Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

A better read with meaning-making

Wednesday, September 26th, 2018
Pupils participating in a reading programme in Kota Baru. Literacy for life will place meaning-making above the plane of simple decoding. FILE PIC

AS we race towards becoming a developed nation, many have been made aware that a well-informed and critical citizenry is crucial for the survival of a democracy. One way in which a citizenry becomes well-informed is by possessing a strong reading culture. Yet, although Malaysia’s literacy levels are known to be considerably high, with the youth’s literacy rates being reported by Unesco to be at 98 per cent, Malaysians are not known for being ardent readers.

We believe there are at least three reasons for this finding.

FIRST , literacy, which is generally understood as reading and writing, is subsumed under language education in the Malaysian context. This has significant implications for how school literacy is perceived and treated.

Our own research has shown that Malaysians who are schooled to be literate in multiple languages often also fail to be encultured with the broader, deeper practice of reading for pleasure. While it is understandable that Malaysia’s education policies are, and indeed must be, historically and socioculturally shaped by the country’s identification with language instruction due largely to its multilingually-rich context, it is the reticence in literacy matters that needs voicing. This silence, if nationally not addressed, will result in perpetuating the already uneven development of literacy culture, where those largely from privileged backgrounds continue to benefit from growing up in literacy-rich homes.

SECOND, literacy research in the Malaysian context is still scarce. In contrast with research in language education, literacy research has not received sufficient attention. This is also a reflection of research in literacy education in the Southeast Asian region where new efforts must be made for charting trajectories and initiating conversations. These conversations must be located in local communities and must account for how our post-colonial past collides with our current developing-nation, socioeconomically-driven status that go on to shape education, language and literacy policies.

THIRD , Malaysian educationists tend to define literacy in narrow terms. To view reading and writing as being largely about decoding serves to reduce the experience of “meaning-making”. This view impacts the way reading and writing are rigidly assessed in school contexts. Standardised tests that assume all children read and comprehend texts in the same way can shortchange actual readers’ genuine efforts in making sense of non-mainstream texts.

We argue that being able to read must mean more than being able to comprehend alphabetic texts which are often prescribed by a powerful other. We urge educators and policymakers to take on a paradigm shift and acknowledge how reading and writing is changing in the 21st century. Particularly, the sociocultural perspective of literacy and education has been found to be a powerful means that speaks to matters of inequality, marginalisation and social injustice as they relate to Malaysians sustaining literacy practices.

Some of our cross-continent research demonstrate how a perspective that takes into account the context, background and even geography of the individual reader is able to rationalise and localise literacy challenges which marginalised communities face.

More importantly, this broad perspective that considers multiple forms of meaning-making is able to address how reading can mean differently to different communities. Armed with such consideration, new dimensions of what it means to read and to make meaning from symbols surrounding that community can be created so that being literate can be understood from inclusive positions. This inclusivity not only accounts for technological advancements which have altered the way young Malaysians negotiate web content but recognises as-yet undiscovered ways through which communities make meaning in their day-to-day living.


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Successful people are great readers

Thursday, January 11th, 2018
Visitors at the Kuala Lumpur International Book Fair last year. Reading can only happen if we create the time and space for it. FILE PIC

READING is a good habit to inculcate, but not many of us read as much as we should. Many resort to reading materials on social media, but not as many spend time reading good books for knowledge.

Experts urge us to read regularly for a number of reasons, one of which is to increase our knowledge. Studies, too, highlight the importance of reading in enhancing one’s memory and empathy, as well as reducing stress.

Reading is always beneficial. Successful people are known to be great readers. They read widely to expand their knowledge, skills and competencies.

A reading journey is a real challenge. For many access to books, magazines and other reading materials is a challenge. E-books and e-magazines may solve this problem.

Reading is a skill and, like any other skill, it must be practised on a regular basis. For a start, one can spend a fixed time per day reading materials of one’s choice. The idea is to learn something new. The more we read, the more we will learn. The trick to success in reading is to keep to a regular schedule every day.

Granted, most of us are busy as we have tight work schedules and many family errands to run. But, no matter how busy we are, we must make time to read if we want to be successful. Reading can only happen if we create the time and space for it.

Reading is not just the number of books we read; it is about the quality of the reading material. We should know by the first 10 pages of the book if it is worth the time. Time is precious, so we need to spend it on good books.


