Archive for May, 2010

Teachers need help to improve their English

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Nowadays, parents with school-going children often complain about the glaring errors found in English examination papers.

While not condoning the errors and mindful of their serious implications, I believe that the teachers who make such errors do not even know their mistakes.

They set exam questions in English just like they do in Bahasa Malaysia, or in Chinese or Tamil.

They perform as they know how and that is the level of their understanding and proficiency in the English language.

They have certificates from the Education Ministry to prove it and so, can we rightfully fault the teachers?

Let’s look at the reality on the ground.

Many teachers are trying hard.

It is through no fault of theirs that they went through a Bahasa Malaysia or vernacular medium of schooling in primary followed by a Bahasa Malaysia medium of instruction from secondary till university.

And now, they are expected to write in flawless English.

The ministry may claim that these teachers have attended English training courses.

But a short course cannot remedy years of neglect, especially so in the mastering of a foreign language.

Much more is needed to be done and more time is needed.

Also, the dubious grading system for English papers at different levels of our public exams has given rise to their false confidence.

There can be two main causes for their weakness, resulting in the errors in the exam papers they set: a poor command of grammar and the tendency to “think local and write global”.

In other words, they think in Bahasa Malaysia or Chinese or Tamil, translate it and then write it in English.

In this context, I fail to understand the ministry’s decision to recruit some 300 English teachers from Britain to help alleviate the problems faced by our teachers.

Certainly, these teachers can teach good grammar but I have serious doubt about their ability to understand how we Malaysians think and write our brand of English.

On the other hand, our retired English teachers will definitely do a better job.

They know how we think and they can also teach good grammar.

They are the teachers to employ and I believe many are more than willing.

As for learning phonics (one main reason for bringing in these native speakers of the language), let’s get real.

We will never sound like the British and we don’t have to!

Our teachers are crying out for help to improve their English.

by Liong Kam Chong, Seremban.

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Funding health needs

Monday, May 31st, 2010

FALLING sick these days is by no means a cheap matter and, depending on the medical attention you require, the cost can easily run into the thousands. This is why some individuals delay seeking treatment. The EPF Medical Withdrawal scheme permits a member to access retirement savings to pay for his/her or their loved ones’ medical treatment.

Q: Who can apply for this withdrawal?
A: If you are below the age of 55 and have a balance in Account 2, you can apply for this withdrawal to pay for your or your family’s medical treatment of critical illnesses.

Q: Can I make a withdrawal to pay for my wife’s medical treatment of critical illnesses?
A: Yes, this scheme is available not only to members but also to your spouses, parents or siblings.

Q: What is covered under this medical withdrawal scheme?
A: This withdrawal is designed to assist you, as an EPF member, with the expenses of seeking medical treatment in severe cases that might not be covered by any medical coverage provided by your employer.

It covers a full range of critical illness, namely major organ transplant, coronary bypass surgery, multiple sclerosis, stroke and cancer. For the full list, refer to our website,

Q: How frequently can I apply for this withdrawal?

A: You may continue to apply for this withdrawal to pay for the treatment of critical illnesses as long as there is a balance in your Account 2, subject to the maximum amount eligible for withdrawal.

Q: Can I apply for this withdrawal if my medical expenses have been borne by my employer?

A: No, you cannot. However, if the medical coverage covered by the employer is not adequate, then you may submit an application to withdraw the balance of the medical expenses incurred.

Q: How much can I withdraw?

A: You can withdraw the actual medical treatment cost or all of your balance in Account 2, whichever is lower. If part of the medical treatment is being borne by the employer, you can withdraw the balance of medical treatment costs not covered by the employer, subject to the available balance in your Account 2.

Q: So how do I apply for this withdrawal?

A: You are required to complete the EPF 9D (AHL) form and provide certified true copies of your identity card, the medical report from the specialist issued by the hospital or medical institute, the original medical examination bills, which must not be more than a year old from the date issued by the hospital or medical institute, and a letter of confirmation from your employer to determine if the medical expense has been borne by the employer.

For overseas medical treatment, you need to provide an approximate cost of treatment.

You also need to produce proof of relationship between you and the patient and your bank account book or your current account statements of an account that is still active.

Q: How will the payments be made?

A: For local treatment, payment is made directly to the hospital after the original medical bill is received, while payment for overseas treatment is made via direct crediting to your bank account, based on the estimated medical cost. For reimbursement, payments will be directly credited into your bank account.

