Archive for the ‘Educational Issues’ Category

It keeps schoolbags light

Saturday, August 19th, 2017
Chloe Chan Phooi San, Bernice Woh Xuan Qi, Ong Ee Xuen and Chow Kay Yue (left to right), showing off the weight watcher school bag.

Chloe Chan Phooi San, Bernice Woh Xuan Qi, Ong Ee Xuen and Chow Kay Yue (left to right), showing off the weight watcher school bag.

PETALING JAYA: Tired of waiting for a solution, pupils have taken charge to end the heavy schoolbag problem.

And Year Four pupils from SJK(C) Tun Tan Cheng Lock even bagged awards for their creative solution to the weighty issue.

The 10-year-olds – Bernice Woh Xuan Qi, Ong Ee Xuen, Chow Kay Yue and Chloe Chan Phooi San – received a silver medal and special award at the International Exhibition for Young Inventors 2017 last month in Nagoya, Japan, for their invention – a weighing scale that alerts the user when the load becomes hazardous to health.

The “Weight Watcher” was also named best invention and won a gold award at the recent World Young Inventors Exhibition in Kuala Lumpur. Weighing a mere 0.3kg, the device can be fitted into any bag.

Explaining the difference between the electronic and hydraulic versions, Bernice said the former buzzes when the bag exceeds a set weight limit.

“This can be used by the visually impaired.

“Made entirely from recycled materials, the hydraulic version has a liquid indicator. This is useful for hearing impaired pupils,” she said.

The Weight Watcher, said Ee Xuen, was inspired by their daily burden.

“It’s tiring, lugging our schoolbags around every day,” she said during the school’s prize presentation ceremony yesterday.

On Aug 15, Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid said state and district education officers had visited schools in several states to investigate the perennial heavy schoolbag issue as some schools were burdening pupils with workbooks.

Kay Yue said children should not carry more than 10% of their body weight.

“We set the weight limit at 3kg but this can be adjusted according to the individual’s body weight,” she said.

Chloe said pupils do not realise that the weight they are carrying can injure the spine.

Describing the girls as perfectionists, team mentor Hay Quee Kei said they needed very little help.

“The biggest challenge for them was trying to calibrate the device.

“They did over 100 trials before they were satisfied,” he added.

The school’s headmistress Ngann Sook Wei said they encourage students to be innovative and creative as these are crucial 21st century skill sets.

“Learning must also take place outside the classroom. We want pupils to find solutions to daily problems and become successful inventors,” she said.

The school is part of Kompleks Sekolah Wawasan in USJ15, which also comprises SK Dato’ Onn Jaafar and SJK(T) Tun Sambanthan.

Congratulating the team, Malaysian Invention and Design Society (Minds) president Tan Sri Augustine S.H. Ong said Malaysians, regardless of age, must believe in their ability to be creators.

He said youngsters can come up with ideas seasoned researchers miss, because they ask basic questions that experts brush off.

“I’ve been asked: ‘What can a Malaysian invent that others in the world haven’t already thought of?’

“Plenty. Because the problems we face are different.”

Ong, who is also senior fellow at the Academy of Sciences Malaysia, said Malaysians need a change in mindset.

“We must have confidence in ourselves to come up with effective solutions,” he said.

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216 Islamic teachers to meet the shortage.

Saturday, August 12th, 2017

Kota Kinabalu: Some 216 graduates have been appointed Islamic Education interim teachers and posted to schools in Sabah to address the critical shortage of teachers in the subject.

State Education Director Datuk Maimunah Suhaibul said they are the first batch of Sabahans without having a degree in education to benefit from the programme, the first in the State’s education history.

She said 166 teachers are being posted to secondary schools while 50 to primary schools in the State based on the schools’ respective needs.

“The appointment of 216 Islamic Education interim teachers for Sabah is, in fact, the second strategy of a master plan to address the shortage of Islamic Education teachers in the Education Department.

“The Education Ministry has approved an application by the department to appoint interim teachers for the subject which are critically needed in Sabah’s schools.

“As a result of the given approval by the Ministry, 211 graduates in Islamic Education field were called for interview in which 206 candidates attended the interview, but only 201 were successful to receive the appointment and postings and another 15 who are reserve candidates under the Ministry,” Maimunah said presenting letters of appointment and placements, Thursday.

Assistant Minister to the Chief Minister Datuk Mohd Arifin Mohd Arif presented the letters of appointment and placements at the Federal Administrative Complex here.

