Archive for January, 2017

The development of the profession

Monday, January 30th, 2017

PROFESSIONAL social work was introduced to Malaysia in the 1930s, according to the Malaysian Association of Social Workers (MASW). But it was mainly focused on problems of migrant labourers from India and China, MASW says on its website.

The issues have expanded to cover substance abuse, mental illness, poverty and more, but there is still a lack of professional growth and development in various fields of social work.

A 2004 MASW report states that between the 1940s and 1980s, the Department of Social Welfare (JKM) and government hospitals recruited social workers who had trained in the United Kingdom, Singapore, Australia and Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) in Penang to work at its facilities.

In the mid-1980s, changes in government economic policies led to a review of intake criteria for positions which saw non-social work graduates accepted into the department as well as government and semi-government hospitals

“This decision was detrimental to the development of the profession as well as the quality of social services towards clients. Ad-hoc in-service training and supervisory programmes were rushed into place to cope with recruits who had no inkling of the roles and responsibilities they were employed for, or expected to do, in their quest for jobs,” the report states.

MASW secretary Elsie Lee believes that over the years, Malaysia has witnessed a “de-professionalisation” of social work. Anyone with a degree could come in. People with degrees in geography and history were taken in even though they might not know what to do, she says.

One may think that compassion and kindness are enough if a person aspires to do social work, but unfortunately, that is not enough. Lee believes social workers need theoretical and procedural knowledge, and an understanding of the field.

Personal experience and practice, such as that picked up working at a children’s home, for example, is not enough because people can learn the wrong things sometimes, she says.

It is like sending a lay person to a family that reports domestic violence. How would you handle an aggressive spouse? Those who are not trained may be afraid because they do not have the knowledge and experience to deal with a threatening situation.

But it looks like things are taking a turn for the better.

In 2010, a National Competency Standards for Social Work Practice was approved by the government. In 2011, the Social Workers Bill was drafted to register “Social Worker” as a professional title for those who have the required academic qualifications, such as a diploma, Bachelor’s or Master’s degree or PhD in social work. The Bill has yet to be passed in Parliament.

And to professionalise the industry, MASW, Unicef and JKM have been pushing to establish practice competency through training programmes and courses to equip social workers with the required knowledge and tools.

This year, MASW, Foundation for Community Studies and Development (YKPM) and Alliance of Christian Social Workers teamed up with Methodist College Kuala Lumpur to offer a Diploma in Social Work, which will begin in April.

The competency-based programme, the first of its kind in Malaysia, was designed in reference to the 2010 list of 10 professional standards of practice. Approved by the Higher Education Ministry, it aims to help expand professionally trained human resource in social work practice.

The course will cover topics such as human behaviour and social environment, social work methods, interpersonal and counselling skills, and field placements.

YKPM and MASW are working on raising funds to support those who can’t afford the full fees.

Six local universities – USM, Universiti Utara Malaysia in Kedah, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in Selangor, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, and Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin in Terengganu– now offer full social work programmes for undergraduates.

Skills learnt from social work courses will give you a better understanding of human behaviour so it helps you deal with people, says Lee. They can also be used in other fields such as human resource management, marketing and employee assistance programmes.

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Malaysians in Sabah must strive to remain united – FCAS president

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: The people of Sabah, the Chinese community included, must strive to remain united and muster enough confidence, in order to overcome whatever difficulties and challenges there are, in the Year of the Golden Rooster.

Expressing this was Datuk Seri Panglima TC Goh, president of the Sabah Federation of Chinese Associations (FCAS), in his message issued in conjunction with the Lunar New Year.

“Although with the rebound of crude oil and palm oil prices last year, there was a slight relief for us amidst the tough economic situation, we must nonetheless be wary of the potential challenges ahead that are being presented by various complex issues around the world at the moment, which could be interrelated. For instance, even such a strong-and-powerful nation like the United States of America is now facing uncertainties brought upon by its people’s strong desire for change.

“Hence, we Malaysians in Sabah must strive to remain united and muster enough confidence to overcome the imminent challenges ahead of us, in the Year of the Golden Rooster,” he stressed.

While noting that the State’s economy for last year has been sluggish, he nonetheless acknowledged that undeniably there had been remarkable improvement to the State’s infrastructure development such as the visible progress in the Pan Borneo Highways project, construction of flyovers in Kota Kinabalu City, and infrastructure developments in various suburban towns in the State.

“Frankly speaking, Sabah is still booming with plenty of business opportunities. It is hoped that the people of Sabah could continue to be on mettle and be proactive in exploring the many untapped potential and opportunities that the State has to offer,” said Goh.

