Archive for December, 2013

Happy New Year 2014

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Happy New Year 2014 to all Teo-Education.Com readers.

5 Simple Steps to a Better 2014

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

New Year’s resolutions focus on mere symptoms — overeating, lateness — of our disconnection from ourselves and others. They are bound to fail. But this time-tested method — taken from the best traditions of self-help — can turn your 2014 into a genuinely more meaningful year for you in all areas of life. Here are five simple steps.

1. Try being a little kinder
Toward the end of his life, the 20th century novelist and spiritual journeyer Aldous Huxley was asked by a reporter to name — out of all the Eastern philosophies, psychedelic experiments and human-potential exercises that the British intellectual had attempted — the one best method for inner development. “Just try being a little kinder,” he replied. Huxley wasn’t being glib — he was entirely serious. Christ, the Buddha and the Talmudic sages alike recognized kindness as a revolutionary act.

(MORE: The 10 Best Self-Help Books You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of)

2. Be unsparingly honest about personal goals
What if a genie promised you a wish, but with a catch: you had to tell him the truth about what you really wanted — otherwise you’d lose everything. We internally repeat what we want to believe about ourselves (“I enjoy my work”) but rarely with self-scrutiny. Make a list — every day — of what you truly, deeply want out of life. Revise it repeatedly, until you feel you are being unflinching honest about your desires. This doesn’t mean becoming Walter White, but you should know what you really want. You may be surprised where it leads you.

3. Radically forgive even cruel people
Nelson Mandela did not bring justice to South Africa so much as he brought forgiveness and reconciliation. The thirst for justice often translates into vengeance, which is life withering on both a national and intimate scale. Observe New Year’s Day in a radically new way by making an authentic effort to forgive everyone — yes, everyone — who has ever hurt you. If you can honestly attempt this — and it may require a lifetime of repeat tries — you will begin to experience a new sense of inner calm.

4. Express gratitude daily
As Joni Mitchell sang, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” These words are prophecy. We bypass incredible blessings each day. After actor Christopher Reeve was rendered quadriplegic in an accident, he observed: “I see somebody just get up out of a chair and stretch and I go, ‘No, you’re not even thinking about what you’re doing and how lucky you are to do that.’” Every morning — no matter what stresses you face — enumerate at least three things for which you are grateful. It will set your day on a different track.

Heart and soul resolutions

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Something simple and meaningful can make a real difference in somebody’s life.

OKAY. It’s that time of the year when columnists like us are granted the licence to offer some New Year resolutions to others. We can be serious, or we can be funny. But the reality is that few people will take our suggestions seriously unless they strike a chord within us.

In the spirit of this column, which draws on many real-life experiences I go through myself, I would like to offer 10 resolutions that are up to us, as individuals, to fulfil. They do not depend on others doing their part first. The power, as we say, rests solely in our hands.

1. Watch the sunrise outside your house: Yes, the sun rises each morning, wherever you may be. You don’t need the backdrop of an emerald sea or snow-capped mountains to watch this remarkable event. You just have to wake up early and step outside. And as you watch the colours change hues, you will be reminded that every new day brings forth blessings, and you will be thankful. And, yes, the sunsets are just as great.

2. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say nothing at all: These are the wise words of Thumper the rabbit in the Disney classic, Bambi. Remind yourself that careless words can and do hurt people’s feelings. And, please, don’t begin a statement with, “I do not mean to be racist but….”

3. Write a thank you letter or note: Even if your writing, like mine, is barely legible these days, a handwritten note posted to someone will definitely be appreciated amidst the bills and junk mail we get in the postbox daily. And while you are at it, leave a thank you note for your postman as well.

4. Treat your body with gentle loving care: Go to the gym or spa if there is one nearby. Those of you who live in gated communities and high-end condos should make use of the facilities you already paid for. Or just take a walk in a nearby park. Take a break from Candy Crush and play a real game of tennis. Take periodic retreats to the nearby hill stations where the air is clean and the noise of the world can be left behind.

5. Pick up the trash: If you see litter, don’t just mumble that people lack civic consciousness these days. Pick it up and place it in the bin. Your example may just inspire others to do likewise.

