Before You Can Reach for Space…


Read these first:-

exploration_discovery

(Space exploration – this is where the future lies and we need to look beyond, move beyond our comfort zone. Image source: discovermagazine.com)

Well, let’s read this interesting piece of development when it comes to the direction of the nation:-

Malaysia now has a National Space Policy to allow the country to look into developing technologies related to aerospace and turn it into a new economic contributor.

With the policy in place, authorities can plan to develop this sector systematically and ensure it is well managed so that the nation will benefit from it.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said that fields related to space science, be it research or creating new technologies, have vast potential and he was confident that Malaysia could become a significant contributor to the world in these areas.

The Prime Minister said he was happy to read about the success story of astrophysics PhD student Nurul Adlyka Ainul Annuar, whose discovery in the field of astronomy made headlines around the world.

(Source)

Malaysia does not have an organisation as big as or as well-run as or as well financed as NASA when it comes to the space and related studies. But we do have these organisations that ensured Malaysians do not missed out on the space race:-

ANGKASA – It is our own National Space Agency and their mission is to develop the country’s potential in the space sector to support the development of the new economy, generate knowledge and strengthen the national security infrastructure.

National Planetarium – It have shows about astronomy and the night sky and also handles training in celestial navigation.

National Science Centre – out of it’s many missions under it’s arm is provide interactive science exhibits and simplify the implementation of science and technology. In essence, helping to create a scientific society.

The above of course excludes the various Ministries and other lesser agencies related to the area of education, space, science and technology. Well, in conclusion, at least we do have something – which is better than nothing. And it is good that the Government is also looking into that general direction with the introduction of a National Space Policy.

The NSC, which was set up last year, was based on the rationale that the Science, Technology and Innovations (STI) agenda could be monitored and coordinated under one council only to avoid duplication.

The Minister of Science, Technology and Innovations (MOSTI), Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau said the formulation of the National Space Policy enabled the planning and development of the national space sector to be implemented in a more proper manner for efficient management.

He said the policy formed the basis for the formulation of the Outer Space Act aimed at supervising activities and operations relating to the space sector such as the launching and operation of satellites, registration of objects launched into outer space, the operation of an Earth station and related activities.

(Source)

Frankly speaking, it is a giant step for the nation, it is the right step indeed – we need the drive towards science and space explorations. We need more people who will be able to look beyond. That’s great indeed. However, this is the Bolehland that we are talking about and in the Bolehland, we have this ugly side of religion that seems to spook people from thinking aloud and even come up with silliest stunt. I mean if we cannot kill the monster on silly things, how we even going to look into the vast area called space.

Prime Minister Najib Razak expressed his displeasure with the conduct of enforcement officers during the recent operation against traders selling the paintbrushes, saying they should have not been too hasty, The Star reported.

“I understand the issue with the paintbrushes with pig bristles but we cannot simply confiscate and compound the traders.

“We are living in a multiracial society, we have to respect other races in this country,” he said during a Chinese New Year gathering at SJK Chung Hua yesterday.

Earlier this week, the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry confiscated paintbrushes suspected to be made from pig bristles and slapped traders with compounds.

Najib disagreed with the conduct of enforcement officers and said the ministry should have advised traders to label the paintbrushes accordingly.

(Source)

And it did not take long before other silly questions started to crop up – namely on the blood and organ donation of non Muslims and for Muslims. The comments on the social media on the above was less forgiving though – especially when one hand, paint brushes using pig bristles was eagerly confiscated and made headlines but on the other hand, blood & organs of people who probably had pork for breakfast, lunch and dinner their whole life was somehow acceptable. Personally, I agree that blood donation and organ allocation should not be based on race, religion, background, social standing and others.

And there is the picky issue of Science and Mathematics not taught in English. We are still doing flip flops on what language we want to drive this nation on excelling on these 2 key subjects that plays a big role when it comes to the science and space exploration. Mind you that the example that Najib used in his speech, the PHD student, Nurul Adlyka Ainul Annuar was a not a student in local university. She is in fact currently pursuing her PhD in Astrophysics at the Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy at Durham University in the United Kingdom where I trust the language of Science is not in Bahasa. And she was not alone in making the discovery – she was part of a team that made the discovery.

The point is that before you look up and look beyond into the space, you need to look down and see whether we have a more opened and matured society that is keen to work with others and doesn’t simply dismisses an argument or a theory without the notion of religion and race. We need more enpowered people who will be able to spur the nation to greater heights, to space and beyond.

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All About Good Parenting Part 2


Read Part 1 here

For the past few days, if you had not noticed, the weather had not been that good – the day had been rather hazy and the nights has been warm and very sweaty. Can you imagine – I was sweating profusely eventhough I was pouring buckets of cold water onto myself. It was that bad. And as if that was not enough, I caught cold and started to cough and it got worse day by day.

One day I woke up, feeling like someone was sitting on my chest and I could not breathe properly. The chest felt heavy and I did not have a good appetite in the morning as well. I went to see the doctor and after registration, I was waiting for the nurse to call me in to see the doctor.

