Saturday, 29 December 2012

First Panel Meeting

Date: 27th Dec (Friday)
Venue: Meeting Room 1

Alhamdulillah, our first panel meeting was held and many issues were ironed out upon reflection of 2012. All subjects conducted their first meeting after a briefing by En Kilfli, the senior assistant. The English Panel held its meeting in Meeting Room 1. With only five teachers, we are definitely in need of more teachers to cover the 30 classes next year. I gave our first in-house training covering: Journal-writing and Set System. Let's hope for a better year in 2013.

Holding court...En Kifli Mohammad, PK1

The Thinking Teacher

First Teacher's Meeting in SASEM

Date: 27th Dec 2012 (Thursday)
Venue: Meeting Room 1

Our first back to school signal! First teachers' meeting with 45 teachers and two new senior assistants. Welcome to En Kifli Mohammad, our new PK1 and En Mazlan Sariyed, PK Kokurikulum! To be honest, I'm still in renovation mode and I feel like crying because school term is commencing but house renovation is still on...

Principal En Mohd Noh chairing the meeting. On his left is
En Kifli (PK1) and on his right is En Mazlan (PK Koku)

teachers ready to embrace 2013!

absorbing all...

I've been given two major responsibilities: Coordinator of Excellence Programmes and Coordinator of Internationalisation Programme. Alhamdulillah, I can now make strides in the responsibilities entrusted to me with the new senior assistants. 2012 was a waste of my time- total block in communication and progress :) Indeed God is truly fair in His judgement. He knows what is best for us. SASEM can now look ahead and chart its own history. Ahoy captain! Full speed ahead! May Excellence be yours SASEM in sya Allah.

The Thinking Teacher

Friday, 21 December 2012

Innovation Day, Kluang District

Date: 17th Dec 2012
Venue: SM Sains Johor, Kluang

Speaking in Bakti Hall, SM Sains Johor was something I really looked forward to as I taught in the school for 21 years. It brought back a lot of memories. I was invited to share my project conducted in SMK Canossian Convent on this day with headmasters and principals in Kluang. The project was "Digital Notebook: Integrating Web 2.0 in Pedagogy to improve Writing and Critical thinking." It was indeed an honour to be given the 'Tokoh Inovasi Daerah Kluang" award by the PPD Kluang. To be honest, I felt very humbled by the recognition and to a certain extent embarassed. I mean "Tokoh Inovasi" is just too big a title to hold...Still, I would like to thank Tn Hj A. Manaf Muslimin (PPD Kluang) and the selection panel for the award and may it inspire me to work harder.  

The Thinking Teacher

Friday, 7 December 2012

JPN Johor Innovation Awards 2012

Date: 6 December 2012
Venue: Dewan Semarak, JPN Johor

This prestigious award ceremony took place in Dewan Semarak JPN Johor. Despite losing my way a little bit, I made it in time for the ceremony. Insane this! All because I followed my GPS to go via the Kempas exit instead of the usual Skudai exit I normally take. My GPS was just updated and it gave me the wrong directions, would you believe that! Well, this sort of thing probably only happens to people like me. To be honest when I was suddenly driving in the Pasir Gudang highway (yup, that lost!) I nearly gave up and wanted to ask Sallina Hussain (principal and good friend of SMK Seta, JB) to receive the award for me in case I didn't make in on time but her phone was silent for a bit. I had to trouble another friend (Pn Ruzana from PPD JB) and finally found my way back to Jalan Datin Halimah...phew!! tells you a lot about my driving skills doesn't it?) Well, as I said before, I arrived at about 8.45 and people were still having breakfast. Relieved...

Tn Hj Mohd Nor A. Ghani (State Education Director) graced the occasion and presented the awards. There were many important people in the beautiful hall and I was ushered by this kind lady to a seat next to Pn Fuziah, headmaster of SK Taman Uda (2). She was also an awardee. I then realised that it was a Thursday because everyone was adorned in batik! Well, this being the school hols I conveniently forgot :) Thank God Adibah, my daughter ironed a batik dress (well I think it passed as batik) and I got rid off my coat as soon as possible! Only one person was wearing a jacket and he was the Ketua Sektor Pendidikan Islam in JPN. I certainly felt more comfortable not wearing one.

The objectives of the ceremony were:
(from the programme book)
  • memberi pengiktirafan kepada hasil inovasi yang diperkenalkan oleh agensi kerajaan
  • memupuk dan menyemarakkan budaya kreatif dan inovatif dalam cara bekerja uyang diamalkan
  • memperkenalkan dan menyebarkan hasil-hasil inovasi yang boleh dicontohi untuk faedah agensi lain;dan
  • menyumbang kepada peningkatan kualiti penyampaian perkhidmatan kepada pelanggan

The award categories were:

  • Anugerah Khas Inovasi
  • Anugerah Khas Juri
  • Anugerah Inovasi Pengarah Pelajaran Johor
  • Anugerah Inovasi Timbalan Pengarah Pelajaran Johor
  • Anugerah Ketua Sektor
  • Anugerah Kumpulan Inovasi dan Kreatif (KIK)

In his address, the director mentioned a few important pointers: 
  • the need to change our work culture- the emphasis should be on outcome and they must be impactful
  • civil servants need to enhance their professional competence, provide client-friendly service, change their mindset and focus on feedback and complaints from clients because these are indicators of our effectiveness, be innovative and creative in the delivery system and give the best service with integrity and accountability
Alhamdulillah, I was awarded Anugerah Khas Inovasi (Kepimpinan Inovasi, Kumpulan Pengurusan dan Profesional). Initially I was rather reluctant to take part when the PPD Kluang nominated my name. However, some good friends and ex-students encouraged me to give it a try. A special thanks to Tn Hj Ahmad Yusof of PPD Kluang for norminating me and the selection panel of course. The emcee mistakenly announced that I was  "Pengetua SM Sains Sembrong" and then corrected himself :) A nice way to wrap up 2012!

