Archive for June, 2012

Students Share Their Thoughts on Active Learning

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

“Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just by sitting in class listening to teachers, memorizing prepackaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences, apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves.”
– A. Chickering and Z.F. Gamson, “Seven principles for good practice,” AAHE Bulletin 39 (March 1987), 3-7.

Active learning, a learner-centered approach to teaching in which the responsibility for learning is placed upon the students (often working in collaboration with each other), is not new. Yet there are still many faculty who lecture almost exclusively and are convinced that active learning activities won’t work in their courses.

Some of the most frequently cited concerns about learning activities include that they take up too much class time, make it more difficult to control the class, work only in small classes, take too much time to design, and are difficult to grade.

Supporters of learner-centered teaching may counter those objections by citing a growing volume of research that supports active learning techniques. Or they may just have their students share their perspectives on active learning and what makes a learning activity effective for them.

In the online seminar Active Learning That Works: What Students Think presenter Ken Alford, Ph.D. took the latter approach. Using video clips from about a dozen students from across a variety of disciplines, the associate professor at Brigham Young University allowed students to share their thoughts on active learning—what they like and why they like it. Their comments, summarized here, cover a wide spectrum, including the benefits of learning activities to:

  • Help students build connections with what they’re learning
  • Bring a change of pace to class sessions so students don’t get bored
  • Force students to participate rather than allowing them to just sit back and be spectators
  • Allow students to get to know one another
  • Open the class to different perspectives
  • Make it easier to understand and remember the material.

by Mary Bart.

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Asean centre in Nilai to train teachers of disabled.

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR:  A NEW special education centre, based in Malaysia, will offer training and support to educators from the Asean region   working with students with disabilities.

Education Ministry secretary-general Datuk Dr Rosli Mohamed said the Seameo Regional Centre for Special Education (Seameo Sen) would provide teachers and support personnel with the resources needed to boost the special education field.

The centre, he said, was part of Malaysia’s agreement with the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation (Seameo) Council to look into the region’s needs for specialisation and improving education access.
“Seameo Sen will focus on three areas,   namely  training, research and support, to strengthen education for students with special needs, including those with learning disabilities.”

Rosli said this after signing the memorandum of agreement with Seameo secretariat director Dr Witaya Jeradechakul yesterday.

The   ceremony was witnessed by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Seameo Council president and Brunei Education Minister Pehin Abu Bakar Apong.

Under the agreement, Seameo Sen will aim to improve special education practices and research by establishing a regional resource network for teachers, specialists, educational institutes and non-governmental organi-sations. Rosli said the centre would be based at the  Education Ministry’s complex in Bandar Enstek, Nilai.

It would draw its professional staff from experts and other  qualified candidates from the Asean region.

First proposed in 2010, it is now temporarily located at the Malay Women’s Teacher Training Institute campus in Malacca.

by Rozanna Latiff.

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UNIMAS Ranked 165 Among Asia’s Best Universities

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

KUCHING:  The 20th anniversary celebration of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) this year will be more meaningful after it was ranked 165 among 500 universities in Asia by QS Asian University Rankings 2012.

QS Asian University Rankings in collaboration with South Korean newspaper The Chosun Ilbo recently published a survey on Asia’s best universities on the website

“UNIMAS jumped in ranking from 191 in 2011 to 165 this year. This success is recognition for all the hard work by UNIMAS staff who will continue to achieve the best result in all fields,” said a statement issued by UNIMAS here today.

This year saw UNIMAS and several universities in the country such as Universiti Malaya and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia improving their ranking.

Asia’s top prize went to Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) followed by National University of Singapore (NUS) in second place.


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A rare and special species

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

While women teachers are known to multitask in motherly, mentoring ways, there are some things only a man can do, and that’s what makes male teachers extra special.

I SOMETIMES think we don’t give our men teachers enough credit. Just because they are outnumbered by women in schools, it does not mean they should be overlooked or forgotten. They matter.

In many ways, men do as much as women do for kids at school, perhaps more.

On a recent visit to an international school in Jakarta, I watched a male teacher speak in a normal tone to a large group of seven-year-olds who were attentive and obedient.

He simply said to them at the cafeteria: “Now, if you will kindly place your knees below the table and sit up straight, I shall release you for play.”

“Clap your hands twice if you are ready to leave,” he said. They did and he allowed them to go out. As simple as that.

I did not meet the man or speak to him but he commanded my respect. He reminded me of some of the male teachers I had when I was at school.

