Archive for the ‘Educational Issues’ Category

Students look East for a wider perspective, global viewpoint

Sunday, September 23rd, 2018
Malaysian students at Wuhan University pose at the Malaysian Booth at the International Culture Festival to promote the nation’s cultures, costumes and cuisine.

STUDY destinations in Japan and China have seen an increasing number of enrolments from Malaysian higher education students these past few years.

Their affordable fees, the similarity in society and culture, as well as excellence in education and research attract students by the hordes.

There is also an opportunity to master languages such as Mandarin or Japanese during their stay in the countries.

High world university rankings also contribute to the trend. Japan, for instance, has nine universities in the top 200 QS World University Rankings 2017.

A large number of Chinese universities in China are also recognised by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency. These include Beijing University, Renmin University of China, Tsinghua University, Beijing Jiaotong University and Beijing University of Science and Technology.

Malaysian students who are interested in furthering their higher education studies in Japan are advised to prepare at least nine months to one year in advance.

Embassy of Japan in Malaysia education attache Sentaro Ishikawa said once students decide to pursue their studies in the Land of the Rising Sun, they will need to research into their choice of programme.

“Take note of application dates and the standardised admission tests as well as admission procedures,” added Ishikawa.

The application period for April 2019 intake is from June through November 2018.

“For courses beginning in September, the application period is usually from December of the previous year through February.”

The student selection for university admission in Japan is a process in which universities independently decide the enrolment through the entrance examination uniquely set by each institution.

The process varies depending on the applicant’s school of choice and the entrance exam commonly consists of one test or a combination such as test of academic ability, interview, short essay, competence and aptitude tests, and Examination for Japanese University (EJU) Examination (evaluates international students’ Japanese language and academic abilities to study at a higher education institution in Japan).

“Students sit the entrance exam by applying directly to the university of their choice and they are advised to check the school’s Application Guideline for International Students for the latest update.”


There are three pathways for Malaysian students to further higher education in Japan.

Those with 12 years of formal education and who are proficient in English can apply for Japanese undergraduate courses offered in English.

Sentaro Ishikawa counselling a potential student on choosing a tertiary institution in Japan.

“They have to submit a certificate of proficiency in English (IELTS/TOEFL), a certificate of academic achievement, scores of a high school graduation standardised examination in the home country and short essays in English in the first round of screening of applications.

“The second round comprises an interview, which will either be conducted in the country or region where applicants live or via an online interview.

“Those who are proficient in Japanese can apply to sit the EJU Examination and apply for Japanese undergraduate courses offered in Japanese.

“Japanese universities especially the national-type institutions usually conduct their primary assessment of potential international students based on EJU Examination scores,” added Ishikawa.

Malaysian students, who have no knowledge of the Japanese language but wish to apply for a course conducted in Japanese, have to study the language for at least a year in one of the designated Japanese language institutes before applying for admission into higher education institutions in Japan.

“Those who have less than 12 years of formal education are required to do at least a year of University Preparatory Course (or pre-university programme), inclusive of learning the Japanese language at institutes designated by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT, also known as Monbukagakusho) Japan to be eligible to apply for admission into universities in the country.

“Only 25 Japanese language institutes offer the University Preparatory Course. One is located at Kuala Lumpur, the rest are in Japan.”


University of Malaya’s Special Preparatory Programme to Japan is one of the sponsored courses which send students to study in the country, .

Programme coordinator Mohd Norhaswira Hasan said the course aims to equip students with a basic education in Japanese and three core subjects of science — mathematics, physics and chemistry.

Upon completing the programme, they will further their studies at select Japanese universities.

Students are assisted in the selection of university from a list provided by MEXT.

This selection and application process take place in October, and the results are announced in February.

Students will then make their selection (three choices of university and course) in October. In early November, they sit EJU.

The EJU results, which are announced in January, determine the university the student will enrolling in February.

