A historical meeting with the MOE for a people-led transformation of Malaysia’s education system

I, together with a few other homeschoolers, attended a townhall round table meeting at the Ministry of Education in Putrajaya today. This was the letter of invitation that got us there:

YBrs. Dr./Tuan/Puan,

Dengan segala hormatnya saya merujuk perkara di atas.

Sukacitanya dimaklumkan bahawa Jawatankuasa Kajian Dasar Pendidikan Negara (JKDPN) ditubuhkan berdasarkan keputusan Mesyuarat Jemaah Menteri pada 6 Jun 2018. Jawatankuasa ini diwujudkan untuk mengkaji semula dasar pendidikan negara dari peringkat prasekolah sehingga universiti. Untuk makluman tuan/puan, anggota JKDPN sedang mendapatkan maklumat dan mengadakan sindikasi dengan pemegang taruh berkaitan cadangan dan perakuan pelaksanaan kajian dasar pendidikan negara………………………..

First of all, the last time I heard the term “townhall meeting” was decades ago. Since then the word seemed to have vanished from our vocabulary! So to see it being used again is quite nostalgic for me.

Secondly, this is the first time stakeholders are being invited to give their input on our education policies. As Professor Emeritus Dato’ Dr. Ibrahim Ahmad Bajunid (whom we have deep respect for) had declared in his opening address, that together we are creating history for Malaysia’s education system, for a future that will reflect unity in diversity, to build a nation with civic consciousness based on universal values of love and respect for one another. Can Malaysians realise this dream?

We certainly can! This is a golden opportunity for any concerned citizen, parent or childcare provider, to give your input on what might be the key factors that can impact and transform our education system.

Our prime minister Tun Mahathir, has given instruction to our education minister to do one thing – to revamp the entire education system! And so, the education minister went to work immediately, by setting up the JKDPN (Jawatankuasa Kajian Dasar Pendidikan Negara) with 3 things as their mission:

1. To bring back joy in learning

2. To be good in English

3. To instil good values in students

On homeschooling, this was what Prof Bajunid said:

“We know homeschoolers had not been treated well in the past. We want to change all that by welcoming homeschoolers onboard. We want to hear from you what your challenges are and how we can help make things better.”

Wow. We could hardly believe our ears. But believe we do in the team’s sincerity and earnestness in making this gargantuan task a reality. And it can only succeed with everyone’s contribution in ideas and respective expertise.

What we have proposed to them:

– that homeschooling be accurately defined so that there will be no confusion between learning centres that act like schools, and homeschooling, which means home-based, parents-led learning.

– that homeschooling parents be able to register with the MOE as legitimate homeschoolers instead of having to apply for permission to homeschool.

– that homeschooling be recognised and accepted by the MOE.

– that school facilities and sporting activities and competitions be open to homeschoolers.

– that students special needs, including mild learning conditions and gifted children, be given the option and assistance to homeschool.

– that homeschoolers enjoy equal rights as school-going children.

 We have no reasons to doubt the sincerity and genuine intentions of the MOE because the task force comprises very knowledgeable and capable individuals with their hearts in the right place. The time is ripe for every one of us to contribute directly to the transformation of our education system. If you had missed their first town hall meeting, fret not, as we are told that there will be more to come soon! So do email them to request for the letter of invitation. Or give your input via their form via email.

Details below:

“Bersama-sama ini juga dikemukakan surat daripada pengerusi JKDPN dan Borang Maklum Balas Daripada Pemegang Taruh Dan Pihak Awam Berkaitan Dasar-dasar Pendidikan. Pihak JKDPN amat berbesar hati sekiranya YBrs. Dr/Tuan/Puan dapat mengisi borang tersebut dalam membantu pihak JKDPN menambahbaik dan membawa perubahan kepada sistem pendidikan negara. Adalah dimohon kerjasama YBrs. Dr/Tuan/Puan untuk mengemukakan semula borang maklum balas berkenaan melalui e-mel  jkkdpn@gmail.com sebelum atau pada 15 Februari 2019.

Jika terdapat sebarang pertanyaan berkenaan perkara di atas, pihak YBrs. Dr./tuan/puan boleh menghubungi sekretariat siding meja bulat ini iaitu Puan Noraini Binti Ab. Rashid di talian 019-6166090 atau Puan Siti Nadya binti Zynuddin di talian 03-88726574. Kehadiran YBrs. Dr/tuan/puan adalah dihargai dan didahului dengan ucapan terima kasih.

