Ministry guidelines to ease load on heavy schoolbags

PUTRAJAYA: By next year, schools will need to adhere to the Education Ministry’s guidelines that will tackle the problem of heavy schoolbags, especially those carried by children in primary schools, says minister Dr Maszlee Malik.

He said from 2019, schools would have to follow a ministry circular on the matter.According to the guidelines, teachers will need to stick to their lesson plans and give clear instructions to their pupils on what to bring for their classes.

“Schools must also have only three to four subjects per day. “All teaching and learning activities must be completed within class hours,” he told reporters yesterday. Dr Maszlee said the guidelines were created after a study last year.

It revealed that only 28% of the bags’ weight is due to the required textbooks and workbooks.

The rest is due to stationery, additional workbooks, co-curriculum attire, food and drinks, gadgets and toys, he added.

Last year, the then deputy education minister Datuk Chong Sin Woon warned that action would be taken against schools that did not comply with a ministry circular in 2000 regarding the usage of workbooks in primary schools, which ordered a reduction in pupils’ exercise books.

On a separate matter, Dr Maszlee said an additional 1,000 places in the matriculation programme have been created for Chinese students in the B40 group.

B40 refers to the bottom 40% of households with a monthly income of RM3,900 and below.

“Although we try to ensure all deserving students get a place in the matriculation programme, I acknowledge that there are complaints from non-bumiputra students of not getting a place in the programme,” he said before handing out offer letters to matriculation students.

The decision to provide these additional seats, which do not affect the current seat numbers in the programme, was decided at the Cabinet meeting on May 30.

“There were 4,068 non-bumiputra students offered places at the matriculation colleges for the 2018/2019 intake,” he said.

The additional 700 spaces allocated for Indian students by the previous government remain, he added.

On another matter, Dr Maszlee said that all Chinese schools would be asked to stop holding paid computer classes during school hours.

“Paid computer classes can still be conducted as part of co-curriculum activities outside school hours and on a voluntary basis.”

He said that a letter issued by Chong on allowing third parties to conduct these lessons is now null and void.

Dr Maszlee said he received complaints from parents from Chinese schools that they were forced to pay fees for computer classes that were conducted by outside parties.


Nurturing interest in STEM

SCIENCE, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) permeate every aspect of today’s world, and the innovations that emerge from these fields underpin much economic development leading to the establishment of creative enterprises and rewarding careers.

People working in STEM are changing the face of the world we live in everyday, whether it is by making life-saving drugs and devices, researching new cures for cancer or creating new technologies that keep us healthier, safer and of course, entertain us.

Our education system plays a key role in equipping students with the knowledge, skills and dispositions to effect these changes.

“We need a national focus on STEM education in our early years settings and schools to ensure we have an engaged society and a highly-skilled workforce in place.

“This requires a clear understanding of STEM education in the Malaysian context. The embedding of this understanding across our education system will help transform the STEM education experience throughout the schooling years,” said Education director-general Datuk Dr Amin Senin.

STEM is at the heart of a new wave which is transforming the way we live and the way we work. STEM will help a competitive country to be part of the world’s developed countries.

The World Economic Forum’s report states that as many as 65% of children in primary school today will work in new, STEM-based fields in the future when they enter the workforce.

Let’s do it: Dr Amin (second from right) launching the STEM Colloquium in Kota Kinabalu.

Let’s do it: Dr Amin (second from right) launching the STEM Colloquium in Kota Kinabalu.

The Education Ministry has taken steps by introducing the Enhancing STEM Education initiative through the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 to encourage pupils to venture into STEM fields in secondary level and tertiary education.

It is vital as strong fundamental skills in STEM enables students to think critically and solve problems thus preparing them as highly skilled workers needed in the industry.

The initiatives to enhance STEM education have considered the six students’ aspirations and how to provide qualified and adequate students in the STEM field through three steps:

* Increase students’ interest through the new teaching and learning approach and the strengthening of the curriculum;

* Improve teachers’ skills and abilities; and

* Improve student and public awareness.

STEM education is multi-faceted and goes well beyond the main disciplines that constitute the acronym STEM.

The foundations for STEM education begin in early childhood. From the earliest years through their play experiences and family environment, children engage with the world in ways that can promote learning related to STEM.

“Young children naturally engage in early STEM exploration through hands-on multisensory and creative experiences.

“By engaging in these experiences, young children are developing curiosity, inquisitiveness, critical-thinking and problem-solving capacities which are built on through their primary and secondary school experience,” said Dr Amin.

Dr Azwan: All stakeholders need to work together to develop a connected learning network to benefit STEM education.

