Archive for the ‘Professional Development’ Category

Invest in yourself to gain more knowledge

Friday, February 7th, 2020
The thoughts and views of SmartBite CEO and co-founder Gabriele Fadda (pic)
SMARTBITE is an AI-powered food technology delivery company focused on serving working professionals and corporates with any food related matters within the KL central business district (CBD).

How has your life experience made

you the leader you are today?

Since I was 15, I have always looked for new challenges and experiences that enrich my life.

This includes living in different countries and constantly exploring new cultures as well as meeting new people. I consider myself a global citizen.

I was born in Cagliari, Sardinia and I moved to Milan where I lived for about 10 years. As Milan is an international city, I met with so many people from around the world.

I used to travel to Asia a lot and when I had the opportunity to migrate to Malaysia, I took it up as I was attracted by the international environment and the opportunities here.

What traits do you look for

in your talent or how do you

decide who is right for a job?

For me, one’s attitude is really important. I generally look for people who are positive and outspoken.

Communication is an underrated but crucial skill to have.

When I look for new talents, I need to be sure that they have a positive attitude towards challenges and are unafraid to speak up, question, and discuss with their colleagues on finding new solutions.

How do you think the industry you

are in will evolve in the future?

Food is the biggest industry in the world and accordingly, the growth of food delivery is growing massively every year as well.

If we take a look at Google-Temasek’s e-Conomy report on Southeast Asia, the internet economy in the region has hit an inflexion point and attributes online food delivery as one of the drivers.

Online food delivery has hit US$2 billion and is expected to quadruple by 2025.

The food delivery industry in Malaysia is also growing at an increasing pace.

Official data from Statista reported that the online food delivery market in Malaysia amounts to US$100 million with over three million users, whereby 37pc of them are aged between 25 and 34 years old, and this segment is expected to exceed US$200 million by 2020.

This predicted growth in the industry would be coupled with continuous innovation of business models.

Existing models of food delivery will be expected to shift with new features and services being available to the market.

I personally believe that the online food delivery industry will evolve alongside technological developments whereby deep and novel usage of technology and data will be used to improve the customer experience and value proposition.

As the Malaysian economy develops, new infrastructures are being built.

This means that there will be more clusters of office buildings and with that, comes increasing density of working professionals in those areas.

As such, SmartBite is able to serve this segment accordingly as we are focused on bulk orders and office deliveries.

From the feedback and data we have gathered, we have identified a gap in the market when it came to corporate solutions for food.

We are increasing the bulk of our logistics from delivering meals of 20 pax to almost 1,000 pax on a single trip.

Not only does it provide stable sales for restaurant partners, this expansion of corporate offerings also provide a one-stop solution for companies and their employees to get great food delivered affordably and conveniently right to their office.

What advice can you offer

those looking to start their

career/own business?

I would say start working as early as possible even if it is a part-time job. It’s helpful to start meeting a wide network of people and to broaden your experiences as much as possible.

I would also recommend identifying good mentors and people who can help you reach your personal goals as soon as possible.

Another piece of advice would be to invest in yourself such as attending trainings where you can gain more knowledge on your favourite subject.

We all know about the industrial

revolution, are we in for a

technological revolution?

Your thoughts.

Yes, we are in the middle of a technological revolution and the speed of innovation is progressing faster than before.

In fact, McKinsey Global Institute found that artificial intelligence (AI) is contributing to societal transformation “10 times faster and at 300 times the scale, or roughly 3,000 times the impact” of the Industrial Revolution.

Technological developments such as machine learning or AI used to be privy to few and far between but now increasingly permeates our lives.

When technology is used meaningfully, it can help our daily lives so that we have more time to invest in ourselves.

For SmartBite, our mission is to simplify the way people eat.

We want to simplify the decision process of eating while helping our customers save time and money.

Our platform is powered by AI and we now leverage on big data to optimise customer experience.

For instance, we have developed algorithms and data pipelines that helps us select the best restaurants near the offices and create smart suggestions for our daily meals.

