Archive for December, 2019

Shopping scams trap you with fake websites

Thursday, December 5th, 2019
Police detaining foreign scammers recently. FILE PIC

SCAMMERS are armed with sophisticated methods and schemes.

Besides being tech savvy, scammers are looking for new means and ways to acquire victims’ details.

Scammers’ victims range from actresses, reporters and professionals to pensioners and the amount scammed is astounding.

Thousands get trapped in scams and do not complain due to their fear of being hauled up by the authorities for crimes they may or may not have committed or due to their greed.

Commercial Crimes Investigation Department director Commissioner Datuk Seri Mohd Zakaria said an average of RM2 billion is lost yearly to scams.

He said that until the middle of this year, 5,123 cases had been lodged.

One reason, he said, was due to the leak of personal data.

The onus is on consumers to safeguard their identities.

They must not reveal their details to anyone.

Posting identity card numbers, vehicle numbers, sharing their location or family birthday parties on social media are dangerous.

We at the National Consumer Complaints Centre receive many complaints on scams.

When it involves the Macau scam, love scam, job scam and scams involving banking matters, we will direct consumers to lodge a report.

Last year, the centre received 10,615 cases of online shopping scams.

Most of the cases were on fake websites.

They create websites with graphics and illustrations.

Consumers can be cheated into buying from these websites as they look like authentic online retail stores.

Consumers are advised to check with the Companies Commission of Malaysia and verify through its website if the retailer is registered with SSM.

Consumers can also check the portal of the Commercial Crime Investigation Department to verify if the retailer’s bank account is authentic and no report has been lodged against the account holder.

The onus is on consumers to check and verify websites’ details.

Consumers can browse this website at my/semakmule) to get the retailer’s bank account.

Similarly, 27.93 per cent of 4,411 consumers were scammed by travel and leisure agencies.

These fly-by-night agents and agencies raked in thousands of ringgit due to consumers’ ignorance and naivety.

The authorities have taken measures to prevent consumers from being duped but many fall prey to these crafty people.

Consumers must take precautions.

For example, law enforcement authorities will not call consumers about outstanding summonses.

It would be better for people to check with the authorities if they have outstanding summonses.


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Connecting classrooms for global learning via Skype

Thursday, December 5th, 2019
Hafieeszath Abdul Malik (left) and Tabitha Anne Ramesh (right) showcasing how to cook fried rice to Microsoft Education vice president Anthony Salcito (on screen) while being joined by Isaac Jeremiah from home.

Sekolah Kebangsaan Tiara Permai, Kuala Lumpur Year Four pupil Isaac Jeremiah has been missing out on school since the beginning of the year. He is constantly hospitalised due to lungs malfunction.

Despite ongoing treatments and long stays at the hospital, learning does not stop for Isaac. He has joined lessons via Skype in the Classroom by Microsoft with his other classmates from home with the help of his teacher, Basir Wahab.

“By leveraging Skype, Isaac is able to meet his friend and be a part of the class virtually.

“I usually informed his parents earlier on before setting up the class to include Isaac in the PdPc (teaching and facilitation). His friends have been missing his presence in class and we know that he misses going to school as well,” said Basir.

SK Tiara Permai started using Skype as part of learning and teaching tools in 2015 spearheaded by teacher Fadzillah Mohamed Osman.

It has become a platform for pupils to go on virtual field trips, experience new cultures, hear from guest speakers and learn from other students, educators and experts from around the world.

The school recently selected to have a livestream with Microsoft Education vice president Anthony Salcito in a Skype session in conjunction with Microsoft Global Learning Connection formerly known as Skype-A-Thon.

Thmed “Open hearts. Open Minds”, the annual event makes it possible for students to virtually travel around the world and connect beyond the classroom.

During the session, the kids demonstrated how to cook nasi goreng, a local dish of fried rice, before proceeding to have a chat with Salcito about Malaysian culture and their experience using technology in education. Appearing alongside his mother on Skype, Isaac also had the opportunity to join the session from his home.