I was coughing almost nonstop and it did not take long for the doctor to come out and told me that sounded very bad. I was put on nebuliser for 30 minutes and despite taking a “crash course” tablets in the doctor’s room – I did not see my improvement. I was given the day off on medical leave and it took me another 2 days for the “burden” on the chest to subside to some extent. And 1 week thereafter I still have not recovered from the bad cough but it is improving, so I think so.

Bike

Anyway take a good look at the picture above and tell me what is grossly wrong with this picture – I got this from one of the Facebook shares much earlier but my thoughts even back then was that why this person endangering young kids and further riding around without any helmet for the kids.

And as if my worst fear becomes a reality, I was sending my kid to school one morning – it was about 6.20 in the morning and the traffic was already bad. As I inches on the fast lane, I noticed on the slow lane, a motorcyclist with a school girl at the back and the school girl was not wearing any helmet. Just then another bike overtook them and caused this motorcyclist with the school girl to fall down. For a moment, my heart stopped when I saw the school girl fell on the tarmac.

Not sure if she had hit her head on the hard, cold tarmac but she immediately stood up. Thank God for the heavy traffic in the morning – there was no speeding car that would have hit both the mother and the daughter into smithereens. It almost ended up as a very tragic morning.

The first obligation for any parents would be the utmost safety of their children. Having kids riding motorcycles without any helmets is a bad, riding around without proper attention to the surrounding traffic attracts the same. And now with the heat wave in place, there are greater calls to parents to keep a close eye on the kids in the car. There have been too many cases of parents leaving their kids in the car and completely forgetting about them. There is just too many unnecessary deaths to contend with.

The second obligation would be education for their children.

In the beginning, it can start with education on the aspects of safety – simple things like wearing a seat  belt when in a car, the right way to cross the road, how to hold hands when walking in a crowd, how to hold something sharp like a scissors, how not to run around in the house, how to hold something that is hot, etc. Kids must always be taught to recognise potential danger and how to deal with that dangerous situation.

Be paranoid if you need to be and think of all the possible ways of your kids can get injured and do something to mitigate them.

One of the earliest form of safety education was for them to wear a seat belt whenever we are in the car and they know that we are not go anywhere until everyone had been buckled down. God knows how many times I got a shock seeing kids jumping in the car as the driver is speeding over 100 km/h. I wish I could shout and alert the driver but it seemed to be a futile effort.

The other aspect of education that all parents need to ensure is teaching the right things – what is right & wrong in general sense. The issue of morality and what is right & wrong is something personal and is a very subjective. That one I would leave it to the individual parents but it is an education that must take place in the end.

Personally I must admit that no one out there that is perfect and we all have some form of shortcomings one way or another. Education to my kids takes a mix form – from leading by example, “case study”, motivation & counseling and reflection of the mistakes & errors done in the past and what can be done to avoid the same in the future. And trust me, we adults have plenty to learn from innocent children as well and this strengthen our bonding. We learn from each other as we see things from different spectrum – experience vs innocence.

Academic education is essential for one’s future, no doubt but how & where one gets his / her academic education will be something that one need to decide when the time is right. Ambitions, opportunities and interests changes all the time – I know – I once wanted to be a fire-fighter but ended up something else.

Give a thought – after all, nothing is more important than the well-being of our kids

Snippets – 15 May 2015


myvi

(It is indeed a tragic when an infant dies due to another road user who cared less of the safety of others but other than feeling sad & saying our condolences, what we are doing to ensure another person does not dies in the same manner? Image source: the Net)

Couple days ago, we celebrated Mother’s Day in a big way, thanks to my cousin who organised it. We grouped all the “Moms” to a corner and had the oldest – my grandmother (my mom’s mom) to cut the cake. It was memorable to see the grand lady leading the pack of moms in the celebration.

And whilst the ladies had their own activities, the guys had their own – drinking cold ice beer whilst catching up on the latest news on work, economy, politics, travel and on other times we had been drinking. It was something that I missed in recent times especially when everyone been so busy with their own family and work. I lost count of the cans of beer that I had but it was one of the few nights that I really had a good night sleep. And I did not have any hang-overs in the morning as well. I felt very fresh and was all ready to go to work.

And I think everyone deserves a good night sleep with the confidence that the country is in safe hands. Unfortunately it is not. The truth is the country is in a big bloody mess and we have a Prime Minister who is not only clueless but also thinks that a few show of support from his usual ball carriers means the whole country is squarely behind him. There was a big hoo-haa when Tabung Haji bought over the 1MDB’s land for a value that is much higher than what 1MDB paid for. But that is still fine, property price over time and with improvements made on the land, the price may have appreciated. But that is not why people got pissed off in the first place.

The real reason why people got pissed off was the fact that the people who was involved denied it at first until the evidences started to appear on the internet. Have they forgotten, these days, information flies faster than speed of sound and all information is available at one’s finger tips.

