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Sunday, May 20, 2018

16 Years With Kids In Public Malaysian Schools And Why I Hope For Change

My kids have been in Malaysian public schools for 16 years. During the 16 years we experienced the following and saw some changes as follows:

1. KBSR/KBSM syllabus to KSSR/KSSM to KSSR Semakan/KSSM Semakan

What this meant to us: The siblings could not share their books because one was under KBSR, the other was the first batch doing the KSSR syllabus. We noticed that in some cases, things that were previously taught in Std 3 are taught in Std 1 under the new syllabus. Same thing goes for secondary school.

2. The end of PPSMI or teaching of Math and Science in English

What this meant to us: Initially our elder child started learning Math and Science in English AND Chinese as was practiced when PPSMI was introduced. At the time, instead of switching to Math and Science in English, SJKC students had to learn Math and Science in English IN ADDITION to Math and Science in Chinese. They sat for 4 papers. When PPSMI came to an end, it meant that our child only had to do Math and Science in Chinese only. (which was actually a relief to us)

3. The introduction of DLP (Dual Language Programme)

What this meant to us: Fortunately, by then our kids were in secondary school with DLP so they instead of switching from Math and Science in Chinese to Math and Science in BM, they switched to Math and Science in English in secondary school.

However, this means different things to different students. Some schools do not have DLP for the entire school, only for some classes and some do not have DLP.

4. The introduction of KBAT (HOTS) and new format for UPSR

What this meant to us: This was a big problem to us as the time frame for the change was too sudden and parents, teachers and students were confused. Personally, we feel that many of the KBAT type of questions were set for the sake of calling it a KBAT question. Some of the questions were so baffling, even adults could not answer them and they took to discussing how to answer them on Facebook groups. Yes, sure we are supportive of HOTS but first you must make sure the basics are covered. All of a sudden kids were supposed to swim or run before they could even walk. Surely one would drown under such circumstance.

5. The introduction of PBS 

What this meant to us: When our kids were in primary school. PBS was introduced.  Teachers were to access the kids regularly, they opened up files for each student and assessed them according to different abilities (Let's just call them Band 1 to Band 6 for the sake of simplicity). During PTA, we asked teacher about the files and teacher pointed to the row of files at the back of the classroom with each student's name labeled. We never quite understood about the Bands or how the assessment were carried out and everyone continued to rely on the school report card to check on student's progress.

At the time it was introduced, there was mention that UPSR would be 60% exam based and 40% PBS. It never happened. It went back to UPSR 100% exam based and at the end of primary school we were handed an almost empty file for the PBS. Teachers were bogged down with a lot of paperwork under PBS.

6. Bye bye PMR. Hello PT3

What this meant to us: Fortunately, we were not the first batch to say Hello to PT3. I understand the first batch was struggling to find workbooks and to understand how projects were done because for the first time History and Geography became 100% project based. The change was too sudden and not properly communicated causing panic among the first batch of parents and students.

7. The introduction of PPSR in UPSR

What this meant to us: By then our kids were out of primary school so we weren't affected by this change. The change was quite sudden too making teachers, parents and students panic at the last minute but I think it was nothing more but a different reporting style for UPSR with different focus.

8. The introduction of FROG VLE

What this meant to us: During primary school, we were given passwords for the FROGVLE login. We were supposed to be able to check our children's homework using the system. There were some schools which used this effectively but in others, many parents did not know about it or did not know how to use it. I remember in our case, the kids would come home once in a while and said they had to login to the website and leave it on for a few hours, I suspect that was to meet some sort of KPI.

In secondary school, things are better, the kids use the FROG VLE to do some homework provided by teacher. I am not sure whether it is because things are improving or because their school was better at it. However, in one ocassion I remember my kid telling me that teacher cried because she said it was so difficult and she felt so frustrated.

Changes are not properly communicated and carried out.

These are just some of what we experienced with our kids in public Malaysian schools these past 16 years. There may have been some other changes which slips my mind right now.

So many changes. Some of them printed on the pages of a glossy book called the Malaysian Education Blueprint. To us as parents, the words in the glossy book mean little to us. They show big plans but the implementation is poor and often last minute. Schools, teachers, parents and students are often confused.

