Archive for the ‘Creative and Innovative Education’ Category

Going beyond exams

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018
Genosis training for teachers, school improvement specialist coaches, district education officers and Institute of Teacher Education Malaysia lecturers in Putrajaya.

Genosis training for teachers, school improvement specialist coaches, district education officers and Institute of Teacher Education Malaysia lecturers in Putrajaya.

TO cope with the intensified demand for a highly skilled, progressive, and adaptable workforce, the creation, updating, and application of knowledge, is vital, says Agensi Inovasi Malaysia (AIM) CEO Naser Jaafar.

Our students, he feels, can become global-minded Malaysians with a high level of empathy and cultural understanding, and are able to play a big role in the 21st century world and beyond.

Enter Genosis – a pilot project that will be rolled out in 10 schools – SMK Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah, SMK SS17 Subang Jaya, SMK Sungai Burong and SMK Pengkalan Permatang (Selangor); SMK Bandar Baru Sri Sendayan and SMK Warisan Puteri (Negri Sembilan); SMK Putrajaya Presint 11(1) and SMK Putrajaya Presint 18 (1) (Putrajaya); and SMK Keramat Wangsa and SMK Puteri Ampang (Kuala Lumpur) – next year.

The pilot phase, which ends in the year 2021 is jointly funded by AIM and its education arm, Genovasi Foundation (GF). For the future, AIM and GF are looking at models like public private partnerships or social impact funding.

Rite Education managing director Elmarié Potgieter, who leads the design of Genosis, explains the aim of the programme.

“We wanted to take design thinking, inquiry-based learning, and the International Baccalaureate (IB) to create a framework for Malaysia, but one that could also be adopted by other countries.”

Education experts were brought in to look at what we had. And, Potgieter was pleasantly surprised to find that all the necessary elements were there – investigation, exploration, cross-curriculum work, and concepts. The problem, she found, was that teachers didn’t know what to do.

“They’re overwhelmed. Everyday there’s a new thing. If you were to measure learner participation and ownership in classrooms, the results would be quite shocking.”

The Genosis teaching guide.

The Genosis teaching guide.

Why Genosis works

Establishing master trainers among school teachers, school improvement specialist coaches (SISC) from district education offices (PPD), and Institute of Teacher Education (IPG) lecturers, ensures effective cascading of information to schools, says Naser.

These master trainers can deliver comprehensive and customised training as they’re very familiar with the school, and understand the positives and challenges, and other intrinsic factors like socio-economic levels and dialects.

Additionally, master trainers, teachers, students, and parents, are connected via the Genosis Education Management System (gEMS).

“The master trainer process exposes teachers to ways they can integrate 21st century skills, tools and teaching strategies, in their classrooms, while balancing direct instruction with project-oriented teaching methods,” Naser says.

All learning materials are online and accessible to teachers, Potgieter adds. And unlike other programmes where trainers come to the school for a few hours and leave, Genosis master trainers are based in the schools so they’re there to guide the delivery long after training is over.

“We’re building capacity in the schools. Learning changes continuously. Training alone doesn’t help. You must see a change in the class. It also comes down to support, and proper performance management.”

Professional development modules are designed as flipped classroom models, and workshops utilise face-to-face and e-learning dimensions, so teachers understand Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) inquiry and project-based learning, Naser shares.

“Student learning is always connected to, and applied in, real-life problems and scenarios.”

Students first

Genosis covers the national curriculum’s mandatory subjects, but also allows students to take optional subjects, Naser says.

With a broader and deeper set of knowledge and skills, students can adapt their understanding for use in any situation.

“Lessons are exciting, engaging and meaningful. Classrooms are more animated. Students are trusted to work independently to find information for themselves.

“They develop critical thinking and creativity while learning to collaborate with their peers.”

The core of Genosis, he adds, is the individual learning portfolio.

Each child has an e-portfolio that will follow them through their secondary years, explains Potgieter.

“The comprehensive e-portfolio will include competency assessments by their peers, teachers, parents and themselves. Tasks linked to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals showcase their design thinking abilities, to solve problems in the community. By the time they get to Form Five, the e-portfolio will show whether the student can work in a team, has good values, and problem-solve. This e-portfolio can be given to universities as proof of the student’s capabilities,” she says, adding that assessment is not about what you remember, but how you apply your skills.

The e-portfolio will showcase skills like writing, creating, and producing visuals. The process of building the personal e-portfolio is important. No two student will have the same kind of e-portfolio, she says.