The vice president of the Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia (Hua Zong) went on to note that the government is currently closely monitoring the global economic situation, especially amidst speculation of looming global financial crisis and a sluggish global economy.

“However, we must strive to remain calm in facing the ebb and flow of global economy; we must continue to move in the right direction towards a better and a more prosperous future,” he stressed.

Goh also hoped that while ushering in the Lunar New Year, the Chinese community could take time out to reevaluate their position and their focus in accordance with the current situation.

He stressed that this was necessary, so that they could make full use of the available resources to improve their standard of living, besides continuing to safeguard and promote the 5,000-year-old Chinese culture and traditions in Malaysia, Sabah in particular.

He cited that FCAS’ continuous organising of the annual Chinese New Year Carnival and the successful lobbying for the use of Chinese language road signs in the city, recently, was a good example of the noble act of safeguarding and promoting the Chinese culture.

“That was not just a historical moment for the Chinese community of Sabah, but also a warm gesture in welcoming the tourists from China to visit Sabah,” proclaimed Goh.

Meanwhile, on behalf of the Chinese community of Sabah, Goh thanked the Chinese Consul General in Sabah, Chen Peijie, for the allocation of RMB50,000 to FCAS, in support of the 2017 Chinese New Year Carnival.

“We in FCAS, and the Chinese community of Sabah as a whole, are indeed very grateful to the Government of the Republic of China for such a kind and generous gesture, especially in time of need. We shall always cherish our close ties with the government and the people of China,” he pledged.

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Malaysia slips a point in TI’s corruption index.

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia dropped one point in Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2016.

It is now ranked 55 among 176 countries, with a score of 49 out of 100.

In 2015, Malaysia was ranked 54 out of 168 countries, with a score of 50.

TI-Malaysia president Datuk Akhbar Satar (pix) said the one-point drop “is not much” as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), under new leadership, has proven its effectiveness in tackling high profile cases last year.

“It has been doing very well. The raids by MACC also saw its officers seizing millions of ringgit, apart from arresting high-profile figures,” Akhbar told a press conference Wednesday.

He stressed that the MACC also needs to pay attention to “corrupt politicians” in order to improve the country’s CPI ranking and score.


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Keeping CNY traditions alive

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Regardless of age, many will faithfully maintain the traditions of the Lunar New Year.

Dr Kaithlyn Goh (pic), 25, who will be flying back from Scotland to celebrate with her family in Malacca after five years, said she would be keeping it old school.

The doctor said she would still follow most of the traditions such as eating food with symbolic meaning, wearing new clothes, spending time with the family, and not cleaning on the first day.

“My parents won’t be happy if I go out with friends on the first day of Chinese New Year.

“And certainly not on the eve when we have the reunion dinner because nothing is more important than family.”

Dr Goh added that her family practises a unique tradition of keeping empty red packets since her grandmother’s era in the 1970s.

“It is interesting to see how things change with time and each ang pow tells a story,” she said.

Retiree Lily Lian, 54, believes that festive seasons should be well celebrated.

“I will place food items such as gat chai (lime) and fatt choy (black moss) on the dining table just for the symbolic value.”

Gat chai represents luck and longevity while fatt choy implies wealth and prosperity.

“I also place fruits such as pineapples to welcome fortune (wong lai) and apples for protection from harm (peng kor),” Lian said.

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Sabah targets 200,000 students for VLE

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017
Maimunah (second left) presenting an award to a recipient at the seminar.

Maimunah (second left) presenting an award to a recipient at the seminar.

KOTA KINABALU: All primary and secondary schools in Sabah are encouraged to use the Frog Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) as a platform for teachers to write and record their Planned Daily Lesson (PDL).

Sabah Education Department (JPN) director, Datuk Maimunah Suhaibul, said that despite having over 1,200 primary and secondary schools, Sabah records only three schools which are currently utilising the VLE, namely SMK Tebobon, SMK Tambulion and SMK Taman Ria.

“I’m sure that more schools are using the VLE, it’s just that we haven’t identified them yet,” she said during a sharing seminar on best e-PDL practices via the VLE.

Maimunah said RM800,000 was previously allocated to print PDL books for the 40,000 teachers in Sabah.

She called upon the academic management sector to monitor and collect data and statistics on the number of schools using the online system to aid e-PDL recording.

In a JPN financial meeting, a new alternative needed to be introduced to continue with the PDL system without such a high cost, she said.

