Archive for February, 2017

Strengthening usage of English

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

UNIVERSITI Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) and the Cambridge Malaysian Education And Development Trust (CMEDT) will work to strengthen the usage of English Language in the country.

UPSI and CMEDT, an organisation aiming to advance education in Commonwealth countries, signed a Letter of Intent to launch a pilot project, Cambridge Accessible Tests (CATs), with UPSI.

Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh said the joint effort by UPSI and CMEDT marks the beginning of the journey to enhance students’ acquisition of English.

“It is also part of the ministry’s effort to redesign higher education as well as to improve quality and the standards of English among our graduates,” he said at the launching ceremony last Monday.

Idris said the deployment of CATs – an online learning platform which is calibrated with the Common European Framework of Reference – would address the “urgent need” for higher learning institutions to develop “self-directed graduates” who are proficient in English.

“CATs will enable students to learn and improve their proficiency in English at their own pace, promoting self-directed learning.

“This would make students not only recipients of knowledge, but also co-curators of knowledge,” he said.

Idris says the joint effort marks the beginning of the journey to enhance students’ use of English.

Idris says the joint effort marks the beginning of the journey to enhance students’ use of English.

The enrichment programme will be carried out from the September intake this year, in addition to the existing university English courses in UPSI. Studies on its effectiveness will be conducted later.

CMEDT executive chairman Tun Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid said the pilot project will cover four principal areas of English – speaking, reading, writing and listening.

“CATs was specially developed and formulated in a manner where it is in full synergy with the teaching and learning process to ease students’ mastery of English accuracy and fluency,” he said.

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Universal values, not just globalisation

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

THE gravest threat of the rise of nationalist populism is to the universal values and practices of a civilised world which took several decades to develop. It is this that modern tribalism in Europe and America seeks to cannibalise.

We have been so obsessed – and this is a failing – by the economics of globalisation, the trade and finance and free movement of labour, that we do not give higher value to the fundamental human values and intercourse that are at risk.

The world has become more possessed by economics than even Marx could have predicted. The disparity of income and wealth is as wide as he saw in post-industrial revolution Europe.

The political turmoil of Leninism, the rise of fascism, the Gulag and the Holocaust – and war – were some of the worst outcomes that followed.

We must recognise this looming threat. We will not get there unless we first recognise the main failing of globalisation, this obsession with economics.

Economic and financial benefit – however ill-distributed – was its driving force, mainly through trade, free movement of capital and labour. Such benefit did not become self-evident truth, however, as too many were left behind for too long.

Would it have made a difference had such benefit been better distributed? It would seem unlikely as non-economic values in the nation-state were disturbed as much as production and income structures were overturned.

“Give us our country back”, is more than about economics. It is about the deemed imposition of global values and the perceived dilution of national character.

The appeal to nationalist populism, which last year saw the vote for Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as United States president, was primarily occasioned by globalised economic and financial supercharge which isolated the low income and divided societies while the top earners spirited away with handsome benefits, but the potent response came from nationalist reassertion against foreign threat.

Against loss of jobs to….Against loss of country to….Against loss of control because of….All because of globalisation. Global is foreign.

Universal values and international behavioural practices got to be associated with the ills of globalisation. This is the most dangerous threat to civilised world order.

The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, however extant its violation, for instance, well preceded the wave of globalisation. The 1951 Refugee Convention defines the rights of refugees and the obligations of states towards them which are now part of customary international law.

What might now seem mundane, the Universal Postal Union, was established in 1874, and now has 192 members as it serves a universal communication need. There are many others of this ilk.

Cross-border immigration took place to fill up jobs locals would not or could not do. The world was enriched by these kinds of common necessities, not by an enforcement of globalisation.

The point is universal and international necessities were and are way ahead of the globalisation against which there is such massive revolt. Their values, standards and practices are in dire threat of being sacrificed on the altar of narrow populism.

We can talk too much about globalisation. It is far better now to talk less and do more – and not to use the term globalisation ad nauseam.

The kinds of demonstrations for the values of good society and nationhood across America and Europe that we have seen in response to rules of dictatorship, rules of violation of rights and universal values, against racism and acts of inhumanity, are significant signs that civilised standards of life will not be allowed to be trampled on and to die.

On the other hand, we must also do more “for” things, before we have to demonstrate for them.


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Towards an equal world

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

Too often, women do not get full credit for their work. Isn’t it time to highlight their contribution, dedication and capability?

I RECENTLY saw the movie, Hidden Figures. The movie only premiered in Malaysia this past week, a fortnight or so before International Women’s Day on March 8.

