Archive for January, 2015

Airlines take off surcharge

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

PETALING JAYA: Flying around the region will be a much cheaper affair with three Malaysian carriers, the AirAsia group, Firefly and Malindo Air abolishing their fuel surcharges in line with declining global oil prices.

Malindo and AirAsia group and its long haul affiliates AirAsia X, Thai AirAsia X and Indonesia AirAsia X removed their fuel surcharge effective yesterday.

Firefly was first to remove the fuel surcharge for all its flights effective Jan 16.

The heat is now on Malaysia Airlines (MAS), but it is not clear if it will follow suit even though its peers like Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific have done so.

Recently, Virgin Australia and Cebu Pacific also abolished their fuel surcharge. MAS did not reply to queries from The Star.

The removal should lead to lower cost of air travel for travellers, who no longer have to help airlines foot their fuel bill, something which they have been doing since 2011.

Fuel surcharge is a levy imposed in addition to the airfare to help airlines pay for their fuel cost when oil prices were rising. There were times when the fuel surcharge was higher than the actual fare.

Fuel is a key operating cost for airlines making up 30% to 50% of operating expense.

The removal comes as crude oil prices fell by more than 50% to less than US$50 (RM180) a barrel. Yesterday, crude oil prices hovered around US$45 (RM162) a barrel.

“Airlines were quick to impose the fuel surcharge when oil prices rose, but slow to remove them when it came down. But it is encouraging that they have finally done it,’’ said a traveller.

Another added: “We are hoping for better ticket pricing with the falling oil prices.

“With oil prices at half of what airlines used to pay, they should pass the cost savings to us.”

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Education Ministry Urged To Provide PT3 Guideline Book

Monday, January 26th, 2015

KUALA LUMPUR, (Bernama) — The Education Ministry is urged to provide a comprehensive book on guidelines with detailed information on the Pentaksiran Tingkatan 3 (PT3) examination to enable parents and students to better understand its implementation.

National Parent-Teacher Association Collaborative Council (PIBGN) president Professor Madya Datuk Mohamad Ali Hasan said the contents, among others, should look at the assessment being carried out.

“Clear explanation on how the teachers mark the paper should be given to parents and students, including samples of answers that are being considered,” he said when contacted by Bernama here today.

Such an explanation, he said, could also avoid any misunderstanding or assumption that the teachers were being bias or practiced favouritism in allocating marks.

The book must also stated the length of evaluation time being made on the students to enable parents to be also prepared for it.

“Many parents still do not understand the difference between PT3 and Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) that needs to be explained as all this while they are already familiar with the examination orientated approach,” he said.

PT3 which was implemented for the first time last year saw 453,4123 candidates sitting for the examination in 2,608 examination centres nationwide.

It replaced the PMR as part of government’s efforts to do away with an education system that is too examination orientated.

Mohamad Ali said the ministry must be strict in ensuring teachers were being given trainings and as much understanding of the subject matter.


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Floods: More than 2,000 evacuees in Sabah, Sarawak

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

An aerial view of the flood situation in Limbang, Sarawak. - Bernama

An aerial view of the flood situation in Limbang, Sarawak. – Bernama

KUALA LUMPUR: The number of flood victims at relief centres in Sabah increased on Sunday while the situation in Sarawak has improved.

In Sabah, there were 1,233 evacuees compared with 1,214 on Saturday night.

A spokesman of the Beaufort Flood Operations Room said the number of flood victims at two relief centres in the district remained at 195.

In Membakut, two relief centres – Dewan Baru Membakut and SMK Beaufort Dua – recorded an increase from 1,019 to 1,038 evacuees.

The situation in Sarawak, however, improved with 1,684 people being housed at the relief centres.

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May the force be with the moderates

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

THE voices of moderation must permeate all spheres of society. We salute the well-known citizens who have taken a stand. And we also salute the many others who practise moderation in their daily lives.

Our nation that is so rich in diversity is further enriched when its citizens do their part to ensure that the fabric of society remains strong. When there are parts that are tattered, we will do our part to mend them.

What we have seen in recent times is that Moderate Malaysia has come forward to reclaim the centre stage. In fact, this is not a new phenomenon. We have been, and always will be, a moderate nation.

But at a time when the voices of extremism sought to move the nation off-course, we had to remind ourselves of the strong legacy left by our founding fathers in keeping this nation united. We had to bring back the testimonies of the past to remind those in the present that there can be no future if we allow such divisive forces to overwhelm us.

In today’s Sunday Star, we are reminded by a corporate titan that “we cannot allow the voice of extremists to be the loudest and dictate our social and political discourse”.

There is much wisdom in what Datuk Seri Nazir Razak has to share that goes beyond the historical and family connections within his illustrious family. As he so eloquently puts it: “Business cannot succeed if society fails. Malaysia needs to be peaceful and stable for businesses to flourish.”

The Star Says.

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Sex education – a premature start?

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

PETALING JAYA: What is a good age to teach children sex education? That has become a topic of discussion among teachers and parents with a new curriculum that brings sex education to 11-year-olds.

The subject used to be taught to children when they were in Form Three, at the age of 15.

The Education Ministry and the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, as well as a vocal parent group, are all for the new move, saying it was necessary.

The first chapter of the Year Five Physical Education (Pendidikan Kesihatan) subject introduces pupils to the differences between the male and female reproductive organs, as well as between sperm and ovum, and explains the menstrual cycle and how to identify and handle unwanted sexual attention.

In a subtopic titled “Dari mana datang­nya adik? (Where do younger siblings come from?)”, the male and female reproductive organs are explained complete with diagrams.

