Archive for the ‘Educational Issues’ Category

DPM: Khat is an art form, nothing to do with religion

Monday, August 5th, 2019
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said I have taken note of this matter and will meet Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. NSTP/Mohd Fadli Hamzah

PUTRAJAYA: Khat, or Jawi calligraphy, is an art form and has nothing to do with religion, says Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

However, she said she had taken note of the worries expressed by certain quarters following the Education Ministry’s decision to implement khat as part of the Year Four Bahasa Melayu subject in school next year.

“I have taken note of this matter and will meet Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“I know that he has spoken on this, but we will have a deeper discussion on the matter.

“I am of the opinion that further discussion is needed on this.

“Khat is an art form and has got nothing to do with religion,” she told reporters after launching the “Hentikan! Stop It!” creative video competition.

Dr Mahathir was reported as saying that the decision to introduce khat was final, adding that the government had never barred other races from preserving the written scripts of their respective mother tongues, making Malaysia quite special.

Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik had stated that schoolchildren would not be tested on their khat writing skills during examinations.

By Hashini Kavishtri Kannan.

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Teachers facing more mental pressure

Monday, July 15th, 2019
Sulaiman (third left) and Education Ministry Psychology and Counselling Division secretary Normazwin Yahya (second left) posing with teachers during the launch of the programme.

Sulaiman (third left) and Education Ministry Psychology and Counselling Division secretary Normazwin Yahya (second left) posing with teachers during the launch of the programme.

STRESSED out teachers create stressed out students.

Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik said teachers are facing increasing mental pressure from domestic problems, financial issues, job uncertainty and living away from their families, to name a few.

“How is it possible for teachers who have disrupted psychological and emotional well-being to carry out the teaching and learning process in a friendly and effective manner?” he said during the launch of the “Raising Teachers Psychological Wellbeing Awareness #3A (Aware, Alert, Action) Programme” on Wednesday.

His speech text was read by deputy education director-general (Teacher Development Professionalism) Datuk Sulaiman Wak.

“A student’s emotional and psychological development will be less healthy.”

He added that setting aside the psychological aspect in one’s daily work can have a negative impact on an organisation’s harmony.

Dr Maszlee said that there is normally a surge in teachers seeking counselling or mental health treatment from the ministry’s Psychology and Counselling Division during June and December.

This is due to teachers having their transfer requests rejected, he said, without revealing statistics.

He also said that there have been a few unwanted incidents lately due to the jeopardised psychological well-being of teachers and students.

He gave the example of the teacher who caned his student without following ministry guidelines that happened last month.

“Therefore, it is a necessity for the Education Ministry to assist teachers in handling and managing these issues effectively,” he added.

The year-long programme, which will begin in August, aims to encourage ministry staff to be aware, sensitive and act when they detect symptoms of psychological imbalance like mental disorders.

It began with a study on teachers’ psychological well-being that was carried out from January 2019 until May this year with around 100,000 respondents, he said.

Based on the results, teachers categorised with having low to medium psychological well-being will be given special intervention.

Those with medium high to high psychological well-being will undergo prevention programmes such as psychoeducation in their schools, he explained.

There will be 11 topics covered throughout the programme that will be delivered by the school heads to the teachers.

Among the topics are stress management, healthy lifestyle, anger management, depression and work satisfaction.

“We hope that what is learnt will be passed down from teacher to student as well,” he said.

Last month, Malaysian Mental Health Asso­ciation president Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj said he has treated many teachers from national schools who are presented with features of psychological stress and some with full-fledged clinical depression.

By Rebecca Rajaendram


Live at home or hostel life?

Sunday, July 14th, 2019
Vishantinii Mogana Sundram (second from left) during the mangrove tree planting activity of the Sri Aman Environmental and English Youth Leadership Summit 2019.

THERE have been a lot of discussion on whether boarding schools are better than day schools.

School Times spoke to teachers and students from both types of schools who shared their experiences and viewpoints of these schools.

In terms of schedule, residential schools are said to be structured in a fixed environment while day school students have more flexibility in their daily routine.

SMK (P) Sri Aman, Petaling Jaya student Vishantinii Mogana Sundram, 17, said that attending a day school does not restrict her to a set schedule.

“My daily schedule varies according to the school tasks given. I always plan out my studies by setting a target for the day and making sure I achieve it before going to bed.”