Based on true events, the movie is a narrative of three African-American women who were working with the US space programme in the 1960s. It highlights the negative impacts of segregation and ra­cism, and showcases the true American Dream, where anything is possible.

What resonated most with me, however, is the gender aspect. More than 50 years later, women scientists such as I can attest to having had the same experience as Kathe­rine Johnson (née Goble), Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson.

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article on the “Dark Lady of DNA”, Rosalind Franklin.

Rosalind should have gone down in history as one of the individuals who discovered the molecular structure of the DNA. After all, she perfected the x-ray diffraction technique that led to the now famous Photo 51, i.e. photo of the double-helical structure.

We are all too familiar with cre­diting Watson and Crick for this discovery. Historically, however, the “hidden figure” of Rosalind Franklin was there, labouring hours in the laboratory and being exposed to radioactive materials required for such experiments.

In Watson’s autobiography, The Double Helix, Rosalind was des­cribed as “difficult to work with”, and in a separate interview, ano­ther of her colleagues, Professor Emeritus Aaron Klug, described her as “lacking the imagination required … to have solved the puzzle as Watson and Crick did”.

Due to her untimely death from ovarian cancer in 1958, she missed out on the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine 1962 awarded to James Watson, Francis Crick and – get this – her laboratory supervisor Maurice Wilkins, despite the Statutes of the Nobel Foundation sta­­ting that the Nobel cannot be awarded posthumously only ha­­ving taken effect in 1974.

If one were to read between the lines of Watson’s book, it not only described the nail-biting race to solve the molecular structure of the DNA between Watson-Crick and Linus Pauling’s laboratory, but also provided the evidence of an “all gentlemen’s club” in science. In the same book, Watson later added an epilogue where he made amends with Rosalind, employing her and noted that her abhorrence for a collaboration back then was due to the sexism she faced in the acade­mic community.

However, from personal expe­rience, all is still not well in science. Women scientists are often acknowledged as excellent technicians, but sexism and the gender privilege awarded to men are still prevalent.

Women scientists are expected to work harder – stories of professors who went straight to work from their hospital beds after labour and working through their maternity leaves are legendary, but expected. A colleague of mine once even used her newborn baby as an experimental sample – such is the dedication expected from women scientists.

The women in Hidden Figures conform to the feminine gender identity, are wives and mothers, and received support from their own mothers, spouses, children and each other.

Not all women are fortunate to have such a support system, with single women, women who are gay, women who do not conform to the accepted societal definition of “fe­­minine” and “pretty”, and women who are vocal finding the glass cei­ling a lot harder to crack.

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Philippine Airlines to spread wings to Sabah

Saturday, February 25th, 2017
One of the lucky winners receiving the air ticket to Manila from Ryan.

One of the lucky winners receiving the air ticket to Manila from Ryan.

KOTA KINABALU: Philippine Airlines is considering incorporating Kota Kinabalu and also Sandakan as some of its destinations.

Its vice president Ryan T. Uy said the airline is currently studying the available routes in Sabah.

“We used to fly to Kota Kinabalu. We know that Kota Kinabalu has a large Filipino population,” said Ryan.

He said the airline is well aware that the people of Sabah are in need of more flight options.

“There are Sabahans who would want to fly to North America, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and China,” he Ryan.

By having Kota Kinabalu as one of its destinations, it will be easier for Sabahans to travel to these countries, he added.

The Asean countries are also currently being looked into by Philippine Airlines, and it is planning to link more Sabahans to its neighboring Asean countries via its Manila hub, Ryan told the media during the re-launch of the Philippine Airlines’ direct flight between Kuala Lumpur and Manila yesterday.

The event at Le Meridien Hotel yesterday highlighted the latest promotions by Philippine Airlines.

The promotions include the Kuala Lumpur-Manila flight with an all-in fare of RM398. The booking period ends on March 19 and the travel period is between June 8 and December 15 this year.

For those who are planning to travel to the United States, Philippine Airlines is currently offering an all-in economy round trip fare from as low as RM2,202.

by Neil Brian Joseph.

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Sale Of Non-Nutritious Foods Outside School Compound Will Be Monitored – Mahdzir Khalid

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

NILAI, Feb 23 (Bernama) — The Education Ministry will monitor and conduct enforcement against the selling of foods categorised as ‘banned foods’ or non-nutritious foods outside the school compound.

Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid said the matter would be implemented in collaboration with the Department of Health, the local authority and the State Education Office through the National Blue Ocean Strategy (NBOS).

