Archive for June, 2010

A teacher or a Trojan horse?

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Many Muslim thinkers and leaders today, being educated in the West and severed from their religious intellectual tradition, do subscribe to the idea that all religions are the same, subject to development and changes.

EVERY way of life is based on a certain way of looking at life. The way one looks at life is one’s philosophy, and since there are many ways of looking at life, there are many philosophies.

So, what is called “western” philosophy is the western way of looking at life and why should a Muslim follow it when Islam has its own philosophy? In the first place why should he listen to the West? Western ideas are not necessarily correct, the best, or relevant to everybody.

What a rational person would do to an idea is to subject it to rigorous examination and criticism. Take for example the western notion of freedom and human rights. A proper thinker would want to know the reason why western people think the way they do about those issues. Philosophy is human reaction to the problems of life; it cannot be separated from history.

Western idea of freedom has to do with their experience with Christianity. Taking a cue from the history of Europe, a western thinker would not hesitate to conclude that neither freedom nor civil society is conceivable as long as there is religion. Experience tells him that individual freedom can only be guaranteed when the role of religion is curbed to the effect that it does not interfere in social and political life the way it used to be in the Middle Age.

Some writers even believe that human condition is more tolerable under the pagan religion while the scriptural, doctrinal and universal religion may only cause disaster to human society.

by Md. Sham Ahmad

Fellow, Centre for Syariah Law and Political Science.

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The art of making decisions

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

The difficulty with making decisions when you are at university is that they can end up affecting the rest of your life. Decide to snatch an extra hour in bed rather than attend a lecture, and you miss hearing a point that could land you a first, inspire a thesis and secure you a Nobel prize. Plump for a pint at the Bell and Compass rather than at the Bee and Caterpillar, and you miss meeting the potential father of your five children.

Worse, at university you spend a lot of time learning to weigh up different bits of evidence and points of view, which is enough to make anyone inclined to dither. The first thing to do, therefore, is to be realistic about how much time and effort a particular decision deserves. Whether or not to have a fringe does not demand as much reflection as ditching your degree to travel in Afghanistan.

Don’t be afraid of using your instincts, but remember they aren’t quite the same as tossing a coin. Instincts based on years of experience making similar kinds of choices are more reliable than instincts based on whichever option features your lucky number. So, the more informed you are, the better your instincts are likely to be. If you have attended every lecture since the beginning of term given by Dr Yawn and have not heard an interesting point yet, choosing a lie-in will be less of a gamble than if you’ve never heard of him and don’t know what he’s supposed to be talking about.

Also, if you’re basing your decision on information, the information has to be up to date. Nor should you have selected it entirely because it backs up the decision you’re already inclined to favour – like staying in bed. It may help if you avoid getting bogged down in the rights and wrongs of the decision itself and try thinking instead about what you want to achieve as a result of it. Picture what will happen if you decide one way, and then if you decide the other, and go for the picture you like best.

Or, write down the advantages and disadvantages of your various options and see which list is longer. Talk to people about your dilemma. Putting it into words can often make it clearer in your own mind, and others may have experience of making similar decisions. Listen to them, even if they’re your parents, but don’t expect them to make the decision for you, even if they’re your parents.

Don’t make important decisions, such as getting a tattoo, or married, after a heavy night out. But don’t try to duck them altogether. Good decision-making takes practice, and the more often you do it, the easier it gets.

You shouldn’t get so hung up on the impact of your decision-making that you can’t make up your mind at all. Most decisions are reversible. Plus, you may not even be aware of making some decisions that turn out to be the most important ones of your career. In most cases, how far the decisions you make at university influence what happens in the rest of your life will be up to you to decide.

by Harriet Swain.

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Autistic teen displays his ability

Monday, June 28th, 2010

GEORGE TOWN: Teenager Yeak Ping Lian has had his paintings exhibited at international art galleries and auctioned off for charity – for as high as RM100,000.

And they are worth every cent. After all, Yeak, 16, is autistic.

Most of his paintings feature architecture such as the Petronas Twin Towers, Christ Church Malacca, Kek Lok Si Temple, Khoo Kongsi, Sydney Opera House and the Darling Harbour.

He also paints sunflowers, dogs, fish, roosters and horses.

One of his earlier paintings, the Ubudiah Mosque I (ink and watercolour on paper), raised RM100,000 in 2004 at a fund-raising auction for the Riding for Disabled Association Malaysia.

Some of Yeak’s works are currently on display at an exhibition at the Golden Sands Resort Cool Lounge in Batu Ferringhi until Wednesday.

