Archive for August, 2017

It keeps schoolbags light

Saturday, August 19th, 2017
Chloe Chan Phooi San, Bernice Woh Xuan Qi, Ong Ee Xuen and Chow Kay Yue (left to right), showing off the weight watcher school bag.

Chloe Chan Phooi San, Bernice Woh Xuan Qi, Ong Ee Xuen and Chow Kay Yue (left to right), showing off the weight watcher school bag.

PETALING JAYA: Tired of waiting for a solution, pupils have taken charge to end the heavy schoolbag problem.

And Year Four pupils from SJK(C) Tun Tan Cheng Lock even bagged awards for their creative solution to the weighty issue.

The 10-year-olds – Bernice Woh Xuan Qi, Ong Ee Xuen, Chow Kay Yue and Chloe Chan Phooi San – received a silver medal and special award at the International Exhibition for Young Inventors 2017 last month in Nagoya, Japan, for their invention – a weighing scale that alerts the user when the load becomes hazardous to health.

The “Weight Watcher” was also named best invention and won a gold award at the recent World Young Inventors Exhibition in Kuala Lumpur. Weighing a mere 0.3kg, the device can be fitted into any bag.

Explaining the difference between the electronic and hydraulic versions, Bernice said the former buzzes when the bag exceeds a set weight limit.

“This can be used by the visually impaired.

“Made entirely from recycled materials, the hydraulic version has a liquid indicator. This is useful for hearing impaired pupils,” she said.

The Weight Watcher, said Ee Xuen, was inspired by their daily burden.

“It’s tiring, lugging our schoolbags around every day,” she said during the school’s prize presentation ceremony yesterday.

On Aug 15, Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid said state and district education officers had visited schools in several states to investigate the perennial heavy schoolbag issue as some schools were burdening pupils with workbooks.

Kay Yue said children should not carry more than 10% of their body weight.

“We set the weight limit at 3kg but this can be adjusted according to the individual’s body weight,” she said.

Chloe said pupils do not realise that the weight they are carrying can injure the spine.

Describing the girls as perfectionists, team mentor Hay Quee Kei said they needed very little help.

“The biggest challenge for them was trying to calibrate the device.

“They did over 100 trials before they were satisfied,” he added.

The school’s headmistress Ngann Sook Wei said they encourage students to be innovative and creative as these are crucial 21st century skill sets.

“Learning must also take place outside the classroom. We want pupils to find solutions to daily problems and become successful inventors,” she said.

The school is part of Kompleks Sekolah Wawasan in USJ15, which also comprises SK Dato’ Onn Jaafar and SJK(T) Tun Sambanthan.

Congratulating the team, Malaysian Invention and Design Society (Minds) president Tan Sri Augustine S.H. Ong said Malaysians, regardless of age, must believe in their ability to be creators.

He said youngsters can come up with ideas seasoned researchers miss, because they ask basic questions that experts brush off.

“I’ve been asked: ‘What can a Malaysian invent that others in the world haven’t already thought of?’

“Plenty. Because the problems we face are different.”

Ong, who is also senior fellow at the Academy of Sciences Malaysia, said Malaysians need a change in mindset.

“We must have confidence in ourselves to come up with effective solutions,” he said.

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Malaysia in our hearts all over the world.

Saturday, August 19th, 2017
Pride Down Under: Staff of the Eco World International office in Melbourne, Australia, are proud to be AnakAnakMalaysia.

Pride Down Under: Staff of the Eco World International office in Melbourne, Australia, are proud to be AnakAnakMalaysia.

PETALING JAYA: No matter where life takes you, home is where the heart is.

As the 60th National Day celebrations approach, more and more Malaysians abroad have gathered with their friends and families there to send their love back home.

Malaysians as far away as the United States, Japan, Senegal, Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand are waving the Jalur Gemilang and displaying the #AnakAnakMalaysia2017 poster with pride at foreign landmarks, with Malaysian students at Tacoma Community College sending in a picture from Washington state.

Together in Africa: Malaysians living in Dakar, Senegal, showing their support in front of the African Renaissance Monument built to symbolise the rebirth of Africa.

Together in Africa: Malaysians living in Dakar, Senegal, showing their support in front of the African Renaissance Monument built to symbolise the rebirth of Africa.

“This is our first time celebrating Malaysia’s Independence Day in another country and we are proud to be Malaysians abroad. Happy 60th Independence Day! No matter how far we go, Malaysia will always be in our hearts,” they told The Star.

Over in Singapore, journalist Yvonne Lim wished the very best for her beloved country as it celebrates six decades of nationhood.

