Archive for February, 2011

Paper Trail

Monday, February 28th, 2011

In 2008, paperboys made up 13% of newspaper deliverers, vs. 70% in 1990

H. Armstrong Roberts / Corbis

Ask a former paperboy about the job, and you’re likely to summon a misty-eyed recollection of predawn bundling and knee-high snow. “It meant a lot to me as a kid,” Today host Matt Lauer said of his first job. “Today it’s basically something that doesn’t exist.”

With physical newspapers making their way to an ever shrinking number of customers, paperboys (and girls) have become an endangered species. In 2008 they made up just 13% of newspaper deliverers, down from nearly 70% in 1990. One reason for their demise: as cost-conscious newspaper companies shifted to large distribution centers, their carriers had to deliver bigger bundles of papers across a wider area. To entice adults with cars to fill this role, newspaper executives switched from using the term paperboy to independent delivery contractor. They also changed the job: few carriers today collect money from subscribers. The result is a different delivery experience for consumers. Instead of a kid throwing the paper on your porch (or in the bushes), an adult in a car puts it in your roadside mailbox or drops it at the end of your driveway.(See TV journalist Diane Sawyer’s journalism career.)


Learning Science, Maths In English Doesn’t Make One Less Patriotic – Dr M

Monday, February 28th, 2011

PETALING JAYA:  Mastering the English language will not make one less patriotic as English is currently the language of knowledge, says former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“This is the reality that we have to face if we want to understand Science and Mathematics for the betterment of our lives, and to build the nation towards becoming a developed nation, we have to understand foreign languages.

“If today, we decide to learn Science and Mathematics in English, it does not mean we are less patriotic,” he said in his keynote address at the Biotechnology Forum 2011 titled, “Past Wisdom For Future Direction”, at a hotel in Subang Jaya, near here, on Monday.

“Both Science and Mathematics are not static subjects but expanded through time with numerous research and inventions, producing hundreds of research papers which are all in English.

“Without the ability to translate all these new knowledge, the Malays will be left behind in some of the most important fields,” Dr Mahathir said.

He said those who understood the subjects and could translate them would not be interested to be translators their entire life, adding science would still progress after their deaths and newer works would need translation.

“Mastering English is very important, and those who don’t understand English would lose out in terms of new scientific findings.”


Games of the past and present

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

TEACHING is considered a noble profession and teachers are held in high esteem throughout the world for the services they render as professionals.

Since I consider teaching a vocation, my last six years had been spent with much determination trying to get students to excel in their studies. I’ve also instilled in them the love for sports and the outdoors.

My entry into teaching as you can see is quite recent as I used to work with an advertising agency before. I now teach English and Science at a Chinese school in Kuala Lumpur.

It was a real paradigm shift as I had to quickly pick up skills and adapt to a new environment.

I must say that I have assisted students in class to either marginally improve or to excel in their studies, but it is the outdoor activities that have so far left me quite befuddled.

It is amazing to see how students study and play today, compared to children from the last four decades.

I remember travelling with my mother to Semenyih, Selangor, in the early 70s during the year-end school holidays where I would stay with my cousins who lived on a rubber estate near the town.

Semenyih was tranquil and slow-moving in those days.

As a child, there was nothing more wondrous than looking for guppies in clear-running streams in the estate.

I also waited anxiously then for the ripened rubber fruits to “pop” and spill its seeds for us to collect.

It was the carefree days that I cherished most. Childhood games then were simple and some were invented with discarded items that were readily available at home or in the neighbourhood.

We often played with multi-coloured rubber bands that we “stole” from home.

It was sheer delight to play with the rubber bands as we could tie them and form a skipping rope.

We could also stack them and “hit” them. It was easy to identify the winners of the game for their trouser pockets would be bulging witht rubber bands!

There was also another card game that was immensely popular.

For those before my generation, the game was played with discarded cigarette packs, but over the years, picture cards of famous airplanes, ships, and even war movie heroes, were used

The game was usually played by two partcipants, or if there were more players, they could play in teams.

Each team would then place a given number of cards which would be arranged or stacked on the ground.

A large square or circle would then be drawn around the cards. Another important tool of the game was one of a pair Japanese slippers!