“Design thinking starts with empathy so you have to find the problem, define it, prototype it, and review it. It’s amazing what children are capable of but we don’t trust them in the learning process.”

Assessing the pilot project

The ‘Genosis Benchmarks and Beacons’ guidelines will be used to define and improve the implementation quality and to assess teacher and student development and progress, says Naser.

Genosis is in line with the Malaysia Education Blueprint, stresses Potgieter. If this works, it could change Malaysian education.

“We’ve developed hundreds of lessons, projects, and investigations, so teachers know what to do and can eventually prepare their own materials.”

By Christina Chin

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Creative arts neglected

Sunday, November 4th, 2018
A musical performance by Sabah’s Bamboo Orchestra with American cello rock band Break of Reality at the National Department for Cultural and Arts Sabah, Kota Kinabalu, last year. Unless there is a paradigm shift in the teaching of creative arts, the field will remain as it is. (FILE PIC)
November 4, 2018 @ 10:41a

THE creative arts pedagogy (visual and performing arts) in our education system leaves much to be desired.

For so long, it has been adduced as an addendum to the educative process. It has never been accorded equal status with science and mathematics. In fact, to most scientists, it would be blasphemy to speak of creative arts, science and mathematics in the same breath.

As a result of this neglect and condescending attitude, pedagogy in creative arts education has declined dramatically — there has not been any rigorous development in the teaching methodology and creation of knowledge in these creative fields. It has to fend for itself. The quality of teaching has deteriorated to such an extent that it has been left to the vagaries of the general teaching staff to conduct creative arts classes.

This malaise is reflected in the insignificance of the subject in the school curriculum, which only offers it as optional in one subject in visual arts, while performing arts is demeaned and consigned as optional co-curricular activity.

From the beginning, the school system de-emphasised the significance of creative arts education. It ingrained in students a condescending attitude towards creative arts. Education has always prioritised the development of verbal rather than nonverbal intelligence.

From day one, the students are indoctrinated to excel in subjects such as science and mathematics, especially since the school system is based on the outmoded British system of three Rs, reading, (w)riting and (a)rithmetics. The education system is still mired in this traditional 3R concept which gives priority to science and mathematics.

Science students are regarded as having superior intelligence compared with arts students. This ignorance of the educational and intellectual values of the creative arts by policymakers and teaching staff, save for the very few who are directly involved in the discipline, has perpetuated this notion of the inferiority of the creative arts as an intellectual discipline

As a result, the creative arts have never been part of the core school curriculum. They are around only to accommodate students who are weak in science and mathematics and the other verbal arts subjects.

The two fields of studies, namely the visual and performing arts, suffer similar fate at the tertiary level. In fact, it was only recently that these two disciplines were incorporated into a university’s humanities curriculum that was spearheaded in 1970 by Universiti Sains Malaysia, the pioneer in the pedagogy of creative arts. Thereafter, several other universities followed suit with various levels of concentration.

The drawback of the creative arts programme at university level is that the schools do not prepare students to undertake these disciplines, unlike other traditional verbal disciplines. Therefore, the formal study of these two disciplines must start from scratch. Only the music students have some formal qualification, having obtained at least Grade 5 theory and practical from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) or Trinity College

However, entry qualification for the creative arts discipline is mainly based on the standard Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia/Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia examination results. They are accepted based on the standard scholastic achievement and only minimally on their informal creative experience.

Thus the quality of intake for the creative arts discipline is not based on creative arts ability, but on the general admission designed for science, humanities and social science students.

As a consequence, it is difficult to achieve excellence in the visual and performing arts. The programme is watered down with students having to fulfil other university curricular requirements, such as a minor programme outside their chosen field, language and several other inconsequential subjects to graduate.

Another significant factor contributing to mediocre graduates is the quality of the teaching staff. Most of the teaching staff in these two fields are neither practitioners nor professionals. They are either PhD or Master’s holders with some experience in their respective fields. Their qualifications are based on theory rather than the practice of creative arts.

There is no systematic approach in the teaching of the fundamentals of art forms and it is left to the vagaries and inadequacies of the teachers whose teaching methodology and expertise leave much to be desired. This problem exists because the authorities (policymakers and implementers) are ignorant of the educational and intellectual value of the creative arts and lack exposure to these art forms.

If the status quo remains, creative arts education will not get its due recognition. Unless there is a paradigm shift in the thinking of creative arts education as an integral part of knowledge development, application and industry, it will forever remain stagnant.

