Archive for October, 2013

Of believing and becoming

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

The role of an educator is not simply to transfer knowledge but to inspire positive beliefs in students so that they have better thought and judgement.

THE universe, as we know it, is governed by four fundamental forces of nature: the strong and weak nuclear forces, electromagnetism, and gravitation.

Of all these, gravity is the weakest.

By comparison, the strong nuclear force is an undecillion, orseveral billion times stronger than gravity.

Yet, gravity reaches out into space the farthest that it is the one force responsible to shape the entire cosmic structures of the universe: planets, stars, and galaxies.

It pulls in the molecular clouds produced after a supernova explosion and binds them together to form a new star system of which planets and moons are born, akin to what we have in our solar system.

The lesson to learn here is to not underestimate things that seem insignificant, but which could turn out to be critical in building important foundations at the biggest scales.

What about us? What is the foundation that governs our behaviour, builds our communities, shapes our societies, motivates our discoveries, and drives our inventions?

What persuades parents to act in certain ways to their children, Why do teachers teach the way they do? Why do teenagers copy or follow the latest trends?

Here is a clue. It seems to be the most intangible, but pervades quietly beneath our subconscious minds. The answer is: our beliefs.

Our beliefs certainly set the paths we take in life. I’m not talking about the labels of which religion we belong to, which have sometimes been used to create divisive fault lines between people.

Deeper beliefs

It is about the deeper belief in our sense of being: of whether we believe there’s a purpose in life, or if we matter at all, or if life is fair or not.

People don’t talk that way these days. Those questions are either deemed philosophical (a euphemism of being unrealistic and pointless), uninteresting to the general public, backward to the fast-paced thinking of today’s “technogeeks” who are more concerned about facts and figures, or just plain lame to the younger generation.

Nobody dares to do so at the risk of being labelled idealistic.

But in truth, our beliefs form the basis that inspire our thought and judgment.

What one aims for in life depends on whether one believes that true happiness lies in material wealth, or if one subscribes to the notion that life is worth living, if earned with sincerity and balance.

Whether a student is going to learn well or not depends on whether he or she believes that true education leads to wonder, success, and self-worth or that education is just another dreary phase in life, where the joy of other issues and happenings, triumphs over learning.

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Getting students to understand cyber security

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

CHANGE is happening very rapidly in today’s world and education has evolved bringing on more responsibilities for the educator.

It goes beyond teaching students the knowledge and skills. In fact, teachers need to prepare their charges for the real world.

In the past, adults had access to developments in technology, had a “hold” of the changes and then passed down their knowledge to the next generation.

With the “tsunami-like” nature of new digital technologies, children these days are learning to use technology at the same time as the adults.

This sometimes leads to misunderstandings and uncertainties of how technologies can or should be used.

Schools must respond to students’ changing needs. In the working world, increasingly complicated issues will require solutions that cross disciplinary boundaries, and go beyond “one-box” solutions.

Though the urge to cut corners may be strong, standards for respectful and ethical conduct should be cultivated.

Nurturing each of these minds will help ensure that the next generation is willing and able to meet the still-unknown challenges of the future.

With many businesses moving online, there will be a need to get employees with at least basic cyber security knowledge to protect their online reputation.

Hence, all new employees will need to have the basic knowledge of cyber security to be competitive in a working market where there is more and more unemployment worldwide!

by Dr Termit Kaur.

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Jobs aplenty, language a setback

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Employment opportunites remain dim for graduates who are not as proficient in the English language.

MALAYSIAN graduates today are weak when it comes to speaking and writing in the English language, and that to a large extent, affects their job prospects.

In fact, with more job openings for graduates especially in the digital, marketing and creative sectors, one would expect the vacancies to be snapped up easily, but this has not been the case in the recent past.

“There are now more jobs than good talent in the industries we service, so graduates do have better prospects compared to a few years ago during the economic downturn,” says Reema Bhullar, a public relations and communications expert.

However, the lack of conversational and written skills in English has been a drawback for some which is why there are still many job vacanices, she adds.

Specialising in recruitment solutions, she shares that English language proficiency plays a big role for job candidates in the three (digital, marketing and creative) related sectors are usually judged on their resume, phone conversation and performance during the interview. .

“While companies may differ in their needs and requirements, one cannot run away from the fact that employability is also about attitude and perception.

“Most employees think that once they have secured a job, they have made it. They fail to periodically upgrade themselves to remain employable and relevant in the industry.

“When the economy dips, it is those with a lackadaisical attitude who may face a dim future or lose their existing jobs,” adds Bhullar.

“Sometimes fresh graduates are not aware of their poor language skills until their employers complain or point it out to them,” says ELS Language Centres vice-principal Josephine Teo.

“They have to take the initiative to improve their own skills and abilities and enrol in language courses,” she adds.

by Royce T.G. Tan.

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Concerns over school security and safety

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

The advantages and disadvantages of installing a surveillance system are aplenty, but most students and school authorities welcome their presence.

BIG BROTHER is watching you, even in schools these days. The presence of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras along school corridors is a sign that the institution is no longer a safe haven for students.

