Archive for May, 2012

What Is Democratic Leadership?

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Democratic leadership, also known as participative leadership, is a type of leadership style in which members of the group take a more participative role in the decision-making process. Researchers have found that this learning style is usually one of the most effective and leaders to higher productivity, better contributions from group members and increased group morale.

Characteristics of Democratic Leadership:

Some of the primary characteristics of democratic leadership include:

  • Group members are encouraged to share ideas and opinions, even though the leader retains the final say over decisions.
  • Members of the group feel more engaged in the process.
  • Creativity is encouraged and rewarded.

Benefits of Democratic Leadership:

Because group members are encouraged to share their thoughts, democratic leadership can leader to better ideas and more creative solutions to problems. Group members also feel more involved and committed to projects, making them more likely to care about the end results. Research on leadership styles has also show that democratic leadership leads to higher productivity among group members.

Downsides of Democratic Leadership:

While democratic leadership has been described as the most effective leadership style, it does have some potential downsides. In situations where roles are unclear or time is of the essence, democratic leadership can lead to communication failures and uncompleted projects. In some cases, group members may not have the necessary knowledge or expertise to make quality contributions to the decision-making process.

Democratic leadership works best in situations where group members are skilled and eager to share their knowledge. It is also important to have plenty of time to allow people to contribute, develop a plan and then vote on the best course of action.

by Kendra Cherry.

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Silent thief of health

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Life can be very challenging for SLE patients whose plight remains largely unnoticed by society.

THE wheelchair logo is commonly accepted as the symbol of people with disabilities the world over. However, the fact is, not all disabled people use wheelchairs. And for quite a few who do, they end up using them only much later in their lives.

But there are Malaysians in our midst with even greater handicaps, and they remain largely invisible to the rest of society. Many of them are perfectly capable of walking, yet they stay trapped within their homes because of the lack of support from society.

I am referring to people with a condition called Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, a chronic auto-immune disease that can affect any organ system in the body. The patient’s body makes large quantities of antibodies which attack the tissues.

Symptoms range from persistent joint pains, swelling and rashes to mouth ulcers, anaemia and skin rashes.

Although there is no cure for SLE, it is thankfully treatable. New drugs are being introduced which can control the disease by reducing the symptoms, reversing inflammation and cutting down on organ impairment.

Despite the difficulties that people with SLE have to put up with, they and the people who support them are fighting back against the disease in more ways than one.

Last week, the Malaysian SLE Association which is based in Petaling Jaya, held a charity walk in the city. It saw the participation of more than 1,000 people who included SLE patients and their supporters. The fundraiser was to assist poorer patients to pay for their treatment and surgery.

Environmental group Friends of Kota Damansara (FoKD) chairman Jeffrey Phang, 58, and his group were among the volunteers at the charity event.

“When we were first invited to participate, most of us hadn’t a clue what SLE is,” said Phang.

“SLE is an invisible handicap. People living with SLE look perfectly normal even though they have a potentially fatal and disabling disease. There were no wheelchairs, walking sticks or white canes – a common sight in events involving the disabled – that Sunday,” said Phang.

However, Phang noted a unique feature that morning.

“Because many SLE patients are unable to come into direct contact with sunlight, they have to use umbrellas and cover up their body as much as possible whenever they go out. Armed with their brollies, the advocates for SLE proudly proceeded with their march for greater awareness. It was wonderful to see people coming out by the dozen, and sacrificing their Sunday to lend support to the SLE community,” said Phang.

by Anthony Thanasayan.

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How jobseekers can make the cut

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

RIGHT TRAINING: Realign the education system, says employers.

KUALA LUMPUR: MALAYSIANS need to equip themselves with certain skills to meet the challenges of  newly created jobs in the country.

About 350,000 graduates, including Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia leavers and diploma and degree holders, enter the job market every year.

“It is important for these students to have the right training and skills to fill the vacancies created under the National Key Economic Areas (NKEAs) and Economic Transformation Programme (ETP),” said Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Shamsuddin Bardan.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had announced on Tuesday that 21 new projects under the NKEAs were expected to create 40,000 jobs.