Chatty twelve year old Hafieeszath Abdul Malik clammed up when Salcito appeared on the screen during the livestream.

“Despite many practices we had for the demonstration, I still get butterflies in my stomach going live on Skype. After a while, I eased my nervousness and started talking calmly.

“I am proud that we were able to show Anthony how to make fried rice with my friends,” he said.

Fadzillah Mohamed Osman (sitting, second from right) with the pupils during the Microsoft Global Learning Connection.

Another Year Six student Tabitha Anne Ramesh said she enjoys interacting with friends all over the world via Skype.

“I remember when I had my first Skype session, it was overwhelming. A lot of us refused to talk but now, we can’t wait to have more interactions with friends from other countries.

“Speaking to my international friends, I have improved my confidence and English proficiency. I believe my classmates feel the same way. It was a truly enjoyable learning experience for all of us.

“It is exciting as we get to learn about others’ cultures and traditions while showing them our own. Our Skype friends from South Korea mailed us a box full of souvenirs and ‘ramen’. Now we are preparing our gifts for them,” she said.

Fadzillah explained that she utilises Skype in embracing the 21st century learning.

“My first Skype session was with a primary music school in Balatonboglar, Hungary. They introduced our students with Hungarian children’s songs – Suss Fel Nap and we also taught them to sing Rasa Sayang song.

“It is not only about fun learning. The sessions have piqued students’ interest in learning Geography. They became curious about the countries we were Skyping with so they started to ask about their capital cities and attractions,” said the Music, Visual Arts and Moral education teacher.

Other than collaborating with schools across the globe, Fadzillah added that the school also had a chance to connect with the local fire and rescue department.

“Instead of inviting the firefighters to our school, we took a virtual tour to the fire department which gave the pupils a more holistic exposure. It was a good session to teach the topic of occupation as we saw some pupils were inspired to be firefighters,” she explained.

To date, Fadzilah has held close to 200 Skype sessions. Previously, Fadzillah utilised the school library for their sessions but the school renovated an empty room and turned it into an exclusive Skype classroom.

On top of Skype, Microsoft provides other online learning platforms — Teams and Flipgrid. Teams is a hub for collaboration where students and teachers can share files and communicate. Meanwhile, Flipgrid enables students to share their voice via short videos allowing them to reflect, discuss and showcase what they are learning.

By Murniati Abu Karim.

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Agong pleased to see more women appointed judges

Thursday, December 5th, 2019
His Highness Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah was pleased to present the official appointment letter to the Court of Appeal President Datuk Rohana Yusof at the Judgment and Appeal Ceremony of the President of the Appeal Court, Federal Court Judge, Appellate Court Judge and Court Judge High in the Royal Palace today. — BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR: Federal Court Judge Datuk Rohana Yusof was today appointed as the new President of the Court of Appeals after receiving the official appointment letter from Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah.

She received her letter of appointment at the Istana Negara together eight other judges, five of whom were women.

Three other Appeals Court judges namely Datuk Zaleha Yusof, Datuk Zabariah Mohd Yusof and Datuk Hasnah Mohammed Hashim were appointed as Federal Court judges while High Court Judge Datuk Hadhariah Syed Ismail was elevated to Appeals Court judge.

Meanwhile, also appointed as Appeals Court Judge were Datuk Abu Bakar Jais and Nantha Balan a/l E.S. Moorthy who were both High Court Judges.

Also appointed as High Court Judges were Datuk Seri Tun Abd Majid Tun Hamzah and Datuk Azmi Abdullah who were both Judicial Commissioners.

Among those who witnessed the ceremony were Chief Justice Tan Sri Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat and Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Dr Ismail Bakar.

Chief Comptroller of Istana Negara, Datuk Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said in a statement that Al-Sultan Abdullah also expressed his pleasure at the appointment of more women judges which reflected the commitment of the federal administration to feature more women in the judiciary.

By Bernama.

