Wednesday, September 14, 2011

College isn't for everyone

I came across this interesting piece but I have not been able to link it to the source. It's a long article, but  if you want to know what it says in less than 10 words, here it is - not everyone has to go to college

By Marty Nemko

AMONG MY SADDEST MOMENTS as a career counselor is when I hear a story like this: "I wasn't a good student in high school, but I wanted to prove that I can get a college diploma. I'd be the first one in my family to do it. But it's been five years and $80,000, and I still have 45 credits to go."

I have a hard time telling such people the killer statistic: Among high-school students who graduated in the bottom 40 percent of their classes, and whose first institutions were four-year colleges, two-thirds had not earned diplomas eight and a half years later. That figure is from a study cited by Clifford Adelman, a former research analyst at the U.S. Department of Education and now a senior research associate at the Institute for Higher Education Policy. Yet four-year colleges admit and take money from hundreds of thousands of such students each year!

Even worse, most of those college dropouts leave the campus having learned little of value, and with a mountain of debt and devastated self-esteem from their unsuccessful struggles. Perhaps worst of all, even those who do manage to graduate too rarely end up in careers that require a college education. So it's not surprising that when you hop into a cab or walk into a restaurant, you're likely to meet workers who spent years and their family's life savings on college, only to end up with a job they could have done as a high-school dropout.

Such students are not aberrations. Today, amazingly, a majority of the students whom colleges admit are grossly underprepared. Only 23 percent of the 1.3 million high-school graduates of 2007 who took the ACT examination were ready for college-level work in the core subjects of English, math, reading, and science.

Perhaps more surprising, even those high-school students who are fully qualified to attend college are increasingly unlikely to derive enough benefit to justify the often six-figure cost and four to six years (or more) it takes to graduate. Research suggests that more than 40 percent of freshmen at four-year institutions do not graduate in six years. Colleges trumpet the statistic that, over their lifetimes, college graduates earn more than nongraduates, but that's terribly misleading. You could lock the collegebound in a closet for four years, and they'd still go on to earn more than the pool of non-collegebound — they're brighter, more motivated, and have better family connections.

Also, the past advantage of college graduates in the job market is eroding. Ever more students attend college at the same time as ever more employers are automating and sending offshore ever more professional jobs, and hiring part-time workers. Many college graduates are forced to take some very nonprofessional positions, such as driving a truck or tending bar.

How much do students at four-year institutions actually learn?

Colleges are quick to argue that a college education is more about enlightenment than employment. That may be the biggest deception of all. Often there is a Grand Canyon of difference between the reality and what higher-education institutions, especially research ones, tout in their viewbooks and on their Web sites. Colleges and universities are businesses, and students are a cost item, while research is a profit center. As a result, many institutions tend to educate students in the cheapest way possible: large lecture classes, with necessary small classes staffed by rock-bottom-cost graduate students. At many colleges, only a small percentage of the typical student's classroom hours will have been spent with fewer than 30 students taught by a professor, according to student-questionnaire data I used for my book How to Get an Ivy League Education at a State University. When students at 115 institutions were asked what percentage of their class time had been spent in classes of fewer than 30 students, the average response was 28 percent.

That's not to say that professor-taught classes are so worthwhile. The more prestigious the institution, the more likely that faculty members are hired and promoted much more for their research than for their teaching. Professors who bring in big research dollars are almost always rewarded more highly than a fine teacher who doesn't bring in the research bucks. Ernest L. Boyer, the late president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, used to say that winning the campus teaching award was the kiss of death when it came to tenure. So, no surprise, in the latest annual national survey of freshmen conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles, 44.6 percent said they were not satisfied with the quality of instruction they received. Imagine if that many people were dissatisfied with a brand of car: It would quickly go off the market. Colleges should be held to a much higher standard, as a higher education costs so much more, requires years of time, and has so much potential impact on your life. Meanwhile, 43.5 percent of freshmen also reported "frequently" feeling bored in class, the survey found.

