Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
A lil gal and her mom are out at the mall. Suddenly the lil one spots a pretty young lady giving out free balloons. She wants one and tells her mom. Mom tells her to approach the pretty girl and ask for one. Lil one gets sudden attack of shyness... She tells her mom, "You go-lah"....
You go-lah.... Why the you go-lah? Sometimes it's because you have no confidence. Sometimes it's because you are lazy.... or it could be you are afraid of rejection... or worse still you don't want to be responsible for your actions or words. So we push our friends and spouses to the front. We tell them, you go-lah, You tell-lah.... We push others in front, not because we want to give the best spot to the person but because we don't want to bear the brunt of come what may.... we don't want confrontation.
Or 'You go-lah' means this... you want to give the best to the other person. So you want him/her to be the first ... and so you say, 'You go-lah'... so that you get it first. But I wonder too whether this type of 'You go-lah' is often uttered.... Or you are denying yourself so that the other person gets it.... Self-denial at work.....
Anyway, to be able to ask someone to go or say on our behalf is also a privilege... there is still someone to hold the fort for us, take the flak for us....
Ramblings.... From a mind depraved of oxygen from too much chow-ing, with holiday still on...
Saturday, August 27, 2011
This one was arranged to coincide with the Raya celebrations. It's good to have a break. One reason why I like teaching is the scheduled breaks all throughout the year. Just as I get to beh tahan point, a break would come along. Even though it may be as short as just one week, it does wonders. Kinda like a cooling down period.
One week would past by quite quickly, I am sure. The 'hols' (Raya break) began with a nice dinner and good conversation; it was almost midnight when we got home. We have one more SIP which we are planning to do... I find having some vegetables growing in the garden very convenient.
Also the beginning of this hols marks Steve Jobs' letting go the helm at Apple. Kinda sad to see this development. I switched over to Mac about 3 years ago when I got the MacBook. Back then, we always referred to Windows as the dark side... the PCs were inferior to the Mac but dominated. Then the iPod, iPod Touch, iMac and iPad followed suit. I never imagined that the Mac would one day dominate the market, or that it would be the computer of choice for many. A Mac retail outlet (Switch) is opening in USM.... that is sign enough that the Mac has arrived.
What made Apple one of the most valuable companies in the world is Jobs, his ability to surround himself with the best people, encourage them on, etc, etc.... One could learn quite a lot from the success of Apple. It was not built on the work of one man, but of how that one man, got others to work not for him only but with him. We could learn a few lessons about that from him...
Or late, I notice how the same people seem to be taking charge of the same thing... there is this indispensability thingy. New ideas are not very welcomed. Changes are feared. And somehow, many seem to be trying to cling to those tasks or responsibilities which they feel make them relevant... or at least that's how it appears to me. Or maybe the hanging in is to pass to their kids. But like Jobs, we are mortal... we could either cling to those things and leave an empty shell when we leave or be like him who wanted to leave something meaningful and not be the richest man in the cemetery. A legacy worth leaving, making a difference in lives.... not clinging on for ourselves only...
On another note, I cleared my long beans patch with Other Half. Many years ago, we used bricks to demarcate the patch but after the last flood, in my haste to clear my drain of the sand and soil, I piled them onto that patch. And so the bricks got buried even deeper. So today, with a crowbar and a lot of brute strength, Other Half pried them out from the patch. They were already heavily entwined by the roots. We had especially bought a crowbar from ACE a couple of weeks ago for this purpose. He put up the pipes for the vines to creep after we were done with the clearing. I loosened the soil for new rounds of planting... I've put in the bush and French beans. I hope they'll sprout. Nothing else seems to grow well in the patch, except beans so far.
The hols is just starting... many people are on the move. We'll be staying put. Son is sitting for his big exam this year. I'm planning to sit with my girl who needs remedial work... Chinese school is hard on banana kids like mine. Sometimes I wonder why can't my kids take to Chinese school with minimal struggles... perhaps too this is a lesson and reminder for us as parents too.
And one more thing, coffee dependence. I've been rather caught up with the loads of stuff that I have to do the last couple of months; at home and work. And somehow, I didn't realize that I had been become dependent again on coffee to get through the day. I usually don't take coffee during hols and the effects showed. I had a splitting headache the first day. Today is the second day and the head is still aching. To be perked up with the help of chemicals... I guess it's good that this break came along. There is time to clean my system of excessive caffeine. 8)
The rainy spell is back... at the back of our minds, some of us are worried about floods. I find myself checking the river levels, weather forecast, the tides..... but again, this is something we're quite helpless to stop. However, I think it still pays to be prepared for the worst..... 8) Typhoon Irene is the news now. I've a friend who sits in her path, though out of the danger zone, supposedly. From what I hear, people just sit, prepare and try to brace through it...
Happy hols... Selamat Hari Raya! And this hols I started playing Fragger on my iPad too... It's kinda fun to be throwing grenades and blowing up all those aliens, bad guys, etc, etc... stress busting, in a way too. LOL!!!
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
As positive and upbeat that I try to be with the latest MOE NKRA effort via the online Sistem Analisis Peperiksaan Sekolah or SAPS, I have this to say. SAPS literally saps our time. Marks which used to take me around 5-10 minutes to key per class into our internal exam analysis software now can easily take double the time. Many of my colleagues take even longer than that, especially those who are more wary of computers. As a result a lot of time is wasted...
