Archive for March, 2013

Time to stress

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

A MAJOR reason why many English words are incorrectly pronounced is because certain syllables are wrongly stressed.

The problem usually begins when words are wrongly broken into syllables, eg. con/tri/bute instead of con/trib/ute; es/ti/ma/tion instead of es/tim/a/tion.

The underlying reason is because the speaker is usually not aware of the traditional rules in the English language that relate to “Stress In Words”. Stressing single-syllabic words

To correctly pronounce a single-syllabic word, one first needs to be able to “target” the Core or Extended Symbol Combinations from which the word has been made, eg. ship = sh and ip; grudge = gr and udge.

Secondly, one must know what sound is being made by the Symbols and the Core or Extended Combinations, knowing that some symbols and symbol combinations can make different sounds or can be silent, eg. “om” — “romp”, “comb”, “tomb”, “some”, “home” – “swam”, “swamp”.

Stressing multi-syllabic words

When dealing with a multi-syllabic word, once the Core and Extended Combinations are targeted, the next task is to work out where the syllables begin and finish.

Knowing the relevant 4S Pronunciation Keys is helpful, ie. Blends are used to begin words and syllables.

Double consonants usually split, eg. “con/tract/or” and “ap/pro/pri/ate”.

The challenge then is to know which syllable is stressed.

Most multi-syllabic words usually stress the first syllable.

Example: pan/try, men/tion, hon/est, des/ert, ac/tion, work/er, pris/on, cof/fee, dol/phin, doc/u/ment, fluor/es/cent, bal/lis/tic, aud/i/ence.

This key applies especially when the first syllable ends in a “long” vowel, ie. it says its own name: cy/clone, no/ble, to/tal, ti/dal, o/pen, fi/nal.

In contrast, words used as a Verb Form, are usually stressed on a “later” syllable.

The rule is demonstrated using the word contribution.

As this word is a Noun Form, the pronunciation stress will be on the “first” syllable, ie. con/trib/u/tion but the Verb Form will be con/trib/ute, ie. the stress is placed on a “later” syllable.

A simple way to recall where Noun Forms and Verb Forms are usually stressed is to remember that in the alphabet, “n” comes before “v”, therefore Nouns are stressed first. Stressing the base or root

If the stress is not on the first syllable in a multi-syllabic word, it is nearly always on the “base” or “root” from which the word has been derived.

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

Read more @

Gauging The English Proficiency Of Undergraduates

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

KUALA LUMPUR:  — It is a fact that English is an important language worldwide.

Recently, the Education Ministry said the English language subject will be accorded a compulsory ‘must pass’ status in school public examinations by 2016.

English is among the top three most widely spoken languages in the world today, alongside Spanish and Mandarin, and it is regarded as an important language to master, especially for business purposes.

Thus, Malaysians should be mindful of the proficiency required to communicate in this globally accepted language.

English Test:

Malaysian universities are constantly taking steps to ensure their students are able to effectively communicate in English.

Hence, since 1999, local public universities have made it compulsory for their students to pass Muet before they graduate.

Proficiency in English helps these undergraduates to understand their lectures and tutorials better.

Why do local university students need Muet?

According to local university officials, passing Muet is compulsory for their students to graduate.

“This is to maintain quality. Imagine a graduate who cannot communicate in English. Their market potential is drastically reduced due to this liability (unable to communicate in English),” they said.

What does it take to encourage these young undergraduates to overcome the fear of scoring good marks in Muet and graduate successfully?

Examination Council:

Recently, the Malaysian Examination Council (MPM) talked to potential candidates at a university about what to expect and the preparations needed to pass Muet.

The most recently held Muet in March 2013 saw 43,000 candidates appear for it, while the earlier Muet, which was conducted in November 2012, saw 75,000 candidates appear.

Muet is held over a period of two weeks, during which different requirements are tested. Some of these tests are conducted on different days, in separate sessions running one after another during each day.

Muet was first introduced in Malaysia in 1999 and conducted only twice a year. However, in 2012, its frequency was increased to three times a year to cope with the increasing demand from universities.

Required Bands:

A local university undergraduate has various requirements to fulfill to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in a local university.

The usual requirement is for these graduates to obtain at least a Band Three or Band Four (according to the requirements stipulated by the respective universities/faculties) in their Muet sitting.

According to an officer in charge of Muet at the MPM, Mazlina Mohamad Arif, “It depends on the course they take and the requirements made by the respective universities.

