Friday, January 1, 2021

SMJK Keat Hwa 2... Where Principals Put Up Their Photos A Year Before They Retire

There is a time-stamp on this photo and it is not a fake one. This photo hangs with other photos of principals who had served on the wall above the office entrance in SMJK Keat Hwa 2. More than a year before this head of school retired, she had already put her photo up. It was as if she was afraid that after she left, her photo might not be put up. Or she had been eyeing her spot from the time she came to power... or maybe this is just culture. Build your memorial/memory before you die.

Anyway, I've kept this picture in my phone to remind me that there are still wolves clothed in sheepskin.

My encounter with this fler occurred because I was 'kicked out of SMJK Keat Hwa 1 for insisting that actions be taken on a teacher who had been cursing students. That teacher had been using curses like "I curse you to die by jumping down from buildings" and many other 'super-expressive' phrases. As the result of pushing for actions on that teacher, both my colleague and I were unceremoniously 'kicked out... supposedly in a semblance of fairness. We had to be transferred out too with that teacher. Anyway, that's another story which I have ranted on.

So there I was, in 2019, bruised after believing that standing up against a teacher bully was the right thing to do. Turned out, I was wrong. And that's how we ended up in Keat Hwa 2. And in this school, it was reinforced that to be a bully especially when one claims to have a 'bapa angkat' is possible. One can conjure up many thoughts at the thought of an almost 60 year old woman claiming to have a 'bapa angkat'.

I knew this fler's husband before as we had worked together before. So, my friend and I were warmly welcomed and I set down to work. Little was I to know what awaited.... The impressive structure of the school was all just a facade... and this facade is a far worse one than KH 1. 

As the weeks wore on, it became clear that Keat Hwa 2 was not a very conducive place. If I had any inclination that Keat Hwa 1 was damaging enough with its communist cadre style of hair code, Keat Hwa 2 was worse. It had the same hair code but felt like a prison. I believe that a school should be a vibrant place for kids to discover themselves. But the restrictive environment of this school made it feel like a jail. In the coming months we would hear sounds of caning quite often. Being in an enclosed structure somehow amplified those whipping sounds. 

There were many stories from students about teachers abusing the students, verbal and physical ones. There was a teacher who would hurl verbal insults including 4-letter words in class. But nothing beat the canings, I think. Kids were caned for being late, and failing to memorise lines for choral speaking. The school believed it was the right way to go about disciplining the kids. But I think somewhere along, the line became blur and some were rather sadistic. 

My take... Chinese schools present this disciplined appearance. Increasingly, we are slowly losing it because we are just failing to engage the students. In a Chinese school, I guess we can go back into history and see the similarity of the legalistic nature of Shih Huang-di's reign. Legalism during his reign meant that betrayal and treachery of even family members against family members was a practice. Control is attained by stoking fear. Imagine a school operating even just some semblance of such a practice, and kids spending their formative years in such a place.. by the time they leave school, their formative years are spent mostly repressed. Academic results will be sterling but confidence in certain areas would be lacking. This is the culture of 'you do as I say, no questions asked.' 

That aside, both my friend and I set down to our work. I never missed a day of work nor a class in my 7 months there. I put in full effort for all my classes. Yet all those weren't enough. Two things became issues. 

The first issue was extra class. When asked to give extra classes in March, I said no as I felt that I did not need the extra time to finish the syllabus. My students were responding well in class. I felt it was too early to have any extra classes. (The facade of extra class requires another post to elaborate.) I told her that I would do it if I feel a need. Moreover, I had already set up a Google Classroom for my students. Any extra work could be dealt from there. It was only February when we had the conversation. 

The second issue was a RM1,000 donation for the school basketball court. The coupons had been thrusted on all the Chinese teachers. But the Malay teachers were exempted. But as I had not been approached, I just left the matter be. But apparently, RM1,000 (make that RM2,000, including my friend's) was not an amount that she was going to let go. Since she was the head and we worked under her, I guess she felt she had a say in our salary too. 