After a few times on it, I have this to say. First, this software was badly written. Poor interface. And it does not run very well on Safari too. Who did the MOE pay to write it? The computer programmers must really lack skill and imagination. Imagine having to log out after keying in marks for each class? 5 classes meant logging in and out 5 times! Peak hour usage means system jamming up. The servers do not seem to have the ability to handle the capacity. I wonder what will happen if 100,000 teachers try to key in data simultaneously. The system will probably crash I think. So you get teachers working the graveyard shift, keying in those darn marks! LOL! The Ministry implemented this without taking into consideration that we do not have enough computers too in the school for such a task. If all of us were to use school computers, the wait would probably be long.
And keying in the Headcount... ETR, TOV... a bunch of numbers which actually still don't mean much. A kid can still blow his exam away despite awesome ETR and TOV. And what is there to stop a teacher from just randomly keying in a figure? Who is going to check? The numbers look nice but their addition to the system is not really a necessity. What they seem to do is to give this business model feel to education... have the corporate feel? Kah! Kah! Kah! I cannot help but feel that we are more concerned about outward appearances more than anything else.
For years, I have been keying in data, marks and grades into another online system for the SPM, one that works only with IE. The IOS from Apple has been taking the world by storm, yet our people up there still don't see it fit that sites that run on IE be modified to accommodate this new development. It's not like Apple overtaking the PC is a new phenomena. Moreover, we have IPads coming into the picture too. Imagine the convenience and ease that tablet computing can contribute to enhancing data analysis and management. Tablet computing will probably be changing the way education operates in the near future.
While over the years, there have been improvements but I wonder too why the NKRA planners didn't expand and upgrade on existing systems. The PMR has another system running too... and probably the UPSR too. We shout out all these nice sounding programs but fail to integrate the existing systems into one cohesive system. Wouldn't it be more practical to have a system that follows a student throughout his schooling career. What happens now is, at every 'level' a new system is used. What kind of NKRA is that? Makes one wonder whether we have visionaries up there or just reactionists steering the ship? Cos reactionists react. They don't really plan well ahead too.
So sapped, many teachers seem to be by this latest SAP system. LOL! With so many developing headaches after this latest round of prolonged clerical job, what kind of NKRAs are they expecting for the teaching part? I suspect, as in and like many of the things around me, this one is also more for show that something is being done now... Never mind that the programme seems rather cacat.....
Ah! Good thing the break is just around the corner. NKRA... Is our education system indeed getting better? I know one of our local universities finally broke into the the 500 of the Shanghai Ranking. But how do our graduates actually measure up against their counterparts from other parts of the world? The general perception seems to be that they aren't measuring up too well.... there are some who feel that our grads are only comparable to those from the Philippines. Our schooling system seems have a more sophisticated feel but I am not too sure where real ground is.
Am I sapped by this latest NKRA addition? Not really but I think It wastes our time because the planners failed to do their homework.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Monday, August 22, 2011
I like Japanese food. We were in SP visiting family members and decided to drop by Village Mall near TESCO for a quick bite. We decided to give this a try cos there didn't seem to be any other outlets that we've not tried. We haven't been to Village Mall for a long time.
Edo Ichi is like Sakae Sushi and Sushi King. I guess most Japanese restaurants are similar. So, there is also a sushi bar. There was still a small crowd in the restaurant when the waitress showed us to our table.
Our lil one immediately snag the moshi-moshi cos she knew that Other Half enjoys this. I am the only one in the family who is not particularly crazy about it. 8) She likes establishments like this cos she is able to pick her own food from the food conveyor belt herself.
I tried their Gyu Kimchi Udon and found it quite nice; it wasn't too sour or spicy. Gyu is beef. So this is beef udon. Udon is supposed to be fat noodles where as ramen is the thinner version. The beef was tender but one can't go very wrong with beef sliced thin actually. The vegetables in the udon were just right too. But for RM20, I think it's rather pricy.
Other half decided to order their Gindara Teriyaki Set. He didn't like the overly strong 'fish smell'. Actually it's just the Gindara (cod) smell. At RM38 it's expensive if I were to compare it to what I can get at Kaede, Alor Setar's own local Japanese restaurant. The cawan mushi that came with the set wasn't that great.
The sushi is charged based on plate colour with the cheapest being the white plate at RM1.80. Our lil one was looking out for one but none showed up. The most expensive is the yellow plate, at RM7.80 and there were plenty of reds and yellow... the more expensive plates. I like this one with boiled egg t the bottom and baked with cheese. The rest of the stuff is almost the same like any boleh tahan Japanese restaurants.
One more thing. I always wondered why Sungai Petani seems to have more choices where food is concerned. Alor Setar, despite being the capital of the state still feels like a kampung. We don't even have a Starbucks! Our choices of restaurants are limited to Pizza Hut (which seems to be deteriorating where cleanliness is concerned), MacDonald's and KFC (which i'd have reservations going after that video of their kitchen helpers' behavior). Not that I am complaining but I get the impression that international franchise seems to think that the Alor Setar market lacks that sort of dining sophistication. One more thing, as Other Half was buying our fix of coffee, he noticed some kids with 1Malaysia Netbooks sitting in Starbucks, surfing away. LOL! Can you believe it that these kids who come from families with income less than RM3000 sipping coffee and surfing at Starbucks?
Anyway, the visit was good. We got to meet up with cousins not seen in a while, with all the little kids in tow.u
Sunday, August 21, 2011
These are the recent apps which I found rather useful...Pleco, HEDictEc, Dropbox, Discover and PDF Reader Lite. All apps are free but for Pleco the add-ons can cost up to USD$149 in total.
