Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Education: Get 'real' skills

Y.S. CHAN, Kuala Lumpur

AFTER completing their studies, secondary school students should pursue tertiary education to develop their full potential.

Academic pursuit can develop mental faculties and postgraduate studies empower the scholar to be learned in a chosen field.

However, a learned person is not educated without displaying social skills and values.

These can only be acquired through training and practice.

To gain in-depth knowledge, we need to master a language as it is the key to learning.

This will enable us to think deeply, speak clearly and write logically.

Some of the essential social skills are being able to communicate, conceptualise, develop interpersonal relations, lead, multi-task, be self-disciplined and be a team player.

When the learning of social skills and values are treated merely as an academic exercise, the undergraduates would pick up only the barest minimum.

It is necessary for students to be exposed to others of different backgrounds, instead of just limiting themselves to a small circle of friends.

One of the most effective ways of learning social skills and values is to visit hospitals, hospices, prisons and drug rehabilitation centres and act as a conduit for inmates who wish to express their feelings to the loved ones at home.

Such efforts should not be viewed as a sacrifice.

It can be a very humbling and rewarding experience as they would learn to appreciate life better and respect people more.

Touching someone's life is certainly more meaningful than staging events just for the record books, which also serve no purpose other than for publicity.

If not constrained by time and money, fresh graduates should go through the "University of Life" by travelling locally or overseas as a backpacker before embarking on a career.

Employers prefer graduates who are street-wise and street smart.

No one has confidence in those who remain sheepish and can hardly express themselves, even though they may possess academic qualifications.

The main criteria in getting a job or progressing in a career are character, communications skill, general knowledge, job experience and academic qualification, in that order.

As such, it is important for young people to get a real education and not merely aim for academic qualification.

Their success in life and career is dependent on many other attributes.

Letters to the Editor, NST, 30th March 2011

Make teaching of English a national mission

DESPITE the Government’s new policy of teaching Science and Mathematics in Bahasa Malay-sia, it is nevertheless giving a lot of push and thrust to improve English teaching methods and standards. But sadly, at school level, it is not being followed and implemented.

My daughter studies in a secondary school popularly known as SMKDPT Masai, a premier school where all the 5As, 6As and 7As students from the nearby primary schools are placed.

Being a premier school and having all the top students from the schools around this area, the school has to set a high standard of teaching in English, but it is not so.

The teachers, including the Guru Besar, do not utter a single word in English even to a person like me who does not know Bahasa Malaysia. I am an Indian expatriate.

In India, I completed Standard 1 to Higher Secondary (here it is called STPM) in Tamil. But our English language syllabus was so strong, with two papers, one specifically in gram-mar.

Due to the strength of the Eng-lish language syllabus and the tea-ching methods employed, I could easily acquire proficiency in Eng-lish when I reached engineering college.

Governments may come out with a good education policy, but the success of the policy depends on the implementation at grassroots, largely on the Gurus Besar.

If the Government really wants to improve the standard of English, the Gurus Besar have to be trained first and they will automatically lead the team of teachers under them to the successful implementation of government policy.

But to cover up their weakness, or lack of affinity or proficiency in English, these teachers simply put the blame on the children from the rural or poor families.

I am from a poor family in a rural area, my mother is illiterate and my father a Physical Education teacher who cannot speak English.

How could I acquire proficiency in English? It was because of the teachers.

The Gurus Besar of all schools in Malaysia can do well to look at Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who has a good command of English despite being from a rural family. He mesmerised the Europeans and Ameri-cans when introducing the Multi-media Super Corridor.

If a person is good in communication skills, he/she is already 50% successful in his/her career. In this aspect, I am saddened whenever I interview Malaysian engineering graduates for industrial training or for a job.

They are good and intelligent in their Engineering subjects, but they cannot express and explain due to lack of proficiency in English. When they write a report, it confuses; I do not know whether he/she is explaining yesterday’s or today’s or tomorrow’s event as there is no grammar in their writing. How can these engineers submit a research paper in an international forum?

All Gurus Besar have to take up the development of English language skills among their students as a national mission.

In India, in order of respect, we place Guru (Teacher) one place above God and just two places below Matha (Mother) and Pitha (Father). God only creates human beings, but the Guru moulds the human being into a good human being.

Pasir Gudang, Johor.

Opinion, The Star, 30th March 2011