6. Switch off that smartphone for a day: It’s okay not to bring the phone along when you go for dinner. There is really no need to take pictures of every dish you order. And while selfie is a recognised word in the English dictionary, don’t go overboard. Just remember how Michelle looked like when Obama got so carried away with the Danish prime minister.

by Soo Ewe Jin.

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Goodbye to an eventful 2013

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

A year of catastrophic climate change, war, rebellion, whistleblowers and a poignant death slips by to shape 2014 and beyond.

ANOTHER eventful year is passing us by, choked full of environmental and political milestones, whistle-blowing revelations, confusing economic trends and more natural disasters.

The year 2013 is leaving us behind; its events will affect how the world is shaped in 2014 and beyond.

The global economy did not collapse; instead there was some good news in a nascent recovery in the United States whilst the economic powerhouse of China kept steady growth (although at a now lower path of 7% to 8%).

Most European countries remained mired in austerity-driven recession or slowdown, with deteriorating social conditions, but Germany continued its good performance and took increasing flak for its perceived self-centred policies.

It was in the developing countries that the economic tide was turning, and for the worse. Their exports softened, GNP growth rates fell, and many of them (including big countries like India, Indonesia, South Africa) became exposed to volatility in financial markets and currencies.

We can expect greater vulnerability of developing countries in the new year to the “tapering” or reduction of government pumping of money in the United States.

The expected results, such as capital outflows, weakening currency and higher interest rates, can cause destabilisation or even new crises, in some developing countries.

On the political front, the big global news was the revelation by whistle-blower Edward Snowden about the mind-boggling widespread surveillance by the US National Security Agency not only of citizens around the world but also the phone calls and e-mails of prominent politicians like the German chancellor, the Brazilian president and the Indonesian president and his wife.

The story is not yet finished, as newspapers are still coming out with more revelations.

The fallout in terms of trust in the United States, and the need for global governance of the Internet, is still at its beginning stage.

The environment continued to deteriorate. The “haze” returned to Malaysia, revealing that there is yet much to be done in Asean cooperation on stopping forest fires.

by Martin Khor.

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Prepare for a challenging year

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

RISING COSTS: Spend prudently to take care of your family’s needs.

THE year 2014 is going to be a year full of challenges for most of us. We have to plan well. We need to manage our family, time, savings and investments to be able to pull through this challenging year.

Why is 2014 so challenging? With the removal of subsidies for sugar and lowering of subsidies for fuel, and the increase in assessments and toll charges, we can expect an increase in the prices of food and services. We will need more money to face these challenges.

Everybody is going to feel the pinch of the rising costs. The most affected will be those with a low income, the less privileged and pensioners. How are those in the lower-income bracket going to cope, especially those with many children, and those who have to start a new life after losing everything in the recent floods?

The concern for the lower-income group is now on how much is left at the end of the day.

Families find that their incomes are not able to keep up with the increase in prices of goods and services. As a result, household expenditure needs to be controlled; cutting back on clothing and entertainment would be a must.

One thing that’s really worrying is the rising cost of food. We, therefore, need to cut our shopping costs. We need to plan our shopping, checking out supermarket advertisements in newspapers, comparing prices and only buying items on sale.

On top of that, we should buy staple food from cheaper stores in our area. Consumerism needs to be strong to control the rising price of food.

In Europe and America, even though inflation is quite high, basic needs such as milk, sugar, chicken, beef and vegetables are cheap. A kilo of chicken is about STG2 (RM11) in London and STG1 in Southampton. You can get a basket of vegetables and fruits for STG1 in London and a carton of 800ml fruit juice for one euro (RM4.53) in Vienna.

I keep asking myself why our basic food can’t be made cheap. Can something be done to control the price of food? Food that we eat should not cost so much as our children need nutrients to grow healthy and older people need nutritious food.

Prices are increasing across the board, from the mamak stall to fine dining. I have already noticed a 20 sen increase in a cup of coffee at my university cafeteria.

Raising bar on vocational training

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

CHALLENGES: It needs to be integrated into Educational Blueprint to be truly accessible.

THE year 2013 has been an extremely busy year for both the local and global Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) community. With the past half a decade or so witnessing a period of weak economic environment, the youth labour market has been adversely affected. The upside to this, however, is the increasing awareness of the important role TVET can play in improving employment prospects for youth.