Education Performance and Delivery Unit (PADU) Student Learning executive director Dr Azwan Abd Aziz said that various activities and programmes are planned and will be implemented under the Enhancing STEM Education initiative.

The initiative targets to increase student’s interest in STEM subjects through the new teaching and learning approach and curriculum enhancement, improving teachers skills and abilities and raising student and public awareness on education and career in the STEM field.

The ministry hopes to produce students with the ability to think logically, are inventive, technology-savvy and are able to solve problems creatively and innovatively.

To sustain a supportive STEM education ecosystem, all stakeholders will need to work together to develop a connected learning network which is advantageous to all.

Multiple stakeholders have a role to play in supporting the STEM education experience of our young people so that we, as a nation, can overcome current misconceptions concerning ability and/or gender. Creating a sustainable STEM education ecosystem is the responsibility of the wider society and will play a key role in enabling and encouraging learners to become active and responsible citizens.

Improving teachers

The objectives of the STEM Education Colloquium are to create interest and awareness among teachers on the importance of STEM in schools, as well as to improve the skills of STEM teachers through hands-on activities. The colloquium is in collaboration with higher education institutions, government agencies and the National Blue Ocean Strategy (NBOS) industry players, as they provided the complimentary venue and industry experts who contributed voluntarily for the colloquium.

The STEM Education Colloquium theme is “Education Through Exploration”.

In 2018, STEM education colloquium will be implemented in four zones – Sarawak, Sabah, Kelantan and Perak – involving nearly 1,200 participants in each zone.

The university partners in each zone are Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Universiti Malaysia Kelantan, and Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris respectively.

This is a continuation of the colloquium that was implemented in 2017 in the Central Zone (Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia), Eastern Zone (Universiti Malaysia Terengganu), Northern Zone (Universiti Sains Malaysia) and Southern Zone (Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia) involving more than 6,000 teachers.

Source: The Star Online

Views on future proofing of grads

Prof Mushtak presenting a token of appreciation to Idris (left).

HERIOT-Watt University Malaysia played host to the third instalment of the Higher Ministry’s University of Future Seminar series recently.

This year’s event was titled “Education 4.0: The Human Revolution and Future Proofing Our Graduates”.

It featured Prof Dr Mushtak Al-Atabi, the university’s chief executive officer and provost, as the main speaker.

Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh and the chairmen of various universities’ board of governors were also present.

In his speech, Prof Mushtak shared that the world is currently experiencing its fourth industrial revolution, dubbed the Human Revolution.

“While previous revolutions have created more jobs opportunities for humankind, the present Human Revolution has had the opposite effect, with more jobs being lost to automation and robotics,” he said. This, along with the world population’s increasing life expectancy, has led to an expanding pool of human resources battling it out in a shrinking job market.

“In fact, according to PriceWaterhouseCoopers, 30% of jobs in the United Kingdom could be replaced by automation by the 2030s, with the figures projected to be as high as 38% in the United States,” he said.

Subsequently, depression, anxiety and suicide are on the rise globally, while concurrently, empathy and emotional intelligence rates among the youth are declining.

“This is where Relationship Management and Self Management need to play a key role,” he added.

Prof Mushtak went on to cite a workshop held at a recent Youth Transformation Programme (YTP) by Heriot-Watt University Malaysia as an example of rewiring the brain to learn Self Management. “Students were required to pay RM1 each time they uttered the word ‘problem’ and taught to turn it into an opportunity,” he explained.

The participants had concurred that the YTP helped to transform their mindsets, with many of them deciding to enrol at Heriot-Watt University Malaysia after that.

Among them is Komalah Sevamuthu Raja, who is currently pursuing the university’s Foundation in Business programme.

“The YTP helped me to get a better perspective on life. I learnt that empathy is important in nurturing more positive relationships and environment,” she said.

Her course mate, Sophia Adelina Mohd Faisal, who hopes to earn a degree in Psychology, said: “The most important lesson I learnt from the YTP is that we can be our own best friend.”

“Learning about yourself is a continuous process; the more you grow, the more you can learn about your strengths and weaknesses – and the more you can improve,” she added.

Prof Mushtak then went on to emphasise the importance of prioritising happiness.

“In the United Arab Emirates, there’s even a Minister for Happiness that addresses a national agenda to increase happiness,” he said.

He posed a question: “Should the University of the Future, therefore, take on the role of developing happy, resilient and emotionally intelligent graduates?”

According to Prof Mushtak, this is a necessary step in grooming graduates who are to be professionally relevant and future-proof.