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Tawau tops Sabah dengue list

Thursday, December 5th, 2019

Navindran (left) during a ceremony.

TAWAU: Dengue cases in the district are alarming with some 732 cases reported this year alone, making Tawau as the worst of dengue district in the State last year.

Tawau Health Officer, Dr G Navindran said poor waste management and dumping everywhere has contributed to the increase in dengue cases, including in local and foreign housing areas.

He said it was difficult to define an area as a hot zone as there were many hotspots in the district and the incidents were not static in one area due to human movement and irregular waste disposal.

However, he said housing area or villages recorded the highest number of dengue cases.

“Among the areas are Taman Semarak, Taman Ria, Taman Wawasan, Batu 2 until Batu 4.

“We should not blame the foreigners because from our inspection is not only their areas that have a lots of garbage but also in the local settlements, whether it is new or not.

“Therefore, we hope that the public will cooperate with the Health Department and MPT to clean up their areas so that dengue cases can be reduced and our environment is clean and safe,” he told media after officiating the Kick Dengue programme held at Community Hall here, Wednesday.

It was organised by the Tawau Health Office in collaboration with Tawau Municipal Council (MPT), involving the Native Chiefs, the Head of the Chinese Community, the Village Head and the Village Community Management Council (MPKK).

Navindran said this year, there is no cases of dengue fever have been recorded as the public may start to realise the importance of getting early treatment, not to mention that they are now providing special dengue counter.

“In the past, people did not want to be warded but after several death incidents, they began to listen to and agreed for treatment,” he said.

Meanwhile, he hopes through the programme, it will raise public awareness on the importance of maintaining hygiene and that responsibility is not only confined to the Health Department nor to the MPT, in particular, in waste management.

He said some people think that fogging will kill mosquitoes while it is only for the purpose of removing adult mosquitoes, while eggs and breeding areas are not destroyed.

He added that a compound of RM200 will be charged against the premise and the homeowner if they were found to have mosquito larva and garbage available for mosquito breeding.

“It is sad that when people make land idle for waste, without thinking about the consequences, they just simply don’t want to be blamed,” he said.

By: Lagatah Toyos.

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Fishermens’ kids lack proper education

Thursday, December 5th, 2019

Faiz (centre) handing over a back-to-school assistance to one of the fishermen’s children in Sandakan.

SANDAKAN: Fishermen are encouraged to increase their technological knowledge in the sector.

Chairman of the Malaysian Fisheries Development Authority (LKIM), Muhammad Faiz Fadzil, said it was important for them to stay abreast of current developments in the country’s fisheries sector including proper science.

“This can also be done by ensuring that the fishermen can continue their education and succeed in helping the fishermen’s socio-economic future,” he said.

“Therefore, education opportunities among children of fishermen should be given priority by their parents so that they are not left behind in today’s technological era.”

According to data obtained, about 10 per cent of fishermen in the country failed to provide proper education to children at least until the Malaysian Certificate of Education (SPM) level due to several factors.

He hoped this would not happen again and LKIM would continue to look for mechanisms to help fishermen continue their schooling with the help they had.

He said this to the media after officiating the Back-to-School Programme at the Sandakan Pavilion Hotel, Tuesday. It was organised by LKIM for the first time in collaboration with Petronas Dagangan Berhad and the National Fishermen’s Association (Nekmat) who also donated the donations.

About 100 children of fishermen living under the management of the Sandakan Area Fishermen’s Association and the Libaran Area Fishermen’s Association received a donation during the back to school programme.

Apart from Sabah state together with the Sandakan municipality as the host state as well as the host city of the function, the ceremony was held alongside with 300 other recipients hailing from the states of Penang, Sarawak and Pahang, respectively who attended the function.

“Through this programme, we are focusing on improving the socio economic status of fishermen,” he said.

“Certainly, one of the factors to improve or change the life of fishermen from a socio economic standpoint is to improve the education of fishermen’s children,” he added.