The International Centre for TVET (Unevoc), an institute within the United Nations’ educational agency Unesco, had its hands full with numerous research and knowledge exchange projects throughout the year. Between August and November, it organised five regional forums, focusing on strengthening regional harmonisation of TVET transformation and seeking to promote a more sustainable TVET system in enhancing the skills of youth. The deliberation results are being used by Unevoc to draw up its plan of action for the next two years.

Another significant event for the global TVET community last July was the World Skills Competition (WSC), the biennial “Skills Olympics” where hundreds of young people from around the world compete to demonstrate their skills in various trades. This year, the competition was held in Germany, home of the model TVET system.

Our country also sent a delegation, where our youths bagged nine medallions of excellence in welding, plumbing and heating, electrical installation, hairdressing, fashion technology, cooking, restaurant service, refrigeration and air-conditioning, and IT network systems administration.

At the local level, 2013 has also been an eventful year. In preparation for WSC and the regional-level Asean Skills Competition, the Human Resources Ministry organised the annual national-level Malaysia Skills Competition in collaboration with the Works Ministry, as well as the MySkills Competition for trainers in TVET.

At the policymaking level, implementation of the Vocational Transformation Plan (VTP) by the Education Ministry has gone on in full gear, with the opening up of many new vocational colleges nationwide. The number of these colleges has now reached 79, with more in the pipeline.

Cuepacs: Raise allowances

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

VERDUE: 231 types not revised for more than 10 years.

KOTA KINABALU: THE Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Services (Cuepacs) has called on the government to revise  allowances of civil servants to ensure their welfare was well taken care of next year.

Its president, Azih Muda, said there were 231 allowances that had not been reviewed for more than 10 years, including service, lodging, housing and mileage.

“Many civil servants have to fork out their money to pay extra (during outstation trips) because of the high cost of living and this is not fair. This can lead to protests against the government because of dissatisfaction,” he said here yesterday.

The newly appointed president was in the state to meet Sabah Cuepecs members for the first time to discuss civil service issues.

Azih hoped the government would consider allowing civil servants aged 55 to take 20 per cent of their retirement funds for medical purposes.

“This will reduce their financial burdn. They can also use the money to go on pilgrimage or pay for their children’s education.”

He also hoped the government would increase the haj quota next year, including extending leave replacement from 150 to 180 days.

Parents urged to be thrifty when shopping for school items

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

KUALA LUMPUR: Parents are urged to exercise caution and shop within their limits when making purchases for their school going children, especially for those starting their primary education.

A psychologist with the Educational Psychology and Counselling Department of the University of Malaya, Associate Professor Dr Mariani Mohd Nor said the current lifestyle saw many parents, even the less fortunate ones, competing with each other to provide designer school items for their children.

“Nowadays, it is not only the children who are excited, the parents are even more excited and want to dress their children in branded goods from head to toe.

“If parents can afford, it is not a problem, but concern arises when parents who cannot afford, but still want their children to have all the luxurious and stylish goods, go to the extent of pawning other household needs,” she told Bernama here yesterday.

Describing it as human nature for parents to want to give their children the best, especially when they begin their new year school session, she said the practice should be stopped to avoid parents from facing financial difficulties or incur huge debts.

Mariani said children could understand their parents’ hardship and financial burden if parents took the initiative to explain to them the real situation, like the need for them to be prudent in their spending.

“Children have a gentle nature and pliable young minds, if they are aware of their parents burden, they will feel sorry and concede to some extent,” she added.

Yusni Nadia Yusoff, 28, whose eldest son, four-year-old Ikleel Yadiy Nayyar Iznan, is starting kindergarten classes comes January, said she let her son chose items portraying his favorite cartoon characters to inject the school spirit in him.

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Autonomy as an educational asset

Monday, December 30th, 2013

Although the Education Ministry appears to advocate ‘one size does not fit all’, the system is highly centralised, allowing little creativity.

IT has been an eventful year for education: the “soft landing” turning into a pathetic “crash dive”, the start of the Fulbright programme, the new ministerial line-up, the launch of the Malaysia Education Blueprint (MEB) and the renewed debate over English medium schools and English as a compulsory SPM pass.

