Thursday, 4 June 2015

Teachers Day Celebration- my choir group

Early March 2015, I was called by my superior department, requesting me to form a new group of choir, this time restricted to only teacher-members, to specially perform during the state-level Teachers Day celebration. Having the experience of training students, and conducting them, for the same occasion, for two consecutive years, I sensed then that the people up there were expecting a miracle; as pooling 30 talented teachers, as needed in a good singing team, is a mountain climbing task. Not to mention discipline and commitment.
Seeing the list of names in one of the handouts distributed during the meeting, all music teachers, some already established names, I braved myself to decline the list, citing the reason that I would not be able to handle them. Instead, I suggested non-music teachers but talented, mostly young and energetic and would be able to serve for at least 10 years. The strategy was to get all in the meeting, mostly people who have been involved in the business for some years, to determine talented teachers whom they know would commit themselves.

Everything was then agreed, including the training schedule that only involves school hours, and that the training venue should be my school, cause I hate travelling. So the 10 to 1.00 o'clock training started, every Monday and Wednesday. Each session saw only 70 -80% of attendance, forcing me to slash some names off the list to be replaced  by new names suggested  by the committed members which were only confirmed in the third week. 5 songs being practised, starting with the usual National Anthem and the Guru Malaysia, followed by Akal Budi of the JPN Terengganu, Transformasi  Pendidikan of the Ministry of Education and the new state government corporate song Transformasi Terengganu Baharu.
The vocal training, the voice arrangements and step practice went smoothly for 8 weeks, with minus one accompaniment. So far this team is the best I have ever trained, each group of voice  mastering its very own part, except of course the memorising of the lyrics that seemed difficult for some of the guys. Officials of the education department came visiting the sessions, with compliments for the commitment and great progress made after listening to the vocal performance.
One week before the actual performance, for the first time the group joined the woodwind orchestra of SM Sains Sultan Mahmud. Suddenly all the harmony and singing skills went chaotic. The orchestra had arrangements that are totally different from the minus one arrangements that we used during the practice. Some members came to me, insisting that we go back to the minus one accompaniment. Everything changed, however, on the second day when everyone started getting the hang of the orchestra. They sang even better during the rehearsal, and superb on the actual event, with the help of the expensive audio system of course. The day ended with everyone feeling contented, compliments coming through the Whatsapp application for the next few days.
Opps… forgot to mention the beautiful batik baju kurung by the women, and the black and white suit of the men, with red neckties. I salute them for their willingness to fork out their own fund for the costume, which, in most of the compliments texts received, seemed to be highlighted more, compared to the singing performance.
At the meantime, before they dispersed, I reminded them the single practice session and the dates of rehearsal and Teachers Day celebration for the Kuala Terengganu District level exactly a week after. The practice was very informal, as there was less tense. Time was spent more on discussion over the costume. While the men decided to stick to the same black white and red, the women followed suit. Deciding on black blazer and skirt, with white blouse and red scarves, once again I saw them spending some money for costume. Women are women I guess, willing to spend whatever amount just to look beautiful! And they achieved in doing just that. And above all, the performance, this time was just as superb, only this time without the woodwind orchestra.
The day was especially meaningful to me as the group leader, as I received a special PPD award, which was given the loudest applause among all the recipients. Yes, the choir group clapped and the audience followed suit!
The occasion ended and everyone went home thinking that was our last activity. Days went by, that saw everyone still in contact through the Whatsapp. I guess they really got acquainted through the 2-month activity. Surprisingly, one week later, I received a call by an official of the JPNT, requesting the group to perform once again, this time only the national anthem and TTB, to start the APC- the Excellent Service Award Ceremony of the state education department. It wasn’t a surprise when everybody was excited to come for the rehearsal on the 15th of June, and the actual event the next day, a day before the fasting Ramadan month, as I have started to know them as close dear friends. This time there will be no practice, let us just see what happens during the rehearsal. And this time around, I think they are deciding on purple, after the red in the event last week.

