Displaying items by tag: Education
The term "Work From Home" (WFH) came to prominence in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. To curb the spread of the virus, with repeated enforcements of the Movement Control Order, working from home seems to be the most viable option.
Nevertheless, despite the fact that WFH is now considered the "new normal", it is interesting to note that this phenomenon is not at all new. Working from home was the status quo ante of human society in the past.
For example, according to a census conducted in the 1900s in France, there were more than 1.5 million home-based workers. The same can be argued in Malaya during those times where the majority of the people were farmers, craftsmen, or small-scale merchants operating from their homes or shophouses.
It was only at the advent of industrial society that rapid changes happened to this trend. The newly set up factories, large-scale farms and mega business outlets have led to a massive migration of workers to big cities. These workers are now required to observe fixed working hours, standard labour wages, and daily commute back and forth from their workplaces.
Despite the lack of flexibility found in home-based work, workers are now enjoying greater sense of privacy, with a clear demarcation between their public work duties and private lives.
Put it another way, when you work in a factory, you know when the day is over and you could be truly at home during off-hours. In this regard, the decline of home-based work translates into greater privacy and enjoyment of private life.
Notwithstanding "the only constant in life is change", as the saying goes, fast forward to our modern times, we are once again at a crossroads. The breakneck pace of development of science and technology has made the work from home lifestyle possible all over again.
The digital nomad lifestyle is now gaining currency worldwide. Therefore, it only took a little push from the Covid-19 pandemic to overturn our conventional way of working from a designated workspace called the office.
What began as a contingency plan to mitigate the spread of the virus now happens to be a feasible option, with many companies already opting for WFH mode, or a hybrid. With our current condition, it is unlikely that WFH will subside in the foreseeable future. WFH is here to stay.
Unfortunately, WFH is not without a price. Although that means greater flexibility, and eliminates the commuting hassles on the side of the employee while reducing the cost of office maintenance to the employer, all of these come at the expense of the private life of the individual employee.
WFH also means that there is no distinction between living and working, and between the private life of the worker and his public duties. On the other hand, flexible working hours can also mean dragging and completing one's tasks until late, burning the midnight oil. Hence, an irony might be noted here that a person who works at home also ceases to have a home!
Besides, WFH is also a luxury not everyone can afford. For the less fortunate employees, especially those in lower-income jobs, WFH might be a nightmare as they do not enjoy a suitable workspace at their homes. Some of them also live in crowded areas or constricted residences shared with other family members.
In sum, we need to be more considerate of this WFH culture. On the side of the employers, they need to give ample time to their employees to adapt to these unprecedented changes. As disruptions to the normal workflow and pace are expected, more reasonable and effective supervision may be called for.
They might also want to provide some assistance to their underprivileged staff, such as providing home office appliances. While on the side of the employees, first of all, they need to re-calibrate their mindset to adapt to this new environment.
They should allocate some time for their private life to achieve a work-life balance. And secondly, they have to be realistic and careful not to fall into the habit of blaming themselves for every drop in their performance, for example.
Last but not least, they need to have a strong sense of amanah (trustworthiness) in doing their work even without close supervision from their employer.
The writer is an Analyst at the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia.Published in New Straits Times on Wednesday, 12 May 2021.
The concept of literacy means much more than simply being able to read and write. Most of us may be familiar with financial or technological literacy. But, when we speak of futures literacy, we are referring to the area of human imagination.
One can only imagine the future. Futures teach us to harness the power of images of the future, and identify the diverse choices that can lead to different consequences.
Very often, underlying assumptions and fears limit this imagination to create an alternative or preferred futures when, in fact, our imagination is limitless. What inhibits us from freely imagining what the future can be? Past biases, cultural norms and preconceived ideas, just to name a few.
We may have to go through a process of unlearning to unleash the undiscovered power of imagining our desired futures. Speaking to various industry representatives revealed that many prepare for the future, but do so without foresight consciousness. Some claim they have all the data, but are clueless as to how to harness it.
By the time trends are properly qualified, it may be too late to act. Others have miscalculated and are ignorant to the daunting possibility that their organisations may no longer exist in a decade.
They could be "Kodak-ed". Did the taxi industry foresee the coming of Uber or Grab? Myopia sets in when managements become comfortable with their three-year action plans, which are not based on any upward trajectory aimed at the preferred future.
How do universities stay relevant and even excel? Today, with the new norm, digital onboarding is critical. Many businesses have disappeared because they were unprepared for the pandemic. Institutions that were strong with an online presence landed with a softer thud.
This is a case in point which demonstrates the importance of futures literacy. We cannot predict the future, but we can test probabilities and draw up action plans for different scenarios.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), headquartered in Paris, began building a global futures literacy network in 2012 by identifying local champions in more than 20 countries.