By May, I thought she would just leave us be.. but again, I was wrong. She must have been scheming and looking for reasons. And then one day, my friend was called in for a 'mentoring and coaching' session. You see, teachers are supposed to be afraid of such sessions. My friend too had not missed a class or day to school. To cut the long chase, my friend was told to settle the RM1,000 donation, despite having raised the fact that RM1,000 was a huge sum! A few days passed. I was not called. I thought that was the end. But as I have learned, this Chua fler would not leave it be. After all, if other teachers knew about us not paying, there would be mutiny! And so, I was called in. 

I recorded the meeting. The wonder of a recording is it offers hindsight. As I replayed it, it became clear that as soon as I got in, she was playing a psychological game to intimidate, Of course, after being kicked around so much, I couldn't really care for all these psycho play. Thing is, the hour long mentoring and coaching session didn't sound like one. In the end, it came to the same thing...the RM1,000 donation. And it was clear that I was not going to give. Such kinds of HMs resort to the 'stick' to get the teachers to toe her line. 

By end of May itself, I got word that she was bad-mouthing me in her Mesyuarat Pentadbir. Word got to me about my impending transfer and I began to edit my recording of conversation with her. Also, my friend and I started snooping around. What we unearthed was horrible. We discovered her phantom timetable. She had created a last period for herself in a class and nestled it in such a way that it would be easily missed if she cancelled the class. And cancelled they were, those classes. And no one said anything. It was just impossible that the timetable teacher did not know about it. 

A few months earlier, my friend had noticed discrepancy in the school procurement of sports equipment. We did some investigations of our own and found that badminton rackets bought the previous year had been bought at 2.5 times, from a supplier in Ipoh. There were other discrepancies, as well. My friend who was in charge of PE looked for new quotations. After finding a local supplier who could give the school the price we saw in Lazada, we asked for a quotation. She gave the quotation to the Chua fler. Now, quotations are supposed not to be divulged to other suppliers to ensure that the school gets the most competitive price. Also, government institutions are encouraged to source locally rather than out of state. The latter is only to take place if a local source is not possible. It is impossible that badminton rackets cannot be sourced from a city like Alor Setar.

Yet to our surprise, when the goods came, the price and even sequence of goods were same as the quotation that my friend had gotten from the local supplier. Instead of using the local supplier, it looked like Chua had given the quotation to her supplier from Ipoh, in a clear breach of procedures. Now such kinds of practice often imply impropriety. We met with a SPRM Officer and asked if this was the case. We were told yes and so we decided to lodge a report.

In the meantime, I had also lodged a police report about public canings held almost weekly in the assembly area. Students would be gathered and I discovered in one of the random videos that I recorded from the 4th floor one morning containing as many as 3 different canings taking place at one time. Imagine the spectacle that one gets in the Colosseum, during the Roman Empire. Well, it was happening in Keat Hwa 2. Such spectacles can only take place with explicit approval of the principal. 

After rounds of being kicked around for things like the above, I am actually past caring about many things. A cheating, mean and scheming head of a school was allowed to get away from all her doings. Recently I have been bumping into her in person and all those contempt for her has been coming back. If someone like her can bully with her position, I guess it is okay for anyone to do just about that too... 

I've served under a few remarkable heads, a few mediocre and a few terrible ones... but none is like this one. You see, the terrible ones usually know they are doing things which are not right and they don't walk the high moral ground or spew a 'holier-than-thou-attitude'. This one? She played the racial cards when it suited her, was terribly mean and also scheming. She can be sweet and sultry when she wanted to. And downright arrogant too. Sometimes one gets the feeling that she flirts her way around to get what she wanted as well too. 