Thus there was excitement and high expectations when the new education minister established the National Education Consultative Council to review the current Education Blueprint, hoping that it would recognise creative arts education as a significant part of the educative process.

First, the planning and implementation of creative arts should be left to knowledgeable professionals and not to officers with science or general arts background, who have no inkling of the educational and intellectual values of the creative arts.

Second, there is a need to change the general unfavourable mindset of the public with regard to the creative arts and to re-educate them as to the value of this discipline as a tool of character development as well as foster visual and intuitive thinking. This would allow for more support for the discipline as an educative tool in character building and creative development.

Third, to develop excellence in the performing and visual arts, only trained teachers and professional artists should be tasked with the transferring of the creative arts knowledge and skills.

by Mohamed Ghouse Nasuruddin

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Schools to modernise classrooms

Sunday, September 30th, 2018
Palestinian children use laptops at the Ziad Abu Ein School in the West Bank city of Ramallah. — AP

Palestinian children use laptops at the Ziad Abu Ein School in the West Bank city of Ramallah. — AP

Educators hope the use of technology and the arts will create new opportunities in a society that has produced large numbers of unemployed college graduates

AS the teacher pointed to the large touch screen, her first-grade classroom came alive. With the click of a link, an animated character popped up on the screen, singing and dancing as it taught the children how to read.

The day’s lesson was the Arabic letter “Raa,” and the screen displayed cartoon pictures of objects that contain the letter _ desert, chair and pomegranate _ as the teacher asked the children to come up with other words. The students smiled and sang along.

Just a few years ago, such scenes were unthinkable in most Palestinian classrooms. Like elsewhere in the Arab world, schools in the Palestinian territories have traditionally emphasised memorisation and obedience over critical thinking and creativity.

“The students don’t need to memorise things. They need to understand first,” said Ruba Dibas, the principal of the Ziad Abu Ein School in the West Bank city of Ramallah. “Then they need to express their understanding through writing, speaking, drawing, acting.”

Ziad Abu Ein is one of 54 “smart teaching schools” introduced last year. This year, the number tripled. By 2020, all 1,800 public schools in the West Bank are to be part of the programme.

Dibas said the goal is to eliminate testing from the classroom. Instead, she said students need to enjoy the learning process to absorb information.

On a recent day, her school was buzzing with activity.

In a fifth-grade classroom, each child had a tablet and the teacher guided them through an Arabic lesson, using her own tablet to give assignments. Third-grade students went to the smart board, playing a game to learn the multiplication table.

In other classes, students drew cartoons to learn the physics of how airplanes fly. An English class did a project about evaporation.

Four third-graders recently learned about self-esteem in a lesson called “learning by drama.” They performed a short skit about a shy girl who discovers a passion for journalism and grows up to become a successful reporter.

Their teacher, Sawsan Abdat, said the children learned an important lesson that day _ that they need to find what they are good at.

After initial scepticism from parents last year, enrolment at the school has nearly doubled. This year’s first grade has nearly tripled to 43 students.

“I love the school,” said Malak Samara, a nine-year-old fourth grader. “We learn and enjoy. We learn and play.”

These techniques are a radical departure from a system in which generations of students were forced to memorise information and cram for exams under the stern watch of an authoritarian teacher who in some cases would beat them with a stick if they could not complete their work.

But with the unemployment rate for new college graduates hitting 56 percent, according to the Palestinian Statistics Bureau, officials realised that something had to change.

Education Minister Sabri Seidam also introduced vocational training in grades seven, eight and nine last year to meet the needs of the market.

“Society needs singers, carpenters, cleaners, athletes, sergeants,” he said. “We can’t just produce engineers and doctors.”

Youth unemployment, particularly among university graduates, is a major problem across the Arab world.

Arab governments used to absorb new graduates, often in civil service jobs, but they can no longer afford to do that, in part because of the region’s “youth bulge.”

The private sector offers limited opportunities, leaving large numbers of young graduates unemployed throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

“There is no greater challenge facing the MENA region in its efforts to build a future based on inclusive growth than job creation,” the International Monetary Fund said in a report early this year. It noted that 60 percent of the region’s population is under 30, the world’s second-youngest after sub-Saharan Africa.

“Pressures on the region’s labour markets are rising. In the past five years, the region’s working-age population increased by 50.2 million, and 27.6 million people joined the labor force. Yet employment increased by only 25.4 million,” it said.

