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PUTRAJAYA – The Rimbun Education Programme (REP) should be enhanced and expanded to more schools in the rural areas to benefit more target groups, said Deputy Education Minister Datuk P.Kamalanathan.

He said the Education Ministry supported new ideas and new programmes in collaboration with corporate bodies which enabled the students to be exposed to various interesting activities, gain new knowledge and relate what they had learnt with the outside world.

“Rimbun Capital Sdn Bhd’s collaboration with the Institute of Teacher Education Malaysia is an example on how government entity and corporate body can cooperate in creating value for the community in particular the education system,” he said in his speech during the appointment of mentors and REP model handing over ceremony to 50 students from 10 schools at the Education Ministry here today.

REP is a fun learning programme, which focuses on weak students in English, Mathematics and Bahasa Melayu in vernacular schools. Its objective is to produce students who have good academic qualification together with intelligence and self-determination through fun learning.

Under this programme, a total of 22 Institute of Teacher Education Malaysia students will visit participating schools three hours weekly to conduct REP activities.

For 2017, a total of 25 students from each school are selected to participate in REP and out of the 25, five outstanding students will be selected as mentors to guide other four average or weak students.

From an initial four schools with 100 students in 2015, this year the programme involves 10 schools with 250 students.

Among the schools participating in this year’s REP programme are Sekolah Rendah Jenis Kebangsaan Tamil (SJKT) Vivekanda, SJKT Jalan Fletcher, Sekolah Rendah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina (SJKC) Salak Selatan and Sekolah Kebangsaan Gombak. – BERNAMA

EAST PALO ALTO, California: Toothaches or asthma can cloud the minds of children who are eager to learn, but a new private school started by Dr Priscilla Chan and her husband, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, might be just what the doctor ordered.

In East Palo Alto, a city with minorities and families living in poverty near the wealthy enclaves of Silicon Valley, The Primary School opened its doors this year to 51 low-income preschool students. It boasts an innovative curriculum that addresses children’s health needs as part of their educational experience.

“There are so many ways a school can really help a child be in their optimal frame of mind to be successful in the classroom that are way more common than what we traditionally define as special needs,” said Chan, a paediatrician and CEO of the school, in an exclusive interview.

The Primary School’s current students are 4 or 5 years old, but it continues to recruit more students and teachers. It will add more grades every year until it’s fully built out to serve 700 families in East Palo Alto and Menlo Park’s Belle Haven neighbourhood. By that time, it will have pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students.

The school provides a free education for its students, who are selected through a lottery.

Across the nation, a growing number of schools such as the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York and publicly funded “community schools” also bring in health and social services, education experts say. And while some of these schools have seen success, the cost per child typically is expensive. Not all low-income communities have the resources to make it work.

“We have a very fragmented system with different organizations and government offices that are responsible for different parts of the child, which means that the same child often slips through the cracks because no one thinks to check that the reason why they’re not doing well in school is they can’t see the blackboard,” said Deborah Stipek, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education.

While The Primary School hasn’t disclosed how much it costs to run, some of its executives noted they’re leveraging help from community organisations and health care providers. The school said it isn’t ready to let a reporter visit a classroom or talk to parents and teachers, but its leaders shared some of the work they’ve been doing in its first school year.

Partnering with the Ravenswood Family Health Centre, The Primary School’s teachers received training on how to spot and manage a child with asthma, one of the leading causes of school absenteeism, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

At least one-fifth of the kids at The Primary School have a significant asthma condition, said Meredith Liu, the school’s president and chief operating officer.

“Our goal is to equip parents and teachers and people who work with kids every day to manage the health rather than building an expensive system on top of it,” Liu said.

Ravenswood dentists also stopped by to clean some students’ teeth as part of a project called “Virtual Dental Home.”

Parents of students at the school work with coaches and teachers to help write growth plans to measure and track a child’s health, education and social-emotional progress, such as having a healthy relationship with adults or knowing how to ask for assistance.

“We had some kids who were barely making eye contact when they came in and now they’re speaking,” Liu said. “And just the ability to have a friend seems like small things for us, but makes all the difference for these kids.”

Inside the classroom, kids learned about healthy eating and even pretended they were doctors in a clinic taking care of imaginary babies. Students start off the day in a community circle, and then split into smaller groups to discuss different topics, Chan said.

In one group, children discussed who lived in their community. One classroom decided insects lived in their community, so they drew pictures of bugs and studied them.

“It’s really an immersive experience led by the child’s interest,” said Chan, a former teacher.

The Ravenswood School District, another one of The Primary School’s partners, is looking for what it can learn from the program to bring into its own public school classrooms. Gloria Hernandez-Goff, the district’s superintendent, said she’s interested in working with the school to improve the professional development of the district’s teachers and provide students with more social-emotional support.

Research shows that investments in early childhood education, especially for low-income kids, pay off. A recent study co-authored by Nobel laureate James Heckman, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and the director of the Centre for the Economics of Human Development, found that high-quality birth-to-five programmes for disadvantaged children deliver a 13% return on investment each year. That’s because when they grow into adults, they’re healthier, better educated and less likely to be incarcerated.

The Primary School is one of Chans and Zuckerberg’s most hands-on educational investments in the Bay Area. The couple in 2014 pledged to contribute US$120mil (RM538.32mil) to schools in low-income Bay Area communities.

In 2010, Zuckerberg and Chan donated US$100mil (RM448.60mil) to turn around public schools in Newark, New Jersey. But a book titled The Prize, by Dale Russakoff, characterized the work as a failure because large chunks of the money went to labour and contract costs, charter schools and consultants.

Citing concerns about student privacy, The Primary School declined to disclose its exact location, but noted it sits near the Ravenswood Family Health Centre.

Creating a culture where parents, teachers and doctors communicate better with each other about a child’s needs doesn’t necessarily need to cost more, Chan said.

It’s one area that Dr Ryan Padrez is focusing on as the school’s medical director.

A challenge for paediatricians is that they see families only when they reach out to them and make an appointment. But parents and teachers see a student every day, he said.

“Even in these first few months, we’re still really just uncovering what can be possible in regards to developing a new innovative model to really go beyond what can be achieved in the paediatric office.” — The Mercury News/Tribune News Service

KUALA LUMPUR: The Education Ministry will announce next year if the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) will be abolished and replaced with a school-based assessment system.

Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid said a study is underway to determine if the examinations for Year Six pupils would be continued.

“We will announce the decision next year if the UPSR is to be continued following the findings of the study,” he told reporters at Parliament lobby.

He said the study involved looking at education models in South Korea, Finand and France where emphasis is less on examination but on the overall performance of a student.

“In some systems, there are no examinations at all.

“Students are instead evaluated under a school assessement system that takes into account their overall performance after five or six years,” he added.

Earlier in Dewan, Mahdzir clarified that the implementation of the new UPSR format was announced in 2010 with the examinations implemented in 2016.

He said the assessment was based not only on a student’s academic performance but overall performance in school covering participation in curriculum activities and discipline.

He was asked by Ahmad Baihaki Atiquallah (PAS-Kubang Kerian) to explain the dip in the UPSR results with regard to straight A students.

Ahmad said that only 1.11 per cent of the 440,782 pupils who sat for the exams, or 4,896 pupils, scored straight A’s.

He said this was a stark contrast to the 2015 results where 38,344 pupils secured all A’s under the previous format.

BERLIN: Germany plans to invest an extra 5bil (RM23.21bil) over the next five years to equip more than 40,000 schools and colleges with faster internet, wireless access points and tablet computers, the Education Minister said.

The investment plan, which still needs to be agreed by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet, is another sign that Germany is more willing to meet international calls to spend its record budget surplus on infrastructure and education.

