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With a new government installed after the 14th General Election, it is natural to expect massive overhauls and changes from bottom up. The Education Ministry, led by Dr. Maszlee Malik, is one of the most-scrutinised portfolios that will undergo substantial changes, starting from schools.

Here are some of the policy changes that are set to take place from 2019 onwards:

1. No more exams for Standard One to Standard Three students

Yes, you heard us right. The little ones will be spared from exam stress this year, much to the relief of parents. The decision to abolish mid-year and final exams was purportedly to allow schools to focus more on teaching and help pupils discover the joy of learning. Parents who are fretting about the method schools will use for monitoring their children’s progress in place of exams should not worry. This is because the exams will be replaced with objective assessments in 2019. Education director-general Datuk Dr. Amin Senin said continuous assessments will take place as part of teaching and learning through Classroom-Based Assessment (PBD).

2. No more class streaming

Primary schools will no longer be segregating students based on their academic performance.  This is a big change as streaming has been practised for a long time, and this will mean pupils with mixed abilities will be put in the same class. Proponents say this will allow children of different abilities to help each other. Opponents say this will be tougher on lower-ability children, and is a challenge for teachers, who will have to vary their teaching methods in class and may not be able to focus on progressing the higher-ability children to the best of their potential.

3. No more LINUS programme

Beginning this academic year, there will be no more Literacy and Numeracy Screening programme (LINUS). The LINUS programme was first introduced in 2009 under the Education National Key Results Area (NKRA) to tackle the problem of primary school pupils who are weak in reading, arithmetic and writing skills (3Rs).

Education Ministry Director-General Datuk Dr. Amin Senin has said in place of LINUS, schools will now determine their own ways to tackle learning difficulties faced by their students.

4. Black shoes

The Education Ministry is implementing a gradual transition from the traditional white school shoes to the black version beginning 2019. What that means for parents who send their children to national schools is they can opt to buy black shoes for them or remain loyal to the white version. Well, at least until 2021, when the ministry is expected to fully enforce the policy.

5. Civics subject back in schools

If you remember, Civics was one of the subjects used to be taught in schools but it was removed from the school syllabus in November 2014. However, Dr. Maszlee reportedly said that the Civics and Citizenship Education (CCE) will be reintroduced in all primary and secondary schools in the middle of 2019 as a compulsory subject. He had also said that anti-graft related education will also be introduced through the CCE subject.

6. Lighter school bags

A study by the Education Ministry found that 28 percent of a school bag’s weight consists of textbooks, while the remaining 72 percent consists of stationery, uniforms and food, among others. Following the study, the Education Ministry had issued guidelines last year to help pupils lighten their school bags. The guidelines include rearranging the timetable so that there are between three and four subjects a day and setting up lockers in schools for books storage purposes. Teachers are also instructed to tell students clearly about the books they need to bring each day, as well as to reduce the number of exercise books for each subject.

7. Stateless or no documents? No problem!

Beginning this year, all stateless and undocumented children will be able to go to school just like any other school going children. There will be a move to simplify the registration process for children without citizenship into government schools. Parents with these children only need to provide relevant documents such as the child’s birth certificate, adoption papers or court orders.

 

Are you a parent with government school-going children? What are your thoughts on these new policies? Share your thoughts by writing to [email protected]

Empathy is a big buzz word in parenting, child-rearing and 21st century skills at the moment. We all know what it literally means, i.e. to understand someone else’s situation or feelings by putting yourself in their shoes. We all know it’s a good quality to have, and one we should encourage our children to have. But how do you really put it into practice?

  1. Show your own vulnerability

One of the things that most surprises children is when they realise their parents are not the demi-gods they always imagined, and I think this is particularly in Asian cultures. The stereotypical parent not only shelters their children from worries about things like health and finances, but focuses all conversations, questions and attention on their children. I went through my childhood blithely clueless that my parents lives didn’t revolve around just me. It never occurred to me to ask my parents how they were because it simply wasn’t part of the way we talked to each other.

Children need to learn, in an age-appropriate way, that you, too, have difficulties and concerns, which gives them the chance to show empathy towards you in a role-reversal that provides important lessons and experience in how to behave in society.

In the beginning, you may need to help them with how to do this, which can be as simple as, “How was your day, Daddy?”, “What can I do to help?” or “I’m sorry to hear that”. And then, when they do this, or you hear about them doing this with other people, it’s important to acknowledge and praise this, so they feel its value.

  1. Model conflict resolution

Most parents have the natural instinct to protect their children from unpleasant experiences, including arguments or fights between themselves. However, it’s inevitable that your children will witness some of this (and I would argue, actually, it’s healthy for kids to see adults disagreeing verbally, even if it’s a bit heated). In such situations, the important thing is to resolve the conflict in front of your child i.e. acknowledging wrongdoing, apologising, and saying what you will do (or try to do) in the future.