Multiple chairs have been initiated in Finland, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Tunisia, the United Kingdom and Uruguay. The chairs advocate innovative methods or tools of "using-the-future", while partnering members from the civil society, government and the private sector.
The International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) is proudly the 2020 Candidate for the Unesco Chair in Futures Studies. As such, we were offered to host a booth at the recently organised Unesco High-Level Futures Literacy Summit, which had more than 8,000 registered participants. Exhibitors included 100 institutions showcasing their past, current and forthcoming projects in the area of foresight.
The summit, which began on Dec 8, provided testimonials from around the world that being futures literate changes what people see and do. From high-ranking leaders in the public and private sector to activists, artists, students and professors, the summit showed how people become futures literate and the impact it has on all aspects of life, from dealing with Covid-19 to breaking the reproduction of oppression.
High level speakers had engaged in "futures conversations", including Higher Education Minister Datuk Dr Noraini Ahmad, the Costa Rican vice-president, ministers from Austria, Canada, Côte d'Ivoire, Finland, the Philippines and Sierra Leone. Others included heads of international organisations like the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation director-general, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development secretary-general, Foresight of the European Commission vice-president and professors of universities in China, Egypt, France, Thailand, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.
IIUM has taken concrete steps to adopt the foresight framework in its vision and planning. Still, after 37 years, how can IIUM fortify the higher education scenario in Malaysia?
The question had to be addressed urgently. With that in mind, the management embarked on the Futures Scenario Building workshop led by Professor Sohail Inayatullah. The event began with the course leader asking participants honest questions and later breaking them into different groups to represent the different scenarios.
The whole process was meant to map the future in a structured way through identifying emerging issues and trends, understanding their implications, deconstructing metaphors and narratives, creating alternative and preferred futures, as well as designing relevant strategies.
Institutionally, IIUM envisions itself as part of the global Muslim ummah, simultaneously acting as a global citizen, working for humanity.
The writer is head of Futures Studies, Office of the Rector, International Islamic University Malaysia
Published in: The New Straits Times, Friday 01 January 2021
The discussions to reform the education system are endless and, for too long, the need to change public debate has diverged, leading us into “dark alleys” which we cannot come out of.
Author David Price says the conversation on reforming the education system is fuelled by the idea of recreating the golden age of schooling, even as we head towards a radically different future.
Meanwhile, societal and technological changes, the kind never before witnessed, demand us to rethink every aspect of our lives.
The problem stems from the fact that we are not ready to bring the discussion forward on how schools should help children prepare for the future and what the education system can do for them. For that, we do not need more road maps but rather a paradigm shift that will change the direction of education.
When politicians state their commitments towards education, they usually talk about execonomic growth and job creation. If children work hard and are clever enough, they will land good jobs.
There is no doubt that education can improve the socio-economic status of the poor as it opens up a world of opportunities and employment for them.
But what we want are real reforms in our education system and amend flaws that have caused the quality of our education to deteriorate.
I would like to make some suggestions on how to bring about real changes:
FIRST, learning should not be about exams.
As a lecturer, I am always asked by students during the exam period whether “is it going to be a test because if it’s not, I don’t want to waste my time”.
I don’t blame them as I also asked the same question when I was a student. It is the system that placed examination results as important determinants of a student’s progress to higher education, as well as occupational opportunities.
Such a system, as Guy Claxton argued, “is designed so that a substantial proportion of youngsters are condemned to fail — through no fault of their own”.
The bad news is that exam grades are becoming irrelevant.
Nowadays, international corporations are no longer interested in exam grades. They are asking for applicants’ talent, network and portfolio.
We often cite the Finnish education system as a success story for not having many tests, apart from an exam at the end of the senior year in high school.
Schools in Finland do not have standardised examinations and their school curriculum is different from other countries.
Perhaps it is time we emphasised character building such as good values and attitudes, enhanced creative thinking skills and developed an interest in reading, and move away from an exam-oriented education system.
Studies show that there is a strong link between a child’s leisure reading and academic performance and career readiness.
SECOND , formulate a long-term vision for education.
Apart from the role of education in lifting people out of poverty, we need a long-term vision and paradigm shift in the teaching and learning processes to prepare the younger generation for the future.
The world is changing rapidly, hence our education system must transform too.
What and how we teach our children today will determine the values, beliefs and attitudes, as well as the skills, of tomorrow’s citizens. Creating a school culture that is based on reflection and learning is important.
Incorporating a creative thinking course at an early age into the curriculum could also help.
THIRD, more emphasis should be given to producing quality teachers.
There is a broad agreement among educationists that no matter what type of reform strategies we pursue, the quality of an education system rests on the quality of teachers.
We need to adopt policies to attract, prepare, support, reward, retain and advance high-quality teachers.