Today, we use sophisticated data analytics to identify food preferences for different clusters of customers and we see the path ahead in moving from menus developed based on clusters of customers with similar behaviour to personalised menus for individuals.

We are also fine tuning our algorithms in areas such as meal selection and driver routing optimisation in order to improve our platform and the value we can deliver.

With the power of technology, our vision is to be the food delivery platform of choice for working professionals around the world.

How has mentorship made a

difference in your professional life?

Mentors are important and they have a made a difference in my professional life.

However, I would like to qualify that it is more important to understand your own goals and where you are going before finding a mentor that can give you the support and knowledge to get there.

What do you want to accomplish

in the next five years?

We want to be the food platform of choice for not only working professionals but also companies in the CBD across Southeast Asia.

Since the inception of SmartBite, we grew to understand both the psychology of a corporate employee in the CBD as well as unit economics of food delivery.

These lessons learned have definitely helped us fine tune our business model and we are not achieving a daily average gross profit margin of 15pc to 20pc.

We are on track to double up the sales of last year and the final sales this year are finally touching the seven-digits total sales.

With our new funds raised, we will be rolling out new corporate offerings such as catering solutions for companies and employee benefit programmes.

With this positive growth, we want to expand into major cities in Southeast Asia within the next five years starting with Singapore or Manila in mid-2020.

Best piece of advice you ever

received on your career.

The best piece of advice I have ever received was to grow my EQ and to connect meaningfully to more people.

By having a high level of warmth and empathy as well as good communication skills, I believe we are able to meet great people to achieve great things.

How do you stay abreast of issues

affecting your industry?

We always work closely with both our customers and vendors to keep improving our product and service.

With our orientation towards data and sales and customer service, we are always looking for innovative solutions that improves our service and value-add to customers and restaurant partners.

If you could have an hour with

any thought leader in the world,

who would it be and why?

I admire Bill Gates. It would be great to sit with him.

He is confident, humble and he actively works to improve things by working on new projects.

I would like to meet him to get a better perspective on the future of the world as well as his point of view.

What has been the biggest challenge

you have faced? And what did

you learn from it?

Building the team and keeping the motivation high while testing the product and looking for market fit. This has probably been one of the biggest challenges since I started SmartBite.

I learnt that it’s important to have a clear vision as much as possible to keep the team focused but also flexible enough to adapt to a better strategy.

Malaysia’s greatest brand.

I would say Petronas because it’s the first brand I think of when I think about Malaysian companies.

A must-read for every business

owner/manager is …

I really enjoy sales so I would have to recommend the Psychology of Selling by Brian Tracy.  It’s an old book but the content is still relevant to modern times and useful to read if you love sales as well. –The Sun

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Learning is never-ending, especially for teachers

Thursday, October 4th, 2018
(File pix) Photo shows a teacher instructing special needs students during a baking class. Education never ends and one of the cores of the law of education is the continuation of education. Pix by Mohd Rafi Mamat

EDUCATIONAL authorities repeat that education never ends and one of the cores of the law of education is the continuation of education.

This is necessary for educators because they have to develop themselves first as individuals, parents, educators and professionals before they can improve other people.

Parents and teachers should set an example. Teachers educate students with their words, but above everything else, by example.

Experts in education say that words move, but examples draw. The example given in the family is the footprint that remains in children.

The behaviour of parents is a stimulus and points the way for their children. They admire their teachers and parents and from there they will be motivated to improve themselves.

Perhaps the most important aspect of this matter is consistency. Parents and teachers must be consistent in what they say and do.

If there is consistency, parents can exercise authority in the family, and teachers will gain respect among their students.


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Specific training to enhance teachers

Sunday, July 22nd, 2018

Professional development for educators has been a key enabling factor for transformation in education as it involves transforming their knowledge into practice for the benefit of their learners.

THE emergence of a technology-driven world has raised many challenges to conservative teaching and learning in traditional classrooms.

Coupled with volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) characteristics of current environment, both what is to be learned and how learning or knowledge construction should happen, need serious reconceptualisation.