Other issues included the RM2.2bil wastage on security, the controversial LGBT musical in universities, SK Pristana shower/canteen, CLP passes plunge, purported SPM leaks, animal slaughter in schools, the API cut-off for schools, 40% floor for science students, the snail’s pace implementation of 1Bestarinet, more trust schools, the NUTP’s demands for school-based assessments to be abolished, the appointment of the new director-general and last but not least, the end of PMR.

Topping it all off has been the highly publicised, much criticised and condemning Pisa (Programme for International Student Assess­ment) scores for mathematics, reading and science. We would not do justice to readers and supporters if we did not make a small but crucial demand.

Individual schools had the option of choosing their preferred language of instruction. While we believe many schools chose Bahasa Malaysia, a large number still chose English. It would be interesting to analyse if there is a correlation between choice of language and the scores attained by these schools, and to what degree our better performing schools equal those of developed countries.

If there is evidence that the top third of our schools chose English and their scores were equal to those of Shanghai and other similar countries, then there is every reason to support these types of schools.

Similarly, primary schools that are feeders to these secondary schools, which have a similar profile, should be reconsidered for the same to be reinstated indefinitely.

In response to the Pisa scores in the “Malaysia Economic Monitor, December 2013: High-Performing Education”, The World Bank recommends that “decision-making is made closer to schools and parents” and “providing more information to parents and communities so they can better demand a quality education for their children”.

It was further revealed that where parents exert pressure for higher results; achievement data is made public; greater autonomy is given over what is taught and how students are assessed; parents and teacher-peers apply pressure for accountability; and student achievement data is used to evaluate principals, all these elements enhance students’ performance significantly.

Such findings underscore the significance of parental interest and pressure for academic performance. The system has to involve parents who will ensure the accountability, transparency and integrity of their schools on its behalf.

Although the Education Ministry appears to be a strong advocate of “one size does not fit all”, in reality, the system is highly centralised. Schools have to await teachers, resources and instructions before any decision can be made, allowing little creativity where it is most needed. Local autonomy is key — until it is a given for the quality of education to be raised, the human capital required for an innovation-led, high-income economy will come to nought.

Much can be deduced from Pisa, which claims it is not merely a test but also “gathers extensive data on students’ social background, how they approach learning and the characteristics of the school”. In its quest to bridge the rural-urban divide, the ministry has lost sight that based on the above, such a gap cannot be closed completely. Urban schools cannot be managed like rural schools.

A prime example is where parents want their children to be taught science and mathematics in English, yet the ministry insists that it be abolished to the detriment of students’ performance contrary to the World Bank findings.

by Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim.

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Little price hikes add up to one big hole in pocket

Monday, December 30th, 2013

WHEN it comes to price increases, the consumer is always at the losing end because what goes up hardly ever comes down.

In a free market when prices are determined, to a large extent, by supply and demand, the supplier always has the upper hand.

For some products, for example electronic items like broadband TV, prices do come down progressively because of newer models and technology updates. But these are products that are still considered as non-essentials except for those in the middle to upper classes who are more than happy and able to pay for bigger and better products.

To the ordinary consumer struggling to make ends meet, it is the price increases on essential items here and there that hurt the most.

Take stationery items where prices are expected to go up by 20% to 30% within the first quarter of next year.

The industry players have claimed that they are revising the prices, partly due to the increasing costs from the implementation of minimum wages and transport costs.

Other factors include the new electricity tariff rate, higher fuel price and the currency exchange rate between the ringgit and China renminbi, as most of the imported stationery items are from China.

And for good measure, they even add in the speculated increase in toll rates and the implementation of the GST in 2015.

Actually, the market for stationery products is not as small as we perceive.

Products like paper, clips, staplers, markers and board dusters are still very much used in offices, schools, institutes of higher learning and homes.

The paperless office is still a dream, even in the most environmentally-conscious country in the world.

In an immediate response, Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Hasan Malek has warned the Federation of Stationers and Booksellers Association of Malaysia, which represents these industry players, that they will face action under the Competition Act 2010 should they increase prices as they like.

The Star Says.

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