This was claimed as a must have app for teachers. This is Discover by Cooliris. It's an encyclopedia with daily updates from Wikipedia. You get to download their daily encyclopedia of 2 articles, displayed in a book format; very short reading. The update for the day goes into your iPad each time you open the app. There are pictures which go with the articles, so compliment the articles and help make them more interesting. And yup, teachers should have this app so that they read more.
Another app is Pleco. This is a Chinese-English dictionary, very much like Besta. I replace my Besta a year ago at the cost of RM1.3 K. Pleco with all its add-ons is still way cheaper. Of course Pleco does not have the BM dictionary. The app is free but there are add-ons which you can purchase. And I bought their audio add-on so that it reads for me. It's USD$15.99. There is nothing like one touch to have the phrases read to you. I like it better than Besta cos the English meaning is given at the same time too. Lately I realize that my girl has problem understanding her Science which is in Mandarin. We need to sit down with her... but we have problem with the language used.
One more thing, you can also type in the romanized hanyu pinyin of a certain phrase; which means that it you are listening to Mandarin words, you can juste type in the hanyu pinyin and the meaning comes out... But a little knowledge of mandarin goes a long way in helping you understand better cos you still have to identify the words. You can also type in the English word for its Mandarin counterpart as well. This is helpful when I want to explain certain concepts to my gal in Mandarin and I'm at a lost of the Mandarin words.
I also use this app HEDictEC FREE to help me with my English-Chinese translation. Life is tough for parents like us who are not very Chinese literate with kids in Chinese school. It's a constant struggle cos all the subjects are in Chinese. And because our kids think first and foremost in English, grasping the lesson content becomes a struggle too.
This is Other Half's ingenuity. One more app to aid the 'banana' like me who has a little Chinese education. Many of us use PDF Reader. ... He OCR what he scans from the workbooks and then uses Google to translate them. All the yellow annotations on the screen are the translations. Touch on the annotation and a window pops out with the meaning of the Mandarin phrase. Other Half does the scanning and translation. And now when we sit down with her, the iPad is with us as our digital translator.
Then we share the files at Dropbox. This is where Other Half drops the exercises he has annotated to be shared with me. We're just starting to use this... after getting our girl's marks and seeing the need to make sure she doesn't fall too far behind. The problem is the language for when the questions are in English, it's way easier for her. Having the computer around when we teach her also helps.
And this.... a little entertainment while one works. Asia Radio. The radio can be playing on the background while you work or read on the iPad.
The beauty of it is you can set the radio station and put them below as little icons. There are so many radio stations to choose from. I recently took a liking to some Japanese stations; not that I understand what they say but their songs seem nice.
These are some of the latest apps which have come to our rescue in teaching our gal.
Saturday, August 20, 2011
I mentioned a couple of posts ago that the gardening bug has bitten me again. Only this time, we're into planting our own greens. We're just beginning to see the fruits of our labour... mind you, this is only on very small scale. As you can see from the leaves, the insects are also having a go.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Read here about the government's latest stand on the use of English in Math and Science. I thought they had decided. I thought the text books have been printed... in BM. I thought teachers have been sent for 'reorientation' (yet again!). I thought they are removing the Critical Allowance for the Math and Science teachers. There have been much mentioned in meetings, media.
And now, the DPM says they have a committee still looking into it. What is there to look? Or study? In BM or English, the dismal performance in many schools is not due to the lack of English only. It has also to do with the mind set and attitude. It might be a good idea to just take random sampling of the ability in the basic skills before pointing at English being the reason for it. But the policy should be uniform. I cannot understand why MARA colleges are still allowed to teach Math and Science in English. Duh! Privileged and still get to learn in English. English is for those privileged ones? I think that is grossly unfair. If it is to be BM, then let everyone learn in BM.
The position of BM is already secured. It's been over 50 years. At 50, one is supposed to be self assured. Also, a compulsory pass in SPM means that no one can overlook it. Why keep this siege mentality? No one wants to threaten the position of the national language. But we have to be practical. English is important. Period. Just as in knowing Mandarin is an advantage now. Master it or be left behind. It's all economics. What is there to martabatkan if we, as a nation are weak? It seems more like an attempt to keep the 'under-siege' mentality alive, and so BM needs defending.
Improving English... it's an uphill task and the slope is extremely steep. They are calling in experts from the Fulbright Program. I can imagine the amount of hair they're going to pull if they're sent to schools like mine! LOL! English is almost dead because there is no reason for them to pass it. Okay, label me a lousy teacher but I am at wits end, trying to figure out a way to teach English for upper secondary students. You see, when I get students coming in at 16, and they having spent the last 9 years learning English, I think it's only fair for me to expect that these kids can construct sentences. Well, guess what... their vocabulary is so limited that I have to keep downgrading. I am currently using Year 3, (Singapore syllabus) comprehension passages for my Form 4s and guess what? Majority still cannot comprehend. So, I continued going lower.... I've almost hit the floor. Cos yesterday, I had students asking me for meaning of words such as 'seldom, often'. After 9 years of learning English..... It's almost laughable. I find myself more like Primary School teacher very often.