The notion of 21st century learning can be viewed as an overarching vision of education that many educators are now advocating as a collective response to the emerging challenges.

A growing number of policy makers and educators are united around the idea that students need ‘21st century skills’ to be successful today.

It is exciting to believe that we live in times that are so revolutionary that they demand new and different abilities.

However, these 21st century skills aren’t new.

21st century skills

The likes of critical thinking and problem solving have been components of human progress throughout history. From the development of early tools, agricultural advancements and the invention of vaccines, to land and sea exploration.

So, what is new is the extent of changes in our economy and the world which consequently means, collective and individual success depends on having such skills. The Education Ministry is sensitive to respond to the VUCA situations and challenges.

Strategies are formed to upskill and empower teachers and school leaders, with close collaboration with the Education Performance and Delivery Unit (PADU).

Professional development for educators has been a key enabling factor for transformation in education; it involves transforming their knowledge into practice for the benefit of their learners.

Various aspects must be considered to develop educators’ competencies for 21st century teaching and learning.

These include knowledge, beliefs, and design thinking capacities of the educators and school leaders.

It has been advocated that a professional learning community is a viable way for educators to participate in the co-constructing of knowledge to experience the required transformative changes.

“PADU realises the importance of equipping school leaders and teachers with capacities to deal with emerging challenges.

“We see the necessity of adaptive expertise directed toward solving emerging problems.

“We have a sector in PADU that specifically looks into this which is our Teachers and School Leaders (TSL) sector.

“Instead of converting content knowledge through pedagogical means so that they are accessible to students, we believe teachers in a knowledge building environment must encourage students to construct understanding themselves.

“Guiding students’ sense-making processes is highly discursive and it demands teachers to ask appropriate questions,” says PADU chief executive officer Khadijah Abdullah.

Such adaptive expertise would require teachers to develop the ability to orchestrate learning rather than delivering information in a controlled environment.

Advocates of 21st century skills favour student-centred methods such as problem-based and project-based learning as it allows students to collaborate, work on problems and creatively find its solutions, and engage with the community.

These approaches are widely acclaimed and can be found in any pedagogical method textbook.

However, even its advocates acknowledge that these methods pose classroom management problems for teachers.

When students collaborate, one expects a certain amount of hubbub in the classroom, which could devolve into chaos in less experienced hands.

These methods also demand that teachers be knowledgeable about a broad range of topics and are prepared to make prompt decisions as the lesson plan progresses.

Anyone who has watched a highly effective teacher lead a class by simultaneously engaging with teaching and learning content, managing classrooms and continuously monitoring students progress, knows how intense and demanding the work is.

It is a constant juggling act that involves keeping many balls in the air.

“For change to move beyond the ministry or PADU’s offices and penetrate classrooms, we in PADU understand that professional development is a massive undertaking.

“Most teachers do not need to be persuaded that problem-based learning or project-based learning is a good idea—they already believe that and many have already integrate it in their classrooms.

“What teachers most need now are more robust training and support, including specific and focused training that enhances teachers and school leaders competencies and capacities,” states Dr Ruhaya Hassan, who leads the TSL sector in PADU .

Via the Malaysia Education Blueprint, the Ministry with PADU are looking at facilitating teachers to adapt and adopt these skills, developing the competencies that our teachers may already have but are perhaps quite unsure on how to utilise fully. As for those still being trained in the Ministry’s teachers training colleges, much is being done to develop their comprehension, competencies and ultimately their commitment to 21st century teaching and learning.

This simplicity in seeing things underestimates the challenges in implementing such methods of teaching and learning, hence ignoring the gravity of real issues and problems that come with such implementation.

Teachers need to be prepared and enabled for progress and improvements in education, and in this case, based on the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025, the ministry, together with PADU, have taken various steps in this direction under the Teacher Charter.

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Inspiring force of the future

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

(File pix) As a nation, we are blessed with inspiring teachers and mentors from all walks of life. Illustration courtesy of the writer

THIS Teachers’ Day, my heart fills with gratitude as I recall the many teachers in my life.