SMJK Keat Hwa 2 is also a conforming school, a former SMJK, which means it is generally mono-racial. In my 7 months, I learned this. The best students claw their way to Keat Hwa 1. Those who are afraid to be bullied in national schools would try to find their way into Keat Hwa 2. Thus, there are many struggling students in schools like SMJK Keat Hwa 2. These kids stay 5 years in school and leave without being able to use the national language. Is it good? And you have principals like her who run the school like a penitentiary. Her favourite phrase...."Everything will collapse if she didn't do this or that." Well the school hasn't collapsed even after she is gone... 

For too long, Malaysia has been going on the thread of sentiment. Fear is what we monger and use to get people to toe the line. All the wrong values born by this action is now making its way to every institution. The Chinese schools seem to be able to get a lot of things done... more than the national type schools. It is because the Chinese schools are able to get the public to donate generously. Yet, when you have schools with such school boards loaded with cash, those cash can grow the devil's horns too. Schools these days are places with million ringgit projects. Look into the boards and you will find board members with construction companies, and they are the ones who end up with those projects. And it can be done under the guise of community good. 

Having schools along racial lines is bad. Kids no longer play together. Malays feel that Chinese kids don't understand them. But many of the ordinary Malays also don't understand that their leaders also want the vernacular schools to stay because it is a convenient tool for them too. The Chinese play the racial cards too... and so our leaders at every level divide to rule us all. For the kids? Many of these kids leave school without the ability to use the national language well enough.

HMs come and go in the life of a teacher.. but having gone through this particular one is like going through the devil's right hand woman... and this devil has the system as her advocate. SPRM kicked the report made back to JPN and it got buried there. The Police sent the case back to JPN too... it got buried too... It seems like the only way these days is to get things viralled. Going through proper channels is just no use.

So think for a moment? Who are we to kid that our schools can reach greatness? Cos we can't even get the basic moral values right. Principles of justice? Well, that's only if you are obedient or can close an eye. We have now come to the point where little Napoleans have learned this great truth... Chua qualifies as a Napolean. However I don't think Napolean pitted his generals like she pitted teachers against teachers to get what she wanted too.

I still keep all those audio and video recordings and documents too... but in a broken system perpetuated by such kinds of heads... they are no use. 

I can walk away from many things but lately I keep bumping into her. Been more than a year. Thought I'd let it go, but she keeps showing up in person like the nightmare that she is. There is no way I can wish her well or want her retirement to be peaceful. 

The consolation though... good thing there is a mandatory retirement age. That fler now has no more kingdom to spew her venom. And like everyone of us, she needs to grow old and die too. That is the best part... 

Seems like death is the only antidote to ensure that evil does not destroy humanity totally... 

Thursday, November 19, 2020


Education in doldrums... An already broken education system given a really hard whack by Covid-19. 

I used to read about pandemics, that a big one should be coming soon. For years, I would teach about the 1918 Spanish Flu. There were a few close scares along the way, SARS, Nipah Virus closer to home but I think most of us felt that the big one won't come. After all, we have all the science... we know all the science.

Yet, it did hit. And its name is Covid-19. Going to be a year since the virus was announced to the world.

In January this year, I read about the Wuhan virus. It had no name yet but I started teaching about it to my students. I hashed up my own materials, scour the net for stuff which I could use. I told my students that what was happening in Wuhan was going to blow up. I felt it will not pass us by and for a couple of weeks starting from end of January, many of my lessons evolved around the pandemic which was raging in Wuhan. 

The virus reached our shores shortly. However, at school everything was running as usual. The Principal never seemed to pay much heed to the dangers. As a matter of fact, just a day before the MCO students were still gathered in closed rooms for programmes. I tried saying that it wasn't in the kids' best interest. It was just brushed off. This same callous response to the ongoing pandemic would be seen repeatedly throughout the year. We just seem to think and feel that it will not affect us. 