Maimunah said these interim teachers are required to attend courses during school holidays called “Kursus Dalam Cuti” (KDC) so that they will be absorbed as permanent teachers. “We are thankful to the State Government for its continuous support to voice out the shortage issue and the 90:10 policy to have 90 per cent teachers from Sabah while 10 per cent teachers from other states in the country.

“We expressed our gratitude to Arifin, who is also the Sabah Islamic Religious Council (Muis) Chairman, for highlighting the shortage of teachers in Islamic Education to the Umno assembly at national, state and branch level.

“Thank you also to Yayasan Dakwah Islamiah Malaysia (Yadim) for helping the department in gathering information on the graduates of Islamic Education which facilitates the department in appointing the interim teachers,” she said.

She also thanked Tabung Haji for sending 50 trainees under 1Malaysia Training Scheme (SL1M) to schools for three months from May to July. Maimunah also called on the 211 interim teachers to make full use of the opportunity given by the Education Ministry where some have even completed their studies in 2009 and waited for good opportunities to come by. “Apart from enjoying special facilities in terms of the allowance and other incentives, I hope the 211 interim teachers would render their best and quality services to the department, especially in educating the students who need their guidance and Islamic knowledge.

by Hayati Dzulkifli.

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Getting to the bottom of books and bags.

Saturday, August 5th, 2017
Workbooks are a big business, especially in primary schools. (File photo)

Workbooks are a big business, especially in primary schools. (File photo)

While stakeholders are blaming the publishing industry for using unethical means to push their titles, industry players deny they’re at fault.

SOME schools are allegedly asking for kickbacks from publishing firms, and demanding that their pupils buy extra books.

The workbooks are optional, but parents who refuse are subjected to taunts for not ‘cooperating’ or even told to transfer their child to another school, say those in the publishing industry.

Many avoid action from the authorities by pointing out that parents aren’t obliged to follow the booklist.

In fact, when questioned, school heads are quick to reiterate that workbooks are indeed optional, but Jeff*, a publishing firm executive, says that many of them have a hidden agenda.

There are some headmasters who lobby to be posted in big schools because the “market is bigger”, he adds.

Some even refuse to call for open tenders to run the school bookshop as it’s another avenue for kickbacks, claims Jeff.

“I know a publisher who operates hundreds of school bookshops nationwide. How he got the tender is not transparent.”

*Azwan, who own a small publishing firm in Kuala Lumpur, has been selling school textbooks and workbooks directly to teachers at a discounted price.

But he insists that teachers aren’t offered any sort of incentive to push the books to students.

“We publish Arab language workbooks. It’s a very small market so we don’t hire salesmen or agents to sell our titles.

“We have our own database of Arab language teachers so we approach them directly.”

Noor Azimah says if there isn’t a law yet, there is a need for one to be drafted soon.

Noor Azimah says if there isn’t a law yet, there is a need for one to be drafted soon.

By offering discounts to teachers, he hopes that the savings will be passed on to the pupils “but I don’t have any control over that”.

He admits that he wouldn’t know if the teachers actually profited from the discounts given.

“I won’t know whether they sell the books based on the recommended retail price or at the discounted rate.”

The practice of giving commission to teachers and headmasters is a recurring problem because no action has been taken against those involved, says Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim.

“It’s about enforcement. The Education Ministry must address this issue. If there isn’t a law yet, there is a need for one to be drafted soon. School authorities and businesses must be made aware of the repercussions, if they offer or accept bribes.”

Teachers can recommend books they genuinely feel are beneficial to students. But recommending books solely for commission is wrong, she insists.

A teacher from Penang wants the allegations investigated as those involved are doing this for their own benefit.

“Fellow teachers from other schools have highlighted the issue,” she shares.

No formal investigation has been conducted as the Education Ministry hasn’t received any official complaints, says Deputy Education Minister Datuk Chong Sin Woon.

Coming to the defence of his peers, National Union of Head of Schools Malaysia president Wong Shee Fatt says they neither accept nor ask for commissions. School heads, he stresses, are expected to follow the ministry’s strict guidelines at all times.

by Christina Chin, Rebecca Rajaendram, and Sandhya Menon
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Getting students to speak up

Saturday, August 5th, 2017
It is important that students learn how to listen to others’ opinions, critically think about these issues, and engage in healthy discussions. FILE PIC

THE lack of confidence among students to speak up grabbed the attention of many recently, inviting comments and generating discussions online.