After that it will be the fasting month and the Hari Raya Festival. Would there be any more request for the choir? Let’s just wait.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Young graduates are jobless because they are being choosy. Discuss.
When asked to discuss the issue, most of my students prefer to agree, meaning they rationalise the idea that graduates being choosy is the reason for them being jobless. In training them to think out of the box, I have come up here in this article with arguments that do not agree with them. Some do not sound strong enough, but it’s a good practice anyway for the brain.

Despite the undeniable fact that young graduates are being rather choosy in applying for jobs, it is however inappropriate to cite this as the reason for them being jobless. The present economic uncertainty, the intense competition, and the inability to fulfil what employers expect from employees are among the few factors that I see contribute towards this much worrying social issue.
First and foremost, it is their right to be choosy in deciding for their careers. After years of mugging in the pursue for the degrees of their chosen fields, you just cannot expect them to simply pick any jobs available in the street, unless, perhaps, for a temporary basis, while waiting for the right job to come. The locality of the working place, the salary, the colleagues, the prospect that they foresee in the organisation, the need to be near families and loved ones, are just to name a few more factors to justify this issue.
The uncertainty in the country’s economy has contributed to companies unable to provide jobs for new graduates. Even established organisations are resorting to retrenching workforces due to bad business, as can be seen in the latest move by Media Premia Berhad, the mother company of the prominent TV3, the first non-government TV station in the country. Exxon Mobile, an international corporation dealing with petroleum is reducing its scope of operation in the country, leaving professional personnels jobless. With this becoming the trend for other organisations lately, there is just no place for new graduates. Hence being choosy is definitely not the reason for them being jobless.
With the much improved education system, with private tertiary education centres making their impact besides the public universities, we see more graduates in the various field produced by the years. More and more professionals are rushing for the few jobs available. This results in intense competition, with insufficient place for everybody. Once again it is not about being choosy.
The high expectation of quality in  future employees by employers is another reason young graduates are unable to secure jobs. Most job-seekers fail to realise that with the intense competition as mentioned earlier, employers are expecting extra qualities from them. Besides the degrees, soft skills in the form of inter-personal, public speaking, decision making, and IT, just to name a few, would outstand them from other candidates during job interviews.  They are just not qualified enough, going by the employer’s standard, leaving them without jobs.
To conclude, it is not being choosy that young graduates are jobless, but the situation they are caught in, as well as the failure to show the extra qualities expected by employers. Perhaps if things do not turn out as expected, then they should start not being choosy, and start doing any jobs, to make ends meet.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

The main cause of stress among youngsters is relationship problems. Do you agree? Explain with suitable examples.

Assalamualaikum. Hi there. Analysis of the previous batch of the students’ performance in MUET clearly shows that writing, especially Extended Writing, is where they fumble the most. While not  forgetting the other components of the test, I have decided to focus  on this part. The students have to simply admit that their biggest problem is generating and developing the ideas. After the recent topics about parental negligence and being materialistic, here is another one to help you in the thinking process. Do not forget, of course, to also study the writing style, tone, structure, and the language.

The main cause of stress among youngsters is relationship problems. Do you agree? Explain with suitable examples.
While relationship problems among youngsters is common, as it is one of the learning process of their young life, I however disagree when it is said to be the main cause of stress. A normal youngster faces a lot of other problems in life that cause stress, in the likes of examinations, parents expectation on their academic performance, and even the yearn to look beautiful and presentable, just to mention a few.
From the time when they are being reminded again and again by teachers and parents to prepare for examinations, the mugging sessions, the examination days itself, until the moment of truth when result is out, it is all about stress. It is only the way youngsters handle the stress, which is decided by their own level of mental strength, plus the guide and understanding from teachers and parents, that make them survive.  Some manage the stress well, while some are badly affected. This stress that examination brings, if not well managed, is a lot more difficult to cope compared to a relationship problem.
Another stress factor that comes along with examinations is parents’ expectation on their academic performance. The reminder, as early as Kindergarten days, on getting all A’s, works on some children, but proved otherwise on others. A child who is not capable of producing the A’s, especially one who has siblings with straight A’s records, will definitely be downed by the stress. This has been proven to be one of the reasons why some children rebel and protest, and later become  indiscipline. While stress caused by relationship problems can be cured by simply the proper attention by loved ones, like the family, stress caused by parents’ ridiculous expectation seems more complicated.
It is only natural for a normal growing teenager to have the yearn to look beautiful, or good and presentable, to attract the opposite gender. Anything that would affect her or his look would be very stressful. A single red pimple that pops up early on the cheek in the morning would make a girl scream in panic, and perhaps be the reason not to attend school for days. The crave for beautiful updated dresses and hairstyle would be just stressful if objected by parents, be it for financial reason or simply conflict of opinions, on fashion that is. Parents would have to either simply forget their opinion, and fork out the money, or watch their adorable children lock themselves in their rooms, skipping meals and missing school. A relationship problem would not be as  difficult as this, as after a few days the youngster would forget everything as soon as he or she meets another youngster for a new relationship.
These few problems that youngsters face, and perhaps many others, have proven to causes of stress. A relationship problem, if not handled properly, would causes stress too, but it is definitely not the main cause.
481 words.

