Archive for February, 2011

Education NKRA aims to enrich lives, says D-G

Monday, February 21st, 2011

PETALING JAYA: The Education NKRA (National Key Result Area) will ensure that affordable, quality education is available to all as a means to improve lives, Education director-general Datuk Abdul Ghafar Mahmud said.

He said the Education NKRA was established to deliver a higher level of education and better student performance.

The NKRA, he said, was focused on holistic improvements on the students’ intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical aspects.

“The improvement of students at all levels is important to develop excellent human capital, which will result in a skilled workforce, so we can achieve developed nation status by 2020,” he said.

Abdul Ghafar also said the quality of teachers was the catalyst in ensuring the excellence of a nation’s education system.

Under the Education NKRA, a two-pronged approach is implemented involving a quality headstart in education, as well as pushing for a performance culture in the education system.

There are four sub-NKRAs aimed at increasing the enrolment of pre-schoolers aged four and five, ensuring all regular schoolchildren can read and count after the first three years of school, developing High Perfor-mance Schools, and offering incentives to principals and headmasters based on the performance of their schools.

Abdul Ghafar said pre-school enrolment last year was 72.42%, exceeding the Government’s target of 72% among 1,500 pre-schools.

“Since January 2010, 315 (government) pre-schools have started operating, with an additional nine classes in longhouses in Sarawak and community centres in Sabah which have been opened since mid-June,” he said.

This year, 2,765 more pre-schools are expected to be opened.

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Performance incentive for 924 school heads

Monday, February 21st, 2011

PUTRAJAYA: The Government has successfully identified 924 school heads who are eligible to be rewarded with the New Deals performance-based monetary incentive under the Education NKRA of the GTP.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said school heads who have exceeded expectations in the improvement of schools under their charge would be rewarded with RM7,500 each.

In addition, the 5% of top teachers from chosen schools would also receive RM1,800 with the remaining teachers each receiving RM900.

Muhyiddin, who is also the Education Minister said it was initially forecasted that only 2% of school heads would be able to achieve the target set for 2010.

He said the list of school heads and teachers who are eligible to receive the incentives of the New Deals would be finalised by the middle of this year.

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DPM: All have roles in education

Monday, February 21st, 2011

JOHOR BARU: The responsibility of improving the standard of education should be shared by the different stakeholders and not rest solely on the Government, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said.

Teachers, members of parent-teacher associations and the schools’ alumni all had a role to play, he added.

“We need to work together to ensure that the 5.6 million students in our country become useful members of society,” he said at the SMK Dato Jaafar golden jubilee dinner here on Saturday.

Muhyiddin, who is also the Education Minister, added that the Government was working hard to ensure that the transformation of the education system benefited all schools, even those in the rural areas.

The initiatives by the Government were to increase pre-school education opportunities, and ensure that pupils could read and write in the first three years of their primary education.

Muhyiddin also stressed the importance of extra-curricular activities, including sports.

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Stressing is easy

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Improve communication and increase your confidence by learning the right way to use and pronounce multi-syllabic words.

THIS week’s column is continued with the third instalment of the 10 techniques to improve speaking and writing skills advocated by the 4S-Accelerated English Program’s Art of the Alternative.

While the accent is the main, common feature that distinguishes the speech of different people from different cultures, the way words are pronounced — in particular, which syllables are stressed when a word is spoken — is a much truer indication of an individual’s English language competence. Often, it also indicates his or her confidence level.

For the person for whom English is an additional language (EAL), the key to being a superior speaker and to know how to pronounce words accurately is to understand how the syllables in words vary in the way they are “stressed”, depending on what Part of Speech a particular word is being used as.

There are rules that generally relate to how the syllables in words should be stressed, especially nouns and verbs.

(vi) Using different stress when pronouncing words as nouns, verbs and adjectives.

A sign of a superior speaker is to know how to stress or emphasise parts of words differently when they are used as nouns, verbs and sometimes as adjectives.

The 4S Approach teaches this Key to understanding pronunciation: dissyllabic nouns and adjectives stress the first syllable, but when the word is used as a verb, the stress is usually on the second syllable.


Reading, differently

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

FOUR short years ago, Microsoft founder Bill Gates predicted that reading would go completely online. The world would eschew books as we know it and instead read books using computers and e-readers; by extension, physical libraries would cease to be relevant or necessary. Bibliophiles scoffed at the prediction, attributing it to the indifference of someone who made his fortune making computers accessible to the Everyman.