“My heart is never very far from home. Happy Merdeka, my Malaysia. I bring you with me wherever I go,” she added.

Land of the Rising Sun: Malaysians displaying the posters in front of the Ginza Wako building and clock tower in Tokyo. (Back row, from left) Wong Weng Wah, Abdul Rahman, Shahril, Aini, Ooi Chia Hooi, Tam Yun Yang. (Front row, from left) Aysar, Anis, Anas, Aishah and Mursyid.

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A better life with critical thinking

Saturday, August 19th, 2017
Successful critical thinking involves self-directed, self-disciplined and self-corrective thinking. FILE PIc

WE all think — it’s in our nature to do so. But, left to itself, most of our thinking is inadvertently biased, uninformed, partial and often prejudiced. Our quality of life depends on the quality of our thoughts. It is, therefore, imperative to learn and cultivate excellence in thinking.

At the tender age of 2, my son discovered the all-important word “why”. There and then, I vowed to never answer him with a simple “because I said so”.

At 10, he triumphantly declared that Britney Spears was actually 56 years old, but she had a lotion that made her appear to be 21. This was a fact; he had read it on the Internet. What, on earth, had gone wrong?

The unstoppable force that is the appeal of fast facts found on the World Wide Web had clearly wiped out all my, as well as his teachers’ efforts, to instil common sense and critical thinking into his young mind.

A quick search on “Internet said” gives us the definition of critical thinking as “the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue to form a judgment”.

And, the first example of a sentence reads, “professors often find it difficult to encourage critical thinking among their students”.

The lack of critical thinking among students is a frightening fact. It is so on more than one level. Obviously, if anybody should make it a habit to question information, to not take any fact for granted, to push academic boundaries and thus, reach for new discoveries, it should be the intellectual elite of the future.

After all, haven’t most of history’s defining social, philosophical and scientific transformations been fuelled by passionate young thinkers, unafraid to question the status quo, and willing to envision groundbreaking paths?

If we expect future generations to skillfully identify, analyse, assess, de- and re-construct concepts for the betterment of society, it is crucial that they be given the tools to do so. Successful critical thinking involves self-directed, self-disciplined and self-corrective thinking. This sounds like a handful, and it is.

Traditional education, usually delivered as teacher-centred feeding of information, is not conducive to the aforementioned skills nor to effective communication and problem-solving abilities, which critical thinking entails.

We live in a paradoxical age. Thriving companies seek to hire candidates who can demonstrate sound self-monitored, involved, thinking skills. Higher education professionals lament the lack of such abilities in their students.

Yet, people of little merit, albeit glorified on social media, operate as poor role models for young people’s attempt at judging objectively and thereupon thrive in the very complex world they are about to inherit.

Likewise, parents, teachers and even doctors all too often impose a strict hierarchy that leads to uninvolved and passive consumption of information.

Ultimately, the sound analysis and assessment of concepts demands careful gathering of relevant evidence. The sheer magnitude of available information makes this a somewhat Herculean task, as peer-reviewed sources and those of uncertain origin happily co-exist.

The evaluation of sources and points of view needs to be assessed, not only critically in terms of their objective truth and value, but also in their problem-solving capacity.

Like any other skill however, critical thinking needs to be taught, practised and encouraged from a very young age. When nurtured and developed within an educational process aimed directly at that end, good reasoning can become second nature.

This is not to profess disrespect for one’s elders and superiors, of course. It should not be confused with being argumentative or critical of other people.


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Education Ministry: Actions taken to help schools deal with disciplinary, drug problems

Saturday, August 19th, 2017
Deputy Education Minister Datuk P. Kamalanathan yesterday explained that the 402 schools did not necessarily have hard core disciplinary issues such as drugs or bullying. (pix by SALHANI IBRAHIM)

SHAH ALAM: The Education Ministry has taken various measures to tackle problems plaguing the 402 schools identified as hotspots for disciplinary and drug problems.

The Ministry said today that among others, it has offered legal literacy course to principals at the said schools and those under the Visionary Teen Programme (Program Remaja Berwawasan), a National Blue Ocean Strategy (NBOS) between the Malaysian Armed Forces and police.

“The Armed forces and police have joined hands under the NBOS to mobilise their expertise to discipline students.

“Students attend weekly training session at schools and Summer Camp programme will be held at the Armed forces camps or police training centres.

“Police also play a role as School Liaison Officers tasked to assist them in addressing disciplinary issues.

“Bukit Aman Crime Prevention and Community Safety Department has distributed names of the schools involved to the relevant police headquarters for monitoring purposes,” the ministry’s School Management Division stated.

The Ministry hopes the efforts taken will be welcomed by the schools involved.