For further enquiries regarding withdrawal for medical treatment, contact EPF’s Call Centre at 03-8922 6000 or log on to

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Teach and be happy

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Teaching is about the gift of sharing, the power it has to influence and the platform it provides to sharpen minds and skills. It is also about the ripples of growth and development it can propagate.

When you teach, you are giving your knowledge, wisdom, energy and passion.

You must therefore project the right persona, show a positive attitude and display moral courage. To do this, you must be focused and the core of your being must be on an even keel. You must have specific goals and objectives.

One has to realise that teaching is a cumulative process.

A student may be more drawn to, or influenced by one set of teachers in a particular year, than another, but over the years, the results will be there for all to see.

Sum up the years of cause and effect, sum up the years of teacher and student interaction, and throw in a dash of the outside world influence and you will get the formula or complete guide to X factor in a child.

There are teachers who may feel insecure because they are young and inexperienced. There are others who feel they cannot carry out their tasks effectively just because they are in schools without adequate facilities — to them I say these are just temporary setbacks.

A good teacher can and will indeed make a difference with true grit and determination.

Take a moment and think. Can you not better yourself with what you have?

Don’t take your grievances into the classroom. Prepare your lessons well. Be interesting and be interested in your job. Get to know your students.

Try, on occasion, the warm and spontaneous approach.

On other days, be brisk and business-like.

Articulate your thoughts and speak clearly for only then will your students understand you.

Seek help from fellow colleagues who are better than you.

Encourage student appraisal and peer observation.

Learn from your mistakes. Be guided by constructive criticism. Compare yourself to others who are doing a better job than you.

Stop the envy and start the learning.

Reflect progress and move on.

And remember, good things come to those who wait.

You may not become the model teacher or be in the “right” team.

You may not even get that promotion or the transfer you want soon, or be rid of all that paperwork yet.

But, if you wait it out, as German author Eckhart Tolle puts it, “this too shall pass”.

I believe that if you focus your energies on seeing things in their proper perspective, the good things will surely come.

I would like to share with you the following words from Oprah Winfrey.

“I’ve come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint — and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you.

“It is confidence in the way we think and lead our lives that allows us to keep looking for new adventures and new directions for this is what life is all about”.

If you can feel this why you became a teacher, then you’re on the right track.

So teachers, go teach and be happy!

by Nithya Sidhhu.

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Beyond computer literacy

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

IN today’s ICT-enabled learning ecology, conventional training programmes to produce technically competent teachers are no longer adequate. To learn and work effectively in an increasingly information-rich environment, students and teachers must use ICT effectively.

The necessity for this skill has already been proposed, rationalised and justified many times over in expert journals globally.

Teachers are responsible for establishing the classroom environment and preparing the learning opportunities that facilitate students’ use of technology to learn, communicate and develop knowledge. But how well are they equipped to provide their students with these skills and opportunities?

Conventionally, ICT competencies refers to the sets of basic knowledge and skills that are exhibited by a user in a digital era. Hence, various agencies within the Education Ministry have conducted training courses to equip teachers with ICT knowledge and skills.

Concurrently, teachers have also been trained at the school, district or state level, and some have learnt ICT skills on their own as part of their on-the-job-responsibilities.

Through these training programmes, the Ministry envisages that all teachers will move forward from being “computer literate” to actual users of supporting software developed by various agencies, and even capable of planning and designing effective constructive environments for students.

The question now is: what is the impact of these training initiatives among teachers? Are our main stakeholders – the students – achieving expected outcomes? Are the training models used adequate to meet today’s demands?

We propose that conventional training models be reviewed and transformed in alignment with research findings and current global demands for new learning environments.

To be equipped with technical ICT skills and knowledge is the key to effective implementation of ICT in teaching and learning, but are these sufficient to address the current ecology of ICT-enabled learning?

We surmise that training standards are as much about knowledge of curriculum and pedagogy, reflecting a shift in emphasis away from ICT as content to ICT as a tool.

A national ICT Competency Standard may serve as a reference point for development of ICT training programmes. This standard can ensure that all the trainings are of high quality and are relevant to the specific needs of teachers and students.

The following categories of ICT competencies and performance indicators should be considered as benchmarks for all ICT Training Programmes for Malaysian teachers:

·Knowledge and Skills in basic ICT tools, including productivity applications software, web browsers and learning management system.

·Planning and Designing Rich-Learning Environments to support student-centred learning among students of diverse needs, including the use of collaboration and communication tools to support problem-based learning for a community of learners (COL).

·Pedagogical strategies to develop innovative ways to encourage students’ critical and creative thinking skills, including preparation of tools, rules and roles for students in a community of learners.