Others in the Mideast have tried to make similar changes. In Egypt, the largest Arab country, the Education Ministry this year is providing students with tablets, along with a new curriculum that enhances critical thinking.

The ministry said it is also trying to improve the level of instruction by increasing training and wages for teachers, building more classrooms and creating a more modern classroom through digital learning facilities. The government this year secured a US$500mil (RM2.09bil) loan from the World Bank to help fund the reforms.

For now, it appears too soon to say whether the reforms can make a difference.

The region’s authoritarian governments might encourage education reforms as an economic necessity but could balk in the future at efforts to nurture a new generation versed in critical thinking. Schools across the Arab world face other obstacles as well. A 2015 study by the UN culture and education agency Unesco talked about chronic underfunding, a lack of qualified teachers and increased class sizes throughout the region.

Syrian schools have been devastated by a seven-year civil war, while many schools in neighbouring Lebanon have been overwhelmed by Syrian refugees. US cuts in funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees have jeopardised the school year for some 500,000 students, most of them in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. And Israel’s half-century occupation of the West Bank, along with a decade-long blockade over Gaza, continues to stifle the Palestinian economy.

“Education in the Arab world is in a very bad condition. The salaries of teachers are very poor, the classes are overcrowded, and schools lack the essential infrastructure,” said Saeda Affouneh, director of the E-Learning Center at al-Najah University in the West Bank.

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Creativity, how to nurture, develop it

Monday, August 27th, 2018
The way children think can provide a window on how creativity works and how can we nurture and develop it. —

The way children think can provide a window on how creativity works and how can we nurture and develop it. —

Creativity and innovation alongside emotional intelligence are among the things that we do better than our machines.

CAN creativity be taught?

“Mama, do you like cockroaches?” my four year old boy asked my wife the other day. “No!” was the emphatic reply. Relentless as a four year old is, my son pursued his line of enquiry. “Why?” “Because” his mother said: “they are ugly and brown and have spiky legs.” Undeterred, my son continued “Do you like vanilla or chocolate ice cream?” My wife replied “Chocolate ice cream.” To this my son responded “Hmmm, what if the cockroaches were in rainbow colour, would you like them?”

It is amazing how creative and surprising children can be, even at four years old.

It is widely accepted that as children, we are at our most creative, and that this diminishes as we grow older. One of the most creative people who ever lived, Pablo Picasso, said: “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”

So why do we become less creative as we grow older? Many blame the education system, culture and society. This argument has some basis, but there is a deeper biological reason that we need to be aware of too.

The human brain is the most complex object in the known universe. In many aspects, the brain is still superior to the most advanced computers we have ever built. The superiority of the brain stems from its ability to quickly learn and develop mental shortcuts. These shortcuts enable us to perform tasks such as split second intuitive decision making. In other words, the brain is a stereotyping machine. Because of this, the brain superiority comes at a price, the various thinking biases.

The brain has more than 800 million neurons. Its power emerges from the almost endless number of ways these neurons can network and connect. For children, much fewer connections and mental pathways have been cemented and that is why, they feel free to establish surprising and unusual associations. As we grow older, we learn more things and establish mental pathways that make us both very good at delivering the usual and less capable of establishing the unusual.

This is also true for experts. Often new innovations and creative solutions come from outsiders to the field of expertise rather than from within.

The question is whether we can maintain our creative potential while we develop mental habits that are necessary to deliver our day to day jobs. To put it another way, using Picasso’s words, can we still paint like children while learning how to paint like Raphael? The answer is YES.

The above question, and its answer, are among the most important arguments we face today. As the Fourth Industrial Revolution continues its march towards automating human jobs, being able to cling to what makes humans different is paramount. Creativity and innovation alongside emotional intelligence are among the things that we do better than our machines. Parents, education systems, employers and policy makers ought to pay special attention to that.

How to maintain that creativity? In order to maintain a creative mind and nurture the capability to discover hidden and unexpected patterns and associations, I suggest the following exercises:

1. Always train the creative muscle. This can be done through exercises such as thinking of an object, say a brick, and coming up with 100 different uses for it. Repeat this exercise once a week for a different common object;

2. Stay positive. Negativity is the enemy of creativity. An exercise that I encourage to boost positivity is to keep a journal and write, daily, the five things that you are grateful for. I call this Brain Rewiring;

3. Use creative language. Language is not only a medium for communication, it is also a system of thought. When facing a challenge, replacing the p-word (‘problem’) with the word ‘opportunity’, when framing the challenge, can unlock huge value;

4. Do things out of your routine. Take a different route to work every now and then, travel, brush your teeth using your non-dominant hand or read books in a genre that you are not accustomed to; and

5. Challenge yourself. Move out of your comfort zone through trying to learn new things, language or sport.

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Gen Z sees creativity as key to success

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

A NEW study on Gen Z in the classroom reveals that Gen Z students are feeling unprepared for the problems the “real world” faces today. As job descriptions change and we move towards an increasingly unpredictable workforce, these students want a greater focus on creativity and hands-on learning in the classroom.

