Archive for September, 2019

NST Leader: Making it rail

Saturday, September 21st, 2019
Building a high-speed rail from Johor Baru to Padang Besar parrallel to the existing double tracks may be an excellent option. – FILE PIC

RAIL works. In the United States. In Europe. And in Asia, too. Asean saw this as early as 1995 when it gave its stamp of approval to a pan-Asean rail link at its 5th Summit in Bangkok. Progress has, however, been slow. As with many things Asean, it is never a dash to the destination.

Malaysia may do well to push for the Pan-Asian Rail Link to Kunming, China — an idea that Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad mooted during his first term — from Johor Baru/Iskandar Puteri, our new growth area in the south.

This will do more for trade, tourism and travel than perhaps the High-Speed Rail (HSR) to Singapore. The prohibitive cost for the latter — estimated at RM70 billion in 2016 — is one. The other is passenger traffic.

There are already more than 100 flights — full-fare and low-cost — plying between the two destinations.

What we need though is a jam-free border crossing at the Causeway.

Picture this: thousands of motorists stuck immobile at the Causeway enviously looking at an HSR travelling at the speed of a bullet! It certainly would not be a good social statement.

At the expense of being frivolous, we say this: there will be one less reason to have a neighbourly quarrel over whether the Kuala Lumpur International Airport or Changi should have a HSR station!

Building a high-speed rail from Johor Baru to Padang Besar parrallel to the existing double tracks may be an excellent option.

Such a track will spare us from land acquisition cost, which can be substantial. Currently, Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd has Electric Train Service (ETS) from Gemas to Padang Besar. ETS — which at 140kph is considered a fast train — from Johor Baru to Gemas is being upgraded.

The Padang Besar-Bangkok sector can do with an upgrade, too. Malaysian companies will do well to bid for the project.

There is yet a bolder strategic reason. A connected Asia — which the north-bound Pan-Asia Rail Link promises — would give birth to a “no warship South China Sea,” says Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong, an idea he has explored for a year now. In his view, our rail link from Johor to the north to China and, perhaps, Europe will open new forms of conciliatory collaborations between Asean and China.

Liew first broached the strategy of “looking north, instead of south” at the South-South Cooperation in the New Asian Era Forum: “Expanding the rail network in Malaysia is a good idea.

But it should be one that carries goods and not just passengers, as there will never be a HSR that is faster than flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing or Shanghai for passenger purposes.”

We agree. Should the Pan-Asian Rail Link become a reality, we, like Liew, see the strategic importance of South China Sea declining, thus helping to cool the political temperature over the much troubled waters. Our north-bound track to China and beyond can make trade, tourism and travel rail.


Changing the classroom and beyond

Saturday, September 21st, 2019
Teach For Malaysia fellow Kuan May Yin (left) and the Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching (right) co-teaching Geography to Form Two students at SMK Pendamaran Jaya, Klan

LOCATED in Klang, the locals used to regard SMK Pendamaran Jaya (SMKPJ) as a school for hoodlums until Teach for Malaysia (TFM), a nonprofit organisation aiming to help children in Malaysia attain an excellent education, started sending its “fellows” to this school.

The fellows are actually young graduates and professionals recruited to teach at highneed public schools for a period of two years.

Since 2012, SMKPJ has hosted 11 TFM fellows. Currently, four fellows are working there with multiple TFM alumni programmes to empower the students.

“Ever since the TFM programme started, the school’s standard has increased,” said Yap Lee Sin, the father of Yap Wei Cheng, a former SMKPJ student.

Yap, who works as a fisherman, said that he has observed a lot of positive changes in his son.

“He has learnt to embrace different cultures and religions. Even now as a school alumnus, Wei Cheng still comes here every Saturday to help students in science and technology.”

For Yap Wei Cheng, 18, his experience with TFM started in Form Three when a fellow, Loh Chee Hoo, began to teach him Mandarin.

“Instead of just referring to the textbook, he would teach us about Chinese values, history and culture. Sir Loh has really impacted my life.

“His best advice to me was to respect everyone equally and not to label or demonise others,” said Yap.

Having been involved with a TFM alumni programme called Chumbaka, Yap was able to undergo life-skills training through technology.

“Through Chumbaka, I learnt about innovation, entrepreneurship and problemsolving. As a result of the training, my group members Yus Amirul Wafiq and Shahril Hashim, and I, came up with an invention called Bonus Clean.

“The invention rewards students with points which they can redeem for items sold at the school co-op, like food and stationery.

“We wanted to encourage students to throw rubbish in the bin to keep the environment clean. Bonus Clean has also brought us to international-level competitions such as The Kuala Lumpur Engineering Science Fair,” said Yap.

Aspiring to be an engineer, Yap said that Chumbaka has taught him leadership skills and teamwork.

“Aside from entrepreneurship and innovation, I also developed a better understanding of the Malaysian society.

Working with my diverse team, I was able to learn more about them and the different races in the nation. It was a great opportunity

for us to collaborate with each other.”