Anyway, as I had said, the country is in a big bloody mess and politicians are still trying to hide the crap under the carpet. And one is going to indulge the many reporting on 1MDB recently, it is going to be a never ending story. And despite the reporting and promises to “get to the bottom” of it, no one been caught and brought in for questioning. Even the fat guy is less worried and is on a shopping spree (hopefully with his own personal money)

One just hope that my fellow Malaysian will still remember this when it comes to the next general election. No matter what kind of “I help you, you help me” promise of better roads, sacks of rice, new schools, donations, new bridge or new houses pledged, it should be the last time that we want to allow something similar to happen again. It will take probably years to clean up the current mess.

Let come back on something that worth a good read and in a way inspirational – thanks this post:-

At the primary school level, up to UPSR, the Tamil schools are scoring the highest grades for science and mathematics. They are even beating the Chinese schools. They have left the sekolah kebangsaan behind. (Sekolah agama, sekolah pondok semua tak payah sebut lah ok.)

And now the Tamil schools are getting into the top league in the UPSR exams. As an example, for 2014 the SRJK (Tamil) Taman Tun Aminah in Johor Bharu produced the best UPSR results in Malaysia. 43 students scored straight 7-A’s and another 43 students scored 7-B’s. Another Tamil school in Johor the SRJKT Masai has also been hitting the big leagues in the UPSR.

(Source)

Whilst I admire and respect the good people behind ASTI (they are doing the right things at the right rime), the fact is there is still an imbalance of how we educate our kids as whole.

Tamil schools despite their shortcomings in terms of logistics and space is doing well due to their teachers and school administrators. And I am sure every types of schools have their own elite accomplishments and directions. For that, I salute them. It is not easy to achieve those things when your hands are tied. But in the end, it does not and will never represent unity. We are still segregating kids by the race, language and perhaps how much money their parents have in their pockets.

Of course, politicians and national policies plays a big role here. But they can only do so much. The other one third need to come from the schools & teachers themselves (as how the Tamil schools have been doing remarkably) whilst the remaining one third is from the parents. Failed to do your duties in any one of them and you will end up with a kid that weak in the command of the language (the one and only English) and subjects that matters most in the new millennium- Science and Mathematics.

No idiot is going to allow you to fly to Mars based on your qualifications in religion (we already having weird revelations in that area). We need more rationale and scientific thinkers in our society.

Then we had the tragic incident of the 2 MYVI drivers who have been “allegedly” racing and ended up causing an accident that killed an infant and her two parents. Whilst the MYVI driver have been hauled up for investigations and will probably be charged for causing death from reckless and dangerous driving which may see the driver jailed between two and 10 years, and be fined between RM5,000 and RM20,000 if found guilty, here’s the sickening part of the whole affair – there is no effective way of booking the drivers who speed on the road.

Still remember AES? Still remember the bunch of morons from the opposition who made so much noise that the Government decided to hold back the wider implementation of AES? The end result of this – death of an infant.

And if the Government promises a better enforcement (as they usually do whenever they have dead bodies on the road), save the trouble – it is not going to happen. They have been saying the same thing on the express buses and motorcyclists without helmet & license but nothing have changed so drastically.

We need to cut to the chase and implement measures that will see a stricter enforcement of the traffic laws and stick on the implementation even if there are unreasonable “noises” questioning the need for such measures. We need to make Malaysian roads safer than ever. After all aren’t we among the top 25 most dangerous countries in the world for road users. It is something we should not be proud off.

Mixing Cows & Coconuts


Read these first:-

1295441219-thaipusam-and-coconut-smashing-2011_560979

(It does not matter if you are breaking it for fun or for a deep sense of devotion but it is high time we reconsider breaking up coconuts in insane numbers on public roads. Imagine driving your car over this minefield and you will understand why we need to reconsider this. God, I am sure, is happy with breaking of one coconut. It is the substance that counts and not the form. Image: http://www.demotix.com)

No one had say it better on why schools should not be used for slaughtering animals than Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim, the chairperson of Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE) and it makes a lot of sense too:-

1. The school as a venue for animal slaughter is highly inappropriate as students become unwilling spectators whether or not they are invited to watch. While some may be able to stomach the procedure there will also be some who may be traumatised by even the cry of an animal before it is slaughtered. Children are sensitive lest we forget. Incidentally, religious officials continue to gently remind worshippers that the photographs of slaughters being taken at mosques and suraus are not to be indiscriminately publicised as it may induce trauma to the faint-hearted;

2. School grounds are ill-equipped for any type of slaughter in particular the drainage and sanitary system to ensure the proper extermination of blood, carcass, waste products and odour, which in turn if not adequately disposed of, may result in an unhygienic condition;

3. Also comes into question is the area where the animal is tied down which must be secure to ensure the safety of the students at all times as animals have been known to come loose, run free and hurt bystanders especially children who have slower reflexes than adults;

4. It is not necessarily an issue about religious sensitivities as even Muslim parents are enraged. However, it can be educational if students are prepared and willing to witness the slaughter of an animal in a proper manner best carried out at a licensed slaughter house where facilities are available to ensure a high standard of hygiene. A visit can be arranged to a slaughter house as a school activity instead; and

5. Principals by failing to communicate clearly with parents and students on the purpose of conducting such a practice without considering its cause and resulting effect of such an action in the first place allows matters to be thrown out of context.