The Adobe study, Gen Z in the Classroom: Creating the Future, provides insights into Malaysian Gen Z student and teacher perspectives on learning, creativity, technology and the preparedness for a disrupted workforce.

Released recently, the study surveyed 250 Gen Z students between the ages of 11 and 17, and 100 teachers in the country.

The research found that 97 per cent of students and 100 per cent of teachers see creativity as essential to students’ future success (highest rating in the Asia Pacific study).

For Gen Z, computers and technology help to hone their creativity and prepare them for their future.

Ninety-six per cent of students believe their future careers will involve creating, and 97 per cent of teachers feel Gen Z students will have careers that do not exist today. Gen Z students also shared that classes focusing on computers and technology are not only among their favourites to take, but also hone their creativity, and will best prepare them for their future.

Janie Lim, senior director of Marketing for Digital Media, Adobe Asia Pacific, said: “Gen Z students in Malaysia have grown up in a tech-enabled and information-driven world. Access to technology and digital tools has offered unprecedented opportunities for them to explore their curiosity, draw inspirations from others and efficiently express their own creativity.

“The way Gen Z students consume and learn today is very different from past generations. Educators in the country need to provide the right environment, updated tools and creative outlets to bring out the best in students, and foster innovative problem-solving skills the future workforce will need.”

While excited about the prospects, Gen Z students in Malaysia — who see themselves as ambitious, curious and creative — express nervousness about their future careers. Almost 40 per cent of Gen Z students feel unprepared for the future, and feel what they learn outside of the classroom is more important to their future careers than what they learn inside.

Technology is GenZ’s native environment. They are passionate about making things better and smarter. Seventy-seven per cent of teachers feel students are more creative than past generations while 61 per cent of students feel they are more creative than past generations.

Although Gen Z students in the nation see themselves as more creative than past generations, teachers and students agree that the best method for learning and teaching is through a doing/creating approach, as well as through collaborating with others. This perspective directly correlates with the 68 per cent of educators who wish to evolve the teaching curriculum, and the 66 per cent who look for more opportunities for hands-on learning in their classrooms.


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Scarcity makes for creativity

Monday, November 6th, 2017
Computer games ‘help’ us play and imagine. Someone else is designing our world for us, creating our games for us, and we don’t have to think. FILE PIC

ALONG, long time ago, a wise man once told me: “Last time, we didn’t have much technology, but we had a lot of creativity. Now, we have a lot of technology, but we don’t have much creativity.”

It was the early 1990s, he was a music producer and he was referring to the art of music production.

He was lamenting how The Beatles in the 1960s could achieve so much innovation using only rudimentary four-track recording machines and basic recording gear and how the industry had evolved to having a lot of technology and awesome digital gear but not much musical innovation.

Would The Beatles’ stunning albums like Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band be as innovative if John, Paul, George and Ringo had access to unlimited tracks and modern recording equipment and gear?

Producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick had to work with what they had.

But, with the scarcity of resources, they had no choice but to experiment, to try and keep up with the imaginative minds of the band members, and they produced the sonic masterpieces you hear today.

But, this is not just limited to music production.

The Viet Cong, armed with limited artillery and firepower compared with the Americans, figured out innovative ways to fight their more illustrious and way more well-equipped foe.

They lived in underground tunnels, even digging all the way to below an American base for added safety.

They made traps using leftover American bomb shrapnel.

The Americans had the military might. They didn’t have to think. Or, maybe that was the reason why they found it so hard to fight in Vietnam. They didn’t have to think. They were not pushed to think.

However, the Viet Cong had to be innovative. They had no other way. They HAD to think.

Scarcity breeds innovation.

Malcolm Gladwell puts forth this idea in his popular book, David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits And The Art Of Battling Giants .

He argues that a person with limited resources would be forced to be more creative than someone who had a lot of resources.

