Archive for February, 2010

Tell Me About Yourself

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

So, tell me about yourself.

The “Tell me about yourself” question is probably as old as dinosaurs but it is also one of the toughest questions to be asked as well. There is no one absolutely right answer to the question, because being an open-ended question, no one could say that you’ve answered wrongly.

However, in the context of an interview, it would be wiser to conform to the expected answers to the question, as required by the interviewers. All questions are asked with an underlying purpose, because in an interview, time is of essence. No one wants to be wasting time asking silly questions or questions that do not give them any vital information about yourself, unless it’s intended for ice-breaking.

“Tell me about yourself” is designed to let you reveal information about your personal achievements, your strong points, your character and how you can actually contribute to the company. This question actually lets you preview your best side to the interviewer, as you will subsequently go on to expand on your answer in the following questions asked by the interviewer.

When asking that question, interviewers are not expecting you to tell them a long-winded story about your life. They need you to tell them the highlights of your career, be it academic or working life. Being extremely interested in singing, and explaining that you often spend your free time unwinding at the karaoke stations in town with a bunch of your friends is not going to help the prospective employer analyse any strong positive points about you that could be converted for the benefits of the company.

Give them the milestones in your life whereby you have managed to overcome some huge obstacles in your life, or have accomplished some major project that could have changed the lives of people around you. Give them something stunning and outstanding about you that would make them want to rope you in to work with them. Tie your achievements to the needs of the company hiring because that would ultimately be what interviewers are looking for-how you could fit in into his team of people and what you could contribute for the company.

But please be prepared to expand on your answers because you are not helping things if you merely slap the interviewer with just a one-sentence answer, such as, “I’m really good with my words.”. The next thing that would inevitably pop out in the interviewer’s mind would be, “And.?”. You need to justify your answers and not leave the interviewer with more question marks concerning you. You could probably say, “I’m really good with my words because I’m really passionate about language and linguistics. I could come up with write-ups or stories really fast, and I could even adjust the tone of my writings to the client’s needs, which makes me really versatile with my words.”

At times, interviewers may also help you along the way, after having asked this question. But don’t be too dependent on it because it may leave the interviewer with the impression that you are not well-prepared.

This, being one of the first questions usually asked during interviews is definitely your best shot at marketing yourself to the prospective employers, because it is the time when you have full control of what comes out of your mouth. Use the opportunity wisely and you may have just talked your way to employment with the company.

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The Art of Writing Cover Letters

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010
  1. Start off by just saying what you want to say in plain English
  2. Be natural; do not try to sound like someone else, and use language and words that you normally use
  3. If possible address or personalize your letter, rather than “to whom it may concern”
  4. Include information on how, when and where you can be reached
  5. Always type rather than hand-write your letter. It is a business letter and should be as professional and polished as possible
  6. Typos are the fastest way to the rubbish bin for your CV! Check and re-check for ‘typos’, grammatical errors, etc.

The role of your CV is to serve as an advertisement of yourself and your skills. Whoever is reading your CV wants to see proof of your skills. So describe your skills by detailing your qualifications, experiences and achievements and where possible, what you have actually done and when you did it.

Your strongest attribute should always be the first section presented to catch the reader’s attention. For a student or graduate, this will most probably be your education.

Other important rules on how to further enhance your cover letter:

  1. Include your part-time job experience
    This is your chance to give factual evidence of work based skills, including initiative for seeking work in the first place, and time management juggling both study and work. This can be summarized if you have had a number of part time jobs, or give some detail of any roles you have held for a longer period, and any progress made in that time (e.g. promoted to shift supervisor)
  2. Everyone has “transferable skills”
    Teamwork, communication and leadership skills, along with examples of achievement, are what employers look for. Simply listing your non-work activities is dull. Your involvement in sporting teams, cultural or community clubs is how you will have experienced and practiced these transferable skills, so give the reader some idea of the skills you have gained through non-work activities e.g. captain of team, committee member of club, etc.
  3. State your “objectives”
    Objectives are helpful if you are trying to show the relationship between your skills and a particular position, but they do not add value when they say things like “I am looking for a challenging position suited to my education and skills”. Be specific when stating your “objective”
  4. Say why
    Describe what you were thinking, what skills you believe your study has given you, and how they will help you in “real” work. Remember, you chose your study path and you should answer why
  5. What should it look like?
    Use plenty of space; do not squeeze all your information into a small space, as this makes it hard to read and quite unprofessional. Use a reasonable size font (between 10 to 12pt are good). Do remember to eliminate the ‘typos’, grammatical and spelling errors
  6. What information to include
    Question yourself when writing your resume, “Will this statement help me land an interview?”. Try and include information that you can say “yes” to that question. Be brief, yet precise. Use summary words rather than detailed, lengthy sentences. In general the further back in time you go, the less information you should provide
  7. Keep a copy of what you send
    Make a copy of each letter and CV sent, and keep it for future reference. When you get a phone call from a prospective employer it is reassuring if you can remember the company name and what position you had applied for.

