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Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Learning about traditional Chinese culture and taboos through a storybook

I am not very knowledgeable about Chinese culture, taboos and tradition since my mom passed away when I was 10. I often look towards the internet or for storybooks to teach my kids about their own culture so I was delighted to find a storybook that talks about traditional Chinese taboos. This is a great way to teach kids and also yourself on all the age old "dos and don'ts". It is also a good way to teach kids of other races.

The back cover says it is a book of superstitious old wives tales, supernatural events, and taboos. For example, the author mentioned that if you don't eat all the rice on your plate you will marry a man full of pimples and pockmarks. From what I remember of our version, it was "your face will be full of pimples and pockmarks!" 

I find this book both fun and educational at the same time. I really like the way the author wrote the book ie in an autobiographical manner about herself growing up in a Peranakan household. I can identify with that because I too come from a Peranakan household. The only difference is my parents moved out of our grandparents home even before I was born so I never got to experience any of what the author did. So it was an eye-opener for me, a fun way to listen to the old folk tales told through the experience of another. 

This book made me travel back in time to my childhood. It is also a good way for me to explain tradition and taboos to my kids.

I also really loved the illustration found in "Looking After the Ashes" the book. Its a perfect match for the stories found in the book. 

Some of the chapters in the book include 
  • If You Are Ugly, It's A Boy...
  • Ah Too, Ah Kau, Ah Goo
  • Paper Lanterns, Mooncakes and a Wedding
  • Sprit of the Coin and Hairdressers
  • Paper Servants, Black Cats and Cardboard Chauffeurs
  • and lots more!

About the book:

Title: Looking After the Ashes
Type: Paperback
No of pages: 216
Publisher:  Penguin Random House SEA
Synopsis: Looking After the Ashes is a semi-biographical fiction of Kopi Soh’s childhood stories. Growing up in a large extended Taoist influenced Peranakan family filled with strong women, Kopi hears these words of ‘wisdom’ daily. She used to live in a world where clipping finger nails at night was strictly forbidden, pointing at the moon would result in one’s ears getting chopped off, and children were forced to stay indoors during sundown for fear of collision with evil forces. A world where mental disorders and illnesses were believed to be caused by malevolent spirits. Talisman, mediums and fortune tellers were a part of everyday life.
Author: Kopi Soh s the pseudonym of a Malaysian author and illustrator best known for her book Oh, I Thought I Was The Only One. She has organized volunteers to produce art for hospitals and charities. Her work was recognized in the Digi WWWOW Awards 2015, winning an award in the Social Gathering category. She has worked with various nonprofit organizations such as AsPaCC Community Hospice, Pusat Perubatan Universiti Malaya (PPUM), Pusat Perubatan Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (PPUKM), Bukit Harapan Orphanage, and Cambodia Water Project. 

Looking After the Ashes in the press:

Folk horror, memory and dark traditions stir up Malaysian author's fiction debut

Peranakan author tells of local folklore and ghosts galore

Spooky Penang Peranakan stories get retold in this horror fiction book by Penguin

Weaving childhood tales

Malaysian Artist Kopi Soh Is Now An Author After Penguin Accepts Email Submission

This Malaysian author reveals a childhood filled with chilling secrets and scary ghosts!

As of time of writing, Looking After The Ashes is rated 4.47 on Goodreads with 55 ratings and 39 reviews

Listen to Kopi Soh's reading Chapter 10 of Looking After The Ashes 

 Where to buy: 

Looking After The Ashes is available at MPH, Books Kinokuniya, Books Depository or you could also try searching for this title on Shopee or Lazada.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Shifting priorities in education, and how they could benefit your child


Guest post by Geoff Taylor, Cluster Academic Manager, SEA at the British Council

Modern education can seem increasingly confusing to parents. For example, in Malaysia there has been an explosion in the number of international schools to complement local and vernacular schools. This means parents have more choice than ever in deciding what type of school they want their children to attend and what type of curriculum they want them to follow. Furthermore, within the classroom itself things are changing. It can seem that a child having the ‘right’ answer in class isn’t as valuable as it once was. Many teachers now tend to focus on ‘how’ the answer was achieved, or the effort that the students put in to find the answer.

In previous times the quality of education was measured by results in reading, writing and arithmetic. Now we expect more from schools. While we still want children to perform well in reading and mathematics, we also expect them to develop new skills, such as critical thinking. We hope our children will be guided on how to make good choices, and develop perseverance, and resilience. These new expectations are reflected in changes to school curricula globally, as well as in Malaysia.

So, what are these new skills and how are they relevant to children? There are generally thought to be six areas that a good education system will develop, in addition to the traditional focus on literacy and mathematics:

1. Leadership and personal development

In addition to intellectual development, personal growth including, physical development, social development and emotional development is now a focus for many schools. Developing skills in this area means teaching children about making good choices, persevering and being resilient. These are important skills for life.