Gladwell mentioned a fact — that many successful people have dyslexia — and argued that this disability was a GOOD thing as it forced them to master other skills like developing high-level listening skills or strong memory that eventually helped them to be successful in life.

He said David, by popular notion, wasn’t expected to win his battle with Goliath.

But, because he was an underdog, and had to be more creative and clever, actually he SHOULD be expected to win.

Maybe by giving someone a disadvantage, we are helping him to win.

By giving someone a lot of resources, we are helping him to lose

“Necessity is the mother of invention” is an oft-said phrase.

I think it should be reworded to scarcity being the mother of invention.

Which brings me to another thought. Our minds.

Last time when we had nothing but a stick to play with, it didn’t stop us from imagining the most awesome scenarios.

We turned our gardens into battlefields, and our beds into spaceships. We created our own games.

Now, we have supreme technology to “help” us play and imagine.

Someone else is designing our world for us, creating our games for us. We don’t have to think.

Now, we are exposed to a barrage of information and news, thanks to social media and the proliferation of resources where we can get information.

We have Wikipedia, we don’t have to research, someone else has done it for us, right or wrong.

With so much information coming our way, we don’t have time to go into details, or research what it is we are reading.

By Ahmad Izham Omar.

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Supporting schools to achieve success

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017
Teachers constantly review their plan of interventions.

The improvement in the students’ performance in the 2017 Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) English language paper was celebrated by many, including schools, teachers, students, parents and of course the Ministry of Education (MoE).

The ministry has been tireless in its efforts to improve the standard of English language amongst students. The MoE is constantly planning and executing programmes to ensure that students excel further to become globally competitive as stated in the Malaysian Education Blueprint (MEB) 2013-2025.

It has outlined several initiatives to help students improve their command of the language and one which is directly linked to student outcome is the English Language Enhancement Programme (Program Peningkatan Bahasa Inggeris di Sekolah), or more popularly known by its acronym PPKBIS, which was initiated in 2014.

PPKBIS aims to improve student outcomes through a systematic data-driven approach. It involves secondary School Improvement Specialist Coaches (SISC+) and English teachers who are teaching upper secondary classes. The impact of this programme is measured through students’ performance in the SPM English language paper. This programme will reach out to 204,000 students annually.

The success of this programme is attributed to the professional training provided by the English Language Training Centre (ELTC), Ministry of Education, to all the SISC+. These training sessions have covered topics such as differentiated teaching and learning, coaching and mentoring, and multiple thinking strategies that can help students excel in English language learning. The knowledge gained through these courses has assisted the SISC+ to impart effective and meaningful pedagogical techniques in teaching and learning to teachers.

SISC+ provide continuous support to English teachers in the districts under their purview. They plan workshops and activities to guide English teachers effectively. They also coach them on how to address the multi-level needs and varied competencies of the students. The workshops conducted as part of the training sessions provide models of good delivery and serve as a platform for SISC+ to exchange ideas and best practices.

An important component of PPKBIS is the School Support Plan (SSP) which started in 2015 and designed for Form Four teachers. It specifically targets the improvement of students’ writing skills, especially for those who will sit for the SPM examination. The teachers training sessions provide them the knowledge and skills on how interventions are designed to cater to the needs of students in a particular school. SSP also aims to develop reflective practitioners who are committed to students’ progressive development and improvement through responsive, student-centred pedagogy. Teachers are also trained to use various types of data to understand students’ learning gaps and design relevant intervention activities to overcome these gaps.

There are several pertinent stages in the School Support Plan. It begins with the process of identifying students’ weaknesses and their learning gaps through data analysis of the pre-test in the form of an essay. The findings guide the teachers to develop intervention strategies to address the gaps found in the students’ written work. The well-planned and thought-through interventions are then carried out in the classroom. The teachers are also involved in ongoing reflections after each intervention. They constantly review their plan of interventions for future actions. The significance of this continuous cycle is that it is repeated until the students’ learning needs and gaps are successfully addressed. The post-test of the same topic is evidence of the students’ improvement.

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Telling a story through animation

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

Kyle Balda (second from right) receiving The BrandLaureate International Brand Personality Award during The One Academy’s Film Directing Masterclass. With him are (from left) Tatsun Hoi, Asia Pacific Brands Foundation president Dr KK Johan and APBF chairman Tan Sri Rainer Althoff.