Sekian.

 

Sekretarian Jawatankuasa Kajian Dasar Pendidikan Negara

 

“BERKHIDMAT UNTUK NEGARA”

 

Saya yang menjalankan amanah,

 

Noraini

Noraini Binti Ab. Rashid

Penolong Pengarah

Unit Isu dan Analisis Dasar

Sektor Dasar

Bahagian Perancangan dan Penyelidikan Dasar Pendidikan

Kementerian Pendidikan Malaysia

Tel: 03-8872 1497 I Faks: 03-88846142

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Let’s talk!

The Blurp: “We live in a technological world in which we are always communicating and yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection. We turn away from each other and toward our phones. We are forever elsewhere. But to empathise, to grow, to love and be loved, to take the measure of ourselves or of another, to fully understand and engage with the world around us, we must be in conversation. It is the most human – and humanising – thing that we do.”

And with this, I was immediately drawn to the book and I put it into my books-to-buy basket without a second thought. Why does this book resonate with me? Well, the stark reality that confronts society today is indeed what the author of this book claims to be: the astonishing rate in which human communication has declined over the years, coinciding with the advent of smart phones that purportedly do all the communicating for us. But do they? From my own observations (of dealing with children and parents, and their family problems and conflicts and divorce cases), and from my own adult children’s experiences in their workplaces – their managers, their colleagues, their friends – and from my own experience with my work-intensive husband (his challenges in managing his work/personal/family time), I am 100% convinced that we are currently right smack in the eye of the storm – the storm of information, entertainment and distraction overload, leading to the breakdown in our relationships, our identity, our self-worth. Here are the arguments the author has presented for us in the first chapter of the book:

On the need for conversation:
“Many of the things we all struggle with in love and work can be helped by conversation. Without conversation, studies show that we are less emphatic, less connected, less creative and fulfilled.”

“We forget how unusual this has become, that many young people are growing up without ever having experienced unbroken conversations either at the dinner table or when they take a walk with parents or friends. For them, phones have always come along.”

I had an 8-year-old child whom I had volunteered to help unschool, due to her parents’ marital breakup, who had initially been very responsive and communicative in our daily conversations. Until she was given a smartphone by one of her parents. In a swipe of a finger, all conversations came to a halt. So did physical play with other kids. It was devastating to say the least.

On the need for conversation with the new generation:
“It is for us to pass on the most precious thing we know how to do: talking to the next generation about our experiences, our history, sharing what we think we did right and wrong.”

“It is not enough to ask your children to put away their phones. You have to model this behaviour and put away your phone. If children don’t learn how to listen, to stand up for themselves and negotiate with others in classrooms or at family dinner, when will they learn the give-and-take that is necessary for good relationships or, for that matter, for the debate of citizens in a democracy?

On reclaiming conversation:
“Reclaiming conversation begins with the acknowledgement that speaking and listening with attention are skills. They can be taught. They take practice and that practice can start now. In your home, in a classroom, at your job.”

On technology:
“……….technology gives us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship…..it can also give us the illusion of progress without the demands of action.”

On talking to machines:
“Have we forgotten what conversation is? What friendship is? Is talking to machines companionship or abandonment?”

On intelligence:
“Intelligence once meant more than what artificial intelligence does. It used to include sensibility, sensitivity, awareness, discernment, reason, acumen, and wit. And yet we readily call machines intelligent now.”

“Affective is another word that once meant a lot more than what any machines can deliver. Yet we have become used to describing machines that portray emotional states or can sense our emotional states as exemplars of ‘affective computing.’”

Before the advent of smartphones, it was the tv that took the beating. Suddenly, what was normal (spending time outdoors with friends and doing things together) became the abnormal. And what took its place was staying indoors and staring at the idiot box for hours on end. Today, the idiot box is replaced by the smartphone. Its impact on human relationships is still being uncovered.

“…..Steve Jobs did not encourage his own children’s use of iPads or iPhones. His biographer reports that in Job’s family, the focus was on conversation: “Every evening Steve made a point of having dinner at the big long table in their kitchen, discussing books and history and a variety of things. No one ever pulled out an iPad or a computer.”