And there is the exam which they must sit.... I am so used to getting blank sheets whenever answer sheets are returned. And yet, year after year, I get 50-60% of passes in SPM. The results seem to heading up most of the time though it doesn't take a genius to see that proficiency is getting worse. And dig this... I met a former student the other day. She said she was doing a TESL course! She can't even hold a conversation properly in English. Such is the quality of English teachers who will be entering the education system... and the Ministry is saying that they are looking into the matter, trying to find a solution. The solution is clear, I would think. Get the right people! Competent ones would be a good start! I went through modules prepared by the so called experts appointed by the Department to help us improve our English. Guess what! Those experts formulated questions which were totally wrong, and with many grammatical errors.
So PPSMI (Math &Science in English).... Either our policy makers are really dumb not to see the reasons for the decline in our English (and also our thinking skills) or they're really smart to make sure that we remain dumb. Or perhaps, we prefer to pull wool over our own eyes that teaching Math and Science in English would threaten the position of our national language. But either way, who would care about what language we use when we languish economically. The politicians still laugh all the way to their banks......
We used to have a good education system. These days, many of our top SPM scorers head across the Causeway filled with confidence that they will do well.... only to leave 2 years later (after their A-levels) with tails between their legs. Even our 10A(s) fare poorly. Not too long ago, our SPM top scorers generally fared well there... these days it's a different ball game altogether. The China Chinese and the India Indians are hungry for success.... They are now a few classes above many of our students, generally. So, the world passes us by, while we mull over something like whether to teach 2 subjects in English... Bah humbug!
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
I think of all the relationships... the relationship between a mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law is the stickiest. Generally a man has 2 women in his life... straight relationship, I mean. But then also, in a gay relationship there is a dominant partner too (pseudo woman, perhaps???). The world is getting a little crazy these days what with a gay pastor getting 'married'. Where did he find in the Bible that God condones such a relationship?
Anyway, the marriage of the son brings in the second woman in his life. MIL and DIL relationships have always been a brunt for jokes. The acronym M-I-L has also come to stand for Monster-In-Law. In days of old, when the son marries, the wife becomes part of his household... Many MILs impose their will on their new DIL because in the Chinese culture, a woman marries into the family of her husband. If we keep to this old system of thinking, I think the wife's family gets a raw deal out of this arrangement these days cos they spent small fortunes too educating their daughters. But new financial independence and education has also changed the mechanics of this.
Early on in the marriage, the DIL is in need of the MIL's approval and friendship. But if the MIL fails to 'capitalize' on that, and continues to feel that the DIL must follow her way, then in the later years when the need is reversed, then the MIL stands to lose out. We all grow old. With the failing of our bodies with age, it helps a lot when there is genuine affection shared. But sadly, many MIL fail to see that.... partly because they love their son too much that they think no woman can measure up.
MIL tends to measure up 'the new woman' in her son's life with her standards, and usually those standards are high. The MIL will usually feel that the DIL falls short in executing her wifely duties in taking care of her son. No woman is good enough for her son. Can't blame that sort of thinking. But I think we forget that mothering ends once a kid grows up. The MIL should cut some slack actually, cos being young, the DIL is on a learning curve. But the MIL expects the DIL to be on a steep learning curve, which creates undue stress and strains. Many young couple's relationship suffers as a result not forgetting, mother-son's too.
In the mean time, the poor son gets torn.... between his 'old' and new love. It's a Catch-22 situation. Taking sides puts him in the line of fire either way. So, men being men.... they shut it out, deal with it only when necessary; which is easier cos the 2 women love him equally. And so whatever that troubles continue to simmer, with everything taking a subtle form.... till it explodes.
I think things have improved a lot today. Education, lesser children, a generation of mothers who worked while raising their kids, financial independence, better living standards and so on contribute to it. But the old ways are still there. It's hard to be rid of what has been passed down for generations.... and not all that has been passed down are bad. There is a need for MIL to let go of their sons. But there is also an equal need for the DIL to let the MIL feel that her son will always be her son. Her task is to make sure that her husband treats his mother the way she treats hers. Men tend to fail in seeing to their mother's emotional affirmation from them. Instead of drawing her son away, as what usually happens in the battle of 2 women for 1 man, she should also give the MIL the assurance that it will not happen.
Being newly minted, there's always an urge to stamp one's ownership (and this works both ways) on her husband. It is not necessary where the MIL is concerned. Cos the man she marries won't even be there if not for his mother. The DIL owes her MIL that. MIL on the other hand should not feel threaten by the presence of this new woman; one that she wants her son to have but at the same time torn by that sense of 'loss'. And of course, the son has a role to play too! One which many sons fail to see!
So the tale of the Monster-In-Law, there's more than what meets the eye. Cos the monster that we see, if we do see it, usually is a culmination of acts from many parties.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
A freeloader is someone who exploits any chance to get free stuff. I think all of us have been guilty of being a freeloader. There's just this built-in 'greed' that kicks into action automatically for something free.
Free!! I think many of us relish the sight and thought of freebies... Sometimes we turn into compulsive buyers just because there is something free that comes with it. The marketeers got it right. Hence, lots of stuff come with free stuff to entice us int buying them. And we buy, even though those freebies are of no use to us. It appeals to our greed.
But there are certain people who freeload on purpose! And I'm sure most of us would have come across a few. In a group, it often takes a while to identify a freeloader but becomes quite easy to spot after a while. The freeloader is often the one who will make convenient toilet visits when it's time to pay or use the oldest trick in the book... lupa bawa dompet.