DO you know the man behind favourite movies such as The Mask, Jumanji, A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc, Toy Story 2, and Despicable Me? He is also known for co-directing the animated films The Lorax (2012), with Chris Renaud, and Minions (2015), with Pierre Coffin.

It is none other than Kyle Balda, the internationally renowned animator and film director.

Balda was recently in Kuala Lumpur to give a Masterclass on 3D Animation Film Directing, co-organised by The One Academy and The National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas).

This highly anticipated Masterclass participants included local film directors, animators, practitioners and students.

When he first came to The One Academy in 2010, Balda was talking more specifically about 3D animation methodology and how to approach the subject. This time around, he covered a wider scope; including the importance of story, the creation of themes, visual development and storytelling, creation of caricatures and styles, story development, as well as the art and production design.

On the first day of the two-day Masterclass, Balda took the opportunity to interact with students more closely.

Before the event, he had compiled a series of questions from the students for a Q&A session. He spent time to get a sense of where the students are at in terms of their learning curve.

From the questions, the students gave him insights into the process they were dealing with in making their own film and doing their own shots. When sharing his journey, Balda said his penchant for animation was encouraged and nurtured by a mentor who was also an animator on Disney’s The Little Mermaid.

He said his mentor showed him the path into the animation industry and suggested schools that he should enrol in to train as an animator.

“Having a mentor really helped me. I had someone I could turn to for advice and I could get his expert feedback on my work,” Balda said.

Balda’s seminar garnered encouraging feedback from the many animation students.

Nicholas Patrick, 19, a second-year student in Digital Animation at The One Academy, said he learned something new in terms of animation workflow that he was not familiar with.

“Ideas can come from many rough ideas anywhere, at any time. That is the good thing about being an animator. We just need a pen and a paper to start scribbling our ideas before we transform them using the tools.

“So far, I have had my hands on 2D animation, so today’s seminar is an eye-opener for me to get insight on 3D animation,” said Patrick, who is from Indonesia.

For Hadeel Kharashi, 26, from Saudi Arabia, her interest in animation started from a young age. “There’s something about the animation series and characters that always caught my eye and I think this is what I would want to do as a career. I just love everything about it — from animation modelling, art, 2D and 3D animation.

“Balda is a famous animator and director, so being here and listening to his lectures is an experience of a lifetime,” said Hadeel, who is in her second year of Diploma in Digital Animation.

The second day of the Masterclass involved more intensive lectures about story, character and emotion. Balda stressed that these are the three aspects of a film that are the backbones to construct a compelling and successful movie.

“Story provides a structure that helps us to grasp the narrative, characters allow us to relate to the narrative, while emotions persuade us to engage with the narrative,” he said.

He also delved into acting, staging and editing that should complement all other aspects to create memorable and emotionally entertaining screen moments that will sweep the audience away.

“To be a good animator, you have to be an observer of life. A lot of what interest me as an animator is drawing and watching Disney films. An animator is an artist, and also an actor and storyteller.

“The biggest challenge nowadays is not just drawing, but also learning computer software and branching out to tell stories and character performances,” he said.

As a talented and experienced industry animator, he enhanced his teachings with his insights and other great references that benefit young students in terms of practical skills and knowledge.

“Animation can be very simple, entertaining and yet has a heart to it.

“One of the best things about a coaching experience is the connection you get together with other students, from the thought that somebody who is beside you lives and breathes animation like you do, and to be able to get feedback on the work you do from an industry mentor,” he added.

The One Academy is committed to its “Masters Train Masters” teaching philosophy whereby industry experts from all over the world are invited to teach students their ways and approaches as practised in the industry.

“I definitely love coming to The One Academy to teach. There’s a real dedication to quality when it comes to the education here. The One Academy is famous for bringing in people like Andrew Gordon, Matthew Luhn and other professionals from North America who have worked in Hollywood,” said Balda, who is also a Bafta nominated feature animation director.

Like many other talented creatives, Balda studied traditional animation at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts).

He spent more than 20 years working with different animation giants such as Industrial Light & Magic, Weta Digital, Pixar and is currently at Illumination Entertainment.

Following a number of years conducting 3D animation Masterclasses at renowned European and Asian film schools and directing short form animation projects, Balda returned to feature production in Paris as the head of layout for Illumination’s Despicable Me followed by co-directing The Lorax.

by Zulita Mustafa .

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Special Education Students Reap Success In Crayfish Farming Project .

Friday, April 14th, 2017

BAGAN SERAI, April 12 (Bernama) — A group of pupils under the Special Education Integration Programme (PPKI) in Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Alor Pongsu here have succeeded in breeding crayfish in an aquaculture project.