“I think it is high time for us to take this effort to monitor as well as to conduct enforcement on this matter,” he said.

He was speaking to reporters after a dialogue with 238 participants of National Professional Qualification for Educational Leaders (2017 intake) programme here, today.

He said the department would continuously conduct regular visits to school canteens to ensure that operators follow the guidelines,

So far, he said surveillance and monitoring of food sold at school canteens was still under control as they were sold by predefined categories.

Among the foods categorised as banned food are sweets, pickled fruits, fizzy drinks, chocolate and those sold in the form of little toys such as rings, pictures, balloons and so on.


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Practise safety, advises man who cycles to work.

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

PETALING JAYA: The safety of cyclists depends on their own behaviour while on the road, says a 40-year-old businessman who has been cycling to work every day since 2011.

Wong Hau Young, an avid cyclist since his teenage years in Ipoh, is also one of those who do not wear a helmet, as he finds it unnecessary.

“There are those who are doing it professionally complete with cycling gear and helmet, and there are the children who modify their bicycles to race.

“As for me, I am just a bicycle user. I don’t use a helmet because I don’t find it necessary,” said Wong who cycles to work and to destinations within a 25km radius of his apartment in Desa Pandan, Kuala Lumpur near here.

Wong traded the comfort of a car for his bicycle six years ago after getting frustrated with the city traffic.

For him, a cyclist must know which roads are too busy and unsafe, and to look for alternative routes.

The PLUS Highway website lists bicycles as a “slow moving vehicle” along with trishaws and tractors, which are not permitted on its highways.

Wong said each month, cyclists in the city gather for a night ride called “Critical Mass” as part of a global movement that aims to raise awareness for cyclists.

From the starting point at Ampang Park, the cyclists will ride together slowly to Dataran Merdeka.

“We will occupy one lane on the road. This movement is to remind other motorists that there are still other people who are not in cars or motorcycles using the road,” he said.

In JOHOR BARU, police have warned the public not to attend any illegal gathering to show support for the mat lajak groups or make degrading remarks that can disrupt investigations on the fatal accident that killed eight teenage cyclists there.

The term mat lajak refers to teenage cyclists who race on modified bicycles without brakes.

Johor Baru (South) OCPD Asst Comm Sulaiman Salleh said police have identified two persons for calling for an illegal assembly as a sign of solidarity towards the mat lajak while opposing enforcement against them, and for posting insulting remarks about the police.

Sulaiman warned that firm action would be taken against anyone involved in organising or attending the rally.

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Protecting proboscis monkeys

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: Local and international experts are collaborating to come up with a plan to protect the proboscis monkey in Sabah.

Malaysian and international scientists, government agencies and industry players will congregate at the three-day Proboscis Monkey Workshop, which starts today, to draft a policy for the purpose.

The workshop is organised by the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) and Sabah Wildlife Department.

DGFC director Dr Benoit Goossens said several experts would propose recommendations at the event for the primate’s conservation based on findings from an extensive five-year research on the endangered species.

A proboscis monkey action plan for Sabah would be drafted following the recommendations, he said.

“I hope the plan will be adopted by the state government to save the species endemic to Borneo, which is threatened by habitat loss and forest fragmentation in Sabah,” Dr Goossens said.

On the research, he said both the centre and department had collected crucial information on the primate’s population in Sabah, including data on demography, behaviour, genetics and health over the past five years.

Surveys were carried out on proboscis monkeys along several rivers such as the Kinabatangan, Segama, Klias and Sugut, with many blood samples collected for genetic analyses.

“Information on genetic isolation, lack of gene flow between populations, risks of inbreeding and extinction will be discussed during the workshop,” Dr Goossens said.

He said the workshop will see input from relevant stakeholders – government department officers, representatives from NGOs, tourism and palm oil industries, local communities, scientists and experts on proboscis monkeys – to formulate pragmatic solutions to preserve the proboscis monkey.

These researches were made possible with the support of Yayasan Sime Darby, which had committed RM3.96mil over six years since 2011.

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All Schools To Be Disabled-Friendly By 2020 – Mahdzir

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 22 (Bernama) — The education ministry has targeted that by 2020, schools nationwide be upgraded with facilities for the disabled, says minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid.

Thus, he hoped more private companies would come forward to collaborate with the ministry in providing such facilities for students with special needs.

“The ministry itself takes the responsibility of providing the facilities (to the disabled) at new schools, but we need strategic partners to fund for old schools,” he said.