11 months on, one Movement Control Order and 2 CMCOs down the road, with an end seemingly in sight because vaccines are on the way. However, it has been a year of disruptions in schools. Out of the usual 40 plus weeks of school that we usually have, the physical school has been off for more than half that time. Going online has laid open our incredible shortcomings. Billions of dollars spent and still reports say about 40% of students do not have proper gadgets/access for online education.

How can we be ready for online learning? I think it is an uphill struggle. The reason? Many of our heads belong to that era where chalk and talk seems to be the only rule of the day. Soon after the MCO ended and school resumed, I asked permission for students to be allowed to bring their mobiles so that I could continue to work on the online platform that I had been working on during the MCO. The answer was no. In fact, the whole school went back to doing things the old way. As the weeks wore on, more 'normal' programs were cooked up. 

Extra classes made their returns. Never mind that a pandemic was still raging. I have never seen such silliness. Extra hours when we are supposed to mitigate the exposure. I have seen also how labelling of such classes kept evolving to escape the SOPs. It is as if the school too was playing a cat and mouse game. When Extra Classes were not allowed, they changed the name to Bengkel. When that too was disallowed, they changed it further to Kelas Lanjutan PdP. Yet they were all the same.... in the face of a pandemic, even the ones who supposed to be leading were scheming and plotting. Makes me wonder what we are teaching kids cos I don't think the kids don't see it. 

The extra classes above have peculiar purposes. Students were made to stay back for an hour after school. All the kids did was this...  they were to complete the work their subject teachers mete out, in other words, homework. They were instructed to complete those work under the watchful eyes of teachers who were assigned to watch them like hawks. It was the most unproductive sessions I have seen and yet, they continued it. What made it rather irrational was amidst it all, there was a raging pandemic. I often wondered what good would all the seemingly extra cramming do when all the kids did was just to do their homework when the same could be achieved at home. Such is the state of the minds of those who head our schools these days.

So, a year on... I have learned a lot also during this pandemic. I made my first teaching video for the first time in my life. As much as I hated to hear my own voice and see myself in a screen, I did it. I picked up more editing know-hows in the process too. Played a bit with emojis and bitmojis. Turns out the learning curve isn't so steep this round. However, with age catching on and up, sitting too long in one position can be kind of a torture these days too. 

I have also learned that online teaching is actually like a truth serum. Lessons on WhatsApp, WeChat, Telegram, Google Classroom.. the list is very long. And when the reports start rolling in, it seems like they are working fine. Yet around me, from the kids I know, online lessons feel like a sham at times. There are some really good 'reviews' but those are far and few... 

It is going to be one year of disruptions and it looks like it might spill over to 2021. But this seems to hold true... for a good online teaching/learning session, you need a really good teacher. But these days, they define good teachers as ones who 'borrow' videos from the net and send them as the lesson for the day for their students... Whatever happened to teaching....

2020... they year teachers repost videos (not theirs)... great isn't it?

that teach for them.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

See A Wrong... Keep Quiet

From KH1 I went to KH2 and I saw there in 7 months probably sounds unbelievable. There is a teacher who is known to use profanities in class. I shared a PE class with him and it looked like he did not return the exam papers to his students. Further conversations with students imply that he has been like this for many years. Yet the school does nothing about his ways.

Kids from the less privileged backgrounds with parents who don't know any better. I think I am seeing for myself how they are 'bullied' too. Unable to make these kids see the importance of learning, many teachers just plod in the way they know. It is common to see teachers teaching but students behaving as if there is no teacher in the class. When punishment is meted up, it is often harsh. The cane is used because the school doesn't know what else to do to keep the kids silent. The cane is used because the kids refused to do their homework. The method salvaged some but generally we are losing more than we salvage. Public caning used to be a norm but I heard it hasn't been happening since I left. It is a bit peculiar how my leaving would stop such a practice.