College students may be dissatisfied with instruction, but, despite that, do they learn? A 2006 study supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that 50 percent of college seniors scored below "proficient" levels on a test that required them to do such basic tasks as understand the arguments of newspaper editorials or compare credit-card offers. Almost 20 percent of seniors had only basic quantitative skills. The students could not estimate if their car had enough gas to get to the gas station.

Unbelievably, according to the Spellings Report, which was released in 2006 by a federal commission that examined the future of American higher education, things are getting even worse: "Over the past decade, literacy among college graduates has actually declined. … According to the most recent National Assessment of Adult Literacy, for instance, the percentage of college graduates deemed proficient in prose literacy has actually declined from 40 to 31 percent in the past decade. … Employers report repeatedly that many new graduates they hire are not prepared to work, lacking the critical thinking, writing and problem-solving skills needed in today's workplaces."

What must be done to improve undergraduate education?

Colleges should be held at least as accountable as tire companies are. When some Firestone tires were believed to be defective, government investigations, combined with news-media scrutiny, led to higher tire-safety standards. Yet year after year, colleges and universities turn out millions of defective products: students who drop out or graduate with far too little benefit for the time and money spent. Not only do colleges escape punishment, but they are rewarded with taxpayer-financed student grants and loans, which allow them to raise their tuitions even more.

I ask colleges to do no more than tire manufacturers are required to do. To be government-approved, all tires must have — prominently molded into the sidewall — some crucial information, including ratings of tread life, temperature resistance, and traction compared with national benchmarks.

Going significantly beyond the recommendations in the Spellings report, I believe that colleges should be required to prominently report the following data on their Web sites and in recruitment materials:

  • Value added. A national test, which could be developed by the major testing companies, should measure skills important for responsible citizenship and career success. Some of the test should be in career contexts: the ability to draft a persuasive memo, analyze an employer's financial report, or use online research tools to develop content for a report.

  • Just as the No Child Left Behind Act mandates strict accountability of elementary and secondary schools, all colleges should be required to administer the value-added test I propose to all entering freshmen and to students about to graduate, and to report the mean value added, broken out by precollege SAT scores, race, and gender. That would strongly encourage institutions to improve their undergraduate education and to admit only students likely to derive enough benefit to justify the time, tuition, and opportunity costs. Societal bonus: Employers could request that job applicants submit the test results, leading to more-valid hiring decisions.

  • The average cash, loan, and work-study financial aid for varying levels of family income and assets, broken out by race and gender. And because some colleges use the drug-dealer scam — give the first dose cheap and then jack up the price — they should be required to provide the average not just for the first year, but for each year.

  • Retention data: the percentage of students returning for a second year, broken out by SAT score, race, and gender.

  • Safety data: the percentage of an institution's students who have been robbed or assaulted on or near the campus.

  • The four-, five-, and six-year graduation rates, broken out by SAT score, race, and gender. That would allow institutions to better document such trends as the plummeting percentage of male graduates in recent years.

  • Employment data for graduates: the percentage of graduates who, within six months of graduation, are in graduate school, unemployed, or employed in a job requiring college-level skills, along with salary data.

  • Results of the most recent student-satisfaction survey, to be conducted by the institutions themselves.

  • The most recent accreditation report. The college could include the executive summary only in its printed recruitment material, but it would have to post the full report on its Web site.

Being required to conspicuously provide this information to prospective students and parents would exert long-overdue pressure on colleges to improve the quality of undergraduate education. What should parents and guardians of prospective students do?

  • If your child's high-school grades and test scores are in the bottom half for his class, resist the attempts of four-year colleges to woo him. Colleges make money whether or not a student learns, whether or not she graduates, and whether or not he finds good employment. Let the buyer beware. Consider an associate-degree program at a community college, or such nondegree options as apprenticeship programs (see, shorter career-preparation programs at community colleges, the military, and on-the-job training, especially at the elbow of a successful small-business owner.

  • If your student is in the top half of her high-school class and is motivated to attend college for reasons other than going to parties and being able to say she went to college, have her apply to perhaps a dozen colleges. Colleges vary less than you might think (at least on factors you can readily discern in the absence of the accountability requirements I advocate above), yet financial-aid awards can vary wildly. It's often wise to choose the college that requires you to pay the least cash and take out the smallest loan. College is among the few products that don't necessarily give you what you pay for — price does not indicate quality.