Mohd Norhaswira, who is an alumnus of the Special Preparatory Programme to Japan, said he applied for the course because of his interest in the Japanese language.

He started learning Japanese as his third foreign language from Form One.

“I was motivated by my Japanese language teacher, Zubaidah Ali, during my early years in secondary school,” said Mohd Norhaswira, who studied mechanical engineering at Nagoya University and graduated in March 2007.


As Japanese universities have become more globalised, there are emerging programmes at universities and graduate schools where students can obtain a degree by taking classes entirely in English.

The number of Malaysian students who pursue courses offered in English at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels is increasing over the years.

“Of course, they also have the chance to learn Japanese at the university. Therefore, they gain a significant advantage, especially if they wish to work in Japan after graduation.

“Over the years, more companies in Japan are hiring international students with diverse backgrounds, who understand Japanese language and culture.

By Zulita Mustafa.

Read more @

‘Govt mulling reform for school curriculum’

Monday, September 17th, 2018
SHAH ALAM 05 SEPTEMBER 2016. Seramai 222 calon Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) Sekolah Kebangsaan Raja Muda (SKRM) Sekyen 4 Shah Alam, mendengar taklimat akhir sebelum masuk ke dalam bilik darjah bagi menjawab peperiksaan kertas Bahasa Melayu Pemahaman yang bermula jam 8.15 pagi hingga 9.30 pagi pada hari pertama UPSR. STR/MOHD ASRI SAIFUDDIN MAMAT

THERE is a need to change certain aspects of the school curriculum so that educators can inculcate character-building modules and values in students at a young age.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said there was a possibility that reform would take place in the curriculum used for early childhood education to make room for imparting of values, such as hard work, national pride and pride in quality of work.

He said this was important as the ways that values were imparted now were different compared with the past, as the hectic pace of modern life did not give parents enough time to teach these values to their children.

“In the old days, of course, values were implanted in children by the parents.

“But nowadays, parents are too busy. Mother and father are working, no quality time spent with their children…

“So, the implementation of values must be done at the kindergarten-level because they are more receptive when they are young.

“If we have a good programme to inculcate good values in our children, they will grow up to be morally correct.

“They will show respect to old people, to their parents and all that, and I think they will become people of good character who are most likely to succeed,” Dr Mahathir said in an exclusive interview with The Third Age Media Association and Bernama
News Channel at Perdana Leadership Foundation in Putrajaya recently.

He said a person’s values determined his or her success in life, and by extension, a society’s value system would determine a country’s success.

In citing Japanese society as an example, Dr Mahathir said their hard work and ability to manufacture quality goods stemmed from their great sense of national pride and their sense of shame if they did something bad or fared poorly in things they set out to do.

He said Japan recovered very quickly after World War 2 because of its society’s values.

“So, they want to avoid bringing shame upon themselves, which means that whenever they do something they want their products to be recognised by people as good quality products. Then they will feel proud.

“But if they produce things that are of poor quality, they feel ashamed of themselves. So, these are values that we have to implant in our children at a young age. Since parents cannot do that anymore, we have to do this at schools.

“We are going to change certain parts of the curriculum to include shaping of character at a young age.”

He said imparting good character and values during the early stages of a child’s education needed to be done as it worked hand-in-hand with the learning process.

“We have to include (elements on) the moulding of character.

“You see, you give knowledge to somebody but (if) you don’t shape his character to use his knowledge, he uses that knowledge for bad things.

“The knowledge can be used for good or bad (things).

“I always compare (the situation) with a knife… If the knife is in the hands of somebody of bad character, his usage of the knife will be bad.

“But if you teach him good character, he will make full use of the knife to carve beautiful things and to do good things.

“So, that is what shapes a person.”

Dr Mahathir, who admitted at being concerned over the values practised by Malaysians, said a person could reach greater heights of success when he or she worked hard and upholds good character.