Monday, 9 February 2015

People are becoming more materialistic. They are concerned with making money and what money can buy. What is your opinion on being materialistic?

People are becoming more materialistic. They are concerned with making money and what money can buy. What is your opinion on being materialistic?
With the rise in the cost of living, it is not surprising that people are more concerned with making more money, not only to make life comfortable, but to be able to provide the basic needs for their families. Besides food, clothing and shelter, money is needed for education, health maintenance, transport, communication and even entertainment. In other words, every little thing in life requires money. However, working hard in making a living, and being materialistic, are two different things. I do not see why one need to be materialistic to survive as it will bring more harm than benefit.
When life is too focused in making money people neglect other responsibilities like love, family relationship. When both parents are obsessed in earning as much money as possible,  children are left to grow on their own. Pampered with luxurious life without the proper parental touch, they would resort to alternatives to their parents attention, in the form of unlimited access to media and negative peer influence. This leads to social problems that we see happening today, from smoking, drug taking, illegal racing to illegitimate sexual relationships and dumping of babies. It is a fact that all these are related to people being materialistic.
Being materialistic makes people greedy that they will do whatever possible to become rich, putting moral values aside.  As a result, crime rises to its maximum lately, from highly classified activities like trading of army weapons for terrorists,  and the white collar crime that involves money in billions,  to robbery, thefts and other petty crimes that result in  people getting killed and live in fright. Nations  become politically and economically and socially unstable. Poverty seems to exist even in rich and developed countries. If only people can be contented on their living style to a certain extent, and work on to be rich at the same time abiding the law and rules of their religions, these would not happen.
Being materialistic also leads to people living the life more than they could afford. The desire to live lavishly, despite their mediocre income has forced them to live in debts. With the monthly payment that they need to make for the hire-purchase of cars and houses, and the never ending interest of credit cards, people sometimes find themselves short of money to get by way before their pay-day. Some would opt for part-time jobs, while the more desperate ones would turn to crime, resulting to all sorts of social problems.

There is definitely nothing wrong in working hard to make ends meet, and going on to become rich. However, it is best done the proper way, by taking into consideration other elements of life, thus leads to a happy and peaceful life. Being materialistic has proven otherwise.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

MUET requirement in Budget Proposal.

I just can't link these two. But it was clearly mentioned by the Prime Minister during his 2015 Budget Proposal in the parliament not long ago. The MUET qualification for entrance into local public universities will upgraded, come 2015. This means courses that require Band 1 in MUET will ask for at least Band 2 this time. And of course the Band 4 for TESL and Law  would ask for Band 5. 

What does MUET result have to do with the budget proposal by the way? Unless the government is planning to give extra  funds for the upgrading of the teaching for this test, I just don't see how MUET and Budget are related. And clearly there was no mention of any funding for this purpose.