I see the best teachers as those who are carriers of a passion for learning which they infect their students with, each in their own unique capacity to carry out the responsibility and honour of shaping young hopeful minds and souls. For surely, every teacher is a gem that reflects and refracts the light of learning in a special way, illuminating the pupil.

My thoughts turn to afternoons with my very first teacher — my mother, back in the 80’s, how we sat together on our pea-coloured living room sofa as we made our way through the ever ubiquitous Peter and Jane books.

As an early childhood educator, my mother teaching me how to read at a very young age was a gift beyond measure. She was my very first teacher, patient, firm and with a passion for the written and spoken word, which carries on to this day. Her specialty — teaching the young to read. She has produced many young readers, who still stop to greet her on the street.

On teachers who were productive in their enthusiasm and passion, my thoughts recall fondly of the sprightly, well-dressed and self-assured Puan Liew, who taught me math during my secondary school years

She was an amazing teacher, with a shiny jet-black bob haircut as bouncy as her step. She exuded a love of teaching math. She was always smiling, even when hovering over a desk to help a flummoxed student. Puan Liew had a magical talent of making any student, no matter how poor they were in math, feel special. Her popularity among all the students was undeniable. I never became a math whiz, but I did see improvement in my attitude towards math.

In college, as a student at the Faculty of Fine Arts & Technology in UiTM , I was privileged to be in the presence of many admirable lecturers and professors. There is one who stands out in my memory and with whom I still keep in contact with. Fondly and highly regarded in the Malaysian art scene, he is one of the most established and renowned fine artists of the country. I shall refer to him as Prof Jai.

If there’s anything Prof Jai was better at than making art, it was his rapport with his students. One could always sense that he loved being a teacher; and he encouraged his students to give their best. It never felt like his career as an artist was more important than being a teacher, rather, teaching itself was an art to him — an extension of himself and an expression of his identity as an artist.

In contrast to encouraging freewheeling creativity and individual expression, my father recently retired as a lecturer. He had specialised in teaching aircraft maintenance and engineering. It was a subject that is quite serious and painstaking in its detailed understanding and adherence to strict procedures, as the smallest error or oversight could potentially compromise the safety of hundreds of passengers.

His contribution as a teacher was rooted in his passion for accuracy, logic and preventing disasters from happening, in other words, caring enough not to overlook any detail, and striving to pass that level of care and thoroughness to his students.

Life continues to present us with teachers even as we leave the realm of school and university, and there is much to learn if we adopt the attitude of being open to new ways of seeing, learning and knowing. We must, therefore, not limit our learning to the realm of the intellect and imagination.

I am grateful that in the past year I have had the opportunity to get to know two Malaysian ex-athletes and champions, Dr Farah-Hani and Sharon Wee, who devote themselves to cultivating the new generation of sportsmen and women in their respective fields, channeling their success into creating a better Malaysia for all.

From them I learnt the struggles our athletes face, even after achieving success and glory for Malaysia at prestigious international sporting events. Struggles that include dealing with depression , adapting to life after the high of a victorious and glamorous career, eating disorders and a plethora of complex issues that deserve the nation’s support and attention. Malaysia is blessed to have these women, whose achievements would take many paragraphs to capture in their entirety, as role-models for our youth.

In an age where digital content is being continuously tailored to be as aggressively addictive as possible (thus keeping we, the people, and our young ones glued to the screen even in our leisure time), we forget how finding that perfect sport or athletic activity is a perfect vehicle to become healthier and happier in body, mind and spirit, and our relations with others too

Truly, I could go on and on. For, in my experience and reality, as a nation, we are blessed with inspiring teachers and mentors from all walks of life. They, more than any fictional superhero on the silver screen or mythical figure, are the producers of miracles. They shine a light on our awareness and consciousness of what is possible, of what we are capable of, and of what we can make real, with just a bit of spark, enthusiasm and determination.

Last but not least, I turn to my two children. Who, despite being young in their years, have become my teachers.

