Archive for April, 2010

WWF proposes new policy on environmental education

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

JOHOR BARU: The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has proposed a new policy on environmental education to the Education Ministry to enable a more permanent and structured environmental syllabus for subjects in primary and secondary schools nationwide.

WWF senior environmental education programme officer Nor Shidawati Abdul Rashid said the policy would make environment education a vital part of the school syllabus by bringing it into the classroom.

“Under the current National Education Policy, environmental education is carried out on an ad hoc basis. Based on the proposed policy, we hope that elements of environmental education will be included in school subjects like English, Bahasa Malaysia, Geography and Biology,” she told reporters during an Earth Day seminar held at Sunway College Johor Baru.

Nor Shidawati said a study was carried out together with Universiti Malaya and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia to get evidence to lobby for the environmental education policy.

“We presented the draft to the Education Ministry last December,” she said, adding that she hoped the ministry would look into the draft by June this year.

She explained that teaching environmental education on a more permanent basis would be pivotal in spreading awareness on nature conservation especially to the future generations.

Read more @ http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2010/4/26/nation/6127638&sec=nation

Secondary Stage

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Teachers will draw on a range of teaching and learning models such as direct teaching, modelling, inductive, enquiry and constructivist approaches.

The choice of approach will be determined by the objective and the needs of pupils, recognising that some subjects will draw more heavily on some models than others. Consistent use and carefully selecting and combining approaches has a major potential for improving pupils’ learning.

Acquiring and learning skills, procedures and academic knowledge

Approaches include:

  • direct interactive teaching;
  • modelling;
  • demonstration;
  • coaching.

Developing and acquiring concepts, reasoning, processing information and thinking creatively

Approaches include:

  • inductive (classifying);
  • enquiry;
  • concept attainment;
  • visualisation;
  • using metaphor;
  • bridging.

Constructing knowledge, addressing misconceptions, solving problems and reasoning empathetically

Approaches include:

  • constructivism;
  • group problem solving;
  • role-play;
  • dialogic teaching.

Read more @ http://nationalstrategies.standards.dcsf.gov.uk/node/98019?uc=force_uj

Primary Stage.

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Most teachers and other practitioners use a wide range of pedagogic approaches including direct, inductive, exploratory, experiential, enquiry and problem-solving approaches as well as social or relationship approaches.

Part of the professional knowledge and expertise is in matching appropriate pedagogic approaches to learning needs.

Within each of these approaches, teachers and practitioners will draw on a range of teaching strategies, techniques and tools, including ICT-based resources.

The increased flexibility within the Primary Framework aims to encourage teachers and practitioners in applying their teaching approach and pedagogical choices according to the needs of learners and the context of learning.

The National Curriculum programmes of study set out the knowledge, skills and understanding and the breadth of study, with a strong emphasis on inclusion in order to provide effective learning opportunities for all learners. Schools should consider this at all levels of curriculum planning, which will include setting suitable learning challenges, responding to learners’ diverse learning needs, and overcoming potential barriers to learning and assessment for individuals and groups.

The Primary National Strategy learning and teaching framework (Excellence and Enjoyment: learning and teaching in the primary years, 2004) covers the following areas across the primary curriculum:

  • planning and assessment for learning, looking at how opportunities for learning can be created and this learning can be assessed;
  • creating the right conditions for learning, the development of the community in the classroom and how learning can be collaborative as well as personalised;
  • understanding how learning develops, focusing on the key aspects of learning including enquiry, problem solving, creative thinking, information processing, reasoning, evaluation, self-awareness, managing feelings, motivation, empathy, social skills and communication.

The aim of the Primary Framework for literacy and mathematics (2006) is to support and increase all children’s access to excellent teaching, leading to exciting and successful learning. It embeds the principles of both Every child matters: change for children (2004) and Excellence and enjoyment: learning and teaching in the primary years (Ref: 0518-2004).