Vishantinii, who recently placed the top of her form, added: “When it comes to education, it is my highest priority and I can get very competitive about it.”

Mayratdaa Eh Sing, 17, from SMK Tumpat, Kelantan said that her school lends her the freedom to revise lessons at her own time.

“I prefer to study at night. Being in a day school enables me to do that without bothering my classmates. For subjects that involve a lot of memorisation, I usually read the whole chapter first before making notes,” said the student who reviews two subjects daily.

Her English teacher Wong Lieat Hiong said: “Day school students can study well on their own but they have to be diligent enough.

“If the students know what they want in the future, no matter where they are, they will study hard for their goal.”

For boarding school student Muhammad Nazrie Hasan, 17, he allocates time for self study aside from the compulsory extra classes.

“Before morning prayers, I normally read history and biology books. In the evening, I go jogging or play futsal with my friends. There are days that I choose to study instead of play sports.

“At night, I attend extra classes before doing my own revision,” said the Sekolah Sultan Alam Shah, Putrajaya head student.

Muhammad Imran Rosli, 17, from SM Sains Hulu Terengganu, said that despite the fixed daily agenda, he has the option to change his personal study schedule each month.

“I always do that so I can review all of the nine subjects in time. Every afternoon, my school has additional classes for Form Five students.

“Being a boarding school student, it is easier for me to review lessons with my friends,” said Muhammad Imran, who has represented the Terengganu state in softball tournaments.

Boarding schools are also said to offer more opportunities in the sciences, arts and sports, enabling their students to flourish in their interests.

Maktab Rendah Sains MARA (MRSM) Langkawi students Muhammad Irfan Mohd Nazri and Nornabilah Mohamad Rosdi said that their school provide many avenues to spread their wings.

Muhammad Irfan, who is the Student Representative Council president, flew to the United States for Genius Olympiad, an international high school project competition, last month.

“My group and I made a physiotherapy device enabling patients with hand injury to play games while in rehabilitation. Out of more than 500 projects from 79 countries, we won the silver medal.

“I believe a lot of Malaysian students would love to enter such competitions but they may not have sufficient funds. Aside from external sponsorship, MARA has also supported us financially,” said Muhammad Irfan, who aspires to be a cardiothoracic surgeon.

Muhammad Irfan Mohd Nazri participating in Genius Olympiad in New York, the US.

Nornabilah, who has a passion for mathematics, has been joining the national MRSM Mathematics Carnival yearly.

“My group made it to the Top 3 last year. I also had the chance to go on an educational trip to Japan where we learned a lot about its culture,” she said.

Muhammad Nazrie had the chance to join Sekolah Sultan Alam Shah’s reputable Alam Shah Wind Orchestra.

The flute section principal said: “Throughout my five years here, I’ve joined 13 competitions and have claimed the top prize many times.”

One of the competitions was the Hong Kong Winter Band Festival 2018, where his team won the Gold Award.

“In February 2018, our band had a collaboration with the Hwa Chong Military Band from Singapore. It was my first time travelling outside of Malaysia,” he added.

The aspiring engineer was also selected to represent the country at the Japan-Asia Youth Exchange Programme in Science (Sakura Science Programme) last year.

Sekolah Sultan Alam Shah English teacher and Alam Shah Wind Orchestra adviser Nik Anita Che Hamid said that their programmes are tailored to produce excellent students.

“In a boarding school, teachers play an important role in moulding students. Being their second parents, we have a mentor mentee system where we keep track of their well-being,” said Nik Anita.

Meanwhile, Vishantinii noted that there is a misconception about day school students lacking opportunities.

“SMK (P) Sri Aman provides a multitude of opportunities where students can showcase their talent and capabilities. In fact, my schoolmates’ achievements have brought pride to the country.

“I was one out of five Malaysian representatives at the Asian Youth Forum 2018 in South Korea. I was also involved in the Sri Aman Environmental and English Youth Leadership Summit,” said the school deputy prefect.

SMK (P) Sri Aman History teacher Nadia Fitriyana Ahmad Narzaray said that day schools are suitable for parents who wish to have close supervision over their children.

“Our students also get a lot of opportunities such as student exchange programmes with other countries,” said Nadia Fitriyana.

