Archive for April, 2020

Strategies for preschools during Covid-19

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020
Any preschool attempting to mimic the physical classroom through long daily video conferences often lose the interest of the young child and will be unsuccessful in getting parent participation. – File picAny preschool attempting to mimic the physical classroom through long daily video conferences often lose the interest of the young child and will be unsuccessful in getting parent participation. – File pic

LETTER: The past weeks have seen preschools adapt to the Movement Control Order (MCO) by providing various academic offerings electronically to continue early education among young children. Many preschools struggle to find a balance between their e-solutions and will continue to do so until they understand the current climate of distress.

In an environment survey at a Montessori preschool at TTDI, it was discovered that less than thirty per cent of homes have a printer, whilst all homes will have a smartphone with a camera. With this knowledge, preschools might consider limiting activities requiring a printer.

More than 55 per cent of mothers accompany their children during a video conference; and about thirty per cent of fathers, while the balance are accompanied by “others” – indicating that some children are perhaps in the care of their grandparents. Grandparents, being less tech-savvy.

In a physical classroom, early education teachers use a variety of techniques from teacher-led instructions to student-lead strategies. Teachers employ low-level and high-level techniques to solicit input from a child. In a Montessori school, teachers are trained to scaffold, i.e intervene only when required, to allow the child opportunity for self-discovery.

In a muted video conference, teachers are unable to receive audio feedback from the children, instead, they use visual cues to guide their lessons. Instead of asking “Can you hear me children?”, teachers now need to say “If you can hear, put a thumbs up” to minimise background noise and need to mute and unmute microphones.

Any preschool attempting to mimic the physical classroom through long daily video conferences often lose the interest of the young child and will be unsuccessful in getting parent participation. Instead, use the video as a way to catch up with the students, review work and discuss new activities.

If you need more time, extend the video calls gradually. Set a day and time that are routine for parents to commit to. Video recordings of the sessions can be made available to those unable to participate. The use of technologies like Google Classroom is invaluable at a time like this. It allows schools to put out activities and schedule them by date.

By scheduling them, preschools limit over-ambitious parents from doing the entire week’s work in a day. These technologies allow schools to set a submission date of completed assignments. In times like these, a broad and forgiving dateline allows both the parent and child to find their rhythm.

The submissions also allow teachers to make a formative (gradual) assessment of the child’s progress and keeping them together. By making submissions gradual, teachers can make timely corrections in a child’s development. Early education teachers understand the cognitive development of young children. They understand child development comes in stages, and giving children the right motivations and space to grow.

The role of the teacher has shifted to the parents at home. Without a formal early childhood education background, some parents apply the wrong pedagogy. Teaching requires some understanding of child development stages (sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational and formal operational) and therefore different from how you would teach an adult whose formal operational stage is fully developed.

This is a time of tremendous change for preschools and families. Yet, as Covid-19 grips the nation, teachers are forced to become tech-savvy and parents have to adapt to help with their child’s new e-classroom. It is prudent for preschools to relax turn-in activities until the parents and schools find a tempo suitable for both. Start small and gradually increase the activities over time.

As a rule, always give time for the changes to bed down, for stakeholders to understand how this is different and you have their interest at heart. Give the change time to succeed by getting the support of your parents to support the initiative. Once you get this far, use your preschool’s limited resources to build quality e-content. Good luck!

by Chin Peng Hon,

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WhatsApp, Telegram emerge as efficient platforms for remote teaching

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020
Low data consumption messenger applications such as WhatsApp and Telegram are suitable platforms to cater to students’ poor connectivity issue.Low data consumption messenger applications such as WhatsApp and Telegram are suitable platforms to cater to students’ poor connectivity issue.

CARRYING out an online class is easier said than done. Students continue to grapple with capped data plans, slow internet connection as well as limited basic technology devices.

Realising the common challenges students face while studying at home, Universiti Sains Malaysia Centre for Development of Academic Excellence director Professor Abd Karim Alias has delivered lessons using low-data consumption messenger applications, such as WhatsApp and Telegram.

“What inspired me was the fact that not all students can readily access learning content or resources, such as videos due to poor internet speed in their areas. However, I believe most students are equipped with at least smartphones with WhatsApp and Telegram applications.

“So, it makes sense to deliver lessons using the tools students are familiar with and they should be able to receive the lessons even with poor internet connection.

Abd Karim shared a few tips to conduct an effective online lesson.