The Thinking Teacher

Thursday, 8 November 2012

2012 in perspective

Tomorrow is the last day of the academic calender and I'm so looking forward to the hols...I can't wait! It's time to take that much deserved break and to focus on personal things (minus the blogging itch hopefully) I'd like to take the opportunity to thank all my blog visitors, friends and students for your support. This blog is all about sharing professional development. Sorry to disappoint you if you fail to find many lesson plans and handouts- that's not the point of this blog. I'd rather my visitors take ideas from this blog than ready-made handouts. I'd rather if you become thinking teachers. My teachers taught me to take an idea and to assess it for what it's worth and adapt it to a situation. I was taught not to expect things on a silver platter but to always learn the hard way because this would mean I will be sharpening the saw. I want to be a contributor of ideas more than a user.

Our exam-based system does not help either. We would rather things be given to us than originally produce or develop something that suits our situation. We are so caught up with the bubble called the exam syndrome that at times it numbs our creativity and intelligence as educators. It dulls the imagination and weakens the spirit to break the norm and do the impossible. We are so comfortable with the possible and the reachable.

It's been a long year and 550 postings later, it's time to review 2012. Here are some the issues that I felt profoundly about in 2012:

  • competent English teachers- only the best should be in the teaching profession if we are to produce a competitive nation. Mediocrity will breed mediocrity. Period.
  • support for English teachers - three classes of English is ideal for a teacher to plan and execute quality lessons. Besides the status of English as a second language needs to be reevaluated- less classes = quality lessons. Wishful thinking? I don't think so. It takes vision and willpower for an education minister to see this become reality. One wonders the effectiveness of teaching five periods of English with large classes at that. I pray for the day when we have enough manpower to see this through, although by then I will probably be happily retired :)
  • professional development opportunities for English teachers- more please! Courses that really help CPD not one-off courses with no impact
  • reducing bribery in the country -bribery in the education sector should be looked into by the authorities
  • reducing crime rate in the country so the common man feels safe on the streets
  • getting politics out of education- let educationists run the show and decide on educational issues
  • competent leaders to lead schools- we need capable and qualified leaders in schools not those who get promoted due to seniority
  • short courses for teachers- when will we be able to take three months leave for short courses in universities (with full pay) for CPD for example? I long for the day when I can be on sabbatical to enrol in a related course and renew my skills and knowledge as a teacher
  • the religious departments to play a more efficient and effective role- I feel they are not doing enough to ensure Muslims are eating halal food. There's little sense in claiming that this is an Islamic nation when there are many instances of suspicious products in the market. The mamak restaurant in my neighbourhood was just raided last week and to my horror, the majority of the workers couldn't even recite the syahadah!
  • short courses for teachers overseas- no need to look too far away- Singapore is nearby. How about short stints overseas for English teachers' retraining? I look forward to the day when Johor (the state I am loyal to) sponsors teachers for CPD overseas. Nothing is impossible.
  • PBS- I will definitely be better prepared next year...this year I was just coping to be honest. I owe it to the children, this much I know. Relieved to not be pressured by exams but the success of PBS will rest on the sincerity and integrity of teachers. Too many complaints and negativities about PBS do not help either- more collaboration amongst teachers will!

Thank you for the emails and questions you've been sending- keep them coming. It's been a mixed year :) but Alhamdulillah for everything...

Have a good break! 

The Thinking Teacher

Thank you 4 Syafie!

A scolding session at 8.30 for some boys from 4 Syafie and Bukhari for misbehaving did not deter 4 Syafie from giving me a surprise :) A surprise indeed! The students were all lined in a circle in the parking lot with a "thank you" cheer. Soon after we took some photos and said our goodbyes for the holiday. Thanks ever so much!! I was S.P.E.E.C.H.L.E.S.S and O.V.E.R.W.H.E.L.M.E.D by the act! I had never expected anything beyond their commitment and interest in English- still smiling when I think of today and slightly embarrassed for scolding the boys this morning :) I love these kids. We had so much fun this year and let's hope for a greater year in 2013. You will be missed 4 Syafie. Happy holidays!

A delightful surprise!

Thank you for all the lovely notes!

The last bear I got was on my 18th birthday! That was ooooooohh so ancient :)

The Thinking Teacher

Friday, 26 October 2012

Lessons from my students...

Scene One: Teaching impacts lives...

