren’t able to support themselves without a scholarship.

“So, if this happens to me, it also happens to all scientists in Malaysia. And I think if only we can have that little bit of money, if you can pay the students, that will help them a lot in getting their degrees. And it is so important that we build our capacity in talents,” said Khatijah.

Finance Ministry National Budget Office director Johan Mahmood Merican said with limited resources given to universities by the government, the key is to look at how the country can sustain its competitiveness by building on existing knowledge to evolve into the next stage of research and development.

“It is not that we are looking for something that we have no idea about to work on. It is like the analogy of monkeys jumping trees.


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4IR — a continuum of events

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018
The steam engine, invented some 250 years ago, powered the First Industrial Revolution. It is dubbed by economic historians as a ‘general purpose technology’. PIC BY REUTERS PIC

THAT the world is enthralled by what is in store for the future with the rise of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is an understatement.

Ever since the concept of the 4IR became a catchphrase for the next “big” thing, the global trendsetters are peddling it as a panacea that can cure most of the ills that humanity is currently grappling with. What is more, the technopreneurs are saying that the fusion of digital revolution and biotechnology will change the world like never before.

After being lulled into accepting that technological progress is the only way forward, we forget that we will lose our humanity along the way.

This is partly due to the fact that with technological change, social and cultural norms will have to evolve; some of those norms will then be codified into a body of regulatory law. This is most evident when the First Industrial Revolution took the world by storm.

An unprecedented social, cultural, economic and ecological change took place alongside the First Industrial Revolution: mass urbanisation, significant increase in the educational attainment of the population, role of the state and in how governments are chosen, child labour, and ecological crisis were not simply the negative and positive externalities of technological change, but were ways in which society evolved in order to enable the productivity possibilities of the new technologies.

In his illuminating new book, Tan Sri Dzulkifli Abdul Razak lays bare the contradictions of how humanity is dealing with technological change.

In the Fourth Industrial Revolution: The Leadership Dilemma, the writer acknowledges that the world is changing fast, and in unexpected ways. He rightly points out that with rapid advancement in information technology, huge swathes of the job market are at risk of being automated.

This book is a rarity in the discourse on 4IR because unlike the mainstream narrative, it cautions the reader to assess technological change with a keen eye on what it does to humanity.

Dzulkifli argues that there are three “leadership” dilemmas that have to be wisely dealt with before a successful policy on the 4IR can be formulated. The first dilemma has to do with whether or not the 4IR is an isolated phenomena or it is a continuum of events.

We would do well, according to the author, to conceptualise the 4IR as a continuum of events as we have to understand the interconnectedness of the 4IR to the first, second, and third industrial revolutions.

What were the factors that triggered the First Industrial Revolution in Europe some 250 years ago? How did European society deal with the disruptions? These are some of the important questions that need a well thought-out answer before we can embark on the 4IR superhighway.

The invention of the steam engine during the First Industrial Revolution, for example, is dubbed by economic historians as a “general purpose technology” — an advance that can be used to do things more effectively across many different facets of life.

A steam engine could be hooked to any production facility that previously relied on wind or water or animal power. It could be affixed to transport devices — boats, cars, train engines to make them go farther, faster, with more horsepower.

Steam could be used to boost productivity in all sorts of contexts and industries. It is the general purpose technologies such as steam and electricity that generate revolutions.

What is of importance, Dzulkifli cautions, is to take a holistic view of the previous industrial revolutions and take stock of both the good and the ugly. Many of the negative externalities of the previous revolutions such as the ecological crisis are still not dealt with successfully.

Will 4IR be able to deal with a host of problems brought about by the previous industrial revolutions or will it exacerbate the problems?

The second leadership dilemma is even more pressing. With the change in technology, are we moving away from anthropocentrism to technocentrism? The First Industrial Revolution had ushered in the anthropocentrism era largely due to heightened human activities.

Put in another way, the ability to “tame” nature had placed humanity at the centre of the universe. That said, we should also note, according to the author, that anthropocentrism had caused immeasurable damage in the guise of species extinction and in widening the wealth gap between the top one per cent and the rest.

In addition, the emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) will bring anthropocentrism to a new low. Since STEM is already dehumanising, 4IR has to be properly navigated so that it will not bring about the new era of technocentrism, which will surely relegate humanity to the backburner.

The final dilemma is the tug of war between artificial intelligence (AI) and primordial intelligence. Will the rise of AI bring about the end of “free will” as we know it? Will it also bring about the dictatorship of the machines?

By Dr Azeem Fazwan Ahmad Farouk.