Ten steps to deliver lessons using WhatsApp or Telegram.Ten steps to deliver lessons using WhatsApp or Telegram.

“First of all, know your student – get the information about their capability to participate in online class. Do they have internet connectivity? Do they have at least a smartphone? What’s the connection speed or the bandwidth?”

“To start off a lesson, create a WhatsApp or Telegram group for a class. The lessons will then be carried out in the form of images and audio messages.

“Establish ground rules in the group and make it strictly for delivering lessons with questioning and answering sessions only.”

He added that online lessons should not focus too much on content-centric approaches due to the short attention spans that students may face during the session.

“These online courses should be designed to be more interactive and engaging. Have a series of learning activities that would require students to engage in and think critically.

“Learning content should be delivered in bite-size or small chunks to make it easily digestible to the students. This is based on the concept of micro learning to address the issue of short attention span especially in the online learning environment.”

Abd Karim added that WhatsApp lessons should also be short and compact for about five to ten minutes, suitable to cater to the low bandwidth requirements with teaching and learning material converted into smaller file sizes.

“If I were to present a Powerpoint slide, I need to convert the slides to images before sharing them in the class group. Following the image, include a short narration or explanation using the voice recording feature in the application.

“For instructors who wish to include videos in WhatsApp lessons, the videos must be short, from one to three minutes long. All videos can be compressed to make the size smaller and received even with poor internet connection.

“Share with students the short video and get them to think and engage with the content. After that, task a short assessment to gauge their understanding. Before the lesson ends, lecturers can share an additional reading material in PDF format with the students.

He said well-designed learning activities are important to get students to participate actively in online learning.

“Collaborative group work, for instance, will get everyone engaged in solving specific tasks or problems assigned to them by the course instructor,” he continued.

“Advanced and careful planning of the online course is important. Keep the lesson design simple with clear instructions and learning outcomes”, he concluded.

By Murniati Abu Karim.

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31 new Covid-19 cases, lowest since MCO started

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said as of noon today there were 5,851 total cumulative cases in the country. - NSTP/MOHD FADLI HAMZAHHealth director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said as of noon today there were 5,851 total cumulative cases in the country. – NSTP/MOHD FADLI HAMZAH

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia recorded 31 new Covid-19 cases today.

Prior to this, the lowest since the movement control order (MCO) was imposed on March 18 was 36 on April 21.

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said as of noon today there were 5,851 total cumulative cases in the country.

During his daily press briefings on the Covid-19 situation here today, Dr Noor Hisham said 75 patients had recovered, bringing the total number of recovery to 4,032 cases or 68.9 per cent of the total number of cases.

“36 Covid-19 patients are still being treated at the intensive care units and 17 of them require breathing assistance,” he said.

He also said one death was reported to the ministry’s Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre, raising the death toll from the deadly virus in the country to 100 or 1.7 per cent from the total cases.

The victim was a 67-year-old man with a history of diabetes, stroke and hypertension. He died at the Sungai Buloh Hospital at 9.40am today.

By Adib PoveraTeoh Pei Ying.

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Covid-19: Government measures flattened the curve

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020
The outcome of the third phase of the Movement Control Order (MCO) had seen a drop in the number of Covid-19 active cases and an increase in recovered patients. -NSTP/ASWADI ALIAS.The outcome of the third phase of the Movement Control Order (MCO) had seen a drop in the number of Covid-19 active cases and an increase in recovered patients. -NSTP/ASWADI ALIAS.

PUTRAJAYA: The measures implemented by the government to contain the Covid-19 outbreak has been successful in flattening the pandemic curve in the country.

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Dr Hisham Abdullah said this was based on the outcome of the third phase of the Movement Control Order (MCO), which had seen a drop in the number of Covid-19 active cases and an increase in recovered patients.

“The nation has now entered the recovery phase,” he said in his daily press briefings on the country’s Covid-19 situation here today.

The number of active Covid-19 cases today, he said, stood at 1,719 compared to 2,596 on April 5.

Dr Noor Hisham said the encouraging development was the result of “proactive” and “aggressive” measures introduced by the government to break the chain of Covid-19 transmission before and during the MCO.

“The MCO has helped curb interactions among members in the community subsequently reducing the risk of them being infected by Covid-19.

“In addition to the MCO, the actions taken by the ministry together with other government agencies have worked in helping to prevent the infection from escalating, including by conducting active case detection by targeting high risk groups,” he said.