Another day school pupil Madeshwaran Nathan, 14, is both academically inclined and a sportsperson.

“I have represented my school in chess tournaments such as those held by the District School Sports Council,” said the SMK (L) Bukit Bintang school prefect.

However, unlike their boarding school counterparts, it is not mandatory for day school students to be active in cocurriculum aside from the compulsory weekly activities.

SMK Tumpat student Mayratdaa, who scored straight As in her recent examination, said: “I can be considered as a high-achiever only in academics. I don’t lack incentives from my school but it is more due to my own disinterest in co-curricular activities.”

It is also normal for residential school students to form a close-knit community but day school students may also keep a bond beyond the classroom.

Muhammad Nazrie said: “All of my batchmates are my close friends. Living together for five years, the brotherhood spirit flows through our veins. Without them, I would not be who I am today.”

Muhammad Irfan said that his friends and seniors are always there in times of need.

“When I was in Form One, the seniors provided guidance and showed us the ropes. My friends are everything to me. We spend all the time together — sleeping, eating, studying,” he added.

By Rayyan Rafidi

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Children of parents who push too hard get demotivated

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019
Too much attention on school work and too much pressure have produced young adults who just cannot cope with the real world. — NSTP Archive

I REFER to NST Leader “High on marks, low on life” (NST, July 5).

It makes interesting reading. It’s sad but true, that’s the way school life is for most students these days.

It is not an Asian phenomenon, it’s also prevalent in the Western world. I’ve worked as a teacher in Asia and New Zealand, and it appears that in today’s competitive world, students are pushed to the limits to succeed.

Parents have the best interests of their children and they understandably want the very best in their education and careers.

The problem is the way these parents go about giving the best for their children so that they can achieve whatever they potentially can.

However, for some parents, their children have become an extension of themselves. These parents want their children to achieve what they did not achieve or did not have the opportunity to do so.

Hence, they push their children to be high achievers in studies and careers.

I’ve had parents come to school on Careers Day and say things like “this is my son and I want him to be a lawyer”.

There doesn’t appear to be any consideration as to what the son really wants to do. If parents push their children into doing what they don’t want to do, they get demotivated.

Some feel they are failures because they are not able to live up to their parents’ expectations. This can have far-reaching repercussions on the children’s self-esteem and self-confidence.

Each child is different; as parents we should encourage
and support each child to achieve what he is capable of and, more importantly, what he’s interested in.

Real success is having a fulfilling job based on personal interest and talent. We should not force upon our children our ambitions or to fulfil our dreams.

I have seen so much of talent in art and music going to waste as today’s children are forced to spend their time and effort on academic subjects. The current education system is not helping either.

There’s too much emphasis on examinations and competition — they have taken the fun out of learning.

In some countries like New Zealand, they have stopped having ceremonies to award children who are successful in their studies. The rationale is that they have a negative impact on the less academically inclined students. Schools in New Zealand have introduced life skills
subjects such as gardening, cooking and budgeting so that students get a well-rounded education.

Education for every child is important, but real education is beyond the classroom and exams. Both parents and schools must teach and encourage students to be motivated, self-confident and succeed in whatever areas they are interested in so they have meaningful careers.


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Strategies to prevent dropouts

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019
SOME of the wealthiest and most influential entrepreneurs in the world such as Apple founder Steve Jobs, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams and Whatsapp founder Jan Koum dropped out of college.

They called it quits and decided higher education was not for them.

Common reasons given include financial burden for the family and struggles with their courses. Some of them actually worked their way through university, only to quit before graduating.

Back on our shores at the Going Global 2018 Conference, the then Higher Education Ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Dr Noorul Ainur Mohd Nur said that accessibility to tertiary education in Malaysia has improved significantly from 14 per cent in the 1980s to more than 44 per cent in 2016.

However, she added that completing a qualification remains a challenge.

In the Quick Facts 2018: Malaysia Educational Statistics booklet published by the Education Ministry’s Educational Planning and Research Division, 538,555 students were enrolled in 20 public universities.

The data also shows that engineering, manufacturing and construction programmes contributed to the highest number of those who did not graduate.


It never crossed Sakinah Atiqah Haznol’s mind that she would drop out of university and later enrol in another tertiary institution due to unfortunate circumstances.