Shamsuddin said with a total of 3.3 million new jobs being created in a nine-year period under the Entry Point Project (EPP), there was a “real need to realign the education system to the jobs available” under these programmes.

“This will reduce mismatches and enhance the employability of the new entrants into the labour market,” he said, adding that the service sector would require more soft-skills employees, for instance.

Shamsuddin said it would be unfortunate if all the jobs created under the NKEAs were taken up by foreign workers.

He said as the country progressed towards becoming a developed nation, the use of human resources needed to be re-examined.

“If we perform efficiently in our jobs, we will not need to bring in more people to perform additional tasks in the future.”

Meanwhile, Malaysian Trades Union Congress deputy president Mohd Jaafar Majid said Malaysians would not make the cut of being employed under the NKEA projects unless they were highly skilled.

He said jobs created needed to go well with the local market to ensure that locals were chosen over foreigners.

by Carisma Kapoor.

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Leadership Theories – 8 Major Leadership Theories

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012
Interest in leadership increased during the early part of the twentieth century. Early leadership theories focused on what qualities distinguished between leaders and followers, while subsequent theories looked at other variables such as situational factors and skill levels. While many different leadership theories have emerged, most can be classified as one of eight major types:

1.  “Great Man” Theories;
Great man theories assume that the capacity for leadership is inherent – that great leaders are born, not made. These theories often portray great leaders as heroic, mythic and destined to rise to leadership when needed. The term “Great Man” was used because, at the time, leadership was thought of primarily as a male quality, especially in terms of military leadership. Learn more about the great man theory of leadership.

2.  Trait Theories:
Similar in some ways to “Great Man” theories, trait theories assume that people inherit certain qualities and traits that make them better suited to leadership. Trait theories often identify particular personality or behavioral characteristics shared by leaders. If particular traits are key features of leadership, then how do we explain people who possess those qualities but are not leaders? This question is one of the difficulties in using trait theories to explain leadership.

3. Contingency Theories:
Contingency theories of leadership focus on particular variables related to the environment that might determine which particular style of leadership is best suited for the situation. According to this theory, no leadership style is best in all situations. Success depends upon a number of variables, including the leadership style, qualities of the followers and aspects of the situation.

4.  Situational Theories:
Situational theories propose that leaders choose the best course of action based upon situational variables. Different styles of leadership may be more appropriate for certain types of decision-making.

5.  Behavioural Theories:
Behavioral theories of leadership are based upon the belief that great leaders are made, not born. Rooted in behaviorism, this leadership theory focuses on the actions of leaders not on mental qualities or internal states. According to this theory, people can learn to become leaders through teaching and observation.

6.  Participative Theories:
Participative leadership theories suggest that the ideal leadership style is one that takes the input of others into account. These leaders encourage participation and contributions from group members and help group members feel more relevant and committed to the decision-making process. In participative theories, however, the leader retains the right to allow the input of others.

7.  Management Theories:
Management theories, also known as transactional theories, focus on the role of supervision, organization and group performance. These theories base leadership on a system of rewards and punishments. Managerial theories are often used in business; when employees are successful, they are rewarded; when they fail, they are reprimanded or punished. Learn more about theories of transactional leadership.

8.  Relationship Theories:
Relationship theories, also known as transformational theories, focus upon the connections formed between leaders and followers. Transformational leaders motivate and inspire people by helping group members see the importance and higher good of the task. These leaders are focused on the performance of group members, but also want each person to fulfill his or her potential. Leaders with this style often have high ethical and moral standards.
by Kendra Cherry.

The learning tower of Pisa

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Let’s help our students to learn better and teachers to teach better.

AS the Government sets out yet again to reform the Malaysian education system, I hope the experts will pour over the vast amounts of resources and data already available on what makes for a successful education system.

For the first time ever, Malaysia has joined 73 other countries in the highly regarded Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) administered by the OECD which evaluates key competencies of 15-year-old students in reading, mathematics and science. The results for Malaysia are due to be released this year.