Due to several high profile child kidnapping cases that have occured around school vicinities, security within and outside the compounds of such institutions have become a huge concern for parents.

One case in point is of Dutch national Nayati Shamelin Moodliar who was kidnapped outside an international school in Mont Kiara, Kuala Lumpur. The images of two men pushing the boy into a car were captured from CCTV cameras from an apartment nearby. The case, in particular, proved the efficacy of the system.

The Education Ministry had in 2008 stated that schools which could afford the surveillance system, should install CCTV cameras at strategic areas to beef up security. This was soon after the disappearance of five-year-old Sharlinie Mohd Nashar who is still missing.

Even then, harm or negative activities can also come from within the school. Too often, we hear about gang fights, bullying, vandalism and incidences of theft committed by students within the school premises.

Keeping watch

With a population of over 2,800 students in his school in Negri Sembilan, secondary school principal Adam Nordin* admits that it is an uphill task to monitor the discipline of every student on its grounds. He had approved the installation of 24 CCTV cameras some years ago and another four were added on last year.

Each CCTV surveillance set comes with a DVR recorder, a television set and four infrared cameras while certain sets are equipped with eight cameras.

The entire surveillance system was fully funded by the school’s parent-teacher association (PTA) and cost about RM14,000.

“The main reason for installing the CCTV cameras is for the security of the students and school property. The cameras are placed in areas like the computer lab which are ‘hotspots’ for would-be thieves,” says Adam.

The school has cameras panning all corners of the vicinity including the corridors, canteen, teachers’ parking lot and the main entrance of the school. The system’s control rooms are located in the offices of the principal and the senior assistant.

In the comfort of his office, Adam is able to view the rear entrance of the school which is bordered by a secondary forest.

by Kang Soon Chen.

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Supporting gender equality

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

The Constitution can confer legal and formal equality but functional equality in any outcome is more difficult.

THE UN Women Annual Report 2012-2013 has just been published. It puts forward a very perceptive and broad-based plan for gender equality and female empowerment.

In addition to reiterating the need for increasing women’s leadership and participation, ending violence against females and enhancing women’s economic empowerment, the report breaks new ground by proposing engagement of women in all aspects of peace and security and making gender equality central to national development planning and budgeting.

I think that women’s rights are part of the broader mosaic of human rights. Any strides towards gender equality must be celebrated and supported. However, praise for the report must be balanced by an awareness of the possible hurdles in the path.

No magic wand: Gender bias cannot be exterminated by recourse to the law alone. The Constitution can confer legal and formal equality. Social and functional equality i.e. equality in any outcome is more difficult.

For example, the equal right to vote does not result in equal representation in Parliament, the Cabinet and the higher echelons of civil service or industries. Around the world, women are still trapped in stereotyped roles.

Deep-seated religious and cultural values, socio-economic imperatives, psychological and biological factors and traditions as old as history have to be modified. In this area there are no destinations, only uncertain journeys. The battle has to be waged on many fronts.

Work of equal value: It is not enough to give equal pay for equal work. Protection should extend to equal pay for work of equal value. Nursing, which is dominated by women, tends to pay lesser than the work of excavator operators who are mostly men. Paradigms have to be shifted radically to compare the social worth of different jobs. The economic implications are staggering.

by Shad Saleem Faruqi.

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Crime Among Students Rises By 149%: CP Ayub

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

JOHOR BAHARU:  The crime rate among students increased by 149 per cent in the first six months of this year compared to the same period last year.

Malaysian Crime Prevention and Eradication director CP Datuk Wira Ayub Yaakob said the number of crime cases involving students within the period this year was 873 while it was only 335 last year.

“The figure is not high but crime involving students must be curbed lest it destroys them. The students should rightly be in school to gain knowledge,” he said in a media conference after attending a school crime prevention club seminar for teachers here today.

He said the Ops Cantas operations conducted by the police had not only managed to curb crime among adults but also reduced incidence of student wrongdoing in the school.

School crime prevention clubs could assist the police in collecting information and prevent crime among students, he said.

Meanwhile, Ayub said the government had approved the department’s application for 10,000 police volunteers.

Those who were interested to become one could apply through the police website, he said.


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470,395 Candidates To Sit For SPM 2013 Beginning Nov 6

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

KUALA LUMPUR: A total of 470,395 candidates will sit for this year’s Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination at 3,616 centres nationwide beginning Nov 6 until Dec 5.

A statement issued by the Malaysian Examination Board of the Education Ministry here today, said that 415,509 of the candidates were from government schools, government-aided schools and public religious schools.

The others included 8,054 candidates from government agencies, such as Mara Junior Science College (MRSM), 1,389 candidates from people’s religious schools, 8,325 candidates from state religious schools, 11,261 candidates from private schools and 22,857 private candidates.

“A total of 30,863 invigilators have also been appointed to ensure the SPM examination goes smoothly,” the statement said.

Candidates were also advised to refer to their examination time-table to avoid any inconveniences and to always bring along their identity card to the examination hall.


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A head start for preschoolers

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

THE RM530 million allocation for preshool programmes as well as setting up 93 preschools in national-type primary schools in the 2014 Budget shows that the government recognises the importance of early education.