Yap added that the most important lesson he has received from TFM fellows is empathy.

“Think before you speak and feel before you judge. Last year, while I was mentoring my juniors, I realised that some of them

have family problems or mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. It’s important to have teachers who listen to students,” said Yap.

SMKPJ fifth former Jeetha Nagantheran, 17, said that TFM fellows always set up interactive games in class to encourage critical thinking.

“For example, in Form One, I really loved learning English with a TFM fellow, Mr Gabriel Samson. He implemented a reward and penalty system, which motivated me to read more and speak up in class.

“Each time we answered his questions, we’d receive a token to participate in a lucky draw. He gave us stationery and food as presents.”

The experience helped Jeetha to break out of her shell.

“After studying with Mr Gabriel, I became more confident. I learnt that it’s important to voice out your ideas and share them.”

Jeetha also took part in an alumni programme called Project ID (Impianku Destinasiku) which she regarded as an eye-opening experience.

“We were only 13, so we hadn’t really thought about our future. But Project ID gave us the opportunity to go to Kidzania and meet lecturers from universities. We were also exposed to various education pathways and careers,” said Jeetha.

Founded by the 2012 cohort of TFM fellows, Project ID prepares students for their future careers through workshops and activities.

Jeetha Nagantheran

A Food Technology graduatefrom Universiti Sains Malaysia, Kuan May Yin, 26, teaches Geography at SMKPJ.

Teaching had never crossed Kuan’s mind until her coursemate died while they were in the final year of their studies.

“It made me think about my purpose in life. I believe that I have a mission to help others. When it comes to the education system, Malaysians like to complain on

social media. It shows that we care and are concerned. So, I thought to myself, why don’t I turn that feeling into action?”

Having learnt a lot as a teacher, she said: “At school, I don’t deal with robots or computers, but I work with different children every day.

“I learnt that respect is earned. When I step into the classroom, I need to show that I respect my students. When you show your respect and love for them genuinely, they’ll return it.

“I also learnt to love the students who are the hardest to love. There are students who don’t bring their books and always come in late, but they have hard stories to tell. From divorced parents to abusive families, I’ve heard it all when they open up to me.”

Kuan added that teachers can leave an impact on the most difficult of students.

“One day, while I was teaching, I struggled to raise my voice as the class next door was very noisy. Then, a student, who always misbehaves in class, asked for my permission to go to the washroom. He actually went next door and told the students to keep quiet.

“I didn’t ask him to do it, but he took the initiative to help me. It was a very powerful moment as it shows that students are capable of making a change despite coming from challenging backgrounds.”

On Aug 1, Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching joined Kuan to co-teach a Geography lesson at SMKPJ.

The session was held as part of the annual TFM Week, where key leaders are invited to spend time as teachers in underprivileged schools.


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New four-storey RM3 million SJK (C) Kin Kiau Kinarut building launched

Saturday, September 21st, 2019

KINARUT: The new four-storey SJK (C) Kin Kiau building here costing RM3 million was officially launched yesterday.

The new building named after prominent property developer and philanthropist Datuk Susan Wong Siew Guen would now replace the ageing 89-year-old single storey buildings which could not cope with the increasing number of pupils.

The new building officiated by Consul General of China in Kota Kinabalu, Liang Caide consisting of 12 classrooms for primary one to six can fit 400 pupils and 27 teachers. The old building would now be used as a pupils’ counselling and rehabilitation centre.

Susan, who is also the managing director of WSG Group and has developed the new Kinarut township with housing and commercial centre, said the school was founded by the Chinese community at Kinarut in 1930.

“In the early days, the Chinese population in Kinarut township was very small but they were determined to establish the school despite their poverty and hardship because they wanted to keep the Chinese education and culture alive.

SJK Kin Kiau is the hope and future of the local Chinese community to preserve our mother tongue education. “The school has sustained to this day owing to the donations and effort of the Chinese people,” she said.

The Chinese consulate has also sponsored RM20,000 to build the teachers’ room in the new school block.

She said the consulate’s support reflected the recognition of China towards Chinese education undertaken by overseas Chinese.

“It signifies the strong friendship between China and Sabah, particularly with the coming 70th anniversary celebration of the founding of China on Oct 1,” she said.

Susan said the new building served to provide a more conducive learning environment for the pupils. She commended the school for its commitment to Chinese education even though 90 per cent of pupils at SJK Kin Kiau were bumiputera.

“The school believes that having bumiputeras learn our Chinese education will enhance mutual understanding, which in turn, promotes unity and national integration,” she said.

Susan is confident that the number of Chinese students at the school would increase to 30 per cent in the near future because her company has built more than 1,000 homes in Kinarut.

She recalled her first housing project named River Park in the township in 2007 when there was only a single Chinese buyer out of the 200 residential units.

In WSG Group’s second project, Rose Garden with 400 units of houses, the number of Chinese buyers has increased to 50 per cent.