The exhibition, organised by the hotel, BMC Travel and The Art Commune, was launched by the Raja Puan Muda of Perlis, Tuanku Hajah Lailatul Shahreen Akashah Khalil yesterday.

Yeak’s mother, Sarah S.H. Lee, said her son had severe fine motor skill problems and was diagnosed with autism when he was four.

She used to train him to trace numbers, alphabets and pictures.

Determined to give her son the best possible life, Lee pored over books on autism and tirelessly attended workshops and resource-sharing sessions with other parents.

When Lee discovered that Yeak could paint when he was eight, she set her sights of making him an artist.

Lee, who has two other children, hired three art tutors to train her youngest child.

by Winnie Yeoh.

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Towards brain based learning

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

Knowing how memory and the learning process work will result in a more complete education system.

Neuroeducation is defined as an education system that is based on principles of the neurosciences. It results in an education system that is built upon how the brain works.

Technology and advances in science and research have enabled us to peer into the smallest workings of memory, learning, brain development and networks.

It only makes sense that findings of this new research be incorporated into new educational practices.

Knowledge of the learning process and memory formation is and should be crucial to teaching practices in learning spaces.

However, neuroscientists have differing opinions as to when neural circuitry and brain networks are formed. Some advocate that neural networks are formed in early childhood, and perhaps to the early teenage years, while others propose it to be a lifelong process.

The brain is born with lots of redundant circuitry and cells, and a “pruning” process takes place during the developmental stage. This process is crucial in order to maintain an efficient brain.

There appears to be consensus that maximum efficiency and performance is during early childhood.

Need for experts

Children’s brains are most ready to learn and most eager for a high level of understanding and clarity. Therefore, childhood education should be delivered by the greatest expertise available.

by Dr Theva Nithy.

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The reluctance to read

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

The man who is fond of books is usually a man of lofty thought, and of elevated opinions – Christopher Dawson (an English scholar, who wrote books on cultural history and religion).

FOR many years, I tried hard to get my students to read. I pulled out as many tricks from my hat to get them into the reading habit, but somehow it seemed like a Sisyphean challenge.

When I asked them why they shunned reading, they claimed it was boring, and while I gently nodded my head in fake understanding, on the inside I was shell-shocked. I know they say ignorance is bliss, but this is unfathomable. Reading is … boring? Honestly, I was praying for an answer on how to get them to fall in love with this endeavour, as I know that there is no virtue like reading.

One day while reading The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama, a teacher walked past and said: “Why are you wasting your time reading books on black guys?”

And suddenly I understood.

The first word revealed in the Koran is “read”. It is perhaps the most poignant advice that religion can ever offer because reading liberates people from the looming darkness of the mind.

People who read extensively have a stoic confidence about them.

You will find that they are highly resourceful, extremely creative, and have a way of thinking that is completely disarming.

A thirst for knowledge

They generally understand issues on many levels and have an insatiable thirst for knowledge.

I often imagine ideas radiating from their minds on multiple levels. You will find that they are flexible in both their thinking and their ways — they have so much to offer because they have limitless resources. Readers fountain knowledge from the very core of their being, and it is impossible not to be affected by their charisma and love for life.

According to Dr Ambigapathy Pandian, who did a study on the readership behaviour among multi-ethnic and multi-lingual Malaysian students, those who saw teachers reading in school had a tendency to acquire reading materials and read more books themselves.

The best teachers I have known are all ravenous readers — one teacher who invited me home had shelves of books adorning the walls of her house.

She was mentally strong and one could never gauge her profundity — for in that single human being, there was a universe of books, and somehow, I had trust and respect for her because of her voluminous knowledge.

How do we get our children to read if we do not have a passion for it ourselves? Atwood H. Townsend said: “No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.”

Children are silent watchers and they emulate our actions, not our words. We should encourage the reading of fiction.

Many teachers make the huge mistake of saying “do not waste time reading storybooks”.

by Lynn D’ Cruz.

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Teenagers are not ready to be parents, says psychologist

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

PETALING JAYA: Teenagers who are below 16 years old are still immature physically, mentally and emotionally and are definitely not ready to be parents, said child psychologist Datuk Dr Chiam Heng Keng.

“A girl below 16 years old is not ready to bear the heavy responsibility of being a parent,” she said.

“Once she gets pregnant during her teenage years, she will be deprived of the chance of personal development as she will have to give her full attention to her baby.”

Dr Chiam said research had also shown that in most teen pregnancies, the mothers involved had always regretted their action as they had missed out on their childhood and adolescent life.

“Most teenagers are not ready when pregnancy occurs. They will often feel caught in a trap and experience resentment, anger and frustration,” she said.