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School sports day to involve local community from next year

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

PETALING JAYA:  School sports days will be organised in a grander manner with the participation of the local community from next year, said Education director-general Tan Sri Alimuddin Mohd Dom.

“State and district education offices and schools have been instructed to make early preparations to make this possible.”

He said in a statement yesterday that they had also been directed to organise sports activities all year round.

Alimuddin also said a committee had been set up to look into and identify strategies that would ensure sports successes.

The committee which is headed by Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, he said, would identify strategies to improve sports programmes and development in schools.

Muhyiddin announced on Sunday that sports would be made compulsory in 10,000 schools nationwide starting next year and each student would be required to select a game of his or her choice.

Meanwhile, the National Union of the Teaching Profession secretary-general Lim Yim Pheng said a separate scheme for teachers to focus on sports should be created in schools.

“They should be qualified in sports curricula, focus on sports and spend their time training students in all sports-related activities,” she said.

Lok also suggested the creation of a sports secretary post in schools.

This, she added, would mean other teachers could concentrate on their core business of teaching.

National Collaborative Parent-Teacher Association of Malaysia president Associate Prof Datuk Mohd Ali Hasan agrees with Lok, saying that the post of a senior assistant in charge of sports should be created.

He said it was also a good idea for students to take up at least one sport as this would help them develop more holistically.

by Karen Chapman.

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Study: Eating Soy Is Safe for Breast-Cancer Survivors.

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

If you are among the thousands of American women who have survived breast cancer, you probably find yourself thinking twice about everything you do — what you eat, how much you exercise — to ensure that you don’t increase your risk of developing another tumor. It’s a natural response to a difficult diagnosis, but it can be challenging, especially when it comes to diet: most breast tumors are driven by the hormone estrogen, but estrogen is frequently found in many popular foods, from some types of milk and yogurt to breakfast bars to tofu and those addictive edamame beans.

The common culprit is soy, a plant that contains chemicals with estrogen-like and anti-estrogenic properties — making it a nutritional minefield for breast-cancer survivors. While Western diets are relatively low in soy — compared with the typical diet in Asia, where people eat soy daily — the percentage of Americans consuming soy at least once a week increased from 15% in 1997 to 28% in 2003. In the meantime, studies on the effect of soy on breast-cancer recurrence and mortality have been conflicting, with some showing that it can reduce risk, while others show an elevated rate of recurrent disease among frequent consumers of soy.

Now the largest study to date on soy’s effect on breast cancer suggests that eating soy, even in large amounts, may not be harmful after all, and may even reduce recurrence and death from the disease. But while the findings are intriguing, not all doctors are ready to tout the benefits of tofu.

Analysis of the study, conducted in China between 2002 and 2006, is ongoing, but researchers based at Vanderbilt University and the Shanghai Institute of Preventive Medicine report data from the first four years of follow-up (total follow-up was five years) in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The 5,042 women enrolled in the study were all breast-cancer survivors, ages 20 to 75, and they consumed soy from naturally occurring sources, such as tofu or soybeans; none of the women took soy supplements. They fell into two groups based on soy intake: those who consumed more than 15.3 g of soy protein a day, or as much as would be found in three-quarters of a cup of edamame beans, and those who consumed less than 5.3 g per day, less than what is contained in a half-cup of soy milk, which has 7 g of soy protein.