I recall one female student in particular back in the 90's...when I was a teacher in SM Sains Johor, Kluang but I can't remember her name. We stumbled upon each other in an international conference- I think it was MICELT. Although it was a brief meeting, her words were to my mind the most indelible. To this day, I can't forget her words. She thanked me because she was successful in her teaching application. Her exact words were "Cikgu terima kasih. Saya berjaya dalam interview saya kerana cikgu." (Thanks to you, I was succesful in my interview for a teaching application.) This puzzled me greatly because I had never taught her before and how can I take credit for such a thing. I remember seeing her in school but the truth is I had never taught her before. She then related enthusiastically how during the interview, one of the interviewers asked if I had taught her before and what she thought about me. Strange but perhaps I had worked with the officer before. Things started to become clearer after her explanation but just before we parted our ways, I had to somehow tell her that it was not me but God had meant it for her to be a teacher. Wherever she is, I hope she will impact her students' lives in one way or another, the same way she thought I had impacted hers.

Lesson learnt 

Teaching impacts lives. Someday, somewhere you never know when you may help a student or two however remotely. The best part about the whole thing is for someone you'd never taught to thank you for the little you have done. Now, that's your reward in teaching!

Scene Two: Everyone is teachable...

Teaching this class was an eye opener for me two years ago. Don't worry too much about being techy or having copious handouts. The main thing was how to get the students' attention. Be a clown, a reporter, an actress, a mum, a doctor, a singer, a dancer...anything you want as long as you can grab their attention. One day I decided to be a singer. Even better..I decided to be Celine Dion! Instead of playing the CD, I sang from the beginning to the end. Interesting did you ask? Well, I didn't have Celine Dion's voice or anything close to it but I think my pitching was ok and hey the students completed the tasksheet in no time! Word of caution though- be prepared to repeat as they wouldn't have got it the first time. Rehearse before you come to class so your voice box will last! Were they all praise for my singing? Definitely! But of course, play the real song afterwards so they will appreciate the real singer (and do justice to her), the song  and can sing along :)

Lesson learnt

Do anything and everything you (possibly) can because attention is a problem with poor learners.Not only is discipline 80% of problem in teaching these days but grabbing students' attention too is a real challenge. Don't ever give up on your students!

Teaching is one the greatest learning experiences.

The Thinking Teacher



Letter in a bottle for teachers...

What I'd really like to do today is to get back to my herbalife routine and the gym!! What after four days of hotel just binged without thinking because all your friends were eating! There are also the scripts to finish, something I shoud've done two weeks ago. 'Shoud've' is an elusive word because I will not be in the state that I am now if all the shoud'ves were addressed...some people never learn...Well, to be honest, there just wasn't time in Shah Alam- sessions lasted till 10.30 p.m. It shouldn't be a problem anyway. I only have paper one to deal with. Read about a nine-year-old boy who found a French letter in a bottle in Yahoo this morning...oo la la! Just the kind of thing I'd like to do. Write something for teachers and the teaching profession, snuff it in Habhal's 500 litre bottle and hurl it by Port Dickson beach or something and hope it will land in another part of the world (perhaps the Caribbean) someday...peppered with some wise words and a tip or two for teacher-wannabes :) Well, before I get overboard, time to get to work! 

Eid Mubarak everyone :)

The Thinking Teacher

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Innovation Seminar for Secondary Schools- State Level 2012

Date: 20th October 2012
Venue: Dewan Seminar, JPN Johor

I was privileged to represent Kluang in this seminar with Hamsam from SMK Kahang Timur. Although I didn't win, it was a good experience. Well-done to the deserving winners! The PJK teacher deserves to win as her gadget for teaching sofball is innovative. My only reservation about the judging was the fact that the judges were really into gadgets! The impression given was as if an innovation must be in the form of gadgets not ideas or adaptation of ideas. In addition, there were only two language teachers from the 20 participants and the the majority were Maths teachers. It seemed 'easier' for content subjects to come up with gadgets or maybe I wasn't creative enough :) The judges just loved gadgets although sometimes I felt some of the gadgets were a tad ridiculous as they not only reflected how 'poor' our students were but also teachers' lack of skills to teach the particular topic hence the need for such gadgets. Overall though, the seminar was well-organised.

I must start thinking of a gadget from now on :)

The Thinking Teacher

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Weekend ramblings...

Alhamdulillah I have been happily teaching in school for the past five months without much interruptions... it's a blessing in disguise. Well, not entirely..there were some odd meetings here and there. My latest contribution was the Score A programme last Friday in Ulu Tiram for Agama schools at 2.30 p.m.  The Deputy Director, Johor State Education Department signed the letter and so I headed for Savannah Hill Resort, Ulu Tiram to assist 95 top scorers from religious schools all over Johor.

driving a point...

During this  'hiatus', I've developed a bond with my students in 4 Syafie and 4 Bukhari. Believe it or not, I miss them a lot because of the exam week that commenced last week. My contact with them is mainly in the exam hall and you can't disturb them because they are seriously and furiously answering the questions! On Wednesday night this week, I sent them hot burgers in the evening. You get hungry easily when you're studying so...When Afiq and Danial returned the box,  it was barely ten minutes after they had distributed the burgers to the two classes. That was super fast! And they relayed a message from their classmates "I love you teacher." That was sweet. Free burgers = LOVE :)

Currently, I'm assessing the Form 4 end f year Paper 2 and I can barely wait to finish marking to see whether there is any improvement in the students' performance. The best gift for a teacher is to see student improvement, however small, because improvement shows progress and increased understanding. Thus far, their responses haven't been too bad and I'm pleased to note individual students who did well in Section C (Reading Comprehension and Summary). However, there are some in 4 Bukhari who have not shown much progress and this worries me to a certain extent. Why haven't they shown much progress when their colleagues have? 

