Friday, December 15, 2017

Foster their proficiency from young

HARDWORKING children who practise rote learning may do well in school exams, but often struggle in colleges or universities when critical thinking is required.

Whatever knowledge they gained from books or studies are of little use, if not well understood. There will be no application until their importance is realised. The most important knowledge and skills students must acquire are language and communication skills. Mastering a language is necessary to learn fast and well, and thoughts can be clearly expressed in speech and writing.

A good command of a language would allow us to master a chosen field, if we put our heart and soul to it, be it in science, psychology, business or humanities.

As most commercial fields use English, those who excel in this language would achieve greater success in business or career.

All Malaysian students study English, at least as a subject, and their proficiency could easily be gauged by their pronunciation and enunciation. Whether they are schoolchildren or university graduates, asking a Malaysian to count from one to 10, and you are likely to hear “wan, too, tree, for, figh, sick, seben, egg, nigh, tan”.

Are teachers or lecturers speaking in the same manner or are they not bothered to correct wrong pronunciations? If so, they would not know the importance of enunciation. My granddaughter hardly spoke a word until she was 2 years old. Earlier, we tried getting her to repeat words in Cantonese or English, but she would just smile. However, we were shocked when she started speaking, as she spoke in complete sentences with perfect pronunciation and enunciation.

For example, when she said “look”, the k was clearly audible. She did not need us to teach her as she had the best tutor in the form of an idiot box, but not so when it is switched on to children’s educational programmes.

She taught herself English. Her sentences were complete, the grammar correct and pronunciation and enunciation would put many adults to shame.

If parents truly want their children to master English, all they need to do is have an additional TV set with English educational programmes switched on. Children are like sponges. They learn easily. They soak in information from the stimuli surrounding them. Between birth and 3 years of age, the human brain increases to 80 per cent of its adult size. What a powerful fact. This is such a crucial point in development for children, therefore, it’s important to foster their learning during this age period. Healthy interactions between a child and his environment is essential to developing strong communication skills that will last a lifetime.

I recently conducted training for young adults, who wish to work in the travel sector. English was used as the medium of instruction, as it is the lingua franca of the tourism industry. Decades ago, I noticed that many who studied in national schools would omit pronouncing the “s” for plural words, such as licences, reports, accidents, repairs and claims.

This time, one of the trainees read all the above plural words as if they were singular. When told to pronounce correctly with the “s”, he repeated the mistakes. Even when asked to pronounce first “report”, and then “reports”, he still pronounced both as “report”. I then remembered I could not spell his name correctly on the first day and had to make several changes when writing on the whiteboard.
My first attempt was based on how he pronounced his name, and two more attempts when he spelled it. He had a common name. But he could not even pronounce his name, he kept dropping a letter.

I had a childhood friend of the same name and I remember him well, as he gave me a scout belt which I wore proudly in primary school.
It is sad, but that’s the reality.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tuition centres make students lazy and rowdy in schools

THE tuition business has grown into a multi-million ringgit industry. Tuition centres were unheard of in the 1960s, but their numbers started to increase in the 1970s, followed by a tremendous rise in the 1980s. In Johor, for example, housing estates, have one or two tuition centres. It looks as though parents do not mind if these tuition centres do not provide quality education, as long as their children get a place to study. Parents are willing to spend money to send their children to tuition centres to ensure that they score straight As. It’s as if tuition is an indispensable part of education. Many do not realise that tuition makes students neglect what is taught in schools. They will sleep in class or get rowdy as they think their tuition teachers will repeat the same topics. Therefore, what is the purpose of listening twice?

As a result, teachers will lose their interest to teach, and worse, start giving tuition on the side to make extra money. In the end, teachers focus more on their tuition than on their school load. I know of teachers who insist that their students attend their tuition classes to be taught the syllabus completely.

Hence, students who do not want to be left behind go for the classes. Demand for tuition is higher for critical subjects like Bahasa Malaysia, English, Additional Mathematics, pure science subjects and Principles of Accounts.

Some schools in Johor Baru also offer tuition at night for their students under various guises, such as projects organised by the Parent-Teacher Association or as part of ministry-funded programmes. The quest to obtain better results has led parents to get their children to attend tuition, although there are genuine cases when children need guidance after school. And, there are also those who take extra classes out of peer pressure, or they want to be better prepared for examinations.

Call it what we may, tuition is a burden on students. It’s like a parallel education system. The tuition culture has carved a niche for itself and in some states, like Johor, it’s a big thing. Furthermore, tuition centres also prefer former school teachers, ex-government servants or pensioners from the education department, former examiners, or textbook or revision book writers. Despite the increasing cost of tuition fees, parents seek private tutors and tuition centres to help their children. Perhaps, policymakers, educationists, and think tanks could find a way to not have students rely on tuition.

This is in the best interest of the nation.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Guide students to use ICT responsibly in classroom

It cannot be denied that electronic gadgets can improve the learning process of students as they can access information easily via these devices.

In the near future, students may have to put away their books and take out their electronic devices in classrooms. Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid recently has said that starting from next year, students in 10,000 schools will be allowed to bring certain mobile devices to class.

However, it was reported that mobile phones would not be allowed as students must concentrate on studying and not chatting with their friends.

Some people claim that phones are more distracting compared with devices that depend on WiFi or a local area network to connect to the Internet.

However, the latest technologies and applications are able to establish both voice and video communication through laptops or tablets.

I hope that the guidelines being drafted by the ministry will take into consideration this issue as the technology is evolving so fast that the guidelines might be obsolete few months after its introduction.

I urge the ministry to study this proposal and get feedback from tech experts when drafting the guidelines.

With information and communications technology, it will also be easier for students to understand what is being taught in the classroom.

However, we must have strict guidelines to ensure students do not misuse or abuse the technology by accessing unapproved sites. The ministry must also decide who will monitor the use of these gadgets in school.

As in previous cases, teachers will be forced to shoulder the responsibility although we know that they have to handle too many tasks at present.

At the same time, we must know who will supply the devices as not all students can afford to buy them.

If students are allowed to buy the electronic gadgets themselves, those from the well-to-do families will bring the latest and expensive devices, creating low self-esteem among poor students.

It can lead to theft and other disciplinary cases as some students may be tempted to steal the gadgets that they could not afford to buy.

The wide use of such gadgets could also expose students to cyberbullying as some students may exploit social media to harass and bully the victims.

Based on CyberSecurity Malaysia statistics, cyberbullying among students is serious — 250 cases were reported in 2012, 2013 (389), 2014 (291), 2015 (256) and last year (338).

A survey by Digi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd and Telenor Group last year revealed that one in four students admitted to having experienced cyberbullying.

Also, the astronomical cost will be an issue since there are five million students nationwide.

Therefore, the ministry should discuss with the National Union of the Teaching Profession, parent-teacher associations and other stakeholders to ensure that the guidelines cover all issues and must be updated in tandem with the ever-changing technology.

Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, Senior vice-chairman, Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation