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 1


Read these first:-

It is a slow start for 2016 when it comes to blogging but on the other side of the spectrum, I am making some positive changes this year when it comes to personal health. All weekends and on alternate week days when I am back from office early, I am spending at least an hour or so playing badminton to keep myself in shape. My badminton partners are the usual suspects – my kids (when means I get to pick the shuttlecock most of the time, be very patience and be gentle with my returns) and my wife (when I can practice my smashes, ha ha). It is just a start but I still sucks on other things like the food I eat and the amount of sleep I get on daily basis but as they say a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step, it is a start for the moment.

pix_top_12902

(Parents who let their kids on the motorbike for daily commute and without any license should be charged under the law for recklessness. It is one thing giving them to learn to ride a bike in a controlled & safe environment but it is another thing to allow them to use it for daily use without proper training & license and worse, riding without any helmets)

Young, Unlicensed Motorcyclists

Couple of weeks ago, I read this on the papers:-

“No mother would want her child to suffer like this. My heart is broken,” said Maimunah Md Razali, the mother of 13-year-old Siti Nuraisyah Sahrin, who lost her legs after being run over by a lorry.

“She is so brave. But as a mother, it is hard for me to be strong. It breaks my heart to see my daughter going through so much,” said the 48-year-old at the hospital where her daughter is being warded. On Monday, Siti Nuraisyah was on her way home from SMK Bagan Terap in Sabak Bernam on a motorcycle with her stepsister Shamim Amira Roslan, 14, when the incident happened at about 3.30pm.

A Perodua Kancil was believed to have overtaken them and brushed against their Honda EX5. Siti Nuraisyah was thrown onto the middle of the road when a lorry coming from the opposite direction ran over her legs. Shamim suffered a sprained ankle from the impact.

A composed Siti Nuraisyah, who underwent surgery earlier, said: “My wounds hurt,” adding that she wanted to walk again and was hopeful of recovering soon. Her left leg was amputated above the ankle while her right leg was amputated below the knee.

(Source)

At first I thought “Damn, it is a tragedy” and I seriously felt for the young girl who have to contend with such tragedy at a very young age. Imagine having your both legs amputated when you have so much things to see and do and at such a tender age? As a parent myself, I can understand the situation and I do get so emotional when it comes to young children – I hate to see bad things happening to them due to some idiots making the wrong decisions. And there is no exception with this one as well.

Then I was angry with the Kancil driver for being so reckless and caused the accident in the first place. To be fair, I don’t have all the details on this incident. The driver may have been innocent. But on average, some of these small sized car drivers think that they are driving high powered Formula 1 cars on the road and I have seen one or two zig-zagging between the heavy traffic when I drove back home. So, I was not surprised when I read that there has been another tragedy involving Kancil.

I then realised I missed an important fact in the news – the girls on the bike was aged 13 and 14 years old. It does not mention anyone else riding the ride. Then what the fuck a 13 & 14 years old kids were doing on a bike when in Malaysia, the minimum age to ride a bike is 16 years old? Are they trained to ride a bike in the first place? Now a tragedy had happened, there is no point of not doing this and that.

If you ask me, even at 16 years old, I have seen and encountered far too many young kids on bike who:-

  1. thinks that they are riding on their grandfather’s road and therefore all other traffic should make way for them (which is why they often ride on the wrong side of the road)
  2. their head is made from the hardest material on earth, thus nothing will happen if they fall down and thus there is no need for a helmet

I said this many times before – safety of the children must come above all other things and this includes inconvenience. Unfortunately even at my own residential area, I can still see young kids riding around the residential areas without wearing any helmet and obviously without any licence. It is another tragedy waiting to happen and due to parents who care less on the safety of their kids and other road users.

Pearson_English_Language_Learners_Infographic

(Mastering the national language is a must for every citizen but there is a limit to how much of the national language can be used to master certain skills and knowledge on a global level. Infographic source: http://www.english.com)

Reality of Mathematics & Science

In case you had missed, there was a good letter from PAGE over at theSun couple days ago:-

In this case, that medium is the language of STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) which is English. Therefore let us ponder a little on the role of the English language in this matter and pose a few questions.

What was the language used to present their research findings? If it was English, then it has to be English at a level that has to be well understood by the panel for that evaluated his application and research. In order to do that, applicants for such awards have to be proficient in the scientific language required.