Among the women consuming the most soy, the risk of death from breast cancer four years after diagnosis was 7.4% and the risk of recurrence was 8%. Women in the lower soy-intake group had higher risks: a 10.3% risk of death from breast cancer and an 11.2% risk of recurrence. “I think based on our study, I am quite comfortable saying that soy food, particularly a moderate amount, is safe, and potentially beneficial,” says the study’s lead author, Dr. Xiao-Ou Shu, an epidemiologist at Vanderbilt.

Other breast-cancer experts agree that soy intake may not be harmful for cancer survivors, but they draw the line at saying it can reduce cancer incidence or mortality. “There is no take-home message here to go out and eat as much soy as you can,” says Dr. Larry Norton, medical director of the Evelyn Lauder Breast Center at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

Norton notes that the study was not a randomized clinical trial of soy consumption. That is, rather than randomly assigning breast-cancer survivors to consume or not consume various amounts of soy, then following those participants to see whether they developed recurrent tumors, the study looked retrospectively at women’s self-determined soy-eating habits. The randomized clinical trial is the gold standard upon which medical practice is determined, and the only kind of trial that gives scientists confidence that other variables are not confounding their results. In the new study, for example, the authors note that the women eating the highest amounts of soy were also more likely to have received chemotherapy to treat their disease and to eat vegetables and exercise regularly — all factors that may contribute to lower breast-cancer risk. Shu and her colleagues adjusted for these variables, but, says Norton, “with any observational study, you don’t know what else is going on.”

Although not all experts are convinced that it’s safe to begin advising women to add soy to their diet, they agree that there is no need to avoid soy altogether. “What I’ve been telling my patients right now is that soy as part of a healthy balanced diet is safe. But I would avoid trying to eat a totally soy-based diet or taking a soy supplement. You have to be careful in not extrapolating beyond the study,” says Dr. Richard Lee, medical director of the Integrative Medicine Program at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

by Alice Park.

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Sports to be a must in schools

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

BANDAR JENGKA : Sports activities will be made compulsory in 10,000 schools nationwide starting next year and each student will be required to select a game of his or her choice.

Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said this meant that sports would have a separate syllabus and would no longer be part of the co-curriculum activity as is the current practice.

“The co-curriculum syllabus will be revamped to make sports an activity with its own programme and allocation and not be included with arts and uniformed bodies.

“Schools will be provided with more sports teachers while allocations will be increased to improve the infrastructure as part of efforts to bring glory back to sports,” he told reporters after closing the Pahang Umno convention here yesterday.

He said a committee has been set up to look into the revamp besides looking into ways to credit those who were active in sports.

“By giving additional marks to them, it would help to encourage them to excel both in sports as well as academically,” he added.

Stating that sports were good for mental as well as physical health besides inculcating leadership qualities, Muhyiddin noted that parents nowadays stressed too much on academic achievement.

He said currently sports activities in schools started a few months after the start of a new term until the middle of the year, with none at all for the rest of the year.

Muhyiddin said schools would have more time to arrange its sports and academic calendar when the implementation started next year.

by Roslina Mohamad.

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Labelling leads to elitism

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Ministry of Education Malaysia (MOE) would like refer to the Letter written by Joe Chelliah, Seremban (NEW STRAITS TIMES 5 February 2010 – HPS : LABELLING LEADS TO ELITISM).

The Ministry of Education Malaysia (MOE) main intention in recognizing and establishing High Performing Schools (HPS) was not to segregate or label schools under its administration, instead the notion was to give due recognition to those schools which have given their best efforts in all aspects pertaining to education. Thus, the initiative by MOE to acknowledge HPS is primarily to help boost their morale and desire to achieve greater accomplishments whether at national or international stage.

With the set up of HPS, this will positively help to pave way for our government’s vision in making the education system of Malaysia a world class. Schools which have not been selected this year, still have a chance to improve and be part of HPS for the years to come whether in 2011 or 2012 if they have successfully achieve excellent results in academic, extra-curricular activities as well as other specified criteria under the HPS stringent requirements.

Assessment Instruments used in selecting High Performing Schools (HPS) are based on School Grade Point Average (GPA), Verification Malaysia Standard Quality for Education and 5 Annexes elements which are;
· Towering personalities
· Recognition and award received from both national and international level
· Linkages programmes with institution of higher learning (colleges or universities)
· School networking programmes at international and national level
· As benchmark for other schools.