A rumour I just heard while chatting with a friend just now is GCs will be placed under the PPD. What this means is left to anyone's imagination. I would certainly like to know in terms of responsibilities. Lately I've been approached by the PPD about innovation and a course for new teachers. Hmmm...perhaps we GCs have not been informed of the latest. You know what they say, no news is good news! Meanwhile, the module on "Catch Us If You Can' for use in 2013 is progressing albeit slowly and my cough is getting better. It's been two weeks now and I've got my voice back! And am looking forward to lunch with four girls tomorrow. Carpe Diem!

The Thinking Teacher

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Staff Development: Action Research

Date: 9 October 2012
Time: 3.00-5.00 p.m.
Venue: Meeting Room 1

I had a great time conducting this session today despite my cough! My cough seems to be coming back :( I thought the ideas from the panels were doable and specific to warrant a good action research. Sometimes the biggest problem is not being able to narrow down the issue/problem. When faced with this I always remember Dr Hunston's (my M.A supervisor) wise words-'Small is beautiful.'...To be honest two hours is not enough but I did what was possible :)

Selamat Membudayakan Kajian Tindakan di SASEM!

 The Thinking Teacher

Good Luck In Your Exams!!!

To all Sasemians and especially for 4 Bukhari and 4 Syafie. Make me proud :))

                                                             (credit: google images)

Sasemians- break a leg!

The Thinking Teacher

Wadah Siswa Issue No.3: English not Manglish!

Read my articles on 'English not Manglish" and "SPM Tips: How to write an article" in this issue of Wadah Siswa. Happy Reading!

using proper English

How to tackle an article- Directed Writing

The Thinking Teacher

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Lesson Study, Second Cycle: SMK Layang-Layang

Dateline: 2nd October 2012
Venue: SMK Layang-Layang

I was alone this time around. No officer from the PPD with me. When I arrived in SMK Layang-Layang, it was recess time so there was a bit of noise. Had breakfast first with the English teachers in the canteen before seeing the Senior Assistant. Tn Hj Mohd Yusope (PK1) decided to join us in studying a lesson today. The lesson was conducted by Hizrian, the Head of Panel and it was on language we used for expressing ourselves.

I thought the lesson plan was a solid one and am thinking of using it with my students after the end-of-year exam. The lesson objectives were achieved except for objective number three. We had a slight problem with this one because two colleagues decided to join in and helped the students while they were doing the group activity. The colleagues had all the good intentions...unfortunately this wasn't the right protocol as the teacher being observed was Hizrian. This wasn't about co-teaching as the lesson plan reflected. Anyway, overall, the lesson went well. As the emphasis was listening and speaking, I was hoping to see the students speaking more than the teacher though...I thought Hizrian had a way with students and I like his explanations on the purpose of communication after each activity. They reinforced the activities students just carried out although he needs to reduce the explanations sometimes. 

It's amazing how much I've learned in my school visits and interactions with young teachers-something I'd volunteer to do in future. I hope I had been useful in this visit. To the English teachers in SMK Layang-Layang, good job!

research lesson in progress

interesting lesson!

Hizrian..has a lot of potential

critical friends helping out..

 The Thinking Teacher

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Teaching the Parts of Speech (3)- Using a Song

How about using a song to reinforce the parts of speech? I chose this song as it's once of my favourites plus the fact that I'd like my students to listen to some meaningful songs of old compared to the head-banging tunes of today. Seriously...can you understand some of the songs youngsters listen to nowadays? Well, I grew up with The Carpenters, Stevie Wonder, Earth,Wind and Fire and the likes.  I know my students will disagree. Well, I listen to Dido and Adele too, to quote some of the more modern singers...but for this lesson, start off with:
1. Seasons in the Sun (the worksheet) 
2. Seasons in the Sun (the song)

Let students listen to the song twice and circle and correct the mistakes they listen to. Highlight those mistakes and get them to identify the parts of speech (assuming that you have pre taught them). This would be suitable at the beginning of the lesson as a set induction or at the end for reinforcement. The choice is dependent on you as the teacher.

Happy Teaching :)

The Thinking Teacher

Teaching Parts of Speech (2)

Sunday! My favourite day to blog although I still have piles of papers to grade :) Well, my life isn't complete if I  don't share what I do in the classroom. Remember! You're at your own risk when you visit my blog..take what's good and leave what's bad...Here's an 'ordinary' lesson on parts of speech too with 1 Qayyim. I made them come to the board and circle the different parts of speech and immediately discuss any mistakes.Give it a try and see how it goes.