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Parents: Can teachers cope with new standards?

Saturday, October 7th, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Stakeholders welcome the use of imported textbooks, but are sceptical about whether teachers will be able to cope with the foreign standards.

Parent Action Group for Educa­tion Malaysia chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said having the “right” textbooks was vital.

“There are many English textbooks that are better than the ones published specifically for our schools,” she said.

“The problem lies not with the books but the quality of teachers.

She added that while the nation was moving towards the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages-centric (CEFR) syllabus, which was a good move, the parents’ group had reservations, noting that having these books required time and effort to ensure its benefits.

“Textbooks can change, but everything has to follow suit,” she said.

Noor Azimah also said teachers needed to change their ways to adapt to the new curriculum to improve the quality of English language teaching.

“The problem will also come from designing test papers, which teachers are tasked with,” she said.

Parent Choo Yen Li agreed that the switch to imported textbooks was a good move.

However, she said it was important that any problems be identified during the roll-out and be solved immediately.

This would lessen the pressure on students, teachers and parents, she added.

“Our education system and its direction constantly changes,” said the mother of two primary school pupils.

Secondary school English teacher Mohd Sirhajwan Idek said what mattered most was the approach teachers adopted in using the materials effectively.

The National Teacher Icon Award winner added that it was essential for teachers to keep improving themselves and upgrading their skills through the Continuing Professional Development programme.

Educationist Devinder Raj ex­­press­ed scepticism about the fo­­reign textbooks
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Imported books will improve language skills, say experts.

Saturday, October 7th, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Experts believe that imported English books will lead to better usage of the language among schoolchildren.

Welcoming the move, Prof Dr Zuraidah Mohd Don from Universiti Malaya’s Faculty of Languages and Linguistics said the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) had become the de facto international standard for language education because it incorporated the best of current knowledge based on more than 40 years of research and had benefited from contributions from scholars all over the world.

In adopting the CEFR, the Education Ministry was providing the children with the best material available, she said.

“It’s essential for all stakeholders to support the changes being introduced to ensure that our children get the material they need to learn English effectively,” Prof Dr Zuraidah added.

Teachers, she added, must be given appropriate training and needed to have confidence in the new material.

“This means that the textbooks used for teaching English must be aligned with the CEFR and the knowledge it incorporates about language teaching.

“International publishers have been working on the CEFR for many years, so they have a head start.

“The challenge for local writers and publishers of English textbooks is to produce quality textbooks for use in Malaysian classroom,” Prof Dr Zuraidah said.

Describing the move as significant, the faculty’s senior lecturer Dr Surinderpal Kaur said it showed that the ministry was committed to improving English proficiency.

But she warned that the books were merely resource materials.

To improve proficiency levels, other factors such as the proficiency and aptitude of the teachers, their mode of delivery, continuity and sustainability of the prog­ram­me, and attitude of the students themselves must come into play, she said.

“It’s too early to predict with certainty, but there will be improvements for sure as the new books are well written,” she added.

While acknowledging that the textbooks were expensive, Dr Surinderpal pointed out that they were of good quality.

“It’s a necessary short-term start for the programme as we currently do not have adequate local resource materials,” she said.

“But the exchange rate and price of the books are things to be concerned about in the long term.
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Only imported English textbooks from next year.

Saturday, October 7th, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Starting next year, imported English textbooks will be used in schools instead of locally produced ones.

This is part of the Education Ministry’s move to implement the new Common European Frame­work of Reference for Languages (CEFR) aligned curriculum.

The CEFR is a guide developed by the Council of Europe to gauge fo­­reign language proficiency.

From next year, preschoolers, Year One and Two pupils, and Form One and Two students will start off with the curriculum, Deputy Education Minister Datuk P. Kama­lanathan told The Star.

“The ministry will buy off-the-shelf books to cater to schools be­cause locally produced textbooks are not able meet the new CEFR levels,” he said.

Primary school pupils will use Super Minds from Cambridge Uni­versity Press, while secondary students will read MacMillan’s Pulse 2.

According to the Mac­Millan website, Pulse 2 provides an integrated approach to skills so that students can develop receptive and productive skills while perfecting their communication competence.

Super Minds comprises a seven-­level course that enhances young learners’ thinking skills, memory and language skills, as described on the Cambridge website.

A check online showed that the books are priced between RM78 and RM135.