In rural areas, especially, more efforts are needed to attract and retain qualified teachers by providing basic necessities and
incentives in the form of allowance, salary increment and housing.
FOURTH, there is a need to globalise the education system.
In line with the increasingly interconnected digital world, towards which we are heading, our education system should go global.
If we combine our assets with the world’s best practices, we can develop a world-class education system for our children and grandchildren.
Some universities offer twinning programmes that allow students to study a portion of their course in Malaysia, and transfer to an institution in another country to complete their studies. Such programmes should be intensified.
An ICEF Monitor annual report states that “internationally mobile students are likely to gain employment compared with those who have not studied abroad”.
The time is right to move the education system forward and start a conversation on how the system can help our children to prepare for a fast-changing world.
The writer is assistant professor, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia
Published in: The New Straits Times, Tuesday 19 November 2019
The key to happiness could be as simple as being “respectful towards the sanctity of life” and practising mindfulness, according to Thakur S. Powdyel.
The former education minister of Bhutan, the country which sparked worldwide interest in its unique index, the Gross National Happiness (GNH), was recently at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) as a guest speaker.
Thakur is recognised for his dedication to education and has been awarded with, among others, the Coronation Gold Medal in 2008, the Gusi Peace Prize for Life-time Contribution to Education (2011), Global Education Award for Outstanding Contribution to Education (2012) and the Institutional Award: The Honour of Druk Thuksey (2012).
His philosophical approach to education, as written in his book My Green School, has been translated into Spanish, Catalan, Vietnamese, Japanese, Kannada and German, with translations in several other languages under way.
He is instrumental in the development of the GNH concept, inspired by the fourth king of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wang-chuck.
GNH AS YARDSTICK OF PEOPLE’S WELLBEING
“Some people said to me: ‘The Bhutanese must be the happiest people on earth.’
“Well, the world ranking says otherwise,” Thakur said in his lecture at IIUM recently.
He said instead of being pressured to compete, the Bhutanese government was focused on achieving balance between the material and non-material.
This, he said, was done by adhering to the four pillars of GNH, namely sustainable socio-economic development, environmental conservation, cultural preservation and promotion, and good governance.
“Culture, for instance, gives us identity. It gives us a sense of who we are. It gives us a sense of belonging. It is the core of human beings, fundamentals of a meaningful life, if you may.”
He said most countries were focused on the gross domestic product (GDP), which meant everything was based on the market value of goods and services.
“GNH is founded on a broader base, the major factor that contributed to the wellbeing of the people.”
He said while GDP growth was important, it “is not everything”.
“GDP is important, we need it, but it is not everything. What is important is GNH and developing with values.”
INVESTING IN THE LEADERS OF TOMORROW
Thakur said children and youth were a nation’s most precious segment, and the right investments in the next generation of leaders would determine the future and direction of a nation.
“We were innocent and life was simpler. Then Bhutan opened up to the world, received more tourists. And, as they learnt more, the youth became arrogant,” he said, explaining what life in Bhutan was like prior to modernisation.
This, he said, was where green schools played a role in nurturing the next generation of leaders, who were well balanced as individuals and worked well in a community.
Thakur’s green school concept espoused a holistic idea of education, which went beyond academic achievements.
“With all the good that it has done, modern education leaves much to be desired.”
Thakur, who was an educator, said it produced successful young people who excelled in academics and got ahead of their peers, but often felt isolated from themselves and others.
“A wise person once described education as the ‘Noble Sector’ and called upon others to help children and youth cultivate the nobility of the mind and the nobility of the heart, which would lead to the cultivation of the nobility of action.
“As things stand, there is an urgent need to restore education to its core function as the ‘Noble Sector’ that seeks to harmonise the gift of the head, the heart and the hands, thereby enabling young men and women, children and youth to develop into well-integrated individuals who are at peace with themselves and at peace with the world around them.
“We learn to live together and learn together, respecting our uniqueness and our commonality. We learn to care and to share and to succeed together.
“Life is to be celebrated. If somebody is lagging behind and feeling down, we give them courage and bring them along. If somebody has reasons for joy, we celebrate it together.”
He said these virtues must be developed and shared in schools as they were crucial for the unity and strength of the country and the world.
“As you look around the world, there’s so much going on in the name of education, but not much of it is educational.
“Education is such a large engagement for any society, for any country. It engages the largest number of young people around the world, and it keeps them in institutions of learning for a long time.
“Education must be meaningful. Today, most education efforts are, at best, limited to the intellectual element of human beings. Most parents would like their children to excel and succeed in life, and that they must score high marks, get good jobs; that is important.
“But what is more important is what happens to their lives as a result of spending long years learning different subjects in institutions of learning.
“I look at education from a different perspective, or (rather) planes or dimensions.