At the annual English Speaking Union of Malaysia (ESU Malaysia) lunch talk last week, Institute For Democracy And Economic Affairs founding president Tunku Zain Al-Abidin Tuanku Muhriz said when he tried to engage students in a discussion, the concern was not only the way they expressed themselves, but also their knowledge on the subject.

This was based on his observation during speaking engagements at educational institutions, including government secondary schools, as well as public and private universities.

He said students across the country were unable, or unwilling, to speak at all, let alone in English.

Although the “English language crisis” has been, for many years, the hottest topic of discussion among Malaysians, it is not a new revelation.

Of course, we cannot deny that any language — whether English or Bahasa Malaysia — is important. Language is our operating system, a representation of thinking where we process information.

We develop thinking into words in a number of phases, moving from inner speech to speaking.

While we always point to the lack of English language proficiency as the reason for the problems among our students, we seldom focus and look upon what takes place in the classroom.

The lack of classroom engagement could also be a result of an overzealous focus on standardised testing and curricula.

The drive for higher test scores and stricter adherence to standardised teaching gives teachers less time and flexibility to delve into topics that engage students.

Are our teaching and learning activities as engaging as they should be for our students?

Are our teachers reluctant to engage students in discussion in the classroom? Are academic discourses a part of the classroom?

Perhaps, it is still the norm for students to not talk in class, but instead, to memorise facts and recite them?

If you have set your foot in a room to teach or deliver a talk that requires you to get feedback, you would be familiar with the situation of having a sceptical audience not yet ready to speak up.

“What is your take on this issue?” is a question that is usually followed by silence, so quiet that you can hear a pin drop.

However, it can also be just as challenging to have one or two students who talk too much in your classroom, and are always ready to raise their hands or blurt out answers.

During a newspaper-in-education workshop I conducted at an international school recently, I had nearly 75 per cent of students in the room who raised their hands, wanting to ask questions and share their opinions. If I were to allow all of them to speak, I would not be able to complete my workshop.

For a start, that student who would be willing to talk would seem to be the saviour: one who actually listens to what you are saying and, most importantly, confident enough to want to test out his ideas in the public space of the room.

But soon, you may start to suspect that this overeager person may be hurting more than helping. He dominates discussions, always jumping in before anyone else gets a chance, sucking all the air out of the room.

It becomes a self-sustaining pattern that sometimes it doesn’t matter if his answers are correct, or whether you encourage him. The others in the same room will quickly realise that they don’t need to respond; if they hold back long enough, they know that the dominant person will speak up.

In this situation, it can end up crippling class debate and cutting off a wide-ranging discussion involving the whole class, too. So, to be fair to the teachers, motivating students to speak up is not as easy as we think and can take a lot of work.


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Easy for bilingual kids to pick up another language.

Saturday, July 29th, 2017

TWO-year-old Summer Tan spends her afternoons watching English cartoons and reading Chinese storybooks with her mother.

Exposed to both languages, the energetic tot effortlessly switches between English and Mandarin when she speaks.

Science says she stands to benefit from this ability.

Bilingual infants such as Summer are able to learn a third language more easily, a study by the National University of Singapore (NUS) researchers has found.

They are able to differentiate between words from an unknown foreign language, unlike their monolingual counterparts.

“That suggests that the window on further language acquisition had started to close on monolingual children but was very much open for the bilingual children,” said Leher Singh from the NUS Department of Psychology.

During the nine-month study, infants who were solely exposed to English and those who knew English and Mandarin were exposed to the southern African language, Ndebele.

In one experiment, the 40 infants are shown an image and at the same time read a Ndebele word.

After that, they are shown the same image but this time a different word is read out to them.

The bilingual children detected the change in sound while the monolingual children did not.

The conclusion was made using a method that tracks the time that they spent looking at an object on a computer screen while the word was read out to them. More fixation time when the tone changed reflects a surprised response, indicating that they were sensitive to the differences.

The finding, published in scientific journal Child Development in May, further supports the theory that exposing children to two languages at the same time has cognitive benefits.

An earlier study by Singh and her team found that bilingual babies can master the rules of each language faster than monolingual babies.

A child learns a language fastest from birth to the age of three, and in the past people used to think teaching a child two languages at the same time would hamper the early learning process for both languages, said Singh.

