2011, Aliran, Arkib Berita, Bahasa, Keibubapaan, Masalah Guru, Masalah Pelajar, Pembangunan Sekolah, Subjek

Pupils not getting enough exposure to English

Monday, August 15, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR:The lack of exposure to proper English materials could be the reason why Malaysians, especially students, are weak in the language.

Former headmaster and English teacher Charles Michael O’Leary said students are not exposed to enough English language materials.

“They just don’t read, listen or watch English related materials. There is no short-cut to learning languages, you need to practice it and read,” he told the New Straits Times yesterday.
The octogenarian Irishman who had been staying in the country for the last 60 years said that in the past, students picked up English through other subjects taught in schools.

“All my students speak good English. It is the environment that made them fluent in the language All subjects in schools like Geography and History were taught in English then.”

O’Leary said even though it was a good idea to bring in teachers whose native language was English, it would not guarantee results.
“Students tend to speak in their mother tongue with each other. They will not improve if they don’t speak English. It does not matter if the teacher is a native speaker or not.”

Former English teacher S. Sigamoney concurred.

“It is the attitude of the students that is important, and the emphasis by parents that the language is important,” he said.
In the New Sunday Times, it was reported that 17 American Fulbright scholars were posted in Terengganu secondary schools as English Teaching Assistants to improve the students’ grasp of English.

Another local retired English teacher from Perak, Anbu Shanmukam, said bringing in foreigners to teach might “confuse” the students.

“These foreign teachers will bring in their culture while teaching our students. Not only will they get confused, they also will not understand these teachers.”

Anbu, who is teaching English on a contract basis at a vernacular school, said the English period allocated in schools were also not enough.

“In vernacular schools, English is taught once a week only. This is just too little for students to even get a feel of the language,” he said.

2011, Arkib Berita, Forum, ICT/Teknologi, Masalah Guru, Pembangunan Sekolah, Rencana, Sistem, Surat

No need for detailed data

Sunday August 14, 2011


I AM baffled as to why the Education Ministry needs to come up with non-teaching chores for teachers to carry out in school.

The teachers are expected to key in details of exam results of students together with their personal particulars, and what does the ministry do with such data once it has been gathered? Isn’t this a waste of precious teaching time just to fill in data?

In fact, I would like to know what has become of the statistics that the authorities had gathered in the past.

Was the information used to improve the education system? If it was used, we would have seen improvements in the system, which sadly is not the case.

Why do the authorities need the school examination results of every school-going child and what is it that the ministry wants to ascertain?

It would be good if an explanation is given as to why teachers have to be bogged down with such chores. If the intention of the ministry officials is for the purpose of evaluating the KPI (key performance index) of teachers who are already bogged down with paper work, lesson plans, teaching and other school activities, they should think again!

The authorities should know by now that schools have students of different social, ethnic and economic backgrounds. They must be aware that some schools are certainly of a higher standard than others, and that rural schools are different from urban schools.

Instead of compiling statistics, the authorities should concentrate on finding the resources, selecting the right subject teachers for the schools that need them most, and coming out with the best teaching materials, methods and ways to train teachers to teach in various situations.

They should be concentrating on maximising the vast recourses they have to produce the best students. Instead they switch policies as and when they please. Such actions are disruptive to teachers, students and also parents.

While the authorities may realise the consequences of their actions, they may not be willing to admit since the “new and sudden” policies are usually for political reasons.

It is time we give serious thought to our education system. Policies must be drawn up for the long term and cannot be withdrawn to please some quarters.

There must be a clear-cut policy on the direction that needs to be taken for our students to progress and excel.

Via e-mail

2011, Arkib Berita, Forum, Masalah Guru, Pembangunan Sekolah, Rencana, Sistem, Surat

System a boon or bane?

Sunday August 14, 2011


I REFER to reports about the Sistem Analisis Peperiksaan Sekolah (SAPS) or the online school examination analysis system that has been a bane to teachers of late.

Last week, the National Union of the Teaching Profession had stated that the system was not user-friendly and had urged the Education Ministry to extend the Aug 15 deadline.

However, the extension of the deadline to a later date may not resolve the problem. The fact is the system tends to be congested during the times when deadlines have to be met.

This situation is akin to a massive traffic crawl on a major highway during festive periods.