“Today, education looks only at the intellectual dimension. But we are more than the mind or the intellect.”
He said humans were not just social, but also cultural, emotional and spiritual beings.
“We have aesthetic sensibilities and ethical dimensions to our lives.”
He said the green school concept began with the obvious and most fundamental of the elements, which was natural greenery.
The other elements, he said, were academics, aesthetics, culture, intellect, morality, society and spirituality.
“Being able to appreciate this earth on which we walk is a great education because we depend on the earth.
“Green is more than a colour; it is a metaphor for everything that support and sustain life.”
Published in: The New Straits Times, Wednesday 18 September 2019
The Ministry of Education has long acknowledged the emphasis in improving the quality of English proficiency amongst students as well as teachers through the introduction and implementation of several key policies.
The policies, which include Upholding the Malay Language and Strengthening Command of English (MBMMBI) introduced in 2010, outline the plan to strengthen English proficiency in students as the international language of communication and knowledge.
This was followed by the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (MEB), which sets the aspiration for students to be proficient in both Bahasa Malaysia and English. Although the MEB outlines key steps needed to be taken to achieve its aspiration, there was also a need to empirically understand the level of English proficiency when it is benchmarked against internationally recognised standards.
Hence, the Cambridge Baseline 2013 commissioned by the Education Ministry and carried out to evaluate English learning, teaching and assessment from preschool to pre-university levels. The report suggested that the level of English language education system may only be sufficient for the needs of the past. However, it also indicated that the level of English is not sufficient for us to succeed as a nation in a globalised world that requires English for international communications of all kinds. Hence, what we really need to do is to reform the entire national programme for the teaching and learning of English from preschool to graduation.
Genuine change can only be brought about by the adoption of a holistic and integrated approach. This can be carried out by putting together a coherent programme that encompasses every component of the education system relating to the delivery of the English language programme — curriculum, teaching and learning, and assessment.
This is what the English Language Road Map 2015-2025, led by the English Language Teaching Centre, sets out to do. To ensure that learners achieve what they are capable of achieving, we need a continuous and sufficient supply of high-calibre English teachers, learning materials of international standard, and a conducive and supportive learning environment.
The formal learning of English has to be supported by a highly immersive English-rich environment (e.g. the Highly Immersive Programme at school level, and the ecosystem for English Language Learning at tertiary level), which extends learning to spaces beyond the classroom, so that learners can apply what they learn in the classroom to real-life situations.
The road map provides an overview of English language education in Malaysia, covering all stages of learning from preschool to tertiary education, from pre-service to in-service teacher training, and the development of coherent learner-oriented programmes at every stage complemented by reliable and valid methods of assessment. It sets proficiency target levels (generally known as aspirational targets) for learners at all stages, and includes an implementation plan to ensure that learners progress from the current situation described in the Baseline Study in 2013 to the 2025 target.
The baseline study as well as the Cambridge Evaluation Study 2017 evaluate where our students and teachers actually are when referenced against the 2025 Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) aspirational targets. Components of the CEFR include the global proficiency scale and the “can do” statements. The CEFR distinguishes five communicative skills, namely listening, reading, spoken interaction, spoken production and writing. Although the CEFR is targeted at understanding students’ English proficiency, English language teachers too have an important role to play in the implementation of the reform and will have to be at a certain skill level.
The same goes for teacher trainers (i.e. lecturers at the Teachers Training Institutes and universities) who deliver the courses to pre-service teachers. This is important to ensure that teachers are fully familiar with international standards in language teaching and learning.
The adoption of the CEFR at school level will have consequences for Higher Learning Institutions (HLIs). The primary and secondary curriculum for English language has been aligned to the CEFR progressively starting with Primary 1 and Form 1 in 2017 through the revised Standard Curriculum for Primary Schools (KSSR) and new Secondary School Standard Curriculum (KSSM).
Students will take the English language paper in the national assessment that is aligned to CEFR in 2021 (for Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia) and 2022 (for Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah) respectively. English language programmes in HLIs are also being aligned to the CEFR, so that the learning experience provided for secondary students going up to university is integrated and continuous. HLIs will, therefore, retain the responsibility to devise their own CEFR-aligned English language programmes.
The idea of the ecosystem is that the different components (including classroom and beyond classroom activities) work smoothly together to optimise the learning experience for the student.
The ultimate goal is to create a favourable campus-wide ecosystem for learning English, placing the students in a collaborative learning atmosphere and requiring them to put into practice what they learn in the classroom, so that they are able to develop their skills and knowledge in line with the expectations of the jobs market.
Dr Amin Senin is director general of Education and Dr Siti Hamisah Tapsir is director-general of Higher Education, Education Ministry
Published in: The New Straits Times, 22 May 2019