Archive for June, 2016

Rural schools can spring a surprise

Monday, June 27th, 2016

MENGGATAL: Never underestimate the abilities of rural schools. Unlike in previous competitions, SMK Tenghilan, a rural school, sprang a surprise in the just-concluded 10th Sindex (Sabah Invention and Design Exhibition) by beating city schools to emerge as Sindex Overall Winner 2016 and to clinch the Best Presentation prize.

The winning trio, Group Leader Cerolintina Soimin, 17, Florrenna Elip, 17, and Hezron Aideno, 17, of the Form Five Class (Vocational Education Stream) received a trophy and RM500 cash from the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation (Mosti), Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau at the 10th Sindex Awards Night on Saturday.

The team’s invention dubbed “Easy Tugal” (Easy Dibbler) won the hearts of the judges at the finals which entailed one-minute video presentation and two-minute oral presentation.

Another team from the same school bagged the Best Presentation prize (RM200 and trophy) for its Palm Fronds (PF) Multi-Product Invention, thus sweeping two of the top four prizes in the contest.

The Rotarians’ Choice Award (RM200 and trophy) went to Maktab Sabah with its “Soniceye” entry, an invention to facilitate the mobility of blind persons, while SM St Michael, Penampang walked away with the Best Exhibition prize (RM200 and trophy) for its “Colour Petals” invention whereby it is an eco-friendly water colour that is made from biological pigments extracted from flowers.

The four winning teams were among the top one to 10 gold medallists (shortlisted from 20 semi-finalists), the others being Kolej Vokesyenal Keningau (Tiles Installer), SMK Limbanak (Anti-Ant Gel), SM Tshung Tsin (Climaxcool), Kolej Vokesyenal Keningau (Grip Battery Charger), SM St Michael, Penampang (2 in 1 Pitcher) and SM St Michael, Penampang (2 in 1 Supply Companion).

The top 11 to 20 (who did not make it to the finals) were rated as silver medallists, namely KK High School (Multi Hook), SMK Tenghilan (D’mon 21), SM Tshung Tsin (Bambae), SM Tshung Tsin (Spectalistic), SM St Michael (Simple Slide Peg), SMK Tenghilan (Watering Bottle), SMK Kundasang (Multifunction Whiteboard Cleaner), SMK St John (Phone Speaker), SMK St John (Kind Heart Tag) and SM Sanzac (Brush Slippers).

Altogether 152 entries were received from various secondary schools, involving about 600 students, and shortlisted to 20 semi-finalists and then 10 finalists.

A three-member judging panel, comprising Chief Judge Prof Tam Hwa Yaw, a Sabahan inventor now based in Hong Kong, Frankie Fu (Past President of Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu) and Datuk Margaret Fung (Past President of Rotary Club of Tanjung Aru), was impressed with the entries submitted by the various schools.

The judges were looking at aspects of originality, creativity and practicability when carrying out their task.

“At their secondary school level, the standard is good. I also look at the process. Is there a need for the invention?

Are you inventing something for yourself or the benefit of the community at large? There are new ideas on how to help the community though some of these may not necessarily be the best ideas,” said Prof Tam who is Chair Professor of Photonics at the Department of Electrical Engineering, and Director of the Photonic Research Centre at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

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Everything should begin at home

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

ALL learning should begin at home, including sex education, said Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid.

Maintaining that it is the parents who should take the lead in teaching their children about sex as well as what constitutes inappropriate behaviour, Mahdzir said parents have no excuse as there are lots of help available now.

“Parents can refer to books on how to discuss the topic with young children,” he told reporters after launching Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka’s (DBP) 60th anniversary celebrations last Tuesday.

He was commenting on the recent case of paedophile Richard Huckle who is convicted of 71 charges of sexual abuse against children in Malaysia and Cambodia. Mahdzir, who did not name any specific book, said these books teach sex education indirectly and in a child-friendly manner. There are also elements of ‘safety’ in these books which are just as important, he added.

Mahdzir also said the ministry’s checks found that Huckle was never registered as a teacher or educator here.

On the way forward for DBP, he suggested that it should rebrand itself to remain relevant to the millennials.

“In this digital age, with information flowing through digital channels, DBP needs to figure out how to ensure the sustainability of its academic and school publications.


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Learning in a fun way

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

TEACHING and learning methods such as Play to Learn and Vedic Math may seem unconventional for some, but their proponents maintain these methods have been used effectively.

MathMonkey, which is headquartered in Kota Damansara, Petaling Jaya, runs the MathBrain educational enrichment programme where unorthodox and hands-on methods are used to grab young students’ attention.

