Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Do you know where you are?

Posted by Alphonso Tan

I am a student of Tunku Abdul Rahman College, currently 3rd year.

There is a case in the college, showing how unobservant and innocent the nowadays students are. It happened in the branch campus, located in Kampar, previously a beautiful small town:


There was once, the principal of Tunku Abdul Rahman College and our MCA president, Dato’ Seri Ong Ka Ting paid a visit to that branch campus. In the visiting, they, together with the head of branch campus, took a sip at a coffee shop. The coffee shop was fully occupied, mostly by students. And so, the big-shots aimed at a semi-occupied table, which is enough for them to squeeze in.
The big-shots (BSs) politely asked the people around that table, “Can we have a seat?”
“Sure, “ replied them.
And so, the they squeezed at a same table in the coffee shop.
After a short moment, Dato’ Seri started the conversation, “Are you the students of TAR College?”
“Yes, “ they replied.
“Oh…” And the principal grinned.
“Do you know the principal of TAR College?” asked Dato’ Seri.
“No,” the students replied.
“Do you know the head of this (Kampar) TAR College?” he asked again.
“No,” the same replied.
“What about the Chairman of the college?” thinking that he might be famous in this campus.
“No,” came another reply.
“Do you know who am I?” asked Dato’ Seri in aghast.
“No,” the students answered in confusion.

Probably, this is how innocent the today’s students are. And I can tell you, some students don’t even know the names of their lecturers and tutors too! I think ‘pelajar hari ini mudah lupa lah…” Lupa mana taruk sijil SPM, lupa nombor kereta sendiri, lupa datang sekolah, lupa bayar yuran, lupa apply PTPTN, lupa budi, lupa kulit… In the future, maybe they might even forget who had feed them rice and milk.

Coming back, I don’t expect you to memorise the whole organisation chart of your institutes. What I would like to deliver is, know what is in your position and what is around you. They might be important to you one day. They might come in handy to you when you are in trouble one day.

I am usually squeezed in a lecture hall of 400 over students. The numbers of ‘observant’ students I could tell is about less that 20 students. Below the 5%. I remember during my first auditing lecture, my lecturer asked the cause of the fall of Arthur Anderson. “Enron,” was the only answer from me. From then on, the lecturer paid a lot of attention on me, though. There are many bright students above me, getting a distinction in Diploma. But how observant, sensitive enough are the students (speaking in general, but not just aiming at the distinction holders) today? How do student often flip through the newspaper? When I said ‘observant’ and ‘sensitivity’, I mean knowing your position as in the industry you are.

I had my industrial training in this February to May in a small audit firm. I met a guy. He gave up his full-time study, and currently working full time with me, as an audit assistant, plus studying part-time. I was talking with him about the industry (accounting), and after I finished my sentence regarding about the Big 4, he looked at me oddly, and asked, “What is Big 4?’

“For what we know so many things?”, “Can we change anything from it?” are the usual replies from the students. Yes. For what? But I can tell you, if something will change, for what we know it now? To digress a little, hoping that I am not offending any crime under AUKU 1971, 20 years ago, when people were talking about voting for opposition, the majority replies were, “For what? Can we change the government?”, but today, someone might say, “This is the most meaningful and eventful vote I’ve made in my life. I voted with my tears sprinkling in my eyes.” Does it look meaningful to remember those small issues? Maybe. Do we looked ‘more educated’ when we get to know more things? Maybe. Do we looked ‘much stupidier’ to learn something extra? I don’t think so.

Previously, there was a bunch of us in college, who were unhappy with certain issues about the college. So, we complained on the same issue, but individually. One coursemate of mine, lodged a complaint to the Student Affairs Department, and stopped in the manager level. He was scolded by the manager. I, were scolded by the manager too, but further to proceed on to appeal to a higher authority, and my issue was eventually solved immediately. 3 months later, he told me about this case. I asked him why not complain to the higher authority. He replied, “I thought the manager is the highest.” Until today, there was no feedback on his case yet. His issue is still in pending.

So, when you are in an environment, please, get to know the issues surrounding you. Check the background of it. Flip the papers more often. Get to know what is happening today. If you are in the accounting (or even business) industry, please recognise Big 4, Enron, Arthur Anderson, Transmile, Oilcorp etc. They are your mother. If you are pursuing a law degree or currently exercising your chambering, please know who is Zaid Ibrahim and his company, and also Shearn Delamore. They are the king of legal in Malaysia. If you’re aiming for political science, please, do know who is Anwar Ibrahim, Mahathir, Lim Kit Siang, Hadi Awang and so on… Get to know the environment around you, and you might use them one day.

Cheers!