The approximately 400,000 teachers in some 10,000 government schools have to key in their students’ examination marks, personal details and present performance analysis and computer-generated report cards, all at about the same time and this causes the system to be congested.

The ministry must remember that this will be the scenario four times a year as all government schools are required to have four examinations in a year and the number of schools and users of the system increases every year.

Last year, teachers were required to enter average subject marks (ASM) for all classes using the ministry’s online National Key Results Area (NKRA) School Improvement Toolkit (SIT) portal. ASM is a measurement of teachers’ performance in the teaching and learning process, and only involves subject heads to use the portal. This was done at the end of the year.

The present SAPS system requires students’ raw data and involves all teachers. Besides, it could lead to abuse to manipulate students’ results especially during the awarding of scholarships.

It was first developed by the Johor state education department and it was compulsory for all schools in the state to use the system.

In 2007, with the implementation of the headcount analysis, SAPS was offered to other states. However, only a few states adopted it, while the other states allowed schools to use any system.

Since SAPS was not user-friendly and rigid, many schools switched to third party applications which could be custom-made to meet school requirements.

The decision to have the system implemented nationwide did not take into account the state of Internet connections and speed in schools, especially those in remote areas.

I hope the ministry will reconsider and allow individual schools to use their existing assessment system. Teachers too will be happier.

Via e-mail

2011, Arkib Berita, Forum, ICT/Teknologi, Masalah Guru, Rencana, Sistem, Surat

Shame on SAPS

Sunday August 14, 2011


I REFER to recent articles on the Sistem Analysis Peperiksaan Sekolah (SAPS) or the web-based school assessment system. The delay in entering the examination data is not the fault of the teachers as I am aware of the problems.

As a senior IT professional and the spouse of a long-suffering school teacher, it is indeed appalling that such a poorly-implemented system is used and declared as part of the National Key Results Area (NKRA).

I am of the view that such clerical work takes time away from core teaching duties.

Entering student names, details and marks into the system is a clerical function, and takes away teaching time from a teacher’s work day.

With the problems teachers face with SAPS, they may take about a week to complete the data entry if they carry out the job twice in a school term.

There are 386,031 government school teachers in Malaysia, which means there are about 386,031 weeks or 7,429 years taken away from teaching duties.

If the job is to be done four times a year (twice per term, over two terms), teachers will spend 29,716 years performing data entry chores per year.

These “lost years” must be given back to teachers by assigning clerical staff to perform such chores, so that teachers can do their core job better.

There are also not enough computers in school and this results in teachers, who like my wife, resort to using the computer with an Internet connection at home. Teachers are not paid allowances for using their personal computers to carry out school work.

Just from observing my wife who is stressed out everytime the system crashes, it is evident that the system is not well designed. Some of the key issues that need to be urgently addressed are:

● Insufficient processing capacity

The number of online users is displayed on the login page of the system. When the number of users exceeds several hundred, the system starts to crawl and then crashes.

Some teachers wake up in the early hours of the morning or stay up late at night to complete the data entry, when there are fewer users online. They are obviously tired the following day and are unable to focus on teaching.

The system needs to be upgraded in terms of memory and processing capability, to handle the many thousands of simultaneous users.

● System instability

Many times, the data already entered into the system goes missing after a crash and has to be keyed in all over again. My spouse has had that experience no less than four times! Imagine the teachers’ frustration and the time wasted. The system’s database needs to be looked into and replaced with a robust version that can handle high volumes of simultaneous transactions.

● No data validation

The software is poorly written and does not validate information during data entry. This means that a simple mistake, for example, leaving the MyKad number of a student blank when an update is attempted, causes the system to crash with a cryptic error message that only an IT professional can understand. This causes the teacher to panic and start all over again.

Let me share with you that all first-year undergraduates in Computer Science are taught how to set up a student database, very similar to what this system is trying to achieve.

It is a great shock that such basic principles of software design such as data validation is not implemented. Changing the programme to validate the data and providing an online message to correct the data before updating will solve this issue.

● Lack of security

The login page and subsequent pages are not secured as every web page is presented in “http:”. This means that the data transmitted by these web pages can be intercepted.

It presents a frightening security issue, especially since they are entering personal and sensitive students’ data via unsecured web pages.

At the very least, the site must be equipped with secure web pages, most often denoted by “https:” which encrypts the data, similar to what is being offered by all Internet banking sites (and even Facebook, if you choose the right security options).