“We want to make learning maths fun for our young students.

“We use play to learn and Vedic Math to educate and gain their interest in learning mathematics in different ways at a young age,” said MathMonkey Asia International Franchise consultant T.K. Lee.

The MathBrain programme is for children aged between four and 12.

Lee said instead of spoon-feeding students with answers, instructors at their centres allow students to think for themselves and come up with solutions, thus refining their thinking skills.

MathBrain instructor Harsimar Kaur, 25, said the play to learn concept helps students hone their thinking.

“When they solve mathematical problems through games, they compete with each other healthily,” she said.

Lessons in the MathBrain programme are divided into three parts.

First, students will have their homework checked, followed by revision through games such as the card game Snap.

Harsimar said playing games during revision is a method of refreshing her students’ memory from lessons learnt in their previous class.


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School for street kids gets hostel

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak visited Sekolah Bimbingan Jalinan Kasih, the only school in the country for street children, and approved a RM30mil allocation to build a hostel there.

He said the future of the children at the school, in Jalan Raja Muda Abdul Aziz, Kampung Baru, would be more assured with a hostel.

“The future of the children at this school is unique and challenging. As such, the government decided to build a hostel at the school,” he said.

SBJK provides free education to children aged from four to 19.

It was established on the initiative of the Education Ministry to provide access to education to street children in Kuala Lumpur.

Najib was impressed with the commitment of the school principal, Zulkernai Fauzi, and the teachers in educating these children.

“They are doing something that goes beyond their scope of duties, for the sake of giving these children an education,” he said.

The Prime Minister also praised the teachers for their efforts in seeking out street children and getting them admitted to the school.

Earlier, in his speech, Najib said the school, with an enrolment of 143, was unique in Malaysia and probably the only one of its kind in the world.

He said the school helped these children to get a complete education so that they would have a brighter future.

He also advised the children to study hard and realise their dreams.

“I hope all of you will study hard to realise your ambitions. We have to study hard. Do not skip school.

“Just now, my wife (Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor) asked what you want to be when you grow up.

“Some of you said you want to become doctors, bank officers, teachers and footballers. Some of you said you want to be the prime minister.

“Whatever your dreams and ambitions, you must study hard,” he said.

At the event, Najib handed over Aidilfitri goodies to the children.

He also announced the appointment of show host Datuk Aznil Nawawi as the icon and mentor of the school.


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Breaking down the barriers.

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

It is not an easy issue to talk about but tertiary students are gradually breaking that mould by seeking help for mental health related issues.

MANY may believe that mental health is a taboo subject that no one wants to address.

However, it seems that tertiary students are gradually breaking that mould by seeking help for mental health related issues.

Universiti Malaya Specialist Centre psychiatrist Assoc Prof Dr Muhammad Muhsin Ahmad Zahari said he sees many individuals between their mid-20s to their 30s at his clinic, many of them being undergraduates.

He has seen a rise of individuals from this age group seeking help and believes the increasing numbers could be attributed to more sensitivity towards their emotions and surroundings.

Some common problems faced by students include sleep difficulties, challenges in coping with their studies, financial constraints, while those who choose to work part-time having to balance studies with other demands, as well as relationship problems.

“It is common to find relationship issues among those in their 20s as they are often at a stage where they may be moving out of the house to live on campus on their own, moving in with new housemates or starting romantic relationships,” said Dr Muhammad Muhsin.

“Posting one’s problems on social media is not the best way to deal with it. It merely shares the emotion without looking at a specific way of solving the problems.”

He notes that online comments towards such postings may not necessarily be positive, while sharing personal problems on social media reveals information to others who may use that to manipulate the distressed individual.

Dr Muhammad Muhsin feels that undergraduates are more susceptible to emotional problems compared to postgraduate students.

“The majority of them (undergraduates) are at a younger age and are transitioning from secondary school or a working environment to a (different) education environment,” he said.

How one copes with their problems is also important.

“The older you get, the more competent you are in tackling your problems,” he said, adding that students who are pursuing their postgraduate studies are usually more financially stable as they may have worked prior to enrolling their studies, while their experience as an undergraduate can help them during postgraduate studies.


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Malaysia ranks third in the world for child porn violations

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia ranks third worldwide for possession and distribution of child pornography.

This information was shared by international police, said Bukit Aman’s head of Sexual Investigation Unit (D11) Deputy Supt Tan Gee Soon.

She said Malaysia did not have specific laws that made possession of child pornography an offence.