Read more @

Teaching and engaging Orang Asli children

Wednesday, September 12th, 2018
Orang Asli schoolchildren attending a motivational programme in Pekan, Pahang in 2016. FILE PIC

ON Aug 23, three years ago, seven Orang Asli children were reported to have run away from a boarding school in Gua Musang, Kelantan. The nation was shocked and saddened with the news that of the seven children, five died tragically. There was much speculation and opinion — then and even now — of what went wrong and who was at fault, and what measures could have been taken to prevent such a tragedy from recurring.

But what remains unacceptable is how children as young as 7 years old could fear school that much to have decided to escape, and afterwards be too scared to be discovered.

A school is not just the building and the facilities it houses. For Orang Asli children, who come from a background that features less, what would “school” mean? This is the question that needs to be explored if education for Orang Asli and other marginalised minority students in Malaysia were to improve

Orang Asli, just like other indigenous communities, have only recently made the transition from an oral tradition to a literate one. Thus, they come from a tradition that many of us conveniently or even ignorantly categorise as illiterate.

Education is important and development literature discusses how education is the answer to uplift poverty and improve the quality of life, especially for the marginalised, minority communities such as Orang Asli. However, an important question is, from whose perspectives or worldview is education presented for Orang Asli? How do Orang Asli children experience schooling .

We are all shaped by our worldviews, and indigenous communities’ worldviews can differ considerably from the cultural worldviews of dominant societies. Therefore, schools accommodating indigenous children must be aware that mainstream educational practices and approaches may not suit indigenous children.

For the majority of Orang Asli children, school is a place where they experience many things for the first time. In fact, research has shown that it is only when Orang Asli children attend school that they experience the sense of being different. For many of these children, school is the first place they encounter outsiders — their non-Orang Asli teachers. It can also be the first time they are spoken to in the Malay language

Unlike the norm, where they are usually outside of their houses most of the time, the children have to endure being confined in a classroom for their lessons. Many children learn to sit on chairs and write on desks because home has few furniture.

Children experience new kind of fear when they encounter physical punishment or face abusive language for not answering the teacher correctly. It is in schools where Orang Asli children learn to function in a time-regulated, competitive and enclosed classroom environment. Such experiences for these children can outweigh what they learn in school.

In schools, most teachers work hard to ensure that Orang Asli children are able to “fit” into the education system rather than exploring how the present education system can accommodate their needs.

Simple expectations, such as the need for children to remain seated and pay attention to lessons, know how to follow instructions, understand the importance of completing homework on time, and even to remember what has been taught in lessons, are some of the challenges faced by teachers in Orang Asli schools. Often, practices that are valued in school may not be understood by Orang Asli children, who are accustomed to being independent and free.

There have been several significant initiatives from the Education Ministry to address literacy and educational issues among Orang Asli children, for example, through special rehabilitation and integrated curriculum initiatives. But it is crucial to understand that successful educational initiatives must move from adopting notions of “cultural inferiority” as the underpinning philosophy for Orang Asli educational programmes.

By Dr Sumathi Renganathan,

Read more @

Education revamp needs new ideas

Thursday, September 6th, 2018
Education is an important investment for the nation. FILE PIC

The education system is under close scrutiny. Everyone has something negative to say about it. Educationists, too, have joined the fray.

The education minister, who has promised to overhaul the system, is under a lot of pressure to deliver.

In a WhatsApp group, of which I am a member, strong words about the many years of abuse are common.

All are calling for a revamp, not only at the primary and secondary levels, but also the tertiary level.

The minister has expressed disgust at universities’ obsession with rankings, oftentimes neglecting the national agenda.

Nothing, however, has been submitted for the attention of the ministry.

Even the appointments of advisory panel members attracted unfounded criticism.

Such critics may have failed to recognise the fact that past policies, which they have also been critical of, were developed by education experts.

It may be time for people to think outside the box. The minister has been holding discussions with stakeholders to gather ideas. Kudos to the minister.

What is clear to all is that education is an important investment for the nation.