·Application of ICT-enabled Assessment and Evaluation to maximise learning through self-assessments of problem-solving, communication, collaboration, creative & communication skills.

·ICT-enabled Continuing Lifelong Professional Learning, Practice and Productivity for Just-in-time learning, including active participation in knowledge communities, sustaining own lifelong development and contributing to other COL.

·Ethics and moral values surrounding the educational use of computers and software applications.

We advocate the establishment of a Malaysian ICT competency benchmark that will govern and direct the realisation of a transformed cohort of teachers who could contribute to higher quality education ­— and in turn produce a higher quality competitive workforce for the wellbeing and advancement of our economic and social development.

One of the core skills surrounding this aforementioned issue is an ability that is directly related to the rapid expansion of the World Wide Web (WWW). It requires teachers and students with superior competencies in using ICT to sieve through and choose relevant information that is available on the vast sum of human knowledge that is represented and available on the Web.

The WWW had long ago reached singularity where information is infinite. Where Web 1.0 was about information storage, we are now in Web 2.0 where collaboration and global projects are the norm (think Facebook) and fast heading into Web 3.0, where individual IQs will no longer matter. What will instead matter will be collective intelligences, which bring together the collective IQs of teams of global citizens to work on decision making processes that has at its base a collective IQ amounting to millions of points.

Where is Malaysia in the blossoming of new areas of studies in the fields of NBIC (Nano, Bio, Info and Cogno) technologies? In a world where these new areas of studies are being presented at primary and sometimes preschool levels, where does Malaysia stand in the complete overhaul and transformation of its curriculum?

Learning the new rules, new roles and new ways of a learning environment that go hand-in-hand with ICT integration requires that teachers have opportunities to participate in an extended process of professional development.

Teachers need time to acquire technology skills and develop new teaching strategies for integrating ICT into the classroom.

At present, except for occasional in-service programmes, teachers often have no time built into the school day for their own professional development.

In conclusion, it is important to ensure that all students have the opportunity to use ICT for student-centred projects. This is so that participation is enabled in complex, authentic tasks within a collaborative context and development of higher-order thinking skills will be developed and achieved.

ICT that is used for deeper learning and that support a challenging curriculum will result in improved teaching and learning, increased student motivation and higher levels of student achievement.

Although there has been a strong push to have teachers trained and to supply educational software and hardware into the hands of teachers, many obstacles to implementation still exist.

Equipment may not be placed in easily accessible locations. Hardware and software often pose problems for teachers in the classroom, and just-in-time technical support is unavailable. Teachers may lack the time and the motivation to learn ICT skills. School administrators and the ministry must persevere to find time for teacher professional development especially with regards to the upgrading of ICT competencies for the realisation of the new learning landscape.

by Assoc Prof Fong Soon Fook, the School of Educational Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia. He can be contacted through

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Educational psychology

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

Educational psychology is the study of how humans learn in educational settings, the effectiveness of educational interventions, the psychology of teaching, and the social psychology of schools as organizations. Educational psychology is concerned with how students learn and develop, often focusing on subgroups such as gifted children and those subject to specific disabilities. Although the terms “educational psychology” and “school psychology” are often used interchangeably, researchers and theorists are likely to be identified in the US and Canada as educational psychologists, whereas practitioners in schools or school-related settings are identified as school psychologists. This distinction is however not made in the UK, where the generic term for practitioners is “educational psychologist”.

Educational psychology can in part be understood through its relationship with other disciplines. It is informed primarily by psychology, bearing a relationship to that discipline analogous to the relationship between medicine and biology. Educational psychology in turn informs a wide range of specialities within educational studies, including instructional design, educational technology, curriculum development, organizational learning, special education and classroom management. Educational psychology both draws from and contributes to cognitive science and the learning sciences. In universities, departments of educational psychology are usually housed within faculties of education, possibly accounting for the lack of representation of educational psychology content in introductory psychology textbooks.

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Building character at tertiary level

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

Rising global competition and the changing socio-political landscape require strong individuals. “Book” education alone will no longer suffice in building people with good character and values:

THE Higher Education Ministry (MOHE) places great focus and expectations on the character development of graduates. It needs to develop many more graduates who not only possess knowledge but a good character. They need to have a good foundation in character development in the four years of their tertiary education.

This is part of the ministry’s initiative in the development of quality and well-balanced human capital. This said, the responsibility of developing one’s character lies with the individual.

Within the purview of the university, the ministry will ensure that the focus on students’ character building and development, and on the quality of education are given equal importance. In the final analysis, a person’s character is more important than his intellect.

