Saturday, January 30, 2010

A DIRE NEED TO REVAMP OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM

NST: 29 Jan 2010


I was more than a tad proud when my eldest granddaughter started Primary One this year. As someone who has spent over 35 years in the teaching profession, I was understandably curious to see what her school was like. So a fortnight ago, I visited her school along with her parents. I wanted to check out the facilities and the curriculum. What I saw left me very impressed.

Aside from the cleanliness and orderliness everywhere, it was evident the school was gearing itself to meet the educational demands of the 21st century. Every classroom was well-equipped with the latest in learning technologies and pedagogy. Creativity was emphasised, as were thinking skills.



(Left) Art Costa's 16 Habits of Mind was incorporated into the curriculum.
(Right) Buttons that promote positive qualities. Click on all images to enlarge.

What I also liked was the importance given to core values. Each class was given a name after a moral value. My granddaughter's class was Kindness. The others were Charity, Devotion, Grace, Joy and Patience. Bear in mind this was an all-girls school.



Drawings like these are inserted throughout the pupils' handbook and journal to inculcate a sense of living together in unity and harmony. Mother tongue was a core subject incorporated into the class timetable. This is not the case in our schools where the POL (Pupil's Own Language - Chinese or Tamil) is relegated to after-school hours on certain days of the school week. And that only when there are at least 15 students to make up a class.

A Primary One class timetable. How does this compare with our Darjah Satu timetable?


This primary school had a website deserving of an award for content and design. By contrast I was not only deeply disappointed but also totally appalled at the lack of information when I tried to find out more about each of the six primary schools that made it to the top 20 high performing schools in Malaysia. My online search either turned up nothing or led me to long-abandoned websites.

For one school, high performance seems to be all about excellent results and achievements. Not surprising really. A look at the ranking criteria for our schools reveal the same old emphasis on academic achievements above all else. No wonder those who can afford to are looking elsewhere to school their children.

If our children are the leaders of tomorrow, then I fear for the future of our country.

Friday, January 29, 2010

FREEDOM TO EXPRESS OUR VIEWS

Books like these are sold on the open shelves at major bookstores.

With technology breaking down barriers in communication and making information so readily accessible, it is quite pointless to ban any literature, or stop people from expressing their opinion.

Unlike many of our ASEAN neighbours, Malaysians do enjoy a good measure of freedom to speak, write or seek alternative news coverage. There's plenty to read and view, especially with so much happening in the country.

The Star

University Malaya has even revived Speaker's Corner. I recall listening to protest speeches by student activists like Anwar Ibrahim back in the 1960s.

Here's a sampling of the new freedom. Just remember not to insult royalty, whether living or deceased.

NO to Internal Security Act - YES to Anti-Terrorism Act



Saya anak bangsa Malaysia (SABM) roadshow

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

WOULD YOU WANT TO LIVE WITH YOUR ADULT CHILDREN?


Call it intergenerational, multi-generational or 3-generation, it is the new buzz word for housing developers, at least for those who have been keeping a watchful eye on demographic trends.

Many seniors today are used to being independent and living in their own homes. When they retire they are reluctant to move in with their adult children. Much as they love their children and grandchildren and enjoy their company, at the end of the day they want their own space and privacy. A home with boisterous children and noisy teenagers is not exactly a haven for older people looking for some peace and quiet to enjoy their twilight years.

Adult children, on the other hand, constantly worry about their ageing parents living on their own. What if the latter need medical care? Or provisions? What if there’s an emergency?




One solution is the intergenerational home – a single house with two separate self-contained units, the smaller unit for the elderly parents. In the US, more extended families are living together under one roof. For many, the move is to cut costs. In Malaysia, however, a more popular option is for the parents to sell off the family home and purchase a unit close to their children’s home.

A rich relative of mine has a house with a garden so big he could build an annexe in one corner for his parents. I also know of a couple, both professionals, who bought two adjacent apartment units, so they could have their parents live literally next door!