Why do we freeload? Cos it's free! Cos it means we spend less of our money. Or it could just be we're lazy. Freeloading does not necessarily mean that they get a free treat off you. Sometimes it can just be showing up at your door at certain times.... usually meal time. They get invited to makan sama-sama. They want company, but they don't want to be doing the hard work of preparing the food, or digging a hole in their pocket.
Or it could be a penyakit. Psychiatrists, psychologists, they label so many behavioral problems as a disorder these days.
Freeloaders... I think all of us have this in us... Just that whether we allow it to rear it's head. Freeloaders... I've had my share of experience with them. But I wonder sometimes too whether we should just half close our eyes to some of those who make their way into our lives... maybe they deserve a little more compassion. I don't know but right now, I think it's better to steer clear of such people.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
...and it's mid month. I should be saying time flies and it does but I seem to be saying the same thing often. So, for as long as I have my hands full, that's how time will feel.... it flies. I might sing a different tune some day. SPM Trial begins today but this year we're having a really short one, 2 weeks instead of the usual 1 month. Before this, I always felt that the trials were way too long but this year, I don't know whether it's because it's the fasting month or those responsible feel that 2 weeks would suffice. Anyway, they also prepared less papers. Many of the electives have returned to being school based exams.
The rains have started. The weather seems to have turned cooler but I hope there wouldn't be intense storms and floods. They've started digging bigger drains at my housing area. There are works going on to deepen the river, increase the embankment, so I heard. End of the year brings end of the year worries.... and I think flood is something that lurks at the back of many of our minds.
I went to Penang after quite a while. Went to Tao Cuisine for lunch... Felt it wasn't quite worth the money.
They had baked oysters in cheese, and their popular scallops too but somehow, the luster's gone. Food didn't seem to taste that great.
But I had my first sashimi at the behest of Son. And I learned one thing too. Buffets make one stuff in more food than needed, to the point of discomfort. I don't know whether that's worth it. When we were younger, buffets seemed like a huge treat. These days, I am not certain. I think food is nicer when taken in quantities that makes us appreciate them. In 'generous' amounts....it's beginning to feel like committing harakiri. Too much of the good stuff also kills.
We attended Chinese church service as a family for a change. I found that the sermon was rather interesting, better than the English service. It's been decades away from the Chinese church for me. I started going to church by going for the Mandarin service. My first Scriptures were in Mandarin. It's time my kids get used to Mandarin services. Anyway, their Mandarin should be far better than ours.
Cooler weather... Other Half and I have been toying with our own versions of SIPs but of the things about vegetable gardening is we've to learn to be really patient.... My mustard greens have been taking a pounding from the heavy rain. I've planted another box of salad. Hopefully they grow well this time.
August is midway. I have not gone to any Ramadan Bazaar. I miss some of the food like beef with air asam but am too lazy to jostle in the crowd. Plus these days too, I tend to be 'fussier' with food hygiene. But fasting month also means that there are sometimes goodies shared by colleagues. Today too, we had kanji kambing (mutton porridge). It was not too bad, a new experience for me, to eat that. But it was a little too plain... some spring onions or herbs that go well with mutton would enhanced its flavors, I think. Still, it was nice. Maybe I'll go hunt for some lemang near Raya. Used to love it with this kuah kacang made by a friend's late mother.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
School is boring.... to many kids. But I think that doesn't mean that there is no fun at all, either. I think the fun is in getting together with friends, the socializing that takes place, the opportunity to just be around people. But where lessons a concerned, I think our pedagogical approaches are archaic. The demands are beyond many kids that they are not able to cope.
School used to be fun for me. There were co-curricular activities which I enjoyed tremendously, like the band, badminton, athletics and some of the society competitions. Then, of course there was the MYF, which kept us occupied, challenged us, basically making sure we stayed on the path. So, the confines of the four walls of a classroom were quite bearable. Then again, maybe I was lucky. I had a good school with great teachers!
Recently one of my classes was shifted into another room which was also a resource room. I walked in and the first thing I noticed was bird droppings everywhere! And the students had already cleaned it up somewhat! Then as I proceeded to teach, a few birds perched themselves at the ventilation windows and chirped away. They were so noisy, so I took a broom and banged on the windows. Yup! They flew away, but only momentarily. They came back, even noisier. I gave up trying to out-voice them. The class was hot. It's uncomfortable. By 10.00 a.m., what more with the fasting month, the boys were off to Zzzzland. Somehow, it's always the boys who give in. Is that why they grow up into men with less self discipline that women have to be garbed extra so that they avoid sinning? Global temperature has gone up. Generally, the surrounding is hotter these days cos we keep chopping down be trees. And uniform materials are not exactly the most comfortable for this tropical weather.
Academic subjects... there are just too many of them. At 16, it's important that we realize we either have to channel them to fields that interest them or they'll just drift away. If things hold no meaning or purpose, it's hard to jut plod on for these marginal minds. For many, that's what happens cos they cannot cope. You cannot expect kids who cannot do something even mediocrely well to be interested at all in lessons!
Classroom size is still big. I'm considered more fortunate. My average per class is 30. There are some schools (especially Chinese schools) which need to grapple with 40+ students per class! But with three quarter of more not able to make sense of lessons, it feels like a hopeless cause. So, if a kid cannot cope, how can you expect him to be interested? I have 2 Fourth Formers who did not sit for their PMR. They missed school for months when they were in Form 3! They came back to school for their own reasons. But being too long away... they're just too far gone. Vocational training might have been a viable alternative. But some smart alec of a Minister of Education took that out long time ago... so these kids continue to exist in the school system, unable to cope.