“The RM800,000 is the allocation from our ministry and it can be used to fund other activities, one of the alternatives being using the VLE for PDL.

“The PDL is a must for every teacher who teaches in a classroom, whether it is written, printed, typed and kept in a file or, using the latest means, stored online with the VLE as a platform,” said Maimunah.

In addition, she said, the second phase of the Academic Development Plan by the Ministry of Education targets a nationwide VLE usage of two million students.

“In Sabah, we are targeting 200,000 students and although we have not achieved that target, we will work towards it,” she said.

by Fiqah Roslan.

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Elephant tusks believed from Sabah

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) has contacted the Indonesian CITES Management Authority about the elephants tusks that were taken from a woman in Nunukan, North Kalimantan a week ago.

The five pieces of tusks were believed to be from Sabah, a news portal reported.

SWD director Augustine Tuuga when commenting on the report said that the department did not know exactly where the tusks came from.

It can only be ascertained when statement from the person who carried them was taken by Indonesian wildlife authorities or DNA analysis can be done and compared to the specimens of the animals killed in Sabah, he said.

“We just pray that the Indonesian wildlife authorities will conduct a thorough investigation into the case.We already contacted the Indonesian CITES Management Authority regarding the matter through the assistance of Traffic Southeast Asia. We just wait for the outcome of their investigation. They may contact us if they need our assistance,” he added.

The online portal which quoted Indonesian press reports as saying that officials stopped a woman carrying five pieces of elephant tusks in Nunukan, North Kalimantan, a week ago.

Though the reports mentioned (country) Malaysia, the tusks are believed to be from Sabah.     Officials at the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine station at Nunukan let her go as her reason was that she did not own the items but was just entrusted to carry it.

The nationality of the woman was not disclosed but the tusks have been seized and sent to higher authorities in Tarakan.

KOMPAS, the Indonesian news portal that first published the report said the woman who was heading to Flores had said that the tusks were from Malaysia and that they were meant to be used as a dowry.

The tusks were found hidden in the woman’s bag as it passed through Indonesian Customs x-ray machine and Indonesian authorities valued the contraband at RM33,000 (or Rp 100 million).

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Study proposal before finalizing on bigger airport – association

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: A realistic study involving all stakeholders of Sabah’s tourism industry must be made before finalizing on a new mega Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) project, stressed Sabah Hotels Association (SHA) chairman Christopher Chan.

Chan said a greater KKIA should be made at a timely matter according to the economic climate whilst ensuring proper funding is available before sparking speculations that would impact the city planning and property industry.

He said the country should learn from history and the need for a bigger KKIA should not only be measured from a civil aviation angle but also from a local tourism perspective with a firm footing on facts and all possible implications.

“Is it the right time for us to talk about a new one? Because the total tourist arrival for 2016 is only about 3.3 million,” he said.

“The airport should have been relocated to Tuaran in the past but then that didn’t happen and an upgrade was made to the present one.

“These things are going to create either a good or bad thing, the land cost all of a sudden go sky high in certain areas. Tuaran for example, all of a sudden the land costs went up very high as the airport was expected to be there but it didn’t happen,” reminded Chan, adding that the mega project would affect development plans for building due to zoning restrictions.

Going a bit further, Chan also wondered whether the new airport would impact the Pan Borneo Highway, a project that should take precedence to a new KKIA.

“Let’s be realistic, don’t put in speculation when it might be another 50 years before we have a new airport,” he said.

“Are you sure the people in Sabah need it and are they looking forward to it? Is it justified? Is there money? Do we really need it? Does Kota Kinabalu need a new airport? What is their expectation? What is the growth rate? Is there a real study on this and are you sure you know what you are talking? It must be based on a proper study,” Chan asserted.

He said all options should be considered before making a final conclusion and a decision should be made based on priority.

The Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) has suggested the building of a new, bigger airport as KKIA will reach its full runway capacity of 13 million passengers annually in the next five years.

Its executive chairman, General Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Abdullah bin Ahmad, said a study was in process now to look into a new site for a bigger airport and it would have more than two runways to cater for the big influx of foreign tourists into Sabah.

Kota Kinabalu Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KKCCCI) president Datuk Michael Lui said the State Government ought to consider Mavcom’s suggestion as the KKIA may not be able to cope with the influx of tourists to the state capital in the next two to three years.

He said KKIA was currently the second busiest airport in Malaysia.

“I believe that more international flights will come to Sabah in the future as our State is now a popular destination for tourists from many countries, especially China.”

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Rubber buoyant prices boost earnings

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: Buoyant prices for rubber in the international commodity market have boosted the monthly earnings of smallholders in Sabah from RM2,500 to RM7,000.