The Thinking Teacher

Raising Awareness on the Parts of Speech

I'd like to share a way of giving assignments to students. Once in a while I will give a 'different' task to my students when dealing with grammar. In the following, I got them to choose a newspaper article of their own liking which is of reasonable length. They then complete the following tasks:

  • underline 10 nouns using red
  • circle 10 verbs using blue
  • box 10 adjectives using green

This is to raise their awareness on the parts of speech in sentences. Once you have assessed the students' work, discuss some examples in the classroom. Students usually get their verbs wrong. They tend to think of verbs as single words so for instance, they will not circle "to run" but they rather "run". This can be used as discussion points to discuss verbs in the classroom. The same can be said of the other parts of speech in the task above. It's an alternative way of giving assignments your students. It takes them away from coursebook and workbook tasks and try something different. Students will have to read the text and analyse what functions the words play in the text. 

Happy teaching :)



The Thinking Teacher

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Wake up call for graduates!

(credit The STAR, 26 September 2012)

Sunday September 23, 2012

English — the way to go!


All parties at a recent forum organised by The Star, were unanimous that young graduates who joined the workforce needed to engage and communicate in English if they wanted to move up in their careers.

EVER wondered why we put so much emphasis on English when countries like Japan and Germany seem to progress just fine without focusing on the language? That mystery was unravelled at The Star’s free public forum on the importance of English in the workplace after lively talks by forum speakers and the Q&A session that followed. The forum held in conjunction with The Star’s English For More Opportunities initiative, featured experts in English and those in the employment markets, and was moderated by former Education Ministry deputy director-general Datuk Noor Rezan Bapoo Hashim.

<b>Registration:</b> Early birds all excited as they sign up for the forum at Menara Star. 
Registration: Early birds all excited as they sign up for
 the forum at Menara Star.

Forum speaker, Albukhary International University (AiU) deputy vice-chancellor Prof Emeritus Dr Omar Farouk Sheikh highlighted the peripheral role of English in certain progressive nations.
“I’ll begin my talk with a short story of a Malay College Kuala Kangsar boy who went to Japan for a month-long cultural exchange programme.
“The student was having an acute dilemma, he wondered why the Japanese knew so little English and yet could still be one of the most scientifically- and technologically-advanced countries on earth.
“So while he was there he posed this question to me, ‘Why do we have to learn Science and Mathematics in English back home?’,” he said.
Prof Omar, who had served at Hiroshima City University for 18 years, went on to describe how he had been travelling a lot and was not up-to-date with Malaysia’s education situation.
“So the only answer I could give him was, ‘that’s the Malaysian way’. In this instance the importance of English is contextual.
“English is not as vital in Japan as it is in Malaysia and even here we can argue that in certain situations, English is critical while in others, it may be trivial or even irrelevant.

<b>Full attention:</b> Members of the audience listen intently to panelist Sam Ayton as she presents her views. 
Full attention: Members of the audience listen
intently to panelist Sam Ayton as she presents her views.
“But since I’ve been out of the loop for awhile, I’m looking forward to learning a thing or two about the situation of English here in as much as I’m looking forward to contributing to discussion,” he added.
Prof Omar said it was not unreasonable to expect the importance of English to be debated upon continually in a variety of contexts.

“I think this is healthy because at best, the importance of English can only be relative. It’s difficult if not impossible to argue that the importance of English is absolute.

“More often than not, the argument for English is not just about English. We need to be aware of the political, psychological, social and cultural perspectives that influence our attitude towards the language,” he added.
Sharing the story of what he called “the AiU experiment” where a large number of international students were successful in mastering English through an intensive programme, Prof Omar proposed that there were five factors which affected language learning.

“Eighty percent of our students are foreigners and most of them struggle with English. Within months, those who were not able to speak even a few words of English became confident speakers thanks to our intensive programme,” he said.

He explained that the five factors behind the programme’s success include detailing the incentives of learning English to students, providing them with motivation to learn, having the proper facilities for language learning, properly planning and strategising the programme to have clear goals and offer positive recognition to those who excel. The revelation of why English was key to our progress instead of following in the footsteps of the Japanese paradigm came from TalentCorp Malaysia CEO Johan Mahmood Merican.

<b>Digital assistance:</b> Young employees often seek online help when they are assigned to projects that require reportwriting in English. —Photo posed by model. 
Digital assistance: Young employees often seek 
online help when they are assigned to projects
 that require reportwriting in English. —Photo posed by model.
“I often hear arguments that Japan and South Korea have managed to become developed nations without English, this is a very dangerous line of thought because it doesn’t look at the situation historically. “Countries like Japan have always been developing their own indigenous technologies, so they do not rely as much as we do on foreign direct investment and innovation from outside. “It would be easier for us to get our English sorted out than become a country that develops indigenous technonologies,” he said.

The four C’s
He added that with our reliance on trade and foreign investment, and historical ties with English, we should leverage on the language as a source of competitiveness. Johan elaborated that apart from competitiveness, there are three other C’s related to the importance of English in the workplace and beyond.

“Convergence is another C. It’s cliche to say the world is flat, but it’s true. The world is coming together and its lingua franca is English. It is the language of trade and learning.
“It’s like Microsoft’s programs, they are so widespread that almost every computer uses them. Our education system will have to move beyond just teaching knowledge of English to teaching English for communication, which is the other C in the equation,” he said.

He questioned the nation’s readiness to teach its children the soft skill they will need in a globalised world.