The idea, four years ago, was difficult for book lovers to understand because they know that there is more to reading than just the written word. Touching a book, especially one that is cherished or whose reading has been anticipated and waited for a long time, can be an intellectually orgasmic experience. Breaking in a book, turning the pages, and watching its thickness move from right to left as the story proceeds and nears its end, is both a pleasure and a pain. The smell of books residing on shelves can trigger a hunger for the written word. These are experiences that e-books have yet to replicate.

Four long years later, technology and consumerism has leapt and bounded exponentially. And, although Gates’ prediction is still far from becoming absolute reality, it is a lot closer to the truth than book lovers might like it to be. E-book readers are still expensive, as are e-books. But, the sale of books online is galloping along, forcing big traditionally physical bookstore chains to close many of their stores.

But, the closing of bookstores does not spell the end for books. Books are still being bought, and people are still reading and collecting them. Only how they are buying it is changing. From a romantic point of view, the loss of the traditional bookstore, and the experience of browsing through one, is heart-breaking.

Standing where we are today, it is hard to imagine a time where paper books no longer exist. At this moment in time, it is still not feasible for paper books to disappear. If printing them cost too much, and yet computers and e-readers remained expensive, how would this affect poor people and their access to reading? Would this drive a literacy wedge between the haves and have-nots? If this world runs out of electricity and renewable energy is even more expensive, will people go back to thumbing through the humble paperback? But what happens if we run out of trees?


How One Teacher’s Angry Blog Sparked a Viral Classroom Debate.

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

Pennsylvania high school teacher Natalie Munroe has been suspended from her job over angry blog posts about her students

Matt Rourke / AP

When high school English teacher Natalie Munroe had a bad day at school, she didn’t just vent to her husband: she took it to her blog. Titled “Where are we going, and why are we in this handbasket?” and all but unknown to the world until earlier this month, Munroe’s website served as a chronicle of her “utterly loathsome” students. In one post, she advises students to go get jobs with the trash company. In another, she calls them “rude, disengaged, lazy whiners.” In yet another she doesn’t mince words, proclaiming, “There’s no other way to say this: I hate your kid.” Now Munroe, who has been temporarily suspended from her position, finds herself in the middle of a swirling online debate — not over what she did, but over what she said about the sometimes harsh realities of the 21st century classroom.

While it’s undoubtedly naive to believe in 2011 that a blog will remain anonymous — especially considering Munroe published the online musings using her first name, the initial of her last name and a photo of herself — her attorney, Steve Rovner, says legally she did nothing wrong to warrant suspension. Rovner says his client’s school district does not have a policy in place that dictates what teachers can and cannot do online and Munroe did not name the school, nor her students, in her blog posts. Still, while Munroe maintains what she wrote was meant only to serve as amusement for herself, her husband and seven of her friends who read the site, in publishing the rants to a blog — rather than, say, via a mass e-mail to friends and family — she opened herself up to the chance that anyone outside her circle could find the posts. (See TIME’s special feature “What Makes a School Great.”)

Someone did. Though she never could have predicted the fallout from what she thought were private rants, the full ramifications hit home on Feb. 9 when she was suspended with pay from her job at Central Bucks East High School in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Not long after, her face was plastered on the evening news. “I’m like anyone else in the world — when we encounter frustrations we come home, tell our family and friends about it,” Munroe told TIME. “I wasn’t fixating on these things, I wrote them down and moved on.”

A few days after her suspension, Munroe again logged onto her blog to write a different kind of post, titled “Bloggate- Day 1: The Scandal Begins.” (Though she removed all the old posts, this newer post is still available online.) In the post she laments her comments being taken out of context and says the positive things she said about her students in some posts were overlooked. But rather than wishing her plight would quickly fade from the spotlight, Munroe instead welcomed the discussion she thought her comments could spark. “There are serious problems with our education system today,” she wrote. “If this ’scandal’ opens the door for that conversation, so be it.”


Ulu Lubai shows way for rural schools

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

BY any measure, Sekolah Kebangsaan Ulu Lubai near Limbang in Sarawak is as interior as you can get. The term “interior” is very common in this state, which features vast areas of both lowland and highland rainforests.