(Source)

I have always maintained that schools should be used as a place of national unity and learning and not for anything else (namely politics and religion). On the latest issue above, well some may argues that it is nothing spectacular – slaughtering animals during festive seasons is nothing new. I am sure that everyone agrees that the issue at hand is not whether can slaughter cows or not (I have seen slaughtering of goats and chickens in some temples in a grander scale) or whether it has “offended” the non-Muslims. The issue at hand is whether it is right to be slaughtering animals in a school and whether it is the right thing to do during school hours. I am sure everyone agrees that there is a proper place and time for everything.

Is it right to expose young children to the cruelty of slaughtering a living animal and the “bloody” mess left thereafter? Is a school even designed to cater slaughtering of animals. Some years ago, some of my neighbors got together and organised similar slaughtering of animals. The only place available was the children’s playground. The problem was after the slaughtering and after the blood and the bits of carcass had spill over on the grass, it was not easy to clean (despite the best effort from the neighbors). For some days the smell alone was enough to keep kids from the playground (thankfully a couple days of heavy rain did the trick). But it was a lesson well learned – the open slaughtering stopped and these days, I guess the neighbors do it at a mosque where it was easier clean things up. Even if there is no other place suitable for slaughtering the cows, couldn’t this been done after school hours?

But having said that and since the issue was raised, it has kind of opened up the Pandora’s box or rather the question – what about other religion or cultural rites that may frighten small kids (like the pierced kavadi during Thaipusam) or may pose danger and unhygienic like the massive coconut breaking on public streets mainly during Thaipusam and open burning of those large incense sticks during Chinese festivals. While some of us may argue that is is not the same thing, we need to accept that it is a good question and it is something we should ponder seriously.

I am not sure if seeing anyone with pierced kavadis during Thaipusam is an issue as it is only done near to the temple (sometimes it is not only frightens small kids but also adults who are not used to seeing one) but they may have a good point there with the massive coconut breaking on public roads. But before that, here’s the reason why Hindus break coconut in case some of you are wondering – there are many version of the reason but the simplest would be this:-

Coconut represents the human head. The ego resides in the head. A tantric who has gained mastery over senses, literally cuts off his head as a sign of submission of ego. In Sathwik/Vedic mode of worship, coconut is used instead to depict the same. In either ways, the acts signify surrender of ego and submission to God’s will.

(Source)

Breaking the coconut is usually done within the compound of the temple and sometimes in front of the house (provided there is no cars parked in the vicinity) but doing the same on public road may need to be reconsidered. Yes they have been doing it for a long time now. Yes, it is a core part of the Hindu rites. Yes, it may not be related to the incident of slaughtering animals in schools. However does it makes any difference if we break one coconut in the temple and 100 coconuts on public streets as far as religion is concerned? I don’t think there is a difference. Other than an unnecessary waste of money, it poses unnecessary danger to road users – despite the pieces of coconut may get cleaned after the rites, there still may be some sharp pieces of the coconut shell that can cause serious damage to vehicles. Further, have you smelt coconut water after a few days left under the hot sun?

As I had said, there is a proper place and time for everything. No one is stopping you from breaking coconuts and no one is saying that you cannot break 1,000 coconuts but let’s confine to temples or house compounds. In the meantime, let’s focus on what is more important in schools – educating the future generation and making them the star of the country. Use the schools for the actual purpose it was built and pour all your time and energy for the same reasons. If we simply insist of doing what we want to do without any consideration to others, it is going to be a tough time in Malaysia for everyone.

Have a good Deepavali shopping this weekend…

Moving Forward with Science & English


(This is hundred times better than some of cheap comics out there and it is my son’s favourite book at the moment. It is also starting to be mine. Image source: http://www.gempakstarz.com/)

The flip-flop direction in regards to the use of English in our national schools over the past few years is showing its ugly side.

Read these first:-

The Education Ministry is looking at ways to encourage more students to take up Science subjects due to the current low take-up rate. Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said currently, less than 20% of students were in the Science stream, a shortfall of the 60% target set by the ministry.

“We found that many students are interested in Science subjects but there are no follow-ups probably due to lack of support from parents as well as lack of appropriate facilities in schools,” he said after visiting students who are sitting for SPM examination at SMK Taman Kosas, Ampang Tuesday morning.

He said the ministry was considering giving incentives to both students and parents to encourage more kids to take up Science subjects such as free books and grants for students, and tax breaks for parents.

Earlier this year, Deputy Education Minister Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi said the ministry was viewing the matter seriously as there was a 37% drop in students taking up Science and Mathematics, and a 29% decline for pure science subjects. Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin had warned that the drop in interest in Science subjects may stunt efforts to improve technological innovations to make Malaysia a high income country.