Faiz said the provision of the school’s equipment was also an inspiration for the fishermen’s children to learn more diligently and to give greater effort to change the conditions of the fishermen.

The assistance or contribution from Petronas Dagangan Berhad and Nekmat for the back to school programme will also help ease the burden of fishermen who also need to spend high expenses especially for the preparations of their children’s schooling.

By: Mardinah Jikur.

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Rewire the brain to be rid of bad habits

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019
Neuroplasticity refers to the dynamism of neural structure in our brains. – FILE PIC

NEUROPLASTICITY refers to the dynamism of neural structure in our brains. Studies have shown that our neurons are capable of adapting to change within days if we deliberately practise something that we want to master.

It relates to the saying “practice makes perfect”. Neuroplasticity plays a key role in evolutionary adaptation to support mankind to learn from experience and continue to survive.

For instance, a person who struggles to get up early in the morning faces the challenge of maintaining punctuality. This can be changed by practising a routine of sleeping and waking up early.

Within two to three weeks of practice, he will naturally wake up early and may find it difficult to wake up late as a result of the newly formed neural network in the brain.

A right-handed person, I challenged myself to write with my left hand. I started practising daily and, to my surprise, I could write sentences within a few weeks. As months passed by, I became ambidextrous.

With neuroplasticity, we can change our unwanted habits as well as make adjustments to life events.

For example, if you feel reading is a difficult task, try reading a paragraph per day consistently for one to two weeks without giving up and you may find yourself becoming passionate about reading.

Any newly formed neural network gets stronger with repetition and intensity. It weakens and fades away if no practice or stimuli is given.

If you continuously rehearse a particular activity over a period of time, it becomes second nature. This is the power of neuroplasticity.

We normally avoid the behavioural changes by saying it is too difficult to carry out. In order to form the new neural network, we should adhere to the change process for a few weeks or even months.

With neuroplasticity, you have the power to rewire your brain.


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Waste not to save the planet

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019
There are other environmentally-friendly activities that can be encouraged, such as reducing usage of or refusing plastic bags, planting rooftop gardens, growing herbs and vegetables, and harvesting rainwater. – FILE PIC

AS a consumer advocate, I urge that children at schools be exposed to the many ways of saving resources.

We generally see food wastage as a sin, so avoid wastage.

Eat what you can by all means but don’t waste. Everybody should eat and live in moderation. That is the right way to live.

Also, do not overeat. Do not waste God-given resources like food and water too.

It is wrong if we do that. Check your home for leaky taps and toilets.

When we wash dishes, fill a dishpan with water instead of running the tap water.

Use energy-saving power gadgets and devices in homes and offices. However, ensure they are Sirim-approved.

Run full loads in the dishwasher and washing machines to save water.

Take showers instead of baths. Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth.

There are other environmentally-friendly activities that can be encouraged, such as reducing usage of or refusing plastic bags, planting rooftop gardens, growing herbs and vegetables, and harvesting rainwater.

Strive to go green by all means and at all times so that we help protect and save the environment.

There is only one Mother Earth and we have to work hard to save this planet.


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Maximising benefits of student cards

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019
Ryan Yap Mun Fai (standing, centre) borrowing a book from the university’s library with his student card.

A STUDENT card is provided to each university student as an identification document to verify his status.

It is one of the first things that students receive upon enrolling at a tertiary education institution.

Apart from identification, student cards serve a very important purpose in helping students to save.

By flashing the cards,they are eligible for a plethora of financial benefits from their universities and retailers.

The benefits are available across different categories ranging from education, transportation, food and beverages to entertainment.

A Student using his student card for printing services on campus.

Asia Pacific University of Technology and Innovation student Ryan Yap Mun Fai, 19, owns three student cards — namely the APU student card, Kad Diskaun Siswa from Bank Rakyat and MyRapid student concession card.

Students are provided with cheaper options, said Yap.

“The cards allow me to save while I can, which is extremely important if you’re a student.”

His student identification cards entitle him to a number of benefits on campus.