HPS main functions:
· As benchmark and role model for other schools to emulate.
Conduct networking programmes with schools within its vicinity by means
of sharing facilities,teachers’ expertise as well as Principal’s knowledge and experience.

These elements may in fact help to strengthen the ties between HSP and other schools.
With regards to students intake to HPS, States Education Division have a say in this matter, thus issue on misuse of authority will not arise.

HPS was in fact drafted based on the Cluster Schools of Excellence framework. A few vernacular schools have also been acknowledged as cluster schools such as SJKC Keat Hwa (H) Alor Setar, SJK(C) Lick Hung Subang Jaya, SJKC Tung Hua Sibu in addition to a few others which show that all schools in Malaysia have been given opportunity to showcase their accomplishments.

Corporate Communication Unit,
Ministry of Education Malaysia.

Meeting the needs of new learners

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

The current evaluation system in schools does not measure a dynamic learner’s capabilities. To be globally relevant, we need to encourage innovative thinking.

THE Internet’s effects on education have been vast. Neither governments nor education stakeholders foresaw the extent to which it would revolutionise educational systems, educators, learners, educational delivery and research platforms and mechanisms.

Today, at the beginning of a new decade, events are repeating themselves. The same cohort of controlling players, especially governments, still do not acknowledge that the Internet is again transforming learners’ demands – and the very concept of learning.

The restricting borders and guidelines defining elements constituting knowledge are dissolving, and along with this, the word ‘curriculum’ is evolving into uncharted territories.

At this juncture, we need to stop using the word “Evaluation” and switch to “Measuring”.

Evaluating implies “to see how good or how bad the focus of the evaluation process is”, while measuring “passes no judgments, but only tells what is or is not present in the focus of the measuring process”.

To start this transformation process, let us ask the question: How should evaluation systems change to meet the demands of a dynamic learner?

A broad and deep analysis of policy might cover the following:

· What is the definition and construction of the new “measuring” system that will measure, and not test?

· Will the new system be capable of measuring Innovation and Disruptive thinking — crucial skills that can only evolve after complete understanding and application of knowledge is achieved?

· Can we have an accountable system in place that constantly monitors the new system, to ensure it evolves and remains meaningful?

· What is the new learning space in the new classroom of the future where measuring will occur? Does it even need to occur in classrooms?

· Who are the new Educators that will administer the new system? Should measuring even have to be exclusively administered?

· How can Malaysian classrooms evolve to meet the demands of and be recognised as credible by new market places and global communities, where sustainability and Sejahtera values (and not profits) are key issues?

· How can Malaysian education prepare for the current surge in innovations and the convergence of NBIC (Nano, Bio, Info and Cogno) Technologies that are already placing new pressures both at the schooling and higher education levels?

In considering the above, it is crucial to realise the implications of the solutions, and there are no easy or seemingly apparent answers.

Solutions cannot and must not be formulated with the same, tired ways of thinking.

Disruptive thinking is needed to create innovations and take calculated risks, possibly resulting in mistakes, but it will be mistakes made minimally and with innovative and clear thought — in other words, mistakes made early, quickly and cheaply.

Flaws of testing

Current testing systems are based on:

· Flawed assumptions about hoped for or expected student outcomes, clearly denoted by the word “testing”.

· Unachievable expectations and single, standardised testing for schools everywhere as outlined by National Exams. Standardised testing in schools also determine A, B, C and D students who are consigned into favourite and favoured classes and annually consign “failures” to sustained oblivion.

· Unusual and extreme pressures on educators, and schools that force educators to become mindless machines, who teach only to address the testing outcomes demanded.

· Procedures that traumatise the most vulnerable and poorly performing learners, and educators who will never fit in or be successful again due to perceived inadequacies.

· Exclusive and focused control of power to determine testing and results.

When considering issues dealing with a new measuring system in Malaysian education, it is important to remember that we are not just measuring learners, but also the educators, the curriculum and the measuring systems themselves.

This should perhaps be the opening gambit in the process of initiating transformations in current testing systems.

When implemented in a comprehensive manner that deals with the breadth and depth of all these issues, it could perhaps be summed up that the final product has to be able to take students to levels of knowledge that will sustain Malaysia in the future.