The New Straits Times had on Friday revealed list of schools that were identified as hotspots for disciplinary and drugs problems by sources.

Selangor topped with 76 schools on the list, which divided the schools into two categories, namely discipline (Category 1), and discipline with drug issues (Category 3).

The second highest was Johor with 63 (including one on Category 3), followed by Negri Sembilan (40, with five on Category 3), while Penang and Pahang shared the fourth spot with 37 schools each.


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54,103 Graduates Unemployed Six Months After Completing Studies

Saturday, August 19th, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 17 (Bernama) — A total of 54,103 graduates were unemployed six months after they completed their studies last year, said Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh.

The number was based on the Graduands Detection Survey System (SKPG) which recorded 238,187 finishing their studies last year.

He said courses with the highest number of unemployed graduates were business administration, applied science, human resource management, accounting, arts and social science.

“This number did not comprise graduates from the public universities only but also from the private universities and colleges,” he said in reply to a question from Senator Datuk Ng Chiang Chin in the Dewan Negara today.

Idris said in tackling the issue of unemployed graduates, the Higher Education Ministry had implemented a number of programmes including the Integrated Cumulative Grade Point Average (iCGPA), Two Universities + Two Industries and the CEO Faculty.


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Parents urged to play role in curbing gangsterism

Thursday, August 17th, 2017
Parents were urged to play more proactive role in curbing gangsterism among school students. NST file pic

IPOH: Parents were urged to play more proactive role in curbing gangsterism among school students.

Perak Crime Prevention and Community Policing department officer DSP Ng Bo Huat (community policing) said there is a need for parents to monitor and educate their children and not allow them to be bullied by their peers.

“If there are information on bullies in school, please call our hotline 05-240 1999 or Malaysia Emergency Response Service (MERS) 999. Parents could also bring this issue up in Parent-Teacher Associations where our school relations officers will attend the meeting as well. Give this info to discipline teachers too.

“Hotspot schools will be our focus. We will compare the list given by the Education Ministry to the list prepared by the school relations officers,” he said.

He said to increase public awareness on gangsterism, roadshows was also being held state-wide until September 11.

“There will also be talks held for discipline teachers and school relation officers (police) on how to tackle bullying in Perak. We are stepping efforts to empower crime prevention bully and gangsterism,” he said today.

Meanwhile, state exco in charge of education, science, environment and green technology Datuk Muhammad Amin Zakaria said more joint-activities and programme would be organised to curb disciplinary problems including school bullies.

In Perak,t0 schools are labelled as hotspots, with seven of them were identified with having both discipline and drugs problems, and the others listed for disciplinary issues.

The 402 schools listed as hotspots nationwide were identified through input from the Students’ Discipline System (Sistem Sahsiah Diri Murid or SSDM)

By Nuradzimmah Daim.

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Education Ministry Wants Quality, World-Class English Teachers

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

NILAI, Aug 15 (Bernama) — The education ministry wants English Teachers nationwide to master the language and reach a C2 level in the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR).

Minister, Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid said this would ensure the standard of teaching and learning of the English Language in the country were on par with international standards.

“To date, 20,000 or 52 per cent of English teachers in primary and secondary schools have attained C1 and C2 of the CEFR.

“So, we want the English Language Teaching Centre (ELTC) to continue playing a role in improving the level of mastery and quality of writing and communication of English Language teachers in an effort to produce students who are proficient in the language and can compete globally,” he said.

Mahdzir was speaking to reporters after launching the ELTC campus and opening of the Highly Immersive Programme (HIP) Colloquium here today.

Also present were Education Deputy Minister Datuk Chong Sin Woon; Education director-general Tan Sri Dr Khair Mohamad and ELTC director Dr Mohamed Abu Bakar.

Commenting further, Mahdzir said the launch of the ELTC campus was a historic moment for the ministry as it was the sole institution responsible for heading the English Language education system in the country.

“This centre shows that the government is serious in efforts to improve the quality of English Language teachers in schools,” he added.

On a separate issue, the minister said the education director-general had issued the order to all district education offices (PPD) to open flood operations centres.


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For the love of Malaysia

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

Come SEA Games time, we couldn’t care less for our athletes’ skin colour or beliefs. We are only interested in the colours of our Jalur Gemilang. There will be cries of jubilation and groans of despair, all in unison. Let’s remember that.

I HAVE worked at The Star for over three decades. It has been my one and only employer, I’m proud to say. I’ll make an educated guess here and assume that this kind of allegiance would shock most millennials, who rarely stick with an employer for a sustained period. Apparently, three years is almost an eternity for them.

