Archive for January, 2014

Ice found on the summit of Mt Kinabalu

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

Kota Kinabalu: Ice was found in the summit rock pool at Km 8.5, near Low’s Peak, when temperature plunged to minus 3 degrees Celsius on Mt Kinabalu, on Jan 17, fuelled by 37km per hour strong winds.

Temperatures at the summit fell progressively over three days to minus one degree Celsius on January 15 and minus two degrees Celsius on January 16 before it hit minus three degrees Celsius on January 17.

Confirming the report, Tengku Datuk Dr Zainal Adlin, Chairman of Sabah Parks, said Martin Mogurin, the Park’s Head Ranger reported there were even snow at Panar Laban which is only 10,700ft above sea level, which suggests a freezing condition that hit the whole summit.

“I am trying to get some pictures of the event,” Tengku said.

The weather warmed up to two degrees Celsius on January 22 when the summit was closed to tourists due to heavy rains.

“I have seen ice formation on Mt Kinabalu but not snowfall,” said Dr Ravi Mandalam, a regular climber of Mt Kinabalu.

Historically, however, snow capped a huge expanse of the summit of Kinabalu during the last Ice Age, which lasted from 120,000 years ago to 10,000 years ago.

It is the glacial movements of billions of tones of hardened snow associated with the last Ice Age which scrapped off all vegetation and soil from the top and created a bald summit rock face and jagged peaks of the mountain we see today.

Read more @

The need for integrity

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

Our columnist talks about the need for teachers to be more forthright and honest in their assessment of all matters pertaining to school lessons and activities.

IT IS never easy or perhaps not even possible when you are smack in the middle of a situation or experience to be able to think objectively about it.

Yet, sometimes it may be the most necessary thing to do – to step outside a problem or conundrum for a while, to draw a breath of fresh air that is not tainted by the atmosphere of the situation, or simply to disentangle long enough to put some distance between you and the problem, and then from that vantage point of view, take stock of everything, weigh, and strategise.

Teachers would certainly be familiar with the strategic, tactical and operational planning documents or forms they are often called to prepare and their associated acronyms.

Although the preparation of documents such as these and others should be the result of concentrated discussion, honest reflection and deep thinking, more often than not they are just regarded as something to be done for filing purposes and because someone who is higher up on the educational hierarchy requires it.

So what takes precedence over absolute honesty in this case and other cases where forms and documents reflecting school performances need to be filled, is the perceived need for something to look good on paper even if it does not represent the entire truth.

Formats, fonts and presentation supersede meaning and sincere unbiased openness.

So year after year we see the same entries being made, the same things being written with a little bit of tweaking to accommodate current figures.

We have become so good at presenting or reporting what is expected of us rather than what actually is that at times we can rattle off answers to certain questions before they are even asked.

Read more @

Getting more academic help

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

Schools must tap the talents of its best teachers and enlist them in teaching at tuition centres set up on school premises, for the benefit of weaker students.

TUITION continues to be a matter for discourse in our education landscape. In a normal school setting, classes are “large”; with 30 to 40 students of varied academic abilities clustered in a class.

To be optimally effective and efficient, an experienced teacher has learnt to tailor his teaching style to suit the needs of the majority of his charges.

This means he will inadvertently miss out on the needs of the better enlightened and the weaker students.

The “poor” students want to be “good” students; the “good” students want to be “better” students and the “better” students want to be the “best” students. So, they all scurry to tuition teachers.

With so many parents sending their children for tuition to “improve” their grades, there is no wonder why tuition centres are mushrooming all over.

With smaller classes and “more dedicated” teachers, these tuition centres do bring about the results that parents and students want.

The centres are able to do what normal schools seem unable to do. It is becoming a norm today that children begin their tuition from as early as Year One!

Students who are lagging behind in their studies, need extra help to put them back on track. while those who do well want more coaching to ensure that they can score that coveted grade A or A+.

Tuition teachers fill the gaps school teachers unwittingly and may I add, helplessly create.

A student’s academic performance and achievement is considered an important measure of his/her schooling success. Such being the case, tuition teachers and tuition centres have become an indispensable and integral component of our education system today.

However, there is another side to tuition. Most tuition teachers are either serving school teachers or retired school teachers. Where else could they have gained the experience, expertise and versatility to hone their subject skills and handle their charges?

These teachers either operate from their own house or at tuition centres. For those still serving in school, permission has to be sought to give tuition outside of school.

Strictly, they are allowed only certain hours of work per week outside of school, but this is seldom followed. Neither is permission even applied for when tuition is given at the tutor’s house.

by Liong Kam Chong.

Read more @

A little love goes a long way

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

There’s little love in the air, judging by what has been happening in the country in recent days.

SO, Lee Chong Wei may be saying goodbye to the courts this year. It’s a bit sad. He has been lighting up the courts for all Malaysians for close to a decade.

He was just a playful young lad when we first met before the Athens Olympics in 2004. He’s now Datuk Lee, an Olympic silver medallist, a 10-time Malaysian Open winner and the World No 1. All big feats indeed.