Levels of knowledge

Education experts have classified knowledge into:

1. Declarative Knowledge — knowing what

2. Procedural Knowledge — knowing how

3. Schematic Knowledge — knowing why

4. Strategic Knowledge — knowing application

Almost all testing systems in existence today test students on 1 and 2, which is the most rudimentary of knowledge levels, and also the most easily tested.

Doesn’t that tell you why we are stuck with testing systems that have no meaning and purpose?

Levels 1 and 2 knowledge are essential so that learners are able to evolve to the higher levels of Schematic and Strategic Knowledge.

However, Procedural and Declarative Knowledge is for anyone, anywhere and anytime.

Learners know more than educators where these types of knowledge are concerned, and often educators are unable to answer students’ questions about these because knowledge has reached singularity – it is limitless, and what you know to be fact and true today, may no longer be so tomorrow.

Marketplaces, industry and knowledge creators are no longer interested in learners who are able to babble data and recite by rote – this does not create innovations, new concepts and theories.

Yet, these are exactly what are being tested over and over again at hallowed halls of learning not just in Malaysia, but globally as well.

Strategic knowledge used to be perceived as the ultimate rung of knowledge, but along came the Internet and destroyed that particular perception. It used to bring about innovation and change, simply because knowledge was the near exclusive domain of highly educated individuals discovering new ideas.

Now, almost anything you can think of will already be on the Internet and being explored collaboratively by groups of experts all over the world.

What we now need is the highest levels of planned intuition and ‘leaps of logic’ that will enable logical disruptive thinking, that will in turn create innovations at new levels.

Now we come to the crux of the matter. We need measuring systems that will be capable of measuring these leaps of logic, disruptive and innovative thinking.

This is extremely difficult to do, and it certainly cannot be done exclusively in the classroom, because so many other learner attributes are linked to it.

A measuring system will inform stakeholders what a person is capable of doing, and this is needed simply because the world operates on compartmentalised expertise.

We do not have to stick to static testing systems that label learners once and for all.

Instead, with enough effort, professional and political will, thoughtful reflections and an open, innovative mind, we could have a dynamic measuring system that will inform stakeholders and the learner being measured as to what his strengths and weaknesses are. The learner will thus have the chance to constantly evolve and create new labels for himself.

by Dr Theva, a senior lecturer at The School of Educational Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia. Through this fortnightly column, he and his colleagues hope to help transform the landscape of Malaysian schooling and higher education systems. He can be contacted at

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Measuring performance

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

Teachers are doubtful about how the proposed changes for schools will be measured, and if there will be fairness in its implementation.

TEACHERS on the whole are quite used to hearing reports about soon-to-be implemented changes or “transformations” related to the education system but every once in a while there are announcements of certain policies or innovations that leave us with a feeling of unrest and discontent.

We feel disturbed but we can’t quite define our feeling or put a finger on it.

After all, these announcements come with such high-sounding objectives and goals that as teachers and purveyors of this “noble and glorious cause of education”, we feel almost duty-bound to jump with joy and share in the general enthusiasm.

The media splashes the news of these changes or transformations that are about to happen in the education system, these brilliant plans that are without doubt going to ensure “quality, world-class education”, “high-performance”, “improved student outcomes”, “incentives for teachers” and so on.

For a fraction of a second, we look up from our duties. Our hopes are raised and there is a moment of expectancy. A moment only. Because after going through the details of these plans we realise that for many of us, it is not going to make any difference. And so with a shrug ,we turn back towards whatever we were doing and mentally chide ourselves for being so silly as to have expected something in the first place.

Some of us also feel guilty about our less-than-enthusiastic response towards these obviously far-sighted and meticulously planned goals by our educational visionaries

Quite often, the demands of our jobs scream so loudly into our ears that we can’t even hear ourselves think. And yet in the brief intervals that we do actually begin to understand the contents of what has been so well packaged and presented to the public, we begin to feel a kind of anger and a sense of deep injustice.

Similar sentiments

We talk about it amongst ourselves and find comfort that there are others in the teaching community who feel like we do. We read letters to the press that echo our own thoughts and feelings and manage to convince ourselves that someone, somewhere has taken up our cause. At times, there are hasty follow-up declarations made by the formulators of the change to put to rest any feelings of discontent among those who had not “clearly understood” the whole thing. Peace offerings of vague promises are served, with assurance of fulfilment in ‘the near future’.