“Among others, the University of the Future should make it its agenda to develop a Happiness Index, with Emotional Intelligence and Happiness being taught under Matapelajaran Umum; align Emotional Intelligence to the Integrated Cumulative Grade Point Average (ICGPA) and ensure that its staff members have similar opportunities to develop their emotional intelligence and happiness,” he elaborated.

Idris thanked the speakers and those in attendance.

He also delivered the closing remarks, saying that “Humanising the Fourth Industrial Revolution is one of the key challenges that will face our education system.”

“Today’s seminar acts as a powerful reminder of the importance emotional and physiological wellbeing for all our students,” he added.

The minister expressed his confidence that this seminar as well as subsequent seminars will place Malaysian higher education on a strong footing in facing the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Source: The Star Online

Malaysian duo at global science meet

Yuharajan Baskaran will be representing Malaysia at the 59th London International Youth Science Forum on July 26 2017.

THEY have harboured a love for science since young and now, they’re about to represent the country at the 59th London International Youth Science Forum (LIYSF).

Yuharajan Baskaran, 20, (pic) said he is excited to represent his country in the forum.

“I will be able to learn about different cultures from around the world. I also hope to broaden my scientific understanding and knowledge as well as to develop international friendships,” added the Sitiawan, Perak, native.

A high achiever, Yuharajan is currently pursuing his degree in Petroleum Engineering at Universiti Teknologi Petronas. He added that his parents and two siblings are just as excited about his achievement.

“They also believe that this forum could be a stepping stone for me to reach greater heights in the future,” he said.

Inderjit Kaur, was chosen by Pusat Permata Pintar Negara to represent the country. She will present her research paper titled “Preliminary Assessment of Parents Awareness on Nutrition Intake among Children with Autism in Malaysia”, at the forum.

“I am looking forward to attending the forum and gaining insights on sciencific issues currently being researched by some of the world’s leading scientists,” she said.

The Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry student wants to be a researcher so that she can “improve the lives of humankind”. Both participants left for London last week.

The forum attracts 500 of the world’s leading young scientists, aged between 16 and 21 years from more than 70 participating countries. They include top prize science competition winners from the European Union, China, Singapore, Australia, India and Malta. – By REBECCA RAJAENDRAM
Source: The Star Online

Do not ‘hide’ bullying cases, schools warned

Kamalanathan shares a light moment with SMK Taman Bunga Raya (1), students after launching the campaign.Looking on is MIC Putera chief, M. Uvaraja (right).

BULLYING incidents in schools should not be swept under the carpet.

Deputy Education Minister Datuk P. Kamalanathan warned that action would be taken against school officials, if they failed to report such cases, in their interest to protect the school’s image.

“They will be in trouble. The ministry will not hesitate to take action as there are guidelines on behaviour and conduct for civil servants and that includes those in the school administration,” he said after launching an anti-bully campaign in SMK Taman Bunga Raya (1), Bukit Beruntung, Rawang, Selangor on Tuesday.

The campaign which involved all secondary schools in the Hulu Selangor district, was organised by Putera MIC.

Kamalanathan said the percentage of students who committed bullying-related offences from 2012 to 2016 had dropped from 0.08% to 0.06%, while as of June this year, the numbers were at 0.02%.

He said the ministry’s objective was to educate, prevent and eradicate bullying which was a social ill in schools. There are guidelines and they must be strictly adhered to at all times, he reiterated.

When contacted, Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said some schools protect bullies as they are mostly older students.

“It also doesn’t reflect well on the principal’s key performance indicators (KPI), if senior students have bad records.

“This is especially so in premier schools with good students, so teachers would not want to show records of any student dropping out,” she added.

Noor Azimah said such practices are done at the expense of the victim.

“A victim remains a victim, and more often than not, schools wait for them to voluntarily transfer out, or they endure (the pain and harassment) until the seniors leave the school.

“There should be zero tolerance towards bullying. It is unfortunate,” she said.

Noor Azimah said that many bullying cases go unreported as victims were aware of the lack of intervention from school administrators. She hoped that schools will take note of the deputy minister’s statement and act accordingly.

National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Harry Tan Huat Hock said the union does not condone any bullying acts and if they are kept under wraps, and away from the authorities.However, he stressed that teachers are not enforcers.

“The line between bullying and other criminal activities, as well as students merely ‘monkeying’ around, is a thin one.

“Some students don’t always tell the truth and if their cases are brought up, what will happen to their future?

“Sometimes, students make mistakes and we must give them a chance to change,” he said.

Tan added, if there are repeated offences and offenders, reports should be lodged. They should also be investigated thoroughly. However he questioned if it was necessary to do so in one-off instances.