“Nowadays, Chinese buyers constitute 70 per cent in our latest project, The Palm Condominium.

“This trend indicates that the Chinese community are shifting to Kinarut and therefore I believe Chinese students in SJK Kin Kiau will rise to 30 per cent soon,” she said.

Susan added that Kinarut was a tourism spot with beautiful sea views and train ride for tourists to visit the century-old town and the historical Tien Nam Shi Temple.


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Teo: Let’s wait and see if PT3 exams will go on as scheduled

Saturday, September 21st, 2019

PUTRAJAYA: The Education Ministry will monitor the haze situation before deciding if the Form Three Assessment (PT3) examinations will go on as scheduled.

For now, Teo Nie Ching said it was status quo.

“We believe that the haze situation will be ongoing but we hope that with efforts like cloud seeding and others, we will not have to close schools during the examination period, ” said the Deputy Education Minister after attending the DKLS Linguistic Ambassador Award 2019 Essay Writing Competition yesterday.

The written papers for the PT3 exams are scheduled to begin on Sept 30. It will go on until Oct 8.

“We are still monitoring the Air Pollutant Index readings closely to ensure the syllabus and learning process are not affected, ” Teo said.

A circular from the Education Ministry dated Jan 15,2019 stated that schools should stop all outdoor activities if the API levels reached 100 and above. Schools are ordered to close immediately if the API readings were 200 and above.

A ministry statement noted that more than 1.7 million students from 2,696 schools in Selangor, Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Sarawak were affected by school closures as of yesterday.

However, Teo urged teachers to conduct lessons via online platforms such as Google Classroom.

On Wednesday, Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik said principals and headmasters should ensure that their staff could work from home. This, he said, was to ensure the welfare of the teaching workforce.

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Gender parity a work in progress in energy sector

Thursday, September 19th, 2019
The number of women on oil and gas boards reached 14 per cent in 2019, double the level in 2009. EPA PIC

FOR years, the energy sector has been male-centric and has come under increasing scrutiny for lagging behind other industries on gender parity.

New research shows that women still occupy less than one-fifth of senior leadership spots. Progress has been made, but there is still work to be done

If the energy sector maintains its current pace, 50-50 gender parity won’t be reached until 2058.

S&P Global’s new report — #ChangePays in Energy — showed that there are signs that gender diversity in the global energy sector is improving and has accelerated in the past 10 years.

The number of female board members has nearly doubled since 2000 to reach 15 per cent.

Geographically, there is significant variation across countries and regions when looking at female representation among the most senior leaders in energy companies — the C-suite, board members and senior managers.

When looking at the share of female C-suite executives at energy companies globally, Malaysia with 20 per cent of its leadership made up of women is second only to the Philippines in the S&P Global BMI Energy (Sector) Index.

In addition, Malaysia outperformed the regional average in the Asia-Pacific region, achieving roughly 23 per cent of women board members and senior managers at energy companies.

The country ranks above a majority of the global developed markets, including Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Japan. Looking across the region, others that significantly outperformed the regional average include the Philippines, Thailand and Hong Kong.

South Korea, Japan and Pakistan were listed lowest globally at around three per cent of women board members and senior managers in the energy sector.

When broken down into subsectors, utilities with women accounting for 17 per cent of board members beat the energy-sector average, slightly ahead of renewable electricity and other sectors, including independent power producers, oil, gas and coal.

While oil and gas slightly trailed, significant progress hasbeen made, but from a lower base. The share of women on oil and gas boards reached 14 per cent in 2019, double the level in 2009.

Comparing the energy sector with the S&P Global Broad Market Index as a whole, which takes into account other industry sectors, the energy sector has closely tracked the broader swathe of industries when it comes to female board representation since 2013.

To complement the report, we spoke to senior women industry executives and regulators to hear their opinions on gender parity in the energy sector and how equality can be attained.

One theme that consistently stood out is the lower share of women in STEM specialties. As with many industries, our data shows that one reason there aren’t more women in the C-suite in energy is because there are not enough women a step below to promote.

These leaders suggested instrumental factors to get female managers into the organisational pipeline, which leads to leadership positions, including increased focus on sponsorship, mentorship programmes and networking groups in energy companies and expanding the pool of candidates for promotions.

In Malaysia, one of the key priorities of the government’s 11th Malaysia Plan is to improve the female labour participation rate by five percentage points to 59 per cent by 2020.

We oticed the government is already leading the initiative by implementing policies in its 2018 Budget that will improve the quality of education and better alignment of learning opportunities with evolving business needs, which is expected to help lower skills mismatch.

This report, #ChangePays in Energy, is part of the #ChangePays initiative launched earlier this year at S&P Global, focusing on the economic benefits of more women in the workforce.

Our research showed that greater women participation in the workplace could lead to stronger, healthier and more advanced economies.

We forecast strengthening the number of women in the labour force would add US$5.87 trillion (RM24.5 trillion) to the global market capitalisation.