“With my APU student card, I can get access to many facilities at university, such as the gym,e-Library system and shuttle bus.

“I can also preload the card and use it to pay for printing services and purchase food or any items at the cafe and convenience store on campus,” added Yap.

While the privileges and rewards exist, it begs the question: do varsity students in the country make the most of the student cards?

FOR Abdul Hakim Abdul Rahim, 19, from Universiti Malaya, his university student card offers him more convenience and flexibility in his studies.

“The card gives me access to the UM library and the 24-hour study area. I can also borrow any books from the library for free.”

Lim Jia Hao, 22, from Universiti Putra Malaysia said that he uses his student cards frequently.

“To get around campus, I need to show my student card before boarding the UPM bus. I also use the card to access the university library.

“Not only that, the credit inside the card can be used to buy textbooks in UPM, as a part of the university’s book plan.”

Lim said he makes full use of MyRapid student concession card and KTM i-card to board public transportation.

“I use the KTM i-card every week as well as to get to Terminal Bersepadu Selatan to return to my hometown in Johor.”

Lee Wai Yen, 21, from APU said: “My student card enables me to access the parking facilities, gym and meeting rooms. I can also track my expenses and use the card for the shuttle bus services.”


All work and no play is not the healthy way to live. Students need to find a balance between studies and social life.

With the student cards, attending a university in the city does not stop Abdul Hakim from being cost-savvy when it comes to entertainment.

“I often use my student card to buy movie tickets at MBO and TGV for a cheaper price which is a huge money saver.

“There is also a discount for students subscribing to digital platforms like Apple Music. On average, I can save about RM50 to RM70 a month,” said Abdul Hakim.

According to Lim, entertainment serves as an affordable form of a stress-reliever.

“During my free time, I watch movies and go bowling where I can get discounts with my student card.

“I also enjoy going out to sing karaoke with my friends at Neway Karaoke and Loudspeaker which offer a special price for students,” said Lim.

Students can also score great deals at certain food outlets.

Lim said: “As a student, I am entitled to discounts at popular restaurants such as Kenny Rogers Roasters and Bar BQ Plaza. In total, I can save up to RM50 each month.”

“I have experienced getting a student discount for a buffet treat at Seoul Garden,” added Abdul Hakim.

Yap pointed out that students can also get special deals at The Chicken Rice Shop as well as five per cent off at KFC.

Apart from being a means to unwind, going out is also essential to purchase necessities for their studies.

Lee said: “I can use my student ID to buy books and stationery at Popular bookstore and Apple products for a lower price. Students are entitled to RM500 discount for electronic devices like laptops and iPads.”

Yap added: “There are student discounts at Times bookshop and Orange Technology where I can get up to 15 per cent off for computers. After making use of these deals, my monthly savings can increase by RM80 to RM100.”

It is important for students to look presentable in class especially when there is a presentation.

“To buy clothes for university, I can get discounts from outlets like Cotton On and Forever 21,” said Lee.


However, some university students are in the dark about the various perks of a student card.

Universiti Teknologi Mara chemical engineering student Sofea Jasmeen Johari, 21, said that she seldom uses her student cards.

“I only use the card for discounts when buying books and to gain access to the Society of Petroleum Engineers which is a paid journal, for free.

“Personally, I have yet to use the card for

food or lifestyle. Except for the ones that I mentioned, I don’t really know much about the use of the card. That is why I don’t use it more often,” added Sofea.

Danial Azman, 23, from International Islamic University Malaysia said that there is a lack of awareness among students.

“Many students do not know about the special discounts or the process of getting the transportation concession cards.

“As a user since 2015, the tedious renewal process can be a reason why students do not use it that much,” said Danial.

According to Lim, it is unfortunate that some students do not appreciate the advantages that come with owning the student cards.

“It’s a pity and a waste that they don’t make good use of the student card. They should be more aware about the benefits while they are at university.”

Lim added: “Today, it should be easy for students to gain information online from social media. They can find out about student promotions offered by stores easily, especially on food and beverages.”