We change from one thing to another and we are made to feel as though our kids are guinea pigs for plans that are not carefully thought out.

Not all of the changes are bad of course. Some of them are even good and forward looking but then the manner in which change is done, often last minute, without proper training for teachers and not properly communicated to parents leaves much to be desired.

Change is also not properly planned. Take the UPSR for example. First it was supposed to be abolished. Then it was decided not to abolish it but to have it 60% exam based and 40% school based assessment but later it was switched back to 100% exam based. Then HOTS questions were added to UPSR not gradually but suddenly. Finally, it was decided that UPSR will now be PPSR which still meant 100% exams but with exam results displayed in a different format to focus on other than just academics. These sorts of changes happen too frequently, are confusing and often done last minute without proper dissemination of information to teachers and parents.

It is the same for secondary school. Talk of abolishing PMR, followed by changing to PT3, last minute change to 100% project based for History and Geography and so on.

Every year before the major exams, parents are filled with anxiety and wondering what will be changed next and whether this change will be communicated just 2 months before the exams.

So many changes but one thing remains the same. The heavy school bag. My elder one was diagnosed with scoliosis at the end of primary school and though there is no documented proof to link scoliosis to heavy school bags, I don't think it is a good idea to have those young still growing backs and spines lug heavy school bags up and down the stairs daily.

Even now, sometimes the kids carry 3-4 school bags to school on days when they have projects to hand up and PJ and activity uniforms to change in and out of. When I teased my boy about how he looked like he was going for a trip rather than to school, he quipped. "Mom, when I go on a trip, I carry less than this."

SK, SJKC, SJKT, SMK, SMJK, Private school, International School or Home School?
It is exactly this sort of constant changes that puts parents in a dilemma when selecting schools.

High Performance School, Cluster School, Smart School, Premier School, Vision School, Control School, Full Residential School and more

So many classification of schools. So confusing. So many parents hoping to get their children into the best schools. So many schools with KPIs to meet. So much competition.

Many parents are called kiasu when they push their children to do score As to get into the better schools.

"Why so kiasu? Let your children be children. There are more things in life than academics."

I wish I could say that too. However, I do not have the luxury of being able to make such a statement. I do not have the choice of sending them to private school or international school. I do not have the luxury of picking a good school if their results are not good. I do not have the choice of sending them for expensive overseas tertiary education.

 I am not kiasu. I do not believe that children should be at home all day doing nothing accept studying. Nor do I believe in chasing after As.

However, because of my lack of choices, my children had to aim for those full As to get them into better schools. In the end, with their full As, they got to pick the school they want without us having to pay and arm and a leg. They are in a good school now and the sacrifices have been worth it but our journey in the public schooling system is not over and that is why I hope for change. We are not intending to migrate anywhere because Malaysia is our home so we hope for a better education system for the future too.

I believe many parents are the same too. They are not kiasu but they have no choice but to push their kids to fight for places in good public schools and public universities.

Parents hope for change

I am not the only parent hoping for change. Not the flip flop, printed on glossy pages, poorly communicated and executed kind of change but real change. Parents in many different circumstance all hope for change for the better. In fact we are almost desperate to have things change for the better from years of neglect.

However, we must manage hope with realistic expectations. We all want to the best of our children and our children's children. So, I hope there will be less accusations and name calling. Recently, words like "Islamphobia", "racist", "selfish" are uttered carelessly without caring about other parents feelings just because they expressed their own expectations, hopes and fears.

A yet to be sworn in Education Minister (at this point of writing) is put under the microscope and studied intensely with his every video, comment and bio-data dissected and scrutinized, pondered upon and discussed.

Yes, we want change but not like this. Not with the name calling, fear and accusations.

Over-expectations leads to disappointment and anxiety. Let's manage our expectations and hope for the best.