Global gross domestic product could increase 26 per cent if women matched men in the workforce, which would benefit both advanced and developing countries.

The case for greater gender parity has become even more compelling. The numbers in #ChangePays in Energy show that lack of gender parity is a worldwide phenomenon.

Though there has been increased corporate attention on greater workplace inclusivity, there is still much work to be done to address diversity in terms of culture and definitions of gender roles. For real change to be made, the drive for gender equality needs to start at the top levels of organisations and be embodied throughout corporate culture in an authentic way.

By advancing this conversation and demonstrating the benefits of greater workplace inclusivity to the business bottom line, we can make the case that change will have wide-ranging benefits both to businesses and the global economy.

Change will contribute to the long-term success of the energy industry, and now it is up to companies to make it happen.

By Sarah Cottle.

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Insights from Asia’s rapid growth

Thursday, September 19th, 2019
Economic openness also played an important role in Asia’s development. — NSTP Archive

IN 1968, economist Dr Gunnar Mydral published Asian Drama: An Inquiry into the Poverty of Nations, a pessimistic work on Asia’s development prospects.

The 51 years since witnessed a remarkable economic transformation, with Asia emerging as a global economic powerhouse.

Like so many, it was hard for Mydral to imagine Asia undergoing such rapid economic progress, a development on a scale rarely experienced in history.

The development experience of Asia informs our understanding of complex development processes.

The successes, failures and mixed outcomes of the Asian experience provide important insights into the economic prospects of latecomers to development.

They also reflect how the next 25 years might unfold for Asia in a changing and evolving global context.

A half-century of Asian development was driven by economic growth characterised by high investment savings rates and rapid industrialisation, often associated with structural changes in the composition of output and employment.

Between 1970 and 2016, the gross domestic product growth rate in Asia was more than double that of industrialised countries.

Importantly, unlike Latin America and Africa, structural change drove economic growth. This rapid growth, which gathered momentum around 1990, led to a sharp reduction in absolute poverty in Asia.

It also seemed that the public provision of education and healthcare, combined with employment creation, sustained growth in Asian economies and improved the wellbeing of its people.

This process characterised the success stories in Asia.

There were, however, marked differences between Asian countries in geographical size, colonial legacies, nationalist movements, initial conditions, natural resource endowments, population size, income levels and political systems.

All of these contributed to differences in policy choices that resulted in a diversity of development outcomes.

Economic openness also played an important role in Asia’s development.

Given their colonial legacy of underdevelopment, most Asian countries were restrictive in terms of openness until around 1970.

This changed rapidly thereafter. In Asia, openness did not mean a passive insertion into the world economy.

Instead, it was often strategic and selective.

Success at industrialisation was based on strategic and selective integration into the global economy, combined with the use of industrial policy.

The countries in Asia that modified, adapted and contextualised their reform agenda, while calibrating the sequence of, and the speed at which, economic reforms were introduced, did well.

They did not hesitate to use heterodox or unorthodox polices for orthodox economic objectives, or orthodox policies for heterodox or unorthodox economic objectives.

As Asian economies look to the future, a lesson from their history remains — learning and unlearning are part of a process in which economic policies are a means to the end of development.


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Applying skills and knowledge in final year projects

Thursday, September 19th, 2019
It is important for final year students to search past literatures to understand more about their chosen topic.

ONE of the most crucial components of undergraduate studies is the final year project.

A final year project entails students researching on a topic of their choice, engaging with the scholarly debates in the relevant disciplines, and, with a supervisor’s guidance — producing a paper that reflects a deep understanding of the topic.

All undergraduates are required to complete their projects individually as part of the requirement to graduate.

Seen as the culmination of the degree, the final year project gives students a chance to demonstrate all they have learnt throughout their studies — both skills and knowledge.

According to a senior lecturer at Universiti Malaysia Pahang’s (UMP) Faculty of Industrial Management Dr Diyana Kamarudin, the final year project is where students develop a deeper understanding of the topic that is of interest to them. “Students get a chance to interact with companies concerning their topic for data collection — whether it be observations, interviews, surveys or many other methods. It is also where they gain confidence and be more sure about themselves. I have seen shy students bloom in the final presentation and I could not be prouder,” she said.

Associate Professor Dr Izni Syahrizal Ibrahim, the director of the Forensic Engineering Centre at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s (UTM) Institute of Smart Infrastructure & Innovative Construction said the final year students are exposed to various aspects of research, from design and organising to implementation, and finally, drawing their conclusions.

“Part of the training includes critical thinking, integrating the knowledge they have gained throughout their years at university,” he said, adding that there are also ethics and attitude elements involved.

While students are supervised by lecturers during the final year project, programme director at Multimedia Universiy (MMU’s faculty of engineering Asscociate Professor Dr Mardeni Roslee said it is the students who have to define the problem boundaries, investigate possible solutions, and to present the results in writing, verbally and in action.