The biggest draw, for me at least, when I joined, was that The Star, as a predominantly English language media group, had a multiracial work force, a scenario which has reassuringly remained status quo to this day.

More than 1,500 staff work, and share their lives in the various departments and subsidiaries, the environment boasting an even racial makeup.

So, we stand tall for being truly Malaysian. This means, my colleagues of all races and religions, including Sabahans and Sarawakians of various ethnicities, bring our collective experiences together to make decisions.

Naturally, in this kind of ideal setting, the views of every group are considered and taken into account when facing challenges or making plans. Everything is consistently based on consensus.

A diverse workforce thrives in these settings, the comfort in communication and mutual respect generated providing for a larger pool of ideas and experiences.

Above all else though, genuine friendships have forged, grown and strengthened over the long years of service in the company, which celebrates its 46th anniversary next month.

We are so familiar and at ease with each other that harmless banter and jibes rarely offend or hurt anyone.

We might have earned this luxury and good fortune for having been products of English medium schools or institutes of higher learning, which emphasised the language.

However, this kind of neutral ground has not been accorded to those who grew up in (and continue to study at) vernacular schools, or the many mono-ethnic sekolah kebangsaan these days.

From my experience, students with similar upbringing and exposure to mine, were a multiracial lot.

Friendships were put through the grinder over the years, and came out stronger, and in many cases, life-long, as an end product.

Of course, we fought and sulked but made up, too, because we could all see the bigger picture.

And as was the practice in my time and before, we visited each other’s homes, celebrated our various festivals, ate from the same plates and slept in the same beds, as well. That was how close we were with our schoolmates – we existed in a racially-borderless world.

These are solid friendships built through the years, which is a far cry from the functional relationships of today, where meals are rarely communal affairs and visiting friends’ homes is becoming an alien concept.

I’m grateful to be able to say that it’s great to be serving at Star Media Group because of its multiracial staff, where everyone subscribes to our primary value – moderation.

In fact, I extract greater satisfaction in denouncing this as marketing ploy and instead, celebrate it as a way of life, ahead of the National Day.

It’s also heartening to know the good luck we have, because come the festive period, we are able to cover for one another – no festivals are celebrated simultaneously, after all. So, a multiracial workforce is clearly an asset.

However, I’m compelled to spare a thought for my fellow journalists who work in the Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese or Tamil dailies, because I know of their frustrations during the three major festivals.

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Taking kids on the STEM route

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

A COMMON misperception students have of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), is that they can only pursue careers in medicine, dentistry and pharmacy.

The Education Ministry and various institutions have been relentlessly rallying against this notion as it aspires to achieve a 60:40 ratio of science to arts students.

One such institution is Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).

In collaboration with Persama (Persatuan Sains Matematik Malaysia), the varsity’s Centre of Foundation Studies for Agricultural Science and Mathematics Department of the Science Faculty recently held a maths camp for secondary school students, mostly from rural areas.

Held over two days, the camp saw the participation of over 200 Form Two students from five districts in Selangor.

UPM Centre of Foundation Studies for Agricultural Science director Prof Dr Norihan Md Arifin said the camp was aimed at increasing students’ interest and confidence in mathematics.

“It adopts modules by Persama which emphasises on playing with mathematics.

“This way, participants can see how it closely relates to their everyday life,” added Dr Norihan, who was also the programme’s director.

Deputy Education Minister Datuk P. Kamalanathan, who launched the programme, said the purpose of the camp was to provide more exposure to rural students, as well as sufficient resources to keep them well informed, on par with students from urban schools.

“The ministry realises this need and we have created the 1BestariNet programme.

“Through the virtual learning environment, we can help (students in their academics), but they also need exposure and sharing of knowledge from STEM experts,”he said.

He said, the interest in STEM had to be instilled from a young age, and should be voluntary.

“You cannot force a child to be interested in STEM because when they enjoy it voluntarily, they will take the initiative to be good in the field,” he said, adding the programme was a good platform to instil such interests in the mostly 14-year-olds.

Kamalanathan said while students from rural and urban schools use the same syllabus, it is the lack of access to extra information that students require after schooling hours that keeps rural students at a disadvantage. One such disadvantage is the poor Internet coverage in many rural areas.

“Therefore, when students attend programmes like this, senior lecturers will able to guide them,” he added.

Commenting on the misperceptions students have on STEM, Kamalanathan said it was the responsibility of both the ministry and teachers to inspire and inform students of the many career opportunities in science.

“In fact, there are many fields that are without competent people, he added.

“Because of this, we have to depend on foreign workers. Upgrading workers with the necessary skills, is a requirement that recognises and acknowledges that a country is a “developed nation.”