Nevertheless, despite the worry that keeps disturbing my nights, I take it as a challenge to make it a challenge for the students. With 80 percent of them scoring lower than C in their SPM, 20 percent total Failures, it looks impossible to make everyone of them score no less than Band 2. So reminding them that a band 1 will be the only obstacle for them to achieve their objective of taking up STPM will be a routine after this. And of course the usual reminder that a Band 1 can be obtained by just signing their attendance for the test and sending blank papers to the invigilators, which usually makes them burst into laughter, like it is a great joke. 

 I can already visualize the faces of triumph on the day when the STPM result is out, with CGPAs all above 3.5, change into tears on the day the result for UPU application comes out, only because they just don't meet the MUET requirement. Quite a handful of the last batch candidates managed to get themselves into universities, despite the Band 1 in MUET. Nevermind the Universities and courses not at all in their wishlists. At least they get the opportunities to work for the pieces of degree. If the previous Band 2 and 3 candidates were already having difficulties in getting courses of their interest, well I can just imagine what these juniors would be facing next year.

A friend suggested going back to basic, real basic, which is no no to me as these batch of students would be mugging their heads out for all the four papers' written exam, plus the 'kerja kursus" (asignments) that each subject is pressuring them, leaving very little focus on MUET. So it would be drills on all the four components of the test in the lessons.. Speaking the language, besides daily practice in Listening and Reading, and making them write in English that is beyond comprehension of the examiners. In fact, I am thinking of the old method, the 20-cents fine for every Malay word in my lessons. 

Looking forward to the first day of school come 5th January 2015. Btw, its my 27th year of my teaching profession. 

Parental negligence

Just can't believe that it's been two years since my last post. No excuse, just being lazy. Come on Azlan wake up.To my new batch of students, there will be more coming after this. I promise.  To begin with here is another sample of question and answer that I've worked out with  the last batch. Happy reading, and then writing.

Question : Parental negligence is the main cause of social problems among youngsters nowadays. Do you agree? Give your opinion.
Parental negligence occurs when  parents fail to fulfil their responsibilities for their children. These include, besides the basic needs, providing education, and most importantly love. It is undeniable that this could contribute to social problems like crime, drug abuse and illegal racing among youngsters, but I totally disagree if it is considered as the main cause of immoral activities as there are many other reasons related to social problems, like unlimited access to media, peer influence and stress.

Children nowadays have unlimited access to media. Through the internet they click to websites like Youtube, Twitters and Facebook, to name a few, where they link themselves to everything under the sky. This includes negative activities from pornography to details on the  processing of drugs. Not denying that the media contributes towards mankind, it is proven  that it also plays a role to immoral activities. This is something that is beyond the control of parents.

Peer influence has been noticed as one cause of social problems among youngsters nowadays as they  spend a lot of time with friends; morning at school, games in the afternoon, tuition classes at nights, not to mention weekend activities. Even when they are not together, they would still be in touch through the various social websites, chatting through the nights. To be accepted by the gang, these teenagers would normally do what their friends do, or more likely what their friends want them to do. Some of these peer influences are no doubt positive, like studying and healthy physical activities, but it is also undeniable that most  are negative, as they are normally related to entertainment; about having fun. Thus, peer influence is so strong that these youngsters neglect their parents’ advice.

Stress is another reason why youngsters opted for immoral activities. The burden of schoolwork and assignments, the tasking experience of preparing for examinations and parents’ high expectation on their academic performance have somehow pressured them to the maximum, leading in the search for escapes like smoking, getting high with all kinds of drugs that are available, and risking life with illegal motor cycle racing. Thus, no matter how parents care for their children, they just cannot help it when these negative elements seem to be too attractive to avoid.

There is no doubt that parental negligence can lead to social problems among youngsters nowadays. However it is unfair to say that it is the main cause, as there are other factors that are equally influential.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Muet 2012 Trial Exam

My dear upper six students,
Your performance in the recent trial exam has been quite disappointing for me, especially your paper 4. While a few of you have shown good attempt in respond to Question 2, most of you did not make the cut for Question 1. It is as if you have not been trained to do the writing at all, with quite a number of you not giving the title, and most importantly the Overall View. Analysis of the features are difficult to understand as the language is chaotic, leaving the basic rules of the structure – Subject-verb-object   out.
As in Question 2, the biggest problem is still the organisation of ideas, which you do well in practices, probably through the discussions that we had before every session of writing. And of course some of you have structures that is almost incomprehensible, mostly due to direct word by word translation. As expected, those who very seldom send in their practice compositions, some did not send at all, performed very badly.. The PMR candidates from Form 3 D write better than you.
Please go through the sample essay that I have prepared for you as a guide for your next practice.
Remember that you will have a hard time getting your choice of university courses with a band 1 in MUET, no matter how high your CGPA is in the STPM.