Dr Noor Hisham said the MCO alone would not be able to help eliminate Covid-19 completely.

“The people must prepare to face this virus for a longer period of time. They must continue to adhere to social distancing and adopt good hygiene practice.

“The ministry on the other hand will continue with conducting containment activities.”

By Adib PoveraTeoh Pei Ying.

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Urgent task of new National Unity Ministry

Monday, April 27th, 2020
It was also obvious from the beginning that the notion of ‘national unity’ that informed and was adopted by the government was conservative and old school in orientation.It was also obvious from the beginning that the notion of ‘national unity’ that informed and was adopted by the government was conservative and old school in orientation.

IT could be argued that over the last 50 years, ‘national unity’ as an idea and organisation has been marginalized, de-emphasised, and indeed trivialised – though the concern about the absence of national unity is high in the mind of the public.

Indeed, the lack of unity was frequently referred to in all public and political speeches, in the media, and in government documents. In the general public, the hot-cold state of ethnic relations in the country became a grave concern in some sectors of the community.

It was also obvious from the beginning that the notion of ‘national unity’ that informed and was adopted by the government was conservative and old school in orientation. It was simplistic, mechanistic and literal. Unity is a complex issue and involves many facets and layers of horizontal and vertical social relations, ethnicity and others. It is not generated simply by sitting together for dinner, shaking hands and jointly singing songs.

For instance, immediately after May 13, 1969, there was a series of durian parties held around Kuala Lumpur attended by different ethnic groups, with live music provided by the Royal Malay Regiment Band. Yes, the durian was happily and quickly consumed. Unity? Not sure.

Unity was also seen as a mechanistic phenomenon and process, with different parts joining together in a system that guides its moves. Sekolah Wawasan was informed by such an idea. So, physically place a national school next to vernacular schools, join them by physical link-ways, and then they share a common playing field – unity is expected to be generated over time.

The more difficult part is the fact that the Malay root word for perpaduan is padu, or ’solid’. This gives the literal perception that unity, or perpaduan, has to be compact and solid like a brick. Anything less is perceived as we haven’t achieved the much-desired unity.

It is imperative that the notion of national unity as defined in the last 50 years, in that simplistic, mechanistic and literal perspective, has to be redefined. It has to go through a serious paradigm shift, since we have now a ‘new’ standalone Ministry of National Unity.

What is the new paradigm for national unity in Malaysia?

After a decade of close study and analysis of national unity in Malaysia, the National Institute of Ethnic Studies, UKM (KITA-UKM) established that the national unity that we experience constitutes three living processes that happen simultaneously in society, namely, unity (perpaduan), cohesion (kesepaduan) and reconciliation (penyatupaduan).

They are in the form of bundled social relations (social, cultural, economic, political) that are inter-connected and overlap, embedded in layers of pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial history involving three critical components of society, namely, the individual, the family and the community.

Unity (perpaduan) remains the ultimate aim that we all desire. We experience moments of unity and moments of difference. The Covid-19 pandemic brought us together and collectively we are willing to be subjected to lockdown for the sake of health and safety for all.

Cohesion (kesepaduan) is what we have really achieved for years. We agree on many matters but there are those we have agreed to disagree on. This is the result of our social differences, not enmity. What we have disagreed on become a set of ’social deficits’ that we have to resolve.

Reconciliation (penyatupaduan) is the continuous effort we have conducted and continue to do to resolve social deficits through creating integration platforms at various levels, each operated and grounded in the principles of ‘bargaining, negotiation and mediation.’

Not all succeeded, but the few that succeeded brought positive results. Some people don’t like Jawi and Khat, or Islamic things. But, the same people find halal acceptable because it helps them to make money.

Three major detailed policy documents, for a short, medium and long-term purpose, have been created using this new redefined notion of nationa

l unity: first, The National Unity Plan 2015; second, The National Unity Index 2018, and third, The National Unity Action Plan 2020.

The new scope and responsibilities of the Ministry of National Unity are clearly outlined in the document, namely, “to continue to strive for the national unity and integration that we desire through a balanced maintenance of national cohesion supported by tireless effort at national reconciliation.”

By Shamsul Amri Baharuddin.

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Malaria cases down 43% in Sabah

Monday, April 27th, 2020

QEH laboratory has increased its capacity for Covid-19 detection.