The project carried out at the rear of the school began two years ago, with support from 10 teachers and four student assistants.

Project coordinator, Sharul Azlan Sungit, 35, said the group of 34 special students had since enjoyed good earnings after three consecutive harvests.

“In the implementation of the project, the PPKI pupils were given an opportunity to adapt to the environment, as well as the value of entrepreneurship.

“They were indirectly, given education on science, mathematics and living skills in preparation for their adult days,” he said when met here today.

According to Sharul Azlan, the idea of breeding crayfish was aimed at being a teaching and learning process for the special students.

“The school has decided to go into the farming of Quadricarinatus species of crayfish (Red-Claw) from Australia as the breeding process is easier,” he said.

He said the school began with a capital of RM1,200 to implement the project, apart from additional contributions collected from every teacher and the school canteen operator.

“With the initial capital, we provided a canvass pond and 20 crayfish for seeding.

“With the tremendous efforts of the special students, teachers and support from other parties, the project now has five aquariums and three ponds, including a cement pond, after two years,” added Sharul Azlan.

He noted the ponds could accommodate at least 2,000 crayfish fries in each farming cycle which took between six to eight months.

“Breeding crayfish is not too difficult as we only need to provide suitable feeds, apart from managing the water temperature to ensure the ponds are not too hot.

“Crayfish eat green plants in the ponds which I personally grow, and pellets. However, they should not be overfed as it produces ammonia.”

Sharul Azlan said crayfish fries were sold according to their size. Those between one and two inches cost RM1.50 a piece while fries of two to three inches are priced at RM2.50 each.

by Ani Awang

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Here come the robots; your job is at risk.

Monday, March 13th, 2017

The new automation revolution is going to disrupt both industry and services, and developing countries need to rethink their development strategies.

A NEWS item caught my eye last week, that Uber has obtained permission in California to test two driverless cars, with human drivers inside to make corrections in case something goes wrong.

Presumably, if the tests go well, Uber will roll out a fleet of cars without drivers in that state. It is already doing that in other states in America.

In Malaysia, some cars can already do automatic parking. Is it a matter of time before Uber, taxis and personal vehicles will all be smart enough to bring us from A to B without our having to do anything ourselves?

But in this application of “artificial intelligence”, in which machines can have human cognitive functions built into them, what will happen to the taxi drivers? The owners of taxis and Uber may make more money but their drivers will most likely lose their jobs.

The driverless car is just one example of the technological revolution taking place that is going to drastically transform the world of work and living.

There is concern that the march of automation tied with digital technology will cause dislocation in many factories and offices, and eventually lead to mass unemployment.

This concern is becoming so pervasive that none other than Bill Gates recently proposed that companies using robots should have to pay taxes on the incomes attributed to the use of robotics, similar to the income tax that employees have to pay.

That proposal has caused an uproar, with mainstream economists like Lawrence Summers, a former United States treasury secretary, condemning it for putting brakes on technological advancement. One of them suggested that the first company to pay taxes for causing automation should be Microsoft.

However, the tax on robots idea is one response to growing fears that the automation revolution will cause uncontrollable disruption and increase the inequalities and job insecurities that have already spurred social and political upheaval in the West, leading to the anti-establishment votes for Brexit and Donald Trump.

Recent studies are showing that deepening use of automation will cause widespread disruption in many sectors and even whole economies. Worse, it is the developing countries that are estimated to lose the most, and this will exacerbate the already great global inequalities.

The risks of job automation to developing countries is estimated to range from 55 to 85%, according to a pioneering study in 2016 by Oxford University’s Martin School and Citi.

Major emerging economies will be at high risk, including China (77%) and India (69%). The risk for Malaysia is estimated at 65-70%. The developed OECD countries’ average risk is only 57%.

From the Oxford-Citi report, “The future is not what it used to be”, one gathers there are at least three reasons why the automation revolution will be particularly disruptive in developing countries.

First, there is “premature deindustrialisation” taking place as manufacturing is becoming less labour-intensive and many developing countries have reached the peak of their manufacturing jobs.

Second, recent developments in robotics and additive manufacturing will enable and could thus lead to relocation of foreign firms back to their home countries.

Seventy per cent of clients surveyed believe automation and 3D printing developments will encourage international companies to move their manufacturing close to home. China, Asean and Latin America have the most to lose from this relocation.

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