“An external student at a Law Faculty in a local university in the Klang Valley had taken Muet more than 10 times and had only obtained a Band Three pass, which is short of the minimum Band Four faculty requirement as far as that student is concerned.

by Hazlinda Hamzah


Read more @

Lee: OSH must be treated as investment

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

KOTA KINABALU: OSH (Occupational Safety and Health) must be treated as an investment, urged Chairman of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, adding that the top management should invest in the employees’ safety and ensure that OSH is a culture in the workplace.

He said, a business will not sustain its good performance or gain high profit if the investment in OSH is reduced or ignored by the top management as injuries and accidents will only result in major negative financial impact, loss of manpower and productivity.

Lee was speaking to the media at a press conference after delivering a keynote address of OSH awareness in higher learning institutions at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) here, yesterday.

“The main focus of safety is the human aspect or the employees in the organisation which require security and protection in every aspect of their lives, hence accident prevention strategies should always be taken into account of every organisation when conducting activities,” said Lee.

He also expressed his hope to assist UMS to become a prestigious university in terms of ensuring the realisation of the OSH act on campus.

“We want to help UMS to make UMS an institution where the management is not only concerned about the safety of the workforce and supporting staff here, but also concerned about the safety of their 17,000 students,” he noted.

Read more @

Student Persistence in Online Courses: Understanding the Key Factors

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

Who should be taking online courses? Are online courses equally appropriate for all students? Can any content be taught in an online format or do some kinds of material lend themselves to mastery in an electronic environment? Who should be teaching these courses? These are all good questions that institutions offering online courses — and instructors teaching them — should consider.

Most of these questions are being answered in stages by research inquiries that address smaller issues related to these larger questions. For example, Carolyn Hart has completed an integrative review of the research literature in the hopes of identifying those factors that positively affect a student’s persistence in an online course. Do we know what differentiates students who complete online courses from those who drop out?

Her review is based on 20 studies published since 1999. She found that researchers used a wide range of definitions for persistence. She opted for this straightforward description: persistence is “the ability to complete an online course despite obstacles or adverse circumstances.” (p. 30) The opposite of persistence is attrition, which she defined as “withdrawal from an online course.” (p. 30) Based on her review, she identified the following factors as being related to student persistence in online courses.

Satisfaction with online learning – Not surprising, students who are satisfied with online courses and programs persist.


Read more @

A Better Way to Talk with Faculty about Teaching Online

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

Addressing faculty perceptions of distance learning has been a matter of intense concern since the beginnings of online course delivery. Many articles have been written discussing the reasons that faculty may be disinclined to participate in an online course and how to persuade them to change their minds.

For Bernard Bull, assistance professor of educational design and technology and director of the Instructional Design Center at Concordia University in Wisconsin, it is time to move away from administrative desire to mold attitudes and move toward a discussion that takes into account faculty experience. “This is not a sales pitch,” he says. “Dialogue is beneficial even if it slows down the process. It is not always about achieving consensus.”

Bull offers six ideas about how to think differently about faculty perceptions of distance education by encouraging discussion, always remaining mindful that every person and every program brings a unique point of view to the table.

1. Move from propaganda to academic discourse – “Beware of the hard sell. There are benefits and limitations to anything,” Bull says. He encourages administrators and faculty to become familiar with literature and discussion that raise both positive and negative points about distance learning. “While one may fear that doing so simply provides ammunition for opponents of distance learning, this is the spirit of academic discourse. It is a dialogue that welcomes, even finds benefit in diverse perspective, the ability to test and critique ideas and efforts,” he says. Making this move is the first step in allowing all members of the discussion to feel heard, and this is critical to avoiding the hard sell.


Read more @

How to Handle Student Excuses

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

“Grandpa’s heart exploded, but he’s fine now,” one student reported the morning after missing a scheduled exam. “I caught dyslexia from another student last semester,” responded another when his teacher asked him about all the spelling mistakes in his paper. And then there was the pet rabbit that swallowed a needle on the day of the big group presentation. Excuses like these are so preposterous that they can’t help but make us laugh, but dealing with them is no laughing matter.

As a book for new psychology teachers points out, “The way you handle excuses conveys a message to your students about your teaching philosophy, and most particularly about whether you view students as partners or adversaries, the degree to which you trust them, and how you care about them.” (p. 137)

The trick is separating the legitimate, bona fide excuses from the contrived, just plain made-up ones, and there are lots of gradations in between. Sometimes a teacher needs the wisdom of Solomon.