It is through education that many escaped from poverty, especially those from rural areas.

It is through education that we have nurtured the talent to respond to economic and social challenges.

Many countries have improved their competitiveness through innovation.

In a world where innovation is now a criterion for competitiveness, the business playground has changed. And with the pressure of climate change, the demand for sustainability has also become more urgent.

We see evidence of this in the export of palm oil to European Union countries.

The economy is not the only agenda driving our investment in education.

Education has the goal of producing citizenry who can resolve the nation’s social ills.

Unemployment and corruption, for instance, are rooted in the failings in the economy.

Others, such as drug abuse, ethno-religious strife and crimes, can be attributed to poor social upbringing. Of course, misguided education would take a share of the blame.

As a small country that depends on external forces to support our economy, there is no doubt that we need to engage such forces.

Language proficiency is important. The more languages, the better.

But there are educationists who are against moves to equip our young with English language proficiency.

As if mastering a foreign language will be at the expense of our national language.

We need fresh ideas.


Read more @

Changing the lives of the underprivileged

Wednesday, September 5th, 2018
Naren Kumar Surendra presenting his research at the Organ Donation Congress in Seoul in 2015.

EDUCATION is key to realising one’s full potential and securing a better future.

But for underprivileged students, who come from a low-income family or are challenged by disabilities, grit and hard work may get them through their primary and secondary schooling. However, access to tertiary education may prove harder to come by.

Naren Kumar Surendra, 32, was born with macular dystrophy, a rare, genetic eye disorder that causes loss of vision. But, it was when he was a working adult that he only knew the reason for his poor vision.

From birth, it was noted that he couldn’t see well and his schoolteacher father tried to make the situation better by getting him glasses from the local optometrist shop in Gua Musang, Kelantan.

Always an eager student, Naren made sure he sat right in front of the blackboard so that he could see and listen to his teachers properly. And if he couldn’t catch what was written on the board, he made sure he borrowed his friend’s notes to copy them later.

“When I was in primary school, my Math was okay. But when I was in Form Six, my Math exam results were not that good.

“I couldn’t see the steps shown on the blackboard. The irony is that now I’m doing statistics.

“Now, I can keep up because everything is computerised and I work very well with computers,” said the clinical registry manager at the National Renal Registry, which collects information on patients on renal replacement therapy, such as dialysis and kidney transplantation, throughout the country.

After sitting Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM), Naren did a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Biology at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia despite his interest in Math. He graduated with a first class honours.

“When I graduated, I knew that I couldn’t cope with the laboratory work that my training prepared me for due to my impaired sight. I even applied to join the teaching profession through Kursus Perguruan Lepasan Ijazah, but was offered a music course. Then I found employment at the registry,” he said.

Surrounded by healthcare providers in his new workplace, Naren’s interest quickly shifted to public health management and it was also through his interaction with medical experts that he took the step towards having his impairment properly diagnosed.

It was also during this period he received a Yayasan Sime Darby Scholarship (YSD Special Needs Bursary Batch 2012) to pursue a part-time master’s degree in Community Health Science (Hospital Management and Health Economy) at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

Naren is currently pursuing his doctorate in Community Health (Health Economy) — also on a part-time basis — which he expects to complete in November.

He is due to present his research paper that looks into haemodialysis versus continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis in treating kidney patients at the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research Europe 2018 Conference in Barcelona, Spain in November.

The YSD Inspiration Award 2018 recipient said he was lucky to have had a good support system and funding assistance for his studies.

“I have strived hard to be accountable and trustworthy in my pursuits and it’s paying off. For others who face similar predicaments, do not be discouraged by your disabilities,” he said.

Nurul Akmar Abdul Aziz at the Teachers College Psychology Conference 2016. She was presenting a research on ‘The Feasibility of Using Visual Phonics in the Reading Curriculum of the Malaysian Federation of the Deaf Pre-kindergarten Bilingual Program’.