Acronyms used in this post:

KBSR = Kurikulum Baru Sekolah Rendah
KBSM = Kurikulum Baru Sekolah Menengah
KSSR = Kurikulum Standard Sekolah Rendah
KSSM = Kurikulum Standard Sekolah Menengah
PPSMI =  Pengajaran dan Pembelajaran Sains dan Matematik Dalam Bahasa Inggeris
DLP = Dual Language Programme
KBAT =  Kemahiran Berfikir Aras Tinggi
HOTS = High Order Thinking Skills
PBS = Pentaksiran Berasaskan Sekolah
UPSR =  Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah
PPSR = Pelaporan Pentaksiran Sekolah Rendah
PMR = Penilaian Menengah Rendah
PT3 = Pentaksiran Tingkatan 3
VLE = Virtual Learning Environment
KPI =  Key Performance Indicator
SK = Sekolah Kebangsaan
SJKC = Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina
SJKT = Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Tamil

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

PT3 Sejarah Project 2018

The PT3 Sejarah Assignment for 2018 is out. Students have one month to complete this assignment starting from 2 May 2018 till 25 May 2018.

This year's question is as follows;

Anda dikehendaki membuat kajian tentang masyarakat di kawasan tempat tinggal anda.

Hasilkan satu laporan tentang masyarakat setempat yang panjangnya tidak kurang daripada 300 patah perkataan.

Tugasan anda hendaklah mengandungi aspek berikut :

(a) Tajuk kajian

(b) Nama penulis

(c) Isi kandungan

(i) Latar belakang tempat kajian
(ii) Pembentangan dan perkembangan masyarakat setempat
(iii) Kegiatan sosioekonomi masyarakat setempat
(iv) Menilai semangat perpaduan dalam kalangan masyarakat setempat
(v) Dengan merujuk kepada tempat tinggal anda, ulaskan pernyataan berikut

"..tinggallah dengan baik antara satu dengan lain kerana negeri ini adalah berlainan dengan mana-mana negeri yang ada di dunia ini.."

Petikan ucapan Tunku Abdul Rahman pada 3 Jun 1957 di Lapangan Terbang Sungai Besi, Kuala Lumpur.

(d) Rumusan

(e) Sumber rujukan

(f) Membentangkan laporan hasil kajian

Below are some resources for PT3 2018 students who are doing this project.

1. Tugasan Sejarah PT3 2018: Masyarakat Di Tempat Tinggal Anda - this is from a blog called Miss Balqis Ordinary Girl. The author puts up very good examples and reminds students not to copy and paste the answers. The sample answer given is comprehensive and covers every aspect of the project. Be prepared to scroll through several pages and blog posts to get through all the materials. Note that at the point of writing this post which is 2 May 2018, it appears that the example is still works in progress by the blogger so you can revisit the link when it is fully updated eventually.

2. Tugasan 2018 PT3 Sejarah - Kajian Masyarakat Di Tempat Tinggal Anda - From Andrew Choo.edu.my, you will find a printable pdf example for reference. The example given is Old Town, Petaling Jaya.

3. Contoh Jawapan Pt3 Sejarah 2018 : Kajian Masyarakat Setempat - This is an example answer from My PT3.com. You have to navigate through 12 - 13 pages to get all the parts but it is worthwhile to do so to have an idea how to do the assignment. The example given is Masyarakat Orang Asli di Kampung Peta.

4. Contoh Jawapan Tugasan Sejarah PT3 2018 Masyarakat Di Kawasan Tempat Tinggal Anda This is from a site called Gcarian.com. The example given is on Meru, Klang, Selangor.

Good luck to all students preparing for the papers. Remember not to copy and paste information and to follow all instructions given by your teachers. If you are unsure of anything, always ask your teacher.

To all parents who are supporting their kids in preparing for this, we hope that these links are useful for you. As far as possible, we have tried to eliminate all the copy and paste information online to prevent any duplication of information. We hope that by putting everything together, it will make it easier for you as a source of reference. Bookmark this page throughout this month of May 2018 to easily come back to find these resources.

If you wish to refer to past year references, you can read PT3 Sejarah 2017 Project Paper

This post is written specially for the members of our Facebook group: The Malaysia Secondary School Parents On Facebook

Friday, April 27, 2018

10 Common Mistakes Primary School Kids Make During Tests

One of the things parents frequently face when coaching young kids is the fact that they frequently make mistakes during tests. How do you avoid these mistakes? One of the ways is to know what are the common mistakes kids often make.

Write up a checklist and go through this checklist with them each time before a test. Keep on reminding them and they will get it eventually. You may feel like pulling your hair out when they do repeat these mistakes even after your repeat reminders but there's no need to pull out your hair. Go and de stress by listening to music or getting some exercise instead. They will get it eventually.

Here's a checklist of 10 Common Mistakes Young Kis Often Make During Exams.

You can go through this list with your kids before exams to remind them. A "Don't make any mistakes!" won't do. You need to be specific. You can use this checklist to remind. It does not matter whether it is for an English, Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese, Tamil, Science, Math or other test though some of it applies more for certain languages only.

1. Capital letters and small letters

Children often tend to forget putting capital letters at the beginning of a sentence or for proper nouns. They also tend to mix up their capital letters with small letters. So, remind them of this often and show them examples.

2. Missing Out Full Stops

Omitting the full stop at the end of a sentence is another common mistake made by young children during a test.

3. Transferring answers incorrectly or carelessness when transferring answers.

Let's say for example, a set of words are given and these words are to be used to fill in the blanks. Quite often, kids will happily add a word they think is the correct answer in their own spelling without checking the actual spelling of the given word. Capitals and small letters are often mixed up too during transfer.

Always check the spelling when transferring answers and after transferring an answer, make sure to strike it out so you don't transfer the same answer twice while leaving out another given choice.

When transferring sentences, make sure to check the spelling, capital letters, full stops and do not miss out any word.

4. Not reading the question

Kids need to be reminded that they have to follow instructions. If the question says"colour", they have to colour not circle. The same goes for "circle", "underline" etc.

5. Missing out questions

Don't leave any answers blank whether it is multiple choice or fill in the blanks type of question. Not only that, you have to remind them to turn the page to check if there are any more questions at the other side of the page. (My son once left an entire page blank!)

6. Forgetting to write down their name

This is another common mistakes kids make. Teachers will come to class with the paper asking "Whose paper is this?" This is a huge mistake!

7. Illegible Handwriting

Make sure your handwriting is nice and neat. No "cakar ayam" please.

8. Wrong shading in multiple choice answers

There are two types of mistakes kids can make when answering multiple choice questions that require them to shade on a separate piece of answer sheet. The first type is transferring the wrong answer when shading. For example, after working out the answer, they circle "A" on the question paper but then they shade "B" on the answer sheet.

The second type of error is to be avoided at all cost. In this error, the child shades all answers wrongly. For example, they shade the answer for question 1 in the space for question 2 and so on till the end of the page.

9. Omitting working for mathematics

Don't forget to write down the workings if required. This probably applies to upper primary school kids rather than the younger ones.

10. Poor time keeping

This is not really a mistake but a reminder to kids to watch the time when sitting for tests. They may do easier questions first but always remember to come back to do the rest. Don't spend too much time on one question. Move on and come back to it later but make sure to remember to come back to do it later!

Can you think of any more common mistakes? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Personalized Shoe Labels For Kids

Have you ever had a child lose a shoe? Lose a shoe? Is that even possible? Yes, it is very much possible. Most kindergartens are in bungalows or at a corner terrace house or semi-d and they require children to remove their shoes and place them on the shoe racks outside of the kindy to make sure that the premise remains clean.

Quite often, kids may come to school with similar looking shoes. Mary Janes are a popular style and young children may find it hard to find their shoes in the rush during dismissal times. This happens especially when kids are picked up by transporters. You may find your little ones coming home with someone else's shoes!

What about primary school? Surely school shoes won't be misplaced or mixed up since children will be wearing them all day. Wrong. Children often remove their shoes when they go to the library or prayer rooms. In primary school, most of the shoes look exactly the same. So a mix up is very possible. It is not uncommon to find children coming home with shoes in different sizes, one big and one small or of a different design than the one you bought for them either because they got mixed up or someone else wore their shoes when its time to put them on and hurry back to class.