Read more @

Five Things Students Can Learn through Group Work

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

I often get questions about group work. Recently, the question was phrased like this: “Can students learn anything in groups?” And, like faculty sometimes do, this questioner proceeded with the answer. “I don’t think my students can. When they work in groups they have no interest in doing quality work. Whatever the first person says, they all agree with that and relax into a social conversation.”

Standing opposite the experience of faculty members like this one is an accumulation of research that strongly supports students learning from and with each other in groups. There’s research and analyses of group learning now reported in virtually every discipline. Here are five things students can learn in groups, all well-established by a wide range of empirical analyses.

  1. They can learn content, as in master the material. Whether they are working on problems, answering questions about the reading, or discussing case studies, when students work together on content, they can master the basics. The reason they learn is pretty straightforward, when students work with content in a group they are figuring things out for themselves rather than having the teacher tell them what they need to know.


Read more @

Educators face serious challenges to national education sector

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

KOTA KINABALU: Educators today are faced with various issues, which if not addressed, could pose serious challenges to the national education sector.

Among the issues are teachers unwilling to adapt to changes in the education system and those who are still practising traditional methods of teaching as well as the increase in the number of tuition centres which poses a threat to the role of teachers.

“These issues not only pose challenges to the credibility of educators but also a threat to the country if not addressed,” said Prof Dr Shariff Abdul Kadir Omang, deputy vice chancellor (academic and international), Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS).

He said this in his speech at a dialogue session among the Faculty of Education Dean Council of Malaysian Public Higher Education Institutions, the West Malaysia Malay Teachers Union and the Teacher Education Division of the Ministry of Education, which was held at the 1Borneo hypermall here yesterday.

The text of his speech was read by UMS Dean of the School of Education and Social Development, Assoc Prof Dr Ismail Ibrahim.

Dr Shariff said the dialogue with the theme ‘Current and Future Educational Issues: Challenges and Realities’ was very timely for educators to brainstorm and come up with new ideas and insights to face the current as well as future challenges.

“In education transformation, the task of educators is not just to impart knowledge but also to create dynamic and quality human capital,” he said.

Meanwhile, President of the Sabah Government Teachers’ Union, Hussin Basir, said the dialogue was intended to resolve problems among teachers so that their interests would be better protected.

Read more @

Early Education Seeks To Create High Quality Human Capital

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

KUALA LUMPUR: — In the past, not many parents were enthusiastic about sending their children to early education programmes, deeming it inappropriate.

For these parents, children were better off being given the freedom to play, in the belief that education should start only after children reach the age of five or six years.

The rationale was: What’s wrong with allowing children to play, since once they start the period of schooling, their time will be packed full with academic activities, anyways?

This trend of thinking, although not shared by all parents, could have stemmed from a lack of exposure and information on the importance of early education or preschool.

However, this line of thinking is also becoming outdated and, indeed, in line with a fundamental shift combined with new ideas presented by a borderless, global world, many pre-school centres have been set up, catering to a growing demand by parents.

Whether this reflects the government’s or private sector initiatives, parents today have “opened their eyes” to the importance of early education.

Nevertheless, a question does arise about whether early education, seen as a platform for the intellectual development of children, to a certain extent robs children of their care free days and, in turn, burdens them with the pressure of studying at a very young age?

Lesson through playing:

Not necessarily so, says a member of the Malaysian Children Hope Foundation Board of Advisers, Datuk Atikah Adom.

“We don’t ask them (the children) to study, but advocate the concept of learning through play, as they are children.”

Parents might expect more, as nothing could be greater than seeing the potential of their children unfolding or heading for positive development in the exploration of a new world, and their minds expanding with learning.

The command of reading, mathematical and writing skills are also gained much more easily with an earlier education.

Yes, it is true, it is always easier to learn something at an earlier age and, likewise, the intellectual process is best started early when it is without pressure or burden, said Atikah, whose organisation is involved in programmes related to the development and welfare of children under the age of 18.

“This is what we stress on as there are parents who want their children to be clever in their studies. But kids are kids… let them play and, at the same time, teach them by story telling to attract their interest in reading books,” she told Bernama.

In fact, early education centres such as kindergartens which open their doors to children aged from four onwards, or nurseries that cater to children from age two, are not filled with boring study-routines.

The environment of exploring knowledge is tailored according to age groups and interspersed with interesting and the latest elements to attract the interest of young children to study and to lay down a strong foundation for them to easily accept formal education later on in primary school.