Have students acquired the knowledge and skills essential to meet the challenges of the future? Can they analyse, reason and communicate their ideas effectively? Have they found the kinds of interests they can pursue throughout their lives as productive members of the economy and society?

The Pisa triennial surveys seek to answer these questions. Participating governments wait with bated breath for the results and analysis of the voluminous data generated, to find out where they stand in comparison to others in this globalised world and what kinds of interventions are needed to help students to learn better, teachers to teach better, and school systems to become more effective.

As the man who directs PISA at the OECD, Andreas Schleicher said: “Today’s learning outcomes at school are a powerful predictor for the wealth and social outcomes that countries will reap in the long run.”

In the latest 2009 PISA assessment, the Shanghai education system, which was evaluated for the first time, stunned the world by coming up tops in all three categories. It topped Singapore in maths, South Korea in reading and Finland in science out of the 65 countries surveyed.

More than one-quarter of Shanghai’s 15-year-olds demonstrated advanced mathematical thinking skills to solve complex problems, compared to an OECD average of just 3%. “Large fractions of these students demonstrate their ability to extrapolate from what they know and apply their knowledge very creatively in novel situations,” said Schleicher, breaking the myth of a Chinese education system focused on rote-learning.

Significantly, too, of the top five performers, four are Asian countries or economies – Shanghai, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore. Finland is third. Other countries making up the top 10 are Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Australia and Belgium.

What is hopeful about the Pisa assessment is that it provides evidence that change is possible. In his report, Schleicher concluded that the best school systems became great after undergoing a series of crucial changes. They made their teacher-training colleges much more rigorous; they prioritise developing high-quality principals and teachers above efforts like reducing class size or equipping sports teams; and they held teachers accountable for results while allowing creativity in their methods.

by Zainah Anwar.

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What Is Behaviorism?

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012
Question: What Is Behaviorism?
Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select — doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors.
–John Watson, Behaviorism, 1930


The term behaviorism refers to the school of psychology founded by John B. Watson based on the belief that behaviors can be measured, trained, and changed. Behaviorism was established with the publication of Watson’s classic paper Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It (1913).

Behaviorism, also known as behavioral psychology, is a theory of learning based upon the idea that all behaviors are acquired through conditioning. Conditioning occurs through interaction with the environment. Behaviorists believe that our responses to environmental stimuli shapes our behaviors.

According to behaviorism, behavior can be studied in a systematic and observable manner with no consideration of internal mental states. This school of thought suggests that only observable behaviors should be studied, since internal states such as cognitions, emotions and moods are too subjective.

There are two major types of conditioning:

  1. Classical conditioning is a technique used in behavioral training in which a naturally occurring stimulus is paired with a response. Next, a previously neutral stimulus is paired with the naturally occurring stimulus. Eventually, the previously neutral stimulus comes to evoke the response without the presence of the naturally occurring stimulus. The two elements are then known as the conditioned stimulus and the conditioned response.
  2. Operant conditioning Operant conditioning (sometimes referred to as instrumental conditioning) is a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behavior. Through operant conditioning, an association is made between a behavior and a consequence for that behavior.

Major Thinkers in Behaviorism:

Important Events in Behaviorism:

  • 1863 – Ivan Sechenov’s Reflexes of the Brain was published. Sechenov introduced the concept of inhibitory responses in the central nervous system.
  • 1900 – Ivan Pavlov began studying the salivary response and other reflexes.
  • 1913 – John Watson’s Psychology as a Behaviorist Views It was published. The article outlined the many of the main points of behaviorism.
  • 1920 – Watson and assistant Rosalie Rayner conducted the famous “Little Albert” experiment.
  • 1943 – Clark Hull’s Principles of Behavior was published.
  • 1948 – B.F. Skinner published Walden II in which he described a utopian society founded upon behaviorist principles.
  • 1959 – Noam Chomsky published his criticism of Skinner’s behaviorism, “Review of Verbal Behavior.”
  • 1971 – B.F. Skinner published his book Beyond Freedom and Dignity, in which he argued that free will is an illusion.