What the player had to do was to stand from a certain distance and throw the slipper in a certain way to break the stack of cards. The cards that fell out of the square/circle was for the player to keep.


When ‘A’ is average

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

Teachers lament that many of our high-achieving students lack knowledge and are upset that our education system is ‘glorifying’ them.

A FAMILIAR refrain among teachers that seems to be getting louder with each passing school academic year goes something like this. “Why are there increasing numbers of students who after achieving strings of A’s in their latest public examination, are found to lack the skills and knowledge for the take-off point at the next level of their education.”

I hear Additional Mathematics teachers lamenting about their students who have problems with solving simple equations despite having scored an A for Mathematics in their recent PMR examination.

I listen to English teachers deploring the error-ridden essays handed in by their “A -for- English” students.

“How am I supposed to teach them the more advanced stuff when they have not even grasped the basics?” asks one Mathematics teacher.

They are the ones who have come in with a “B” minimum, she says. She also wonders how the teachers with the “C” and “D” students are coping.”

“You don’t want to know,” replies her colleague who teaches English.

“ Here I am having to talk about literary devices and teach a 200-page novel to students who can barely read and write in English.”

Of course all these students have been certified through public examinations as having achieved the competence required to be in their present level and to follow the prescribed syllabus.

To someone who is not a school teacher, it may be a little puzzling.

How is it that students who possess documents to validate their “excellence” in a certain subject, are later found to possess little more than average competence in the same subject.


On equal footing

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

In a multi-religious country, the people can be strong observers of their own faith without putting somebody else down.

IN athletics, all runners start from the same point. No one starts first because they consider themselves better than the other. It is only at the end of the match that we see who is the best runner and who is not.

This is also the case with religion. We all begin the race – our faith journey – on an equal footing the moment we are born. We are only one participant among various participants on our journey of life which starts from the womb and ends in the tomb. The journey is not over until our death and the judge is God. Therefore, we need to be much more subtle in our evaluation of religions.

If anyone sees the concept of religious pluralism as a threat to the supremacy of Islam, Christianity, Hinduism or any other religion and fear that it would result in that religion being equated with other beliefs, then he or she is wrong.

Religious pluralism is not about the superiority or inferiority of any religion; it is about active engagement with diversity. Even if one claims to be superior, such claims will have no standing outside one’s own faith circle.

Religious pluralism is the view that all religions are equally valid and lead to God. Thus, no one religion is inherently better or superior to any other religion unlike “exclusivism” (where one religion is supremely true and all other religions are false) and “inclusivism” (where followers “tolerate” the other religion on the assumption that everyone is saved by the religion of the inclusivist).


Choose to be happy

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

ARE you happy? Everybody wants to be happy but how many of us are truly happy?Why is happiness so elusive to us when it is a everyone’s desire to be happy?

It is such a paradox. Happiness is a natural occurring feeling, yet we relate to happiness as something special and rare. Our conditioning has taught us to cloud our experience of happiness with fearful beliefs, scepticism and endless misperceptions.

Some of us are afraid to show our happiness for fear of being thought of as arrogant, selfish or juvenile. We fear that too much happiness will defile our professional status or ruin our chance of being promoted at work. We think that being overly happy will upset others, draw envy or invite rejection.

What is happiness? Real happiness is overcoming our negativity and beginning to count our blessings so we can experience the mysterious beauty of life. It is about learning to surrender, release the need to control and allow our lives to unfold in its own unique and organic way. It is about becoming fully human!

Look at the society we have collectively created. Most of us are too focused on our promising futures to be happy now.  Our busy schedules keep us in the constant pursuit of goals, we think have the potential to fulfil our insatiable thirst for success. We become overly engrossed in the chase for happiness outside of ourselves and we forget to let ourselves be happy now.

The ego’s conditioned thought is that something is missing and we look for the missing piece of the puzzle to bring us salvation. Nothing in the world can make us happy. Happiness is a choice that only we can make. Hugh Downs once wrote: “A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.”