When he retires, badminton will be that much poorer for it. The sport, after all, is one of the best in the world.

It’s one of those few sports where you get the man in the middle going: “Love-all. Play”.

Love all.

I like that – especially in these days when love for others seems too rare a commodity in our country.

Take the case of the five elderly folk abandoned by the very people who had been tasked with caring for them. How could anyone leave the five to wallow in such filth?

They had to live among rubbish, with no running water and no one to dispose of the left over food. They went unwashed for days and slept next to a stinking toilet. The Star reporter who was informed of their plight by Taman Wahyu residents came back shocked. He had not been able to tell a man from the rubbish until the man stirred.

To this day, some of them remain unloved.

While one has been taken home by her son, and one or two more may yet get to be with relatives, the others look certain to languish in another old folk’s home, forgotten by those who should be their loved ones.

by Dorairaj Nadason.

Read more @

‘Sleeping sun’ phenomenon partly cause of chilly weather

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

PETALING JAYA: The weather usually gets colder at this time of the year but temperatures seem to be dropping lower than usual.

Faizal Parish, an expert in biodiversity and the climate, said the sudden change is related to the extreme weather conditions in other parts of the region, as well as in Europe and the United States.

Scientists are saying that the causes are global climate change and a reported drop in activity on the surface of the sun, called the “sleeping sun” phenomenon.

“The scientists are seeing lower sunspot activity now compared to the past 10 years,” explained Faizal, who is director of the Global Environment Centre here.

“There is now less radiation from the sun reaching us but that alone does not cause a drastic drop in temperature.

“It is the cold mass of air coming from Russia and China that is lowering temperatures.”

He said that while this cold air would usually remain in China, it is now coming further south due to a change in the high-altitude wind flows.

Scientists in Europe have warned that the lack of sunspot activity could lead to a new mini ice-age there, similar to one that happened in the 17th century.

Named the Maunder Minimum, it was a period of drastically reduced sunspot activity that occurred bet­ween 1645 and 1715. It also caused London’s River Thames to freeze over.

Faizal also explained that the switch in wind patterns was due to global climate change.

“The impact of climate change is not just global warming. It can lead to extreme weather, such as heatwaves, cold snaps or droughts,” he said.

Read more @

RM3.3 million for ‘Trenglish’ programme

Friday, January 24th, 2014

ENGLISH MASTERY: It’s for Form 2 to 4 students.

KUALA TERENGGANU: THE Terengganu  government has allocated RM3.3 million to implement the “Trenglish Programme” for Form Two to Four students to master the English language.

State Education, Higher Education and Special Affairs Committee chairman, Ghazali Taib, said the funds for the programme had been approved by Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Said and was a joint collaboration between Yayasan Terengganu and the Education Department.

“The programme will be implemented during classes for the students to speak and be exposed to English as a second language.

“At present we have formed a 10-member team called the Trenglish team and set up language labs,” he said after a media session organised by the Terengganu Communication Unit here yesterday.

He added that the Trenglish team would be visiting Singapore next month to study a programme there to be used as a model.

“We will be recruiting TESL (Teaching of English as a Second Language) teachers.

Focus on ensuring equity and quality in education – Muhyiddin

Friday, January 24th, 2014

LONDON: Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has called upon all countries to focus on ensuring equity and quality in education from basic to tertiary levels.

He said education policies and strategies should be equitable and inclusive so as to reach the marginalized, including children with disabilities and to ensure it accommodates the needs of all children.

Muhyiddin, who is also the Malaysian Education Minister, said this when delivering a keynote presentation at The Education World Forum 2014, here Wednesday. The forum, the biggest gathering of national education and skills ministers in the world is represented by 100 countries.

Muhyiddin said education was a fundamental right and while there had been progress in enrolment since 2000, 57 million children were still in need of schooling, and two thirds of the adult illiterates were women.

He said countries should move beyond the traditional needs of acquiring basic skills in literacy and numeracy and learning outcomes should be the honing of a global citizenship mindset.

“This entails our children to become self-learners, and equipping them to think critically and creatively,” said Muhyiddin.

The deputy prime minister said global citizenship education should also be based on promoting mutual understanding, combating corruption, democratizing the use of new technologies, learning history, cultures of other nations and appreciating the faith of others.

“Here it suggests that whilst ICT can innovate teaching methods, student outcome is still very dependent on the ability of the educators,” he added.

Muhyiddin said there was a need to embed ethics and spirituality in the education system to counter the oft-mentioned “education without a soul” dilemma.

“Ignoring values, ethics and spirituality is no longer acceptable since about five billion of the world population are involved in the major religions,” he said.

He said that Malaysia’s education policy was built upon these objectives for nurturing well-rounded individuals.

“In Malaysia’s case, being a successful multi-religious and multicultural society, we take this forward to counter-balance the more secularing impacts of education.

“It implies then that ‘learning outcome’ too requires new measurements and yardsticks, complementing the more conventional international benchmarks such as TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) and PISA (Programme for International Sudent Assessment).