What was the language of the main sources of reference – were they written in English? If they were, then the person sourcing for this reference will require a good command of the language in order to get the most accurate information from these sources.

(Source)

The point is you cannot simply dissect English away from the core subjects of Science and Mathematics. Even if you have Science & Mathematics books translated in Bahasa, without understanding English and it’s usage in these two subjects, you will not going to learn anything more. It is as simple as that. Science especially is on a constant move – new discoveries are made on daily basis and most of them are often documented in English. If you don’t understand English, you will not know about them and you will be left behind.

Early this year, I attended a briefing in my son’s school and at one point, the Headmaster got up and brought up the subject of Science and Mathematics and how the students had performed last year and the school’s expectations for this year. It was obvious that most students do best in Bahasa Malaysia subject (that is because most of them speak Bahasa on daily basis and at home), then followed by Religion and then very poorly in English and trailing far behind was Mathematics & Science. More than half of the students had failed these two key subjects and I can see the clear correlation between English, Science and Mathematics – all three was on a declining trend.

And it is not only due to the language that we use, we are also not following the standard trends. Take for example – the movement of the moon. We already have a Bahasa word for that – “peredaran bulan” or “fasa-fasa bulan” but instead of that, the good people at the Ministry decides to bring in an Arabic word instead – Takwim Qamari. Why the further confusion to students? No one at NASA will even going to be bothered with this Arabic word in the day to day space mission (fusing the subject of Science and the modern Arab is like trying to mix water and oil. They are hardly the trend-setters in the subject of Science). We should stop such nonsense and get back to reality.

The good thing is my son excelled in both subjects, partially because we enforce the urgency & importance of the two subjects which was not so difficult due to his ambition to a scientist one day and another thing was, we ensure that knowledge of Science and Mathematics does not come from school text books alone – real life experiments and plenty of magazines & books in English (as such as “All About Space” and BBC’s “Knowledge”) was another effort we had put in (and it paid off). We speak English to him all the time and whenever possible use the right terms (having a smartphone by side becomes very handy). And considering that he is very responsible for his actions, we have also had decided to allow a greater internet quota to be allocated for him to do his research and make the necessary cross references (in the past, he is barred from using the internet without close supervision and we often do the research on his behalf).

But that school briefing did highlight a general notion that there is a high decline of these two key subjects – no thanks to the Government’s flip-flop on the education policy for past few years and using Bahasa instead of English as the lingua franca of Science and Mathematics. The school is very concerned of this decay and have decided to take pro-active actions from the start. For start, they have organised the briefing for the parents so that the reality of things would be out in the open and they run through some of the trends in the past and what they have planned to address the issue in this year (weekend special classes, plenty of past year exam workshops, parents taking up active role at home, etc). It is a good thing that the school gets the parents deeply involved so that we get to know the facts, the latest changes in policy and exam rules and what part the school & parents need to play to ensure the students get their knowledge and pass the exams.

And I personally have taken up the challenge this year to spend more time with my children’s studies and indirectly “go back to school” learning some of the subjects that I dislike the most when I was in secondary school many moons ago – Additional Mathematics. Whilst I can cope with other “Science” subjects, Additional Mathematics somehow was something that was hard to crack and where I often go blank whenever I open the book for studies. It is my personal opinion that without the parents understanding the subjects, they are of no use to their children when it comes to assisting them on school works and preparing for the exams. Some of the structures may have changed but the fundamentals remains the same. And “going back to school” is not a bad thing for the parents – it improves knowledge which in turns improves the help that the parents can give their kids and it is also another avenue of leading by example.

And on a funnier note, going back to school also means that me and my wife have to go back to the basics – the very basic of speaking A, B, C and that is for the youngest one who have started to speak and write these basic items.

To be continued…

Direction of a Nation


(Sorry for missing out on blog posts for couple of weeks now. I have been tied to work rather overwhelmingly and I still have a long way to go)

Sometimes when you see what happens around the world and see how much mankind have moved forward since, since I don’t know – perhaps since he climbed down from the trees and learned to walk on his own 2 feet hundred thousands of years ago, you get this amazing, proud happy feeling.