Teachers, said Kamalanathan, were being trained and the books were already available in all schools.

“This is part of the ministry’s English reform to ensure students achieve proficiency levels aligned to international standards,” he said.

In August last year, the Education Ministry launched a roadmap to continue enhancing English proficiency among teachers and students.

Focused on the country’s 40,000 English teachers, the English Language Roadmap 2015-2025 is part of the implementation of the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 to reform English Language education in the country.

The roadmap to upskill teachers uses the CEFR and was produced by the English Language Standards and Quality Council.

The CEFR lists six grades, with C2 – or “specialist English Language teachers” – being the highest and A1 the lowest.

English teachers need to achieve a minimum C1 grade to teach lessons based on the CEFR, said Edu­cation Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid.

C1 and C2 grades mean that the person is a competent user of the language and is able to participate fully in both professional and academic life.

While welcoming any effort by the ministry to improve the teaching of English in schools, National Union of the Teaching Profession secretary-general Harry Tan said the “bigger issue” of non-optionists in schools must also be addressed.

Currently, many English teachers are not trained in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL), but were chosen by school heads to teach because they know “a little more English” than their colleagues.

“It would be counterproductive to force these teachers to do the CEFR training because English is not their forte to begin with,” said Tan.

However, he said using imported instead of locally produced textbooks was more current and cost-efficient.

“This means the schools can have new books every year or every few years, unlike the current practice where the textbooks are only replaced when there is a change in the syllabus.

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Teach them young, watch them excel, says Kamalanathan.

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017
KUALA LUMPUR: The habit of reading should be inculcated in children from a young age, says Deputy Education Minister Datuk P. Kamalanathan.

“When we read, we gain knowledge and we enhance our critical thinking,” he said.

“The Government, through the Education Ministry and other avenues, is doing its best to provide Malaysians, especially youngsters, the means to quality reading materials,” he told reporters after the launch of Popular’s BookFest@Malaysia at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre here yesterday.

Kamalanathan commended Popular, saying that the ministry encouraged such efforts. “Reading is a healthy habit and initiative.

“The ministry has introduced competitions such as the Nilam programme where children are encouraged to read as many books as possible and in turn, will be rewarded with prizes,” he added.

Launched by the Education Ministry in 1999, Nilam (Nadi Ilmu Amalan Membaca) aims to inculcate the habit of reading in both primary school pupils and secondary school students.

Under the Nilam programme, pupils and students are required to jot down details of the books they read – the author, number of pages, publisher and synopsis or a mind map – into a record book. The programme tracks the score continuously until the student leaves school.

Entering its 12th year, BookFest@Malaysia is recognised by the Malaysia Book of Records as the largest trilingual book exposition in the country.

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New and improved Nilam

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

MAGAZINES and journals will be considered scientific literature that can be included under the soon-to-be-launched version two of the Nadi Ilmu Amalan Membaca (Nilam 2.0) reading programme.

Deputy education director-general Datuk Dr Amin Senin said this new version of Nilam that begins in 2018 includes digital content such as e-books and online journals.

“A lot of reading materials are now converted to digital form and these can be considered reading materials for students (in Nilam 2.0),” he said after launching the national level 1Malaysia Reading Camp (KK1M) 2017 in Kuala Lumpur last Tuesday.

Launched by the Education Ministry in 1999, Nilam aims to inculcate the habit of reading among both primary and secondary school students.

Students are required to jot down details of the books they read – the author, number of pages, publisher and synopsis or a mind map – into a record book. The programme tracks the score continuously until the student leaves school.

“The previous Nilam is actually successful in achieving its objectives,” said Dr Amin, who added that the new programme incorporates digital content in order to keep up with the times.

“Improving the current Nilam programme is needed to keep up with current trends and still instil the reading habit in students,” he said.

Education Ministry Education Technology Division director Zaidi Yazid said Nilam 2.0 will not just emphasise quantity, but also the quality of the reading materials.

In reading out Education director-general Tan Sri Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof’s speech, Dr Amin said that almost 97% of students in Malaysia were part of the programme in 2016, with an average reading rate of 28 books per student per year.

“However, programmes to encourage reading should be intensified and continued to form a progressive and dynamic Malaysian society,” he said.

Dr Amin said one such programme is the KK1M, which is a three-day programme carried out nationwide to cultivate a “bookworm society” and foster a thirst for knowledge.