If my first encounter with the teacher bully filled me with surprise, I no longer am surprised at the existence of such teachers. In the past 7 months, I have heard stories from students how the teachers have slapped them on their faces or used the rubber bands to flick their ears. I have also heard from students how teachers show their power at the slightest bit of excuse. One kid even told me that his teacher crumpled his folio because the papers weren't stapled. How do you expect kids to love learning with such kind of behaviour.

You get reasons that these kids are repeat offenders. Teachers tell you they can't change. These kids are labelled hopeless and incorrigible. And I wonder if it's us who have lost our way or the kids.

Everyone is looking for quick solutions without looking at themselves or how they have also contributed to the problem. You have Principals who keep coming up with programmes because the grades are falling. You have PKs who chase the teachers to discipline, manage, run projects or programmes. You have GKs who breathe down the teachers' necks for reports and more reports. And finally the poor teachers who have to receive all these brick brats from the top people.

I was reading some messages on the School Social Media App. These days, they use WhatsApp, Telegram to run the school. A teacher reports on the app that students are missing from class. The response from the PK HEM can be something like this. "Go record it in the school system." If you check again later, nothing is done. Gone seems to the days when PKs go running round the school to look for these kids who have played truant. These days digitalisation simply means that. Record it into the system and it will appear as a statistic. And so, the state of the discipline continue to slide. Everyone is pushing the responsibility to everyone. It feels to me like the education system will implode.

I had a conversation with a friend. He said that schools should appreciate and keep teachers who still want to truly teach. I replied Principals don't want that. They want obedient teachers. Obedient teachers that form the pack and move as a pack, values be damned.

So is education really about education these days? Or education never was really education. Perhaps too, the real education never did lie within the institutions. Perhaps real education lies outside the grasp of the institutions. Real education would grow the mind and will. Institutions are set by parameters, not just the physical but it dictates too what you are to learn and master.

Public schools are in a dismal state. It's tiring just to try to do the right thing. Perhaps too, just sit back, do as everyone. That's what most are doing. The rot has set in too deep... and to restore it would take more than just political will. A whole generation is now being lost... and it's always the poor who lose more.

All those sweet sounding words.. all the noble talks about making a change in the lives of the kids... they are just words amidst a decaying and crumbling system. Sad.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

And The Student Called the Teacher Ah Gua

So, people are taking sides ... teacher vs student, public vs mother. The kid won’t get too much sympathy for sure. After all, she started it...

Somebody posted out the poor girl’s results. In the midst of all these, obviously many forget that she’s still 13. One tends to do lots of crazy stuff at that age. Emotionally they are also trying to make sense of themselves... 

Then the teacher who lost it. I cannot understand why so many condone caning. The marks on the kid were telling. It was caning done out of control. And he is the adult. If teachers cannot hold their temper or emotions in check, then students’ lives will be in danger.

The SOP on caning is clear. No caning for the girls. Say what we want but the guidelines are clear. And it’s there for a reason. 

Yet, caning... so many seems to swear by it. Nostalgia.

But imagine this...
A school where the cane reigns supreme. You are late. You get caned. You talk to your friends during the school reading time... caned again. You skip your ‘extra class’ ... yup, caned again. 

Then the hair issues in some Chinese conforming schools... 2 weeks after you have cut your hair. You are told it is now too long... lagi kena rotan. Then have your hair cut in full view of everyone who passes by... cane and more caning. The sound of whipping is the one common sound.... over hair which does not break the limits set by the MOE guidelines. 

Should we try this instead? Engaging students, making them understand, moving on with times, staying relevant... would an engaged student be calling a teacher Ah Gua?

Yet, you get bored kids. Those grades.. which have been displayed to shame this kid. You get lots of those these days. Some say it is the good life that’s causing them to lose focus. I think it’s more than that. Most don’t see relevance of what is taught in the class with their lives.

I see kids being lined up and whipped in public, right in plain sight of everyone. Girls being caned too.. now is everyone okay with their kids being dished that in school regularly. 