These days many schools offer one vocational subject as an elective. But with discipline and willpower cracking everywhere, even that one vocational subject does not help much, what with the attitude sinking into an abyss of their own making.
Too much emphasis on religion at school. I notice many seem to think that religion is a cure all for behavioral ailments. So we organize one ceramah after another, hold session after session of prayers, invite speakers to give religious talks, hold religious activities, pray before every lesson... use religion to chide them for misbehaviors.... the list goes on. Well, guess what? The kids aren't getting any better. If what I see is to be a yardstick, morality seems to be on the decline. Unwanted pregnancies, blatant show of semi nudity via mobiles and social networks, drugs, smoking, disciplinary problems... having a religion labelled to a race or name does not make one good. Good attitude are inculcated, not preached only. There are no short cuts or quick ways. Good attitude is also caught by watching.... and these days, good role models are rare species too.
I had a father coming to see me one day. He was wrought with worries about his son and bewildered too cos he had just taken his son to perform the umrah in Mecca, hoping that his boy would change and turn over a new leaf. Now this is a boy who has the brains to study but he has been failing. He couldn't understand why his son was not touched by 'his experience with God' in the Holy Land. I've learned it from raising my own kids. Faith and convictions do not come by attendance or presence. It comes by watching those around us practicing it. We have leaders who are reportedly buying 24 million ring or living lavishly. Take the church raid for example. What we are teaching the youngsters is it's okay to be a big bully, just as long as you think you are right. In our saner moments, I'm sure everyone of us knows how unreliable we can be because we go into an emo state too. Emo people are highly unstable and make poor judgements. People given the authority; we're not getting many good role models from there too.
Or a teacher who is always missing in action during her classes. Or one who doesn't bat an eye lid when ethics be damned. What kind of role models do they make? Teachers who purportedly 'give' out questions to the students to practice before tests. Yet we find more of these dubious characters in schools today. School has become a place where the subtle lessons seem to be how to lead a double life. Kids will cheat. Man will cheat. It's trying to stay straight or walk that narrower path that needs effort.
Sadly too, many religious teachers seem to exhibit actions which are deemed unacceptable; like sleeping in the staffroom or worse still, classrooms. And what if an agama teacher also 'leaks' out test questions to students for trial runs? What values are we passing on? Teachers conduct businesses at school. Over the years, I've overhead snide remarks about the Staff Room being a pasar malam. Faith by watching... tell me, aren't we teaching hypocrisy?
Textbooks are boring! We use the same textbooks for umpteen years. It's time we go digital. Instead of the 1Malaysia Netbook which is a waste of taxpayers' money, we should be developing digital textbooks, equipping schools with tools such as iPads or one of those Android based tablets. Instead we waste our resources because some politicians need to dole out goodies to score points. The 1Malaysia Netbook was rampantly abused. Teachers' children who are not supposed to get them (because they would not have qualified if family income is more than 3K) got them. The people entrusted to distribute abuse that trust too. And they are teachers! Else how did the teachers' children end up getting the computers? It's hard to find graduate teachers earning less than 3K, especially if their kids are already secondary school going. The students are neither blind nor stupid. They learn their lessons by watching those around them. School is where the crisis is now... a crisis which ripple effects are felt socially too.
So while we read news making big hoo-hahs over things that are haram or halal, we have so many haram actions and deeds going on. Makes you wonder if at all those hoos and hahs are only made when the intention is to create a 'you' verses 'we' mentality or perhaps related to the almighty RM or we're just plain lazy to work hard...... cos the right state of mind will tell us that right or wrong. Most of the time, they're pretty clear.
More technologically advance, more sophisticated, better lifestyle, more wealth, better facilities.... yet we seem to be regressing. Or maybe I'm just one of those flers who like to lament about the good old days.
Monday, August 8, 2011
The world wide web turns 20. AIDS turn 30. Life moves on... or stops. Depends on which part of the timeline you're standing. It's been 20 years since the launch of the 'internet'. I've watched it evolve, been part of it. I remember when we first came to Alor Setar (that was in the mid 90s) the Internet was a novelty. We went to sign up and I think there were three or four names before ours. I think we were among the earliest people to subscribe to the Internet, up north here. And those days, logging onto the www was quite a complicated matter. You had to install the Trumpet Winsock which provided the TCP/IP functionality to connect to the Net, to set up the dial up, ping to troubleshoot... In those days, Windows had no networking ability. You actually listen to your modem dial the 1511 number accompanied by the hissing sounds. LOL! That was the era before Google. You had to know exactly where you wanted to go. The web was just that... a great big web where you can go lost very easily. We had to remember all the URLs and type it down. Else the Internet was just like a maze of library rows, which made looking for info like looking for a needle in the haystack. It's all hazy in my mind now. These days, you don't have to do much. Everything is just a clicks or touches away on the keyboard or mouse. Most of us don't even understand how it actually works... We google everything! See why the Google guys are great? They made the www navigable.
Other Half even taught our computer vendor how to set up the connection as he didn't know how to do it. That guy went to set up many customers' connections after that as he was one of the few computer vendors who could do it. LOL! And this year, the Internet touches the 20 year mark. For my son's generation, they take it for granted. Just as my generation took the radio for granted. Can't say the same for the TV cos the idiot box entered many of our lives when we were about 7 or 8. I still can remember the first little TV that we had and the colour TV when I was 12. I remember cos it was either the TV or piano. We kids, opted for the TV! Dad couldn't afford both.