Mahdzir was speaking to reporters after witnessing the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the ministry and RHB Foundation here today.

The collaboration benefits 505 disabled students at five schools in the Klang Valley, namely SK Seri Indah and SMK Desa Perdana in Kuala Lumpur; SK Bukit Rimau and SM Pendidikan Khas Vokasional in Shah Alam; and SMK Taman Desa 2 in Rawang.

The RM500,000 project involves upgrading facilities such as new toilets for the disabled, pick-up and drop-off areas, ramps and handrails. These facilities were completed last year.

Mahdzir said the five schools were chosen based on the highest number of students with special needs.


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Lim Kok Wing gets honoured for his contribution to education and society.

Monday, February 20th, 2017

LONDON: Tan Sri Lim Kok Wing has been honoured with two awards – the Global Icon for Innovation and Global Leadership for Peace and Equality – for his contributions to education and society.

The Limkokwing University of Creative Technology founder and president received the awards at the Seventh Middle East Business Leaders Awards 2016.

Lim’s daughter, Limkokwing University of Creative Technology vice-president, Brand, Creativity and Talent Development Datuk Tiffanee Marie Lim and its vice-chancellor Prof Cedric Bell received the awards on his behalf at the event at InterContinental London on Friday night.

“I am honoured and humbled by the awards and am proud of my father’s achievement,” said Tiffanee at the event.

Malaysian High Commissioner to Britain Datuk Ahmad Rasidi Hazizi said the recognition had made the country proud.

“This shows foreign nations that Malaysia has developed in various fields.

“I am sure our young Malaysian leaders will continue to receive recognition in the future,” said Ahmad Rasidi.

Event organiser International Leaders chief executive officer Shahul Hameed Shaik Dawood said the award was a recognition to leaders in various industries who had helped propel their country’s economy in a global setting.

“This year, Malaysia won more awards than ever before.

“This shows that the business management approach among local entrepreneurs and industry players is successful and should be followed,” said Sharul.

“I’m sure leaders today are faced with many challenges, particularly changes in global politics, economy and community development.

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Reinventing varsities for sustainability

Sunday, February 19th, 2017

IT is now common knowledge that the higher education sector is facing challenging times ahead.

All universities in the country are telling the same story of difficulties in managing the higher education business. The traditional university education is becoming less popular.

For the private universities, there are already signs of declining student numbers, with a growing number of students exploring other options to prepare them for the professions of their choice.

On the other hand, public universities are crying because of the drastic cuts in the funding from the government. With little experience in generating income, most are at a loss on how to cope with this constraint.

Many have chosen the easy way out, which is trimming the workforce. Many have terminated the services of lecturers in order to cut costs, with even experienced professors not spared from the exercise. Already, many fear the long-term impact of such measures, which may prove retrogressive for the nation.

Despite the difficulties, many are unanimous that education is an important investment. It is through education that future leaders are trained and developed. There is ample evidence to show that countries that invest wisely in education stand a better chance of making better headway in business, technology development and innovation.

Like it or not, higher education is the stage which prepares and provides the final touches to the students as they take that initial plunge into industry and society.

Varsities must produce graduates trained not only with the right skills but also with the right mindset to productively contribute to society.

It will be damaging for the country if the quality of graduates does not meet the expectations of industry and society. This is the reason why the curriculum and courses designed must take into account the many factors that are important to major stakeholders.

The big question before us now is: are our varsities catering to those very requirements that would enhance the nation’s competitiveness and bring progress to the society at large?

There are mixed answers to such a question. There are those who believe that we are doing well with our higher education. Indeed, we are producing talents needed by industry. In fact, they are saying that many of our engineering graduates enjoy big demand in the Middle East and elsewhere.

The impact factor of our researchers has also been soaring upwards, as maintained by the ministry.

However, there are those who disagree. Industry captains frequently complain about our graduates not fully meeting their criteria of exemplary talent. They say most are poor in their communication skills and other interpersonal attributes. Apparently, graduates from the private universities fare better compared to their public university counterparts.

In a globalised world rife with competition, most people agree that innovation strength is a key factor if a nation is to rise above the competition. This is where universities can sow the seeds through their R&D activities.

However, innovation can only be felt by society if the R&D findings are effectively shared with the public. Unfortunately, most of the R&D tend to aim only for publication in Tier One peer reviewed journals, as that is the KPI for academics here.

The sad part of it is that such journals have a very limited readership, with only those in the same discipline reading them. The findings do not effectively reach out to those who matter, such as the policy makers, businesses, and society at large.

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