  • If your child is one of the rare breed who knows what he wants to do and isn't unduly attracted to academics or to the Animal House environment that characterizes many college-living arrangements, then take solace in the fact that countless other people have successfully taken the noncollege road less traveled. Some examples: Maya Angelou, David Ben-Gurion, Richard Branson, Coco Chanel, Walter Cronkite, Michael Dell, Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Bill Gates, Alex Haley, Ernest Hemingway, Wolfgang Puck, John D. Rockefeller Sr., Ted Turner, Frank Lloyd Wright, and nine U.S. presidents, from Washington to Truman.

College is a wise choice for far fewer people than are currently encouraged to consider it. It's crucial that they evenhandedly weigh the pros and cons of college versus the aforementioned alternatives. The quality of their lives may depend on that choice.

Marty Nemko is a career counselor based in Oakland, Calif., and has been an education consultant to 15 college presidents. He is author of four books, including The All-in-One College Guide: A Consumer Activist's Guide to Choosing a College (Barron's, 2004).

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

School system gets messier

All the talk about revamps and revitalising our education system is, yes, all talk. It looks like the ministry is run by incompetent persons with grand titles and greater delusions of grandeur. Meanwhile, taxpayer's funds and a lot of time are wasted. I am sorry for the teachers and the ridiculous load they have to shoulder. And our children? They deserve better, certainly.  If you can, get your kids out of the system.

Here's the painful Malaysiakini letter that's enough to make anyone weep:

Last year it was called Sistem Pentaksiran Pendidikan Kebangsaan (SPPK). My school was one of the pioneers of the project. The Ministry of Education thought that exam oriented approach to teaching was not fair to all the students. The argument was that six years of primary education should not be concluded in 50 minutes of multiple choice questions. The intention was good. It still is.

Now with Kurikulum Standard Sekolah Rendah (KSSR) comes Pentaksiran Berasaskan Sekolah. You may have heard of it. The Minister of Education refers to this as PBS and it was meant to ensure that no pupil will be left behind due to unfortunate circumstances. It being school based means that the teacher knows best when to assess the pupil. 

This school based assessment is a yearly assessment and it contributes 40 percent towards the UPSR final grade. At the beginning of the year we were told that only five subjects were involved namely Bahasa, English, Mathematics, Science and Physical, Sports, Cocurriculum Activity Education.
The school was to prepare files aplenty. The most notable one would be the 'Showcase' file in which we store the pupil's best piece of work throughout 6 years as evidence. It sounded O.K. But that was the beginning of the year. 

And so we opened all the necessary files. The bigger the school population, the more files needed. Each of the teacher in charge of assessment was provided with a Performance Standard Document as a guideline. It was published by the Malaysian Examination Syndicate. Bear in mind that this was last year's edition - the one used by the pioneer schools.

One thing that was wrong with it was that the documents for mathematics and science were still written in English. This raised questions but the teachers being jacks of all trade did not complain at this point. Where there is a will there is a way. School based assessment was up and running by late January.

In April, we were told to halt the school based assessment pending for the arrival of new Performance Standard Documents by the Malaysian Examination Syndicate. All assessments done up until this point was deemed invalid. School based assessment was put to a halt at this point.

In May, we were informed that the school based assessment now involves every subject in KSSR including Information and Communication Technology Element which is not even a subject taught by any specific teacher. Even the newly minted Bahasa Arab for KSSR was not spared.

Each subject has its own Performance Standard Document. So we bought thicker files and put dividers for each subject. It got a little frustrating at this point. We needed to redo the in-house training for the additional subjects. By the way, even until now nobody mentioned that UPSR 2016 will involve every KSSR subject.

The sample worksheets (instrument for assessment) per se is ridiculous. For example Band 1 assessment for Bahasa is fairly fundamental knowledge such as mimicking sounds, naming them, reading word segments, and tracing alphabets.
But when you look at the Bands 1 and 2 assessment for Moral Education it's like a mini literature. It assumed Year 1 pupils read fluently and write smoothly. Even Year 4 pupils could not do Year 1's Band 2 Moral Education worksheet. 