For Nurul Akmar Abdul Aziz, 31, receiving a YSD Postgraduate Overseas Scholarship in 2014 to pursue Master in Education with a specialisation in Deaf Education and Reading Specialist — Dual Certification at the Teachers College, Columbia University in the United States was a step towards contributing more meaningfully in the special education sector.

In 2011, she graduated with a first-class degree in Bachelor of Education in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) with a CGPA of 3.66 from International Languages Teacher Training Institute in Kuala Lumpur. She was awarded with the Top Student Award and Excellent Student Award at her university.

Her first posting as an English teacher was at SMK Abdullah II in Semporna, Sabah, where she taught for four years.

During her tenure at the school, she identified that most student experienced severe reading difficulties. Therefore, she enrolled in the Reading Specialist programme to help students improve their mastery of English through reading.

“I found my vocation in teaching in Semporna. I love studying, but I did not like teaching.

“I feel that education is important, but I wonder how important it is?

“We often take it for granted. For some in Semporna, they do not understand how important education is.

“The gap between rural and urban areas was more apparent in Semporna. No matter how hard they try, they can never catch up.

“The importance of schooling is not understood there, and there were lack of resources.

“Many of my students couldn’t read. That’s the reason I took the dual master’s degree programme. It is about exposure and culture,” she said.

Akmar, who is from Kuala Lumpur, struggled to gain access to education as she grew up in a low-income family.

As for her interest in deaf education, Akmar said it began in her undergraduate years.

“The deaf community is often misunderstood. People who have hearing impairments are not cognitively disabled, but are facing a language barrier.

“As we cannot understand their needs, we cannot meet their needs.”

Akmar, who received the YSD Chairman’s Award 2018, had completed her postgraduate studies in May last year, after which she attended a one-year academic training at the New York School for the Deaf to gain practical experience and exposure.

The YSD Governing Council had approved the scholarship award in view of the unavailability of special education courses at the tertiary level, specifically for the deaf and hard of hearing in Malaysia.

With this qualification, together with hands-on experiences that she had obtained from the prestigious academic institution, Akmar would be one of few individuals with the necessary skills to assist Malaysian Federation of the Deaf (MFD) in its push for national policy changes that protect the rights and promote the wellbeing of the Malaysian deaf community.


Read more @

Maszlee: Character building to complement 3R learning in primary schools.

Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

KLANG: Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik wants teachers to play a pivotal role in inculcating good values in students in addition to teaching them the 3Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic).

He said good values will become the fourth R in the system for character building which should begin from primary school.

“In some countries, such as Finland for instance, it is a crime for teachers to even conduct exams from primary to Form Three.

“This is because this period is used to build the characters of the students,” Dr Maszlee said in his speech at the opening of the maiden Educational Professionalism seminar for young teachers at a hotel here Tuesday (Aug 28) night.

He said a teacher asked had him if he could be transferred back to his home state of Kedah from his current posting in Sabah where he has been teaching for two years.

“I told him that he should not see his placement in Sabah there as a burden but instead an opportunity to help Sabah’s future generation benefit from education,” said Dr Maszlee.

He said he told the teacher that he hoped Sabah and Sarawak will grow bigger under the new Malaysia and that he (the teacher) will be playing a role in achieving this.

Dr Mazlee also promised the young teachers attending the event that he would try his best to make teaching an enjoyable and fulfilling profession as opposed to becoming a burden to them.

He also added Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had asked him to convey to them of the role of teachers needed to play to build the future generation.

Dr Mazlee also raised the question as to why people were not as hard working as the Japanese who strove very hard in their endeavours.

He said it was also found that the attitude and mindset of people in developed nations were not found in those from developing nations.

According to Dr Mazlee, it was a common thing for people to experience collective shame if something was not right in their countries such as dirty places and bad roads.

He said it was this feeling of collective shame that made them forge ahead and achieve success.