KOTA KINABALU: The State Health Department has reported a 43 percent decrease in malaria cases as of April 18 this year compared to the year before.

Its director, Datuk Dr Christina Rundi, attributed the decline in malaria cases to the Movement Control Order (MCO).

She said Sabah had not recorded any case of local human malaria infection since 2018.

“As of April 18 this year, Sabah has reported 407 zoonotic malaria cases, one imported case, two introduced cases and one induced case.

“The number of malaria cases reported this year was 43 percent less compared to the same period last year.
“The MCO has in some ways contributed to the decrease of malaria cases in Sabah,” she said in a statement on Saturday, in conjunction with the World Malaria Day.

Dr Rundi also said that the laboratory team in Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) has increased its capacity to detect novel coronavirus (Covid-19) cases since March 30.

Since April 25, she said the QEH laboratory had conducted 5,460 tests for Covid-19.

Dr Rundi said this was possible following modification to the laboratory to create a larger, safer and more conducive working space.

The State Health Department has reported that the number of Covid-19 cases remained at 311 on April 25.

Dr Rundi said there were nine positive samples out of the 1,096 tests conducted on April 24, but all the positive samples were repeat tests.


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Adapting to a (painful) new normal

Monday, April 27th, 2020

Perhaps there is a silver lining in the fight against Covid-19, but we must first brace for the worst before it gets better.

THE month of Ramadan is the time Muslims would love to be in the Holy Land most. Mecca and Medina are usually swarmed with pilgrims from all over the world to perform their umrah.

But this year, Saudi Arabia has halted all international flights, suspended the umrah and perhaps even the coming haj season due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to an article in Berita Harian by Aizuddin Kamarul Zaman recently, the two holiest mosques in the Muslim world – Masjidil Haram in Mekah and Masjid al-Nabawi in Medina – have been closed before. In fact, they have been closed a total of 40 times since the year 865 AD as the result of a pandemic of some kind.

The plague of 1837 resulted in the suspension of the haj for three years. But back then, the number of pilgrims were small. Today, at least two million pilgrims will converge on the Holy Land during the haj season.

Closer to home, there won’t be the nightly terawih prayers in the mosques and suraus, one of the highlights of Ramadan. We do not know what Hari Raya this year will be like either.

I am sure the balik kampung exodus will be curbed. The normally boisterous atmosphere will be severely affected. In my kampung, the baraan (Javanese) tradition (marhaban in Malay, where the congregation will visit every home in the village) will not take place this time.Welcome to the new reality. The new normal. We have to make adjustments for better or for worse. The Covid-19 pandemic is the game changer for humanity.

Humans have been priding themselves on having conquered almost everything, from the moon to the highest peaks. They have reshaped the world through unimaginable creations. Connectivity is spurned by unprecedented technological advancements. The skies are crowded with planes since everyone now can travel. There have been great breakthroughs in medical research. Yet humans are now down on their knees.

The world economy will be hit hard. Ours too. The movement control order (MCO) has impacted our daily lives and pockets. No amount of stimulus packages by the government will fully help both small and medium enterprises as well as the big guys. Companies will take time to revive. People will lose their jobs. Things will never be the same again. But the MCO is a necessity, no two ways about that.

No nation could have foreseen that the situation would be this dire, not even the biggest economies of the world. Luckily for us, we acted fast and decisively. That saved lives.

There is a silver lining to all these though. It is a wake-up call for us to prepare for any eventuality.

For one, we must prepare ourselves for future pandemics. Health services must be spruced up and equipped with the best technology and preparedness. The best equipment must be made available for medical frontliners.

The police, army and others must learn from this experience and they must be funded well. The future world war will no longer be about fighting among nations but against those unseen, menacing and dangerous viruses instead.

The mushrooming of businesses online during the lockdown is another plus point. These enterprises are started by largely young people who otherwise depend on revenue as salaried workers. The networking is exemplary, so too the efficiency of its distribution system. The government must support such entrepreneurship.

While Mak Cik Kiah needs help, the new breed of homegrown entrepreneurs, particularly young businessmen and women, are reshaping the online frontier and the entrepreneurial landscape of today, perhaps even the future.

There is another area the government must look into: Foreign workers. Due to neglect, corruption and whatever else, their exact numbers are impossible to ascertain. Even if the official figure is 10% of our population, that is big enough.

Many believe there are as many undocumented ones. They have been the pillars of our economy for a long time. But we need to cut the dependence on foreign workers.

