Archive for the ‘Thinking skills.’ Category

Allow room for critical thinking

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

FIVE school teachers have been given show cause letters by the Education Ministry for being “excessively” critical of the Government in public forums and the like. I wish I could find out what they said; it would be nice to see what “excessive” is.

The Education Minister also said that civil servants should be loyal to the Government and any criticism should be done via the “correct channels”. But all this silencing of educators is not undemocratic, he says because it is done via the law – namely the General Orders which civil servants are bound by.

How quaint.

These are really old justifications that have been used for decades.

Firstly, one has to wonder what “proper channels” there are and whether they are effective or not. If these channels are not open to the public (and I am certain by “proper” it is meant “discreet”) then they can easily be ignored.

Secondly, just because a law exists to silence people, that does not make it right. A power provided by legislation can be just as undemocratic as an unfettered discretionary power.

These five teachers are facing the beginnings of disciplinary action for things which they did outside of the classroom. But the Youth and Sports Minister has chipped in saying that things done within the classrooms should not be used as a “political platform”.

Well, sure, it would be unseemly and inappropriate for any sort of political campaigning to be done in classrooms. Kind of pointless as well, since schoolchildren can’t vote.

But I wonder; what if a history teacher decides to point out the fact that Umno was late in joining the calls for independence and in fact the originator for that call was the Malayan Left. Would this be political?

And that is just within the context of schools. Universities offer courses and have departments whose entire purpose is to examine critically what happens in society, which includes what the Government does.

A Social Science Department that does not cover race-based policies in the country will not be doing its job. An economics department that does not explore the effect of corruption on the well-being of the country will not be doing its job. A law faculty that does not criticise unjust laws and judgments will not be doing its job.

However, recently, public universities have received a circular, once again written under the authority of legislation meant to control civil servants, where we have been told that we can’t say or do anything that could be deemed as manifesting disloyalty to King, country and government.

Well, I can tell you that makes my job as a Human Rights and Environmental Law lecturer very simple then.

I think I can just turn up to class for the rest of the semester with a guitar and sing Kumbaya with my students for an hour.

Of course I won’t do that. This is because my responsibility as a lecturer, and a teacher’s responsibility, is first and foremost to our students. Our job is to broaden their horizons and to show them not just what is, but what should be.

As long as what is being taught is backed up by good research and sound reasoning, then what is said should not be penalised.

If we do our jobs well, we produce thinking graduates and by this we serve the people and the nation. Not the Government.

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“World Thinking Day” – A Day of International Friendship and Solidarity

Monday, March 6th, 2017

Sandakan: World Thinking Day is a day of international friendship and solidarity. It is celebrated by Girl Guides throughout the world on Feb 22 each year.

This year’s theme is Grow. The Girl Guides movement believes that every girl should have the chance to grow, learn and reach her potential. It believes that more girls should be able to be part of the Girl Guide and Girl Scout movement.

February 22 was chosen for the World Thinking Day celebration because it was the birthday of Scouting and Guiding founder Lord Robert Baden-Powell and of Lady Olave Baden-Powell, his wife and World Chief Guide.

World Thinking Day is the perfect opportunity to show the world how amazing it is to be a Girl Guide or Girl Scout and to encourage more young people to get involved.

Since 1932 World Thinking Day has also been an important opportunity to raise funds to support World WAGGGS across the world.

The World Thinking Day Fund supports WAGGGS to deliver life-changing opportunities for girls around the world. Donations can help the movement to grow and reach more girls and young women. In 2017, Girl Guides invite you to donate to the fund online, through our JustGiving Page, CAF Donate button or

The Sandakan Girl Guides Local Association celebrated the occasion with a variety of activities that included seed planting, choir and dance performances, presentation of appreciation letter to long service members, carnival and bazaar.


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Sandakan Girls Guides Local Association celebrates World Thinking Day

Monday, February 27th, 2017

SANDAKAN: The Sandakan Girl Guides Local Association celebrated the World Thinking Day at the Girl Guides Headquarters here on Sunday.