What exactly qualifies as “high-performance” in education and how do you measure it? If it is measured merely by academic, curricular or extra-curricular achievements, then perhaps, we should redefine our national philosophy of education that focuses on the holistic development of every child.

How do you measure spiritual and emotional “performance” if it even exists? You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to realise that the measurement of distance travelled would have to be based on the starting point.

There has to be a zero mark, a point of reference to measure where one is at present, relative to where one was in the beginning. It is the measure of difference between what you had at first, and what you have now, that indicates what you have really achieved.

A school that manages to produce outstanding students despite a lack of resources — that is a high-performing school.

A teacher who despite being given a set of students with low self-esteem, low-motivational level, and low-academic aptitude, manages to create a sense of purpose, self-worth and interest in education among these students, should be considered a high-performing teacher.

And many of the individuals who have contributed the most to our society, are our nation’s “best” who came from schools that had a much varied and broad cross-section of student population.

Perhaps it is this interaction with others of different backgrounds and varied academic abilities, that sowed the seeds of excellence in the first place.

There may be many justifiable reasons for placing students who are high academic achievers together in particular schools, but to then label these schools as high-performance schools and its staff as high-performance teachers, based merely on the achievements of these already high-achieving students somewhat defies rational thinking.

School labels

“I’m not really bothered about all these labels,” said a teacher-friend of mine recently. “It is just that whenever I need funds for special school projects or student competitions, I am told that funds are low.

“And then I hear that some privileged schools are going to be given all these funds. Schools that as far as I know are already quite well-equipped. So how am I supposed to feel?

“Maybe I’m getting it wrong, but to me it is like saying, since you already have so much, let me reward you further … does it make sense to you?”

And what does it make the rest of the teachers who do not teach in these ‘‘high-performance” settings. Medium-performance teachers? Average-performance teachers? Low performance teachers?

But when questions like these are even dared to be raised, we are quickly reminded that we have to see the “big picture”, and not be so myopic. We are assured that pretty soon every school will have these privileges. And we should not misunderstand or be envious.

“Of course you are all excellent, high-performance teachers. We are aware of your sacrifices and the noble work you do. Congratulations and keep up the good work.”

A few pats on the back and you are on your way again in your not-so-high performing schools, with your not-so-high- performing students, trying to shake off the mantle of not-so-high-performing teacher that has crept insidiously over your mind.

Why this segregation, why this elitism ask some teachers. Yet there are others to whom the word ‘elitism’ means designer labels and having your garden patio featured in some Home and Living magazines.

There are teachers too who have spent their entire teaching career in schools without even basic facilities, in rural schools or in schools which can boast of no major curricular or extra-curricular achievement apart from the high level of effort and enthusiasm.

There are schools where teachers have extremely high standards of professional integrity, dedication and commitment.

Then there are teachers who have managed to be creative and innovative despite the lack of many resources, and teachers who have managed to retain their positive outlook and cheerfulness and believe in what they are doing.

What about teachers who are given classes of students who have not reached the minimum level of proficiency needed to be at that level?

“Which would be considered a higher teaching “performance?” another teacher asks me. “A teacher who helps a student achieve 20% from nothing or one who helps attain 91% from 90% ?”

Granted, one cannot make the grade with 20% as far as the examination system is concerned, but at at the real level of education, these are the successes, these are the performances

There is more achievement in transforming a potential school dropout into one who manages to get his SPM certificate, (even if he just manages to pass) rather than transforming an A grade into an A+.

When one product on a shelf is stuck with a label of quality, then by default a similar product next to it which is not stuck with the “quality” label is deemed to be of lesser quality.

That is the perception of many individuals both within and ouside the teaching community. We teachers are familiar with society’s somehow slanted perceptions of teacher’s ability or standards.

If you teach a higher form you are perceived to have more knowledge than a teacher teaching in the primary grades, even if that primary teacher is actually higher qualified both academically and pedagogically.

It is bad enough that teachers often have to put up with a great deal of societal misperceptions stemming from a lack of information. However, to experience this from people within the system who should know better, is painful.