I shudder to think of how much of our taxpayers’ money has been invested into this problematic system.

I hope that for the sake of my wife and thousands of other teachers and schoolchildren, the weaknesses of the system can be urgently looked into and corrected.

Via e-mail

2011, Arkib Berita, Forum, Inovasi, Pembangunan Sekolah, Rencana

Solution to save water

Sunday August 14, 2011



WITH the water bill at the school hostel gradually increasing by the month, a group of SMK Marudi, Sarawak students decided to take action to reduce water wastage.

Students Sim Siew Teng, Wong Lu Ye, Patricia Lau Ee Yii, Goh Sing Kian and Kuan Sin Hong, all 18, began by checking and fixing damaged water taps and pipes at the school toilets.

“We will be putting barrels of water at the hostel’s dining hall for students to wash their hands,” said Siew Teng.

Siew Teng (centre) and her teammates showing off their presentation at their booth during the prize-giving ceremony.

“We will also fix the roof gutters to collect rainwater, which would be used for watering plants and washing toilets,” she added.

Siew Teng, the project’s leader, said the main objective of the project was to reduce the average cost of water bill by 10% every month.

She explained that the water bill for the hostel in January was about RM600 and had shot up to RM1,300 in May.

She said the team was also keen to raise awareness on conserving water among their peers by organising exhibitions and competitions at the school.

Siew Teng’s team won the “Speak Up” category of the Consumerism Competition 2011, which was organised by the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) in conjunction with the National Consumers Month.

They won RM2,000 and a certificate during the prize presentation ceremony at the Masterskill College of Nursing and Health in Ipoh recently.

Siew Teng said the project would be wrapped up and its research finalised in September.

“We plan to begin another project in October,” she said, adding that Fomca had allocated RM1,000 to them for their activities.

The Speak Up contest was a new category for this year’s Consumerism Competition, testing school students on their research capabilities on a community issue and also to find a solution for it.

The other categories include poster drawing, scrapbook compilation, photography, essay writing, cartoon drawing, blogging, colouring contest and the most participating entries from schools.

During the prize presentation ceremony, Fomca president Datuk N. Marimuthu said a total of 94,998 participating entries were received for all categories in this year’s competition.

“It is a significant increase compared to last year’s 61,400 entries,” he said.

2011, Arkib Berita, Forum, Rencana

Lessons in body language

Sunday August 14, 2011



It’s not what a person speaks that matters, but how it is expressed and conceived by the other party.

WORDS say it all, but the body language of a person is just as important. If a person speaks and doesn’t mirror the message of the words he says, then that message can be viewed differently. Observing one’s body language at home, in the office or anywhere else, is interesting and tells us so much about a person. Let me start off with the significance of a wink. In many situations, a wink is not as good as a nod. They give different signals. Are the signals isolated or part of a broader range, a cluster of body messages?

Does body talk mirror the message or its expected response especially when the complicating factors of culture and gender are taken into account?

A key distinction in body reading is between the open and closed. The closed position is when the arms are folded and the body turned away from the speaker.

The hands will be hidden or, if visible, the palms out of sight. But what does this mean —it can be a general sense of being uncomfortable or negative to outright dislike.

In an open situation, the arms will be open, the hands visible, palms exposed and the body will lean towards the listener or speaker. An open posture suggests interest and receptiveness.

We all react positively to and tend to “mirror” an open body posture just as we are suspicious of and negative towards a closed one.

Interestingly, studies have shown that people who are lying or dishonest tend to unwittingly adopt the closed position.

Now let’s focus on the face. Greater eye contact of intervals lasting four to five seconds almost always indicates interest and approval, especially where there is dilation to the pupil. Smaller pupils (contraction) plus restricted or no eye contact suggest a negative response.

Any prolonged eye contact which is longer than five seconds can be regarded as sensitive in terms of gender and culture. One should exercise caution when using such eye contact especially when dealing with acquaintances, colleagues, or with members of the opposite sex or people of a different culture.

The gaze

To our female readers it is worth noting that when interacting with a male colleague there is such a thing as the business gaze which is when the eyes focus on an area between the eyes and the mid forehead. Such a gaze is purely professional.

In contrast, beware of the social gaze which is more intimate and covers the area from the eyes to that erogenous zone of the mouth. Used in a business setting it could cause confusion or send an unintended sexual message.

