Monday, September 5, 2011

Help students learn a second language to be competitive, says PM

Teachers must help their students to attain proficiency in at least one other language besides the national language, urged Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

The Prime Minister said while Bahasa Malaysia was compulsory, he wanted students to become just as proficient in English and, if possible, one other language.

“We must speak well in Bahasa Malaysia because it is our identity.
One goal: Teachers waving the Jalur Gemilang while singing ‘Malaysia Berjaya’ during the inaugural 1Malaysia National Teachers Assembly at Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday. Some 14,000 teachers took part in the event which was attended by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and his deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. - NORAFIFI EHSAN / The Star

“But we need to know a second language. It is not a zero-sum game.

“If we learn a second language, it will boost our competitiveness,” he told 14,000 teachers at the inaugural 1Malaysia National Teachers Assembly at Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil here yesterday.

Najib also urged teachers to refrain from making their students learn through memorising answers for examinations but instead encourage them to be curious about the world around them.

“By being curious, they will be read more and look for answers to their questions.

“As individuals, they will come to value lifelong attainment of knowledge,” he said.

“I want to see the education system develop the intellect of our children and build intellectual capital. This means to grow young generations who know how to think creatively and innovatively,” he said.

At the same function, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said teachers played a crucial role in Malaysia’s goal to become a high income nation and to nurture the spirit of 1Malaysia among the students.

Myhyiddin, who is Education Minister, said he was confident the nation’s teachers were capable of instilling the values of tolerance and togetherness among the students.

“They (teachers) also have a role to play in transforming the nation into a developed one, as we need to mould holistic individuals that are knowledgable, creative and innovative to drive the new economy.

“At the same time, the ministry will do its part in ensuring that all levels of society will have equal opportunity for education, including those with special needs, the orang asli and the ethnic groups of Sabah and Sarawak,” he said .

“This is so that we can make the required adjustments to the education system to ensure that it reflects the ever-changing needs of the local and global society.”

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pleasurable pursuit

MANY reasons could be advanced by a teacher if a student were to pose the question, Please teacher, why should I read? Reading is a good or wholesome pastime. An old proverb says that the idle man’s brain is the devil’s workshop. Reading keeps the mind fully occupied. It is, I daresay, far better to be “hooked’ on reading books, newspapers, magazines or comics rather than be drawn to narcotics. 

Over the years, teachers have urged their students to read widely. That is the ideal way of developing confidence in language usage. Grammar is also mastered with relative ease through sheer familiarity. In Malaysia, it is openly acknowledged that general reading is not yet widespread. In buses, trains and aircraft, people seem to prefer to chat with a fellow traveller or just sit and stare in front of them. 
In England, to take a random example, people read as they travel to and from work or to the shops. Over a period of time, the individual becomes a citizen of a well-informed community. The mastery of reading by children requires cooperation between home and school. There must be a variety of print materials in the home. The more young children see parents and elders reading, the greater the probability that they will also take to reading. 
William James in his essay On A Certain Blindness In Human Beings relates the experience of a missionary in the depths of Africa. As he sat on the verandah of a bungalow reading a periodical, a crowd had gathered. They stood watching for a long time. Eventually one person approached the reader and quite reverentially, asked whether he could buy some of the “eye medicine” that the missionary was absorbing.
The illiterate ones, whether young or old, are unable to grasp the link between the human being and the printed page. Yet it is this mysterious activity that has to be promoted more vigorously by Malaysian teachers and parents. There is really no substitute for wide reading. Students will steadily obtain deeper insights into the use of tenses as well as increase their stock of vocabulary. It doesn’t matter what sorts of fiction or non-fiction a student is interested in. 
Adolescent boys will take to detective and mystery stories, as well as to ghost stories and adventure and war settings. Girls may prefer romances and family chronicles. In the course of time, students may, of their own accord, try reading the classics or simplified versions of them. “Never put adult heads on adolescent shoulders” was the advice traditionally given to teacher trainees with regard to reading for secondary school students.

In 1975, a report entitled A Language For Life was published in Britain. It contains the findings and recommendations of a committee headed by Sir Alan Bullock. There are many useful observations and practical suggestions for all parents and language teachers.

The Bullock Report declares that the best way to prepare the very young child for reading is to hold him on your lap and read aloud to him stories that he likes over and over again. The printed page, the physical comfort and security, the reassuring voice, and the fascination of the story itself all combine in the child’s mind to identify books as something which hold great pleasure. I quote from paragraph 7.6 of the report: 
“Every time a parent reads aloud to a child, the child is learning that by some curious means the lines of print can be converted into stories which he can enjoy.”