<b>Language concerns:</b> Prof Omar says that English is not as vital in Japan as it is in Malaysia. Language concerns: Prof Omar says that English is not as vital in Japan as it is in Malaysia.
“Do we necessarily have the platform to teach communication? Are we really doing that in schools?” he asked.
The final C is about the community, said Johan.
“If young Malaysians do not use English regularly, they will only have a limited proficiency in the langauge and cannot reap its full benefits.
“It is common for children in rural areas to be belittled and ridiculed for trying to speak English.
“This is counterproductive and has to change, the community must encourage the use of English and it must be promoted as a means of advancement in life,” he said.
He added that one of the key strengths of Malaysia is its ability to influence its wider society to accept new ideas through education.

A British applied linguist said proficiency in the English language would eventually become a generic learning skill acquired in all schools. British Council (BC) language services director Sam Ayton cited this research finding at the start of her talk. The research commissioned by BC and published in 2006 by British linguist David Graddol, revealed that there was already a massive increase in the number of people learning global English, said Ayton. Graddol projected that it was likely to reach a peak of around two billion in the next 10 to 15 years, added Ayton.

“He was talking about global English, English spoken by non-native speakers, that is ousting the language of Shakespeare and becoming as the world’s lingua franca.
In 2006, non-native speakers outnumbered native speakers by three to one,” she said.
She illustrated the changes through graphs which showed the projected proficiency age for education entry requirements will drop from 20 to 14 years (see charts).

The global norm
“Education systems worldwide are emphasising English and as a consequence, children are becoming proficient at a younger age, English proficiency will eventually become a global norm,” she said.
“To give future generations a competitive edge, it would require individuals to be proficient in English plus one or two more languages.”

She also spoke about work skills and mentioned the McKinsey report published on June 12 which, based on current trends, projects gaps in skills to drive 21st century economies. She said that there was a need to address the imbalance in both advanced and developing economies through education and training. She added that based on the interviews with more than 100 organisations, employers said many Malaysians lacked business English skills.

“About 57% of employers felt that English proficiency was important for employees, and 67% for the service industry,” she said.

This number is aligned with (a job portal) surveys that show 56% of employers viewed poor command of English as a reason for not hiring. Surprisingly, only 23% of fresh graduates shared that view. The findings was presented by Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Shamsuddin Bardan who said employers not only wanted staff who understood English but also communicated well in the universal language too.

“Knowledge of English is insufficient, the employee needs to be able to communicate well in both written and spoken English. Companies are reluctant to train for fear of their employees being poached by competitors.
“So they expect secondary schools and higher learning institutes to produce fresh graduates who are already proficient in communicative English and ready for the labour market,” he said.

He added that even if 90% of students score a minimum credit in SPM English (against Cambridge 1119 standards), as aimed by the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025, it still would not meet the manpower needs of the workforce.

“A credit in SPM English doesn’t mean you can communicate well. Even if you increase the number of students who pass with a credit, only 30-40% of them would be able to communicate well and thus be employable,” Shamsuddin said.

He added that the perception among youth that English is unimportant in landing them a job needs to change because communicative English is one of the most sought after skills by employers.

“Fresh graduates need to know this fact and bridge the perception gap, so they can take up the initiative and build their English proficiency through retraining and other means,” he said.

At the end of his talk, Shamsuddin quoted Deputy Education Minister Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi who said that: “It was agreed upon by education ministries of 54 Commonwealth countries at a recent conference in Mauritius that English should be the medium of communication not instruction.”

In her welcoming speech, The Star deputy group chief editor (II) Leanne Goh said the newspaper had always been at the forefront of championing English language learning.

“Over the years, we have publications such as Newspaper-in-Education, Stuff@School and the education pullout on Sunday which support English language learning,” she said.
Ayton said it was interesting to find out that, in recruitment processes, very few employers conducted any form of formal assessment of language skills.

“Assessment of language skills was generally based on one-to-one conversations with a good speaker within the company who is not necessarily a language specialist,” Ayton said.

She added that oral and written communication were the most sought-after skills in English language proficiency training. Ayton added that 92% of Malaysian employers who provide English language courses conducted in-house training.

“Addressing proficiency issues in English require deep and wide innovation in teaching the language not just in education systems, but also in individual learning programmes and corporate recruitment and training,” she said.

English For More Opportunities

English is more than just the universal language of diplomacy, business, science and technology. It opens the door to more job opportunities, good universities, career advancements and increased earning power. English for More Opportuni-ties is part of The Star’s on-going efforts to highlight the importance of the language in helping people get ahead in life.

The Thinking Teacher

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Reading Club (15): Never Work Harder Than Your Students, Robyn R. Jackson

The book I'm currently reading although progress is painfully slow. At the snail's pace am going, wonder when I will ever finish this book :)  Don't I wish that I have a long break just to read all the books I want! You have to believe me when I say that teachers don't have time to read. I've been trying to read this one for the past three months and haven't even got past the first chapter. No. Am not making excuses but I just cannot find the time to read. It's been a battle all the way. And you know what? I'm actually dying to know the secrets to never working harder than my students as claimed by Dr Robyn (many overworked teachers will!!!) but I guess I will never know until I finish the book sob sob sob...And people say teachers have a lot of time in their hands...nuts!