(Source)

And

It has been revealed that two-thirds of 70,000 English teachers in the country failed to reach a proficient English level. Education Ministry deputy director-general Datuk Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof said it was one of the two major findings of a survey which required the teachers to sit for the Cambridge Placement Test.

Dr Khair added that the other major finding of the survey was that two in three students failed to meet the basics in English proficiency. “This was based on the comparison of the students’ results in SPM English and Cambridge 1119 standards,” he said, adding that the survey was conducted among 13,000 students.

(Source)

And

Students will suffer from the Education Ministry’s preoccupation with the Malay language at the expense of science and technology, according to the Parents Action Group for Education (PAGE). “Why are they pretending that the language of science and technology is Malay?” asked PAGE chief Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim. “They are definitely in a denial dream.”

She was commenting on the new education blueprint that the government unveiled this morning. “The blueprint is a total letdown since they played safe by not addressing key issues and recommendations,” she said.

(Source)

My son is very interested in Science and wants to be a Scientist one day (he has ideas that is out of this world but don’t say it is not possible in the near future). He has a good command of English (as far as I am concerned) so he watches more science related, complex documentaries than brainless cartoons (Marvel or DC cartoons however is excluded from this list) these days and even his comic books are all history or science related. He actively checks on the 3 large encyclopaedias (and me) whenever he has the slightest doubt of anything under the sun and he gets excited whenever he does any “experiments” in his room. He simply questions everything and is not happy when he cannot get a good answer.

Now, when I read the Education Minister’s comment that there is a major decline in Science stream students (not because the fucked up policy of not teaching Science in English?), I view this with great concern especially when my son has high interest in Science and is in the same education system. It is highly improbable that there is a lack of Science students due to “lack of support” from parents, not when most of us are aware the importance of subjects like Science and Mathematics. It is understandable if you say it is due to “lack of money for books / tuition” or “lack of means” to ensure their kids take up Science stream but I don’t think it is due to “lack of support” (unless Art and Religion are far more important than Science subjects for some parents). What is more probable is lack of facilities in schools – how many of them have a well-equipped lab with proper Science teachers and lab assistants? How many of them have the necessary funding to finance Science projects at schools?

The other item in the news – teachers in the country failing to reach a proficient English level was not a big surprise though. You can’t blame them entirely on this – they did not fail, the system did. The flip-flop on use of English in schools, over emphasis of the national language, lack of the necessary English trainers and sometimes the unnecessary hatred on mission run schools produces student who are weak in English and end up being teachers who are weak in English and the vicious cycle continues.

I was a Science stream student too but I did not do that well in all the science subjects for STPM but I did rather well in SPM. I don’t blame the teachers who taught me all those years though. I found that the teachers who taught Science when I did SPM were simply more brilliant (all of them have at least a degree or masters in actual science subjects), speak better English, more dedicated and more understanding (to weak, struggling students) than those teachers who taught me for STPM. Perhaps different school had different culture. I may not have done well in Science subjects for my STPM but I was lucky enough to go through schools (all secondary schools) that had proper well equipped Science lab which made learning Chemistry, Physics and Biology fun (still remember when you dissect the frog with the heart still pumping?). Those science labs were well equipped so we were able to conduct all experiments and more.

Move forward to the future, if nothing is done to curtail the lack of Science stream students and poor use of proper English in schools (yes, the education blueprint seems to address some part of this but it did not reverse the decision to teach Science and Mathematics in Bahasa instead of the more acceptable, universal English), the deterioration will only continue – couple that with lack of facilities due to lack of funds to schools, it is only going to get worse. It is not good news for the advancement of science and technology in this country. It is good to know that there are people both from the Government and the concerned citizens have not given up and continued to work towards improvement of the education system to meet real world challenges and demands. But such change is slow and faces many hurdles (quite a number political) before we can see a positive development.

So whilst we wait for the Government to reverse its unwise decision on not teaching Science and Mathematics in English and whilst we wait for our teachers to improve their command of English to a standard that we can really be proud of, it looks like it is up to you and me take up the challenge to ensure that our kids is inclined to use proper English and incline towards the subject of Science and Mathematics – ok, never mind Science and Mathematics but at least proper English. I am concerned about the state of education in the country and me and my wife have given a lot of thought on what we can do as concerned parents. What we can do to ensure that our kid do not slack on the subjects of English, Science and Mathematics and at the same time, master the national language and all other subjects (including Tamil).

No doubt, we cannot change everything overnight but let me tell you on what I have done for my son in the last few years.

My son’s first spoken language was English (we have been talking in English to him since he was born) so it was slightly easier to start him off on reading and learning things in English. So we already had a good foundation to start with. When he was small, it was not easy to get him to read (we read to him instead) – so we started with something highly visual and colourful – TV kiddies programs and we were quite careful on what we pick for him to watch. Anything that teaches him on reading, words and identification skills was on top of our list. My son got his share of children toys but in between we also try to add something that will provide mental exercise for him. And that continued even after he had started studying in kindergarten. But at the end of the day, all this was to build up good foundation. The real work starts for us when he started his schooling in national primary school.