In June, the Examination Syndicate uploaded an online application called Sistem Pengurusan Pentaksiran Berasaskan Sekolah (SPPBS) to do what it was supposed to do hence the name.
The school secretary of examinations was given the task to create user accounts for every local assessor. We attended the in-house training which was done by our secretary himself. School based assessment was up and running again by end of June. 

Surprise, surprise. The Examination Syndicate's circular regarding the compulsory implementation of school based assessment only came out on July 5. Every school has a copy but for unknown reasons you will not find this circular online.
I've searched the official website and I've Googled for traces of it elsewhere. I suspect it is due to the delay of the letter (supposed to have been distributed in January) and that certain quarters might dispute the validity of assessments done prior to its release.

The most ridiculous part was this. I was about the record the qualifiers for Bands 2 and 3 for the subjects that I assessed on Friday, September 3. What I saw was truly horrifying. The entire database was erased by the system administrator! We were prompted to get our new passwords from the State Education Department.

And upon navigation no news of passwords whatsoever can be found. This is September for crying out loud - less than two months before the end of the school calendar. Do you mean that we need to go back to square one? We have many other errands to run in school, you know.

The director of the Malaysian Examination Syndicate, Sufaat bin Tumin has a lot of explaining to do. Perhaps it is wise to stick with the original plan and put on hold any improvisations.

Murphy's Law states that if something can go wrong, it will. This whole episode will repeat itself next year, don't you agree, Mr Director?

Thursday, August 04, 2011

I think therefore IPad

IPad2 64GB Wifi/3G. Undoubtedly the COOLEST thing I've purchased this year. I'm looking forward to a lighter load in my backpack and a lot easier way to get work done on the run.

Desktop PC and Windows, the writing is on the wall, er, IPad.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

John Stott: Called home

John Robert Walmsley Stott
27 April 1921 – 27 July 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

For all of us who were together in Cape Town for the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, we will remember the moving tributes given to the two giants of The Lausanne Movement, Billy Graham and John Stott. They were personal friends who loved and admired one another, and they were the defining figures of global evangelicalism for the last sixty years.

Today (27 July 2011) “Uncle John” went home to be with the Lord. (Read more) He is now with the One who he served all his life and in whom he had total confidence.

John Stott impacted the church around the world in many ways. Perhaps his greatest contribution was to articulate clearly and to defend robustly the evangelical faith which he always understood to be biblical faith, grounded in the New Testament. Evangelicalism was to Stott an expression of historic, orthodox Christianity.

The Cross of Christ was central to the message. Stott preached the Cross as the sole means by which men and women could be made right with God.

The resurrection of Christ was the great hope of his life, as it is for all mankind, and the hope for life beyond death. This is the great reality he is now experiencing as the reward and vindication for all he preached and for which he lived during the many years of his ministry in London and around the world.

Perhaps more than any other person in the last century, John Stott restored confidence in the authority of God’s Word and in the centrality of biblical preaching and teaching. He inspired many evangelicals around the world to make a robust and clear affirmation of biblical truth while at the same time emphasizing that this must be backed up with a distinctive, godly Christian life.

He was able to hold together, in constructive biblical tension, a passionate commitment to evangelism along with a profound commitment to ministering to the needs of people in the context of suffering and brokenness. This is best expressed in The Lausanne Covenant, of which he is the chief author, and which is seen as the defining evangelical document of the 20th Century.

Everywhere John Stott traveled to teach, he encouraged “double listening.” This was a listening to the voice of the Spirit of God through his Word, and listening to the voice and the needs of our broken world.

Stott was known for his love for the Majority World and for students. He gave himself tirelessly to assisting and encouraging pastors and students in Africa, Latin America, Asia, the South Pacific and the Middle East. He leaves friends everywhere.

Of course, his friends and his hosts knew that he would also always want to take advantage of bird watching whenever the opportunity presented itself!