The Thinking Teacher

Module for 'Catch Us if You Can'

In the process of writing a module for my students to use next year. They will be the first batch taking SPM and that means a lot to SASEM! I hope I can finish in time so that all fifth formers will be able to use it from January. However, I have been under the weather the whole of last week- low blood pressure (I probably over exerted myself playing badminton with the students in Khalifah Hall...) dizziness (thanks to Azhar for sending me home on Thursday. All I did was sleep sleep and sleep..) and now an itchy throat! With my lappy now trying to work on that module. Pray that I can finish my job :)

The Thinking Teacher

Monday, 17 September 2012

Memorising essays?

I was slightly bothered by my students' comments on a suggestion that they memorise essays for the SPM. I've heard of such an idea for some time now but I have never asked my students to memorise essays for the SPM. Memorising chunks or interesting phrases and expressions is still palatable but memoring full essays? The idea was to learn the essay (one of two) by heart and to 'adjust' the content for open-topics or the narrative. We are all familiar with topics such as 'Friends' (open topic) and a story ending with say, "...If only I had listened." The advice my students got was to memorise an essay and to make the necessary editing to fit the title. This is because, according to my students, who had listened to the talk,  in the SPM assessment, the content does not matter. What matters is the language...

Here's my two-cents on the matter:

i)  This 'method' is probably best suited for weak to very weak students who can hardly write but there is a danger in that the student's real language is easily traced to Directed Writing.Through this method, teachers hope that these students will at least gain some marks.

ii) Yes, the main concern in Paper 1 is language. But if your Directed Writing is a 'C' band and your Continuous Writing is 'A' due to memorising, it will still cost you dearly. Experienced examiners will be able to trace this easily. 

Exams do cause teachers to look for desperate measures to make sure students pass English.  But if everyone follows this method, what will happen to the standard of English in the country? Isn't it already low? Meanwhile I have some damage control to do with my classes :)

The Thinking Teacher

Friday, 14 September 2012

TRO cervical spondylosis?

This is not some mellifluous term...or some cryptic puzzle to crack- this is a medical condition. Last week the MRI and x-ray scan showed that I have TRO cervical spondylosis. Small wonder I've been experiencing the symptoms lately: dizziness and lost of balance when walking (and sometimes driving), headaches, numbness on the fingers and pain in the upper right back and neck. "It comes with age," said Dr Neo, the Consultant Otthopaedic Surgeon in Utama specialist hospital. There is no cure. I just have to learn to ease the pain. After a jab and some medication, I reached home at Mahgrib in time for breaking fast that day. Thanks to Dr Zainudin (Poliklinik Intan) for suspecting it first and advising me to do MRI. Well, am glad that I finally know what the problem is. It's been nagging me for a year. Now at least I can move ahead and find out the best ways to handle the matter. Insya Allah am positive I will be fine :)

A much welcome break...thank you God. I need this time and space to think, think and that's a lot of thinking to do :) 

Selamat Hari Malaysia!


The Thinking Teacher

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Teacher Talk (28)

To: Rahmah Sayuti <>
Sent: Saturday, September 1, 2012 8:51 AM
Subject: Reading stance among students

Salam Rahmah, I used to follow your blogs.  I believed your teaching experiences will answer my questions that always spin in my head.   I read  a numbers of journals and I found that students when it comes to English literary text, they don't adopt the aesthetic reading stance which is necessary in order to understand the poem or novels.  I think most of them with technology at the finger tips especially blogs make them demotivated to read or depends on blog in terms of reading. It is not that I'm against the blogs, but more to confirm my findings with the current trends of malaysian students.  What do you think about this?


The Thinking Teacher

Friday, 31 August 2012

Sasemians celebrated Independence Day!

The 55th Independence Day was celebrated in style in SASEM. First we had boiled tapioca, lempeng (a kind of pancake) and 'sambal' in the dining hall. However there wasn't enough tapioca for the students so they just had the pancake. After that we were off to Khalifah Hall for brilliant performances by the students. As I've said before, the students have a lot of talent so they were able to come up with a wonderful performance. Well-done to the teachers who trained them (Ema, Wanie, Syukri and others).

What left an indelible impression was the dance from the lower secondary kids! Simply beautiful! Credit must be given to Roshni for dancing so gracefully. The other one was of course Syafiq Osmera (reminds me of Ed Osmera, the handsome actor of the olden days) and the gang for the memorable video. I love the part when he addressed the Malay folks on what they could do to help fund the initiative towards independence. He has the talent in acting I think. To cap it all was the fireworks display and the 'Merdeka' chant by all present. Did Syafiq say it seven times or eight? video will have the answer if Ikhwan had shot it all :) 

Sasemians, let's not waste that talent you have. I would like to see you succeed in both academic and co curricular. There is something special about this batch if only they realise it...I've always said they have a lot of talent but that talent must be tapped and channeled towards excellence particularly academic excellence. Sasemians BOLEH!

Kudos to all those involved in the Merdeka Day celebrations.

Happy Independence Day Malaysia! Proud to be Malaysian!