The aim of higher education, however, is to produce graduates who possess high intellect, who are knowledgeable, competitive and competent as well as able to put into practice the knowledge gained. But knowledge is of no use, if reasoning power and wisdom are lacking.

Personalities can open doors, but it is character that will ultimately keep those doors open for a long time.

It is this character that institutions of higher learning must instil in our students.

Graduates must be innovative but this must be accompanied by high cognitive skills (the ability to be analytical and critical, to solve problems and to reason). They must be able to communicate with clarity and confidence. Part of the strength of a person’s character is evident in how his point of view, stand, and reasoning are articulated.

Multilingual graduates, who are able to communicate effectively and are technology-savvy, when complemented with good values and character, will form the nation’s invaluable human assets.

In facing the challenges of the 21st century, the Government is working hard to turn Malaysia into a developed nation. With rising global competition and the changing socio-political landscape, the call for strong individuals to face this increasingly demanding world is essential.

“Book” education alone will no longer suffice in building successful people. We must instil good values in our students. This is necessary if Malaysia is to realise the vision of the New Economic Model, the Government Transformation Programme as well as the 10th Malaysia Plan (2011-2015).

Accordingly, higher education institutions (HEIs) must play a vital role to produce academics, intellectuals, scholars as well as skilled and semi-skilled workers who can contribute to the socio-economic development of the country.

Focusing on students’ holistic development will enable them to develop critical soft skills attributes as listed in the Generic Skills Attribute (GSA) module.

The GSA module, implemented recently in HEIs throughout the country, constitutes seven important elements – communication skills, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, team work, effective communication and information management, entrepreneurial skills, ethical and profession skills, as well as leadership quality.

The students we develop in our HEIs, will have an impact on the success of the nation.The focus on students’ holistic development curriculum is intended to result in:

> Human capital with first class mentality. This includes one’s ability to use knowledge in a proactive, creative, and innovative way. They will have technical skills and management competence to handle changes in the global environment to upgrade the quality of life and contribute to the harmony and wealth of the nation and the rest of the world.

> Knowledge, ideas, creativity and innovation from research to form the platform for the advancement and growth of the nation and global society; and

> The fusion of multiple strengths that will fortify unity, national identity, social justice, and peace for the nation and the global society.

The higher education system therefore aims to consolidate a community of learners to help create a society with integrity and a strong sense of identity.

Our higher education system has worked towards the strengthening of the learning and teaching that takes place in HEIs through continuous upgrading of the curriculum and intervention programmes. In addition, industry-focused research activities are on the increase to meet the needs of the market.

Our research and undergraduate programmes must focus on market needs. Universities must thus offer innovative and creative platforms, and programmes and exposure that will facilitate and result in increasing our students’ global outlook.

But in their quest to pursue the hard sciences, HEIs must not forget the fundamentals that lie in the development of soft skills.

Whilst it is acknowledged that the building of one’s character begins from young, the challenge of HEIs today is to provide the space and platform for our students to develop holistically.

It is vital that we provide them with the necessary tools to help them make the best of life’s choices, for the choices they make will ultimately affect the nation.

by Datuk Dr. Zulkefli Hassan,

Higher Education Ministry secretary-general.

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Too few schools, too many students

Friday, May 28th, 2010

RAWANG: Social problems could be the reason for the escalation of disciplinary problems at the co-ed SMK Seri Garing in Rawang.

Rawang state assemblyman Gan Pei Nei said the majority of students in that school come from families in the lower-income group.

“Checks revealed that most of the parents are not well off, forcing them to work long hours. This does not give them enough time to spend with their children,” Gan said. “Some are so poor that they cannot send all their children to school.”

She said Rawang used to be a plantation area before it was rapidly developed.

“Despite the boom, not many schools were opened here, resulting in existing schools like SMK Seri Garing having more than 3,000 students. The school had to accept students from the surrounding six housing areas.”

Despite the bad publicity the school had been receiving of late, Gan pointed out that this was one of the best schools in Rawang.

“It has produced students with good results throughout the years, making it a much sought-after school,” she said. Gan suggested that vocational-type schools and community colleges, such as those established in Selayang, be opened in Rawang to cater for students and youths who were not keen on attending normal classes.

She also said that despite the bad publicity, the school did not actually suffer from serious disciplinary problems.

“The problems faced in that school are similar to those experienced in other schools.”

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Tell the truth

Friday, May 28th, 2010

CHILDREN need adults to say it as it is. They can understand what you expect of them when you state it clearly without any put-downs or pressure. Being honest with our children can help draw us closer to them. In turn, they will let us know exactly how they feel without having to exaggerate or make up stories.