One recent example is this:-

Many congratulations to the Rosetta team at ESA for successfully landing the lander module on a comet. It was not an easy thing to do, after all, the comet is flying past in space at more than 130,000 km/h. It will be interesting to wait and see what discoveries that we will find from this mission on a comet. Perhaps confirming or disapproving the theory that all water on this earth was brought down by a string of comets striking the earth millions years ago.

And last month, it was the India’s Mars Orbiter which made serious news and it was for a good reason too:-

The Mars Orbiter Mission cost Rs. 450 crore (£46 million) in comparison to NASA’s Maven orbiter costing £413 million, which also successfully inserted itself into the Martian orbit on Monday 22nd September 2014.

The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, even stated: “Our program stands out as the most cost-effective. “There is this story of our Mars mission costing less than the Hollywood movie Gravity. Our scientists have shown the world a new paradigm of engineering and the power of imagination.”

(Source)

Whether you like it or not, the world have become very technologically advance. It has become small too – it is possible to go to any country in the world within a day (compared to months or years 200 – 300 years ago). Information these days is at one’s finger tips literally and connected to the world wide web 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Sir Ken Robinson in his talk in TED once said that as early as the 17th century, the industrial revolution drove the education blueprints of many nations towards science, engineering and mathematics. And that had given birth to some of the greatest minds that the world have seen. That industrial revolution plus two world wars that came later however had not stopped the advancement of mankind towards science and technology and whoever who do not embrace it at this age would be left out high and dry. Same thing happened to many companies in the 1990s who failed to embrace the digital age. Still remember Polaroid? And even Nokia, once a world leader in the telecommunication sector is no longer is in existence (after it was taken over by Microsoft).

That is why, the country as whole should emphasize more on science and technology instead of religion. Religion which have always been the scourge of science (or the other way around) should be left to individuals and should not form the backbone of a country. Think about it and take a good look of events around the world. There have been more people died and suffered in history due to religion indifference compared to people who died from say science experiments. There have been more dark ages brought by religion than by science. Some of the biggest tragedies in the recent times were done by twisted culprits claiming supremacy of religion and they continued to make an ass of themselves and the better aspect of a religion – such as Boko Haram in Nigeria and ISIS in Syria & Iraq.

And back home in Malaysia, we too been taking all the wrong steps. First we decided to teach Science and Mathematics in Bahasa instead of the accepted language of science and mathematics which is English. The lame excuse that was given was that the country needed to promote the national language and there was not enough teachers who can speak proper English. Unfortunately, despite the obvious reasons and calls from many quarters including the former Prime Minister, this decision have not been reversed to this day and the damage to the nation continues to this day.

But instead, we are entrenching ourselves with trivial issues like this:-

Non-Muslims in Kedah need not be worried or confused over the recent amendment to an 1988 enactment that bars non-Muslims from using Islamic religious words and terminology. State exco member Mohd Rawi Abd Hamid said no non-Muslim had been arrested in the state under the enactment for using terms that are exclusive to Islam and Muslims.

Mohd Rawi said non-Muslims could still use the words in their daily conversations, but not in their own prayers, public speeches or in religious publications.

“If you say you want to go to a masjid (mosque), why not? If you ask me where that masjid is, there’s no problem with the usage of that term,” he said yesterday

(Source)

Earlier, the whole nation seemed to be busied itself with someone who had organized a “want to touch a dog” event and after that, of an image on a water bottle.

Obviously we are getting our priorities all wrong and that is why for reasons like this, we will not going to be a developed country in 6 years time. Forget achieving vision 2020. We are too worried on what we can say and do in the name of religion. We are not worried about building more schools, getting our children to embrace science and mathematics in the most convenient way (by learning in English) and push for greater space and opportunities for citizens to speak aloud and to agree or disagree with the establish norms. One wrong say or act in this country can make one run foul of the dreaded Sedition Act and the authorities. We cannot advance if we confine ourselves to very few options and old rules. We even banned Darwin from this country.

And that is why, the country as whole need to wake up to reality of things and what is important for the society survival? And if one still have doubts as to where the nation should be moving, perhaps this will give a food for thought:-

Science is the engine of prosperity. Economists have said that a third to a half of U.S. economic growth has resulted from basic research since World War II. The cars and trains that got us here today, our smart phones, the energy that lights this chamber, the clothes we wear, the food we eat: All of these were developed and improved through research.