“We have to make a big leap forward to improve digital education,” Johanna Wanka said, adding that the government would make the money available for the 16 federal states that are traditionally in charge of education in Germany.

German schoolchildren have only scored mediocre results in international education studies in the past years, although some evaluations show that they are slowly catching up.

A survey on digital education in Germany has found that less than 2% of pupils have daily access to a school computer.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have for years urged Germany to step up public and private investment to boost domestic demand and reduce its massive current account surplus.

Close allies such as France and the United States have also called for Germans to open their wallets, and the government has reacted by increasing its spending on infrastructure and accommodating and integrating a record influx of refugees.

Critics say Germany could do much more like taking advantage of record-low borrowing costs to take on new debt and ditching the balanced budget policy championed by Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.

In another potential boost for domestic demand, the cabinet agreed on Oct 12 on Schaeuble’s proposal to cut income taxes by €6.3bil (RM29.27bil) in 2017 and 2018.

The plan, which was already announced by Schaeuble and Merkel last week, aims to correct “cold progression” or bracket creep in the tax system.

Thresholds in Germany’s progressive tax system are not automatically adjusted for inflation. This means that workers who get a pay rise can find themselves ending up with a net pay cut. — Reuters

PUTRAJAYA: Datuk Seri Alias Ahmad has been appointed as the Secretary-General of the Education Ministry, effective from Sept 3, taking over from Tan Sri Dr Madinah Mohamad who is on mandatory retirement, said Chief-Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa.

Prior to the appointment, Alias, 58, was Secretary of the National Security Council, Prime Minister’s Department, and had served in the civil service for more than 32 years.

In a statement here Friday, Ali said Alias, through his work in the civil service, had wide experience in planning, research and policy, human resource management as well as security areas.

“I believe that the experience, knowledge and credibility he has will enable him to carry out his responsibilities effectively and he is capable of continuing the ministry’s mission in sustaining a quality education system to build an individual’s potential to meet national aspirations,” he said.

Alias previously served as the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism; Director-General of Immigration and Secretary of the Human Resource Management Division, Home Ministry.

In the statement, Ali, on behalf of the government expressed his appreciation to Madinah for her contributions and service to the civil service and nation for more than 35 years. – Bernama

PETALING JAYA: Parents want long-term solutions such as air-conditioned classrooms to safeguard the health of their schoolgoing children against haze.

Managing director Edward Neoh said the Government should seriously look into installing air-conditioning units in all classrooms so there would be no need for schools to close during severe periods of haze.

Many parents were caught off-guard, he said, when schools had to close down after the Air Pollutant Index (API) breached very unhealthy levels last year.

“Why should only teachers and the headmaster have air-conditioned rooms?” he asked.

Neoh, who is adviser to Jia Zong, an association of parents from Chinese schools, said installing air-conditioning units in the classrooms was not expensive but many schools could not afford the monthly electricity bills. He noted that water and electricity bills for a school with 1,000 students could cost over RM10,000 a month.

Vernacular schools only receive RM5,000 in government subsidy for utilities a month and must pay for the shortfall through fund-raising and donations.

Neoh said the Government could increase this subsidy as a matter of priority.

Alternatively, he said the Government should provide grants for schools to install solar panels to produce electricity which could then be sold to Tenaga Nasional Bhd under the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) mechanism to offset their monthly bills.

“Some would say this is a far-fetched idea but it could be cost-effective in the long run, and will be good for the environment.”

Parent Joyce Kim, 45, said she wanted more advance notice from the Education Ministry should schools need to close.

She said the authorities must realise that not all working parents could take emergency leave.

“Some of us were left in a desperate situation due to the eleventh-hour notice about school closures,” she added.

National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Datuk Lok Yim Pheng said she believed that the Government had learnt from what happened last year.

The ministry had the experience, she said, to better tackle the situation should the need arise to close schools again this year.

Lok also disagreed with the suggestion for classrooms to be air-conditioned, adding that the Government could not afford the electricity costs.