“We should inculcate this in students from primary to secondary schools so that they will feel the same when things are not right,” he added

By Wani Muthiah

Read more @

Spanish firm seals its commitment to education for the young.

Monday, August 27th, 2018
Ovinis receiving the mock cheque from Gomez (centre) in the Bahru Stainless office located in Pasir Gudang, Johor. With them are the 10 school representatives.

Ovinis receiving the mock cheque from Gomez (centre) in the Bahru Stainless office located in Pasir Gudang, Johor. With them are the 10 school representatives.

IN an effort to improve the command of English among students of Pasir Gudang, Bahru Stainless Sdn Bhd has contributed RM20,000 worth of Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) pullouts to 10 schools in the district.

Its chief executive officer Oswald Wolfe Gomez said that he hoped the initiative would cultivate a reading culture among students in both primary and secondary levels.

“Newspapers provide a great sense of educational value that students can use to not only improve their linguistic skills but also gain insights and information about things around them.

“This contribution is a great opportunity for us to improve the learning and teaching experience for schools in Pasir Gudang,” he said, adding that 90% of the company’s employees have children studying in the schools receiving the contribution.

He also said that by exposing students to the newspapers at an early age, they would be able to develop critical and analytical skills.

“I think it is crucial for children to be exposed to the newspapers produced by a credible source as this allows them to make their own comparison with questionable information they come across on social media,” he added.

Gomez said when the idea was presented to him, he was more than happy to make the commitment.

On hand to receive the mock cheque was Star Media Group NiE editorial manager Sharon Ovinis.

Schools receiving the sponsorship are SK Kota Masai 1, SK Kota Masai 2, SK Kota Masai 3, SK Cahaya Baru, SK Taman Nusa Damai, SK Taman Pasir Putih, SMK Pasir Putih, SMK Kota Masai 2, SMK Pasir Gudang and SJK(C) Masai.

SMK Pasir Putih principal Wardah Ismail said she was very excited to bring NiE to her students and create new teaching methods with other teachers in the school.

“I would encourage teachers in the school to explore the many creative ways they can use NiE in their lesson plans and we would keep reports of those lesson plans for future reference,” she said.

Meanwhile, SJK(C) Masai teacher Winson Eng Wei Siang said he believes that students would be able to learn so much more in an interactive and fun class setting.

“I have experienced using NiE in a classroom during my practical years and I saw a huge difference between the conventional method of using just a textbook and using NiE. Students just sparkle when I use NiE in class. It is a refreshing and exciting learning experience for them. This method allows them to fully explore their potential and creativity.

“No doubt the class would be noisy and chaotic when I conduct activities using NiE but in spite of that, I know they are learning something and that is what education should be about,” he said.

He added that he would inject more fun during his English Club co-curriculum period with the NiE activities provided in the pullout.

As for SK Kota Masai 3 teacher Ahmad Kanagarajah Perumal, using NiE in the classroom was something that is very close to his heart.

By Venesa Devi
Read more @

Education, our perennial concern

Thursday, August 23rd, 2018

THERE is no subject other than education that attracts the attention of most Malaysians. It just lends itself easily to debates and deep discussions.

Reasons are not hard to find. On one level, Malaysians care too deeply about the career development of their children. On a much broader national level, education has an impact on the country’s human capital development. And ultimately, education dictates the direction the national economy takes. Whether our economy goes north or south depends on what the country does to its education system.

To put it simply, education influences wealth creation and the quality of our lives.

Education is not to be taken lightly. Hence the deep discussions about what is right and what is not right.

Given Malaysia’s multiracial society, a debate has been raging as to whether our schools’ medium of instruction should be in the national language, English or even in the vernacular languages. We have been caught up in this debate for far too long.

Rather than debating the more substantive issues of curriculum content or the mastery of high-level professional skills such as medicine, law, engineering, physics or economics, we are engrossed in a seemingly ceaseless debate about the medium of instruction.

Perhaps Malaysia is the only nation in the world dwelling on this subject matter.