Due to its physical landscape, you will find human settlements in the interior and this is part of the intriguing aspect of Sarawak to outsiders and visitors.

SK Ulu Lubai is located deep in the Sarawak interior. That is not the same as saying it is deep in one of the states in the peninsula, where rural schools are not so remote that they are inaccessible by vehicles.
If you want to visit SK Ulu Lubai, you have to first go to Limbang. From there, be prepared for a two-hour drive on rough terrain, including a logging road, to an Iban settlement, and then a 50-minute boat ride which, during the dry season, can stretch to four hours.

Then you will appreciate its achievement in making history by being named a “high performance school” — 43 nationwide.

Incredible is an understatement. Who would expect this “interior school” to make it into the top category? The first one to make it, too.

Not to sound condescending or patronising but anyone would be surprised and, of course, impressed.

The first question would be: “How did they do it?”

Of course, being so far in the interior without any form of entertainment or distraction, you’d think the kids would have nothing else to do but study, right? Now, that is simplistic, besides being an assessment that lacks sound judgment and an understanding of culture and the human mind. But frankly, such a setting is ideal for scholastic and academic pursuits.

Undoubtedly, the school’s achievement reflects a high level of resolve among not just the pupils, but the teaching staff as well.

Without encouragement and drive from the teachers, the pupils would not care to reach for the stars and the school would have just remained like the many others.

Personally, all this “high performance school” ratings took quite a while for me to digest. Not that I find it against my belief that schools in the 21st century should not be graded or rated but that it can itself go against the very essence of what education is all about.

But that is a story for another day.

For now, we’ll focus on SK Ulu Lubai. Certainly, it is no ordinary school, even by urban standards. It is in the limelight for its outstanding achievement.

You now speak of the school in the same breath as you do Johor’s SK Convent Muar, Pahang’s SK Seri Biram, Kedah’s SK Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin, Kuala Lumpur’s SK Setiawangsa, Pahang’s SK (Perempuan) Methodist Kuantan, Terengganu’s SK Sultan Ismail, Selangor’s SK Jalan Tiga, Penang’s SJK (C) Perempuan China and Selangor’s SJK (C) Lick Hung.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also education minister, visited the school on Thursday.

It is a gesture of recognition on the part of the government of the school’s remarkable success.

“I must extend my appreciation and gratitude to the committed, dedicated and hardworking staff who have turned this modest school, which lacks many amenities, into one of the best in the country,” Muhyiddin was quoted as saying.


Lessons from Sarawak

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

WHAT is, of course, so remarkable about Sekolah Kebangsaan Ulu Lubai’s admission to the ranks of high performance schools is that it is a small rural school with six classrooms and fewer than 40 pupils in the middle of the jungle in the district of Limbang, Sarawak. It is so remote and isolated that it was closed in 1974 as no one was willing to teach in the school and only reopened in 1977. But it has recorded 100 per cent passes in the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah exam for five consecutive years since 2006 and occupies top spot in the primary school ranking. In fact, it is an award-winning school that has garnered some 47 prizes at the district, state, national and international levels.

As SK Ulu Lubai seems to have figured out how to raise pupil achievement, it obviously has lessons to offer to other rural schools as they look a lot like it geographically and demographically. In this regard, it is not the only school in Sarawak’s Fifth Division that can show the way to school success. SK Ba Kelalan in the highlands of the district of Lawas may not have made it to the list of top performing schools, but it is a cluster school. It also shared the honours with SK Ulu Lubai in the 2009 Commonwealth Education Good Practice Awards. What the two have in common are locally developed strategies that put the total involvement of the whole community at the centre of the efforts to improve school performance. What they have documented is the positive impact that parents, families and communities can have when they work together with schools to support learning. Pupils become more eager to learn, have higher aspirations, attend school more regularly, and get better grades.

Indeed, community support is considered one of the characteristics common to high-performing schools and this holds true regardless of the parents’ education, family income or background. As what happens before and after school can be just as vital as what happens during school hours to success in school and in life, the whole community has an essential role to play. Our ability to move from middle-income to high-income status depends on how well we educate all our children, not just the few that the best schools can handle. There aren’t enough top schools. Moreover, learning is not the sole responsibility of the government and educators. They cannot do it alone. Parents don’t have to be tiger mothers but they have to get involved if we are to produce the best and the brightest.