The church in the UK and around the world is richer for his great life. His simple lifestyle, his powerful preaching with its precision of thought and expression, his books written with such depth and clarity, have touched thousands and thousands of people around the world.

We are saddened by his departure, but strengthened with the knowledge that his great confidence and his lifelong hope in Christ has now been made real to him, and his life’s work has been vindicated.

Daniel 12:3: “And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above, and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”

We were blessed to be impacted by a man we loved so much.

Let us seek to honor Christ, and also to honor John Stott, through a life that is lived for the glory of God and for the good of the church and the world.

Sincerely in Christ,

S. Douglas Birdsall
Executive Chair, The Lausanne Movement

Lindsay Brown
International Director, The Lausanne Movement

PS from Doug: In my last conversation with John Stott a few weeks ago, we were talking about The Cape Town Commitment. When I called Uncle John, one of his long time friends, Philip, was there reading the Commitment to him, line by line so that he could take it all in. During the course of our conversation, he said to me in a weak but clear voice, "Chris (Wright) did a masterful job in writing this with his team. And, you seem to have achieved an astonishing degree of unity with this new Lausanne document."

That was a joy to him. His desire was that The Cape Town Commitment would be made available together with The Lausanne Covenant and The Manila Manifesto. We can also honor his life by redoubling our commitment to the unity and integrity of the church and to the evangelization of the world, as expressed by these three great documents.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Let the people march

I like what Steve Oh wrote in Malaysiakini:

The July 9 Bersih march is an event worthy of support.

It is a march of the people, for the people and by the people.

Everyone who believes in the integrity of the democracy in the country should take part in such an event because it strikes at the heart of their nation and its integrity.

What is there to fear from an event that seeks to uphold the integrity of the electoral process?

It is not a political ceramah. It is not a political event.

It is a civic happening for the benefit of the nation.

What bad can come from it except from those who are bent on causing trouble, those who have much to fear and lose from seeing open, fair and trustworthy elections?

The police, among the best in the world, for controlling large crowds, should be able to control a peaceful march and take it in their stride.

In fact, the police are also voters and citizens and should have a stake in the integrity of their nation's electoral process.

Malaysia is fortunate to have citizens who will get out of their comfort zone to participate in the process of ensuring their country has an electoral system that will be second to none anywhere else in the world.

In fact rather than putting a wet blanket over the march, the government should be encouraging it as strong proof that it appreciates the rakyat's contribution to the country's public life and in trying to make the country better and it has nothing to fear from an improved electoral process.

Every political party should be sending representatives and ensuring that open, fair and trustworthy elections are guaranteed.
No electoral system is foolproof or without flaws and every attempt at ensuring there are improvements should be welcomed not opposed.

What has anyone to fear from the people asking that the voting process is open, fair and trustworthy?

It does strike every integrity-loving citizen and even any outside observer as odd that anyone who believes in a 'clean, efficient and trustworthy' administration should be opposing the people's contribution in enhancing it.

Why are those people opposing what is fundamentally good, and what will be good for the people and the country?

The stark incongruity in what is promoted and what is practised does create a problem of credibility for the government which may not want to open itself to the criticisms of hypocrisy, or worse, duplicity, if it is seen as afraid of calls for fair elections.

But it has much to gain in walking alongside the people on July 9.

Ultimately the electoral commission still has to ensure the system meets high standards of integrity because a march itself does not achieve that and no government can claim to have a mandate when gerrymandering and other voting irregularities exist to make a mockery of democracy.

No one who upholds the highest standards of public accountability, transparency and integrity ought to fear such an event except those who may have something to hide or will fear that if elections are open, fair and trustworthy, they may have to suffer the consequences.

It is pointless to paint the event as anything but the passion of the rakyat to elevate their country to a higher level of public accountability and integrity of the system that decides who gets the mandate to govern.

This is year 2010 not 1969.

There is no way and nowhere to hide the truth without it surfacing in the most uncanny manner sooner or later.
Many Malaysians are already marching in their hearts behind the integrity that is necessary for their survival. Nothing will not stop them from believing that open, fair, and trustworthy elections are in their and their country's national interest.