The benefits of intergenerational living are mutual. Adult children can look after their parents much more easily, and enjoy some peace of mind at work. Their parents can help to babysit and keep an eye on their home when the family is away on vacation.

An advertisement for a 3-generation home in Kuala Lumpur


Of course such ideal living arrangements don’t come cheap. For those of us who can’t afford the luxury of living in a two-in-one home, the next best thing is to have a home with two master bedrooms with attached bathrooms. A local property developer has already started building such homes. Time will tell if this trend catches on.


Monday, January 25, 2010

GOING UP THE COUNTRY...GOTTA GET AWAY

Enjoy such pristine countryside while we can. It may not be here for long.


Remember the lyrics of Canned Heat's "Going up the country....Gotta leave this city, Gotta get away"? That was how I felt yesterday as my family and I took a respite from the heat, dust and pressure-cooker atmosphere of the urban jungle.

A mere hour's drive up north and we were already out in the countryside, feeling invigorated by the cool air, clear skies and clean mountain water.

Great place to meditate, reflect or just be one with nature.


My grandson, Max, getting acquainted with a newborn puppy.

(Top) For a kid, nothing beats splashing around in a mountain stream. (Above) Refilling my bottle with natural mineral water straight from the ground.

If it's been ages since you visited the small towns and villages, plan a trip soon. It'll be a nostalgic one for those of us baby-boomers who grew up in the backwaters where life was leisurely, people were friendly and a bowl of noodles cost only a dollar fifty.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

TRUE OR FALSE?


I am not a Muslim. If I were, I would be very confused. I would be at risk of converting to Christianity.

I am not a Christian. If I were, I would be even more confused. Who wouldn't be?

Mark the following statements True or False:

~ Christians can't use the word "Allah" for their God. Period.
~ Christians in Malaysia can't use the word.
~ Only Christians in Sabah and Sarawak can use the word.
~ Christians in Penang can also use it, as the head of state is not a Sultan.
~ Now Christians in the Federal Territory can use it too.

If you had marked all True, you would have scored 100%. Congrats! You have been paying attention to statements issued by Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department.



I am a God-loving Malaysian, and I am just as confused.

Does the minister's personal opinion reflect the PM's stand (and the government's) on the matter? After all, he is supposed to represent the PM. Is it right for him to make public statements on the dispute when the court has yet to decide?

Does it mean that bibles imported from Indonesia can be used in the four states mentioned above? What about the states of Malacca and Negeri Sembilan? Both states do not have a Sultan. Does this imply that when Christians travel around Malaysia, they cannot bring along their bible depending on which state they are in?

I am from Johor. Can I use "Allah" on the Internet?

Perhaps in the coming days, the Honourable Minister might issue another statement: Now ALL states can use the word "Allah".

Let's wait and see. But I won't be holding my breath.

But the most ludicrous statement of all must surely be that issued by our former PM:

And his reasoning?


HOHO, HAHAHA!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

LAUGHTER TRULY IS THE BEST MEDICINE

I've just received my certification as a Laughter Yoga leader of Dr Madan Kataria's School of Laughter Yoga.

What is Laughter Yoga? It's a "blend of yogic deep breathing, stretching, and laughter exercises that cultivate childlike playfulness". A typical laughter session lasts 30 minutes.
With natural disasters happening around us, and racial/religious tension simmering everywhere, this may not seem like the best of times to enjoy mirthful laughter. But perhaps that's exactly the medicine we need right now.




Indeed research reveals that children on average laugh 500 times a day, but adults only 18 times! Have we lost the ability to laugh, to feel good? Consider some of the many benefits of laughter:

~ it boosts the immune system

~ it is a natural pain killer

~ it energizes you

~ it relaxes you

~ it is anti-ageing

You can also practise laughter yoga to manage corporate stress and increase productivity. If only Parliament and Cabinet meetings started with a laughter yoga session! Laughter sessions have also been successfully introduced in hospitals, schools, senior citizens homes, prisons, factories and other workplaces. Below are video clips on Laughter Yoga from Discovery Channel and CNN.