We desensitise the kids. We normalise caning as a solution to disciplinary problems. It is not. Caning, quick solution for quick adherence.

A walk down my own memory lane. Primary school. I was in Std 2. I always had perfect score for my spelling... cos one mistake ... and the cane awaited. Well, I am human... so like the fallible human... one day, after almost half a year, I made a mistake. The trepidation when lining up to be caned. 😂

Guess what? After that day, I didn’t really care much about being caned any more. It didn’t matter to me any more because my childish mind discovered that I could numb myself to the pain and humiliation. 

Oh! I continued to get perfect scores still for my spelling. But the occasions when I did not, I didn’t think the caning made a difference to ensuring that I hit the perfect score all the time.

Yah.. there might be bad parenting here. But that’s a mother being instinctive. Her language showed her not to be very polished. But put anyone of us in a situation like this... I think most of us would be tongue tied. The school office can also be a very intimidating place... 

There was excessive show of force in the Ah Gua teacher case. 
There was misbehaviour most definitely. 
And you also have a mother who got really, really defensive. 

And yes. The mother viralled it. Good idea? Don’t think so. But years from now, this video might serve as the starting point of a greater awareness for stakeholders involved.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

How A School Can Fail To Deliver?

I met an ex-student recently at an event. Taught him in Form 4 last year. I would still be teaching him this year had I not been transferred out from the school over the teacher bullying case. It’s been more than half a year since I saw him. And he has grown taller... and better looking too.
So I called him over, as I sat on the floor and he squatting, we had a conversation about him. Now, this was a boy I regularly reprimanded for skipping classes due to a co-curricular activity. Today I found out that he was one of those given a place in SMJK Keat Hwa 1 for his ability to contribute to the school for that particular co-curricular activity. You see, there were many such kids accepted into the school to boost up the co-curricular achievements... basketball and band mainly. To bring up the school name in various aspects, diversity is required. Other schools have other sports with this same scheme, football, hockey... the chase

These activities actually good for the students. After all, co-curricular activities school a child in the soft skills. It gives opportunity for leadership training and so on. It teaches them sportsmanship, They catch many other skills from playing with other kids. And these skills will be useful when they begin to interact with the world.

However, things do not look so nice once you know what goes on to keep those honours coming in. Lots of training hours are required.

In my former school, KH1, kids basically have no time for co-curricular activities unless you structure it and make it achievement based. Then the kids get wowed and their parents too. Another problem is practice time. To win a world band title is no easy feat. Many hundred hours of practice are required. To enable a brass band to move with the precision required to win a world title would mean a lot of resources as well as man hours. Resources are easy enough to source. The Board and PTA will pay a trainer to do the coaching coach. That is the easy part.

The training part is not so easy. Where do you find time for kids who have tuition packed throughout the week? Enter some creative arrangements. Permission slips are give out to members to practice during school hours. And this is where we begin to see how the delivery system fails our kids.

You give a kid an opportunity to skip classes and bets are all on that they will stay out of class for as long as possible. After all, who would want to sit in the class and listen to boring lessons which many feel they will be able to get in their private tuitions? As long as the tuition centres out there are on the right track, things would be fine. But one can always expect that as mainstream system deteriorates, the same would be seen in the private tuition systems too.

I specifically remember 2 of my students. That was the year when they had a major competition. Both kids were in Form 5. That year both of them were missing from my classes for 3 to 4 months. Each time I ‘chased’ them to attend classes, it was always band practice. And the school allowed it. They are given the permission slip by the PK Kokurikulum, sanctioned by the school. If memory serves me right, one of them failed his history. We teachers, have no say when the kids wave their permission slips.

Now, I wonder how many unsuspecting parents are there who do not realise that their kids skipped classes for all these extra practices. Many students will tell you too that they go to school not to learn. They have tuitions outside to settle that. School is for them socialise, get involved in activities. But many forget too that there are kids who can catch on quickly and kids who need more time to cope with their lessons. And for those who cannot cope, the results can be disastrous.