Read more @ http://nationalstrategies.standards.dcsf.gov.uk/node/97601?uc=force_uj

Screening of Year One pupils for 3Rs

Monday, April 26th, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR: The first screening for Year One pupils nationwide under the literacy and numeracy programme (Linus) has been completed, with two more scheduled before the end of the year.

Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the results of the formative assessment to identify the literacy and numeracy needs of the pupils were being tabulated.

“Initial findings show that of the total number of pupils screened for literacy, 36.3 per cent passed. For numeracy, 45 per cent passed.”

The underlying reason for the relatively low percentage of passes is that the pupils had just started Year One.

“Some did not go to preschool. We are confident that the percentage will be much higher during the next screening, especially since all the mechanisms are already in place.”

Under the Linus programme, implemented this year, pupils are screened on reading, writing and counting to identify their weaknesses prior to placing them in their proper classes.

The remedial programme is designed to ensure students acquire basic literacy and numeracy skills at the end of three years of primary education.

Muhyiddin, who is also deputy prime minister, said the ministry’s target was to increase the literacy rate among pupils to 90 per cent this year from the current 87 per cent.

“The first screening was in March, the second in June and the final one in September.”

There is also a health screening to identify children with special needs.

“The pupils’ basic literacy acquisition is evaluated through 12 constructs of reading and writing skills.

“They are categorised as having acquired these basic skills when they have mastered constructs one to eight.”

Those who have not mastered the skills would have to undergo the Linus programme and pupils with learning disabilities will be channelled to special education classes.

“It is important that pupils acquire basic literacy and numeracy skills early so that the teaching and learning process is effective.”

The programme also helps teachers ensure pupils are literate at the start of their primary school education.

Teachers have and will continue to undergo training.

From last November to February this year, more than 16,000 teachers have been trained.

There will be continuous monitoring, supervision and evaluation of the programme, as well as the establishment of  “FasiLinus”, to ensure the success of the programme at district levels.

FasiLinus will comprise experienced teachers based at each of the 154 district education offices.

They will undertake coaching and mentoring, and the capacity building of remedial teachers and school administrators, as well as help schools prepare corrective action plans.

Read more @ http://www.nst.com.my/Current_News/NST/articles/15linu-2/Article/index_html

How safe are our schools?

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

Parents often take it for granted that their child is safe from predators at school. But when TAN CHOE CHOE and SONIA RAMACHANDRAN visited some primary schools recently, they were concerned with what they saw

THE school bell rang and scores of children burst out of the school gates, running helter-skelter out onto the road. Some loitered around in small groups outside the school compound.

Some of them were only as young as 7 but they were milling about unattended by adults while waiting for their transport to arrive.

A few were meandering through the throng of cars outside their school.

Surveying a few primary schools in the Klang Valley over the last two weeks, the New Sunday Times found that most of these young children were not only on their own, but were more than willing to talk to strangers.

Asked what he was doing, a Year One pupil sitting alone by the roadside opposite his school said: “I’m waiting for my mother. I think got traffic jam, so she’s late.

“It’s always like that when she comes to school.”

Then he countered the journalist’s question with a string of his own: “Why are you taking pictures? Did you shoot one of me? Can I see?”

It was 10 minutes after the bell rang to signal the end of classes for the day.

A lot of things could happen in the space of 10 minutes.

Left unsupervised, this child or any of his schoolmates could be snatched or pushed into a car by those with ill intentions. No one would be the wiser until it was too late.

A graver source of concern was that journalists could walk in and out of the schools without anyone bothering to stop them.

Although there were security guards stationed at the gates at some of the schools, they paid scant attention to those who walked in.

No one bothered even when the team whipped out a camera and started snapping pictures inside the compounds, like in the case of one primary school in Jalan Kuchai Lama.

The gates were wide open but instead of manning the gates or monitoring the comings and goings of adults and students, the security guard remained seated in the guardhouse.

In a school in Brickfields, the main gates were manned by security guards but there were side gates that were open and left unguarded.