For the first year he struggled with Bahasa but it did not stop him from keeping up with the school work (although we had to do some serious translations and plenty of checking at home). Kiddies shows was drastically reduced (although he gets to see whatever he wants to see on the weekends) and more educational shows (Discovery, National Geography, History channels) take more time when we switch on the TV. It is back to the highly visual and colourful method of getting him interested on at least some of the current development in science and technology. TV is just one of the tools we deploy for knowledge and understanding. At the end of the day, it is back to basic, so my son have to do some kind of school work (alternating between Mathematics, English, Bahasa, writing and colouring exercises) at least for one hour before dinner everyday (if he has more time, then we extend his revision time as well). After his dinner, he has his adventures comics (such as this  – he has collected a few over the last few months and intends to collect the whole set) which provides humour and general knowledge.

And we have been  learning too – the last thing we need is for the blind to lead the blind. We had to be very sure that whatever answer we give is the correct answer. We had to make sure that we can back up our answer with the right evidence (thanks for the internet for that). We had to be sure that we can explain the unproven theories and provide the various options. And when it comes to English, we also try to drop that “lah” from our conversation and with the right grammar and we keep a close eye on our son too. No doubt, it is tough to keep him interested and maintaining him in the right path when it comes to English and Science (after all he is still a kid and undue stress is the last thing he needs) and it would be more helpful if the education policies are changing in the right path too. Until then, it is up to the individual parents and students to make the big difference on how they are going to handle the shortcomings in the education system. We have to take the first steps and maintain at it.

Millions for Schools


Seriously, do we have that much of money to toss around or is Christmas simply early this year?

(Think of it as an investment for the future – schools that does  not have enough money to run is going to greatly impact its students and their performance in education. Image source: http://www.connectmidmissouri.com)

If there is one thing I take with great concern, it has to be on the direction of the education system in this country. And in the last few weeks, there has been major development in regards to this – one was the unrevealing of the national blueprint for 2013 – 2025 and the other was this:-

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has announced an allocation of RM30mil for the development of Chinese national-type secondary schools (SMJK) in the country. During his address at the MCA annual general assembly here Sunday, Najib said he had discussed the matter with Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also the Education Minister, and they had agreed to grant RM30mil for the schools.

Earlier in his presidential address, MCA chief Datuk Seri Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek had appealed to the Prime Minister for assistance for these schools, saying there was currently no allocation for them. “There are 78 conforming schools with more than 125,000 students. They should be given an allocation of RM50mil next year,” he said.

(Source)

It is not the first or last time we have heard of this kind of “sincerity” from the Government especially when the general election is coming up soon:-

For how long more we can keep giving away the money when source of fund is truly limited?

In the first place, we have yet to see any concrete plans from anyone to merge the various “types” of school in this country into one common type where it will be easier to manage them under the same policy and consolidated funding. What we have seen so far is perpetuation of this segregation and any attempts to introduce any form of integration of schools) are often met with passionate, angry response from certain community leaders and compounded with undue political pressure. Sometimes illogical reasons like quick diminish of the mother language & culture with the younger generations feeds the fear of change, sometimes the grave concern of the difference of quality between the various types of school makes the segregation sounds valid (argument that Chinese schools teachers are more responsible and more concerned about the students’ development, an argument to keep the Chinese schools still relevant, on the other hand is utter rubbish).

Why we have not been able to integrate the schools after 55 years of independence? Is it a question of emotion or actual concern? Tony Pua in 2007 wrote this:-

The recently launched National Education Blueprint 2006 by Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein focuses purely on “strengthening the national schools”, with vernacular schools representing just a statistic in Malaysia’s education landscape. Vernacular schools are often neglected or treated with suspicion due to their ethnically Chinese or Tamil nature. There are widespread fears that the strengthening or even the presence of vernacular schools in Malaysia is antithetical to achieving national unity.

Chinese and Tamil educationists on the other hand, fear the strengthening of national schools will erode the future character and viability of vernacular schools. For many of them, every facet of the existing vernacular education must be protected at all cost. Otherwise, they fear detractors will pounce on any signs of weakness to destroy vernacular education in this country.

As a result, parties on both sides of the equation treat the issue of national versus vernacular schools as a zero sum game — one party’s gain is the other’s loss. However, such views are certainly flawed and works against the interest of a multi-racial and multi-cultural country like Malaysia. They are bred through mistrust and hardened by years of negative experiences.

Vernacular school educationists are also, understandably, unconvinced by the “national unity” argument because the government has taken steps to build and expand MRSM secondary schools which are almost exclusive domains of ethnic Malays.

Rita Sim in August 2012 also talked about the strength and weaknesses of Chinese schools in the country. And one of her argument for the existence of Chinese School is this:-

From the economic perspective, the rise of China puts a global economic superpower in our immediate neighbourhood and we would be foolish not to harness Chinese schools to enhance cultural and linguistic capital for our national professional, commercial and diplomatic advantage. Every Malaysian has the opportunity to benefit because our Chinese schools are not discriminatory.