“However, we have Section 292 of the Penal Code and Section 5 of the Film Censorship Act to act against those with pornographic images and films respectively,” Tan told reporters after attending the #ReplyForAll-MY town hall session organised by R.AGE, Digi, WOMEN:girls and Unicef yesterday.

The top country is United States, followed by the Netherlands.

Asked whether police would seek to amend Section 292 which only deals with the sale and distribution of obscene material, Tan, a panellist at the session, replied that the police are looking into it.

She also said D11 had drafted a proposal for an anti-grooming law. She did not elaborate on the proposal except to say it was modelled after Singapore’s anti-grooming law.

Recently, The Star, in a front-page report, highlighted sexual predators who prey on the young via online chat apps.

Other panellists included R.AGE editor and executive producer of “Predator in My Phone” Ian Yee, Digi CyberSAFE’s Sustainability CEO Philip Ling and Marie Laure Lemineur, head of Sexual Exploi­ta­tion Online Programme of ECPAT, an international organisation fighting to end the sexual exploitation of children worldwide.

Lemineur said technology enabled children to be exploited on a bigger scale but it was “human behaviour which decides to sexually exploit a child”.

She advised parents to educate their children on the dangers online and in the real world and to take steps to avoid them.

“Don’t think because you are not connected, you are safe from being exposed to risk.”

Lemineur said child pornography and grooming should be tac­kled in a holistic manner with the cooperation of everyone, and not just be left to police or lawmakers.


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A pricey priority

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

Wary of big, life-changing purchases, the ‘Strawberry Generation’ – those ‘easily bruised’, coddled young people in their 30s – prefers to rent, global reports say. Malaysians, however, are bucking the trend despite steep property prices. Mainly thanks to supportive parents, it seems.

BEST friends Leh Mon Soo, 38, and Brandy Yu, 39, are finally buying their first home.

After months of serious scouting, the two managers found units that matched their budget and needs, coincidentally, in the same condominium in Petaling Jaya. Leh is getting a three-bedroom unit while Yu is happy with a 48sqm studio apartment.

Yu feels that the RM365,000 she’s paying is affordable as she can still save about RM1,700 monthly after paying the loan instalment.

“I’m only paying RM400 more a month than what I’ve been forking out for rent. And unlike the rental, this unit will be mine one day,” she says.

Leh ended up forking out a whopping RM690,000 even though she dreads the long-term commitment. While “not a bargain, and at the upper limit of what I can afford”, she says that it’s still a pretty good price, as other, smaller, units were going for higher prices.

“I was only willing to pay RM500,000 initially. Then I saw a two-bedroom in the same condominium going for RM680,000. So I bit the bullet and got this. Property prices won’t be dropping any time soon and our ringgit’s shrinking. It’s now or never. I’ll have to cough up even more later if I don’t get a place now,” she says pragmatically.

The soon-to-be neighbours think property is still in demand, even among Gen Y-ers, aka Millennials (those born in the 1980s and 1990s, typically perceived as brought up and very familiar with digital and electronic technology).

But they’re more privileged because their parents have either already invested in property for them or are helping them buy it, Leh offers. Renting is not for the long-term, she says firmly, and even the younger ones know that.

The Malaysian mindset, Yu quips, is that everyone must own at least one property.

Gym owner Chip Ang, 26, agrees. He got the keys to his new 78sqm unit in Shah Alam last week.

Although it was his parents who suggested he get the RM168,000 place under the Selangor Government’s affordable housing scheme, Ang says property ownership is always a hot topic between him and his friends. Young professionals want to own property. The issue is affordability, he thinks.


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    Demand from first-time buyers still strong despite affordability challenge

    Sunday, June 26th, 2016

    PETALING JAYA: Instead of blowing their cash on pricey gadgets, young Malaysians are saving up for their first home.

    While most Gen Y shy away from owning property in developed countries and big cities, demand from millennials here is still holding, especially with parents assisting them with the downpayment, Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association Malaysia (Rehda) president Datuk Seri F.D. Iskandar said.

    (Gen Y, also known as millennials, are commonly referred to those who are born in the early 1980s to 2000s. They are sometimes referred to as the strawberry generation).

    Demand from first-time buyers, including the younger generation, remains strong although housing affordability is a challenge, said Bank Negara.

    The central bank added that they accounted for 75% of 1.47 million borrowers.

    Owning and investing in a house remains a priority for many Malay­sians.

    This is reflected in the household borrowing trend where the buying of homes continues to be the fastest growing segment of household lending, with annual growth sustained at double-digit levels (11% as at end-March 2016), said Bank Negara in a statement.

    Those who cannot afford it themselves, and do not have parents to help, turn to their friends.