Others, for good reason, focus more on matters more weighty, such as issues of content, relevance, and the effectiveness of school output.

The recent statement by Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik on the need to review the education policy is welcomed and is indicative of the significance and importance of the subject to the future of the country.

My exposure to economic and social development planning in particular and the civil service in general has compelled me to pen this commentary with the hope that people in leadership positions will, through education as a discipline, make this country great in three areas I have in mind: social integration, technical skills, and global reputation.

Let me state at the outset that any policy review should continue to emphasise the command of an international language such as the English language.

Given the strong link our economy has with the global economy we should never compromise on this.

Indeed, the time has come for us to strongly encourage a good working command of a few international languages, including the English language. Mandarin and Arabic can be considered important languages to be promoted given their social relevance in Malaysia.

Having a good command of a few international languages will enable our youths to access a wide base of knowledge and technology.

Another essential element of the policy should be the promotion of human capital development.

Science and mathematics must be emphasised to enable our students to master technology not only to meet their career requirements but also to assist in the country’s economic development. The elements of science, mathematics must form a good part of the curriculum content of all grades and streams.

Even students pursuing the Islamic stream should be allowed sufficient exposure to English, science and mathematics to enable them to be employable upon completion of studies. Islam does not discourage us from acquiring this knowledge. The contribution of the Muslims in Spain to the advancement in knowledge for 300 years is a case in point.

The place of soft skills in the core curriculum of our schools must not be overlooked. In a study undertaken by the World Bank more than a decade ago, soft skills were found to be wanting among our industrial workers. It is hoped that this issue has been addressed by the relevant authorities.

If this isn’t the case then the education policy review must address this.

To summarise, I have suggested three concerns of education content that need to be factored in our policy review, namely: the need for a mastery of an international language, sufficiently deep exposure to science and mathematics, and the inclusion of good social skills in the core curriculum.

By Tan Sri Dr Sulaiman Mahbob.

Read more @

Good leaders make good schools

Monday, August 13th, 2018
(File pix) Students at a school in Chicago. The city has one of the highest principal retention rates of any large urban system. NYT Photo

THE solutions to the nation’s problems already exist somewhere out in the country; we just do a terrible job of circulating them.

For example, if you want to learn how to improve city schools, look how Washington, New Orleans and Chicago are already doing it. Since 2011 the graduation rate at Chicago public schools has increased at nearly four times the national average, to 77.5 per cent from 56.9 per cent. The percentage of Chicago students going to two- or four-year colleges directly after graduation increased to 63 per cent in 2015 from 50 per cent in 2006.

Sean Reardon of Stanford compared changes in national test scores between third and eighth grade. He found that Chicago students were improving faster than students in any other major school district in the country. Chicago schools are cramming six years’ worth of education into five years of actual schooling.

These improvements are proof that demography is not destiny, that bad things happening in a neighbourhood do not have to determine student outcomes.

How is Chicago doing it? Well, its test scores have been rising since 2003. Chicago has a rich civic culture, research support from places like the University of Chicago and a tradition of excellent leadership from school heads, from Arne Duncan to Janice Jackson, and the obsessive, energetic drive of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Chicago has expanded early childhood education and imposed universal full-day kindergarten. After a contentious strike in 2012, Emanuel managed to extend the school day. But he and the other people who led this effort put special emphasis on one thing: principals.

We’ve spent a lot of time over the past few decades debating how to restructure schools. We’ve spent a lot of time trying to help teachers. But structural change and increasing teacher quality don’t get you very far without a strong principal.

Researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Toronto studied 180 schools across nine states and concluded, “We have not found a single case of a school improving its student achievement record in the absence of talented leadership.”

What do principals do? They build a culture. Researchers from McKinsey studied test scores from half a million students in 72 countries. They found that students’ mindsets were twice as powerful in predicting scores as home environment and demographics were. How do students feel about their schooling? How do they understand motivation? Do they have a growth mindset to understand their own development?