According to the Education Ministry, elements of sex education have been a part of Reproductive and Social Health Education (PEERS) in secondary schools since 1989 and primary schools since 1994.


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Bring back previous system

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

PT3 may not be the best way of gauging students in Form Three.

CHANGES to the country’s national education development plan resulted in the scrapping of the Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR).

The exam was done away with in favour of the school-based assessment called the Pentaksiran Tingkatan Tiga or Form Three Assessment (PT3). A national exam based on the PT3 syllabus was held for the first time last year.

With that, students now face only two public exams in their 11 years of primary and secondary schooling – the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) and the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM).

The forerunners of PMR, the Sijil Rendah Pelajaran (SRP) and before that, the Lower Certificate of Education (LCE) were tough.

Failure in either of the exams meant pupils had to repeat or face elimination from school as they would not be promoted to Form Four.

This was seen to be harsh but necessary as academic standards had to be maintained.

These days, students are automatically promoted to Form Four regardless of their Form Three results.

Now with the abolition of PMR, pupils only sit for the UPSR before sitting for the SPM five years later.

Is this a wise decision? What is so bad or difficult about national exams that we want to limit them to only two?

Will we regret not testing students at mid-secondary level to help evaluate, control and improve performance of students?

PT3, is not the right substitute for Form Three students. It has only raised more questions.


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Teaching kids to go green

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

CARING and protecting the environment is now gaining popularity especially among the urbanites and environmental-conscious rakyat.

But more must be done as mother earth has been abused.

The recent floods in Kelantan and elsewhere is a sign that we need to preserve our environment as otherwise mother nature might wreak more havoc as the years go by.

We should begin to love nature and our surroundings, and we could do that by making efforts to teach our children.

Wouldn’t it be an effort in the right direction if we introduce Nature Studies in schools. It was after all a subject in our schools decades ago and the

Education Ministry should seriously consider the suggestion.

I reiterate here that we need to protect the environment.

Going green, I must say is a process of changing one’s lifestyle with due consideration being given to protecting and safeguarding our natural resources.

The term is now used in relation to “green building” and “green technology”.

In a nutshell, going green means reducing our carbon emissions. We not only help the environment but also ourselves.

Although many Malaysians believe environmental considerations should be given priority, their lifestyle unfortunately indicates otherwise.


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A ‘Step Up’ for English lessons

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

Teachers and students find that learning English is more interesting and fun when the educational pullout is introduced into the mix.

IT is one thing for teachers to set assignments, but another matter altogether to make sure that their students complete the work.

It was much to senior assistant (co-curriculum) Liew Lai Fun’s delight when she noticed her pupils of SK Damansara Jaya 1, Selangor, always completed the exercises in theThe Star’s Step Up pullout.

“We start doing the exercises in class and I let them finish the rest of the pullout at home. After a few days, we discuss the answers in class,” she explained.

Her pupils in class Year Six Kreatif were among the lucky ones who got a sneak peek at the first issue of Step Up (with BM translation) for 2015.

The educational pullout that has been in publication since 2011, is a 24-page workbook featuring two versions; one with Bahasa Malaysia translation of English words and the other with Chinese translation.

Step Up is a very useful teaching tool. Considering the exam-oriented activity book they use, Step Up is refreshing as it is something out of the norm. It’s entertaining and interesting to pupils. Other than that, it also has lots of graphics and colour.

“I find that it is a good add-on to English language classes. It also exposes the pupils to the newspaper and they learn even more that way.”


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Robot that helps the disabled

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

ALTHOUGH many think of engineers as just being science geeks, the reality is that they are creative innovators.

As British inventor James Dyson once said in an interview with The Guardian, “People think engineers fix washing machines. It’s not at all. It’s about using your imagination to solve the world’s problems. It’s exciting!”

The James Dyson Award was established, by the James Dyson Foundation in 2007, to encourage this sort of creativity among young design engineers.

The annual award, open to current and recently-graduated design engineering students, accepts entries from some 20 countries around the world, including Malaysia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, France, Taiwan, Russia, Belgium and Singapore.

The brief for participants is to design something that solves a problem – this means that the products or prototypes submitted should be practical, viable, sustainable and have commercial potential.

As an example, last year’s international award winner was a prototype inflatable incubator for prematurely-born babies called MOM.

Created by Loughborough University graduate James Roberts, MOM was designed to run on minimal power so that it can even be powered by a car battery.

The winning Malaysian entry in 2014, submitted by UCSI University student Desmond Tan Mun Yung, was a full-body “exoskeleton” which aims to help disabled patients with movement.

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All game for new tricks in class

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

Teaching assistants from the United States will try out unconventional methods of reaching out to their charges in rural schools.

BRIGHT-eyed and raring to go best describes the 100 Fulbright English Teaching assistants (ETA) who were recently greeted by the US ambassador to Malaysia Joseph Y. Yun at his official residence in Kuala Lumpur.

These American youths have agreed to volunteer and spend the next 10-months fostering a strong command and a love for the English language among primary and secondary school students in eight states throughout the nation.

Each of them were brimming with innovative lesson ideas, but for some, such ideas might need some tweaking due to the recent floods that has devastated the east coast and Perak.

One of those who’ve had to rethink her plans was 22-year-old Becca Rudquist.

The Minnesota native, who will be sent to a secondary school in Kelantan, said she is going to go in with no expectations.

“I was told about the floods and I’m not sure if it would affect the plans I have for my students,” she added.

The sports fanatic wants her students to be serious about sports.

“But I’m not sure if the field will be ready for use,” she lamented.


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