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Remote school joins the elite

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

SG ULU LUBAI: Remote Limbang’s SK Ulu Lubai was yesterday designated as one of another 23 “high performance schools” nationwide.

Last year, 20 schools were designated as “high performers”.
Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was so overjoyed with SK Ulu Lubai’s achievement that he immediately quipped: “I must visit the school.” To reach Sarawak’s SK Ulu Lubai from Limbang one has to take a two-hour drive on logging road to the Nanga Medamit Iban settlement, followed by a 50-minute boat ride.

During the dry season, when the water level is low, the 50-minute boat ride could become an arduous four-hour journey.
SK Ulu Lubai is the first such interior school to achieve academic excellence, a testimony to the government’s extensive and inclusive education policy for all Malaysians.

Muhyiddin found out about SK Ulu Lubai yesterday when announcing the designation of another 13 secondary and 10 primary schools as “high performers”.

SK Ulu Lubai tops the list of primary schools with nine others: Johor’s SK Convent Muar, Pahang’s SK Seri Biram, Kedah’s SK Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin, Kuala Lumpur’s SK Setiawangsa, Pahang’s SK (Perempuan) Methodist Kuantan, Terengganu’s SK Sultan Ismail, Selangor’s SK Jalan Tiga, Penang’s SJK (C) Perempuan China and Selangor’s SJK(C) Lick Hung.

Of the secondary schools Muhyiddin announced, three were from Kuala Lumpur, two each from Selangor and Pahang and one each from Terengganu, Kedah, Kelantan, Perak, Johor and Sarawak.
They are Terengganu’s SM Imtiaz, Selangor’s SMK Jalan Empat, Perak’s Sekolah Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Selangor’s Sekolah Berasrama Penuh Integrasi Gombak, Kedah’s Sekolah Berasrama Penuh Integrasi Kubang Pasu, Pahang’s Sekolah Berasrama Penuh Integrasi Pekan, Kuala Lumpur’s SM Sains Alam Shah, Kelantan’s SM Sains Tengku Muhammad Faris Petra, Sarawak’s SM Sains Miri, Kuala Lumpur’s SM Sains Seri Puteri, Kuala Lumpur’s SM Sains Selangor, Pahang’s SM Sains Tengku Abdullah and Johor’s SM Sains Muar.

Muhyiddin, who is also education minister, said his trip to officially designate SK Lubai as a high performance school “is more than symbolic”.

“It’s history being made. This is the first time we have had such a recognition ceremony at a school so deep in the rural area of the country.

“I must extend my appreciation and gratitude to the committed, dedicated and hard working staff who had made this modest school, that lacks many amenities, into one of the best in the country.” SK Ulu Lubai, Muhyiddin added, was proof that there was no hindrance for rural schools to achieve academic excellence.

The wooden school, opened in 1964 and administered by the local council before it was taken over by the Education Ministry, now has 39 pupils, comprising preschoolers and pupils up to Year Six.
The school achieved 100 per cent passes in the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah examination. Last year, one pupil achieved 5As.
The school has also consistently been voted the state’s top school.


Jitra primary school wants to become No. 1 in S-E Asia.

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

ALOR STAR: SK Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin in Jitra, 18km from here, was among the 23 high performance schools announced by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on Thursday.

Headmaster K. Thacanamurthy said the recognition was the result of the collaboration between teachers, pupils and parents as well as the state and district education departments.

“We are proud of the achievement, and the key to our success is teamwork between teachers and pupils as well as moral support from parents.
“Continuous guidance and encouragement from the state education department and Kubang Pasu district education department also helped us to be where we are now.”

He said the recognition would boost the school as it aspired to become the best primary school in Southeast Asia.

Besides being among the schools with the best Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah results in the state for the past two years, the 55-year-old school also won many state- and national-level awards. The school emerged as champions at the National Level Robotics 2003 and represented Malaysia at the Fifth International Robot Olympiad in South Korea.

Last year, the school received the Special Jury Award for its research on making recycled paper using oil palm fronds at the Malaysian Palm Oil Board Oil Palm-based Innovation Competition.

It is one of two schools in Kedah designated as high performance schools.
The other is Sekolah Berasrama Penuh Integrasi Kubang Pasu, also in Jitra.

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