On stepping into the school through one of the side gates, the team asked one student if they could enter.

“Go in-lah. No problem,” she said with a flick of her wrist.

At another school in Taman Desa, people were seen parking their cars outside the school and walking inside but no one took notice of them.

A social worker, Shoba Aiyar, said even kindergartens were easily accessible to the public.

When she was distributing leaflets in Petaling Jaya and Jalan Klang Lama late last year, she found that the main gates of most kindergartens she visited were not locked.

“I could walk straight into the classrooms, which were also not locked.”

There were a few classrooms that were locked electronically but almost always, on seeing her, a child would happily unlock the door as the teacher was occupied elsewhere.

“They don’t even know me but I could stroll in and out as I liked. Perhaps, we are lucky in that there are not that many people with ill intentions around. There are so many opportunities for them to strike. It’s all a question of whether they want or don’t want to.”

by Tan Choe Choe and Sonia Ramachandran.

Read more @ http://www.nst.com.my/Current_News/NST/articles/secucol1/Article/index_html

Some solutions to curb indiscipline in schools

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

IT is unbecoming of students to be involved in gangsterism, bullying, rape, drug, assault on teachers and many other offences. The amazing part is that these incidents are taking place within the school premises under the watchful eyes of the principals, teachers and discipline teachers.

It seems that the schools are unable to control such incidents and I just wonder how many more have gone unreported on the pretext of safe-guarding the name and dignity of the school.

What has gone wrong and who is to blame? Instead of pin-pointing any short-comings, let us look for solutions. In my view, the following should be carried out by the school authorities within the school premises:

> Moral subjects such as tatarakyat (then) and civics should be taught and priority should be given to this subject. Students must be made to understand the meaning of love, respect and care among themselves. They must be warned of the repercussions if they break the law.

> Students must be taught the value of life and friendship. They must be made to understand that gangsterism, bullying, rape, drugs and hurting their schoolmates and teachers will result in criminal offence and if convicted, they will be sent to prison, or they may be sent to rehabilitation centres such as the Henry Gurney School.

> More talks and campaigns within the school premises must be organised with the co-operation of the police, Bar Council and A-G Chambers. Students caught breaking school rules must be suspended indefinitely or attend counselling sessions by qualified counsellers while their parents and caretakers must be notified.

> Students who are repeat offenders should be sacked from the school and be referred to the police for counselling.

Such stringent measures are necessary to curb unwanted incidents. Besides these measures, parents and caretakers should also play a role to educate their children on the value of life and the importance of education.

Society should not shun and avoid the dejected students but play a role in guiding them to the right path. Without proper guidance and direction, the students may get involved in unhealthy activities such as gambling, drugs, alcohol and sex.

One should also ponder the effects of modernisation on young students who are influenced by the things they read and see in the Internet and movies. We have yet to come up with a measure to control such information as the Multimedia Act has yet to be widely used against students.

by Gunasegar Thiyagaraja.

Read more @ http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2010/4/25/focus/6129394&sec=focus

HMs must be righteous

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

I READ with interest your article “School head-aches” (StarEducation, April 4) and would like to comment on some aspects. The principal or head teacher must have special qualities. Not every teacher can be at the top.

One important quality that a school head must have is to have a good working relationship with teachers and other colleagues. There are some amongst them that you may dislike, yet as a head, you have to accept them for what they are. Learn to include them in a way that they can serve the school well.

Abuse of power as pointed out by the writer is common. From minor infringements to criminal acts, principals and heads of schools have at times violated the trust given to them.

This is part of the unsavoury culture that has permeated every sector of Malaysian life! It is also the biggest challenge faced by those who are sincere about cleaning up the act so that there is change and progress.

Why do the honest often fear to report the evil doers? The whole system is thoroughly flawed. Any complaint or report will result in a backlash to the whistle-blowers.

Enough evidence must be presented to substantiate any report. Sometimes, such evidence is hard to come by. We all know what is going on but do we have proof of such wrong doings?