Blinking is another body give-away. If it’s frequent with each blink lasting more than a second, it implies boredom or disinterest, and is a subconscious effort to block out the others.

That sideward glance with raised eyebrows, with or without a smile, depending on context of course, is a clue for interest and even flirtation.

The down-turned mouth and eyebrows warn of criticism, suspicion or hostility. And, as we all know, the smiling mouth without eye matching, is a formality rather than real smile.

There are six facial expressions which know no cultural boundaries, though I sometimes suspect there must be more every time I try to board a train during rush hour at KLCC. These are: joy, sadness, surprise, fear, disgust and anger. However, psychologists say that when such an expression lasts for more than 10 seconds it’s probably fake!

Even noses have their own vocabulary: flaring nostrils indicate something physical is being planned while that wrinkly nose look betrays suspicion of what is being said. And looking down the nose with the head tilted up reveals superiority or disdain.

Lips, of course, have their own tale. If your colleague is licking his/her lips then anxiety or concern is being shown. But, in another context, if you’ve just been playing badminton then it’s more likely to be thirst.

Pursed lips commonly suggest either active consideration is being given to a proposal or, less pleasingly, disagreement. Lips pressed tightly together are silently saying, “I am angry or frustrated”, but when shaped as if to blow out air it’s resignation or reluctant acceptance being expressed.

There’s also no getting away with fingers. They really do let the cat out of the bag.

If they touch the mouth or rub the nose then deception may be lurking beneath the verbal message.

Hands are crucial. Keep them in view and when one shows their palms, it is a sign of honesty. Making a gesture with the palm down is sending a negative message, so when you do shake hands, make sure you offer your hand with the palm sideways. When you break off shaking hands, don’t look down – it signals submission.

Lean your chin on your hand with the index finger pointed up your cheek and you are sending a message critical of the speaker. But take away the pointing index finger and have the hand resting lightly on the cheek and you are showing interest.

Head resting heavily on a hand suggests that the person is bored or perhaps even tired.

Foot message

Even feet have a message. Shuffling feet or feet twisted round a chair suggest untruthfulness.

If the toes of the foot of the upper crossed leg point towards you then there’s interest indicated in your message. Pointed away, perhaps towards the door, it’s the opposite.

High energy foot jiggling on the other hand can indicate either confidence, enthusiasm, or the need for a visit to the toilet!

Personal space is something we are all sensitive to. The intimate zone of 0-45cm is definitely not for the office. The close personal zone, 45-60cm, covers good friends and close business colleagues.

Move an arm’s length apart and we have the far personal zone which has no risk of touching and is reasonably safe in the office.

Even safer is the social zone with a space of about 1-2m which is the preferred space for most business dealings and formal social gatherings.

The public zone puts people more than 6m apart and is mostly found at presentations and public speaking situations.

Interestingly, women who have just met tend to favour a closer distance for speech than men.

Culture is a huge complicating factor with body language and social etiquette. Broadly speaking, there are contact cultures such as those found in France, Spain, Italy, the Middle East and South America where touching of the arm, shoulder, hand (gender-sensitive in the Middle east naturally), plays an important part in business relationships.

In non-touch cultures found in the UK, Germany, the Scandinavian countries, Japan, Korea, Australia, North America, touch – other than the hand shake – is much less frequent and body touching is either frowned on or seen as having sexual implications.

Contact cultures are also context cultures. This means that much of the “message” of any interaction is left unspecified to rely on relationships (familial, ethnic, locational, tribal, status, religious) and non-verbal cues. Content, non-contact cultures expect business dealings to be specific and explicit. They want a legally binding deal. Not a deal based on honour or respect.

Next time you make a presentation you know that you can’t hide behind a lectern or laptop.

To get attention and empathy you have to show your whole body. Stand with feet slightly apart. Keep those hands visible and don’t clamp your arms to the sides of your body.

Lean slightly towards your audience. Don’t fidget or rock. Make eye contact with individuals remembering to sweep the entire room with your gaze.

Now what do you see? If there are no folded arms, good eye contact, lots of head-nodding and smiles, then you can be sure your body language and words match and that the audience is with you.

Now that you have finished reading, I hope your eye pupils are wide and that you are stroking your chin, neck or ear. If not … I am glad that I am not there to see.