As the deterioration becomes apparent, I think we have come to a stage where we are seeing kids who  are having real issues of learning. The academically weaker kid from a vernacular school often has dismal language mastery. Because of that, going MIA from classes is bad for them. For those kids who were brought in so that they can play basketball for the school or be in the band, those activities become the cause for the further deterioration in their studies. And the school knowingly allow it. And parents seem to not know any better.

These kids would do much better had they gone to national schools because they would at least leave school being able to use Bahasa Melayu. Being in a Chinese school, they bring glory for the school but they lose so much themselves because they lose themselves in the system.

As for the school brass band, I don’t know how the unsuspecting parents cannot see that they will hardly see any of the school teachers’ children joining the band. That fact should have sent some alarm bells to them.

The constant practices that eat into lesson time is wrong to begin with. Also, outside coaches who are not teachers push their agendas without really understanding their charges’ problems because they also need to show results to be able to continue to ply their trade. For them what matters are the medals, the wins. These are some of the problems brought in by a system that pays its way for everything. In a way, it reduces the teacher’s load but at the same time, it brings in other problems. As for a band member who has been part of the team which may have won a world title.... what use is that achievement if he leaves the school without his SPM certificate or without the required language skills?

It feels like the school has made used of these kids without really seeing into their welfare.

As for our conversation, the teenager had this to say. He knows his basketball prowess isn’t going to bring him any further. I asked him if he passed any of his subjects. He said, how to pass. He has been sleeping in class most of the time and he didn’t even study at all. I told him not to give up yet... with our SPM full of surprises, there is still hope yet.

So, how relevant are our schools really? As schools try to make a name for themselves, it looks like many kids become casualties too... this is one facet of our education which we rarely talk about. Yet I have seen it happening but most will not acknowledge.

I don’t believe that kids cannot learn anything. All kids (unless they have some disabilities) should be able to learn the basic skills set by the curriculum. When they fail to learn those basic skills it can only mean that we have failed to make students see the relevance, either through carelessness or downright apathy.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Basketball and Hari Raya... and what the Minister of Education Says

This message was published in the papers recently. Apparently after some laments (these days teachers are but mere stooges and kuli who must obey the principals) the Minister of Education released some press statements that school breaks should be kept as school breaks. But it is often hard not to have any activities during the break at school... 

This mid year break also coincides with the Hari Raya Puasa. So, one can imagine how many people are looking forward to it. For the Muslim teachers, it’s a break from the grind at school. For the students, it’s holidays. I think many kids find holidays boring, unless their parents take them on a trip. But, the economy is not doing well. Many families are making do with less expensive or no mid year holidays. 

Then the message came above as school heads continue to ‘force’ teachers to hold Program Peningkatan. Actually the Program Peningkatan is extra class. But because extra classes cannot be forced upon the teachers, school heads have cleverly rebranded extra classes as Program Peningkatan. And teachers are pressured to give extra classes. It has come to the point where some teachers have cannot go for their holidays, which of course these heads will point to the regulations that they have a right to call the teachers back for a certain number of days during the break. So, it becomes a norm to see kids in full uniform, at 1.00 noon during school breaks. 

Which of course highlights this basketball tournament. Organised by the Conforming Chinese Schools, they decided to have it during this break too because apparently (again) there is no other suitable date. The point is, the organisers figured that since this involves only the Chinese schools, therefore it is okay to have it during the fasting month, even though it is held so near to the Hari Raya... which is still fine, except that the Muslim teachers who are getting ready for their Hari Raya had to go on duty too. It is a Conforming Chineses Schools competition but Malays teachers had to be involved too, with Raya just a few days away, because the Principal of the organizing school said so. This is where, it crosses into being inconsiderate. 
So apparently, now the Ministry advises schools to cancel activities during the break so that everyone can get a break. Question now... why allow an event such as this to be carried out under its auspices, so near the Hari Raya.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019


What is 4000 minutes to a teacher? Been thinking about it for the past few months.