Many honest school heads cannot spill the beans on his or her fellow colleagues because of the lack of evidence. There are school principals who are tempted with “offers” but that does not mean that all of them accept such “offers”.

Whether one is corrupt or not, will depend on one’s moral values. Sales people are prepared to share their “winnings” with the party who has facilitated the sale or business.

There are school heads who initiate various money-making projects when it is obvious that such projects do not benefit the students directly.

On the pretext of improving academic excellence, they encourage students to buy numerous workbooks that not only burden parents who have to fork out more money, but also teachers and students who are dumped with additional work.

All this is done because a percentage of the profits, derived from the sale of workbooks, is supposedly offered to the school head.

Abuses as pointed out in the article, also take the form of taking on additional responsibilities or chores to please the school principals or heads. Many teachers carry out these additional chores willingly so that they can be rewarded with promotions and better perks.

However, this is unnecessary work that should be given to clerks and those in the administrative services.

School heads have the ability to simplify work for teachers who need to concentrate on teaching.

I must say that a principal’s job is by no means an easy one. Those who take on the job of a school head should carry out all tasks to the best of their ability.

The Education Ministry must on its part, carry out regular evaluation to ensure only the best remain. In my years of service in the education sector, I have seen all kinds of school administrators and they range from the best to the worst.

There is still so much to be done before the rot consumes us all. I am glad your newspaper has come out honestly with this article.

by Victor Chew.

Read more @ http://thestar.com.my/education/story.asp?file=/2010/4/25/education/6086842&sec=education

Improve your pronunciation

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

LEARNERS’ pronunciation and confidence will significantly improve when they know the rules that apply to speaking English.

To help learners with this, The 4S Approach to Literacy and Language – Accelerated English Programme teaches The 4S Keys to Pronunciation.

A very simple Key to remember is that multi-syllabic nouns usually stress the first syllable, e.g. gar/den; den/tist; pi/lot; oc/to/pus.

The main exceptions to this rule are those words that have an obvious “root” component from which they have been made, e.g. invisible; reporter. When a “root” is part of a word, it is usually the root-syllable that is stressed.

The 4S Key To Pronunciation teaches: In a multi-syllabic word, the stress also can be on the root or base from which it has been built. For example: ex/pend/i/ture; e-val/u/a/tion; re/sour/ces; in/fla/tion; e/vac/u/a/tion.

In contrast, when a word is used as a verb, the stress usually shifts further down the word to another syllable. Compare the following sentences:

The President will address the Congress (verb) – What is your new address? (noun).

If one is unsure what syllable to stress in a bi-syllabic word, it is “safe” to stress both, e.g. ham/mer.

Another easy Key to remember is: double consonants usually split, e.g. but/ter, span/ner.

Speakers need to know also that when a word or syllable ends in a consonant, it is said to be “closed”, and the previous vowel is usually short or regular.

The relevant 4S Key teaches: Closed syllables end in consonants and the vowel is usually ‘short’, e.g. ban/ner; cof/fee.

Another way to remember this Key is: consonants usually close – vowels usually open.

When the double consonants split in a word, the first syllable is “closed off” by the first of the double consonants, which makes the preceding vowel “short” or regular, e.g. hap/py; tof/fee; win/ner.

Double consonants have another Pronunciation Key: they usually follow short vowels.

The final “e”

In English, thousands of words end in the vowel “e”. A characteristic one needs to remember for pronunciation purposes is that it is rare for the final “e” in a word to be pronounced.

Usually, when a word ends in the vowel “e”, it is silent but the preceding vowel is “long”, i.e., it says its own name, e.g. bake; scene, ride; note, cute.

The relevant 4S Key To Understanding Pronunciation teaches: The final silent “e” lets the other vowel do the talking.

There are only a handful of common words that say their “final e”, i.e. apostrophe, catastrophe, epitome, hyperbole, recipe, posse, coyote – the, me, she, he, we, thee and the names of people such as Marie, Debbie, Annie, Kylie, Ronnie, Donnie, etc.