The activities held included joint cake cutting by leaders to launch the celebration, seed planting, choir and dance performances, award presentation, carnival and bazaar.

Sandakan Girl Guides Local Association district commissioner, Wong Chien Ha delivered the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) 2017 World Thinking Day message to start off the celebration.

World Thinking Day is celebrated by Girl Guides across the world on Feb 22 each year. It is a day of international friendship and solidarity.

This year’s theme is Grow. We believe that every girl should have the chance to grow, learn and reach her potential. We believe that more girls should be able to be part of the Girl Guide and Girl Scout movement, Wong said.

“We want to grow our World Thinking Day celebration in 2017 and invite more girls and young women to experience what it means to be a part of our movement,” Wong added.

Wong said there are approximately 800 million girls around the world and only 10 million of them are Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. We want to reach even more girls.

World Thinking Day is the perfect opportunity to show the world how amazing it is to be a Girl Guide or Girl Scout and to encourage more young people to get involved, she continued.

“The World Thinking Day 2017 activity pack will help us think about growth in our community. It has been designed to be used throughout the year by our Girl Guide and Girl Scout to help us attract new potential members to meetings and grow our Movement,” Wong said.

Since 1932 World Thinking Day has also been an important opportunity to raise funds to support World WAGGGS across the world.

“The World Thinking Day Fund supports WAGGGS to deliver life-changing opportunities for girls around the world. Donations can help us to grow and reach more girls and young women. In 2017, we invite you to donate to the fund online, through our JustGiving Page, CAF Donate button or,” Wong said.


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Hot under the collar over HOTS Science

Saturday, December 24th, 2016

KUALA LUMPUR: Some students who obtained their Pentaksiran Tingkatan Tiga (PT3) results are hot under the collar over the difficult HOTS (higher order thinking skills) questions in Science.

Several 15-year-olds from SMK Saujana Impian felt the questions had prevented them from scoring better grades to some extent.

Roosimin Kaliappan, who obtained 7A’s, 1B and 1C, said her teachers prepared them well by providing sample questions from previous years, but the questions they eventually had in the assessment were still difficult.

“We did not expect the Science paper to be filled mostly with HOTS questions. It was just tough,” she said.

Maryam Kamiliah Rahime, who scored 10A’s and a C for Science, shared Roosimin’s sentiments.

“The HOTS questions were very tough. I didn’t think it would be that difficult,” she said.

Maryam said although she was happy with her results, she was frustrated with the C.

Suriyah Ganesan, who had put in at least six hours a day during his revision, was not happy with his results.

“I got 6A’s, 2B’s and a D for Science. I’m not satisfied with my results as the HOTS questions were really hard. I’m disappointed.”

The students are the third batch to sit for the PT3, which was introduced in 2014.

HOTS questions were introduced when PT3 was first introduced.

A Science teacher said the paper was more difficult this year.

“The Examinations Syndicate prepared a list of rules on the type of answers that can and cannot be accepted. The marking process was also stricter compared to the previous year,” she said.

She said some of the questions in the paper were based on general knowledge, rather than the textbooks, which could affect the students’ final score.

She said all schools had different sets of HOTS questions and she could not divulge the questions in the paper.

But to give an example, she said the questions were along the line of showing pictures of “a tissue box, a needle and a brush” and asking the students to draw up a conclusion on what they could do with the items.

On his Facebook page, Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid advised parents not to look merely at academic achievements, but the holistic development and potential of their children.

“PT3 is a holistic assessment of students based on continuous assessments by the school, which is responsible for the administration, marking of the examination scripts and the release of the results,” he said.


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KBAT: Right Track To Holistic Generation – MB Perlis

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

KANGAR, Dec 14 (Bernama) — Applying High-Level Thinking Skills (KBAT) in the teaching and learning process in schools is the right effort by the government to create a generate that is excellent and holistic.

Perlis Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Azlan Man said these skills needed to be introduced from the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) level to prepare the young to become strong and be able to face any challenges.

He said attention should then be drawn to the bigger picture where Malaysians are open to global competition.