2. Critical thinking and problem solving

Having good critical thinking skills is the ability to think clearly and logically to find solutions and to use rational argument to support your ideas. Developing critical thinking skills takes time and develops with age. However, excellent critical thinking skills are more important than ever in today’s world.

3. Collaboration and communication

Good communication and working well with others are key skills for life, school and later in the workplace. Many teachers believe that having collaborative and communicative activities in the classroom is important to help prepare learners for the future.

4. Creativity and imagination

Creative thinking is the ability to come up with something new. Creative thinkers are not just artists but anyone who can solve problems with a different perspective. Typical characteristics of people who are creative thinkers include: flexibility, open-mindedness, happy to take risks, easily adaptable.

5. Digital literacy

Digital literacy refers to a person’s ability to find, evaluate and compose clear information through writing and other mediums on various digital platforms. In the digital age, understanding what credible, reliable information is and, as importantly, what is not, is also an important life skill.

6. Citizenship

Developing citizenship is important to help people become helpful and active members of their communities. Helping children learn about the world around them, caring and respecting for others is a big part of modern school curricula.

Children don’t automatically know how to apply these skills in their learning or socially, they do need specific instruction to develop in these areas. This instruction can come from schools, parents, or others. It can take time to master, and progress is not always obvious. Just because a student doesn’t demonstrate a particular skill however, that doesn’t mean we should give up. These skills can be taught and developed in the same way as any other content or skill. Even very young children can learn to manage time or give reasoning if they are shown how. Teachers that are successful at developing core skills in their learners create a kind and respectful classroom space, in which mistakes are valued as opportunities to learn, curiosity is encouraged, and independence is facilitated.

To find out how the British Council helps with the development of these skills, while improving children’s level of English, visit our website or book a free consultation with our friendly consultant.

Monday, May 23, 2022

How I Managed To Afford 20 Private Tutors For My Child

 Guest Post by Amy Tan, parent of Lucy, aged 8 and user of AskBee 

Around April of this year, my 8 year old daughter, Lucy began not just struggling with her studies but losing interest altogether. Her teachers also mentioned that her confidence was steadily dropping in class. The teacher’s advice to me? “It’s simple really. You & your husband just need to sit down with her for 30 mins to an hour a day and help her out with her homework.” It took every ounce of restraint in me not to yell out “Easier said than done!” I had a full time job, 3 other children under the age of 6, a household to maintain and elderly in laws to care for as well. Mothers out there, you know what I'm talking about!

I needed to outsource this task to the best & quick! One-to-one tuition was the most effective way to help my daughter but the cost & hassle that came with a new commitment was holding me back. Also if she needed help outside of her tuition hours, this would bring us back to square one!

Thankfully a friend of mine introduced me to AskBee and it turned out to be exactly what we were looking for!

AskBee is an innovative education app that has over 500 expert tutors onboard. Both Lucy and I then took some time to scroll through some of the tutors profiles to find out more about them. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the majority of the tutors were current or former school teachers or tutors. Lucy immediately liked a couple of them and added them to her Favourite Tutor pool.

I sat next to Lucy when she had her first session. Lucy was warmly greeted by the tutor and was told that she could either take a picture of the question and send it through, or type it out in the chat box. 

Lucy then told the tutor what she was confused with and the tutor proceeded to assist her without giving her the answer directly - which I appreciated!

One of my biggest initial worries was if this app was truly Homework HELP or if it was just a quick way for students to get the answers to their homework from tutors. So this really was reassuring to see!

I continued to sit by Lucy’s side over the next few days whenever she used the app. Here’s what I observed -

PROS: None of the tutors pressured Lucy to turn on her camera or microphone when she did not want to. They truly let her move at her own pace and comfort which I know she appreciated.

CONS: There were a couple of minor issues of course - A handful of sessions either did not get picked up or got dropped because of WiFi issues. This can be resolved by settling any WiFi issue with our Internet Service Provider.

Once Lucy was done with her sessions, she would continue to add tutors that she really liked to her Favourite Tutor pool. It wasn’t long before we filled up 20 of the slots in the Favourite Tutor pool! Moving forward, whenever she would ask for help, priority was given to her Favourite Tutor pool.

Both my daughter’s grades and confidence have never been higher. Whenever she sits down with her homework or revision, she knows she can reach out to any of her favourite 20 tutors for help no matter the day or time. As for me and my husband, we’re able to go about our day knowing that our child is getting all the help she needs from expert tutors without us having to break the bank.

Click here to learn more about AskBee and receive 2 free sessions!

This post was brought to you by AskBee. 

AskBee is an app that helps primary and secondary school students to learn better, by providing them with live, on-demand access to a personal tutor. As the first online tutoring platform to offer an in-app video call feature, AskBee enables students to get one-on-one, real-time guidance from qualified tutors. Just like in real life – or possibly better.

Video below shows AskBee in action!


“My husband and I can finally focus on our work these days as my daughter knows how to get on the app & request for a tutor whenever she needs help with her revision and worksheets. Where has this app been all along?”

Yen Pik Liew (Parent of Valerie Ho, age 12)

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