This would mean there will be about eight preschools in national-type schools set up in every state in the country.

It would be great to see preschools in national-type schools established in rural areas as this would ensure the disadvantaged get the necessary headstart in education.

Only 72 per cent of children are receiving pre-school education now. Therefore, the allocation would go a long way in ensuring that a 98 per cent enrolment is achieved by 2020.

Quality early learning and childcare can make a difference in a child’s future success in school and later life, and help them fulfil their future potential.

Preschool programmes will ensure that children, especially in rural areas and low-income families, achieve their full potential despite their background or circumstance.

We all know for a fact that most children in rural areas do not attend preschool. As a result, they are often left behind compared with their peers in big towns. Some pupils in rural areas do not even know the alphabet when they start primary school.

Under the Rural and Regional Development Ministry, kindergartens known as Tadika Kemas are set up in rural areas and small towns. Tadika Kemas was established to give children aged 4-6 years old the opportunity to pick up basic skills and experiences to facilitate them when they reach primary school.

Even though there are Tadika Kemas in these areas, their programmes are not as advanced as those of preschool programmes in urban towns.

Private kindergartens, besides Tadika Kemas, are also available in small towns and rural areas but sometimes, most only function as nurseries.

Preschool kindergartens in big towns, on the other hand, offer state-of-the-art education programmes for preschoolers which are advanced.

There are even some preschools kindergartens that offer third languages, computer lessons, swimming classes and other extra-curricular activities. Of course, these high-end kindergartens only cater for the wealthy as the fees are comparable to the tuition fees of public universities.

by Wan Norliza Wan Mustapha

Will GST increase govt revenue?

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

WITH the unveiling of the 2014 Budget, the long-awaited goods and services tax (GST) has at last come knocking at our doors.

Come April 2015, the GST will replace the service and sales taxes (SST). Previously, we predicted that the rate would be between six and 10 per cent, the former being the current service tax rate while the latter is the sales tax rate.

The common expectation was that the GST would be four per cent on the supposition that that rate would be revenue neutral. That is, the revenue from the GST will just offset the revenue lost from the repeal of the SST. By setting it at six per cent, or one per cent lower than that of Singapore and Thailand, the government has to showcase our GST as the lowest in Asean.

There is always a risk in introducing an unpopular tax. The fear is that the GST may shrink consumption and, consequently, stall growth if consumers take fright. When a two per cent rise in a similar value-added tax (VAT) took the rate to five per cent in Japan in 1997, the nation slipped into a recession. And, the premier lost his job!

It would, however, be disingenuous to attribute this unfortunate turn of events entirely to the VAT increase. Other knock-on effects such as the Asian financial crisis and Japan’s notorious 50 per cent corporate income tax rate then (it has since been brought down to 40 per cent) had a part in dispatching Japan to the doldrums.

With our economy expected to post a modest five per cent growth, the risk of a recession is negligible. More so, government expenditure is expected to remain stable, if not increase, as the year wears on.

Reduction in personal income taxes, the RM2,000 tax relief for those with monthly incomes of up to RM8,000 and the RM300 for households who are BR1M recipients, should have the Keynesian effect of increasing the overall propensity to consume in the economy. Such increased consumption should spur economic growth and further fill government coffers through the GST.

So, will the proposed GST bring in the expected increase in government revenue? We consider that at the proposed rate of six per cent, the impact on the government’s treasury will be minimal. Let us do the math

by Prof Datuk Dr John Antony Xavier

Rea d more @: Will GST increase govt revenue? – Columnist – New Straits Times

Leaving behind exam-oriented system

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Under the new education blueprint the approach will focus more on comprehensive assessment based on the banding system, where all students will be tutored to achieve the highest band which is Band 6.

AMONG the aims of the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 launched by the Deputy Prime Minister recently is to end the exam-oriented system that has been in place for a long time.

The revised approach will focus more on the comprehensive assessment which will be based on the banding system ranging from Band 1 to Band 6. According to this system, all students will be tutored properly by the teachers to achieve the highest band which is Band 6.

Naturally, for those who are used to the old exam-oriented system, the new approach does not offer them satisfaction and certainty. There are still questions raised on how the new assessment method will really evaluate the academic performance of the students.

As academic achievement of the students will no longer be ranked in numbers and scores within a class, parents in particular are still in the dark on the real performance of their children. Living in a competitive age where everything is assessed through performance ranking, tangible assessment is, no doubt, of utmost concern to many.

Generally speaking, the exam-oriented education system is seen as having some drawbacks despite its benefits.

Such a system has produced students who will only focus on their studies at the last moment of the academic term and concentrate more on passing exams rather than understanding the subject.

The main concern is more on the outcome rather than the learning process.

The system has also forced teachers to struggle in completing syllabi before the exams at the expense of students’ understanding of the content of the subjects.

The emphasis, therefore, has shifted from understanding the lessons taught to mere rote learning or memorisation.

Although memorisation is still important in learning since it serves as raw materials for the process of thinking and understanding, the over-emphasis of this aspect especially in serving examination purposes will definitely not help in developing a better student.

by Dr Mohd Farid Mohd Shahran.

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