In particular, I remember Mr Kanajan, who taught me Additional Mathematics when I was in Form Four.

Every so often, with a pleading glance at us that begged our understanding, he would step outside the class to have a smoke.

The year was 1976. We knew our male teachers smoked and did it openly. Did we care? Honestly speaking, I don’t think so.

Mr Kanajan did not apologise for being the man that he was.

One day in class, he said: “Humour me, please,” and wrote on the blackboard, in cursive writing, Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken.

He was looking at me when he asked the whole class: “Tell me, what do these words mean to you?”

I don’t know how many of my classmates from Raja Perempuan School Ipoh will read this or remember that day. But I was there, and I do. In his own way, he made a difference; to me, anyway.

In his class, you could love words as much as figures.

I have read many a good book on Maths and many a good poem since then. I agree with him; with the patterns inherent in them, Maths and poetry are both beautiful.

It is the Indians who gave us the zero and it is a fact that a binary code underscores the computer. Ones and zeroes — alone, or together, they both make sense. That’s how it should be at schools; we need an even mix of men and women.

When the ratio is skewed, as it is today in our schools, you will understand what a miffed male teacher once said to me:

“You women always want your cake and eat it too. You play us out. One day, you want us to be chivalrous gentlemen, or be the shoulder you need to cry on. The next, you give us all the dirty jobs, with placating smiles.

“You want equal promotion but, somehow, when it comes to the rough stuff — the sports, the sweaty work, inventory checking, restocking supplies, the furniture and security issues — we are the perfect candidates. When are you going to stop walking all over us?”

by Nithya Sidhhu.

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Should We Stop Telling Our Kids That They’re Special?

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Wellesley High School families who’d come to graduation last week expecting a warm bath of clichés were treated to a bracing shower from David McCullough, Jr., instead. “You’re not special, you are not exceptional,” the English teacher stated with unexpected bluntness. “You have been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, and bubble-wrapped, feted and fawned over.” McCullough’s straight talk was aimed at Americans’ “love of accolades more than genuine achievement” and the cheapening effect of making everything special. Many families apparently found McCullough’s reality check refreshing and inspirational; his speech quickly made the usual Youtube rounds.

(MORE: Are American Kids Brats?)

But before we get too carried away blaming helicopter parents for sheltering teens, it’s worth recalling the merits of being special and why our society made such a shift in the first place.

To be sure, there’s plenty of confirmatory evidence that the self-esteem train has derailed: grade inflation and bloated “honors” classes; cheating and sports scandals; resume padding and college consulting mills. Enterprising families can game the system with trumped up medical diagnoses that yield performance enhancing drugs and extended time on standardized tests. Combined with a decline in basic summer job skills, McCullough had a point in wondering what’s so “special” about these privileged, ego-involved students.

But let’s not forget what it looked like a generation or two ago when kids weren’t so special. There was a tendency to view children not as unique individuals but as a monolithic category of people to be managed, controlled, and often ignored. The one-size-fits-all approach to childrearing left many kids abandoned, emotionally and academically, and at risk for a number of poor social outcomes.

(MORE: Too Busy For A Summer Job? Why America’s Youth Lacks Basic Work Skills)

Some of those outcomes have improved in recent years. Today’s teenagers are smoking and drinking less, remaining virgins longer, using more birth control when they do have sex, and dropping out of high school at half the rate of thirty years ago.

Take learning disabilities. Before each child became “special,” a child with a learning disability could face a decade or more of agony and a fast track to the bottom rung of the socioeconomic ladder. But changes in pedagogy that support atypical learning styles and abilities have opened up opportunities for millions of kids whose failures would have carried a costly public price tag. That’s easy to forget when people decry the coddling-and-cosseting trend.

by Erika Christakis.

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Mastering the rules of language

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Knowing the key terminology in both formal and functional grammar is the route to proficient English.

TO be a competent speaker and writer of the English language, one needs to be skillful in the lingo that comes with grammar. Some of the terms commonly used in formal grammar are a little difficult to grasp unless their particular function and purpose in a text is understood.


Inflection is the change made in the form of a word to alter its meaning or function, ie. by affixation, eg. prefixes and suffixes; or by an apostrophe “s” to signify possession as well as to express grammatical and syntactical relations — Case, Number, Gender, Person, Tense, etc. Example: “turn — return”, “boy — boy’s”, “woman — women”. Verbs inflect regularly through “suffixation”, that is, by adding suffixes, eg. “talk — talks, talking, talked”.