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Boys who saw their hopes come true

Saturday, August 12th, 2017
Foch Avenue in Kuala Lumpur in the 1960s. FILE PIC

IT was only a few more days before Merdeka was declared in 1957. I had just turned 11 and was lounging with some boys at the corner of a quarters’ block in the Police Depot (now Pulapol), off Gurney Road in Kuala Lumpur.

We were barefooted and wearing shabby shirts and shorts, but were in an exuberant and expectant mood. Then, we got into lambasting the orang putih, who had to balik negeri soon.

None of them escaped our naive contempt and ridicule. High commissioners, government officials, traders, soldiers — we fired away unabashedly with our snide remarks.

“Now they will return home without a job. Maybe they will have to drive taxis and buses, or even beg for a living. Let them!”

The fervour and disdain was as intense as any young boy during those days could muster. We were also wishful and full of hope.

“We should be senang (well off) after this because we shall govern the country and have control of our kekayaan (wealth). We will not be poor anymore as we will get to own this wealth. We can defend the country and our soldiers will fight and defeat the pengganas komunis (communist terrorists or CTs) by ourselves.”

All these we gleefully said in between laughter and giggles.

There was only one lone cautious voice, a slightly older boy, who sounded out his apprehension as to whether things could happen that easily since the country was still undeveloped and not rich.

His concern was quickly dismissed by another boy as we continued to talk about the bliss that was to come. I had written about this before but will re-live it anyway as it is quite incredulous. It is an insignificant happening, yet a memorable one deeply etched in memory.

The conversations were reflective of the feelings at that time with the coming of Merdeka. They were also innocent expressions of our hopes and fears as boys. Boys who went on to become men, and be with the country on its journey forward and, eventually, to witness the present.

The feelings should not be too difficult to comprehend. We were of the generation born just after the war and survived the difficult post-war period. Then, we grew up during the period of the first Emergency, which was declared in 1948 and saw the consequences of the communist revolt on the Malay peninsula.

The conflict was a civil war, and we felt the threats, dangers and fears from perennial dusk-to-dawn curfews, the security checkpoints, the identification checks of people, the barbed wire entanglements and seeing soldiers and policemen of all shades, size and colour always around us.

In the air, ex-Battle of Britain pilots flew their fighters and bombers, at times dropping leaflets instead of bombs, which thrilled us as much as it reminded that the communist threat was real. At the same time, Radio Malaya and the Information Department broadcast frequently anti-communist messages and news of the Special Forces’ contacts with CTs, and their numbers killed or captured.

All of these were seen and felt while being conscious of our subservience to the orang putih, who remained unchallenged as the lord and tuan.

We were, therefore, in some disbelief that we would be gaining independence.

An uncertainty that was put to rest when the Union Jack was finally lowered and the flag of the Federation of Malaya raised in its place at the Selangor Club padang (now Dataran Merdeka).

The next morning, on Aug 31, Tunku Abdul Rahman formally declared the country’s independence and led all at Stadium Merdeka to shouts of Merdeka!

But, as the days went by, we realised that it took more than shouting “Merdeka” to build a country and a nation. It required vision, leadership, time and a lot of hard work and sacrifices. Thus, other than the immediate change of government and leadership, things moved rather slowly and gradually forward during the first few years of independence.

The Emergency was declared over in 1960 although the communist threat continued to loom. Hundreds of CTs remained active at the Malaya-Thailand border, operating from their sanctuary in southern Thailand. The government sought to contain this threat while focusing on the unity and uplifting of the standard of living of the population.

On the personal side, life continued to be hard for all of us at the Police Depot. In school, we had to survive only on my father’s low policeman’s pay.

The hopeful imaginings of bliss did not materialise as quickly as we had thought, and soon, they were temporarily forgotten. The older boy was right. We had first to study and work hard in order to attain progress and security.

The kampung stay during school holidays were the best times for us. It provided pure happy moments — gathering mangosteens, rambutans and durians when they were in season, and then pampered by my maternal grandmother when the better-off cousins were not around.

My mother and father became noticeably resigned to the drudgery of a hard life, constant work and the small rewards. Thankfully, they persevered without ever showing any sign of despair or of wanting to give up. This grit is their greatest example for me to follow in my own adult life.

A significant happening occurred in the late 1960s, when my father became the personal bodyguard of the Raja of Perlis, the third Yang Dipertuan Agong.

We were initially excited when we had to move into Istana Negara, but were quite dismayed by the small and windowless workers’ quarters. My parents, however, remained unperturbed and laboured constantly to make the quarters more habitable.


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