“The final year project plays a crucial role in the teaching-learning process. It is also a way of identifying the ability of the student to do an industrial project or apply research linked to the knowledge discipline. So this exercise can be considered as motivation for the students because it allows them to choose methods, tools, and make decisions during its development,” he said.

Muhammad Haziq Furqan Mazlan during his Final Year Project Final Poster Presentation.


The final year project begins with project registration, surveying the potential supervisor and topics. To complete the project, students generally undergo a process that spans two semesters.

Diyana said in the first semester, (Final Year Project 1) FYP 1, students would write up a proposal which covers Chapter 1: The introduction, Chapter 2: The literature review and Chapter 3: The methodology.

“In Chapter 1, one major component is the problem statement. This is where students look for a problem within their topic of interest. Here, they would look for past literature to understand more about that topic.

“Once a problem has been identified, they would then see whether there is a “consequence” to the problem. The consequence is when students look at the impact of their research. What would happen from the problem that they find? Is it important enough to be carried out? Who will be affected? This is also where the research questions are,” she explained.

FYP 1 also comprises the methodology where students identify the methods that they use in their research, whether qualitative, quantitative or mixed method research.

Here, Diyana said students also identify the proposed analysis — as to how they will analyse data. To do this, the research question that students have identified should be aligned with the proposed analysis.

“At the end of the semester, a student would present his proposal to a panel of examiners. Then, the examiners would have a Q&A session with the student.”

Students would then meet up with their supervisor to discuss the panel’s feedback before they start on the thesis. she said.

In FYP 2, students are required to carry out data collection and write-up with Chapter 4: Analysis and Chapter 5: Discussion.

“In Analysis, students write up about the findings, and in Discussion, they compare their findings to the literature,” said Diyana.

Izni said for the UTM engineering faculty, “Presentation is carried out in front of at least three panels and evaluated based on their understanding of their research topic, critical review, findings and presentation skill.

“Each year, based on the recommendations by the supervisor(s) and panels, some of the students’ technical papers are published in the school’s proceedings, which is available online for the Engineering community.

So what constitutes a successful final year project? It is one that is innovative, interesting and impactful, said Diyana.

“An important factor is for students to have an interest in the topic, and not just do the research because they are ‘told’ to. If the method developed by the student is something new, this could be a tremendous advantage when it comes to job opportunities. Students with interesting research are also encouraged by their supervisors to enter competitions, which could give them an edge,” she said.

Izni said a final year project is deemed successful when students are able to work independently with minimal supervision and are able to provide critical discussion.

“This can be translated to mean that they can work with minimal supervision when they join the workforce,” said Izni.

Nurfatin Atikah Kamaruzaman with some of the 48 specimens she produced for her project.


For Farah Husna Abd Aziz, a final year student in Bachelor of Science in Applied Chemistry at International Islamic University Malaysia, planning was key from the onset when she chose cosmetics formulation as her topic.

Through her earlier observations and readings, research and development (R&D) for local cosmetic brands were all done abroad. She wanted to change the landscape by offering a homegrown nanoemulsion serum solution that would ensure better products in term of materials, safety and quality.

“Basically, I had to formulate a nanoemulsion serum using Centella Asiatica and Cucumis Sativus extract until I found the most optimised and stable formulation; and then evaluate the physical properties of the serum to comply with the expected results referred from various journals,” she explained.

It was a challenging process but what helped her through was sticking to the timeline she set for herself, which was to finish the project within four months.

“My advice to others is to start reading journals related to your project title as soon as possible and to sketch your project timeline first. Do not delay your thesis writing until the end of lab work. Finally, always consult your supervisor and update your progress and results, regardless of whether it is correct,” said Farah Husna.

Nurfatin Atikah Kamaruzaman, who recently graduated with a Bachelor of Civil Engineering (Honours) from UTM, sought to address the acute demand in the construction industry for conventional materials in concrete by coming up with eco-friendly substitutes.

“The continuous use of conventional materials in concrete is likely to deplete the resources in the future unless there is a suitable substitute. On the other hand, our country is now facing an increasing problem on the disposal of recyclable material such as rubber, glass, and plastics. I tried to combine these two problems and propose a few potential solutions to my supervisor,” she said.

Nurfatin produced 48 specimens of a solution comprising crumb rubber weighing almost 12kg each. She then conducted various tests before she came to a conclusion.

“I think the most important thing before you start final year project is to find yourself a dedicated project supervisor who can guide you from the beginning. After that, do your research, meet with the experts and seek their advice,” she shared.

His experience during his industrial attachments in the shipping industry was what prompted UMP Bachelor of Project Management (with Honours) graduate Muhammad Haziq Furqan Mazlan to come up with his project titled Examine Hygiene Motivation Factor: Performance of Dock Worker and Duration of Cargo Handling in Kuantan Port.