  1. Introduce charity into your child’s life

Here’s a little snippet of conversation between me and 5-year-old Alex when we passed a panhandler:

“Did that woman want some money?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Maybe she doesn’t have enough.”

“Do you have money?”

“Yes.”

“Why don’t you give her some money? You have to share.”

I was left dumbfounded by this exchange, because of course, he was right, but not at the right age for me to talk about more effective ways to provide charity and the possibility of being scammed. I mulled over this for a while, and think my friend Catherine has the right idea about this.

She gives her sons pocket money, and they divide the money up into three categories – Save, Spend, and Give. Hand in hand with this is a discussion about possibilities of who to give the money to, and this can then be expanded into focused research online on charitable organisations, whether local, regional or international. Depending on the age of your child, you may also want to go into how to find out how legitimate these are.

  1. Read books which encourage empathy

Books are a great gateway into conversations about the lives of others, so it’s a good idea to seek out books of different cultures and lives than your child’s own. Ones which we’ve looked at are:

Grace for Gus, by Harry Bliss

The Red Bicycle, by Jude Isabella and Simone Shin

Little White Duck, by Na Liu and Andres Vera Martinez

The Unforgotten Coat, by Frank Cottrell Boyce

The Arrival, by Shaun Tan

People, by Peter Spier

The Name Jar, by Yangsook Choi

At the Same Moment Around the World, by Clotilde Perrin

This Is How We Do It, by Matt Lamothe

The Heart and the Bottle, Oliver Jeffers

The Invisible Boy, by Trudy Ludwig

Mirror, Jeannie Baker

Wonder, by R.J. Palacio (this was recently made into a movie with Julia Roberts, also worth seeing)

Ask your child questions, and encourage them to ask questions, especially ones that get them to imagine themselves in those situations – How would they feel? What would they do? How is it different from their lives? How is it similar, despite the outward differences?

  1. Try hard things and value failure

Children have a tendency to avoid new situations and difficult tasks because most adults shower kids with praise which children then become addicted to. Besides the fact that we should encourage a growth mindset rather than a fixed one (read Carol Dweck to find out more), so that children associate failed attempts with opportunities for learning, failing more often will also make children more empathetic towards others who fail. If a child is always surrounded by peers who are privileged, well-supported and resourced, and groomed for ultimate success, they are more likely to view failure as laziness or a lack of intelligence. There is nothing less empathetic than an entitled, privileged person.

 

There’s so much emphasis on achievement and success, both in school and in life, that it’s important not to lose sight of the role that kindness and compassion play in making us human and humane. As parents, that’s something we have direct influence over our children, (as opposed to musical talent or an affinity for maths), and the more we bear that in mind and in our own behaviour, perhaps the less antagonistic and fraught our world would be.

 

By Uma

Uma is a Malaysian mum who works in teacher education. She has a six-year-old son, Alex, and currently lives in Singapore. 

Most parents have heard of the Kumon Method, but what do you really know about this respected brand, now in its 60th year?

Four million children from age four to 17 currently attend Kumon classes in 50 countries, making it the largest and most established after-school enrichment programme in the world.

What has made this Japanese method so compelling to little ones and their parents? We speak to some Kumon parents to find out what the Kumon Method entails, and how these classes have changed their lives.

Powerhouse Mathematics and English Mastery

At the very heart of it, the Kumon Method – founded in Japan in 1954 – was derived from a father’s love, one who saw the need to help his son.  Founder Toru Kumon created worksheets to help his son develop a self-learning method, allowing him to develop his learning abilities beyond his school grade.

Saharlin Mohamed, mother of 10-year-old Faiq and 7-year-old Faiz, attributes her children’s success in school to Kumon. Both attend a local government primary school and an Islamic school after schooling hours.

“I had a colleague whose child attended Kumon classes and was doing well in school. I found out more and subsequently enrolled Faiq in Kumon Maths when he was six. Today, at ten, he is doing Advanced Mathematics that is five years ahead of his current school grade,” she said.

Rezi Junoh and Saharlin Mohamed, with Faiz and Faiq.

Faiq later started Kumon English, and was consistently top of his year for the last three years. His younger brother Faiz also started Kumon, and at seven, is now doing Advanced Mathematics that is four years ahead of his school grade.

Tan Siew Kheng has a seven-year old daughter named Tan Xuan Ling who attends an international school offering the International Baccalaureate programme.

She started Xuan Ling with Kumon Maths when she was five-and-a-half, later enrolling her in Kumon English. She is now seven and doing mathematical problems that are two years ahead of her school grade. For English, she is a year ahead.