Are you saying that if Afghanistan becomes the next global economic superpower (let’s run with our wild imagination, shall we?), we should drop everything and start Pastho/Dari schools? We have yet to put our foot down on ensuring good command of English (p.s. the language of many economic superpowers in the world – Japanese, French & Spanish is another) in our national education biosphere and here we are only focussing on the Chinese language. And if we apply the same argument for Tamil schools, then why we are not learning Hindi? So why not just address the reasons to maintain the vernacular schools – come up with the best win-win solution for students, teachers and students whilst still maintaining the high standard of education all around with good emphasis on the issue of language (let’s have Chinese & Tamil classes on the daily basis & on extra hours if we still insist on equipping ourselves with language of the economic superpowers) and force all to be converted into national school where it can be fully funded by the Government?

It is a fact that not all Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools are fully funded schools; they need to apply to the Government for the additional funding and this is where the problem usually starts. The schools have to rely on the Government and by some extension, politicians to get the necessary funding for schools and this has not been easy for some schools especially Tamil schools. And those who have decided that they will remain as vernacular schools despite these improvements and resists all attempts for national integration should be left standing on their own. And in the end, we will only have 2 types of school in this country – fully funded public and self funded private schools.

Of course, announcing millions of ringgit for the vernacular schools is one thing (after all anyone can announce anything under the sun), the vernacular schools seeing the actual dough (or sometimes land) for its expansion & non-Government funded operations is another thing all together. It takes too long for these schools to get the money but the problems facing them simply compounds on daily basis especially for the students. Sometimes the actual disbursement of the funds – the final amount and the time it is finally disbursed is made slightly complicated with the presence of “middleman”. There is a high chance of the money is passed from the Government to middleman to be managed and only trickles are passed on to these schools at the end of the day.

Giving away money to school is just a short term fix to a long term problem – yes, it provides an immediate relief to the problems that the school are facing but it does not really provide the long term solution to long term problems. It does not really address the issue of sustainability of money for schools. The Government does not have deep pockets to keep giving away money to schools on yearly basis and there are other areas of the administration that the Government need to look into as well (healthcare, defence, crime-fighting, etc but not the plans like BRIM which simply gives out money but does not really address the issue of low income in the long run). The state of the country’s economy and management of the money that we have also dictates how much these schools is going to get its share of the pie in the future and one cannot guarantee a high performance economy all the time.

There is only so much that the schools can do to self-manage funding for schools – the yearly school fees, donations from parents & other individuals (many prefer to donate to temples than to schools), fund raising activities and perhaps (to those who have the right infrastructure) rentals collected from booking of school halls for other functions & sports activities. Some even advise automation & going green as part of the cost cutting measures. Those schools with the right connection can look into additional funding from State Government and perhaps sponsorship from some private organisations on land, equipment and money but it does not apply to all schools especially those tucked away in deep rubber estates.

The more viable option would be to convert themselves from partially funded schools to fully funded schools and that means to change from vernacular type school to national type school where the main language of the day is Bahasa Malaysia and English with high importance to Mandarin & Tamil. This will also resolve another factor that contributes to dwindling number of students in some of the vernacular schools (and thus directly the funding for schools). When all are national schools adhering to the same standards and policies, it will be easier to distribute the students as well (some schools are now overcrowded, others barely have regular students).

One must remember that at the end, the one who truly suffer due to inconsistent funding and difference in policies are the students. Not the Minister, the Ministry, the politicians who is looking for an opportunity or community educationalists who insist on priority of language & culture without looking for a long term solution especially when it comes to funding to schools.

MIC’s Take On One School System


Oh dear, after all these years, they still clueless on why they took a hit in 2008?

(In the picture – MIC on the wrong side of the Tamil schools. No doubt Tamil schools have been the key factor when it comes to MIC and its claim that it is fighting for the community and yes, that they have helped out the schools in the past with financial assistances and others allocations but are they playing the crucial role in the next evolution of the education system in the country by looking at quality instead of quantity? Image source)

From theSun:-

Question: Why are Tamil schools so important to MIC? You yourself come from a national school and the majority of Indians are in national schools.

Answer: Tamil schools are part and parcel of Indian culture – they go to Tamil schools not only to learn Tamil, but also to learn culture and religion. If Tamil schools go away, then tradition and culture will also go.

Question: Why are young professionals shying away from MIC?

Answer: They don’t see MIC as a fun party – the president has plans to rejuvenate the party with younger representation – we have also Putra MIC for the youths. The young must be patient – MIC has only four parliamentary seats and seven state seats.

Question: Is the concept of catering to only one race not attractive?

Answer: Yes and no. But only in MIC one can write, speak and talk in Tamil – but even for non-Tamil speakers, they are not left out as some of the meetings are conducted in English and Bahasa.