Some irregular verbs vary “internally” in their inflection, eg. “drink — drinks, drinking, drank, drunk.” Adjectives inflect when depicting comparisons, eg. “tall — taller, tallest”.


Correlative is the grammatical term used for words that complement or function with each other in a construction but do not occur side by side. Example: Both Anna and Annabel were chosen in the team. The term correlative conjunction is used to describe word combinations such as “either — or”, “not only — but also”, “neither — nor”, “whether — or”, etc.

Countable and Uncountable Nouns

A countable noun is one that (a) has both a singular and plural form, eg. shoe/shoes, child/children, woman/women, etc. (b) cannot be used in its singular form without being preceded by a determiner or a possessive, eg. my shoe, a child, that woman, etc.

In contrast, an uncountable noun (a) has no plural form, eg. furniture, luggage, courage, poverty, petrol, information, etc. (b) can take only a singular verb, eg. Your luggage is missing. — That furniture was expensive. (c) can be used with or without a preceding determiner or a possessive, eg. Information can be valuable. — Petrol is now very expensive. Some nouns can be both countable and uncountable, eg. wine, money, grace.

Gerund — Verbal Noun

A gerund or verbal noun is a word ending in “ing” that functions as a noun while retaining its verbal force. A gerund can play different roles in a construction, functioning as:

(a) a subject: Sailing is the love of her life.

(b) an object of a verb: He prefers swimming and fishing.

(c) an object of a preposition: By waiting, he gained a better deal.

(d) a complement: Seeing is believing.

(e) an adjective (gerundial adjective): Washing clothes is a chore.

A gerund or verbal noun has the same form as a present participle, ie. ending in “ing” but it performs a very different function.

Compare these two sentences: The child is running to the swing. (present participle) — The child likes running in the park. (gerund — verbal noun). When a gerund performs a verbal function, it can have three different kinds of objects, eg. (i) direct, (ii) indirect, (iii) retained.

(i) Brendan is skilled at building boats. (direct object)

(ii) Bruno is popular for teaching the boys boat building. (indirect object)

(iii) The boys were pleased at being taught boat building. (retained object)

When a gerund or verbal noun is preceded by a noun or pronoun, the possessive or genitive form should be used. Example: “Your winning the race was a wonderful achievement.” NOT “You winning the race was a wonderful achievement.” — “We appreciated Shanti’s helping her friend.” NOT “We appreciated Shanti helping her friend.”


A particle is a class of word that does not fit easily into the regular “part of speech” categories. Particles always maintain their symbol combination form, ie. they are not changed through inflection, eg. not, to, out, in, up, at, for. Particles can be adverbial: We are going out. — Prepositional: He has been looking for you. — Infinitival: I want to go.


A quantifier is a term used to categorise descriptive, qualifying and modifying words that express “quantity”, “volume” or a form of measurement. Quantifiers can be used with both countable and uncountable nouns. When such a word also has a heightening, lowering or lessening effect on another word, it can also be classed as an intensifier.

by Keith Wright, the author and creator of the 4S Approach To Literacy and Language (4S).

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Fathers are parents, too

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

Both parents play the main roles in their children’s lives; HAPPY FATHERS DAY.

AS with Mothers Day, Fathers Day is a specific day to celebrate and honour love; in this case, love for a father, whether biological or otherwise. And, as with Mothers Day, for happy families, Fathers Day is merely a formality;  special because it is observed, but  relevant only if father is loved. Indeed, many families may not go to great lengths to celebrate today, or even formally recognise it. And for happy fathers with happy families, this is all right.

Fathers who are loved are honoured and celebrated every day, in small and big ways. These fathers get hugs and kisses, smiles and gurgles, requests to help with homework, the tying of shoelaces, the fixing of a squeaky cupboard door and introductions to their children’s friends and acquaintances as “my father/daddy/papa”. In their children’s adulthood, fathers who are loved are honoured with one of the precious two or three tickets each graduand is given for entrance into the convocation hall, and are permitted to play a big role on their child’s wedding day; those things that may seem like a done deal the moment a person becomes a parent, but are actually up to the discretion of the child.

For, in truth, the men who are honoured and celebrated on Fathers Day are the men who are fathers every day. They are there to see the smiles because they are around to see the tears as well; they are there to watch their children win prizes at school because they were there to help supervise the children’s studies; they know what their children like to eat because they prepare meals for them and sit down to meals together. They are able to protect their children because they bathe and clothe them when young, talk about the day’s happenings and discuss joys and worries, and, thus, cannot be ignorant of any changes to the child. And they are there not only to watch, but to be watched. They also set examples of what it means to be a man, a son, a brother, a father, a spouse, a human being and a member of society.