There are other closely linked 4S Keys that relate to vowels making their “long” sound. The first one refers to “open” syllables, i.e. those ending in a vowel, e.g. mo/tel, Pe/ter, du/gong, ti/ger, ta/ble, ho/bo, pre/fer, no/tice.

Open syllables usually end in a long vowel. In contrast, closed syllables end in a consonant.

The main exceptions to the Open Syllable Key are those words that end in the vowel “e” where the final “e” is silent, e.g. take.

Another 4S Key teaches about “stand-alone” vowels, i.e. syllables that consist of just one vowel such as a/gent, e/ven, i/tem, o/dour, u/niform, ex/am/in/a/tion, etc.

Stand-alone vowels are usually long.

The common exceptions are words beginning with “a” such as a/bout, a/gain, a/do, a/mount, etc.

In these words, it is now common practice to make the “uh..” sound one hears in comma and panda.

Knowing the keys to understanding pronunciation is a sure way to quickly improve one’s ability to pronounce words correctly.

Of course, there are exceptions that need to be remembered, for example with words that have been borrowed from other languages, or because of the presence of what are known in 4S as the Influential Consonants.

When a learner has mastered the Key that relates to a particular “clue” word, dozens of other related words can also be pronounced correctly and with confidence.

For example, when one knows that the “o” vowel in mo/tel is pronounced as a “long” sound — because open syllables usually end in a “long” vowel — one can also correctly pronounce related words, such as mo/tion, mo/tor, ho/tel, vo/ter, vo/cal, so/cial, po/tion, de/vo/tion, and so on.

by Keith Wright, the author and creator of the 4S Approach To Literacy and Language (4S) — a modern, innovative and proven method of accelerating the learning of English.

The 4S methodology and the associated Accelerated English Program (AEP) mentioned in this fortnightly column are now being used internationally to enhance the English language proficiency of people from a diverse range of cultures and with different competency levels.

E-mail
contact@4Sliteracy.com.au
for a free copy of the 4S file: “101 Wrongly Pronounced Words”.

Read more @ http://thestar.com.my/education/story.asp?file=/2010/4/25/education/6012468&sec=education

Leading the way

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

The country’s education system can progress only if it is led by those who are willing to acknowledge their own inadequacies, rectify them and move forward:

FOR many of us school teachers who have been around for quite a while, incompetent leadership at many levels of the education system is something that we have encountered so frequently that we may have subconsciously accepted it as the way things naturally are.

It is like another one of those things in your life that you cannot change and have to put up with. A physical disability perhaps or living with the neighbour from hell.

You don’t question why, you just move along doing the best you can given the circumstances. Then there are times that even when the truth stares so squarely in our faces, we fail to acknowledge it.

Perhaps our senses have gotten so used to mediocrity and inadequacies on the part of those above us that we have given up expecting anything more. In fact ,we may have even forgotten that alternatives are possible.

Sure we know that not all the people who are sitting in positions above us deserve to be there. Sure we know that it is not meritocracy or a fair assessment of leadership potential that placed them there above us in the first place, but again, we have lived with it for so long that we have accepted it as part of the way things just are.

We know that among those above us, there will always be at least one or two, who do not have what it takes to be in that position of leadership.

We know that it is not the qualities that define a leader that put them there in the first place.

Lack of vision

We sense the deficiency, the lack of vision and purpose, the unclear definition of goals, the absence of charisma and dynamism.

We cannot feel the strength of character that spills over from leader to follower, nor the spirit that inspires, encourages and defines the paths and purposes of their efforts.

And yet, despite sensing these things, we often sink back either in apathy or resignation, knowing that there is not one thing we can do about it.

So let them be, we reckon, let the leaders be what they are. After all, we as teachers are quite clear in our heads about what is required of us.

Our true bosses are not them, so let’s just get on with our work, meet our deadlines, get those lessons taught and hopefully raise some standards among our students.