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Schools to modernise classrooms

Sunday, September 30th, 2018
Palestinian children use laptops at the Ziad Abu Ein School in the West Bank city of Ramallah. — AP

Palestinian children use laptops at the Ziad Abu Ein School in the West Bank city of Ramallah. — AP

Educators hope the use of technology and the arts will create new opportunities in a society that has produced large numbers of unemployed college graduates

AS the teacher pointed to the large touch screen, her first-grade classroom came alive. With the click of a link, an animated character popped up on the screen, singing and dancing as it taught the children how to read.

The day’s lesson was the Arabic letter “Raa,” and the screen displayed cartoon pictures of objects that contain the letter _ desert, chair and pomegranate _ as the teacher asked the children to come up with other words. The students smiled and sang along.

Just a few years ago, such scenes were unthinkable in most Palestinian classrooms. Like elsewhere in the Arab world, schools in the Palestinian territories have traditionally emphasised memorisation and obedience over critical thinking and creativity.

“The students don’t need to memorise things. They need to understand first,” said Ruba Dibas, the principal of the Ziad Abu Ein School in the West Bank city of Ramallah. “Then they need to express their understanding through writing, speaking, drawing, acting.”

Ziad Abu Ein is one of 54 “smart teaching schools” introduced last year. This year, the number tripled. By 2020, all 1,800 public schools in the West Bank are to be part of the programme.

Dibas said the goal is to eliminate testing from the classroom. Instead, she said students need to enjoy the learning process to absorb information.

On a recent day, her school was buzzing with activity.

In a fifth-grade classroom, each child had a tablet and the teacher guided them through an Arabic lesson, using her own tablet to give assignments. Third-grade students went to the smart board, playing a game to learn the multiplication table.

In other classes, students drew cartoons to learn the physics of how airplanes fly. An English class did a project about evaporation.

Four third-graders recently learned about self-esteem in a lesson called “learning by drama.” They performed a short skit about a shy girl who discovers a passion for journalism and grows up to become a successful reporter.

Their teacher, Sawsan Abdat, said the children learned an important lesson that day _ that they need to find what they are good at.

After initial scepticism from parents last year, enrolment at the school has nearly doubled. This year’s first grade has nearly tripled to 43 students.

“I love the school,” said Malak Samara, a nine-year-old fourth grader. “We learn and enjoy. We learn and play.”

These techniques are a radical departure from a system in which generations of students were forced to memorise information and cram for exams under the stern watch of an authoritarian teacher who in some cases would beat them with a stick if they could not complete their work.

But with the unemployment rate for new college graduates hitting 56 percent, according to the Palestinian Statistics Bureau, officials realised that something had to change.

Education Minister Sabri Seidam also introduced vocational training in grades seven, eight and nine last year to meet the needs of the market.

“Society needs singers, carpenters, cleaners, athletes, sergeants,” he said. “We can’t just produce engineers and doctors.”

Youth unemployment, particularly among university graduates, is a major problem across the Arab world.

Arab governments used to absorb new graduates, often in civil service jobs, but they can no longer afford to do that, in part because of the region’s “youth bulge.”

The private sector offers limited opportunities, leaving large numbers of young graduates unemployed throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

“There is no greater challenge facing the MENA region in its efforts to build a future based on inclusive growth than job creation,” the International Monetary Fund said in a report early this year. It noted that 60 percent of the region’s population is under 30, the world’s second-youngest after sub-Saharan Africa.

“Pressures on the region’s labour markets are rising. In the past five years, the region’s working-age population increased by 50.2 million, and 27.6 million people joined the labor force. Yet employment increased by only 25.4 million,” it said.

Others in the Mideast have tried to make similar changes. In Egypt, the largest Arab country, the Education Ministry this year is providing students with tablets, along with a new curriculum that enhances critical thinking.

The ministry said it is also trying to improve the level of instruction by increasing training and wages for teachers, building more classrooms and creating a more modern classroom through digital learning facilities. The government this year secured a US$500mil (RM2.09bil) loan from the World Bank to help fund the reforms.

For now, it appears too soon to say whether the reforms can make a difference.

The region’s authoritarian governments might encourage education reforms as an economic necessity but could balk in the future at efforts to nurture a new generation versed in critical thinking. Schools across the Arab world face other obstacles as well. A 2015 study by the UN culture and education agency Unesco talked about chronic underfunding, a lack of qualified teachers and increased class sizes throughout the region.

Syrian schools have been devastated by a seven-year civil war, while many schools in neighbouring Lebanon have been overwhelmed by Syrian refugees. US cuts in funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees have jeopardised the school year for some 500,000 students, most of them in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. And Israel’s half-century occupation of the West Bank, along with a decade-long blockade over Gaza, continues to stifle the Palestinian economy.

“Education in the Arab world is in a very bad condition. The salaries of teachers are very poor, the classes are overcrowded, and schools lack the essential infrastructure,” said Saeda Affouneh, director of the E-Learning Center at al-Najah University in the West Bank.

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