She added: “This study suggests parents trying to raise bilingual children shouldn’t worry about that, and in fact we should be aware of the fact that it is beneficial to children.”

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Corporate Sector Involvement In Schools Welcomed – Kamalanathan

Saturday, July 29th, 2017

BATANG KALI, July 28 (Bernama) — The Education Ministry welcomes the active involvement of the corporate sector in development of schools in Malaysia, said its Deputy Minister Datuk P. Kamalanathan.

He said such smart partnership was not just for infrastructure-building but also other aspects such as education, welfare and so on.

“We have more than 10,000 schools, and of these, 2,000 are secondary schools, so all types of aid can be given to them, especially those in the rural areas.

“Maybe there are companies which want to improve the electricity supply, upgrade the fields and paint the buildings. There are so many ways to help. Just communicate with the ministry and we will give you the list of the schools and inform you what kind of help is needed,” he said.

Kamalanathan was speaking to reporters after closing the ‘Samsung Employee Volunteer Programme’ at Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Syed Mashor here today.


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Popular artists to grace finance carnival

Friday, July 28th, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: Local celebrities, singers and famous band group will add to the carnival atmosphere at the first Financial Carnival at Suria Sabah shopping mall from Aug 4-6.

This first of its kind carnival is being organised by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), in collaboration with the financial industry players.

Aside from trying to promote financial literacy and banking products and services, the carnival that promises to be an ‘edutainment’ (education and entertainment) event will feature Akademi Fantasia (a talent show) stars such as Nera, Khalisa, Rubisa and Sakinah vs Ondu.

The carnival is themed ‘Your Financial Needs Matters.’

In a media launch of the event yesterday, BNM Regional Head, Zambre Ismail said that besides enjoying the entertainment, public also can get information on financial management, various financial-based products and services and partake in karaoke competition and lucky draw.

Forty-three exhibitors from financial services companies, insurance companies and relevant players in the finance industry including banking associations, Mara, Sabah Credit Corporation (SCC) and PTPTN (study loan provider) will be participating in the carnival.

“It is our aim to educate and expose the society to proper financial management and provide free services and BNM are pleased to bring this carnival to the people of Sabah,” said Zambre, adding that they are applying a one-stop centre concept in this carnival by gathering all relevant industry players in the finance industry under one roof.

He emphasised that it will save visitors time and energy as they can make better choices on financial products and services that suit their needs rather than going to each of the banks.

“BNM Kota Kinabalu will provide free service for public to check on their credits with banks and other financial agencies through our Centralised Credit Reference Information System (CCRIS) machine,” said Zambre.

He added that the public can also verify any doubtful companies that seem to run get-rich-quick schemes claiming that BNM has approved their schemes and operations.

Zambre added that the carnival was purposely held for three days so as to provide opportunity for the people in Sabah to bring their families, and children to the event that is also another concept of educating and entertaining the visitors.

In educating public, he said the carnival will have 20 pocket talks by SMEs and credible speakers throughout the three days.

Among the talks are testimonials and sharing of financial experiences by SMEs on how they manage their finances to run their businesses and the challenges they face as well as to how address them. The talks will include the latest information on types of financial crimes such as how to identify fake currency notes, among others.

The carnival’s programme also takes into consideration children by including activities to encourage saving, games of quizzes, ‘Jom Buat Tabung’ and others.


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Activist: Children loaded with too much homework.

Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

PETALING JAYA: The increasing burden of homework on children and the never-ending “heavy bag syndrome” was not the fault of the schools or parents but of the system, an education activist said.

Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education (Magpie) chairman Mak Chee Kin said academic achievements were still an obsession despite the learning-based focus of the School-Based Assessment (PBS) and Pentaksiran Tingkatan Tiga (PT3).

“We’re still exam-oriented. A few years ago, some students weren’t allowed into the Science stream because of average PT3 results.

“Parents protested as the PBS (aims to get) kids to enjoy learning rather than focus on academic results. In the end, it’s still exams that determine streaming,” he said.

Some parents maintain that textbooks are not enough for their children’s education, hence the need for workbooks which help to reinforce what students learn through exercises and practice.

Kimberly Tan, 39, said: “Take maths for example – you learn the theory from a textbook, but you still have to do sums in workbooks or you won’t improve.”

Her two primary school-going boys were given a list of “must buy” workbooks.

While she does not make them do additional exercises at home, their tutor uses extra workbooks.