AIDS was such a feared disease, still is. 30 years down the road (since it's discovery in America) and there have been so many claims that we're near finding a cure. AIDS has been around a while, some say dating dating back to the late 1800s. AIDS kills.... and so do many other diseases too. But because it's also sexually transmitted, it makes it even more dangerous. Add that to a really long incubation period and our inability to curb promiscuity, whole populations can be infected. The danger is in sex. In diseases like Ebola, we do what it takes to curb it.
Monogamy will probably play a huge role in curbing AIDS, but then again we like to hail this era as an era of sexual liberties, etc, etc. So AIDS will continue to be dangerous.... and in Malaysia, sex education is not really taught in schools yet. Maybe we think that our religiosity is shield enough. But I think we're dead wrong. Just go into our schools today and you will find that morality is on the decline; a rather steep decline too, if I may add. Kids are getting sexually active younger. Some are having multiple partners by upper secondary. So unless they come up with a really quick cure for aids, monogamy is still probably the best way of curbing it. But passion and desire are hard to reign in.
So, in this august month, we are reminded of 2 milestones in historical timeline. One has transformed our lives like the Industrial Revolution did to people of that era, another reminds us our mortality and inability to control an epidemic, cos, well, it's hard to keep control where people are concerned.
Sunday, August 7, 2011
I thought we've been in a crisis state for the last, can't remember for how long. But all I feel (and know) is our schools have been on the slide and the students coming out of our system do not seem to be any superior than before; if at all the word superior is suitable to be used as a comparison.
Education is crisis...it's falling into shambles, despite better facilities. Facilities do not necessarily translate into better products, I've realized. The quality of instruction matters a lot too. And at present, the level of competency can be questioned. Too much of a good thing also contributes to the crisis.
Recently, I've taken an interest in being vegetable sufficient. And to that end, I've been reading up all I can about urban farming. Tried the drip system... I thought it was the all solution. Water drips into the soil; and the plant can have all the water it needs. Then I read about the SIPs or sub irrigation planter system... I tried to incorporate both. I had two pots of mustard greens growing, one got slightly overwatered because I close the water outlet. But the other grew fine even though the pot was slightly small. I composted some stuff right at the bottom before planting and supplemented with organic fertilizers. In my overwatered box, some of my spring onions didn't spring cos the onions rotted in the over wet soil condition. My bean plants sprouted but didn't seem to grow. The success rate was very low. Many beans just rotted away. Too much good things overwhelms, even causes rot to set.
I am still experimenting with different ways to find the best method for each type of vegetables. I've discovered that the beans grow well in my vegetable patch outside my house. I hope they will bear beans in another month or so. My mint grows really well in the little strip of soil near my pagar. So these days, I make sure I compost some of my vegetable peelings there too so that the worms get plenty of sustenance. I'm constantly trying to look for a better solution.
We're still trying to make use of our pond water for tomatoes. The seedlings have sprouted but we've found out that our container might be a tardy too small. Anyway, we'll let it grow to its max and see whether it bears fruits.
Our education system is like vegetable cultivation. Different vegetables, different conditions, though the differences is sometimes rather subtle. One thing for sure, if we overwater, or over fertilize or over do anything, they don't grow well or die. That's what happening to our education system. We over do a lot of stuff. We over pamper the students, we overload the teachers with paperwork, we overstaff the teaching fraternity with too many mediocre, bordering not so competent people and we become over prihatin with the students. And the result is the crisis we're in. Also, we over mollycoddle our students. JPA scholarships, sub standard matriculation programs, laughable polytechnics... as a result, we can never hope to compare our polytechnics with those of our neighbor down south in the same breath. Ours feel more like a vocational school.
We had a good set of schools in the form of the former mission schools. But over the years, some powers that are saw to it that they never see their former glorious heydays again. Many policies are carried out with a racial bias. So, we move into a crisis state. And we keep lamenting without really wanting to admit to the root of the problem. Vegetables need a fair distribution of everything to grow well. You can add in stuff to enhance their growth but you should never over do them cos the minute you start doing that, their growth will be stunted or they might just go kaput. And that's exactly what's happening to our education system. Add that to a lousy 'farmer' who does not want to adapt and change or keep the way that works the best, the crisis becomes worse.
Education is crisis.... we're actually in quite a sorry state. Our Maths competency is just one bar to Low Proficiency, it seems. I find it easy to believe cos I am in the system and I see unbelievably dumbed down kids every day. The politicians have seen to it that most of us remain ignorant by shouting 'wolf' to the perceived threat that extra language skills bring to us. So where once we were way above the Chinese in English, today mainland Chinese speak English with such ruthless fluency that one might be forgiven to think that they are talking to a native speaker in English if one does not look at the face of the speaker. And so we continue to squabble or try to create squabbles while the rest of the world who used to be behind us forge ahead.
Education in crisis.... dumb and dumber... We pride ourselves in providing free education till 17. Statistic shows almost 1 in 4 fails to complete secondary school. And the remaining non academically inclined kids who stay on? They come out no better... no skills to show. And many come out with even worse attitudes.... from the years of lazing in the classes.
Thursday, August 4, 2011
I read with amusement the hoo-haa regarding this issue recently. I think the stint is good for kids with major disciplinary problems, as harsh as prison might be. The exposure will be a deterrent for quite a number of them, I am sure.