They teach me to see the world with new eyes, to wonder and question, to be curious and to be filled with a thirst to learn. They have taught me that the very young are capable of great insight, ideas and wisdom and we should open our eyes and ears to what they have to share with us.

If we have the right mindset, could we not say that every person we encounter has something we can learn from? Is not every experience we share, potentially one of learning? In short, we are masters, and eternal students.


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‘More AI experts needed to transform public sector’

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

PUTRAJAYA: The public service sector will need more data scientists and data management experts as part of the Public Service Transformation (PST) 2.0 programme.

Public Service Department (PSD) director-general Tan Sri Zainal Rahim Seman said the government would need more civil servants with skills compatible with artificial intelligence.

“We have to face challenges from mega trends, such as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0). We cannot be left behind by assuming that transformation will happen by itself.

“Malaysia is going through urbanisation. What will happen if Malaysia becomes more urbanised? What generation will live in these cities? How can we provide services to urban people? What will happen to rural areas? These are the things that we have to think about.

Public Service Department (PSD) director-general Tan Sri Zainal Rahim Seman. Pic by NSTP/AHMAD IRHAM MOHD NOOR

“Hence, we need to equip ourselves with skills that are compatible with artificial intelligence, as well as have knowledge in big data management and Internet of Things.

“That’s why we need more data scientists and data management experts. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak once said the public service scheme of today may not be relevant in the future,” he said during a special press interview at his office.

Zainal said the department would need to create more relevant jobs in the future and optimise resources.

He said people should not be afraid of becoming jobless as the use of robots increased because there were jobs in other fields.

“Although we expect more robots to replace humans, they (the robots) still need to be managed by humans. Hence, it is important to have data and robotic knowledge.

“Maybe there will be better jobs with better income in the future because there will be demand for data scientists and data management experts.

“These are among the challenges we need to deal with. We need to develop a framework and know the people’s priorities.”

He said another important element in PST 2.0 was the collaboration between parties in implementing the government’s programmes.

“The government cannot work alone to make a programme successful as we need participation from everybody. For instance, we may need non-governmental organisations or experts from community-based programmes to beautify and clean community areas, and no longer rely on local authorities.


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Teachers Need To Equip Students With Nation Building Components

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

News Pic

TANJUNG MALIM, Oct 24 (Bernama) — Teachers must equip students with the “nation and nationhood’ components throughout the 11 years of their study in schools, said the Raja Permaisuri Perak, Tuanku Zara Salim.

She said the responsibility was heavy but it was a necessity to ensure that the people in the country understood the meaning of being a nation and the responsibility of being a citizen.

Tuanku Zara, who is also the Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) Chancellor, said the nation would easily be influenced by imperialist forces in various ways when the citizens did not understand history and were ignorant of their responsibility.

“The school forms the centre for education and a place for learning which provided an opportunity for the teachers to mould the young children to become useful citizens,” she said at the 19th Convocation of UPSI at the Sultan Azlan Shah Campus, here today.


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Lifelong learning a pathway to success

Saturday, May 13th, 2017
Lifelong learning is a necessity in a rapid changing environment.

Lifelong learning is defined as the development of human potential through a continuous supportive process which stimulates and empowers individuals to acquire knowledge throughout their lifetime.
By Zulita Mustafa - May 11, 2017 @ 2:31pm

UPON her return from a sabbatical, the editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine found her 26-year-old former assistant taking charge of the editorial floor. Armed with a business degree, naked ambition and an iPhone, the former assistant announces she has been brought in to turn the magazine into an app.

Feeling left out and lost among the 20-something online writers at their desks day and night, the editor-in-chief is not ready to give up her hard-earned career without a fight.

She started to pick up technology know-how, the lingo and even learnt how to create an app.

Though this is just a fictional character in Lucy Sykes’ and Jo Piazza’s latest novel, Techbitch, it reflects the real world where Generations Y and Z plus rapid changes in technology are taking over traditional ways of doing work.