The first Laughter Club was started in Mumbai in 1995 with only five people, including the founder Dr Madan Kataria and his wife. Today there are over 6000 clubs in more than 55 countries, and the number is increasing.

There is already a club in Johor Baru, and one in KL/PJ soon. Public laughter yoga sessions are conducted free of charge. The Star has done a 3-page cover story on laughter yoga, and also reported on a session at Subang Ria Park.

World Laughter Day is celebrated on 2 May.


With Lee-Jean who was personally trained by Dr Kataria

Remember: You don't stop laughing when you grow old; you grow old when you stop laughing.



Saturday, January 16, 2010

SIXTH SENSE: BRIDGING THE DIGITAL WORLD AND THE PHYSICAL WORLD

What a phenomenal technological breakthrough! Forget about Apple's much-anticipated i-tablet. Pranav Mistry's sixth sense device is THE ONE to watch. Viewing the video got me so excited that I simply had to post it here and share it with you. (Click on the screen image to enlarge.)

Friday, January 15, 2010

ARE WE BEING OVERLY (IN)SENSITIVE?



One man’s meat is another man’s poison. This is so true in a multi-racial country. Case in point: McDonald’s in Singapore recently introduced their Chinese New Year (CNY) toy promotion: a set of Doraemon collectibles depicting the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac calendar. With a food purchase, customers could collect a zodiac toy of their choice for only S$2.

Some customers were miffed when they discovered that the pig toy was omitted from the set. As a certified halal restaurant chain, the fast-food giant reasoned that offering a pig toy on the premises would offend their Muslim customers. As the first day of CNY this year coincides with Valentine’s Day, McDonald’s replaced the pig toy with a cupid toy.

Their decision upset many Chinese customers. They felt McDonald’s should not have tampered with a Chinese tradition that dates back thousands of years. For customers born in the Year of the Pig, collecting a cupid toy wouldn’t have the same significance.

Sometimes being sensitive to the customs of one ethnic group may mean being insensitive to those of another. That’s one of the challenges of doing business in a multi-racial, multi-cultural country. You just have to tread with extreme caution. A mis-step, no matter how small, can lead to a conflagration that neither side really wants.

Note: In Malaysia, the Year of the Pig is referred to as the Year of the Boar. And the Year of the Cock(erel) goes by the more polite Year of the Rooster.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

"THE SITUATION IS UNDER CONTROL" - REALLY?


I have lost count of the number of times I've seen these words "The situation is under control" in the local media. The words are beginning to hold little meaning especially when uttered by the Home Minister.

The day after the first three churches were targeted with firebombs, the minister reassured the people that the situation was under control. The very next day two more churches and a convent school became the latest victims. The unrest had spread to other states - Perak, Negeri Sembilan and Sarawak.

"The situation is under control," repeated the minister who was beginning to sound like a broken down tape recorder. Shortly after that, the total count shot up to nine churches.

Two days ago a Sikh temple was vandalized, prompting the Home Minister to issue a warning that the Internal Security Act (ISA) would be used against anyone caught instigating racial tension.

"The situation is under control", he assures the people. Who will believe him now? He has lost credibility.

"We will not hesitate to use the law, and will act against anybody (the culprits) regardless of their background," he warns. More hollow words with no bite.

To date, no one has been arrested. Meanwhile, the unease continues...

Related article:


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

ONE-ON-ONE WITH RAZALEIGH

The Singapore Straits Times today carried three articles that are worth checking out. The first is an interview with Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, and his views on what's ailing the country. (Wed 13 Jan update: Just realized that links to news articles on ST are valid only on the day of publication, unless you are a subscriber like me. However, you may access all three articles featured in this blog at the Malaysian Insider.)

The second "What makes a confident Muslim?" first appeared in Marina Mahathir's blog on 2 January. She has since written a few more on her blog. Check them out.

Finally, here's an article "The Danger of Paranoia" by a London-based independent journalist.

Lots of food for thought from all three articles.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

WHAT AN IRONY


Right now I'm suffering from eye fatigue, a result of too much reading of small print on my pc screen and in the papers.