That is the way society perceives it. If you teach in a school with a special “elitist” label, you are perceived to be better than another teacher who is not. But then again perhaps you really are.

We have to be fair to teachers of these schools too. We are all part of the same teaching community.

Many of them are our close friends and we know them to be exemplary teachers. We cannot allow our own disgruntlement to impair our sense of fairness.

Teachers from these schools tell us that maintaining high standards of achievement among the already high achievers may not be as easy as it looks.

Also they are quick to point out that they are subject to much more stringent working requirements compared to the others.

All these are perfectly valid reasons and justifiable. And when you think about it, the issue is not really about these schools themselves nor their teacher and student population.

Rather it is the spill-over feeling of having been discriminated against and having been judged with unbalanced scales.

by Mallika Vasugi.

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Zooming in on accountancy

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

MALAYSIA has set its sights on becoming a hub for accountancy studies following the Higher Education Ministry’s commitment and interest to work with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) Malaysia, to attract more international students.

Deputy higher education minister Dr Hou Kok Chung who recently spoke at the national education forum held by the ACCA, said that the Ministry was keen to work not only with the association, but with the private sector and other relevant organisations to ensure that those seeking internationally-certified programmes and qualifications pertaining to accountancy, would make Malaysia their first choice.

It is a “national objective” that we hope top achieve.

The forum with the theme “The way forward: Developing Malaysia as an accountancy education hub”, brought together academics and professionals to discuss issues, challenges and opportunities on developing Malaysia as the centre in the accounting field.

Participants taking down notes at the forum.

ACCA Malaysia country head Jennifer Lopez said that there are currently 19 institutions in Malaysia approved under the ACCA, and only those which have gone through a quality check and up to global standards, would be approved.

“We are very serious about making sure approved institutions are of a high standard globally … it is not enough to gauge the quality of education by local standards only.”

She said that if the country was serious about wanting international recognition, then it must be ready to compete in a level playing field.

Dr Hou said that as Malaysia strived to move up the value chain, “grooming world-class human capital such as financial professionals through talent development programmes will be vital, not only for our international image but also puts us a notch up in competitiveness.”

Great opportunities

Universiti Malaya Business and Accountancy Faculty deputy dean (Research and Development) Dr Edward Wong, who attended the forum said: “ACCA has provided many great opportunities for our students, particularly in terms of industry collaboration.”

Dr Hou says the ministry is keen to work with the private sector in promoting Malaysia as the ‘first choice’ for accountancy studies.

He said that it was always good to collaborate with relevant industries to upgrade themselves with the latest developments.

Another participant, Multimedia University lecturer Samuel Jebaraj Benjamin said that he enjoyed sharing his views and listening to the opinions of others.

“I also came to hear what the the experts had to say with the many challenges ahead.”

Benjamin added that he hoped the government would participate more actively in making Malaysia become an education hub for especially in the field of accountancy.

The day-long forum addressed several issues, such as the safety and security of foreign students living in Malaysia and whether they should be allowed to stay back for work experience after they graduate.

There was also room for discussion on teaching methods at another session themed “Developing Professional Accountants: Bridging the gaps between academia and business”.

Sunway University College executive director Elizabeth Lee, who was one of the panelists said that “the method of teaching in Malaysia has to change”.

“With so much to study from the textbook, we are spoon-feeding our students, but are we infusing thinking in our teaching? Where is their room for thinking?”

The right focus

She said that it was important for students to be involved in the community, regardless of the courses they were taking, as this would help in their character- building, which was important when students started working.

ACCA Asia Pacific Education head Rhys Johnson, who was among the speakers present, spoke on “the role and value of accounting technicians in developing the accountancy profession worldwide”.

Lopez says that ACCA Malaysia wants to ensure that all approved institutions are of a high standard globally.

Rhys said that employers should focus on the skills of their potential employees and what they can do, rather than focusing on their academic backgrounds.

“It is good to get graduates from varied backgrounds, because you tend to get different viewpoints which is good for the company.”

However, he did not dismiss the importance of examinations.

“Exams are a benchmark to show that they have the required academic knowledge.”

With so many possible routes into the accountancy field, and input from academics and professionals alike, the forum ended on the right note with ACCA Malaysia pledging to work closely with institutions of higher learning.