It is this kind of scenario that probably prompted the Higher Education Ministry, in 2011, to publish its blueprint on the Enculturation of Lifelong Learning in Malaysia that outlines strategic initiatives to develop the lifelong learning industry for the 10-year period of 2011-2020.

In this blueprint, lifelong learning is defined as the development of human potential through a continuous supportive process which stimulates and empowers individuals to acquire all the knowledge, values, skills and understanding they will require throughout their lifetime and to apply them with confidence, creativity and enjoyment in all roles, circumstances and environment.

Mansor Md. Isa,

University of Malaya Centre for Continuing Education (UMCCed) director Professor Datuk Dr Mansor Md. Isa said lifelong learning should benefit participants in the form of increased competency in their work, upgrade skills, widen and update knowledge and improve social networking.

It also equips people with skills and knowledge that will advance their career.

A study conducted last year related to the achievement of UMCCed Executive Diploma graduates indicates that the programmes have been beneficial in terms of development of their careers including a better job offer, promotion and salary increase as well as an opportunity to further studies at a higher level.

“The target group is working adults and there are two types who participate in lifelong learning programmes. The first are those who did not have the chance to continue their education at the tertiary level upon finishing secondary school and who are now presented with a second chance,” said Mansor.

“The reasons could be due to poor academic performance, financial or social constraints. After joining the workforce, they find the opportunity to study. The second type of adult learners are those who want to study because they want to advance their career or acquire skills or knowledge.

“These are the core lifelong learning participants. They study because they want to improve themselves to become more competitive, increase productivity and improve their well-being.”

The age cohort of lifelong learners is generally between 15 and 64. Those above 64 but are still able to contribute by providing their services should be included as lifelong learner potentials.

From the age perspective, it is estimated that the number of potential lifelong participants in 2015 to be around 20 million, which is about 65 per cent of the total population of the country.

This number is expected to increase to almost 23 million by the year 2020.

Mansor said in this fast-changing environment, knowledge is the key asset that can expand the opportunity of individuals to grow and excel in their respective fields as well as enhance their ability to compete, especially in the evolving economic landscape.

by Zulita Mustafa.

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Produce talent, not graduates

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

Noor Kamilah Barvin Mohd Meera’

LIFELONG learning has always been Noor Kamilah Barvin Mohd Meera’s priority as there is a need to keep up with change to advance in one’s career.

“Employers seek talent. One must be skilled to be employed. Unskilled employees will drain the resources of an organisation,” said Noor Kamilah.

“We have been producing a lot of graduates, not talent. For that very reason, I decided to enhance my skills by pursuing the Master in Human Resource Management programme.”

Noor Kamilah is of the opinion that one need not follow the standard route of pursuing a diploma course, followed by a bachelor’s and master’s degree courses, all before the age of 25.

“It is not as simple as that. Theory without practice is a waste. That is why I chose to work and gain experience and exposure before furthering my studies,” she said.

“We can’t deny the importance of upgrading knowledge and skills through lifelong learning. It is useful not only for one’s career but also in making life decisions and when starting a business.

“Lifelong learners can contribute to society in many ways.”

Education counsellor Mohd Zahir Abdul Rahman said lifelong learning helps the workforce adapt to any environment.

LIFELONG learning has always been Noor Kamilah Barvin Mohd Meera’s priority as there is a need to keep up with change to advance in one’s career.

“Employers seek talent. One must be skilled to be employed. Unskilled employees will drain the resources of an organisation,” said Noor Kamilah.

“We have been producing a lot of graduates, not talent. For that very reason, I decided to enhance my skills by pursuing the Master in Human Resource Management programme.”

Noor Kamilah is of the opinion that one need not follow the standard route of pursuing a diploma course, followed by a bachelor’s and master’s degree courses, all before the age of 25.

“It is not as simple as that. Theory without practice is a waste. That is why I chose to work and gain experience and exposure before furthering my studies,” she said.

“We can’t deny the importance of upgrading knowledge and skills through lifelong learning. It is useful not only for one’s career but also in making life decisions and when starting a business.