“According to the Hertzberg theory, motivation can be categorised into two factors which are hygiene and motivation that increases employee performance. The hygiene factor in the port industry can be translated as reward, the quality of supervision, provision of equipment, effective and efficiency of cargo transportation, ship design and the shape of cargoes,” Haziq explained.

For his research, purposive sampling was utilised, and 110 questionnaires were sent out to the dock and cargo workers in Kuantan Port with a return rate of 44 per cent. Haziq had to be innovative in the way he collected data as literacy and attention rate was an issue among his samples.

His advice: “I recommend students to meet the experts in the industry to get an overview of the real scenario before starting a project. This will ensure your study is realistic and the result is applicable in a real scenario,” he said.


Meanwhile, Uniten Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering (Honours) final year student Choong Pooi Ying decided to focus on improving a production line for an SME involved in manufacturing, using various operation management tools instead of the usual prototype or experimental based technical project.

“My topic involves the application of the DMAIC (Define- Measure- Analyze- Improve- Control) method to segregate the problems into tiny bits and solve them bit by bit, coming up with a viable solution to increase productivity and lastly, to ensure that the production line does not revert to its original state,” she shared.

Choong said it is important to get to know people from the industry, to get an idea of the current trends and needs.

“Apart from that, work really hard for your final year project and strive to publish your research/ work in journal or conference papers if possible as these signifies your contributions towards the field you are working on,” she said.

University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Economics graduate Nurhanania Azlin Shah prepared her own own empirical equation for her final year project, ‘Does philanthropy help reduce income inequality in the UK?’.

“I have been actively volunteering for numerous charities throughout my undergraduate studies and I was keen to see if this sector had any linkages or relation to my field of study, Economics. I’m interested in this issue especially the steps and policies different countries implement to reduce income inequality and whether or not, it yielded positive results,” she explained.

She advised final year students to choose a topic that is relatable and also “something you are really interested in”.

By Rozana Sani.

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Sustainable global devt practice critical in becoming high-income nation

Thursday, September 19th, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: The practice of sustainable global development is critical in Malaysia in its quest to become a high-income nation.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal said one way to attain it is through innovation – Malaysia has emphasized the use of green technology to minimize degradation and preserve environment to sustain all forms of life.

But the responsibility towards a sustainable development, he said, lies on the society as a whole, not only the government.

“Today, the Ministry of Economic Affairs focuses on the development of the country’s new sources of revenues and technologies such as digitalization of the economy and the construction of Artificial Intelligence – these would develop and generate income for all.

“In order to sustain global development, we must work collectively in our effort at the local, national, regional, and global levels; they need to be connected in effective ways to achieve our shared goals,” he said.

He noted that the 12th Malaysian Plan 2021-2025 hopes to attain sustainable development goals by year 2030 with concentration given to economic empowerment, environmental sustainability and social re-engineering.

To achieve the national aspiration, Shafie asserted that a strategy is needed to manage and retain the best talents of the human resource.

“An important strategy is by integrating the principle of leaving no one behind – this is in line with the government’s new development model of Shared Prosperity,” he said at the launching of the 2nd International Conference on Economics (ICE) 2019 here Wednesday.

His speech was delivered by Assistant Finance Minister Saripuddin Hatta. Themed ‘Sustaining Global Development through Policy, Innovation and Integration’, the conference saw 150 participants including from Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan and Bangladesh among others.

The two-day conference was aimed at bringing together researchers, practitioners and stakeholders under one platform to share ideas and discussions on current topics in economics.

According to Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) vice chancellor Prof. Datuk Dr Taufiq Yap Yun Hin, the meeting of participants from various fields may culminate in a resolution on how to achieve sustainable development goals.

Asserting that one of the ways to attain sustainable development is through the health of urban economy, he stressed that the nation should focus on development of economic activity, job opportunities and eradication of poverty.

He noted however that Malaysia has embarked towards sustainable development since the launching of the New Economic Policy in 1970 followed by the formulation of the New Economic Model in 2009.

With the 11th Malaysian Plan themed Anchoring Growth on People, he stated that it put the people at the forefront of development by ensuring no one is left out of the participation and benefit of national development.

“Therefore strong holistic collaborations between the government, industry, private sector, communities, professionals, and academics are paramount in ensuring the achievement of sustainability at both the national and international levels of development,” he said in his speech delivered by UMS dean of Faculty of Business, Economics and Accountancy, Assoc. Prof. Dr Rahman Noordin.


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Malaysia Day: Who are we as a nation?

Monday, September 16th, 2019

When is Malaysia’s birthday? It seems to me that the accurate answer is Sept 16,1963.

Aug 31,1957, is of course the day the Federation of Malaya gained independence from the British.

In comparing the significance of the two dates, I am inclined to think that perhaps Malaysia Day deserves more focus and celebration than Merdeka Day.

While the latter marks when we became independent of colonial powers, the former marks when we consciously, of our own free and independent will, decided to become one nation.

Sept 16,1963, however, is that moment in history where we chose to come together, in a moment defined rather more by our own agency and purpose. The before and after story here starts with three separate states and ends with a united Malaysia.