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Book corners bring out the reader in pupils.

Saturday, March 18th, 2017

WITH children increasingly losing interest in reading, the parents of SJKC Puay Chai 2 pupils in Bandar Utama decided to put together three reading corners within the school compound.

The reading corners meant to cultivate the habit were set up about three months ago and are placed strategically in the foyer, outside the library and the activity hall.

Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) treasurer Wendy Cheah said children nowadays were more likely to indulge in digital games even when they eat.

“We have placed the books in such a way that the covers face out to attract the children to pick them up,” said Cheah.

“In November last year, we conducted a pilot study by putting old copies of the Young Scientist magazine on the shelves.

“Surprisingly, about 30 to 40 of them huddled around the shelves to read,” said Cheah, who is the brains behind this initiative.

“Following the successful, we were willing to spend about RM8,000 on shelves and renovations to set up the reading corners,” she added.

Since then, many parents have sponsored the books, for which school principal Pang Lai Cheun is grateful.

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Kids benefit from reading corners

Monday, July 18th, 2016

OVER 20 schools in Butterworth will now have access to a selected range of literature at a special “reading corner”.

This is thanks to a literacy project spearheaded by the Junior Chamber International (JCI) Butterworth Chapter and OCBC Bank (Malaysia) Berhad’s Bukit Mertajam branch.

The project which is part of a programme that was first established by JCI Butterworth City in 2014, is being rolled out in Butterworth in four phases featuring three schools and an orphanage. A total of 14 reading corners have already been set up nationwide so far.

Junior Chamber International Butterworth Chapter organising chairman Kenny Hing said the schools were selected on the basis of its environment and needs.

At a recent ceremony, 600 books were donated to SJKC Jit Sin A and SJKC Jit Sin B to be placed at their reading corners, with another 900 books to be made available to the remaining three schools in the next few months.

On the reading corners, Hing: “It is a peaceful reading atmosphere where the pupils can use their free time meaningfully. They can choose the books to read or re-read. It is also a fun environment to gain knowledge.”

He added that the initiative in Butterworth would not have been possible without the partnership with OCBC Bank.

“We are grateful for the partnership with OCBC Bank.

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Cultivate reading habit, schools urged

Friday, March 11th, 2016
Reading Practice Knowledge Pulse award recipients with Ahmad, Masly and other officers.

Reading Practice Knowledge Pulse award recipients with Ahmad, Masly and other officers.

KENINGAU: Sabah Education Director Datuk Jame Alip has urged all schools in the State to cultivate reading culture among students in an effort to raise their knowledge level in line with knowledge suitable for people’s needs in the new millennium.

He said the practice of reading should not limited to reading materials in school textbooks, and even more broadly, through reading materials in the print and electronic sources.

According to him, by reading a lot of reading material especially scientific and general knowledge was very important in developing ideas and thinking, especially in making compositions as well as in public communication such as speech, debate, storytelling and others.

“Thinking would be wide open, with good ideas and factual findings of diligent practice in reading on materials that are useful,” he said when opening the state level Reading Practice Knowledge Pulse (NILAM) Carnival at SJKC Yuk Kong hall here yesterday.

He said that this could help students to excel academically, especially on the work of writing, thus encouraging reading that must be cultivated through a variety of activities in school.

Jame’s text of speech was delivered by the State Education Department’s senior assistant director of Education Technology Division, Ahamad Jais.

At the same time, Jame said based on the report of the National Library in 2010, average Malaysians read eight books a year and this shows a positive increase compared to an average of two books read in 1996.

He added that although this rate was much lower than the reading rate in developed countries such as Japan and the United States, this rate indicated that more and more Malaysians were beginning to realize the importance of reading.

In the meantime, he said the re-study of the 2011 Malaysian Reading profile by the National Library formulated that the group aged 10 to 40 read eight books a year, and over 40 years old, read just six books a year.

Accordingly, Jame said the NILAM awards organised by the Educational Technology Division (BTP) was consistent with the goal of giving encouragement to all schools, teachers and students in addition to giving recognition to schools and teachers as well as students who were eager to read.

In a related development, he said schools should use the facility such as a library center as knowledge source.

“Educators in schools need to make a habit of reading as a daily practice that can be emulated by their students, which includes implementing NILAM program with excellence.
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