Some schools require you to label your child's shoes to prevent a mix up. How you label them is up to you. Some will write names at the side or bottom of the shoe. However, you may find that you need to write them over and over again after a couple of washes because the writing may fade.

Another way to label shoes to prevent them from getting lost, misplaced or mixed up is to get personalized shoe labels or stickers. These usually come shaped like little feet with distinction between left foot and right foot. All you need to do is stick the sticker labels on the insole of your child's shoes. The labels come in different colours so you can pick the colour your child likes.

Even with shoe labels, you may find that shoes look exactly the same with exactly the same kinds of labels stuck in the soles. However, since they are personalized with your child's name, it makes it so much easier for your child to recognize and claim ownership of their shoes.

Where to find personalized shoe labels? You can order personalized shoe labels online from Fun Printz at RM22 for 12 pairs. (Shipping charges applies and covers both East and West Malaysia). The labels are water resistant and your child's weight when they wear the shoes ensures that the stickers stay in place even after washing.

Here's a screenshot we took from Fun Printz site. You can personalize your labels by keying in your child's name, select the colour you want and the type of font you prefer before you order. You get to pick from 7 colour choices. Labels will be printed in 3 variations (light to dark) of your chosen colour. 

Questions of the Day: Has your child ever lost a shoe? Does your child's school require you to label their shoes?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Learning English Resources For Parents, Kids And Teens

If you think the British Council Malaysia website is only for those who are taking English language courses at the British Council, then you are wrong. It is also an excellent place to find English learning resources for parents, kids and teens. These resources are very well organized so it is easy for you to search for the information you want and they are free!

Here's what you can find the learn English resources from British Council. You will find

  • Learning English Apps
  • Learning English For Kids resources
  • Learning English for Teens resources
  • Learning English With Football resources 
There are plenty of videos, games, printables, worksheets, songs and parents guides available.

1. Learning English Apps include videos, phonics stories, learning time resources, grammar, vocabulary and more. Below is a screenshot of what you will find for the British Council apps. You can find the link to this on the right side bar of the learn English resources page from British Council.

2. Learn English For Kids resources is excellent for parents and young kids with plenty of activities, fun and games, things to make and do, listen and watch while you learn to read and write, speak and spell or learn English grammar and vocabulary. Here is a screenshot of the resources you will find for the Learn English for Kids Resources. Hit the orange button on the right side bar to get to this page. You can even sign up for a newsletter which sends you thematic learn English resources on current topics.

3. Learn English for teens is similar to Learn English for Kids resources but tailored for older children. They include exam study tips and resources to help your teens improve on their reading, writing, speaking and listening skills. Of course, you will also find videos and exercises on grammar and vocabulary to help teens who are learning English.

4. Learn English With Football is fun for the father and son who loves football to learn English while learning about football and have more opportunities to bond. Football based content help learners improve their English learning skills while enjoying a sport they love at the same time. The link to this is called Premier Skills English. Look for the purple banner on the British Council Malaysia site.

You can find the links to the above resources from the  British Council Malaysia learn English page. British Council has been in Malaysia since 1934. You can learn English at the British Council online or take face-to-face lessons at their teaching centers  The British Council produces and provides unparalleled access to English language learning materialsAt the centres, your child will have more resources available to them while being guided by native English speaking teachers. Their progress will be monitored via internationally recognized proficiency tests. The Young Learners' term is currently open for registration.

This post was brought to you by British Council Malaysia.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Weaning from Computer Addiction With Coding

Is your child spending a little bit too much time on the PC or his handheld gadget playing senseless games and wasting his time away? What can you do? Should you pull the plug on the computer? You probably feel like doing that or pulling your hair out but here's another way you can do it.

Our children are born and live in a digital age. It is not practical to pull the plug on the computer completely. As a parent, what we can do is to monitor and make sure that the time your child spend on the computer is controlled and useful.

You need to have some form of controls and time limits and stick to it consistently. For example, no computers after a certain time in the evening and any gadget during meal times is a no-no. Make sure you monitor and check on your agreed upon rules.