Malaysians march on their national day, they march in religious processions, there are long processions during the funerals of the famous and wealthy, and every day there are hundreds of marches and processions occuring throughout the world involving millions of people without any untoward incident.

A peaceful procession is a legitimate form of expression, a freedom and lawful activity guaranteed by the Constitution and we have seen the most vociferous crowds hold opposing rallies in countries
where the rule of law is properly upheld, the people's freedoms upheld and the police do their job of upholding law and order without fear or favour.

Let the people march and let them do good for their country - it is their country.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The paradox of Sarawak

This story first appeared in Bloomberg in 2009. On the cusp of its 10th state elections, Sarawak remains as poor while its rulers talk glibly of "transforming the State economy towards a high-income and advanced economy by 2020." Sarawak is the 4th poorest state in Malaysia and here's the reason.
[D]evelopment projects, including plantations and dams, haven’t helped poverty among the local people, many of whom live without adequate electricity or schools, says Richard Leete, who served as the resident representative of the United Nations Development Program for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei from 2003 to 2008.

“This is the paradox of Sarawak -- the great wealth it has, the natural resources in such abundance, and yet such an impoverishment and the real hardship these communities are suffering,” says Richard Leete, who chronicled Malaysia’s progress since its independence from Britain in his book “Malaysia: From Kampung to Twin Towers” (Oxford Fajar, 2007). “There has no doubt been a lot of money politics,” he says.

Read the whole Bloomberg article, Getting Rich in Malaysia Cronyism Capital Means Dayak Lose Home, here.

Monday, March 21, 2011

No prize for Al-Gaddafi

Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights

Yes, you read right. Established by Libyan strongman Muammar al-Gaddafi, it awards an annual prize to personalities or organisations for services rendered towards human rights. According to the website,
The Prize categorically believes that freedom is an indivisible natural right for Man; it is not a gift or grace from anybody, and that safeguarding it is a general human responsibility.
I'm not sure the Libyans are amused. Certainly not the rebels who are being shelled and shot at by Gaddafi's forces.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bible is security threat?

Malay Bibles Desecrated by Malaysian Authorities
By Ng Kam Weng

“Oh No! They killed our loved ones even though we paid the ransom.”

This is the worst nightmare experienced by people who paid ransom to kidnappers only to find their loved ones returned to them executed.

“Oh No! They desecrated our beloved Holy Bibles.”

This is the heart wrenching experience of Publish PostMalaysian Christians who found their Holy Bibles returned to them defaced and desecrated. Malaysian Christians have earlier out of courtesy and grace agreed with the government to print the Alkitab (Malay Bible) with the symbol of the cross on the front cover along with the caption “A Christian Publication” [ The claim by the Minister of Home Affairs that Christians have earlier agreed to have the phrase, "For Christins only" stamped on the Alkitab is a lie. There was no such agreement. His statement, "We stamped the Bible based on amalan (practice) before… during Abdullah Badawi and even Tun Dr Mahathir’s time,” is also a lie].

Nevertheless, the authorities proceeded to detain 5000 copies of the Alkitab for the last two years.

Malaysian Christians waited with guarded optimism when the government recently announced that it will release the Alkitab that have been confiscated but to their horror they were suddenly informed that the authorities have hurriedly and unilaterally stamped all the Alkitab with an ugly notification from the Ministry of Home Affairs. See picture below.

The English translation reads: Reminder: This ‘Al Kitab Berita Baik’ is for the use of Christians only. By order of the Home Minister.”

Notice the official chop/stamp (Bottom Left) and the serial number that is to be imprinted onto the Bible (Upper Right).

The defaced Bible is now imprinted with a serial number, obviously to facilitate the authorities threatening to track every copy of the Alkitab used by the community.

Christians are horrified by the arrogance of the officials. The contemptuous act of defacing the Alkitab is nothing less than sacrilege.

The Christian Federation of Malaysia rightly expressed that they felt “deeply hurt”. I think it is being polite. “Outrage” would have been a more appropriate word.

I think the only proper thing for the government to do is to make immediate amends: Apologize for its callous act. Return the Alkitab back to the publisher and replace them with new Alkitab. Under no circumstances should these defaced Alkitab be destroyed – that would be another act of desecration. The government should bear all costs and give written assurance that such desecration will never happen again.