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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Filling Up Your Resume

My name is Faisal. I will be 24 this 31st August. I was born in Perlis. After SPM in 2001, I went to MARA College Banting, undertaking the matriculation course. Then I entered Uniten Bangi and finished my Bachelor Degree in Electrical Power Engineering, in 2007. Soon after my final paper in my final year, I took a part time job as a staff crew in Baskin Robbins Alamanda, Putrajaya, while attending interviews for an engineer post by numerous companies. Finally after I month, I have been accepted to work in a construction company in Puchong Jaya as a Project Engineer. Mainly my job is to handle projects with TNB. I have lots of interests. Lately I am becoming more and more interested in cars. My other interests are tennis, movies, motorcycles, IT gadgets and vacations.

Filling Up Your Resume


by Faisal for Writing Contest 2008

There is nothing duller in this universe than an empty resume. Empty, in a sense that there is nothing printed on the resume except the writer’s personal particulars, academic qualification and perhaps some referees. Employers’ expectation towards their employee candidates are increasing day by day. Unless you are taking the critical courses, such as medical, engineering and accounting, it is really hard to get a job these days. Actually let me rephrase this, it is really hard to get a job that suits our qualifications. Big and multi-national companies like Shell, Western Digital and Sony not only want their employee candidates to have high CGPA, they also want their candidates to have multi-talents, such as leadership, management ability, innovation, and maybe athletic ability, to make sure that the candidate is healthy. I am writing about the executive level employees by the way.

Of course as a fresh graduate, all the talents are built during school and university days. You can join clubs in school and be active in it, like photography club, or computer club. You can participate in competitions, such as robotic competition and essay writing competition. You can also be active in sports. Even if you are not good in sports, you can be active in the sports club and can organize events like tournaments and stuffs like that. During your long semester break, you can get yourself a part time job. This will give the impression to your future employer that you are a hard working person. If you can, find a part time job that is related to your field of study. Then you will have a glimpse of how your real work is going to be. Now back to your resume writing, you can print all about your extracurricular activities and part time jobs inside it, and make your resume more interesting to read.

You can arrange the contents in your resume as you like as long as you have your personal particulars, academic qualifications, extracurricular activities, achievements, expected salary, related abilities and referees. The number one rule in arranging your resume is, there are no rules. If the content of your resume is impressive, the interviewer will question you less about your ability to be an excellent employee. Believe me, that is the only advantage you have when you are in a job interview session along with experienced candidates.


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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Is Examination a Reliable Assessment?

Born as a Malaysian, the author scored herself a lucky Permanent Residency "ticket" to stay in Perth, Australia. Currently, she is doing her last year studies in Murdoch University. The author's age is a secret as age is seen as a woman's secret between her and herself. Apart from that, the author is a perfectly normal human who loves to indulge herself with strawberry flavor ice-cream and be pampered with holiday tours. To stay "hype" with the technology, she plays MapleSEA and watch lots of TVB dramas. When she is doing nothing, she will either be reading or sleeping and when she does sleep, it would be best not to disturb her =)

Is Examination a Reliable Assessment?


by AWhite for Writing Contest 2008

In Malaysia, examination is the way to assess student's performances. In fact, there isn't any other form of assessment apart from examination. In reality, the purpose of examination is for a summative evaluation. These evaluations are to see if the students understand and could apply the concepts that they have learned throughout the semester. With the examination being the only form of assessment, therefore, it is crucial that the examination must be able to reflect on student's knowledge and performances. Because, being the nature of examination itself, the assessment is very traditional where student who score A would means that the student has gained knowledge on the particular subjects and vice versa. BUT, does that really mean so? How reliable are these examination in reflecting so?

Let us look at these students:

The "it's-about-getting-more-A" students
- For these students, getting A is their goals. They consider themselves as being academic successful as long as they could score all As for their examinations. Honestly, with the current education system, it does not take a genies to score A. The thing that I want to talk about is, are they getting their priority right? The priorities of these students are supposed to go to school to learn, not emphasis on scoring for their examinations. However, because the nature of assessment in Malaysia focuses on examination, student's priority can get side track and along the way, the process of learning is not viewed as learning but as a process of scoring. This process of scoring really isn't an honest evaluation on their performance... as we go on to the next point.

The "I-have-good-memory" students
These students usually do not have a problem when it comes to examination. All they need to do is to memorize every single fact that they read and ta-da... they did it. Now, this is very common in Malaysia. They might do it for all subjects or for a particular subject. Any students with good memory can score high marks. The thing is, how reliable are these results in reflecting the students' understanding? Take my friend, LZ who was doing pharmacy in one of the local university for an example. LZ has no problem scoring for her examinations but when she comes out and works, she finds it hard to cope because she never understands the concept as well as unsure in applying it. See the discrepancy?

The basic needs of students
The Humanistic philosophies believe that; in order for students to perform well, all basic needs must be provided. This would means looking at student's background as well as teacher's pedagogies. I do not want to go deep into this but I want to pinpoint that, different students with different background will have different expectation in education which will affect their learning abilities. Imagine a student coming from a background where they basic needs are not met, do you think they will perform at their best? For example, student A is from an alcoholic family, however, student A decided that he wants best for himself and study hard for the examination BUT on the night before the examination, his father came home drunk and start abusing him - do you think he will perform well the next day? Let me assure you, he will not. The example may seem a bit exaggerating but we know that Malaysian students comes from different backgrounds with diverse cultures, it would be surprise to hear that not each student's needs is meet.