Ever since the furore broke on 31 Dec over the court's decision to allow the Catholic church to use the word "Allah" in their weekly newsletter Herald, there has been no end to the views expressed by Malaysians - from learned scholars like Dr Farish Noor to the humble taxi drivers that I have spoken to on the subject.

Click here if you want to read some comments from the Dayak community.

The very Name that some quarters of the Malaysian Muslim community seek to protect and safeguard from what they fear as possible misuse by non-Muslims in the country is now publicly used by all and sundry in print and online publications worldwide, in the blogosphere, on Youtube and even in cartoons.

So much for exclusivity. The irony of it all!

Friday, January 8, 2010

1MALAYSIA CLINICS NOW, 1MALAYSIA SCHOOLS NEXT?

Good news for retirees and pensioners. The first two of the 50 1Malaysia clinics were opened yesterday at Lembah Pantai and Lembah Subang. Access to the healthcare services at these clinics starts at a very affordable RM1 (30 cents in US currency). These 1Malaysia clinics, as the name implies, offer general health services to all citizens regardless of race.

Why not extend the same concept to our schools? Any school which reflects a healthy racial mix in their student and teacher population should be recognized as a 1Malaysia school. We already have Sekolah Bestari (Smart Schools) and Sekolah Kluster (Cluster Schools), so why not Sekolah 1Malaysia?

The racial imbalance in our schools is getting more pronounced each year. When the new school year began last Monday, anyone passing by a national school would have noticed that parents and guardians accompanying the Year One pupils were predominantly Malay, whereas at the vernacular schools they were mostly Chinese and Indian.

Our young should be taught to mingle freely irrespective of race, colour or creed. Only then will they grow up to have friends of all races. We may be of different colours , have different beliefs and customs, but we all belong to the same human race.

Why are national schools shunned by non-Malay parents? And why are vernacular schools so popular that they had to turn away thousands of applicants (in total) due to limited places?

I remember attending school back in the 1950s and 60s with schoolmates of all races. It was the same during my undergrad years at the University of Malaya. Race was a non-issue. But by the time my children started secondary school in the 1980s, the racial divide had already reared its ugly head.

To ensure a better racial mix in our schools, the onus is on the government to provide quality education for all. Standards should not be lowered. Instead pupils should be given every help and support to meet the standards set. After all, parents want the best for their children.

For 1Malaysia schools to be a reality, the key words are QUALITY and EQUALITY.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2009 TOP TEN HEALTH INNOVATIONS

If you have yet to grow weary of the 2009 reviews published in virtually every magazine and newspaper, here's more! Below are six of CNN's pick of the top ten health innovations of 2009. To find out what the others are, click here.

As you have noticed, I have focused more on innovations that will make a positive difference to our health and well-being. Do share if you know of any other health or medical innovations that will benefit older adults.


For those with hearing problems, this LYRIC HEARING AID might be the answer. It is embedded 4mm from the eardrum so it is invisible from the outside, and because it is so close to the eardrum, the wearer is able to receive sounds that are clearer and more natural. And you can wear it for 120 days without having to remove it. However, it is not for everyone. Click here to know why.

MIT's 'Electronic Eye' is still in the development stage, but it is giving hope to the visually impaired. A microchip encased in titanium is implanted onto the eyeball. The patient has to wear special eyeglasses equipped with a tiny camera that transmits images directly to the chip, which in turn sends them to the brain. However, the patient will enjoy only partial vision that will allow him to be more mobile and more independent.


The Neurostar Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Therapy System offers patients with depression an alternative to taking anti-depressants. It is the first and only TMS approved by the FDA in the US. In this non-invasive procedure, the part of the patient's brain that controls moods is stimulated by pulses of magnetic fields. Each session lasts about 40 minutes. The full course of treatment consists of 30 sessions over a 4-6 week period.


Scientists in Italy have discovered a technique to create new bone from wood. The spongy texture of old wood interacts better with the skeleton. Click here to find out why using wood might be a better alternative than using ceramics or metal to replace bone.