Dr Chiam added that even if they decide to get married, very few would be able to form a happy family life.

“When the parents are not prepared to start a family, they are also unable to provide security and stability to their child.

“This will affect the child’s development, especially during the first five years which is crucial,” she said.

Dr Chiam said the main reason for underage pregnancies was parents’ failure to provide their children with the proper moral values. “If children are disciplined, they will not become sexually intimate when they date.

“Their values will also hold them back from having sex before marriage.”

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Teen pregnancies on the rise with 111 reported this year

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

PETALING JAYA: Teenage pregnancies are becoming a disturbing trend in the country based on the swelling number of girls seeking help from the Welfare Department about their predicament.

As of April, the department has already seen 111 such cases. This number is a dramatic increase compared to the 131 cases throughout last year. In 2008, there were 107 teenage girls who got pregnant.

They were placed at Taman Seri Puteri, a rehabilitation centre and shelter that provides training for youngsters, especially teenage girls who face social problems.

The statistics provided by the Welfare Department are just the tip of the iceberg, according to MCA Public Ser­vices and Complaints Depart­ment head Datuk Michael Chong.

“Many cases have gone unreported,” he said, alluding to how Malaysian families viewed the problem with great shame.

by Ng Cheng Yee.

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With only 1,500 words, Globish rules the world.

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

THE English language was not around when Julius Caesar landed in Britain 2,000 years ago. Some 500 years later, English, hardly comprehensible to modern ears, was spoken by a handful of people.

A thousand years after that, during the era of William Shakespeare, English was spoken by perhaps six or seven million Englishmen, and to quote a linguist at the time, “still of small reach, it stretched no further than this island of ours”.

How times have changed. Around the 17th century, English started to be exported to all corners of the globe. By the end of the 20th century, it had become the most widely spoken and written language in the world. Today, English in one form or another is understood by at least four billion people on planet Earth, hardly 400 million of them native speakers. English is truly the first global language.
English is not perfect. In fact, its imperfections are a boon to the language. It is not guarded by any institution, such as our Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) or Academie Francaise. These are the custodians of Bahasa Melayu and French respectively. True, as early as 1660, John Dryden argued for an academy “to regulate” English usage. It did not happen.

by Johan Jaafar, Featured Columnists, NST.
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Why we need to be proficient in English

Friday, June 25th, 2010

MUCH has been said about the importance of English in our schools and here is another to add to the sum total.

There is a saying that if you have something the world wants, it will beat a path to your door wherever you may be; but if the world has something you want, then you have to go out to get it.

As of now, what we want from the outside world is the latest knowledge in all fields of human endeavour. Undeniably, most of these are couched in English and to acquire them we have to be proficient in the language.

Having acquired and returned with new knowledge, the need is to disseminate it through learning institutions for the benefit of the country. Teaching it to those proficient in English is straight forward. But to recipients who are monolingual in Bahasa Malaysia, translations will be required, and this can be slow and time-consuming. Depending on translations alone is hardly an efficient way to keep up with the latest advances.

Perhaps that is why our government is encouraging bilingualism – English and Bahasa Malaysia – in our national schools. But individual proficiency in English will differ and it may require enhancement depending on one’s career leanings.

If one wishes to engage in local business or to take up more mundane occupations, then perhaps knowing Bahasa Malaysia alone will be adequate, but of course, a smattering of English will always help. But if one aspires to be a diplomat, a scientist or to enrol in an English university, then a greater depth in English is required.

Since Bahasa Malaysia is the national language, it has to be taught in schools.

It is the glue that binds our people together for national betterment.

English, on the other hand is the currency for international discourse, without which we would be isolated.

Hence, until such time when we are an advanced country and our national language is brought to a wider and impeccable level and our people can invent things the world will want, then the world will indeed beat a path to our shores to learn from us and in our national language.

by C.P.B., Kuala Lumpur.

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PTPTN loans to cover students from families with RM4,000 income

Friday, June 25th, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR: Institutions of higher learning (IPT) students from families with net income of less than RM4,000 a month will be entitled to full loan to cover fees and subsistence from the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) from July.

Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said previously, only students from families with net income of less than RM3,000 were eligible for full loan.

“Before this, students from families with net income between RM3,000 and RM5,000 were entitled to loan covering fees and partial living expanses while those with net income of RM5,000 and above were eligible to loan to pay up only their fees.

“The move will enable more IPT students to be eligible for full loans based on the criteria set such as taking accredited courses,” he told reporters after opening the IPT Entrepreneurship Development Direction Seminar here on Thursday.

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