An undergraduate from Universiti Tenaga Nasional (Uniten), Bangi from 2016 till 2017, Sakinah Atiqah studied what she thought was her passion — mechanical engineering.

“After I sat Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia, I was confident that I could pursue engineering even though my results were just adequate.

“I decided to follow my interest in physics and maths. But when I enrolled in the foundation in engineering course, I questioned myself, wondering if I had made the wrong choice.

“But I excelled in the course, proving to myself that I had what it takes to be an engineer,” she said.

Then it was time for Sakinah Atiqah to choose her major and she was offered a study loan by MARA and a placement at Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL)-Malaysian France Institute in Bangi to pursue mechanical engineering.

After a semester, her study loan was revoked due to the financial crisis MARA was facing at the time. She left UniKL-Malaysian France Institute and started over at Uniten.

“I enjoyed learning physics and calculus during the first semester but the subjects got more difficult with each semester and I lacked understanding in chemistry, a requirement of the material engineering course.

“My grades dropped but I refused to give up at first. However, I finally accepted the fact that engineering was not meant for me.

“My father decided that it was best for me to leave the discipline entirely and start elsewhere.

“It was hard because I had spent four years of my life in engineering and I did not think I was good in anything else,” she added.

After a four-month break, Sakinah Atiqah enrolled in a bachelor’s programme majoring in Business Administration (International Business) at International University of Malaya-Wales. She is now in her second year of studies.

Every student must aim to graduate within the normal time frame required by a course. Pix by NSTP/Rohanis Shukri


Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) deputy vice-chancellor (academic and international) Professor Dr M. Iqbal Saripan said the inability to manage time effectively may result in students dropping out of university.

At day school, a student’s schedule may be arranged by his parents, while at boarding school, by teachers.

“Some students cannot manage time on their own at university. For example, they may be addicted to online games and do not get enough sleep. They miss classes and, in many cases, fail to sit the examinations.

“As a result, they do not achieve the targeted outcomes for the semester, and eventually they will be terminated from their studies,” added Iqbal.

There is a perception that many students decide not to continue their studies due to financial constraints, but Iqbal thinks this may not be true for local students and applies mainly to international students.

“The fees for international students are much higher whereas local students enjoy a subsidy,” he said, adding that a small percentage of students drop out due to reasons such as medical and personal issues as well.

Monash University’s Department of Economics head Associate Professor Grace Lee said the lack of English proficiency usually takes a toll on academic performance as university courses are challenging even for those whose first language is English.

Many students struggle with coursework due to poor command of English.

“It is hard to learn a second language but it is not unattainable, especially when all Malaysians learn English from Primary One. One simply has to work a lot harder to catch up.

“Even when language is not a barrier, the learning curve is steep at university.

“So the problem boils down to lack of perseverance as some students don’t work hard enough and give up easily,” said Lee.

Some do not perform well as they chose the wrong course or had accepted willy-nilly any course offered to them.

“You should not be afraid to change your major or programme if it is not your strength. Sometimes students choose a certain major to please their parents.

“You cannot excel in something that you are not interested in and are not good at.”

Meanwhile, her colleague in the Department of Management, senior lecturer Dr Patricia Lau, said that interactive and innovative academic experiences at university engage students in the learning process.

Personal traits and the learner’s prior learning experiences connect to the next educational setting such as from secondary school to university.

“If they refrain from asking questions at school and rote learn, they develop to become dependent learners who carry the prior learning experiences to the university. Such learning experiences do not help them to learn at university, which requires them to think critically and independently.

“For example, in my 15 years of teaching in higher education institutions, I have come across students who say they can’t find the answers for an assignment from a textbook or reference book, or they can’t work with someone for a group assignment.

“The situation is aggravated when the formal primary and secondary education system emphasises academic achievement, thus leaving students little time to build on generic skills such as interpersonal skills which are not stressed in the classroom,” added Lau.

Iqbal said that at UPM, it is more common for students to drop out of foundation and postgraduate programmes.

“The foundation course is the entry level to university and if the students can’t adapt to the environment and demands, they will fail in their studies.

“At the bachelor’s level, there is no conclusive trend to indicate that there are more dropouts in certain programmes than others. Most of the time, it is due to the individual’s problems rather than academic rigour.”

But for disciplines such as medicine and engineering, the standard of passing is set higher compared to others.