“Lifelong learners can contribute to society in many ways.”

Education counsellor Mohd Zahir Abdul Rahman said lifelong learning helps the workforce adapt to any environment.

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A lifelong passion for teaching

Thursday, May 4th, 2017
Teachers attending regular in-service training courses will form an integral part of their continuing professional development.

REFORMS in the education system are necessary to meet the demands of an ever changing world. As student demographics change and technology evolves, so too must the delivery of education to our children, and this responsibility to deliver lies primarily on the shoulders of teachers.

Belonging to a profession that creates all other professions, teachers are trained to adapt to reforms in education. They possess specialised knowledge to carry out their responsibilities, and before taking up teaching positions, they receive intensive training that prepares them to be lifelong learners. All this is encapsulated in what is widely referred to as teacher professionalism. In addition to possessing expert knowledge in their subjects of specialisation, teachers are also part of a wider professional community which allows them to exchange information and seek support when needed.

Although teachers receive intensive pre-service training, the evolutionary nature of education demands that lifelong learning features prominently in the career path of teachers. This is why we hear of teachers attending regular in-service training courses that form an integral part of their continuing professional development.

Today, the continuing professional development of Malaysian teachers is shaped to a great extent by the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025, a document that charts the future direction of education in the country. To ensure that the next generation of Malaysians is ready to face local, regional and global challenges, the blueprint calls for eleven shifts that need to take place within the education system. These shifts have to do with changes in strategy and direction as well as operational changes for a move away from current practices.

The second of the eleven shifts projects a vision that every child that goes through the Malaysian education system becomes proficient in both Bahasa Malaysia and English. This specific reference to language education highlights the important role that language teachers play in addressing national aspirations.

Over the years, a great deal has been said particularly about English language education in Malaysia and the English Language Roadmap 2015-2025 has addressed most of the concerns. There have been extensive discussions about the role of English language teachers in improving the standard of English among our students. If we are to achieve the targets set in the Malaysia Education Blueprint and the English Language Roadmap, significant changes must take place, and English language teachers have to lead some of these changes. However, they must first be equipped with new knowledge and the skills necessary to make changes. The best way of ensuring this is through continuing professional development programmes.

Realising the importance of continuing professional development programmes for English language teachers, the Ministry of Education Malaysia set up and tasked the English Language Teaching Centre (ELTC) to offer professional development courses for English Language Teaching practitioners including teachers, lecturers, School Improvement Specialist Coaches (SISC+), State English language trainers and English Panel Heads. Numerous courses are offered by the ELTC throughout the year. One of the more large-scale training programmes managed by the ELTC has been the Professional Up-skilling of English Language Teachers or Pro-ELT programme. When the Pro-ELT programme began in 2013, it was indeed a huge undertaking involving some 18,500 English language teachers who needed support in achieving the desired C1 band in a CEFR-linked (Common European Framework of Reference) assessment. Over the years, the programme has seen a significant number of teachers improve in their performance.

The Pro-ELT programme essentially supports English teachers improve their proficiency in English through a blended mode of face-to-face and online instruction. In this way, the programme allows participants to take ownership of their professional development. Also, the face-to-face and online phases of the programme provide space for teachers to ask questions and engage in active dialogue with peers. Teachers are continuously given support for six weeks to engage in language based activities by experienced trainers from ELTC. Up until last year, a total of 16,009 teachers were trained under the Pro-ELT programme. Another 650 teachers are expected to be trained this year, while 800 and 1050 teachers will be trained next year and in 2019 respectively.

Feedback from teachers who have completed the Pro-ELT programme with the ELTC has been largely positive. The participants felt that the course was not just about helping them improve their performance in assessments; rather, it was about helping them identify their strengths and weaknesses and gain greater confidence in using the language. A significantly high number of Pro-ELT participants also reported greater motivation to master the language after attending the programme.