Read more @

Storm in a teacup

Friday, January 24th, 2014

We need to sit down with humility and maturity at the table of fellowship for a dialogue.

ON Prophet Muhammad’s birthday it was heartening to hear the clarion call by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the Ruler of Negri Sembilan and the Raja Muda of Perak for accommodation and tolerance on issues of religion.

Their sentiments are in line with Islam’s recognition of religious pluralism and its affinity with Judaism and Christianity. It is said in Surah 29:46: “And say: We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you. And our God and your God is one; and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him.”

Abu Dawud reports that Prophet Muhammad once warned his people: “Whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim minority, or curtails their rights, or burdens them with more than they can bear, or takes anything from them against their free will; I will complain against the person on the Day of Judgment.”

I wish that on the Kalimah Allah issue, a spirit of respectful dialogue with humility and maturity could replace the shrill voices of discord and threats that have characterised the debate in the last few weeks.

If we could calmly listen to each other and try to understand each other’s fears and suspicions, we could arrive at some broad agreements.

In fact, a middle path already exists in the assiduously arrived-at Ten-Point Agreement of April 2011.

We need to honour this solemn pact and do whatever is necessary legally and politically to overcome the obstacles that stand in the way. The obstacles are indeed many.

Exclusivity: Many Muslims are claiming that the word Allah is exclusive to Islam and for this reason its usage by others must be banned.

This argument is based purely on local laws and on local perceptions. It has no theological, etymological or global basis.

The term Allah precedes Chris­tianity and Islam and is widely employed by Arabs of all faiths.

The Guru Granth Sahib of the Sikhs uses the term 46 times! Christians in Indonesia and in Sabah and Sarawak have for centuries invoked the term Allah to refer to God. Having said that, it must be pointed out that the concept of Allah, as shaped by Islam for 1,435 years, is radically different from the concept of god in most denominations of Christianity.

Wounding religious feelings: In the theology of Islam, Allah cannot be depicted in any human form. Allah cannot be an aspect of the trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Allah does not beget and cannot be begotten (Surah 112:3). There is a clear distinction between God Almi­ghty and His many noble Prophets.

That being so, if it were to be preached publicly that Allah was born of Mother Mary; that Allah was born in the manger; that He was crucified and resurrected, this will blaspheme Islam and could be caught by Section 298 of the Penal Code. There will be implications for public order.

by Shad Saleem Faruqi.

Read more @

Expert team to evaluate students’ skills in English.

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

REVIEW: Cambridge English findings will help ministry set target for future learning.

LONDON : THE Education Ministry has commissioned a study by expert in language assessment, Cambridge English, to evaluate the proficiency of Year One to Form Six students in English in order that further improvements can be made to the teaching and learning process based on its findings.

The initial results of the study under the Malaysia Cambridge Baseline Project will be released by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin during his working visit here. The deputy prime minister and education minister arrived here yesterday for his three-day visit.

Deputy Education director-general (policy and education development) Datuk Dr Amin Senin said here yesterday this was the first time such a comprehensive review of English language proficiency among students was being conducted.

He said the findings of the study, which commenced last year, would enable the ministry to set realistic and achievable targets for the future of teaching and learning of English.

“This significant study will measure the English language proficiency of students and establish an evidence-based baseline. We want to know where our students stand in English language proficiency based on the evidence gleaned during the study. We cannot be undertaking adjustments based merely on a prevailing perception of students’ command of the language.

“The study will also review current assessment practices by analysing examinations, test specifications and exam results at the end of primary school, lower secondary and upper secondary levels ending at Form Six.

“Recommendations by Cambridge English will be taken into consideration and adjustments to teaching and learning practices will be undertaken from this year after the proposals are reviewed by the ministry.

by Chok Suat Ling

Cambridge study on English subject in Malaysia ‘positive’

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

LONDON: The preliminary findings of the Cambridge English Language Assessment on the teaching and learning of the subject in Malaysian schools have shown “positive indications”.

“The study shows that 37% of English teachers in primary school are at the C1 and C2 levels. This means that they are good enough to teach English,” said Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin upon the release of the assessment result here yesterday.

The C1 and C2 levels are used to evaluate the proficiency for those considered advanced users.

Emphasising that there is still much room for improvement, he added: “The study shows that 85% of our students are interested in learning English and over 97% of our teachers teaching the subject are interested in the field.

“We have fared reasonably well but the expectations of Malaysians are that we want to be the best among the Commonwe alth,” he said after the briefing by the Cambridge English Language Assessment team.

The briefing was conducted by its head and international development head Dr Hanan Khalifa and project director Martin Robinson.

Muhyiddin said the final report, expected by March, would be forwarded to an Education Ministry council.

“The council will then make recommendations based on the report,” he said to a question if this would lead to changes in the curriculum and English teaching practices.

Muhyiddin pointed out that the study involved 31,000 students in 943 classrooms in 476 schools across the country, and was carried out in line with strategies outlined under the National Blueprint on Education, and amidst public debate on the deteriorating standard of English.

by Sim LeoiLLeoi in London.

Read more @