Criticisms of Behaviorism:

  • Many critics argue that behaviorism is a one-dimensional approach to understanding human behavior and that behavioral theories do not account for free will and internal influences such as moods, thoughts and feelings.
  • Behaviorism does not account for other types of learning, especially learning that occurs without the use of reinforcement and punishment.
  • People and animals are able to adapt their behavior when new information is introduced, even if a previous behavior pattern has been established through reinforcement.

Strengths of Behaviorism:

  • Behaviorism is based upon observable behaviors, so it is easier to quantify and collect data and information when conducting research.
  • Effective therapeutic techniques such as intensive behavioral intervention, behavior analysis, token economies and discrete trial training are all rooted in behaviorism. These approaches are often very useful in changing maladaptive or harmful behaviors in both children and adults.

by Kendra Cherry.

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Implementing Education Agenda Should Not Rest Wholly With Schools, Teachers – Raja Nazrin

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

IPOH: The responsibily of implementing a more holistic education agenda should not rest wholly with the schools and teachers, said the Raja Muda of Perak, Raja Dr Nazrin Shah.

He said general participation was needed in implementing the education agenda which encompassed the physical and spiritual development of human capital.

“The education agenda would not be complete and perfect if its implementation fully rests with schools and teachers. Parents, families, the community and various institutions should also play their part in this.”

Raja Nazrin said this at the presentation of awards for excellence in conjunction with the Day of Excellence for Fully Residential Schools, here, today.

In this respect, he said the on-going National Dialogue on National Education 2012 was inclusive by encouraging public participation, which was a wise move as it was in line with the spirit voiced out by the prime minister “that the era of the government knowing all has passed”.

Therefore, Raja Nazrin said, public participation, especially from among the younger generation, in the national dialogue was important for the government to obtain expansive and relevant feedback to shape the future of the nation and its citizens.


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Creative Reading

Monday, May 28th, 2012

We are not computers linked in networks, so we simply cannot absorb all the information into our brain by reading a book or an article on a topic that interests us. Reading is, thus, a rather creative kind of activity. Because of that, even classics such as Shakespeare or Dostoevsky, may have very different interpretations. Literary critics call these interpretations “readings.” The creative nature of reading does not imply that the reading process is random, depending on the reader’s mood or knowledge, or capacity of perception, but it means that the writer can induce the readers into certain interpretations, can allude to certain meanings in his writings. The writer has to mind the narrative structure of his book, and give the reader certain clues in order for it to creatively and properly read it.

Since the reader cannot comprise a whole essay or something like that in his/her mind, it is necessary for the writing to be divided in certain fragments. So the paragraphs should not be too long, and also should give a clear idea of what the writer is trying to say.

In order to allow the creative reading of one’s work, the writer should produce his work in such a way that the reader can make assumptions and inferences regarding the nature of the things the author wants to describe/explain/comment etc.

The fact that creative readers make creative writers, is logical and commonly-shared by everyone. So those who want to produce good-quality writings must be able to read well. That doesn’t mean one has to read really fast, or to be able to understand writings, but one has to be able to have a creative perspective on his/her reading.

An enormous number of people regard reading as a means of entertaining. But for people who fall into this category, there is very little to gain. Although it might seem as a useful activity, a perfect pastime to choose, reading on the train or on the bus can fool us into believing we are actually reading. Our mind is very likely to wander in this particular situation, so we don’t really get into the writer’s world, or we cannot really retain too many important details.

Most of people like reading fiction. That is because well-written fiction books can let us enter a new and exciting world, that has charming, interesting characters, which we may feel related to. So when we put the book aside, after finishing it, we feel a sort of sadness. The idea is to read so as to remember later what the book was about, to read first and foremost to our very own benefit, and not just to impress others or to follow someone’s recommendation.

Here are the wise words that John F. Genung wrote in his “Practical Elements of Rhetoric”, back in 1894: “While the reader is receptive, while he is being acted upon by what he is reading, he is at the same time origination, vigorously acting on the same subject-matter, shaping it into a new product, according to the color and capacity of his own mind.”