Schools are supposed to inculcate a love for reading in their students. So they craft all sorts of programmes to instil that love for reading. From NILAM to Reading Corner to Morning Reading Session, they hope to get students to want to read. After all, we know those kids won't be doing much lifelong learning or self-directed learning if they don't like reading.

NIILAM has been going on for years. Schools try to cajole, coerce, force and even threaten kids to get NILAM going, though I think NILAM has gone into cold-storage for the time being. However, I think NILAM has not succeeded in most schools simply because there wasn't much concerted effort put into it. Teachers have too many other things on their hands.

Reading Corner, on the other hand, collects dust after the initial brouhaha dies. It sits in the corners of classrooms, school compound, collecting dust... and eventually cobwebs, the reading materials aged by the unforgiving weather.

Enter Morning Reading Programme. In my school they force everyone to gather at the assembly area. Kids can't go to the classroom. So they are forced to sit there till reading starts at 7.20 a.m. If you walk into a school for the first time and see this programme, you'd be forgiven for being impressed. I mean, how not to. That is until you actually see it in action for a couple of weeks, when you, as a teacher are forced to sit there with the kids. After a few weeks, you will begin to notice that kids actually don't read. They just sit and stare at whatever printed stuff they are holding, under the watchful eyes of the prefects and discipline teachers...

As a teacher, I find it a chore after a few weeks. I mean, before I even get to sit down and work on my lesson, it's time to go down. And I am one who often arrives at school before 7.00 a.m. It is frustrating. These days, I make it a point to sit at the coffee shop before I go to school since the canteen food is rather unpalatable. Why torture myself some more?

When asked why the teachers have to sit there, I was told we need to read with the students, be a reading role model. Lol! After a couple of months, I find myself resenting having to sit there. I find myself telling myself, why even bother to prepare the lessons when the school doesn't see the need for teachers to settle down or prepare their lessons. Lol! Lesson prep is not important. Sitting there and wasting time is... for a show.

And, I asked a few classes what they thought of the Morning Reading Programme. One student even said she felt like an idiot sitting there. Even the younger ones said they do not like sitting there. Who can blame them. In the beginning I thought it was a good idea. But after a few months, I can see that I was wrong to think so. A school is also a place where kids play. These kids' lives are regimented from the time they step into school. So how fun is it to sit there? If I were one of the kids, I'd hate it. Lol!

And it got me thinking about the time it forces the teachers to waste. 10 minutes of sitting there waiting for the kids to finish reading. I am already in no mood to read because my mind will be on the lessons for the day. I get cheesed off because I would probably want to work on my computer or print some worksheets for my students. My printer is up there printing and I'd be thinking, did I leave enough paper in it? Would the paper jam ... that's a real worry cos I used recycled papers whenever possible. Life is a constant hurry, a harried rush down and then up again... so much energy wasted. 20 minutes a day.

A schooling year is an average of 200 days. The school wastes 4000 minutes for me without me having to do it myself. But I am not the only teacher. If there are 60 teachers, that is a whopping 240,000 minutes! And 20 minutes is an understatement. Very often it runs to 30 minutes, when there is a spot-check for hair length (that is another topic to ramble on), for example. So much time wasted. So much goodwill burnt. So much forcing down the throat the need to read... so I guess the students must have a very high level literacy ability. But sadly, it is not so.

So yeah.. READING IS HOW WE INSTALL 'SOFTWARES' INTO OUR HEADS.. but when done for show, those heads in the assembly area will still be empty even after 200 days of 10 minutes-a-morning enforced reading.

Want to see how to kill the love for reading??? I think one can safely make an assumption that such a Morning Reading Session will kill it... many, many times over. Want to really get kids to love reading.. inspire the teachers to do so. We'd achieved more this way.

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