“This competition is not getting any easier, but becoming harder. There are many challenges and obstacles which must be faced for our country to continue progressing, so we need to prepare the (next) generation to be able to think at a high level and transform challenges into opportunities,” he said.


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Thinking tools and skills

Sunday, October 16th, 2016

IN his book “Mindware – Tools for Smart Thinking”, eminent psychologist Richard E. Nisbett expounds the merits and pitfalls of different thinking tools that include inference and interpretation (construal), making choices, categorisation and relationships, causality, logical and dialectical reasoning and good theories and simple explanations. A fuller grasp of the knowledge and understanding of these thinking tools will help us make decisions that will turn out to be wise, practical, sustainable and beneficial.

After reading the book, I am drawn to have a closer and analytical look at the implementation of thinking skills in our schools.

Firstly, the Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) was introduced a few years ago to erase the “rote learning” and “memorisation” commonly associated with our teaching-learning and examination system. In fact, a lack of HOTS among our students has long been touted as a main cause of our students’ poor Programme for International Student Achievements (PISA) performance.

The Education Ministry has embarked on a plan to gradually increase the percentage or number of HOTS questions in every relevant public examination paper.

In the recently completed primary school assessments examination (UPSR), apparently more HOTS questions were included.

HOTS encapsulate critical and creative thinking. It results in creativity and innovativeness; bringing forth “creations” and innovations. The mind has to be free and relaxed and the environment has to be conducive to facilitate this.

So, is an examination setting, that is in an enclosed hall or classroom and with limited time constraints, the right avenue to exercise and test, least encourage, HOTS?

If answering HOTS questions is challenging, setting and designing the questions will certainly be a very daunting task. Turning the table around, can we expect teachers who are assigned to set HOTS questions to be able to write a required number of questions within the time and space constraints encountered by students in an examination?

Shouldn’t HOTS questions then instead be applied and capitalised in problem-based project assignments that are part of school-based assessments now? This will allow students the freedom of time and space to really engage their thinking skills to the problems on hand. There has to be liberty of spirit for ingenuity, creativity and innovativeness to flourish.

Secondly, the next thinking skill being rolled out now to schools is the “Computational Thinking” (CT) skills. The resource materials on CT prescribe some nine operators, namely, data collection, data analysis, data representation, problem decomposition, abstraction, algorithms and procedures, automation, simulation and parellisation.

This is comprehensive. But, are they really new concepts being introduced into our curriculum? I think not.

I would think that properly conducted Science and Mathematics lessons would have many elements of CT already incorporated in them. Even non-Science subjects have employed CT elements.

Don’t we emphasise in our Science and Mathematics classes skills such as observation, systematic data collection, tabulation and graphic presentation, interpretation, comparison, inferences, analysis, projection, induction, deduction and synthesis among others?

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Are our decisions really ours?

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

ONE of the things I like to tell young people is that if they do well at school, they will have more choices in life. Having choices is one of the great privileges in a human being’s life and many of us are working to ensure the greatest number of people have the ability to make the most choices for themselves as they see best.

Hence, for example, we work so that parents have a choice of where they can send their kids to school.

If their choices are limited because of poverty, then we have to address that, by either ensuring that their few options are nevertheless good ones or that they can earn enough to be able to have a wider selection to choose from.

The days are long gone when we did not have choices in our life partners. Nowadays, for better or for worse, we make our own choices.

We choose to better our lives or sometimes we do not, but it is still our choice and we live with the consequences of either one.

We also choose every few years who gets to rule us, and we live with the consequences of that too.

Although we don’t always have to put up with bad choices, we are certainly free to let our choices know that we disapprove of what they say and do. We didn’t hand over our right to have a say once we voted them in.

So choice is really the ultimate privilege and all of us should be working towards a situation where the gap between those who have the most choices and those who have the least is as narrow as possible.

Having a just and equitable society is also a choice. Steering a nation towards such a society, or not, is also a choice for our leaders and it’s amazing how they sometimes fail to exercise that choice, usually by saying that they had no choice.