MUET Trial exam 2012
Sample answer for Paper 4 (Writing)
Question 1.
Priorities in Life for Young Men and Women.
The table shows the priorities in life of young men and young women. Generally, the men’s ranking of priorities is different from the women.
The men rank having a highly paid career the highest but women rank it second. Instead, the women put getting married on top, which the men  rank at only fourth. There is also not much difference in both genders’ priority on being healthy, 6th by the women and 7th by the men.
Two priorities are however ranked the same by both men and women – saving money for old age and travelling the world, 8th and 9th respectively. 
At 2nd place, men put learning new skills which is only 2 steps higher than  the womens’ rank of 4.  Another difference of two steps is spending  time with friends which the men rank 3rd while the women,  5th.
The lowest ranking by the women is buying a house, at 10. However the men rate it as priority  5th. While having children is the 3rd priority for women, men only put it at 6th. The priority at the lowest ranking of 10 by the men is charity work, which the women rank at 7th.
 In conclusion, there is an obvious mismatch between the priorities in life between  young men and women.

Question 2.
Poor academic performance among students is caused by their obsession with social networks like Facebook. Do you agree with the statement? Justify your viewpoints with suitable examples.
Judging on the great number of hours  that students spend browsing the various social networks, it is difficult for me not to agree with the statement. However, on second thought, it would also be unfair to blame only this obsession for the poor academic peformance, as there are many others factors involved. Besides there is also no denying that these social networks do bring some benefits for the students, directly or not.
Yes, spending a great number of hour on the facebook is a threat to students’ academic performance.  Imagine the time that they are supposed to spend revising and doing homeworks are wasted in the excitement of socialising in the digital world, with friends in the same community and those far away. As revision and homeworks are among the keys toward succesful academic achievements, there is no doubt that these students might  fail their examinations. Things would be worse if the this ‘social activitiy” goes on until the wee hours of the morning, where students would be coming to school yawning away and there would be no focus in lessons.  The worst that could happen is they would fall asleep even before going to school.
Having mentioned  the negative effects of social networks on student’s academic performance, I can’t help but to think of other reasons that could do the same thing. Peer influences that lead students into negative activities like  playing truant, loafing, and smoking have been long known as the reasons for students failing examinations, as they tend to lose focus on school. Missing a large number of lessons due to these activities will cause them blank during examinations. These cases of low academic performance has nothing to do wth obsession with social networks.
What about cases of students who are born with low IQ? These unlucky students have learning disabilities that no matter how you drill them in academic, they will not perform. The low functioning would not be able even to master the basic reading skill while the luckier would benefit enough if the could just read and count at the basic level. Some would be lucky to have talents in other than academic, such as in vocational traning. Special attention have to be given to these students, which, at the end of the day, would still show no good result in academic.  And most of these students are not intelligent enough to have accounts of the social networks.
There are also cases of bright students who end up not doing well in public examinations due to laziness,  having no purpose in life, indiscipline, and neglect by parents. On the other hand, other bright students who are obsessed with these social networks go on doing well in life as they are more disciplined, smart enough to control themselves not to let their socialising activities jeorpadise their academic performance by strictly obeying their study schedules. Of course parents also play their role, monitoring the children’s activiities and their academic progress. All these are just proofs that obsession with social networks can be controlled, and not let it affect academic performance.
In conclusion, it is alright to socialise via the digital world, getting to know people from all over the world and having fun at the same time, so long as academic performance is put into priority. The moment a student realises that studying is affected, he should buckle up and make things right.