“However, we monitor this very closely, and the academic advisers work closely with the management to notify the members if there are any cases that require further action.

“As for postgraduate students, the problem lies in thinking that the master’s or doctoral programme is similar to an undergraduate course. Challenged with higher order research questions, postgraduate students fail to critically analyse and provide answers.”

Lee said every major or course has its own challenges and it all boils down to the students’ strengths and weaknesses.

Lau added that the student attrition rate continues to remain a concern of higher education institutions in the country.


UPM assists students by offering counselling and setting up peer support groups to alert the management to intervene and solve the problem before students drop out.

“Furthermore, all students are assigned academic advisers,” said Iqbal, adding that students must learn to live in the real world and not be too dependent on assistance and gadgets.

“The level of resilience is low and it translates into lack of confidence in their own decisions. They must own their decisions and be responsible for them. They must face all the consequences of the decision because at university, we treat them as adults, not children.

“In the case of international students, the university has offered financial assistance to excellent scholars but we are not in a position to provide support to all of them.

“We also provide part-time working opportunities for them. The problem persists if students are too shy to ask for help.”

The university also gives financial assistance that includes zakat and endowment for local students.

Lee said higher education institutions should monitor students’ progress to better help those who are at risk, provide academic support and create an inviting learning environment to prevent dropouts.

Monash University has an Academic Progression Committee which identifies students at risk.

Lee added: “We look into their problems individually and provide personalised solutions. For instance, some students are advised to change their major and most of them are assigned a mentor (an academic staff) while some of them are required to see their subject lecturers every week.

“In addition, full-time counsellors work around the clock on campus to help students with mental health issues such as stress and anxiety.

“Students can choose their career path and employer. But they cannot choose their team or departmental members in the workplace.

“Hence, they need to learn to work together at university which provides the suitable place to practise the skills.

“The challenges will persist unless certain interventions are taken to assist first-year students to overcome them before they embark on higher levels of academic experiences.”

Lau added: “In one of my research interests, I found that two three-day field trips for first-year business management students to explore rainforests in the country were effective to expand their thinking beyond classroom learning, and work together as a team to provide viable solutions for deforestation.

“During the field trips, students participated in learning activities such as jungle trekking and case studies related to deforestation. They were encouraged to reflect on their learning by keeping learning logs on both field trips.

“They acquired cognitive, emotional and social competencies after the field trips.

“In other words, university students engage in learning when the academic experience is relevant and meaningful to them. This leads to better university student retention, employability and value-added learning.”

Students should be open to learning, be more proactive to participate in learning activities in class and beyond it, as well as try to boost their interpersonal skills.

“An independent learner has the ability to take charge of his learning including what to learn and how to learn while a critical learner has the ability to evaluate information in different contexts and time.

By Zulita Mustafa

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Don’t blame violence on video games

Monday, July 1st, 2019

Video games are a source of relaxation and entertainment, and players get connected with a wide variety of people.

PUBG (PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds) has nothing to do with violence and terrorism. But violent video games involving shooting are very popular with teenagers.

There are many arguments on how video games influence teenagers to become aggressive.

Some people believe the terrorist attacks in Christchurch were caused by violence in video games. The reason is because the perpetrator, who live-streamed the mass shooting, filmed it in a way similar to a first-person shooter video game.

However, the relation between violent video games and acts of aggression is debatable.

Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman once said: “Even when there was no PUBG, violence still occurred. So do not be quick to blame it on one thing.”

But he was quick to point out that violence should be condemned by everyone because it contradicted the humanitarian principles steadfastly held by Malaysians and communities worldwide.

He said video games had nothing to do with the Christchurch violence and whether shooting games existed or not, some people would still be violent if they already held extremist views.

In my opinion, even if PUBG gets banned, players would find a way around to play it and fans would play other games with a similar shooting style.

Video games are a source of relaxation and entertainment, and players get connected with a wide variety of people.

I believe online games are not at fault.

Video games are part of e-sports and all players develop their skills from there.


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Students of different races play vital role in empowering national language

Sunday, June 23rd, 2019

SEPANGGAR: The involvement of students of various races in activities that can empower Bahasa Melayu is crucial, said Sabah Minister of Education and Innovation, Datuk Dr Yusof Yacob.