Manufacturing, plantation, construction and service industries have been over-dependent on them. Cheap foreign labour has been the mainstay of our progress, so to speak. But it is time to move on. We must strive for a higher income economy with our young people learning new skills and setting new standards in professionalism, productivity and creativity.

Covid-19 is a scourge. But there is always a hikmah (blessing) in battling the scourge. This is going to be a protracted war. We must brace ourselves for the worse before it gets better. At the same time, we must painfully learn the lessons of today’s inconveniences for the future.

By Johan Jaaffar

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250,000 apply for inter-state travel permits via Gerak Malaysia app

Monday, April 27th, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: A total of 250,000 people have applied for inter-state travel permits via the Gerak Malaysia app, out of the more than 500,000 who had registered as of noon Monday (April 27).

Bukit Aman CID director Comm Datuk Huzir Mohamed said the increase in the number of registrations occurred after the police urged the people to apply for the permits online.

“We believe the numbers will increase significantly by May 1.

“Every application will be vetted to ensure only those who want to travel across state borders for valid reasons are permitted, ” he said when contacted Monday.

“During this period, the police will monitor and evaluate application trends through the app.

“We will send our results to the government so that the travel dates announced on Saturday would be re-examined and adjusted based on the amount of applications received, ” he added.

Comm Huzir urged the public to cooperate and only apply for interstate movement for valid reasons.

“Cooperation from all sides is important to ensure the app benefits those who really need to travel across state borders.

“We will give updates on the movement schedule later, ” he said.


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Covid-19: 40 new cases, death toll now at 99

Monday, April 27th, 2020

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia reported 40 more Covid-19 cases on Monday (April 27), bringing the total number of Covid-19 infections in the country to 5,820.

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah announced this at the Health Ministry’s daily Covid-19 media briefing here.

Ninety-five more patients were discharged in the same 24-hour span, which means 3,957 patients have recovered from Covid-19 in Malaysia since the outbreak began.

Malaysia’s Covid-19 recovery rate is now at 67.9% out of the total number of positive cases.

There are only 1,764 active cases being treated at the country’s health facilities at present.

There are currently 37 patients being treated at intensive care units (ICU) with 17 on ventilator support.

Dr Noor Hisham also announced one new Covid-19 fatality in the country, taking Malaysia’s death toll to 99.

On the new death case, Dr Noor Hisham said the 99th fatality is a 78-year-old man with a history of diabetes, hypertension and stroke.

He has been receiving treatment at Hospital Enche Besar Hajjah Khalsom in Johor since April 7 and was pronounced dead at 4.30am on April 27.

Malaysia is currently in its 41st day of the movement control order (MCO), where people are instructed to stay at home, and movement and business operations are heavily restricted.

Last week, the government announced the MCO has been extended to a fourth phase set to end on May 12.


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Health Ministry will be able to conduct 22,000 Covid-19 tests a day by next week

Monday, April 27th, 2020

PETALING JAYA: The Health Ministry will be able to conduct up to 22,000 tests daily for Covid-19 by next week, says Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

The Health director-general said the ministry currently could test up to 16,500 samples a day, with the public and private sector working together.

He said the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) automated testing device to be used by the Institute for Medical Research and the Kota Kinabalu Public Health Laboratory in Sabah, which could perform 5,000 tests and 1,000 tests, respectively, is an additional capacity of 6,000 tests.

There are currently 43 labs in the country that are able to conduct testing for Covid-19.

“Capacity wise, that is good but we have looked into the benchmarking by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and that positive tests should be about 10%.

“Now we are at about 4%. Unless we are detecting more than 10%, more needs to be done, ” he told a daily press briefing on Covid-19 Monday (April 27).

He said their targeted approach of locality and high-risk groups worked, judging from the movement control order (MCO).

“Today, we are seeing the results of it. We are in the recovery phase, meaning we are able to flatten the curve and have prevented an exponential surge of cases, ” he said.

“This is a new experience for all of us here. That experience has shown results. Because it has shown results, we continue to embrace the targeted approach to the locality, ” he added.

As of Monday, a total of 5,820 cases of Covid-19 were detected in the country, with 99 deaths recorded.

Malaysia is currently in its 41st day of the MCO, where people are instructed to stay at home, and movement and business operations are heavily restricted.

Last week, the government announced the MCO had been extended to a fourth phase set to end on May 12.


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