I can imagine what kind of characters those kids must have been at school too. Most likely they are the hardcore rule breakers... Of what kind? Playing truant, rude and obnoxious, rebel rousers, smoking, fighting, extorting money and favors. I think our school system cuts too much leeway for the kids these days and many of them are making full use of it. Teachers' hands are basically tied. And many Students' Affairs Assistants are not cut out for the tough job of policing the students. I've come to a conclusion that some kids can't be reasoned with. Only harsh measures work with them but these days we don't mete those measures any more. In the spirit of me keprihatinan, we try to reason with with them. And it gets us not far....
What does it mean to expel a student today? They get transferred to another school. The problem is not solved. They become some other school's problem. The safety net is cast too far and wide. One lesson I learned from parenting my kid is that if there isn't enough fear in a kid, chances are he'll push you till he gets what he wants and it'll be an unrelenting push. And so the kids keep pushing... with them, if a boundary is not placed, they'll keep pushing.
I know there will be some who will insist that we should try to convince these kids, blah, blah, blah.... all those psycho analysis approaches. It does not work all the time. For one, if a kid is allowed to slide too deep till he cannot make sense of his lessons, there is no way he's going to turn into a model student just by listening to some advice. And that is what I get a lot these days. The kids are way too far gone to even catch up. At Upper Secondary level, we are asking for the impossible for these kids. And so we continue to lower the passing grades so that appearances of advancement can be maintained. In reality, kids today are a lot dumber.
The school system is too academic oriented. There is too much emphasis on the academic stream. These kids don't fit in. It's crazy to expect them to take 6-8 academic subjects. Memorizing, regurgitating, writing.... by the time they get to Form 2, many of their minds are deadened to instruction. And deteriorating discipline means teachers are spending more than 70% of their attention on disciplining rather than teaching. And most of the time, the remaining energy is quite sapped too by the discouragement of what seems to be sheer stupidity on the students' parts. So who is dumber? The policy makers who came up with this system thinking that one shoe fits all? Or us teachers who seem to have failed in producing good students?
And so they 'complete' their 11 years of mandatory schooling, 'graduating' none the better. Where do you think many of them end up? Mat Rempits, Mat Minahs, snatch thieves.... before turning hardcore. Basically, many find their way into a life of crime. Studies have shown that. They have no skills despite the 11 years. They are conditioned to while their time away, running away from classes. They have no respect for the authority, having snubbed the school authority during their schooling years. They think they can perform a one-up against the system, having done it at school all the time.... tell me, isn't this a prime condition for the turning of a mind into a criminal one? 5 years in secondary school is long enough for a kid to be set hard in the concrete of attitude.
So while, a motivation camp at a prison may sound rather harsh, I think many teachers will agree with SUHAKAM that it is a good move. Shock and awe them while they can still be shocked for if we leave them be, they'll end up there anyway, after inflicting harm on some innocent and unsuspecting life. So, for crying out loud.... we should clamor for more of such programs for the hardcore recalcitrant ones at school. It might actually be doing the society good in the longer run.
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
I guess it's safe to say that man is nomadic. We've always been on the move. I think it's hard to find a family who can say that they've been in one place for 10 generations. Hence, all these apartheid-like sentiments (even in Malaysia) make not much sense. And anyway, life is the ultimate journey too. There is a starting point and also the end. Despite what cryogenic science (or hoax) is trying to do to induce modern mummification, life still ends.
Today I was thinking about the Silk Road. The Silk Road is not actually not made up of just one road but multiple pathways (land and sea) that lead from Chang-an to the Mediterranean Sea. And at other points in history, even the maritime routes that go around the Cape of Good Hope are considered part of the road. Like any journeys, you get a wealth of experience just traversing the routes. Life is like going onto The Silk Road. The starting and end points are rather clear but there are multiple pathways that you can use, depending on what you want and how you are lead.
As you travel along The Silk Road, sometimes you tend to 'pick up' other travelers. Sometimes travelers band together out of necessity; for safety to keep bands of bandits away. They help each other survive the journey. At other times, a few stragglers or two would join a bigger group. Eventually some of these stragglers stay and contribute to the well-being of the group. Then there are also those who join a bigger group so that they can leech on them. Once they are done 'using' them and get to their destination, they move on. That's how it's like in our lives today too... those people who wander in (and also out) of our lives.
Like The Silk Road travelers who see new sights and learn new things as they journey; as Marco Polo did on his journeys to China; we too learn from the sights and lessons from our interaction with the people who go in (and out) from our lives. Some leave a bitter sweet tastes, some leave sweet bitter tastes, yet there are those who leave only a sweet taste and also others who leave only a bitter residue. Lessons from the journey.
How we react to these elements in our journey.... we could reject them outright as many of the traveling groups did too, when they felt that their survival might be jeopardize by the presence of the new additions or including new members might mean stretching their resources and it's just too much hassle. Or we could provide them the protection as did too by other traveling bands. Also we could just include them in and hope assimilation takes place in the journey together, we get used to each other, even enjoy each other..
The Silk Road, even though it no longer serves the purpose it used to, there are still a great many lessons we can draw from it, not just the historical facts. The Silk Road, though often seen from the point of the journey traversed physically is also a journey of other sorts... Ah! Ramblings on a morning after a night of conversation with a friend. And perhaps someday, I'll make the actual journey there myself too... to the adventure beckoned by The Silk Road and soak in all the footprints of those who were there before me.