Take, for example, a two-year-old who is running across the room. His mother calls out to him: “Don’t run! You will fall down and hurt yourself.”

What she really wants him to do is to walk or find something to occupy his attention. She should say: “You are looking for something to do. Let’s search the toy box for something you like.”

When children misbehave, parents will point out what they do not like and tell them to stop that behaviour. Children need to know exactly what the right kind of behaviour is. They need to know that making mistakes is part of learning.

When five-year-old Janet lost her water tumbler in the kindergarten, her mother got upset with her and scolded her for being careless. When Janet’s mother lost her shawl some time later, she felt bad about what she had said to Janet.

Janet’s mother realised that she had been too harsh with her child. She could have said to Janet: “We lose things sometimes. I was upset when I lost my shawl. I did not want that to happen. I bet you did not want to lose your water tumbler either. We can both learn to be more careful with our belongings.”

Many parents tend to hide the truth from their children. When they are unhappy, they would tell their children: “Oh, nothing is wrong.” But children can sense that something is amiss. They would appreciate it if adults are honest with them and tell them the truth.

Children cry when they are sad, frustrated or in pain. When they wail, adults around them will say: “Oh, don’t cry.” They deny the young child his feelings. Some may even say: “Don’t be silly “or they would ask: “Why are you crying?” It is rare for adults to say to their children: “You need to cry because you feel bad about something. You can tell me or show me so that I can help.”

Your five-year-old returns home with a picture he has drawn to show you. Upon seeing his picture, you say: “Oh, how lovely!” without asking him what he wants to say about the picture. He may be displeased with his work or has a great deal to share about what he has done.

Without taking the time to find out, you have brushed aside your child’s feelings and made no attempt to learn what he wishes to share. Much can be done to enhance the relationship between parent and child, if the parent pays attention to the child first.

Children take their cues from adults. If the parents cannot get along, they will also display negative behaviour. They hear what their parents are saying to each other. They are probably troubled by the negative exchanges between their parents. So be mindful of what you say. Set a good example for your children to follow.

After a hard day at work, parents often find it impossible to manage their active children. When things go wrong, they would say: “There is no way I can get things done at home when my girl is so active.”

What the harassed parent can say to her daughter is: “I need you to help me by giving me some time to clear the house before we play.” Alternatively, she can focus on her child who cannot wait, and do the cleaning later.

Offer simple explanations to young children about what is going on. As they grow older, you may want to allow more time for their questions. My daughters often have more questions to ask me when I have something important to share with them. Instead of talking, I end up doing more listening. This usually ends on a positive note. It works for both parents and children.

There will be times when I find it challenging to explain things to my children or find comforting words for them when they are hurt. When I am unable to come up with the appropriate explanation, I would say: “I don’t have the answer right now. Maybe I can find out later.” Children appreciate our efforts to make them feel worthy.

by Ruth Liew.

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Alimuddin: Hold sports week in middle of the year

Friday, May 28th, 2010

KLANG: The Education Ministry wants all schools to reschedule their annual sports week from the beginning of the year to June.

Its director-general Tan Sri Ali­muddin Mohd Dom said this would give schools time to organise more sports competitions before holding the major sports meet.

The Ministry is putting increased emphasis on sports to help curb childhood obesity and other illnesses, he said.

Alimuddin added that there was a need to focus on children who don’t exercise and take part in sports.

“We can’t just focus on studies and leave out sports. Students must be active. We want schools to hold cross-country runs and more sports activities which involve other schools,” he said.

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‘Schools should work with police liaison officers’

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR: Police liaison officers continue to visit schools regularly to interact with students and teachers in a bid to stop students from being involved in gangsterism and other crimes.

A police spokesman said the visits occurred once a month and were conducted by officers from either the nearest police station or the district headquarters.

“The school and the parent-teacher association (PTA) should cooperate with the police. Feedback from them is important because they are involved with the school on a more regular basis compared with the liaison officers,” said the spokesman.
Federal Criminal Investigation Department principal assistant director (anti-vice, secret society and gaming) Datuk Hasnan Hassan, however, said gangsterism was not widespread in Malaysian schools.

He said cases involving students were mainly isolated incidents of fights breaking out, and police investigations revealed that secret society gangs were not recruiting students.

“Police investigate the reports, which are either lodged by teachers or the victims. But it has to be clarified that bullying is not an indication of gangsterism.
“If there is extortion or elements of gangsterism, then police will investigate the students involved and who they are linked with outside the school.

“Once secret society members are identified, police will arrest these suspects and hold them under preventive laws.”

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