You should also ensure that screen time is used wisely. One of the ways to do this is to allow your kid to spend time exploring the computer by learning about how the game he or she plays works through coding. In learning how to code, he or she can be taught to make their own apps or games. Making games is a much better alternative to playing games!

It is challenging and exciting to learn how games works and eventually to create a game or other useful apps. This has long term benefits and it is educational unlike the mindless and repetitive games that often give short term or instant gratification with no benefits. Learning to make game apps is both fun and challenging. Your child will pick up many skills such as computational thinking and mathematics. 

Computational thinking helps your child think to think logically.  This helps him to solve problems methodically. He also learns patience and persistence. This skill is valuable to him at school when applied to his studies.

If you or your child are new to coding, you can try out a free demo class organized by KidoCode. Follow this link to book a free trial class.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

English Language Classes For Secondary School Students

Malaysian school children have to learn two sometimes three languages in school. Due to time constraints, one of the languages may get pushed to the back burner till you realize that your child is  weak in the language and need extra help.

For SK, SJKC or SJKT students, quite often the language that gets pushed to the back burner is the English language. The realization that children need extra help usually happens around age 11 to 14. This is the transition period from primary to secondary school.

During the primary school years, many children concentrate on BM, Chinese or Tamil to help them get through all the other lessons in school. However, during the secondary school years, many parents realize it is time to move the focus on to the English language.

Parents know the importance of learning English and many have plans to send their children to DLP schools. DLP Schools are Dual Language Programme schools where Science and Math are taught in English. Some have the intention of sending their kids to private, international or alternative learning centres for their secondary school  education for increased exposure in English. This is to prepare their children for further education, college, university and beyond in the working world where English competency is crucial.

English enrichment centres like the British council help expose preteens and teens to the enjoyment of learning English in a different learning environment.

The English language courses for kids and teens aged 13 to 17 help children to speak and write more confidently in English. This prepares them to do better in school. Children who are moving on to International schools can join the IGCSE Preparation or Secondary Plus classes.

You do not have to worry about whether your child can adapt to the new learning environment or whether they can catch up with their peers (some of which have been taking extra English lessons all through their primary school years). This is because your child will take an entrance exam to determine the class that best suits their learning level. Now you can even book online for the entrance exam. It is never too late to start learning English. If your child did not have the time to learn English well in primary school, they can improve their English in secondary school.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Check Your Child's Results Online

Sample 1: "Slip Keputusan"
With the first term exams over and results coming in, teacher's would have started keying in your child's exam results online. Parents can now start checking their child's results online whether SJKC, SJKT, SK , SMK or SMJK. All results are included.

Here's what you need to do.

Step 1. Go to this page (the SAPS site). SAPS stands for Sistem Analisis Peperiksaan Sekolah. 

Step 2. Click on the green "Semakan Ibubapa" button as shown below.

Step 3. You will then see the following page.
Step 4. Key in your child's birth certificate or IC number.
Step 5. Then click "Cari". 
Step 6. Next, select the state from a drop down list
Step 7. Select the school (from a drop down list under "Cari di sini". 
Step 8. Finally click "Semak"

The next screen will show your child's name and the name of all this teachers for every subject. Pick the year and click on "Pilih jenis peperiksaan". Select the term you want and you may choose to "Papar Slip Keputusan" or "Papar Markah Peperiksaan". The difference between the two is: the "slip keputusan" shows you the results for the term. (See Sample 1) whereas the "markah peperiksaan" shows you in table format, the marks for all terms in the year so you can make a comparison on the progress. (See Sample 2). KDT = Kedudukan Dalam Tingkatan (Position in Standard) whereas KDK = Kedudukan Dalam Kelas (Position in Class) while Peratus shows the average marks for all the subjects in total.

Sample 2: "Markah Peperiksaan"
The figures may differ slightly from what you see on the actual report card that you may receive during the Parents Teachers Day later on in the year. This online progress report and exam results is a useful and convenient way for parents to keep track of their children's school results quickly and easily.

Try it out. Start here. (Remember to click on the green "semakan ibubapa" button.

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