Alex Cummins is a trainer with the Professional Development Unit of the British Council in Kuala Lumpur.

2011, Arkib Berita, Forum, Pembangunan Sekolah, Rencana, Sistem

Ideas for changes

Sunday August 14, 2011



Should the government consider public-private partnerships in the school system, parents will have more choices and a say in making sure standards are maintained.

EDUCATION has long been one of Ideas’ (Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs) main research areas. We have published several papers on the topic, including Prof James Tooley’s ‘Could the Globalisation of Education Benefit the Poor’ and Dr M Bakri Musa’s ‘Enhancing the Role of the Private Sector in Education’.

Recently, we co-organised with the Razak School of Government a national conference and a workshop series on ‘Public-Private Partnerships in the School System’, with support from the CfBT Education Trust, Pemandu (the Performance Management & Delivery Unit), the Pintar Foundation and Yayasan Amir (a foundation under Khazanah Nasional Berhad).

Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had in his address to the conference, given his support to public-private partnerships, paving the way for private providers to play a bigger role in educating the next generation of Malaysians.

At the conference we released a research paper entitled ‘Choice, competition and the role of private providers in the Malaysian school system’.

The research was funded by the CfBT Education Trust, a respected provider of education services based in England.

The paper concluded that central planning had been allowed to become the natural state of affairs when it came to education in the country but it was changing.

In practice, there had been choice and competition through the existence of many different types of educational establishments, but a desire to protect that sphere was leading to more civil society awareness.

The trust also released another paper on ‘Nurturing A Thousand Flowers: International approaches to government-funded, privately-provided schools’.

Our education policymakers should take note of the recommendations.

Drawing on examples from Holland, New Zealand, the United States and elsewhere, the report made several recommendations, three of which are relevant to Malaysia:

● Ensure choice is extended to all families through wide information dissemination, fair admissions, progressive funding and direction of new, high quality schools into areas of disadvantage;

● Encourage growth of high quality providers whilst ensuring school chains do not become monopolies acting in their own self-interest; and

● Ensure the process of approving, renewing and closing government-funded, privately-provided schools is independent and transparent.

Accountability systems need to be targeted in order to protect school autonomy but strong enough to intervene where there is real and sustained failure.

The first two points make intrinsic sense in the Malaysian context.

It is already the case that millions of Malaysian parents look out for certain factors in the education of their children, which they carry out by ensuring admission into elite government schools, or by seeking additional help by way of tuition classes.

If more school choices were extended to all families, parents might not need to resort to such measures.

High quality providers can and do grow in Malaysia.

Many private schools have extended their campuses and offer more facilities and extra-curricular activities.

Some have grown into multiple campuses.

These schools are usually in high demand with waiting lists. If more schools were allowed to grow as a result of parents wanting to send their children to them, the educational preferences of many more Malaysians would be able to be fulfilled.

The final point may not be applicable because we do not have many “government-funded, privately-provided schools”, defined as “schools that receive funding from the Government, but which provide education as private organisations.”

However, the trust schools initiative now being piloted by Khazanah’s Yayasan Amir is certainly a step in that direction. And the people involved in this pilot should take heed of the points raised.

It is obvious that the educational environment in the countries studied by the report, which also include England, Korea, Denmark and Sweden, is different from ours.

Policies in these countries to encourage government-funded, privately-provided schools have either been active for some years or are being pursued by government and political parties. Nonetheless, there are lessons that Malaysia can learn from the report as our own education system evolves.

This is especially true given that our government has already shown a willingness to pursue public-private partnerships, trust schools and the granting of some autonomy to certain schools. Moving forward, in terms of specific reforms, we should consider removing the geographical criteria of choosing a school and improving information dissemination so that parents are equipped with better tools to make the right choices for their children.

We should also consider how rural areas could be better served by applying rigorous methodologies for assessing need, and by including parents in the process of founding new schools.

There are many other possibilities, as the report suggests, to “nurture a thousand flowers”. At Ideas, we are trying to catalyse change in our school system.

We are keen to see the success of Yayasan Amir’s Trust School pilot project so that there can be a mushrooming of government-funded, privately-provided schools in Malaysia. This is why we are establishing an education unit within Ideas and hope to get more support for our effort.

Tunku ’Abidin Muhriz is founding president of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) and Wan Saiful Wan Jan is its chief executive. They can be reached at