Question: How has MIC been preparing for the next general election (GE), especially after the bitter defeat in 2008?

Answer: MIC has stressed that we must win back what we lost and retain those we won. We are doing everything that we can to get the numbers we had in 2004, we know it is difficult, it may not be possible. Compared with his predecessor (Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu), MIC president Datuk Seri G. Palanivel is not much in the news. You cannot compare the two leaders. It is not easy to take up the leadership at this time especially after the bad showing in the 2008 election. His style of working is different. We are reported in the Tamil papers. Yes, it is not enough, and we have also put MIC TV available on YouTube and are also communicating with urban Tamils.

I could have just ignored the interview but there was one thing he said that made me stop in my thoughts and wonder.

I am referring to Kamalanathan’s “reason” on why we still need Tamil schools in this country. Kamalanathan is saying that without Tamil schools in this country, the tradition and culture will also go. No doubt Kamalanathan is looking from his point of view as one of the MIC’s leaders but there must be reality check somewhere there. It is important  to understand the role of the school these days. Is it to encourage and propagate tradition and culture? Or is it another means to get good education with a different language as the main base (due to students’ background and mastery of language)?

I think we need to get the priorities right – education & discipline should be confined to schools and tradition & culture (and religion) confined to temples and cultural centers (like the Temple of Fine Arts). The moment you start to mix the both, you going to get in trouble and leave room for abuse and misdirection – certainly not with young innocent minds. It is downright unfair too – what about other races who does not share the same tradition and culture, are we going to built separate schools for them? Surely they want to preserve their traditions and culture as well.

And why we are continuing to break-up the schools into various sectors and race when it is crucial to have one school, one language for all? If the concern is losing the hold of the tradition & culture, then we should relook into how we can fuse tradition and culture in our temples (we seems have too many of them) or cultural centres (and perhaps with more tradition & cultural segments on public media like TV and newspapers). There are alternatives on how we can continue to maintain the tradition and culture without going through the schools. But please, let’s keep the race, tradition, culture and religion crap out of schools.

The reason for it is rather simple – it defeats the progress to greater unity as reasoned below:-

Historically, the British built separate vernacular schools to maintain racial divide and prejudice to lord over us. It is indeed expedient and shrewd and one of the things that should have been kicked out right after Malaysia gained independence from the British if our leaders truly want to see a united Malaysia turn up without jeopardising our national language, our official religion, our monarchy and our Rukun Negara.

Vernacular schools impede national unity at the primordial stage; there is no room for vernacular school in a multi-racial society.

(Source)

And if the concern is losing the hold of the Tamil language (still remember the controversy on the extra language SPM papers?), this is because not enough attempts made to provide alternative language classes at national schools – all we need is the classes & qualified teachers in national schools (MIC can play a strong role here) and not a whole school with different emphasis, language, structure and funding. At this juncture, I must recap what OutSyed the Box said on the need to have common language (hence different schools in the same country) – it makes more sense than what Kamalanathan is trying to say:-

The time has also come where we must seriously consider merging the school system into just one school system i.e. based on Bahasa Malaysia and English only. We need to abolish the Chinese and Tamil language school system. The Chinese and Tamil language heroes say that if Chinese and Tamil schools are abolished, their language and culture will also disappear. Wrong.

There are 1.5 billion Chinese in China who will make sure that the Chinese language, culture and the Chinese people will never disappear from the face of the earth. The same argument applies for the 1.0 billion Indians in India. This however is Malaysia. It is not and cannot be China or India.

When Chinese, Indians and anyone else migrate to Australia they learn to speak English in a jiffy. No one asks for Tamil or Mandarin to be made national languages in Australia. No one sings the Waltzing Matilda in Tamil or Mandarin in Australia.

The same logic applies to Malaysia. It is high time non Malays in Malaysia learn to speak Malay like a native Malay. Getting straight As for Bahasa Malaysia in the SPM does not mean anything if you still say ‘saya api kereta naik mari’ or ‘saya naik keleta api mali sini.”

It is not cute anymore. Actually it is quite embarrassing. Please, let’s speak the language the way it should be spoken.

Now, coming back to the need for Tamil school – it is not an issue of losing tradition and culture if the Tamil schools are closed down that we need to fear of (yes, there will be some impact but not to the point where the future generations would be clueless on tradition and culture). Just look at the Indians in US and UK who are doing well in maintaining their tradition and culture despite going to a non-Indian language based schools.

There is a greater concern when a politician from a race based political party insists on preserving the Tamil schools – we fear that attempts to breakdown this segregation and forcing everyone to go to the same school and speak the language will be derailed or sabotaged by race based policies and race based political party who hold them as the trump cards to be still relevant. And this is what is happening in our education system – it has been screwed up to a point we are still having different schools in the country.

Surely there will be specific issues that will face certain communities more than others from time to time but we need to consider which one is more critical. If it is on education and national unity, let’s fight for the good of the country and not just for each others communities. Do that and you will earn our confidence and our votes in the next general elections.