How crucial is early education?

Early education, however, is not just about the process of expanding the mind’s prowess or even about turning a child into a bookworm.

Indeed, it can be an early catalyst for producing a generation that is fully equipped with good communications skills, while being creative, innovative, as well analytical in their thinking.

Various studies have been carried out to prove the correlation between early education and quality performance.

Among them, research done in the United Kingdom indicated how children who received quality early education for two years were capable of showing a higher level of performance by the age of seven.

The Vice Chancellor of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Prof Tan Sri Sharifah Hapsah Syed Hasan Shahabudin, has been quoted as saying that a child’s period of growing up to age five was vital, as research had shown that the emotional, physical and intellectual environment they are in during the early stages of their lives had a profound impact on the way their brains develop.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise when, today, many parents believe that sending their children to pre-school is a priority in the development and bringing up of their children.

Values and Human capital:
Despite this, not many parents are aware that this long-term investment of sending their children to pre-school would also instill strong values in the children.

The development of children with rich eastern values, learned from an early age, will also prove to be a strong pillar for them against falling easily into any negative social behavior, Atikah said.

She noted that under the current scenario, where any mix of cultures could be assimilated into daily living with the meaning of shame or modesty completely lost, a great challenge has been posed, one that calls for the importance of religious education and emphasizing interracial and other important values.

“We see many social ills taking place. But if we say prevention is better than cure, by sending the children for early education, I feel such issues could be overcome,” added Atikah.

Choosing the centre:

The question then arises about how to choose a quality early education centre.

It is only natural that parents would be fussy when they make their selection, since they want to choose the best for their children.

Hence, they would compare the reputation of kindergartens operated by the private sector, as well as the government, before making their choice.

by Sakini Mohd Said.


Read more @

Government to resettle some people in eastern Sabah to maintain safety: PM

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

KUALA LUMPUR: The government is to launch an initiative to resettle people living in several locations in eastern Sabah to maintain public safety, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said, Monday.

The move was decided on after realising that the vulnerability of several settlements to the easy entry of illegal immigrants and stateless persons was the primary cause of the Sulu terrorist intrusion in Lahad Datu and other parts of eastern Sabah, he said.

He said that the initiative, under Part III of the Preservation of Public Security Regulations 2013, enabled the government to resettle any individual or a group of people, particularly any individual or a group of people who were illegal immigrants or stateless persons, in a safe and suitable area determined by the government.

“It must be emphasised here that the decision to resettle any individual or a group of people is for the sake of maintaining public security.

“In undertaking this resettlement, the government will take into consideration the safety and well-being of not only the people to be resettled but also the people already living in the designated area of resettlement,” he said at the parade in conjunction with the 206th Police Day at the Police Training Centre (Pulapol), here.

Najib said discussions would be held with the district, native or village chiefs on all aspects of the resettlement, including the people’s source of livelihood.

The prime minister said that to preserve and protect the people’s fundamental rights and uphold the rule of law, the government would ensure that the resettlement did not prevent any aggrieved citizen in the designated area from challenging the government’s decision or exercising his or her right as a voter in any parliamentary or state election.

“Realising that the resettlement would involve Malaysians, either as those to be resettled or those already living in the area of resettlement, the government will help those citizens whose rights under the Federal Constitution have been undermined by such resettlement,” he said.

The prime minister said the government would provide a safe place to live and ensure that adequate facilities were available for maintenance of public health, medical services and sanitation, besides opportunities for education and employment.

The government would also cooperate with any domestic or foreign organisation to make available training and equipment, if necessary, to enable the resettled people to start life anew, he said.

“The government realises that the decision on the resettlement has a major impact on the future of those involved. Migration to a new place involves getting adapted to a new environment,” he said.

He also said that the initiative would be beneficial to those already living in the area of resettlement because the government would implement programmes necessary for their well-being.

The prime minister said the resettlement initiative might be extended to the rest of Sabah when it was felt that the situation was right to do so.

“Although the resettlement initiative is now confined to eastern Sabah, it does not mean that western Sabah is being neglected. The need for safety is now more pressing in the east,” he said.

He also said that the government had never doubted the loyalty of Malaysian citizens of Suluk descent.

He said they were citizens who enjoyed the rights provided for by the Federal Constitution and the other laws of the country.

“The government will continue to protect their legitimate rights and champion their welfare,” he said.