The potential for happiness has been with us all along. It is the very nature of our unconditioned Self. As quoted in A Course of Miracles: “It is hard to understand what ’The Kingdom of Heaven is within you’ really means. This is because it is not understandable to the ego, which interprets it as if something outside is inside, and this does not mean anything. The word ’within’ is unnecessary. The Kingdom of Heaven is you.” When you are truly happy, you are radiant and you function fully. Most importantly, you feel loving for the essence of happiness is love. You are genuinely kind, generous, open, warm and friendly. There is no fear, no doubt and no anxiety where there’s true happiness. You are uninhibited and not restrained by dogma or beliefs. You are fully present in the moment and not lost in the past or the future.


Behavior: Are Criminals Born, Not Made?

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Cesare Lombroso, a high-minded 19th century Italian physician, is remembered for his series of skull measurements purporting to show that criminals have smaller brains than law-abiding citizens. Few criminology textbooks go to print without elaborate coverage of Lombroso’s folly, a reminder to students that nurture, not nature, is responsible for criminal behavior. Now, however, two prominent Harvard professors, James Q. Wilson and Richard Herrnstein, argue that Lombroso was on the right track: no one is born a criminal, but many are born with “constitutional factors” that predispose them to serious crime. “There is mounting evidence,” the professors write in their new book Crime and Human Nature (Simon & Schuster; $22.95), “that on the average, offenders differ from nonoffenders in physique, intelligence and personality.”

Though fair-minded and often generous to its intellectual opponents, the book is obviously an effort to discredit the reigning view that crime is largely, or entirely, the by-product of poverty, racism, broken families and other social disturbances. By focusing narrowly on environmental conditions that help breed crime, the authors write, criminologists overlook traits that many offenders seem to share. Criminals tend to be young males who are muscular rather than thin, and who have lower-than-average IQs and impulsive, “now”-oriented personalities, which make planning or even thinking about the future difficult. While these factors do not cause crime, they say, “the evidence leaves no doubt” that constitutional traits correlate with criminal behavior.

Wilson is a professor of government and author of Thinking About Crime (1975). Herrnstein, a psychologist, has been a controversial figure since his 1971 article in the Atlantic stressing the role of genetic factors in producing differences in IQ scores. The two professors have jointly taught a course on crime at Harvard since 1977. Says Wilson: “There is overwhelming evidence first that crime runs in families and second that early childhood precursors of crime seem clear.” One study of adoptions in Denmark from 1924 to 1947 found that chronically criminal biological parents were three times as likely to produce a chronically criminal son as were biological parents with no such convictions. Other research indicates that serious offenders are far + more hyperactive and difficult as children than non-offenders. The authors believe these high-risk children should be identified and given early help. They write: “The abnormal need for stimulation that impels a child toward hyperactivity may later express itself in a tendency toward psychopathy and its consequences, such as criminal behavior.”


Sabah’s STPM passes decline 1.66 per cent

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah recorded a drop of 1.66 per cent this year in the number of Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM) passes.

The Sabah Education Department revealed that out of the 6,185 candidates this year, 88.51 per cent achieved passes in all subjects. This translates to a drop when compared to last year’s 90.17 per cent passes from 6,020 candidates.

State Education Department director, Datuk Dr Muhiddin Yusin said that part of the reason for the drop could have been due to a decrease in passes for the Arabic Language and Accounting by 24.23 per cent and 15.08 per cent respectively.

Both subjects were among 13 (General Paper, Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese, Malay Literature, Usuluddin, History, Economy, Mathematics S, Mathematics T, Biology and Visual Arts) which also recorded a drop in passing rate this year.

On a more positive note, eight subjects recorded an increase in passing rate with the highest attained for Physics (20.40 per cent) followed by Literature in English (12.5 per cent).

Dr Muhiddin made the announcement of the state’s STPM results for 2010 at SMK Perempuan Likas here yesterday.

He said 12 schools in the state recorded 100 per cent passes and 21 candidates recorded a cumulative grade average of more than three for 2010.

The schools with 100 per cent passing rates are SMK Agama Limauan (Papar), SMK Perempuan Likas (Kota Kinabalu), SM Lok Yuk Likas (Kota Kinabalu), Kota Kinabalu High School (Kota Kinabalu), SMK Keningau II (Keningau), SMK Kunak Jaya (Kunak), SM Ken Hwa (Keningau), SM St Patrick’s (Tawau), SMJK Tiong Hua (Sandakan), SM Sung Siew (Sandakan), SM La Salle (Kota Kinabalu) and SMK Jambatan Putih (Tawau).