The international price of Standard Malaysian Rubber 20 (SMR 20) increased from a low of RM4.70 cents per kilogram early last year to RM9.68 per kilogramme today, due to a short supply in the world market because of floods in Southern Thailand.

As a result, rubber prices by smallholders in Sabah went up from RM1.50 per kilogram, for cup lumps with 50 per cent dry rubber content, to RM3.75 per kilogramme as of today.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Yahya Hussin welcomed this latest development and was pleased for rubber smallholders in Sabah.

Yahya who is also Minister of Agriculture & Food Industry reminded smallholders that the government had a social safety net policy in place for them known as the Rubber Production Incentive (IPG).

The IPG is paid when the farmgate price falls below RM2.20 per kilogramme for cup lumps or when the international SMR20 price is below RM5.50 per kilogramme.

In the event that the price of cup lumps is RM1.50 per kilogramme, the government tops up the difference of 70 sen per kilogramme.

The Federal government has paid RM22,001,182 to rubber smallholders in Sabah under this programme from September 2015 to October 2016 through the Sabah Rubber Industry Board.

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Go the extra mile to teach English, teachers urged

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Teachers have been urged to go the extra mile to boost the level of English proficiency among students.

“We should not be too parochial. We have to accept that English is the international language and it is vital to be in the forefront at the international stage,” said National Parent-Teacher Associations Colla­bo­­rative Council president Prof Datuk Dr Mohamad Ali Hasan.

He called for a quantum leap to help students improve their language skills.

“Necessary steps have to be taken to make sure that we are on par with other countries, especially Singapore,” he said.

Dr Mohamad Ali said that firstly, the teachers themselves should be proficient to teach English.

“There is not enough emphasis on the teachers. In fact, we are trying our best to get teachers from other countries to volunteer to teach English here. These are only temporary measures.

“We must get our priorities right. We need specialised English and literature teachers who can cope with the coaching, delivering and the speaking of English language in schools,” Dr Mohamad Ali said.

He added that Malaysia was still emphasising on “exam-oriented language”.

“Maybe programmes such as Eng­lish communication skills should be introduced on weekends or during school holidays,” he said.

The National Union of the Tea­ching Profession president Kamaro­zaman Abd Razak stressed the need for more teachers with the Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) qualification.

Many teachers only took up the language as a minor in their tertiary education, he said.

“Besides, the Education Ministry has too many programmes sometimes.

“The teachers have to be away for a certain period for courses and other activities and this will disrupt the teaching process in schools.

“On the part of students, some of them don’t see how English will benefit them. We see such pro­blems at schools in the rural areas as compared to cities and urban areas,” Kamarozaman said.

He urged teachers to discuss with parents on ways to deal with this.

Other steps could include orga­nising English-oriented activities such as public speaking or quizzes.

“Schools can also hold their weekly assemblies, sports day, speech day or any other activities in English,” he said.

“This will force the students to converse in English and they will be able to pick it up from there.”

On Jan 1, Bernama reported that Terengganu Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman hoped all state assemblymen would take initiatives to improve the command of English among primary school children in their constituencies.

This is important to ensure the pupils would perform better in the UPSR this year after the state recorded a below-par performance in 2016.

“The UPSR format changed last year and it was quite difficult for teachers and students, indirectly causing a deterioration in UPSR results for English and Science subjects.


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Address illiteracy in English first, says MYReaders

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

PETALING JAYA: For community-based initiatives like MYReaders, it all began from an awareness about the level of literacy among youths, especially in underprivileged communities.

“I was volunteering at a camp for youths. As I handed out forms to be filled, I realised that some were he­sitating.

“They had to refer to their MyKad to write their name and IC number. Then it dawned on me. It’s not just English proficiency but an issue of illiteracy which needs to be addressed too,” said MYReaders representative Alex Lim.

MYReaders is a non-profit orga­ni­sation set up in 2015 to help students learn to read in English using a structured, research-based programme.

“With increased literacy, we can really see a leap in students’ self-esteem and confidence to learn English, and this is when their proficiency will start to really improve,” said Lim.

He said one of the best remedial steps he had tried was to provide students with one-on-one support through mentoring.

“In a group setting, they will just become more withdrawn. The best thing for them is peer tutoring.

“Our vision is that one day all students should be able to read proficiently,” he said, adding that the SPM and national syllabus required students to be able to demonstrate a high level of reading comprehension.

The Star ran a story yesterday about the declining standard of English among Malaysians.

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