He said, activities such as the State-level Bahasa Melayu Co-Academic Competition organised by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) and Malaysian Education Ministry is one of the examples that could elevate the national language among the youths.

The competitions held at Kampus Intan Sabah yesterday during the event consist of the Teen Forum, Sahibbah for Primary Schools and Secondary Schools, Poetry Recital, and Syair Presentation.

“For me, each of the competitions shows our initiative to preserve our national language, in line with the objective of the Federal Constitution. It also creates awareness among the youths about the importance of national language in developing a nation.

“I hope these competitions could educate our students, regardless of their race, language, and background on the importance of using the correct national language,” he said.

He said this in his text speech which was delivered by Assistant Minister to Minister of Education and Innovation Mohammad Mohamarin during the closing ceremony of the Bahasa Melayu Co-Academic Competition.

He added that the youths are the nation’s most important assets, as they will be the next leaders in the future; therefore they need to be efficiently equipped with knowledge and education.

Besides that, the school’s involvement in empowering the usage of national language among students is also pivotal.

“This is in line with the competition’s objective which is to provide a platform for students to use standard Malay language among themselves,” he added.

Meanwhile, Sabah Dewan Bahasa Dan Pustaka Director Aminah Awang Besar stressed that the involvement of DBP in the competition is one of their continuous efforts to preserve the national language.


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Addiction to social media

Monday, June 17th, 2019

SOCIAL media plays a huge part in the lives of today’s youth. Its role is so big that it can affect their mental wellbeing.

Universiti Malaya Centre For Addiction Sciences director Dr Rusdi Abd Rashid says that social media addiction can even lead to depression.

“It can also be that depression was already present in the individual before the addiction,” he says.

“Social media is used to sort of ‘self medicating’ (the depression),” he adds.

He adds that during the initial stages of using social media to “treat” their mental illness, people will feel better.

“They can alleviate their depressive symptoms or anxiety.

“But later on, their excessive use of social media and the negative comments (they might receive) and so on, can make their symptoms become worse.”

On the other hand, Dr Rusdi says people, especially youth, are at risk of mental depression when they compare themselves to their peers on social media.

“Everybody is trying to show off and they feel happy when people praise them, admire them and click ‘like’ or ‘share’ (on their posts),” he says.

When people give recognition or praise them, it increases the secretion of dopamine in the brain’s reward center, he says, adding that this is a form of positive reinforcement and makes someone feel good about themselves.

“They will want to seek more of this feeling and eventually, they will lose control of their social media activity leading to addiction.”

This can also work in the opposite way when someone receives negative feedback or comments and becomes depressed due to it, he adds.

Dr Rusdi says those who use social media to seek validation do not feel the same sense of happiness as real life interactions.

“This chronic sense of dissatisfaction may also give a negative impact on their emotions leading to major depression,” he adds.

Besides the big threat of suicide, Dr Rusdi says social media addiction also has a negative impact on one’s physical health and relationships.

He says that for youth, psycho-social intervention such as counseling is the first step in treatment.

“Drugs like antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication are only used if the mental illness is very severe.”

If someone becomes suicidal, mental health professionals will normally advise that they be admitted into the hospital and be prescribed medication, he explains.

Medication, he adds, is not the preferred first form of treatment for children as it has been found to worsen their mental illness.

Last Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said the incident involving the 16-year-old who committed suicide after conducting an Instagram poll showed that mental wellbeing awareness needed to be improved.

“It showed the negative influence and negative effect social media has on the younger generation,” she said after chairing the Mental Wellbeing Meeting.

According to Bernama, the committee also agreed for October to be declared a mental wellbeing awareness montha and for a national awareness campaign “Let’s talk Malaysia” to be organised, as part of the Government’s efforts to remove the stigma associated to mental health among the society.
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It’s All About Skills Now – Google, IBM, Apple No Longer Require College Degree

Thursday, June 13th, 2019

Degrees Don’t Matter Anymore, Skills Do

A strong belief that students who get low test scores are not smart and avoid tough majors that lead to some of the best jobs, is now being proved wrong. It is because people misunderstood those individuals and didn’t realize that each person is smarter in their own way. All of today’s successful leaders are the college dropouts of their time. But they achieved success not by acquiring the degrees, but by honing the skills they knew they are good at.