On using Apps for sociability:
“Apps for sociability May increase sociability on apps; what children are missing, however, is an ease with each other, face-to-face, the context in which empathy is born.”

But then, we can always create an app for empathy, can’t we? The author poses this question for the readers: “But does a decrease in teenage empathy suggest the need for an empathy app? Or does it suggest that we make more time to talk to teenagers?”

“Sometimes it seems easier to invent a new technology than to start a conversation.”

“We are at a crossroads: So many people say they have no time to talk, really talk, but all the time in the world, day and night, to connect…..The next step is to take the same moment and respond by searching within ourselves. To do this, we have to cultivate the self as a resource. Beginning with the capacity for solitude.”

On why he doesn’t want to get a phone for his children,
Louis C.K. has this to say:

“You need to build the ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what the phones are taking away. The ability to just sit there. That’s just being a person…Because underneath everything in your life there is that thing, that empty, forever empty…….Life is tremendously sad. That’s why we text and drive. Pretty much 100 percent of people driving are texting. And they’re killing and murdering each other with their cars. But people are willing to risk taking their life and ruining another because they don’t want to be alone for a second……

So that’s why I don’t want to get a phone for my kids.”

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Which School (or learning center) to send your child to?

“Which School?” was the title that had generated a crazy amount of interest amongst parents visiting our website at the end of the 20th century and the start of the millennium. And that led us to homeschooling (after one parent had suggested that we looked into it) and almost 20 years down the road, we have not looked back (in terms of educating our children). Today, homeschooling has a different meaning – a majority of parents think of homeschooling as learning at one of the numerous learning centres that have sprouted in and around the Klang Valley. We have been mistaken for one of them. So we have had to explain to the many who have written in to enquire about our “homeschooling center”, that we do not run a center – we homeschool at home. But then, that leads to another confusion. The next question we are asked is: “what curriculum do you follow?” to which our answer has always been the same: we don’t do curriculum. We unschool. And that invariably leads to a downward spiral of disbelief and confusion! So we try to use more neutral terms like self-directed learning, or personalised learning – where learning is organic and interest-driven. Well, even this explanation is tough to stomach by those who cannot see learning beyond the four walls of the classroom structure. So here are some of my thoughts on learning that has been derived from many learned sources, as well as from our own personal experiences with our own children, as well as children who had grown up being unschooled.

Before you jump into the deep ocean to find a perfect school for your child, consider wading in a clear stream to piece your thoughts on what learning entails. These thoughts may bubble to the surface:

1. Learning is natural and organic – it happens in various environments but thrives best in those that are conducive for thinking, enquiring and discovering.

2. Children learn differently and at differing pace but they will ultimately learn something when their curiosities are stoked and their fire to learn enhanced, with the gentle support and encouragement on the part of the adults.

3. Real learning takes place in the real world where people participate intimately and passionately to solve a problem, or to create something new from already established works of others, to produce new products or services for others to use or to experience.

Learning does not happen in a vacuum. There are many factors that can perpetuate learning, and there are those that work to kill it (namely, an over-critical and judgemental mind). The most crucial thing is for parents to adopt a learning mindset – one that perpetuates learning by being equally open and curious about the world at large. All children have it – until they get crushed by the standards and expectations imposed by adults, who want to see clones of themselves in their kids. Epic mistake!

What can parents doSo the best thing that parents can give to their kids in order that they are able to be functional and creative individuals is this: Be very curious about what your kids are curious about! If you can do that, half the battle is won! In the meantime, it doesn’t hurt to fill their lives with stories and music and art – and I’m not talking about filling their time with endless such classes! No no no. I’m talking about doing these activities together if you both enjoy them, and going for exhibitions, shows or community events that highlight history, the arts and the environment. Why are they important? Because these are what help make us human – the creation, the appreciation and the expressions of them – are unique to humans and no one else. Unfortunately these human qualities are fast becoming alien to the younger generation growing up on digital technologies. Not that they are bad, but without mindful usage, it does look like they are causing havoc to the human existence in terms of relationships and accepted behaviours. So do your family a big favour by keeping to activities that enhance human communication, expression and relations. These include living skills such as cooking, sewing and washing up. We do not want to end up raising a generation of super smart young men and women who fail big time when it comes to basic living skills and relationships with other humans such as with their colleagues, clients and company bosses. For we are already seeing the trends now – workers who can only work with instructions but unable to function without literally being spoon-fed! Sad sad affair indeed.