She said the long-term solution was for Asean member countries to stop open burning, adding that countries affected by the haze faced a drop in productivity while their people faced long-term health problems.

JOHOR BARU: The Education Ministry wants all state directors to review the contracts of security companies appointed to keep schools and children safe.

Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid (pic) said some schools hired guards who do not have the basic knowledge or skills in providing security.

Mahdzir said the ministry has discussed the issue at the highest level and asked all state directors and district Education offices to look into the matter seriously.

He was commenting on an incident in which an eight-year-old girl in Terengganu was believed to have been molested in a storeroom by a stranger last Monday.

The girl was approached by the alleged molester asking for help to release a student trapped in a storeroom inside the school.

She backed out but the suspect carried her into the storeroom, where the victim screamed for help. The suspect panicked and let her go before running away and escaped by jumping over the school wall.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is no longer stuck in the middle income trap, given the steady growth of its gross national income (GNI) in recent years and improving fiscal position.

Performance Management & Delivery Unit ( Pemandu) pointed out that Malaysia’s GNI at US $10,570 per capita last year is now only 15% away from the high-income economy benchmark, compared with US$8,280 per capita in 2010, which then put the nation 33% short of achieving the coveted category.

According to World Bank’s definition, a high-income nation needs to have a minimum GNI of US $12,475 per capita in 2010, compared with US $12,276 per capita in 2010.

“We have become unstuck from the middle income trap,” said Pemandu chief Datuk Seri Idris Jala.
“We’ve also reduced subsidy and undertaken various reforms to lower fiscal deficit and stimulate private investment growth,” he added in his keynote address at a roundtable discussion -The Business Year here on Wednesday.

Idris noted that the reduction in Malaysia’s fiscal deficit from 6.6% of GDP in 2009 to 3.2% last year was an indication of a stronger and more sustainable financial position.

SHAH ALAM: The implementation of the Dual Language Programme (DLP) will be expanded to all schools under the Malaysia Education Blueprint, says Chong Sin Woon.

The Deputy Education Minister said increasing efforts to enhance English literacy among students would be given priority under the Second Wave (2016-2020).

“To prepare for this, the ministry has been training English teachers for the past two years to increase the standard in teaching the language.

“According to the First Wave report, our efforts have paid off,” he said during a press conference at the National English Unity Carnival closing ceremony at HELP University’s Subang 2 campus here yesterday.

Chong said although many schools had applied to implement the DLP, they did not meet the ministry’s requirements to conduct the programme.

He said the ministry was also looking forward to see schools conducting more Highly Immersive Programmes in which activities were required to be conducted purely in English.

“Simple schooling activities such as assembly and co-curriculum activities conducted fully in English will enable students to have more opportunities to be exposed to the language,” he said.

He added that such exposures would help students improve their command in the language.

Chong said it was important to master English because the language was used in most courses in both private and public higher learning institutions.

“Mastering English will help students in a smooth transition into their tertiary education,” he said.

Chong also stressed that the implementation of DLP would not affect Bahasa Melayu, saying that it was still the country’s national language.

“The ministry will not force schools to implement the DLP.

“DLP is not a new policy but a move to help improve the standard of English,” he said.

To implement the DLP, several guidelines must be adhered to such as written consent from parents and guardians and enough facilities and teachers to teach in English.

PUTRAJAYA: Computational thinking skills will be integrated into the primary and secondary schools curriculum starting January 2017.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the move was to expose Malaysian youths to digital technology and produce future digital makers.

“This integration will benefit an estimated 1.2 million students from 10,173 schools nationwide next year,” said Najib at the launching of the #mydigitalmaker movement at elite school Sekolah Sultan Alam Shah Thursday.

Najib said about 9,200 teachers would be trained for the curriculum.

The #mydigitalmaker movement is an initiative by the Education Ministry with the support of the private sector to nurture and groom young digital makers.