The good news for all such people who have been not very efficient in acquiring greater degrees is that today’s most top companies are not interested in assigning jobs to people who have completed a four-year degree program. Instead, they want you to have the skills that are required to work. The world-leading companies such as Apple, IBM, and Google, believe in self-learning, innovation, passion, and having clear goals.

Glassdoor has compiled a list of Top companies that do not require a 4 year college degree. Companies such as Google, Apple, and IBM are looking for skills over college degree.

According to the IBM’s head of talent organization, these types of jobs are called new-collar jobs in which the eligibility of the candidates is based on their skill. In this way all the applicants who failed to complete their four-year degree in any way but have proved their technical knowledge will have a chance to become of part of these organizations. Tanmay Bakshi, one of the youngest software programmers in the world, is one such example. Bakshi came across a documentary on the IBM Watson when he was 11 years of age and become hooked to it. Looking at it, he found inspiration to develop his own first Wastson App named as Ask Tanmay.

After some time, he found a bug in the Document Conversion service by IBM and shared it on Twitter. This was taken notice of by the IBM who were working on the service and contacted the young Tanmay. Once he was contacted, two of these initial contacts became his mentors and assisted him in working together with the company.

In the same way, if you have a degree in some other program but are ken in learning software development. You can still get a job in the world’s leading companies. There are so many examples who have been working for something else previously but ended up doing something they loved the most. Angela Taylor is one such example who worked as an HR person in Google and with her can-do attitude, she became a Google engineer.

This explains that the potential in each individual is unlocked by combining the power of computers and software. In order to proceed, the desire to learn is important and teachers or parents only need to understand the flexibility of children to learn at their own pace and they should not be over pushed for grades in the school. Once the individuals are given the flexibility, they will better be equipped with skills and knowledge than just getting degrees.

by .

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Boosting English standards

Sunday, June 9th, 2019
Education deputy director-general Dr Habibah Abdul Rahim believes that implementation of the CEFR will help produce graduates who have strong command in the English language in the long run.Education deputy director-general Dr Habibah Abdul Rahim believes that implementation of the CEFR will help produce graduates who have strong command in the English language in the long run.

The directive for non-English language option teachers to sit for the Malaysian University English Test (MueT) has been controversial. Education Ministry deputy director-general Dr Habibah Abdul Rahim explains why the test is a crucial component in the roadmap to improve english proficiency among Malaysians.

A STRONG command of English enhances employability. It’s a fact the Education Ministry knows only too well.

The English Language Education Reform in Malaysia: The Roadmap 2015-2025, is aimed at improving English language based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

But, if key players – especially teachers – are not up to par, implementation will be a problem.

There was a lot of unhappiness when the ministry announced that English teachers must take the Malaysian University English Test (MUET). Why is there a need to do so?

Teachers need to be proficient in the English language in order to facilitate teaching and learning, as well as help students acquire targetted CEFR levels. It is only English language option teachers who have to take MUET and achieve at least C1 level. It is not compulsory for non-English language option teachers. However, if teaching English becomes the dominant subject of a non-English language option teacher, then the teacher should take MUET. A subject, such as English, becomes the dominant subject of teachers once they teach it more than three years and two-thirds of their time is devoted to teaching the non- option subject. The ministry has a programme called Add Option Intervention Programme (Pito) to help these non-option teachers improve teaching methods on the now-dominant subject.

So far, how have English option teachers fared in MUET?

The ministry has 41,676 English language option teachers. About 50% of the 41,676 teachers have sat for MUET. From the 50% who took the test, 67% achieved C1. The rest were at C2 level. We do not know the performance of the other 50% of teachers who have not sat for MUET. They have till December this year to take the test and notify us of their results. Meanwhile, we are still short of about 3,000 English language option teachers. We should have 44,924 of them. There are already plans to address the shortage.

Are there any programmes teachers can sign up for if they fail to achieve C1 level?

There are a number of English courses which are prepared and subsidised by the ministry to help them improve themselves. There are also ministry-approved materials available online for them to access before they sit for MUET. There is even an online moderator to help.

Why did the ministry choose to use MUET to benchmark teachers? Can teachers sit for other English proficiency tests?

MUET is already aligned to the CEFR and can be used to benchmark the proficiency level teachers are at. We encourage teachers to take MUET because it is based on local context, easily accessible, is offered three times yearly and only costs RM100 per test. Teachers can also sit for the British Council’s Aptis English test for RM280 and the International English Language Test System (IELTS) for RM850.