Besides, things are quite comfortable the way they are. We don’t want head-teachers or administrators breathing down our necks endlessly with their relentless, fault-finding missions.

We also do not need them coming up with some new-fangled programmes or ideas that would increase our already precariously tilting, overloaded work-cart.

No thanks. We are quite content with our administrators and heads.

We know our job and we know how to get it done, and it doesn’t matter who is officially above us.

So let’s just sit back, relax and enjoy the show while it lasts. Who knows what’s in store for us in the future.

But does it really not matter who leads us when so much has been talked and argued about teachers’ present duties and the deep dissatisfaction caused by the unyielding burden of documentation?

We hear reports of the approaching “transformations” that seem to augur winds of change and promises of alleviation from our grievances.

Sometimes though, it is hard to shake off the demon of skepticism that sits on our shoulders reminding us of past promises of relief that never came to pass because they crashed halfway into the barriers set up by individuals, who despite being unclear of the concept, occupied certain places of authority in the system.

We can’t help wondering why it is that new policies or programmes that seem so fundamentally and intrinsically good when they are announced, eventually get watered down to mere words and numbers on papers for documentation purposes.

There are times also when you can’t help feeling that the chunk of time spent on getting these “words and numbers” ready could have been spent on more meaningful student-teacher interaction that produced real educational results.

Flawed messages

Then there are times you wonder who are the leaders above the leaders. Has something been lost in translation.

Has the cascading principle of getting information across resulted in more and more diluted residues reaching the real level of implementation?

Is it due to the vision problems of the leaders along the way whose job it is to ensure the wholeness and purity of the message reaching us?

Or, is the message itself flawed, drawn up by leaders who lack true understanding of education, who have never skimmed beyond the surface of our educational philosophy?

Has it been tainted by specks of conceit and self-importance or could it have been blotches of personal ambition and glory that caused the distortion?

The average Malaysian government school teacher is not in the position to decide on who becomes her school principal, who heads her panel, or department.

Neither can she decide who is in charge of other departments in the nation’s education network. In other words, “ours is not to question why”, although the questions sometimes loom over our heads in black, clouds that threaten to split open anytime.

Most of the time we cannot choose our leaders. And if our leaders turn out to be less than competent, then we have no choice but to follow our own judgment, conscience and intrinsic sense of right and wrong.

No one wants authoritarian megalomaniacs, but no one wants an ineffectual and indecisive leader either. But even what we want is dependent on us, whether we have become so comfortable with the insipidity of the situation that we have ourselves suffered a loss of vision and fail to see the deficiency.

We have failed to see that we need leaders who can lead. Leaders who are truly competent, who know what they are doing, who have a honest passion for the education of the children of their nation, formulate all their rules and policies, their curriculum and programmes around these goals, rather than personal ambition, pride, and egotism.

Knowing the direction

What after all defines a leader? It is not enough to sit in an ivory tower and point the way. Inspirational author, Oswald Sanders says that we can only lead others as far along the road as we ourselves have travelled.

A leader has to know the road so clearly that he is able to pull others after him.

He has to have the capacity to inspire and to influence. So how do we get these leaders. It is after all so easy to theorise and say grand-sounding words, but how do we actually ensure that we have leaders of such calibre if they really do exist in the first place.

And how do we know for sure that things won’t remain the same despite having the best of leaders. Who decides who is to lead anyway?

We are often told that true leaders are made, not born and that the mantle of leadership requires a lifetime of exercise. There are some however who look upon the position of leadership as part of a “rehabilitation” exercise.

They feel that allowing a totally unsuitable, incompetent candidate to be in the position of leadership will shake him up, turn his path around and transform him. That is also why there are schools that have allowed students with long discipline records and no evidence of leadership potential, into positions of student leadership.

What they may fail to realise is that incompetence often breeds incompetence. We do not promote people to leadership position because we feel sorry for them or in hopes that it will cause them to turn around.