However, like many things these days, the meaning of the word “choice” can be different to different people. For most of us, it means the freedom to decide something based on an array of options.

If I decide I need to get fitter, I have many different types of exercise regimes I can try and I just have to choose the one that best suits me.

But for some people, the right choice is the one that they, and only they choose, and everyone else’s choice is wrong.

For example, in a country that prides itself on freedom and equality, France is incredibly adamant that some of its female population, specifically Muslims, may not have the choice of what to wear on the beach. And it will actually enforce this limit on choice by law.

Or even against the law, since some mayors have decided to disobey the court order to overturn the ban on burqinis.

Here is a funny situation; normally court orders give you no choice but to obey. Yet here we are with municipal authorities exercising their “choice” to disobey the law.

by Marina Mahathir.

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Students Must Have Thinking And Leadership Skills To Be Gobally Competitive – Idris

Friday, August 12th, 2016

GEMENCHEH, Aug 11 (Bernama) — Students must have thinking and leadership skills, bilingual proficiency, ethical, spiritua and national identity, as stated in the Malaysian Educational Blueprint 2013-2025.

Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh said they have to be globally competitive as success in academics was insufficient to ensure them a good life.

“In this era of information, educational institutions need a systematic operating system consistent with the demand of industries.

“The world has change and we also have to change. Those are unwilling to change will be left behind,” he said when opening the Junior English Innovation Lab (JEIL) 2016 here, tonight.

Also present were Director of MARA Research and Innovation Unit, Amir Hasan Abdul Wahid and Gemencheh Mara Junior Science College (MRSM) principal, Mohd Ghazi Samsudin.

Idris also urged students to be more brave in doing innovation and empowering their creativity during the learning process.

JEIL 2016 aims to provide students with the opportunity to share their knowledge and study technique parallel with six elements of higher order thinking skills.


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Computational thinking skills in school curriculum next year

Thursday, August 11th, 2016
Datuk Seri Najib Razak at the launch of My Digital Maker Movement in Putrajaya.

Datuk Seri Najib Razak at the launch of My Digital Maker Movement in Putrajaya.

PUTRAJAYA: Computational thinking skills will be integrated into the primary and secondary schools curriculum starting January 2017.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the move was to expose Malaysian youths to digital technology and produce future digital makers.

“This integration will benefit an estimated 1.2 million students from 10,173 schools nationwide next year,” said Najib at the launching of the #mydigitalmaker movement at elite school Sekolah Sultan Alam Shah Thursday.


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Deputy Minister Has ‘HOTS’ For Volunteerism In School Curriculum

Monday, July 4th, 2016

KUALA LUMPUR, July 3 (Bernama) — Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri S. K. Devamany is having the HOTS for volunteerism in the school curriculum.

He wants to discuss with the education ministry the benefits of volunteerism in safety and rescue mission as it was a good example of teaching students the ‘higher order thinking skills’ (HOTS).

Viewing HOTS as a good exposure on the importance of volunteering in a rescue mission, he said:

“The spirit of volunteerism in the safety and rescue mission in Malaysia is not well nurtured.

“Exposing them (students) to a critical situation such as safety and rescue mission will develop their endurance and train them to think ‘outside the box’.

“MVFRA (Malaysian Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association) membership should also be promoted among primary and secondary students so that they can start working together at an early age.

“Volunteerism cuts across race and religion because it is concerned with humanity,” he told reporters after launching the MVFRA off-road ambulance and breaking of fast here Sunday.

Devamany also said he would discuss with the education ministry to conduct a pilot study at school to see the impact of including volunteerism in the school curriculum.

“Instead of taking students to the Xtreme Park to train for their endurance and extreme sports, getting them to volunteer in a rescue mission itself is extreme,” he added.

Meanwhile, commenting on the off-road ambulance, the newly-minted deputy minister said the ambulance was sponsored by the government and was the first sponsorship to MVFRA.

“This is also a recognition to the organisation and its volunteers for their efforts and contribution to the safety and well-being of not only the Malaysian people, but also around the world.”


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