Teachers who want to sit for MUET have to pay from their own pockets. Shouldn’t the government subsidise this?We used to subsidise teachers taking the test from 2013 to 2018. But we have learned that for someone to develop, improve, and make a bigger impact, it is more effective when individuals take the initiative to do it themselves.

Plus, the investment  is small. Free things are often underappreciated. We want to encourage teachers to be responsible for self-development and growth, and invest in their professional development.

You said teachers play a key role in boosting English language education. How is the ministry preparing teachers for the task?

The Professional Up-skilling of English Language Teachers (Pro-ELT) is only available to English language option teachers. We have trained over 17,000 English teachers (including non-option English language and Pito teachers) through this programme.

Is the MUET requirement part of a bigger plan to improve English in the country?

Yes, it is part of our English Language Education Reform in Malaysia: The Roadmap 2015-2025, which is being used to align the whole of the English language programme and the education of English teachers to international CEFR standards.

What is the roadmap about?

It is a comprehensive plan for the systematic reform of English language education in Malaysia. It lays out the changes and improvements that needs to be done in the curriculum, teaching and learning, assessments, resources for teachers and students, and teacher training. Its goal is to bring about the transformation of English language education from preschool right up to tertiary education, including teacher education. It provides comprehensive guidelines for all stakeholders, including teachers. Using the roadmap, teachers can ensure that students achieve proficiency levels of international standards.

How did the roadmap come about?

The roadmap formalises the ministry’s on-going efforts to strengthen English proficiency, as encapsulated in the Upholding Bahasa Malaysia and Strengthening the English Language (MBMMBI) policy. It also provides a framework for the execution of plans proposed in the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013 – 2025.

How does the ministry assess English language proficiency?

By adopting the CEFR which distinguishes listening, reading, spoken interaction, spoken production and writing. Language proficiency is measured in relation to the five communicative skills on a scale beginning with A1 progressing to A2 (basic user); B1 and B2 (independent user); and C1, C2 (proficient user). Proficiency in each skill is defined at each level by a series of “can do” statements. This scale enables us to set targets for each stage of our English language programmes. Our English teachers must achieve at least C1 level, while English language teacher trainers must achieve C2 level.

What makes the CEFR an important benchmark?

Some 47 countries also benchmark their languages, and English in particular, to the CEFR. This makes it easier for employers – both local and international – to identify graduates’ language capacity. In a changing global landscape, it is important for our younger generation to master English. This allows them to compete in the international market. If we want our students to be good, we must ensure that teachers who teach and facilitate the process, have themselves achieved a higher level of English. This means that teacher trainers must also be better than teacher trainees.Some are still unclear about the CEFR. Can you clarify?CEFR describes language ability on a six-point scale, from A1 for beginners, up to C2 for those who have mastered a language. This makes it easy for anyone involved in language teaching and testing, such as teachers or students, to see the level of different qualifications. It is not a curriculum, no one can fail it. CEFR is a framework that can be used to benchmark the level of proficiency and the level of fluency of our students and teachers in line with international standards. It is used as a reference for the ministry to plan and create teaching and learning programmes. Employers can also use it as a reference when selecting a candidate to hire.

How is the roadmap progressing?

This is the sixth year of its implementation. The ministry has introduced a revised Primary

School Standards-based Curriculum (KSSR) and a new  Secondary School Standards-based Curriculum (KSSM) which was rolled out in 2017 for Year One and Form One respectively. This group of students (those in Form Three) will be sitting for PT3 this year. This will be a baseline for the ministry for the cohort that have gone through the CEFR aligned curriculum.

We have also noticed there is an improvement in English language among our young. There was a baseline study conducted by Cambridge English in 2013 and another study in 2017. When the first baseline study was carried out, there was a gap between the achievements of urban and rural area students. In the 2017 study, 40% of students exceeded the 2025 CEFR targets of B1 at secondary level. Some did even better. The study also showed that improvements were across rural and urban children.

Can the roadmap really boost English standards? How?

Yes, because we are going about it systematically. We are on target. It’s not just through the curriculum. We are also gradually building capacity and resources to support the implementation of the roadmap.

By Lee Chonghui
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