Last but not least, give your child lots of room to dream and to experiment and to fail in their various ideas and projects. You can be their cheerleader on the side, but do not fall into the parent trap of trying to do their projects for them. When they fail, give them your shoulders to cry on, and give them your encouragement to try again. They will eventually learn – some, faster than others. Some may take longer. But don’t give up hope in them, for it is your wholehearted trust in their abilities to persevere and to persist in working towards their dream that will be the single biggest motivating factor for them to keep on trying no matter how long it takes to get to where they want to go. And you can’t fake it either. They will know!

And when children grow up knowing what to learn (and no, math is not mandatory) how to learn (by learning the way they know best – visually or aurally or kinaesthetically – and where to learn what and how they want to learn (college is not mandatory either) – they will have embraced the new learning skills of the 21st century: continual learning – learning is constantly occurring, evolving, synthesising. The future workers will be creators, emulators, designers and educator consultants and health and environmental consultants. They will contribute to a future that blends old knowledge with new technologies to heal the world of all the wounds inflicted upon it by the past generations. And this, my friends, should be the single most important aspiration of each and every parent and educator and healer and designer of the world!

So are you still looking for a school for your child? Perhaps you could just look at your own front-door! Backyards will do just great as well 😉

Have a Happy and Hopeful 2019 ❤️❤️❤️

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Understanding what ails us and what we can do to achieve optimal health!

We don’t need an expert to tell us that in our ultra modern age of high achievements and scientific innovations, we are facing a global epidemic in health issues, namely heart diseases, cancer, dementia and many more! And amongst the reasons for them are:

1. Nutritional deficiencies

Yes you heard me right! But how can that be? Nations around the world are getting richer and richer, it is impossible that rich nations and developing nations like ours can have nutritional deficiencies. Yet this is exactly what is happening!

“…….this problem isn’t confined to poor people or poor countries. Nutrient deficiencies are prevalent around the world, in both developed and developing nations. The World Health Organisation reporter in 2000 that vitamin and mineral deficiencies afflict one-third of the world’s people…..and that micronutrient deficiencies remain an underlying cause of death and disease worldwide.”

Generally speaking, about one third of the world population are struggling with deficiencies of iodine, zinc, selenium, thiamine, calcium, retinol, riboflavin, vitamin D, among others. Globally, over 2 billion people are at risk for deficiencies in vitamin A, iodine, iron, folate, and the B vitamins – again, one in three. (Chapter 8: Dietary Supplementation’s Role in the Reduction of Inflammation)

“I could cite hundreds of scholarly articles on this topic, but instead I want to note a surprising and encouraging trend. Average people all around the world are taking nutritional supplements. And they are doing so without any broad-based push from the medical profession.

Hundreds of scholarly authors have concluded that supplementation will help solve deficiency problems. But the majority of professionals in established medicine around the world act as if they are unaware of these statistics. They seem stuck in the paradigm established by outdated research that says sufficient amounts of all nutrients can be gotten through diet alone.”

2. We Don’t Eat like How Our Ancestors Used to

(i) We make food much differently today from the way it was produced 200 years ago. Then, even in the most advanced countries, most people lived in the countryside and worked in agriculture. They didn’t use herbicides, pesticides, or chemical fertilisers, because those things hadn’t been invented yet….Everyone ate organically.

(ii) Fresh vegetables were a prominent part of the diet, and medieval peasants had yet to be introduced to the pleasures of processed corn chips, plastic-wrapped, preservative-laden snack cakes, and artificially flavoured beverages.

(iii) People got lots and lots of exercise. They had to if they wanted to eat and stay warm, not to mention travel anywhere.

(iv) Meals we’re prepared in the home using natural ingredients. People are healthy, nutritionally complex whole-grain breads, instead of the white stuff most of us eat today.

(v) Processed foods were rare and none of them contained the cheap partially hydrogenated corn oils, high fructose corn syrup, or the smorgasbord of chemicals that our food contains today.