In addition to the Pro-ELT, a variety of other continuing professional development programmes are run by the ELTC for English teachers. These programmes serve specific purposes such as ensuring that classroom practices match prescribed standards and competencies. The Highly Immersive Programme and the Program Intervensi Tambah Opsyen Bahasa Inggeris (PITO-BI) run by ELTC are among the examples of professional development programmes that follow a top-down approach necessary to ensure that teachers are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to translate policies into practice. Beyond this, the ELTC also plays an important role in creating localised communities of practice, an important ingredient for professional development. Working closely with SISC+, the ELTC supports the creation of teacher networks at schools and districts so that independent professional communities of teachers are able to address local challenges through a process of reviewing existing practices.

In addition to continuing professional development programmes that are organised by authorities, there is a need for teachers to take ownership of their own professional development. However, the right conditions are needed for this. There needs to be space for teachers to ask questions, identify issues related specifically to their students, and engage in active dialogue. One way of doing this is by promoting a research culture.


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The development of the profession

Monday, January 30th, 2017

PROFESSIONAL social work was introduced to Malaysia in the 1930s, according to the Malaysian Association of Social Workers (MASW). But it was mainly focused on problems of migrant labourers from India and China, MASW says on its website.

The issues have expanded to cover substance abuse, mental illness, poverty and more, but there is still a lack of professional growth and development in various fields of social work.

A 2004 MASW report states that between the 1940s and 1980s, the Department of Social Welfare (JKM) and government hospitals recruited social workers who had trained in the United Kingdom, Singapore, Australia and Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) in Penang to work at its facilities.

In the mid-1980s, changes in government economic policies led to a review of intake criteria for positions which saw non-social work graduates accepted into the department as well as government and semi-government hospitals

“This decision was detrimental to the development of the profession as well as the quality of social services towards clients. Ad-hoc in-service training and supervisory programmes were rushed into place to cope with recruits who had no inkling of the roles and responsibilities they were employed for, or expected to do, in their quest for jobs,” the report states.

MASW secretary Elsie Lee believes that over the years, Malaysia has witnessed a “de-professionalisation” of social work. Anyone with a degree could come in. People with degrees in geography and history were taken in even though they might not know what to do, she says.

One may think that compassion and kindness are enough if a person aspires to do social work, but unfortunately, that is not enough. Lee believes social workers need theoretical and procedural knowledge, and an understanding of the field.

Personal experience and practice, such as that picked up working at a children’s home, for example, is not enough because people can learn the wrong things sometimes, she says.

It is like sending a lay person to a family that reports domestic violence. How would you handle an aggressive spouse? Those who are not trained may be afraid because they do not have the knowledge and experience to deal with a threatening situation.

But it looks like things are taking a turn for the better.

In 2010, a National Competency Standards for Social Work Practice was approved by the government. In 2011, the Social Workers Bill was drafted to register “Social Worker” as a professional title for those who have the required academic qualifications, such as a diploma, Bachelor’s or Master’s degree or PhD in social work. The Bill has yet to be passed in Parliament.

And to professionalise the industry, MASW, Unicef and JKM have been pushing to establish practice competency through training programmes and courses to equip social workers with the required knowledge and tools.

This year, MASW, Foundation for Community Studies and Development (YKPM) and Alliance of Christian Social Workers teamed up with Methodist College Kuala Lumpur to offer a Diploma in Social Work, which will begin in April.

The competency-based programme, the first of its kind in Malaysia, was designed in reference to the 2010 list of 10 professional standards of practice. Approved by the Higher Education Ministry, it aims to help expand professionally trained human resource in social work practice.

The course will cover topics such as human behaviour and social environment, social work methods, interpersonal and counselling skills, and field placements.

YKPM and MASW are working on raising funds to support those who can’t afford the full fees.

Six local universities – USM, Universiti Utara Malaysia in Kedah, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in Selangor, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, and Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin in Terengganu– now offer full social work programmes for undergraduates.

Skills learnt from social work courses will give you a better understanding of human behaviour so it helps you deal with people, says Lee. They can also be used in other fields such as human resource management, marketing and employee assistance programmes.

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