When we are talking about basic needs, we are also looking at the nature of the examination itself. Some students work best without pressure. This is true. With the time limit given to them, how well do they perform compare to what they would normally have? In this context, the examination failed in providing a reliable reflection on student's best performance.

The spoon feeding students
We usually referred these groups of students as cheaters. Examination being an assessment that is so heavily relied on, in order to perform well, some students will choose to cheat - an easy way out. I don't think I need to elaborate on this - we all know about it.

With the above, clearly examination being the only assessment itself is not a good way of evaluating students. Of course, I could not deny the fact that there are students who do well deserve the merit that they've got but there are many who are out there do not deserve it. The thing is, I felt that assessment itself should be a continuous process, and not just through one process - the examination.

How to make an assessment a continuous process... well, I have a few of the good samples but since this is an article being written for a contest, I go into that the next time.


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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Comment on Why The Monthly Tests Should Not Be Abolished

Posted by Chong

Below is the comment by Charles. C posted at the post "Why The Monthly Tests Should Not Be Abolished?" It is republished here as it is very thought-provoking and deserves a post of it own so that all readers (especially email subscribers) can read different view on the subject.

Howdy there,

First of all, let me congratulate you for this very thoughtful article, though there are some noticeable grammatical errors in your article.

Being a student who's gone through almost anything (tests, exams, preps - you name it), of course I do concur with you that monthly tests shouldn't be abolished, but that's not just about it.

If our monthly tests (or exams) in schools are to be put under microscope, they are invaluable tools to help students and parents to ONLY help to measure and keep track of how much someone has learned in a series of lessons. Problem is, academic performances in Malaysia (plus elsewhere) are measured via how well you score and maintain your scores in archaic, rigidly designed tests/exams. Having said that, tests have become the necessary evils that we seem unable to dissociate with - we are too used to measure somebody's worth through how good of a Band or grades you have under your belt. I'd of course advocate that we (students, parents, policy makers and everyone) to re-look at the goals of our education system, because tests (monthly or grand ones) are just some of the means to tell if somebody is good enough in a series of pre-determined learning. Instead of using tests, students' portfolios and ongoing assessments should also be considered as alternative forms of assessing a student's achievement and progress in a subject/discipline. There are many government and research sanctioned reports and research that prove that on-going, holistic assessments have helped learners to achieve learning goals as set by the testers. I could go on and talk about these research, but not to hog your space here - I'll try to summarize why on-going, holistic assessments are better than tests:

  1. You go to school to learn, not to see how better you are than everyody else. True pursuit of knowledge means acquiring higher knowledge and is impossible to measure by the way.

  2. A one time test in many cases are worse than an on-going assessment in assessing a learner's true learning progress and ability; test validity (you can google this)is affected by how fair a test is. A method of assessment's fairness and validity is much affected by a lot of factors, and any established researchers in the area of testing will tell you that tests are by themselves not perfect and not the ultimate mean of assessing, if you even care to assess a learning progress mathematically and systematically in the first place.

  3. Monthly tests do not help parents to check on their kids' misbehaviour(s) - tests can only do so much and they only measure if a student has studied what he/she was supposed to study in the first place. An on-going assessment will instead report a student's competency in many areas at a glance - namely academic, people-relationship, spiritual, EQ management and etcetera. Even then, an ongoing assessment does not necessarily do this very well as you can't measure everything under the sun (or moon).

  4. You mentioned that students will not do poorly in school if they study well. But then again, there are again many dimensions to what "doing poorly" means. Do you mean that a student does poorly in school he/she fails exams (as based on a set of indicator) that he/she works so hard on while keeping him/herself out of troubles like drugs and violence? Again, you have to revisit the 1 million dollar question - why do you even attend school in the first place? What goals of learning should take precedence and why?

  5. As an academician/scholar, I find that your statement "if we do not hope to see our educational level drop in a sudden in future, we should not abolish monthly test" is very much unjustified. "Educational level" can be measured in many dimensions, again, and I would like to caution everyone else reading this that TESTS are not the ultimate mean to tell if somebody is doing well or not. The pursuit of knowledge is for the purpose of doing a common good. A welder/fisherman is much more valuable to a country's economy and well-being than a student who does well in "exams" (in the narrowest sense of definition) but could not at all deliver changes/benefits for the good of the mass.

So to conclude, monthly tests shouldn't be abolished if they do help the learners, but again should not be preferred over other available means for the purpose of measuring a person's academic competency alone. You, my dear by the way deserves my salute for being able to write a thought provoking piece of article, and please don't be discouraged by my comments. We are all still learning and I look forward to converse again with you in the future.

Keep up the good work (and writing)!


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