So, how many of us adopt this mindset that “If You Eat a Balanced Diet, You Don’t Need a Multivitamin?” I used to think that. And over the years, I had tried to establish a healthy diet for my growing family – by cutting out or down on processed foods, sugary and fatty foods, as well as red meats, in our daily diet, and in place of that, we take more fruits and vegetables, and whole grained foods. I can say that generally speaking, my family’s health has improved in the reduction of illnesses and general colds and coughs which we used to get on a regular basis.

However, I have also come to realise that each persons nutritional needs is different, and micronutrients are just as important in maintaining health. One clear example is my daughter who is a vegetarian. In her late teens and early adulthood, it is found that her teeth are decaying at a rapid speed, even though she is the most diligent in oral care. The dentists she had gone to were pretty useless in a sense that they were not interested to find out why her teeth are in such a bad state. Only through our own investigations have we come to the prognosis that it could be due to her nutritional deficiencies- her vegetarian diet may have eliminated much essential nutrients and micronutrients that are essential for strong bones and teeth. So, my answer to the question: do we really need dietary supplements? A strong YES to that! So now, she is finally taking the supplements that I had been buying for her, which she had neglected to take all those years.

So this is my exploration into the world of diet and nutrition, not just for my family, but to share with everyone that needs to know this. And I am certain that health education should be a top priority in homes and in schools, so that we nurture a nation of healthy individuals with optional health, contributing productively to the country rather than becoming a big burden to the country, contributing to the billion dollar national health expense that the country is facing right now! Do join me on this journey of healthy eating and nutritional discoveries!

May you be healthy and happy!

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77 Questions that could change your life!

I came across this heaven-sent book from a recent Popular Booksale in a clearance pile going for rm5 and it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read! It’s bursting with good questions directed at readers who yearn for a better quality of life, but are faced with countless obstacles. These questions make us think deeper into everyday issues which are normally unnoticed, unattended to and misunderstood. Here’s the content page:

The good doctor, like any good doctors, begin by asking his patients (readers) a series of questions:

“What are the chances you’ve got or will get a chronic medical condition such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, headaches, arthritis, backache, or stomach trouble? What are the chances you’ve tried a lot of potential remedies for your condition – a lot of doctors, a lot of pills, a lot of treatments? And what are the chances you’re STILL suffering, and find yourself anxious about your health and your future?”

“There’s good news for you. There’s no health challenge you face that won’t get better when you ask and consider these 77 Questions for Skillful Living.”

So what are we waiting for. Dive right in!

This approach is built on 4 principles:

1. Asking the right questions

2. Identifying the right path

3. Transforming obstacles into opportunities

4. Growing with every turn

For good health is more than being free from diseases. It has to be based on wholeness and harmony of

1. Self

2. Relationships

3. Nature

4. Beyond

which have to do with

Whether we have a purpose in life

The quality of our relationships today

How in tune we are with the rhythms of nature

How we maintain our connection to life before and after us

We need to understand that what troubles us physically are linked to our troubles that are hidden psychologically in our psyche, locked away deep inside us. To understand our health, we need to understand ourselves.

We have to go beyond pills-popping as solution to our ill health. But that’s the problem. How many doctors are willing or skillful in that area? Well, fortunately for us, this doctor is!

And many of our life problems that cause our health to go downhill can, and should be dealt with, by resolving our relationship issues:

It is always easier to blame external factors for our health problems, but in reality, it is our selves that we have to conquer!

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Eat right for your heart!

I’m sharing important information here on eating right to fight the many diseases of modern living. Because this kind of knowledge is essential in keeping us healthy and disease-free, but sadly, public awareness level is still very low, despite the information explosions on the internet, and all kinds of health issues are increasingly high. Why? The answer probably lies in the foods we eat (and don’t eat), and our lifestyles that are increasingly sedentary in nature. So here is the first chapter on eating for a healthy heart ❤️

So, according to this book, and many others on healthy living, here are some common advice:

1. Avoid or cut down on meat.

2. Eat fish instead.

3. And vegetables and nuts.

4. Eat like the Japanese for good health!

5. The Mediterranean diet is highly recommended too.

6. Cut down on animal fats and take good fats like olive oil.

7. Drink sparingly if you have to. If you don’t drink, then keep it that way 🙂

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Happy Deepavali

May the light of truth illuminates and conquer the darkness of greed, hatred and delusion!

Happy Diwali to all who celebrate it!

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