Meanwhile, Abdul Hakim said that the lack of use may be due to insufficient information and promotion.

“We rarely see universities informing students about the benefits or other companies actively reaching out to promote their products to students. Students will only know about the discounts whenever we discover them ourselves.”

By Rayyan Rafidi.

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At least 50 per cent of Sabah will remain under forest cover — Shafie

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: In tackling deforestation in the state, the Sabah government ensures that about 50 percent of Sabah’s land area is always under forest cover and sufficient to provide ecosystem services like watershed areas and habitats for flora and fauna.

Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal said the overall forest cover in Sabah at the end of the 1980s was estimated at 44,750 square kilometers, slightly over 60 percent  of the Sabah’s total land area of 73,631 square kilometres.

In 2010, around 37,600 square kilometres or 51 percent of the Sabah’s land area were covered with forest, he said.

“In combating deforestation in the state, the government is under an obligation to ensure that about 50 percent of Sabah’s land area is always under forest cover and sufficient to provide ecosystem services like watershed areas and habitats for flora and fauna.

“The average deforestation rate of 0.75 percent per annum from 1990 to 2010, however, has nearly halved when compared with the 1980s,” he said at the opening ceremony of ‘Wood and Biofibre International Conference 2019 here yesterday. His speech was delivered by Sabah Infrastructure Minister Datuk Peter Anthony.

Mohd Shafie said the Sabah government was able to maintain the total forest cover over the years through its Sabah Forest Policy 2018, which stipulated that every dissolution of the forest reserve area must be replaced with an area of the same size or something bigger.

He said apart from natural forests, Sabah also has a vast area of forest plantations.

He added since 2012, Sabah has established about 226,000 ha of forest plantations, of which about 55 percent are cultivated with high-value commercial species.

The two-day conference is organised by the Institute of Tropical Forestry and Forest Products (INTROP), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).

UPM Deputy Vice Chancellor Prof Dr. Zulkifli Idrus, in his welcoming speech, said the conference was an important platform to strengthen relationships between industries, researchers and academics.

He said it was an excellent initiative to bring together industry and academia to discuss the latest developments in wood and biofibre, from upstream agricultural topic to downstream fibre processing and product advancement, as well as the socio-economic impact of these bio-resources.

by Bernama.

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A single admissions test to select the best medical students

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

All human societies across the some 300,000 years of Homo sapiens existence have needed healers – from hunter-gatherer tribes to the first agricultural societies to our modern world today.

The medicine men of ancient Egypt gave way to Indian Ayurveda and the Chinese sinseh; Hippocrates and the Greeks; Ibn Sina in the Islamic Golden Age; the shamans, witch doctors and medicine men of various indigenous tribes worldwide; and the Malay archipelago’s bomoh, pawang and dukun.

These different names eventually converged on the modern “doctor”, which comes from the Latin word meaning “learned person”.

What remained the same though, was the trust, power, and even mystical status, enjoyed by healers throughout history, due to their ability to cure sickness and keep death at bay.

Today’s process of selecting medical students is merely the latest version of a profound spiritual, cultural, and even religious process of selecting healers.

Although Malaysians naturally desire the best doctors, there are some natural hurdles.

One, we can’t agree on what “best doctor” means – is it someone with excellent communication skills, high intelligence or sincere empathy?

Two, even if we agree and then have the best as doctors, what about having the best teachers, scientists or policymakers?

Three, any admissions process must match ambition to ability and availability of spots, inevitably breaking hearts in the process.

We have to change two deeply-held beliefs in Malaysia.

Firstly, it is wrong to believe you’re successful only if you’re a doctor.

There are many professions that are equally noble, respected, trusted, financially stable and with great career prospects; I know because I’ve had four fulfilling careers outside medicine.

Secondly, medicine is very tough and unglamorous.

You have to deeply accept that actual human beings will completely and utterly rely on you to solve their problems.