    In his 30s, Daryl Toh, and two of his college mates own a condominium in Penang; they pooled their resources to purchase the unit five years ago.

    “It’s in a premium area and since we couldn’t afford a place on our own – at least not prime property, we became joint owners.”

    Financial adviser Yap Ming Hui said it makes perfect sense to own.

    “Of course the Gen Y here are still keen on buying. You pay the instalments and eventually own a home. Only those who can’t afford to buy are forced to rent.”

    Association of Valuers, Property Managers, Estate Agents and Property Consultants in the Private Sector of Malaysia adviser Wong Kok Soo said property prices in Hong Kong have escalated beyond the purchasing power of the Gen Y but the trend hasn’t caught on here – yet.

    Wong, who is also a consultant with the National House Buyers Association, however, said there were signs that the Gen Y could no longer afford to live in big cities like Kuala Lumpur, Penang Island, Johor Baru and Sabah.

    “Parents are chipping in for the downpayment. And, commuting from the suburbs to the city centre is still an option.

    “But when prices get inflated far beyond their means, the same will happen here (as in Hong Kong),” said Wong, who, however, felt that even if demand dropped, it would not be substantial.


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    Teachers in Sarawak urged to use English more widely

    Saturday, June 25th, 2016

    Ting (fourth from right) presenting certificates of appreciation to a member of the Sarawak Teachers Union in Miri.

    Ting (fourth from right) presenting certificates of appreciation to a member of the Sarawak Teachers Union in Miri.

    MIRI: Teachers in both government and private schools in Sarawak need to use the English language more widely, especially with their students, in order to boost the command of the language.

    Piasau Assemblyman Datuk Sebastian Ting, said teachers must use English more regularly in the classrooms and outside and they must also get their students to do the same.

    “To halt and reverse the declining standard of English we must take bolder steps to use English on a wider scale every day.

    “Among teachers and between teachers and students, they must converse more in English and when there are communications in written form with the students they must use English more.

    “Use English on wider scale among teachers and between teachers and students and encourage students to converse with fellow students in English even outside the classroom,” he said.

    Speaking at a ceremony to present education incentives to children of teachers at the Sarawak Teachers Union Miri branch, Ting said teachers have heavy responsibilities to shoulder not just in their schools, but also in society.

    He praised the union for holding activities to foster closer ties among teachers from various places.

    The gathering was attended by teachers from Miri, Niah, Subis and Baram districts.

    Ting also thanked teachers on the verge of retirement for their contribution towards the advancement of education in Sarawak.

    He said they deserve to continue leading a fulfiling life after being productive during their teaching years.

    “Retirement should be something to be welcomed and looked forward to, but it dies not mean the end of the process of imparting knowledge.

    “Retirement can still be productive time if the retired teachers continue to contribute their time and efforts towards nurturing the young in other ways after their retirement from schools.

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    Windfall for parents of children studying in Britain

    Saturday, June 25th, 2016

    PETALING JAYA: Parents with children studying in Britain are heaving a sigh of relief because the pound has weakened following Brexit.

    The ringgit closed at RM5.66 to the pound yesterday, a drop of 4.67% compared to a month ago when it was RM6.03.

    Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahman said tuition fees would be more affordable.

    “For parents who couldn’t afford it initially, they may change their minds now,” she said when contacted.

    She added that one should look at the positive instead of focusing on the negative implications.

    A parent, who asked to be identified only as Auntie Chris, has a son studying biotechnology at Imperial College London, and said: “We are liquidating our accounts to take advantage of the drop in the pound, which is great news.”

    She said her son, who is in his second year, planned to pursue his master’s in Britain after graduation but had put his plan on hold due to the strong pound.

    “We asked him to work first, after graduating, due to the financial constraints but with the pound dropping significantly, going for his master’s may be back on the table,” she said.

    Another parent, Azura Abdullah, said she did not expect her son’s tuition fees to increase any time soon.

    Her son is a second-year law student at University of Exeter.

    Some parents were fearful of Britain’s exit from the European Union.

    Despite the weakened pound, Azura felt the price of goods may increase in the short term because Britain could no longer leverage on EU trade deals, which could increase the cost of living there for her son.

    “But we hope to offset this with the lower currency rate as the pound will devalue in the short to middle term,” Azura added.

    Auntie Chris said she was worried that Britain’s decision may affect job prospects for Malaysians over there.

    “If Britain goes into recession, it will affect job prospects for new graduates,” she said, adding that immigration controls may also be tightened following Brexit.

    Chief executive officer and provost of the University of Nottingham Malaysia campus Prof Christine Ennew said parents should expect cheaper education.

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