“We really want to work with public and private education institutions to provide exemptions for students, and try to align the syllabus to make sure they get the most out of their course, so a forum like this definitely helps, in terms of looking at what each of us needs to work on,” said Lopez.

She added that graduates were the ambassadors of an institution, and the quality of its graduates would in effect reflect the standing and credibility of the institution.

by Alycia Lim.

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Tips On Writing Style for Your CV

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

These tips below are to help everyone write a more presentable CV. You might find it useful to print them out so you can reference them while you write.

  • Take time to write well
    Make sentences and descriptions interesting, and compelling rather than being dull and unimpressive. Vary your sentence structure and vocabulary. The idea is to make the sentences and description honest yet impressive.
  • Appearance counts
    Check everything you enter into your CV for typo’s grammatical errors and spelling errors. You can do this easily by copying the text into a word processor and running a spelling and grammar check on your work. Employers reject CVs that contain poor language and other such errors
  • Read it through
    Once you have finished updating your CV go and view it and read it through carefully to check what you have entered is error free
  • Use the correct language
    For example: If you are intelligent write in an intelligent way. If you are going for powerful high flying jobs, write in an imposing way
  • Key words
    If your area of employment has key or specialized words used to describe aspects of the work then make sure you use these words in your CV. This makes it easier for the reader to summarize your skills as they read
  • Use numbers not words
    “4500″ has more impact and is easier to interpret than “four thousand five hundred”. Where possible be precise rather than using generalizations or vague statements.

Tips on what to put in your CV ( and what to leave out):

  • Tell the truth
    It is not difficult for an employer to do background checks, if you are applying for an important position it may even be standard practice. New services are available to employers these days whereby they can have a personal investigator/ agency do a background check on any candidate they choose. Therefore, make sure the information you provide is accurate and truthful. Do not try to cover up certain aspects of your CV, as the consequences of being found out are always far worse than what you are trying to cover up. Be positive about your achievements, and be prepared to sell yourself. Make it clear why you are the best candidate for a job
  • No excuses
    Do not include the reasons for leaving a job in your employment history. If an employer really wants to know they will ask. Prospective employers do not expect to see reasons so will often think people making excuses have something to hide
  • Skills matter
    Draw attention to your skills and strengths as well as your qualifications – You can do this in the professional objectives section of your resume and also in the any other details section. You should definitely consider this approach if you are applying for jobs where you have no prior experience
  • Sell your skills
    Do not just state what skills you have but briefly explain why they are beneficial. Do not go into excessive detail, remember to be concise and to the point
  • Impress an employer
    Provide examples of how you solved problems existing within the workplace and what the beneficial results were
  • Your Objectives
    Do not underestimate the importance of the professional objectives section of a CV, it describes who you are and what you want.

Important finishing touches for the perfect CV:

These tips will help you write a more presentable CV. You might find it useful to print them out so you can reference them while you write.

  • Be selective
    It can be acceptable to leave out details of some past employment if the experience it gave you was not relevant to your current job application. Be careful not to actively hide information from potential employers, if asked tell them
  • Be relevant
    Include relevant and recent experience or achievements. You may have to leave out other less relevant experience, but your resume will be more concise and easier to read. Remember, the person reading your resume is pressed for time
  • Correctly prioritize your CV
    Use the controls provided within the any online recruiting website to ensure that important information is placed towards the top of your CV. If you are applying for a particular area, target your resume specifically at this area. Where you are applying in paper form, then again make sure that your resume is complete and follows the correct format
  • Proof
    Give evidence to support claims about skills, abilities or achievements wherever possible. One may provide certificates, awards, results, transcripts, and so on to support there claims about their skills, abilities and achievements
  • Location
    Employers in USA do not like resumes which contain personal information, for example hobbies, race, age or marital status. In the UK most employers do like to see information about your hobbies. Therefore, be aware of what is required for where you live and your type of job. In some cases employers cannot legally require certain information from you, use this to your advantage
  • Audience
    Do not distribute your CV to people who will not be interested in it. Send to your existing network of friends, colleagues and ask others to help. However, be grateful to them and take the time to work along with them when they try to help you. Do not simply expect them to do everything for you. One must remember, you are marketing yourself and therefore, your CV should be about you.

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