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Religious, yet rational society

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Serious and continuous efforts have to be made to promote mutual respect through discussions on religion that are interesting, enjoyable, enriching and beneficial to all.

RELIGION, it is generally believed, is inherently “irrational” because it is based upon faith, and to hold to something on the basis of faith means to be firm in one’s conviction regardless of any apparent “evidence” to the contrary.

If we accept these premises we must also accept the conclusion that the faithful are irrational, and the stronger one’s faith is the more irrational one becomes. If rationality is a virtue, faith must be a vice and antithetical to peace and socio-political stability.

What may be the consequences for a minority if the majority hold a particular faith and are unwilling to be proven wrong? Will the minority be allowed to hold a different belief even if it is certain that, as far as the majority is concerned, the belief is wrong?

If we accept the first principle of Rukunegara we cannot be thinking along that line – unless we believe that our country is actually founded upon an irrational principle.

In our country, Islam is the official religion, and we can find among its citizens a significant number of followers of various faiths living side by side peacefully.

After more than 50 years of independence the people have achieved a lot of wonderful things together.

No right-thinking citizen of this country will want to see what we have painfully built destroyed by our own hands due to intolerance and bigotry in the name of religion.

But religion is also too important to the majority of us for it to be undermined in the name of peace and unity. It is the obligation of the Government to safeguard the special place of Islam and protect the rights of non-Muslims to practice their religions peacefully.

Nevertheless, religion is still generally regarded as a sensitive subject, which means it needs to be dealt with carefully because it is likely to cause disagreement or make certain people angry or upset, leading to communal violence and bloodshed.

If we want to have peaceful co-existence, logically we must not say or do certain things out of fear that the faithful might get offended or become upset. It means that a certain amount of fear must be maintained in order to maintain peace.

Fear is not altogether bad, but irrational fear is. Irrational fear is, to my mind, our real enemy and the greatest obstacle to progress and unity. This fear must be conquered before it goes out of control.

It is counter-productive as well as dangerous to restrain discussion on religion out of fear.

Today, people may publish on the Internet if they are not able to do so in the mainstream media. It is actually futile trying to restrict, let alone stop, people from doing that. It is like attempting to enforce ignorance, which we all know is the root cause of fanaticism and bigotry.

The real challenge now is how to make discussions on religion more interesting, enjoyable, enriching and beneficial to all. Serious and continuous efforts have to be made to promote mutual respect instead of fear (mixed with hatred) for our continued peaceful co-existence.

In order to understand and to be understood we need to talk to one another.

If we do not talk about religion how are we going to understand it, and make others understand and appreciate its importance in our personal and social life?

The need for dialogue is even greater today in a globalised world where access to information and misinformation is almost unlimited.

But how can we discuss if we believe that being faithful means being irrational? Who will dialogue with the irrational people?

This brings us back to the first question: is faith inherently irrational? Based on our experience so far we can confidently answer in the negative. We should work harder and smarter to ensure that faith and rationality prevails harmoniously.

In tandem with the first principle of Rukunegara, the Government should play an important role in encouraging and supporting both intra- and inter-faith dialogue. Religion should be seen as something good for society, and as such it has to be shared, promoted and defended.


46,780 STPM Students Obtain Full Pass, Eight Score 5As

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR :  A total of 46,780 students or 92.49 per cent of the candidates obtained a full pass in at least one subject in last year’s Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) examination.

This is a drop of 0.06 per cent compared to the 48,481 students or 92.55 per cent of the candidates in the 2009 examination, Malaysian Examinations Council Chairman Prof Tan Sri Dr Dzulkifli Abdul Razak said Monday.

He said eight candidates obtained Grade A in the five subjects they sat for compared to 15 candidates in the 2009 examination.

“Seven of these candidates were Science Stream students and one was an Arts Stream student,” he said when announcing the results of the 2010 STPM examination, here.

A total of 50,576 candidates sat for the STPM examination from Nov 23 to Dec 16 last year at 760 examination centres throughout the country.

Dr Dzulkifli said the number of candidates scoring excellent results dropped compared to the previous year due to the difference in the cohort of candidates sitting for the examination from year to year.