And so it is. Science is a system for exploring, and for innovation. It can fuel our nation’s economic growth. It can form a path for our young people in a competitive global marketplace. And it can fire our imagination.

(Source)

And mankind seems to be heading that direction too and probably in a greater pace due to the wealth of information available on the internet:-

Religion will become extinct by 2041 as the world becomes more developed and wealthier,, proclaims a new study by a noted author and biopsychologist Nigel Barber.

Barber makes the claim in his upcoming e-book, Why Atheism Will Replace Religion, which will be available next month. The Irish author says Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and all other types of religious beliefs will be wiped out by atheism.

Barber notes there is a direct correlation between religious or atheist beliefs with economic development and level of education. The more educated and wealthier a society is, the less religious they are and vice versa. Barber adds that religion is most popular in underdeveloped countries.

(Source)

Religion is important but it should be something personal and it should never mix with the state of a nation. Science on the other hand is going to be the stepping stone for many things to come to make a country strong, capable and flexible. Something for us all to ponder especially for the next generation of Malaysians. Good governance helps too but let’s start with something simple – give more focus on science and mathematics and put this country on the path of it’s own industrial revolution if you may. There must be a new paradigm of vision and a greater power of imagination. As I have said, religion is important and let’s not discard it from our life but not to a point that it drive the state backwards and into the dark ages. We just need to look into history and move forward.

Have a good weekend ahead…

Rendezvous with a Comet


Here’s one reason why religion should never drive a country’s future.

Religions, yes it is important to ensure we have some sense of humanity & morality (if you must) but what should drive us to the future must be high grade technology, space exploration, open minded and a great sense of adventure.

Watch this and be amazed!

And the making of…

This post is for my son who’s ambition is to be a great scientist!

2012 Updates: It’s This Week, Folks!


mayan calendar

(The Mayan Calendar ending on the year 2012 could have been due to this reason – who knows – and we are freaking out for no good reason in 2012. Image source: http://www.abovetopsecret.com)

Mayan’s Long Calendar will end this Friday and thus end of the world as we know it, so believed by many doomsday believers.

However, it is very likely that we will make it to next week (and the coming months) without any major incidents. After all, I am sure all of us have made major plans to do things and go places in the coming years and we expect to get things done as planned. We have yet to see any news on the discovery of any large asteroid heading directly towards the planet or the appearance of the mysterious Planet X which will collide with planet Earth on 21st December 2012. And so far no one had pressed the doomsday panic button – not from any Government officials, space agencies, well-known public figures or NGOs. Although we have been seeing more than usual earthquakes and typhoons (such the recent Typhoon Bopha which hit the Philippines and caused more than 1000 casualties) in the past months, that has not been something that we have not seen before (and yes, we have seen worse).

But then again, it does not mean we can just stand-by and take all things in complete ignorance of any dangers to the civilization as we know it (you seriously think that we are all alone in the universe and the planet Earth is completely immune to all types of dangers from in and out? Dream on, brother!). There is always of 0.0001% chance of something creeping up on us when we least expected. It has happened in the past and it can always happen again in the near future. Whatever said and done, we should never stop prepping for the future.

doomsday ark

(The doomsday ark in the movie 2012 – in the movie, an ark ticket was sold for 1 billion Euro. I wonder what would be the cost if doomsday scenario is real and a real ark is built with limited seat for all and whether the smaller, poorer nations will even be eligible for a place in such ark. Image source: http://www.whatsonxiamen.com)

Think this as a possible conspiracy scenario – what if all the heads of Government have been called for a secret meeting and been forewarned of an impending danger to the planet say some 3 – 5 years ago (if you had been keeping an eye for interesting rumours, you would have heard about the letter from a “Norwegian politician”) and a consortium of companies have been selected to built a doomsday ark of sort in secret (with each Government contributing based on their allocation of a place in the ark for their people) and as the ark is being built and the list of survivors being drawn up, they are told to keep the whole thing hush-hush to avoid a massive global panic. Yes, in the same way the Government covered up in the movie 2012. And just imagine watching CNN on the eve of doomsday at your local mamak stall, having your teh-tarik & roti canai when the news of the impending danger is officially announced to the masses and in the background, you catch a glimpse of the Fat Mamma entering the ark with all her shopping bags. It may or may not happen.