If you cannot even manage yourself, then you must seriously consider another vocation or you will become part of the problem.

Transparency and neutrality

The selection of medical students will always be imperfect, so we must not believe we’ll ever have it down to a perfect process.

The following proposed basket-of-solutions is uncontroversial and can be implemented inside the current affirmative action (or quota) system for university admissions. Although we will not debate the quota system itself, we will consider social mobility, meritocracy and justice as useful themes.

In reality, selecting the best doctors is a grand problem of talent allocation on a societal level, and it is always imperfect. Therefore, a transparent and neutral process is crucial.

The process must also consider an increasingly cleverer population (more straight A students), more demanding millennials (with a higher sense of entitlement) and that the public interest is as important as individual ambitions.

The selection process will always be accused of unfairness by those who are rejected, so we must say a few words about this terrible emotion.

While the government should do everything it can for the happiness of its citizens, we must draw the line where individual happiness harms the collective health and safety of 32 million fellow citizens.

While we don’t need (and shouldn’t aspire to have) the very best of society to become doctors, we do need (and should aspire to) select very competent medical students, because they will eventually become our healers.

A single admissions test

Firstly, to improve the selection of medical students in Malaysia, we must have a Medical School Admissions Test (MSAT), similar to the US Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT).

It can be administered by the Malaysian Examinations Syndicate, partnering the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC).

Anyone wanting to study in any medical school anywhere in the world must pass the MSAT, i.e. it’s a license to study medicine.

It should test for cognitive ability, empathy and psychological resilience, and communication skills, using currently-available electronic psychometric tools.

The MSAT will harmonise two sets of entry standards: those of the MMC and of individual medical schools.

MMC currently prescribes minimum academic standards for 22 recognised pre-university qualifications, from Matriculation to STPM, and even as obscure as the Ontario Secondary School Grade 12 Diploma (is that truly necessary? How many take these every year?).

These 22 exams are wildly different, and it’s difficult to regularly track their standards and grade inflation.

Additionally, each of the 378 recognised medical schools from 36 countries have different admissions criteria, some of which are lower than our already-very-low MMC criteria (e.g. minimum 5 Bs in SPM at a time when students score 17 A1s).

So in summary, we have many written standards to enter medical school, but they are too many, too uncoordinated, and never enforced.

There are other advantages to the MSAT beyond the harmonious high standards.

It should test for non-cognitive aspects, however imperfectly, which no pre-university exam does.

We can use a grading curve to control the number of annual students, combining the local/foreign, public/private and scholarship/self-funded routes. We can even add a little buffer to account for drop-outs and future career changes.

The MSAT is only one data point in deciding who gets into medical school though.

After harmonising standards with MSAT, we need a fair, transparent and neutral administrative selection process for all local medical schools.

I propose an algorithm adapted by Emeritus Prof Dr David Powis in 1998, when he was then undergraduate education assistant dean at the University of Newcastle, Australia.

It utilises four data points: an appropriate academic threshold (e.g. minimum STPM scores), the MSAT, an information-gathering interview and the socioeconomic status of the applicant.

The relative weights of the data points can be decided by individual schools.

The selection event should be a purely administrative task, based on a composite score from the four data points. In other words, we remove any bias in the process by making it purely administrative.

A pre-determined selection algorithm can be designed and publicly communicated by each medical school.

This allows each medical school to have their own character and culture, which is important to create healthy competition between schools.

Improving the process

There will never be a perfect way to select medical students.

Although society may want the best students to become doctors, the definition of “best student” is infinitely debatable.

Even if we can agree on the definition, society must consider that we also want the best to become teachers, lawyers and business people.

No matter how fair and transparent the entire process is, hearts will be broken as ambitions are dashed and hopes are crushed by large numbers of students applying for finite numbers of places.

Medicine is not for the faint-hearted. The selection process today is broken, so we must improve it through the Admissions Test and then using it as one of four data points in deciding who gets to become a medical student.

By Dr Khor Swee Kheng
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