Given this story and backdrop, as well as the pressing problems we face today in Malaysia with regards to unity, it has often seemed like Malaysia Day is very much neglected as compared to Merdeka Day.

I can only imagine the degree to which people from Sabah and Sarawak feel about this. After all, Merdeka was not the day that they became independent.

Almost from 1963 to today, there has been ever growing sentiment in East Malaysia that they are the neglected children of the Malaysian family.

Who can blame them? Time and again, they seem cut out from the national narrative, with the peninsula always consciously or subconsciously relegating East Malaysia to positions of diminished importance – if they think of them at all.

Sabahan and Sarawakian exceptionalism is fast becoming reflective in its politics.

For GE14, Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal made the decision to go his own way in forming a Sabah-based political party, Parti Warisan Sabah. The results there speak for themselves.

Amidst the unfolding political landscape in Malaysia, Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) in Sarawak has recently reiterated its decision to not take one side or another in peninsula politics, also choosing to go their own way.

These political decisions do not take place in a vacuum, but rather likely reflect what is obviously voter sentiment on the ground. Perhaps for some East Malaysians, Sept 16 is a little like Awal Muharram – a day of celebration of joy for Sunnis, but a day of mourning for the Shias.

At the root of East Malaysian exceptionalism is identity politics. When they are neglected by the peninsula, why should we be surprised when an East Malaysian feels like a Sabahan or Sarawakian first, rather than a Malaysian first?

Needless to say, East Malaysia is not the only place in the world in which identity politics is coming to the fore.

Indeed, in an era of Donald Trump and Brexit, the primacy of identity politics seems rather more the norm than the exception.

Not that we need to look so far abroad of course. We are obviously seeing the exact same thing play out in Peninsular Malaysia.

Coming out of the assembly at PWTC last weekend, a few things are becoming more and more obvious.

If Pakatan Harapan had played their cards a certain way, especially on the communications front, I think there was a good chance that Umno and most other Barisan Nasional parties might have faded quietly away over the last year.

They did not, and over a year later, we are seeing quite the resurgence.

Just to clear any doubt, I have never in my life supported Umno, and am likely to continue this position as long as they remain race based and tainted by decades of corruption.

That said, our own personal feelings should not compromise our ability to analyse politics objectively.

While it has been brewing for quite some time now, this last weekend’s assembly at PWTC may be the most distinct and momentous turning of the tides since GE14.

Like it or not (and I personally lean towards not), my reading is that the perception now is: Umno and PAS are the ones breaking ground and leading boldly, pioneering exciting new spaces in Malaysian politics; while Harapan on the other hand seem to still be shuffling their feet muttering something bland about sharing prosperity.

Part of this is of course due to how the Umno-PAS tie-up takes a big step in addressing a key anxiety among a large Malaysian demographic: the fragmentation of Malay political power.

One important underlying subtext of the last year has been the comparison of Malay political power (split into five relevant parties) versus say Chinese political power (all concentrated in just one relevant party).

In my view, it is this subtext that has directly or indirectly blown up controversies related to race and religion recently.

I think the reaction of the crowds at PWTC and Malaysian netizens indicate that they see this tie-up as a step in the right direction. People tend to respond well to bold manoeuvres, such as the way in which Umno and PAS are doubling down on race and religion.

Harapan on the other hand has continued to waffle in no man’s land. After GE14, instead of committing fully to showing how Malay interests would still be strongly protected in a multiracial political model (coupled of course with actual good governance), they decided to be timid and half-hearted, waffling between multiracialism and being “Umno Lite”.

People never respond well to ‘timid and half-hearted’, and can tell when you’re not playing to win, but just playing not to lose (which of course invariably leads to a loss anyway).

If we look at the shifting political alliances over the last two decades, the story is almost an amusing one. Friends become enemies, who become friends, and then enemies once again, and so on. Like I was told as a younger man: There are no permanent friends in politics, only permanent (self) interests.

The short explanation for all these shifting alliances is that in a (defunct and completely anachronistic) first past the post Westminster system, there are only two poles that matter – and eventually, everyone gravitates towards one or the other.

In our system, that’s really the only thing that counts. Ideology, principles, values, and so on – all of that is secondary, and is shaped according to political convenience.

How else could PAS have gone from being vehemently anti-Umno and independent, to teaming up with DAP under Pakatan Rakyat, to teaming up with Umno – all in the space of two decades?

All that said, I don’t think the right response to this new union is sound and fury.

One PKR stalwart who has been relatively quiet – a period some may have hoped (in vain) would mellow the man – came out firing on Facebook, sarcastically saying that the Tok Kadi performing the marriage between Umno and PAS should check the genders of the couple.

Not to be outdone, an Umno vice-president said they want to check the stalwart’s gender instead.

Welcome, once again, to the lofty heights of Malaysian political discourse.