Consider the fact that we simply do not have the resources and time to scan the entire sky for any changes to the alignment of the star and planetary system in our galaxy that may have put gravitational force on the planet Earth (that may set mega earthquakes and tsunamis) or asteroids such as 4179 Toutatis that flew past us last week (you were aware of it? we have about 1,325 of them on watch list and the number is growing) or the so-called dark comets that may have been missed previously and is hurling towards the planet undetected. We have probably spent more money into military expansions, mismanagement of the economy and corruption than on astronomy and space explorations. Yes, we have NASA, the European Space Agency, the Russians, the Chinese and not forgetting our very own Angkasawan that manages anything that related to space exploration and astronomy but it does not mean that they have unlimited budget, time and manpower to get their tasks done. Even the powerful, well-funded and equipped NASA is relying on amateur astronomers to look out for asteroids. The question is are we looking at the right spot in space and how much of it is under our radars.

And who knows, perhaps we already have an alien mother-ship hovering on our atmosphere in an unknown stealth technology waiting for some countdown that ends on 21st December 2012 (remember the movie Independence Day?). One can just hope that they have a good appetite for corrupt and greedy politicians and businessmen and they will leave the solar system once they have “cleaned up” the planet.

Yellowstone_SuperVolcano

(A sleeping giant that may wake up one day. Image source: http://www.cuttingedge.org)

We still have the time bomb lurking under the vast Yellowstone National Park which some say will wipe most of America out with estimated 100 million dead, leaving the sole super power in the world (to some degree) in ruins and incapacitated. And if you think we all in Malaysia will be safe as we are far away from this hotspot, think again – a cloud of ash & debris will linger on the atmosphere for months if not years, bringing down the global temperature and creating major havoc on agriculture all over the world. Imagine the steep cost of food and breakout of famines around the world. Imagine with the US out of the picture, guess who is going to fill up the power vacuum as far as Malaysia is concerned? Well, be prepared to shed the National language and English from our schools and use Mandarin (or who knows, Hindi) on full time basis instead. With rogue countries like North Korea and Pakistan in the picture, doomsday scenario will be more realistic than ever.

And some scientists are expecting that the planet Earth is long due for a major geomagnetic reversal (for some also known as the polar shift). Will it happen this week or in the coming weeks? The scientific community as whole seems to concur on the theory that changes in geomagnetic happens over a long period and does not change all too sudden. But what if it does? What it means to us when it happens?

If a large pole shift could happen suddenly, the redistribution of land and water it caused would be nothing short of cataclysmic.

In the short term, it would mean earthquakes, strange weather patterns, massive tsunamis capable of drowning parts of continents, and possibly gaps in the planet’s magnetic field — our shield against harmful cosmic rays. In the long term, the redistribution of land and water in the tropics, subtropics and poles would fundamentally alter ocean currents and the heat balance of the Earth, resulting in widespread climatological shifts.

Ice caps might melt and reform elsewhere, or remain melted, driving sea levels down or up.

(Source)

And most 2012 doomsday websites are talking about the more obvious and realistic danger to the world (and I am thinking the same) – a major solar storm that will bring down the power grids and leaves millions without electricity for months. And for a society that is so dependant on electricity for almost everything that it touches, from running the computers, pumping fuel, running the water supply to homes and businesses, etc, without electricity, this society would simply breakdown. A real doomsday threat, no thanks to our own growth and over reliance in technology. But then, again we had gone through the sun’s 11 years cycle many, many times before and we somehow had survive it without much fuss and danger to our power grids. Will we see the “big one” any time soon?

Think about it – some doomsday scenarios can be far-fetched but does it mean it will never happen? Anyway, it is just a food for your thoughts, considering that all the hype on the Mayan Long Calendar coming to an “end” this Friday. But as I mentioned before, it is very likely that we will make it to next week (and the coming months or years) without any major incidents. However don’t stop prepping and keep one eye opened for any eventuality as the world as we know it will eventually end one day. It may not happen this Friday or next year or next 10 years or not in our lifetime – we just do not know when and how but there is no harm to be prepared and educating our kids to be prepared as well.

Have a good week ahead, enjoy the “fireworks” on this Friday and I will see you next week, same time and at the same place.

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.