Kumon’s ‘Just Right’ Method – Individualised Instruction

If you’ve ever worried about whether your child is unable to cope in class, or is too advanced and bored, especially in critical subjects like Mathematics and English, then Kumon’s ‘Just Right’ Method is a boon.

In this method, instructors do not teach children in a uniform manner – there is no comparing with others. Students start with their ‘just right’ level and progress at their own pace. Progress is driven by ability not age. Students learn from examples, explanations and hints provided in the worksheets. They then attempt the questions on their own, under the watchful eyes of experienced expert instructors who only guide when necessary.

Tan feels her daughter Xuan Ling has benefited greatly from Kumon. The ‘Just Right’ method, she said, allowed Xuan Ling to transition without too much stress. She went from a comfortable level to one where is she challenged by the material.

Kumon’s unique “Pencil and Paper” approach

Kumon uses specialised worksheets that are constantly improved through research. The worksheets do not promote rote learning, but their drills demonstrate how the right practice and repetition can help any child master a given level of skills.

When a child has difficulties, the instructor just takes them back to a much lower point in the worksheets and encourages repetition until they are ready to move on.

The parents we interviewed noted there were common misconceptions about the programme in relation to this approach.

Parents not familiar with Kumon were usually concerned whether the traditional ‘pen and paper’ worksheets would be too boring for the child. They worried if classes were just glorified tuition sessions that promote outdated rote learning methods monitored by seemingly passive instructors.

Rezi Junoh, who is father to Faiq and Faiz, initially had his doubts. “In the beginning, we wondered why the instructor did not actively teach or help the children. Only later did we see how the Kumon Method helped our children gain independence via self-learning.”

Kumon’s emphasis on independent self-learning

Kumon founder Toru Kumon once said, “For children to make progress, it was more effective to meet their natural desire to grow and learn, rather than force them to advance by cramming everything into their heads.”

“There is a limit to how much you can force a child to study but the potential for growth through self-learning is limitless. This makes both children and their parents happy.”

This is the central force behind Kumon’s approach and success.

Tan said this emphasis on self-learning was an amazing feature, and meant more than just improved grades in school.

“The discipline and self-learning habits she has built up with Kumon have carried over into her piano and other classes. She can now progress to harder piano pieces more easily,” Tan said.

For Xuan Ling’s last music recital, she was asked by the teacher to perform a more difficult song that she quietly practised on her own, much to her mother’s surprise.

Kumon Maths and English are a powerful combination

Parents loved that mathematical competency became more potent when combined with English Language skills. English is not only important for communication but also for the understanding of Advanced Mathematics and Science as many exam problems for these subjects are written up in text, not just numerical formats.

Tan said her daughter enjoys Kumon Maths and English. Whether solving maths problems or reading English passages, Xuan Ling now applies both logic and imagination to anticipate what will happen.

She thinks about the concepts and ideas that the questions and stories are trying to convey. She also questions things more.

Xuan Ling is now a self-starter and independent self-learner.

Important Life Skills in Young Children

Rezi says that Kumon has given his kids useful life skills that have also made his life as a parent easier. “It was not easy at first, but we stuck with it. Now, we no longer need to remind them to do their homework and Kumon worksheets. They are disciplined. They will automatically complete these independently within the allocated time, only asking for help when really needed but not without first attempting the problems on their own.”

Through Kumon, his son Faiq has not only become skilled at Mathematics and English, but also a well-rounded child who is confident. “He is brave enough to speak up and quick to respond to questions in school. As a student who is focused and can finish his work fast, he also helps other children.”

These positive behaviours gained from Kumon have impacted other aspects of Faiq’s life. He is a school prefect and Taekwondo red black belt holder. His parents are also seeing similar progress in his brother Faiz.

Picking the Right Enrichment Class

Saharlin said it was a competitive landscape for students these days. Parents were afraid their children would be left behind without extra enrichment classes.

“We initially asked ourselves: how do we pick the right enrichment class to attend?”

For her, Kumon ticked all the right boxes with their remarkable key features.

She said, however, she noticed that not many local children from government schools attended Kumon classes. Most came from private schools.

“Kumon is actually very good value for money. Instead of many different tuition classes for many different subjects, you only need to attend one programme. The good learning behaviours and skills will positively impact other subjects,” she said.

For grateful Kumon parents, their children’s mental resilience as a result of these classes has been nothing short of inspiring.

 

By Li-Hsian


 

For more information on Kumon Malaysia, please visit: Kumon Malaysia  or Kumon Malaysia’s Facebook page.

 

This is a sponsored post presented by Kumon Malaysia