As with being a mother, being a father is hardly easy.

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Diabetes, hypertension on rise among teens.

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

KOTA KINABALU: Staying fit and healthy, it appears, is increasingly more difficult for students in Malaysia today.

Sabah Health Department Director Dr Mohd Yusof Ibrahim said the chances of young Malaysians being obese are much, much higher compared to just a few years ago.

He added that other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes and hypertension were also on the rise among teenagers due to unhealthy eating habits and a passive lifestyle.

“In 2006 there were only four per cent obesity among teenagers but the figure increased to almost 12 per cent last year. The growing number of fast food outlets and their popularity among teenagers has been identified as a major contributing factor to this,” he said when officiating at the Program Siswa Sihat (PROSIS) at Universiti Teknology Mara (UiTM) here yesterday.

Yusof said diabetes which was previously common only among the elderly, was also becoming more common among young adults and children.

“Hypertension is also very common among students now, and we believe that for every patient detected there are at least 10 more undetected cases,” he added.

And to deal with the worrying trend, he said the Health Ministry has come up with various programmes including PROSIS, which was aimed at creating awareness among students at higher learning institutions (IPTs) on non-communicable diseases.

by Murib Morpi.

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Problem-solving made simple

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

PROBLEMS, whether they are big or small, plague us. Some of us have inherited the worry-wart gene and we get uptight unless we can fix the problem within a certain time frame. Problem solving gurus teach us that we must dissect a big problem into tiny bits, then solve the tiny problems, one by one.  Figuratively it sounds logical, yet to do that is literally  a problem in itself.

Perspective is also an interesting facet to consider. A problem may seem humongous to a child but if he relates it to an adult, then the problem can actually be very miniscule. That is where good communication comes in: between a parent and a child or between a student and a teacher. The person who is not afflicted by the problem can be more objective as his emotions are not entangled within the problematic web.

A student once came up to me and was upset that her idea for a group business project was not well-received by the rest of the group. She had always been the leader of the pack but she had just joined this new discussion group and she has not been “proven” yet. There was already another leader in the group who had been there since the group started and his idea was well-received.

So, I advised her to take another stance — to go along with the established leader and learn new things instead, while assuring her that in no way was her idea lesser in value than the one agreed upon. With some reluctance, she took my advice.

Two months down the line when the project was making headway, I caught up with her again and asked about the progress of the project. She was beaming and said it was going very well, and she was happy.

She said she also learnt a lot about herself in the process, the good and bad, as she worked alongside the new teammates.

Her idea might not have been the one chosen by the group but she had learnt other life lessons, the most important being, sometimes we lead and sometimes we follow. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Either way, we are still learning and we can excel in whatever we do.

How many of us actually realise that a huge problem can look smaller when we have had a good night’s sleep?

by Dr. Koh Soo Ling.

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What makes a good teacher?

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

POSITIVE TRAITS: The quality of teachers in schools has been a longstanding issue. The Education Ministry’s plan to ensure all teachers are graduates by 2020 has sparked yet another debate on whether graduates necessarily make better teachers. Chandra Devi Renganayar finds out from retired teachers.

ONE need not be a graduate to be a good teacher, says William Doraisamy, a retired school principal with more than 33 years’ teaching experience.

A paper qualification shows a person is knowledgeable in an area of study but that does not necessarily mean that he or she will be in a better position to teach.

“A paper qualification will not ensure a teacher’s competency and effectiveness in the classroom. Throughout my service as a teacher and headmaster, I have seen non-graduate teachers who did a better job at teaching and guiding children. They trained students to excel in academics as well as sports. These teachers contributed to the rise of some of Malaysia’s great names in sports.

“They were willing to spend their time and money to help students develop their talent. It also helped that parents then allowed teachers to take charge of their children and encourage them in both sports and studies.”

Doraisamy, who joined the teaching profession in 1965 after completing a two-year training programme at the Malayan Teachers College in Penang at the age of 22, said many who became teachers at that time had a passion for teaching and loved children.

To become a teacher in an English-medium school in the 1950s and 1960s, candidates were required to pass the Senior Cambridge (Form Five) examination. Those with a Senior Cambridge qualification were also able to pursue a teaching course at the Kirkby Teachers’ College in England.

by Chandra Devi Renganayar.

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