Stanford scientists have developed a low-cost, high-performance prosthetic knee joint for amputees in the developing world. Costing only USD20, the JaipurKnee will bring back mobility to people who have lost their legs in war or diseases such as diabetes.


If you are interested, you might want to check out TIME's pick of the top 10 medical breakthroughs of 2009.

Monday, January 4, 2010

INNOVATIVE IDEAS

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but in the case of retirees with loads of time on their hands and ideas in their head it can result in some truly innovative products like these below. With the right marketing, your product can rake in millions for you.

(Note: These pictures were forwarded to me. I have no clue who designed the products, or where these products might be available.)

WHEEL-MOVING BENCH - Whether you want to sit in the sun or in the shade, near the river or under the tree... now you have your movable bench, to sit wherever you like.

TOILET SEAT LIFTER - 'Who left the Toilet Seat up?' The PeaceMaker will end the battle of the toilet seat. Merely step on the pedal to activate the lifting mechanism. When finished, remove your foot from the pedal and the seat gently comes to a rest where it started.

LASER SCISSORS - Laser ScissorsCutting a straight line has never been easier. Just aim the pin-point laser and follow the line. The scissor blades are stainless steel and cut very clean with a micro-serrated edge.

DAYCLOCK - What day is today? You don't know? Then you need a DayClock. It's uniquely designed to keep track of weekly events like your golf day, card night, movie night, and so much more. It's ideal for vacations and cruises when it's easy to lose track of the day.

GIANT REMOTE - Never lose your remote again! With giant buttons, this extra-large remote is easy to use and impossible to lose. It's a 6-in-1 remote so you can use it to control your TV, VCR, DVD player, satellite, cable and auxiliary A/V device. It even features glow-in-the-dark buttons, so you can easily find the remote in the dark.

BUTTER CUTTER - One Click Butter Cutter controls your portion as an important part of staying healthy. This ingenious butter cutter delivers one standard pat with each click of the handle.



TRANSPARENT TOASTER - You love toast, but you always burn it? Then this invention is for you. This transparent toaster allows you to see the bread while it is toasting so you just have to take it out when the colour is right. This idea is based on a transparent heating glass technology.


If you are looking to buy a gift for yourself or someone in the older age group, do check out eldergadget.com. The website provides information and recommendations on the latest gadgets available for older adults.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

TRUE FRIENDS


The new year started well with good news, but the past two days have been quite unsettling. Recent events have compelled me to put out this blog post.

Like the word 'love', the word 'friend' has degenerated into an overused and under-valued label loosely used by any Ah Chong, Aminah and Apu to falsely convey a relationship that probably does not exist in the first place.

Here is my definition of 'friend'. If you fit the bill, you are indeed a true friend. I would like to think that I am your true friend too.

A true friend

  • respects your right to dignity


  • knows when to be discreet


  • protects your good name and image


  • does not hold you up to ridicule or scorn, especially when you are not in a position to defend yourself


  • looks out for you, even when you don't expect it


  • knows when to step in , and when to stay out


  • supports you through all weather


  • holds your hand when you are afraid


  • stands up for you when others are attacking you


  • does not perpetrate lies about you or your loved ones

True friendship is measured not by the length of time you have known someone, but by the depth and strength of your bond with him or her.

In times of crisis, a true friend is like a candle in the dark. I thank God for the many true friends out there. Bless you all for your prayers and support even as the family faces another challenge ahead.



Friday, January 1, 2010

LOOKING FORWARD TO A TERRIFIC YEAR AHEAD


Here's a toast to a terrific year ahead. May 2010 be a year of good cheer, good health and good fortune for all my loved ones and dear friends.

I have made only one resolution - to stay focused on being healthy, not just physically but also mentally, emotionally and spiritually. This inner strength will empower me to take on any challenges that may lie ahead.


Fireworks at KLCC

With my children and grandchildren enjoying the spectacular view from Avenue K (photo: Brian Wong)


WELCOME 2010!