What does this “creative reading” refer to? Or what does it do to us, readers? How does it work? At any rate, it is meant to inspire us, to stir our imaginative thoughts, and generate alertness in our minds. Otherwise, we may fall asleep while reading, or forget everything after we’ve read the text. Also, creative reading should help us focus on grammar and style, and how do they help the writer render his message to the readers.

We must discipline our reading. We have to learn and stay focused and alert. Yes, we can choose the things we want to read, though, and read at our very own pace, without any pressure from the outside.

by Claudia Miclaus.

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Investing in national schools

Monday, May 28th, 2012

If the national school is to remain at the centre of our national integration, we must make it our school of choice:

ON the surface of it, the removal of the Malaysian student quota in international schools here has done a great service to monied parents who want more and better options of where to send their children for their schooling, and the type and quality of education they are to have.

The previous ceiling of 40 per cent allowed only 12,000 Malaysian students to access an international education, which is perceived to be better than that offered by local government schools, not only because of the higher standard of English (which is the medium of education), but also because of a more holistic approach to education.

With the removal of the quota, not only will more Malaysian children be able to enrol in the international schools currently in business, but the increase in demand is likely to result in more international schools being set up, which will make tuition fees more competitive, and, therefore, make these schools more affordable to more people.

From the consumer perspective, this addition of yet another type of school and education from which to choose is a good thing; and the same benefits the individual student. But can the same be said for nation-building? For what builds a nation? — Relationships. And what builds relationships? — A shared life. A generation or two ago, everyone sent their children to schools which had the same curricula, and the same examinations. So, not only the children, but also their parents, had something in common: the national school, through which the national agenda was realised.

However, through the years, this togetherness has slowly unravelled. For various reasons, the perception of the good quality of a national school education has taken a beating. Islamic religious schools, vernacular schools, private schools, and now international ones, which were once on the fringe, moved to become competitive alternatives.

Instead of investing their children in national schools, hammering a stake into the ground and fighting for the right to participate in forming a good education system, the people with money and who had the most clout in society and the wherewithal to be the strongest agents of change, withdrew their investment; because they have a choice. If national schools are to remain at the centre of our national integration, more Malaysians — from all racial backgrounds and walks of life — must turn around and invest in them; and make them their school of choice once again.

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Nurturing reading

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Though Malaysians may be reading more, we are not yet avid readers.

WITH the increase in the number of bookshops, book fairs and libraries offering a wide range of books and magazines in a variety of languages on every topic under the sun, materials for reading have become more accessible to more people.

With reading campaigns, activities and ambassadors to get people to read, there has been no shortage of promotional efforts. Statistics also show growth in the membership and loans of the National Library of Malaysia. In addition, there has been an increase in the number of books, magazines and newspapers sold. As such, it may not seem fair, as the National Library director-general put it, to say that Malaysians are not reading more. But then again, benchmarked against the 10-15 books a month that Reading Ambassador Datuk Seri Michelle Yeoh is said to read, the rise from the two books read in 1995 to the eight-12 books a year in 2010 is hardly cause for great cheer.

What is clear is that while Malaysians may be reading more, we have yet to become avid readers. Certainly, few habitually read on the bus or train, or in a restaurant or park. As the highbrow in Malaysian society have observed, disapprovingly, the demand for books has been sparked by the popular taste for romance novels, chick lit, pulp fiction and other lowbrow literature. But then again, as long as people are reading, this should be the least of our worries. After all, people read for a variety of reasons and motives from the practical to the philosophical, the puerile to the sublime.

While the National Library seems to be thriving, the same probably cannot be said of most public libraries in the country. Library users also tend to be students, parents with young children and the retired. Perhaps, working makes visiting libraries inconvenient and books more affordable to buy and preferable to borrowing. So, perhaps, libraries should be in shopping malls. In this regard, the initiative to make online library collections available to desktop computers, notebooks, tablets and other handheld devices is a positive move to address the issue of accessibility. This embrace of digital technology is also timely as Malaysian reading habits are changing as content shifts from the printed word to digital material.

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