“This depends on the cohort of students from year to year. We suppose that the cohort of students this year is not at par with students in the previous year. However, generally, they appear to be at par,” he said.

Besides the drop in the number of candidates scoring 5As, the number of candidates scoring 4As out of five subjects taken also dropped from 60 in the previous year to 39, while the number of candidates obtaining 4As in the four subjects that they sat for rose from 259 in the previous year to 297.

He said the performance of urban candidates was also much better compared to their rural counterparts where there were 946 urban candidates obtaining 5As, 4As and 3As compared with 105 candidates in the rural areas.

For urban candidates in the arts stream, there were 548 candidates obtaining 5As, 4As and 3As compared with 98 candidates in the rural areas, while there were 362 science stream candidates in the urban areas obtaining the same results compared with only seven candidates in the rural areas.

“We need to raise the quality of teachers and teaching in the rural areas as the situation or performance in the rural areas calls for more motivation for students to achieve better results,” he said.

Based on the performance of the schools, Dr Dzulkifli said the performance in 2010 was about the same as in 2009, that is, the minimum Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) was 2.32 in 2010 compared with 2.33 in 2009, he said.

He said that in 2010, there were 47 schools achieving a minimum CPGA of 2.80 or higher, compared with 25 schools in 2008 and 55 schools in 2009.

Of the total number of candidates who had registered for the 2010 STPM, 47,369 candidates were from government schools, 1,467 from private schools, 4,591 were private candidates, 235 candidates were from state government schools and 10 candidates from integrity schools.

All the candidates could obtain their results at their respective schools beginning at noon today except for private candidates who would receive their results by post besides surfing the Malaysian Examination Council’s (MEC) website, as well as the short messaging service (SMS) at the number 36363 or 15888.

Asked on the drop in the number of students sitting for the examination from year to year, he said this could be because the candidates or students preferred to take up studies at the diploma level compared to the STPM because it was easier to get jobs after completing their studies.

“The diploma is also perceived to be more professional compared to the STPM which is seen to be more academic. This may be among the factors that encourage students to take diploma courses instead of the STPM,” he said.

In JOHOR BAHARU, Johor Education Director Markom Giran said the precentage of candidates achieving a full pass rose 1.29 per cent to 96.79 per cent from 95.5 per cent in 2009 with 5,003 out of the total of 5,255 candidates obtaining a full pass or at least one principal for the subjects taken.

Of that number, 44 candidates achieved excellent results with a CGPA of 4.00 with eight of them sitting for five subjects, while the other 36 sat for four subjects.

Meanwhile, 28 schools recorded 100 per cent full passes compared with 23 schools in 2009 with the state’s CGPA at 2.45 points this year, he said.

In MELAKA, State Education Director Juliah Leman said there were 1,238 candidates achieving full passes compared with 1,252 candidates in 2009, and 17 candidates scored 4.00 for their CGPA.

Ten secondary schools recorded 100 per cent full passes including Sekolah Menengah Agama Jabatan Agama Islam Melaka (Jaim) Al-Asyraf, SMK Iskandar Shah, SMK Dang Anum, SMK Munshi Abdullah and SMK Teknik Melaka.

In KEDAH, State Education Director Abdullah Saad said in a statement that 95.3 per cent of the candidates achieved full passes this year compared with 94.87 per cent last year and exceeded the national average of 94.63 per cent.

He said 27 out of the total number of 3,609 candidates who sat for the examination obtained As in all the subjects they sat for with a CGPA of 4.00.

In KUALA TERENGGANU, the State Education Director, Razali Daud said the number of candidates obtaining five principals in the STPM last year rose to 8.70 per cent compared with 8.44 per cent in 2009, an increase of 0.26 per cent and 12 students emerged as the best students scoring 4.0 for their CGPA.

He said the percentage of candidates obtaining four principals rose to 44.06 per cent last year compared with 42.16 per cent in 2009 while those scoring full passes rose by 1.10 per cent to 97.09 per cent compared with 95.99 per cent in the previous year.


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Top student of SM All Saint Kota Kinabalu.

Kota Kinabalu: Top student of SMK All Saint in Kota Kinabalu, Teh Yee Heng (left) shares his joy with female students from another school, SMK Likas after learning that he has scored As in all the four subjects he has sat for in the STPM examinations. – Bernama photo

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