The Thinking Teacher

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

If You Don't Use it You Lose It! English,Your Window to the World (Wadah Siswa 1/2012)

My first article in Wadah Siswa/Issue 1/2012. Happy reading :)

Learning to speak English well may be the best thing you can do to improve your life. It is not just a subject you need to learn in school but it is an international language you need to master simply because it is the most widely spoken language in the world. That’s right. Do you know that at least 2.2 billion people speak the language? It is also used as the mother tongue and the official language in at least 70 counties around the world, 95% of scientific articles are in English and it is the official language used in the United Nations and the Olympics (Crystal, D English as a Global Language, Google Books, p4, p65 an d These facts alone show that the English Language is a language you cannot ignore. You have to master it in order to amass a lot of information and knowledge especially in science and technology. You just cannot afford to ignore this language.  English is your window to the world. In Malaysia, English is the second language after Bahasa Melayu. Our education system places a lot of importance on the language in order to become a successful nation. It is also a compulsory subject to learn in primary and secondary schools. Getting a good grade in English is no longer considered a bonus or an advantage but it is a must! If you can speak and write well in English, it opens many doors to better opportunities in life. Let us look at the opportunities:
  • Get access to knowledge -What are you interested in? Sports? Music? Gadgets? Entertainment? We live in an information age but unfortunately most of this information or knowledge is in English. Just look around you. Today’s media such as the internet, television and newspapers can provide you with unlimited access to knowledge about your interests but you must have a good command of the language to be able to access them. There are over a billion web pages that are in English for you to gather unlimited information on any topic. A person who has knowledge has an advantage over the other.  The saying ‘knowledge is power’ is true but you need to master English first in order to get access to knowledge. Can you imagine how much learning one language can do to your life?
  • Communicate with people - English is the language of communication. More and more people are learning the language especially in China. China has recently decided to put a lot of emphasis on the importance of learning English to its citizens. They do not have a choice because with the booming economy China is experiencing now, business and trade transactions require English as a medium of communication. After all, English is the language diplomats form different countries use to communicate with each other and the language used for almost all international competitions such as the Olympics.  If you can converse well in English, you can speak confidently and talk about your ideas and opinions to others around the world. You can travel easily and communicate with people on the streets or ask for help.  
  • Give your career a push- Don’t just dream of that good job in a business or technology company! Start learning English now! Once you have a good level of proficiency, you will it easy to write yourself a good resume, gain technical knowledge or be a world-class businessman or businesswoman. You can also upgrade your skills by learning computer skills that are mainly in English. This will definitely push you career prospects once you jump into the world of career.
  • Enjoy literature and the arts- With a respectable command of English, you will be able to enjoy reading great books by famous authors such as Charles Dickens and the more modern author such as J.K Rowling of the Harry Porter series. Reading a book is not the same as watching a movie. Many details are left out in a movie but you will find a good book a good read. In addition, there is a wide choice of movies to watch particularly American movies. A strong command in English will also help you understand and enjoy songs better because you understand the words.

How do you learn English?
Here are some simple tips:

  • Get rid of that shyness!
You are being shy for the wrong reason. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes- people may laugh at you sometimes for mispronouncing a word of two but that is the way to learn. Mistakes are really opportunities for you to improve yourselves. Think of it this way- how can we ever learn English or any other language for that matter if we don’t make mistakes? Even Thomas Elva Edison had to make approximately 1000 mistakes before he could come up with the electrical bulb we are using now! He was not sacred of making mistakes. In the same way, do not be afraid to make mistakes while learning English. Your teachers will help you in class and you should make the most of your English lessons in school.

  • Invest in a good dictionary
Get a current dictionary and not one that you have had for years because the list of words increases all the time. A good dictionary is preferably an English-to- English dictionary but there is nothing wrong in getting a bilingual dictionary if it helps. If you can afford it, get an electronic dictionary which is light and handy to be brought to class. Having a reliable dictionary will help you deal with difficult words and look at good sample sentences on how to use the words.

  • Read, read, read!
Reading is the key to acquiring English besides speaking. You need to develop a love for reading all types of materials in English from newspapers to novels. Newspapers are the cheapest source of reading material costing only about RM1.50. Find the section you like most such as sports and start reading. It is not hard to do. It is hard when you read something you do not like.

  • Keep a journal
Make a difference in your student life. Keep a journal or diary in English. You can record your personal thoughts, reflections and events regularly. This will increase your contact with English outside school hours. On top of that, keeping a journal will motivate you to write your inner thoughts and feelings without any inhibitions.

  • Listen to good speakers of English
They could be your own English teacher, classmates, a news reader on television and radio, an actress or a broadcaster. The main thing is to be exposed to good models of the language as much as possible. One way you can learn English is to watch the English news on your favourite TV channel. It is not expensive at all.

  • Use the language
How many English words do you speak in a day? Ask yourself this question every day and make an effort to speak in English daily. You can do this by having simple conversations with your friends and classmates in the classroom, at the canteen or during sports practice sessions in the field. Remember, if you don’t use it, you lose it!

  • Be patient
Learning a second language is not the same as learning a first language such as Bahasa Melayu. You must be patient in learning the rules of grammar and the fours skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. Take it one step at a time. The saying goes that ‘Rome was not built in a day.’ Hence, be open-minded and be ready to learn.

           English is easy to learn. You can do it!

The Thinking Teacher