A leadership position is not rehabilitation grounds nor a half-way house. Followers of leaders are often constrained by the boundaries of the leader’s own potential. This could also be the reason why many teachers who started out with such fire in their souls became cold and frustrated. They were fenced in by the limitations of those above them. Authority we respect, look up to, believe in and be confident with. It provides structure in our lives and defines our role, and direction.

We want the authority of leaders with integrity who confirm our deepest sense of justice.

We can also never forget that each of us teachers too become instant leaders whenever we face our students.

In time, perhaps some of us will also hold positions of authority in various departments of education.

And it is vital that we look upon that position not as one that allows us to lord over others, or to flaunt our supposed superior capabilities.

Rather, it should be perceived as one in which you are best able to serve the purposes of education with the humbleness that comes from knowing that no matter how much you know or have achieved, you can never quite completely arrive.

by Mallika Vasugi.

Read more @ http://thestar.com.my/education/story.asp?file=/2010/4/25/education/6095766&sec=education

Less salt, please

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

SALT is one of our essential food seasonings but a survey has shown that Malaysians’ salt intake is 25% higher than the healthy standard set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

As revealed by the Food Intake Among Malaysian Adults Research 2002/2003, the salt intake for Malaysian adults is 2,575mg a day.

According to the Malaysia Diet Guidelines 2010, the salt intake should not exceed one teaspoon, which is equivalent to 2,000mg, a day.

A high salt consumption can be linked to various health problems such as high blood pressure, osteoporosis, asthma and obesity.

What is salt?

Salt is the common name for sodium chloride. It is the sodium component of salt that is important. There are about 2.5g of sodium in every 6g of salt.

Why do we need salt?

The body needs a certain amount of sodium to function properly.

Sodium helps to maintain the concentration of body fluids at correct levels. It also helps cells to take up nutrients.

Why is too much salt bad?

When levels of sodium are too high, the body retains too much water and the volume of bodily fluids increases.

Many medical experts believe this process is linked to high blood pressure, or hypertension, which in turn is linked to a greater risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.

Excessive salt can be dangerous for young babies.

While an adult will be able to get rid of salt from the body through the kidneys into the urine, very young babies cannot process large quantities of salt as their kidneys are not yet developed.

If they are given food with a high salt content before they are at least four months old, they may suffer from kidney, liver and brain damage.

How much salt should we eat?

Experts recommend that adults eat 5-6g of salt a day (equivalent to one teaspoonful). It is estimated that if average consumption was cut to 6g a day, it would prevent 70,000 heart attacks and strokes a year.

And this is not just the salt you add to your food; according to many studies around the world, most of the salt we eat is already in our everyday food like bread and meat. Small amounts of sodium can be found naturally in some foods such as eggs and fish.

The salt we sprinkle into our cooking and on cooked food accounts for only 10%-15% of our intake.

Packaged and processed foods are thought to account for around 75% of the average person’s salt intake.

How to reduce salt intake:

·Remove or cut down salt in cooking. Use herbs, spices and other seasonings to enhance flavour.

·Carefully monitor the salt content of processed food you consume. Choose products with lower sodium content.

·Eat more fruit and vegetables – they contain potassium which balances the effect of salt on the body.

·When eating out, make smart choices like asking for your food without salt or for dressings or sauces on the side, so you can only have as much as you need.

Your taste for salt is acquired. It can be unlearned – reduce your salt intake gradually and your taste buds will adjust.

How to look out for salt when shopping:

Buying food that is low in salt is one of the best ways to cut down on salt. So, before putting anything into that shopping cart, check the label to see how much salt is in the food per 100g:

Although the labelling of salt content in food is not compulsory in Malaysia, most imported goods state how much salt is in 100g of food.

Most food labels, however, give the sodium, rather than the salt content, of food.

You can still find out the amount of salt in a product by multiplying the sodium content by 2.5

by Hariati Azizan.

Read more @ http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2010/4/25/nation/6119967&sec=nation