These attitudes are powerfully and subtly influenced by school culture, by the liturgies of practice that govern the school day: the rituals for welcoming members into the community; the way you decorate walls to display school values; the distribution of power across the community; the celebrations of accomplishment and the quality of trusting relationships.

Principals set the culture by their very behavior — the message is the person.

Research suggests that it takes five to seven years for a principal to have full impact on a school, but most principals burn out and leave in four years or less. Chicago has one of the highest principal retention rates of any large urban system, 85 per cent. Principals are given support, training and independence. If you manage your school well for a couple of years in a row, you are freed from daily oversight from the central office.

But the big thing is transforming the role. Principals used to be administrators and middle managers, overseeing budgets, discipline, schedules. The goal was to be strong and decisive.

Today’s successful principals are greeting parents and students outside the front door in the morning. That Minnesota-Toronto study found successful principals made 20 to 60 spontaneous classroom visits and observations per week.

In other words, they are high-energy types constantly circulating through the building, offering feedback, setting standards, applying social glue. In some schools, teachers see themselves as martyrs in a hopeless cause. Principals raise expectations and alter norms. At Independence Middle School in Cleveland, principal Kevin Jakub pushes a stand-up desk on wheels around the school all day.

Research also suggests a collaborative power structure is the key. A lot of teachers want to be left alone and a lot of principals don’t want to give away power, but successful schools are truly collaborative.

By David Brooks.

Read more @

Experiential learning to teach real-world skills

Sunday, August 12th, 2018
Idyllic class: Several NMC’s Marine Technology students spent more than two weeks in Sulawesi to apply everything they learned on the table to the waters of the Bunaken National Park. — AFP

Idyllic class: Several NMC’s Marine Technology students spent more than two weeks in Sulawesi to apply everything they learned on the table to the waters of the Bunaken National Park. — AFP

SHANE Perkins just returned from a 16-day trip to Indonesia, where he helped conduct marine, aerial and water quality surveys of coral reefs that surround Bunaken Island.

Perkins is one of several students in Northwestern Michigan College’s Marine Technology programme who made the trip to Bunaken National Park, putting everything they learned on the table in the capstone course.

“You can learn a lot of stuff in the classroom, but you really learn it out here,” says Perkins, waving his arm toward the Grand Traverse Bay.

Back in Indonesia their surveys may be used to prevent ships from damaging the coral reefs, which are also facing threats from climate change, overfishing and more.

They describe not only dodging giant centipedes and sharing their beds with rats, but also using their skills and thinking on the fly to operate, repair and troubleshoot remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), unmanned aerial systems (UASs) and water quality sensors, while working in hot, humid, “real-world” conditions.

The two-week outing is an example of how the college’s Experiential Learning Program is permeating the culture at NMC.

But President Tim Nelson would like to see more.

“One of the things the whole college is working on is connecting students with area business,” Nelson says.

“More and more people are hiring our students because they want economic prosperity and we can supply workers who have those skills.”

A team made up of faculty and staff has been working for about a year on ways to better integrate experiential learning throughout the curriculum and to make it more consistent and better known to employers in the community, Nelson adds.

Other examples include the culinary programme, which has students visiting Italy to work on farms with chefs, learning things such as how to make cheese and how to use fresh food that is on hand in their cooking.

Culinary students have also partnered with business students and travelled to Ecuador, where they helped women set up small businesses to produce and sell things like jellies and jams.

Closer to home visual communications students work with local non-profits to design and create brochures, logos and websites.

“It’s relevant learning,” Nelson says.

“It’s not an exercise for the sake of exercise. They’re learning something.”

Instructors are becoming more like learning coaches, he notes, instead of just teaching at the front of a classroom.

Perkins spent 12 years in the US Army and was looking for a career in the ROV sector, which could be in the field of oil and gas, renewable energy or scientific research, he says.

The Record-Eagle/ Tribune News Service
Read more @