National Union of Heads of Schools (Selangor branch) chairman Hor Jun Hin said no school should hide cases in which students are bullied and victimised. Instead, they should find a way to solve the problem.

At the event, each secondary school in the district received a brief guidebook along with a complaint box.

Source: The Star Online

Rectify teaching flaws to salvage English

THE declining standard of English in Malaysia is gaining attention especially since the authorities are mulling over making English a compulsory pass in SPM.

Some feel it’s time to be firm on the matter, while others are more concerned about the number of students who will be made to leave school without a certificate. This debate has consumed a fair amount of time, energy and expertise.

Unfortunately it often hits deadlock and left to hibernate without an amicable solution.

By now one should be aware of the fact that we DO have some serious flaws in our system which needs to be rectified.

 Teachers’ unpreparedness is identified as one of the main reasons for the delay in implementing some of the intended policies.

Now with the root cause being identified, what can we do?

If a systematic selection process, one without partiality, was executed and only the deserving candidates were granted the chance to be in the profession, we will not be grappling with this issue now.

I do appreciate the attempts taken by the Education Ministry to upgrade the proficiency level of the teachers by constantly offering various courses and making some courses compulsory. But how have these courses helped in solving the issue at hand? Do we have data to support the claim of progress made or objectives achieved?

If so, how is it reflected in their teaching and the results obtained? How is their progress monitored and by whom?

Are the ones monitoring and assessing the progress competent and credible enough? What if a teacher failed to reach the required level despite numerous attempts? And how about those who refuse to budge from their comfort zone and are adamant in accepting any forms of assistance?

Let’s leave the matter to the experts and start focusing on the students who deserve more attention.

Before taking the big leap (making English a compulsory pass subject), let’s rectify the damage done by changing the perception towards the language and the manner it is taught.

Arresting the issue of the declining standard of English, has to begin by creating interest among the learners. Interest has to be created before aspects of the importance of language are brought in.

Once the interest towards the language is created, learning the language will be effortless. I have witnessed students with zero exposure to the language outside class, succeeding in conversing in impeccable English!

Often, teachers stand behind these students with their power in initiating the first spark. Such is a teacher’s influence! The interest created then becomes the fundamental factor, which pushes the students forward.

As a matter of fact, interest should be an inherent factor instilled on the first day the language is introduced to a child.

Creativity of a teacher plays a significant role here. Games and activities, which involve the participation and involvement of students will surely draw attention of the students.

For those with English being a foreign language, even reciting simple rhymes and poems in English gives such pride and confidence. It’s an undeniable fact that the ability to converse in English gives great confidence to students.

Repetition is the mother of all learning, we are told. If that was to be practised, we wouldn’t have students conversing with mangled sentences in later years. If a child fails to comprehend the fundamental rules of sentence structure by the time he completes six years of primary education, if he failed to master the basic list of vocabulary to engage in a decent conversation, something is seriously flawed in our system.

The first six years spent in a primary school is crucial to lay the foundation and the foundation is basically formed with generating interest towards the language. The greater the interest, the stronger the foundation becomes.

It’s high time to stop pondering and start plunging into this issue and salvage it from further deterioration.
Source: The Star Online

How can you tell if your child has depression?

Depression in children appears to start as early as age 11, according to a new study published in the journal of Translational Psychiatry.

How can parents tell if a child that young is depressed?

“The child may not say, ‘I’m sad’,” says Dr Victor Fornari, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in New York, in the US.

Depression often begins in children as high anxiety, Dr Fornari says.

They may refuse to go to school or may worry about a parent dying. They may have headaches, stomach aches or pretend to be sick. They may be afraid to fail or be rejected.

They may not feel comfortable doing things they once felt comfortable doing.

“With 11- or 12-year-olds, usually you look for a change in functioning,” Dr Fornari says. It could be a change in sleep habits or appetite, or a loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed.

“Irritability can be a hallmark of depression,” he says. “Everything annoys them. They fight with the parents. They fight with siblings.”

Parents think it’s a discipline issue, but at age 11, kids aren’t usually so rebellious, Dr Fornari says. “They’re having a problem; they’re not being bad,” he says.

Children may have negative thoughts about themselves or their bodies. They may be extremely sensitive to being teased. “When people are feeling bad, comments can really feel like harpoons,” Dr Fornari says.

If parents suspect depression, they should contact a paediatrician or family doctor for an evaluation.

Talking to the child’s teachers can also help, because they may also notice changes in behaviour or demeanour.

A child can be referred to a mental health professional for cognitive behavioural therapy or medication if necessary. – Tribune News Service

You can find a local directory of counselling services on the Malaysian Mental Health Association website

Source: The Star Online