My guess is that for better or worse (worse, one assumes) the Umno-PAS tie-up is here to stay for a while at least, and that the Opposition is going to coalesce around them.

I would love to see Harapan respond to this development by redoubling their own efforts and governing well and demonstrating clear, exciting visions for the country, alongside engaging in a level of political debate at least somewhat higher than genital checking.

Of course, the announcement by the Finance Minister last Friday that yet another Harapan manifesto promise would be, at best, delayed was not a good step.

A fact that is sure to even further dampen Malaysia Day spirits is that said promise was to increase the oil royalties to Sabah and Sarawak from 5% to 20%.

It looks like this Malaysia Day is going to feature a lot of divisive rhetoric and even more (understandable) discontent from our East Malaysian brothers and sisters – who we should be celebrating today of all days.

The question is: what kind of Malaysia Days will we be celebrating one, two, five or 10 years from now?

I guess if we leave it to the current crop of politicians, regardless of which side of the aisle they sit, there isn’t too much indication that there will be much change.

If we can institute genuine changes in our political culture, however, maybe one day we will see Malaysia unite once again, the way it did on Sept 16,1963.

By Nathaniel Tan

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Teaching English goes future forward

Monday, September 16th, 2019

Dr Airil Haimi (lefft, seated on the desk) with the VR goggles on his head together with several of his team members who have been trying to bring innovative practices into English teaching, using modern media platforms.

MUCH has been said about the Fourth Industrial Revolution or 4IR but much more needs to be done on the ground, especially in the field of education in the Malaysian setting.

Many are still unable to see that the very nature of the teaching and learning process is changing, what more with the arrival of Generation Alpha – the next generation of students born entirely within the 21st century.

To complicate things further as we cross into the era of 4IR, the field of education has also moved into the Education 5.0 stage. As the world prepares to usher in year 2020, our national education system must address the challenges of globalisation and deal with changes in computer and telecommunications technologies sparked by 4IR ‘disruptions’.

At the Academy of Language Studies of the Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Perak branch in Bandar Seri Iskandar, its head of Centre of Studies decided to become an adopter of a not-so-new technology, hoping to take the teaching and learning of English into the 21st century.

“The name of our project is ‘English Language Simulations Augmented with 360° spherical videos’. We codenamed it ELSA 360°-Videos, because it’s cuter,” said Dr Airil Haimi Mohd Adnan, the learning technologist and project manager.

Together with his young team of English lecturers – Muhamad Khairul, Muhammad Anwar, Nurul Nadiah and Ahmad Ariffuddin – they have been hard at work trying to bring innovative practices into English teaching, using modern media platforms.

“The problem is that you need money to be an early adopter of learning technologies, and you need to constantly reskill and upskill yourself because what is high-end today might be old-tech next month or next year,” said Airil Haimi.

The primary challenge that he faces is the limited time to teach critical language skills to degree level students, who also need to contend with their specialist core subjects.

“So, when 360° video cameras became more mainstream and not too expensive, I saved for a few months to buy one online and to start the ELSA 360°-Videos project,” he added.

Nevertheless, applying 360° or spherical video technology to the teaching of English for Professional and Workplace Interactions was not as straightforward as he thought. It took him six months of learning about 360° video technology and the methods of using this effectively in lesson delivery.

“You don’t want to do something just for the sake of doing it, right? But I’m happy to report that many educators have shared positive results on using 360° videos to teach.

“Here on campus, our undergraduates love being immersed and having the feeling of ‘being in’ actual meeting rooms and ‘joining in’ simulated workplace discussions,” he said.

360° or spherical video technology has the distinctive advantage of immersing learners and helping them to feel as if they are actually part of whatever is happening on screen. With three DOFs or Degrees of Freedom, learners can look around the meeting room or office space and see everything that is happening around them.

For degree level students who have limited contact hours to learn English for Professional and Workplace Interactions, this technology bridges the gap between what they could only imagine, and what they can actually see and feel.

With three DOFs, seeing how office mates talk to each other, respond, reciprocate and share ideas while focusing also on their facial and bodily gestures really make a difference in the learning of difficult English skills.

Nur Alia, appreciates the fact that 360° videos technology can help her friends who are not proficient in English to revise and learn on their own.

“My friends who cannot grasp the points in class, can learn while lounging on their beds and raise their English levels on their own,” she said.

For Nurul Liyana, another early user of ELSA 360°-Videos: “I love that I can learn wherever and whenever because the lecturer posted all the 360° videos on YouTube. “So, when we go to class, we just practice a bit then we can do the tests.”

In the next stage of the ELSA 360°-Videos project, Airil and his team are trying to get students to invest in cheap Virtual Reality or VR goggles using their smartphones to power the VR screens.

He is also planning to set up a content development lab focusing on future learning technologies aptly called “Future Learning Initiatives” Lab or FLI Lab.

“When it comes to technology, the problem is always money. True, great teaching ideas don’t need money but to make those ideas real, then dreamers like us have to start saving money to gain access to future learning technologies.

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