She said it was unfair to blame parents for burdening pupils because it was the school that recommends the workbooks.

“If they’ve done the workbooks in school, why do they need to do more at home?” she asked.

Sally Jacobs, the mother of an eight-year-old, agreed.

“Parents and schools want extra workbooks because materials provided by the ministry are insufficient,” she said.

Irate parent Amy Geh, 39, said there was too much pressure on children today.

“There’s just no rest for them. My son really struggles to finish his work. Sometimes, he can’t.”

Her Year Two son’s school bags had to be replaced regularly because they kept falling apart.

“It’s too heavy. There are too many workbooks,” she said.

A teacher from Perak, however, said many parents want more homework for their children, so the school ordered extra workbooks although some “aren’t necessary”.

Another teacher from Kedah urged parents to help children pack according to the timetable so that their bags would not be too heavy.

Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said parents and schools should agree on the number of workbooks to use.

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Pupils’ burden getting heavier

Saturday, July 22nd, 2017
Caught in the middle: Experts believe being overwhelmed with homework can have a negative impact on pupils.

Caught in the middle: Experts believe being overwhelmed with homework can have a negative impact on pupils.

PETALING JAYA: The issue of pupils lugging heavy schoolbags has been a long-standing complaint but it is getting heavier than ever.

Repeated reminders by the Education Ministry not to weigh pupils down with too many workbooks appear to be ignored, with the children still suffering while school authorities and parents point the finger at each other.

The problem, the topic of heated online discussions lately, is not just because of schools and teachers.

Overzealous parents who demand that their children be given more homework are also at fault.


But experts warn that all this extra work could cause psychological and physical harm instead of making pupils smarter.

Former education director-general Tan Sri Alimuddin Mohd Dom said parents sometimes get carried away.

“They forget the meaning of education. It’s about producing holistic pupils and building character.

“Teachers must explain this to parents instead of just giving in to their demands for more homework,” he added.

He said the ministry has been discussing how to curb the heavy bag issue for over a decade now.

“It’s a health hazard to carry over 10 books to school daily,” he said.

Deputy Education Minister Datuk P. Kamalanathan, when contacted, advised parents not to pressure their children.

He said schools should adhere to the ministry’s workbook circular. In 2000 and 2004, the ministry instructed schools to discontinue workbooks for Year One and Two.

Year Three and older pupils are limited to one additional workbook each for Bahasa Melayu, English, Mandarin, Mathematics and Science.

Malaysian Mental Health Asso­ciation deputy president Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj said the kiasu attitude among parents was detrimental to learning and social behaviour. Children should enjoy learning and not be forced to cram information while swamped with workbook tasks, he said.

“Being overwhelmed with homework can have negative effects. They become selfish, self-centred adults lacking in empathy,” he said.

Child therapist Priscilla Ho said parents today are “very much more kiasu” than before.

They are worried about their children falling behind, so they conform to what other parents do.

A child doesn’t just learn from homework. Life experiences are invaluable too,” said Ho.

National Union of the Teaching Profession secretary-general Harry Tan said parents should “stop trying to keep up with the Joneses”.

“Some headmasters recommend that parents buy more workbooks,” he said.

Those who complained were told that the books were optional but their child’s progress “might be slower” without them.

Recently, Deputy Education Minister Datuk Chong Sin Woon said parents, particularly from the Chinese community, had urged schools to give more homework, resulting in the “heavy bag phenomenon”.

But loading pupils with workbook exercises did not equate to a better education, Chong noted.

Aside from textbooks, pupils carry up to three extra workbooks per subject, causing their bags to weigh up to 10kg.

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30,000 stateless kids in Sabah

Friday, July 21st, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: There are about 30,000 stateless kids in Sabah.

According to Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) psychology and education faculty professor Dr Vincent Pang, the stateless kids were born of foreign parents or migrant workers who failed to register their birth at their respective consulates.

However, there are also incidences of stateless kids amongst locals in Sabah, he said.

“People, particularly in the rural areas fail to realise the importance of legal documents,” he said.

As a result, parents do not see the necessity of registering their children’s birth with the relevant government departments, he said.

He added that efforts to register the birth were also hampered due to the distance involved between the rural villages and the nearest agency.

Other groups of stateless kids are those born of single moms, he said.

In the country, it is estimated that there are 50,000 stateless kids.

However, Dr Vincent mentioned that it was difficult to get the exact number.

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