O God, your Holy Scripture has been desecrated, your name and reputation defiled! When will you rise up and judge all these arrogant offenders for their blatant act of sacrilege?

(The artical first appeared on Religious Liberty Watch)


Friday, March 11, 2011

Bahasa Bibles detained - again, and again

Media statement by
the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM)
on the Detention of Bahasa Malaysia Bibles

The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) is greatly disillusioned, fed up and angered by the repeated detention of Bibles written in our national language, Bahasa Malaysia. This time yet again at the Port of Kuching in Sarawak.

A total fo 30,000 copies of the Perjanjian Baru, Mazmur dan Amsal” i.e. the “New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs” are currently being withheld.

This is notwithstanding that the government in its attempt to to justify its position against the use of the Allah" in the Alkitab, the government had given the assurance that the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia, will be freely available, at least in Sabah and Sarawak.

Since March 2009, all attempts to import the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia, i.e. the Alkitab, whether through Port Klang or the Port of Kuching, have been thwarted.

The previous consignment of 5,000 copies of the Alkitab imported in March 2009 is still being held by the Ministry of Home Affairs in Port Klang. This is despite repeated appeals which resulted in the Prime Minister making a decision to release the Alkitab held in Port Klang in December 2009 which was reported to CFM leaders by several cabinet ministers and their aides.

In absolute disregard of this decision, the 5,000 copies of the Alkitab remain detained. The Prime Minister when told about the continued detention of these 5,000 Bibles at a hi-tea event last Christmas expressed surprise that the order to release the same held in Port Klang had not been implemented. However, nothing has been done by the authorities to ensure their release.

Prior to March 2009, there were several incidents where shipments of the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia were detained. Each time tedious steps had to be taken to secure their release. It would appear as if the authorities are waging a continuous, surreptitious and systematic programme against Christians in Malaysia to deny them access to the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia.

Malaysian Christians, many of whom have grown up with Bahasa Malaysia as their principal medium of communication as a result of the government education policies, must have access to Bibles in Bahasa Malaysia in order to read, comprehend and practise their faith.

The freedom of religion guaranteed as part of the fundamental liberties under our Federal Constitution is rendered meaningless if adherents to a religion are denied access to their religious texts in a language that they can understand.

It is an affront to them that they are being deprived of their sacred Scriptures. Many are wondering why their Scriptures are considered a threat to national security. All these actions in relation to the detention of the Bibles continue to hurt the Malaysian Christian community.

We would ask how the government transformation programme can be successfully implemented if civil servants can blatantly refuse to obey the Prime Minister’s order? Is the government powerless to act against these “little Napoleons” who substitute their own interests and agenda in place of the Prime Minister’s directives?

We call upon the government to act now and prove their sincerity and integrity in dealing with the Malaysian Christian community on this and all other issues which we have been raising with them since the formation of the Christian Federation of Malaysia in 1985.

As an immediate step, we insist upon the immediate release of all Bibles which have been detained.

Bishop Ng Moon Hing
Chairman and the Executive Committee,
Christian Federation of Malaysia
10 March 2011

Friday, March 04, 2011

They're dirtier than us

Here's a piece from Sin Chew Daily that expresses my sentiments perfectly:

Dirty tactics at by-election campaigns

Translated by Soong Phui Jee

War clouds are gathering over Merliau and Kerdau and various ploys, including the creative and the silly ones, are being used during the current campaigning for the two state by-elections.

In Merlimau, leaflets written in Chinese accuse the Chinese of being traitors to the nation were distributed. Handbills with doctored photographs of three Pakatan Rakyat women members in explicit sexual poses are also distributed, making the by-election campaign a real immoral and dirty one.

The leaflets with racial slurs are meant to create racial hatred while the ones with "sexy Pakatan Rakyat woman members" handbills are used to discredit the alternative coalition leaders. Both the leaflets are unscrupulous election ploys. They should be condemned and immediately stopped.

In fact, politicians have become more and more blatant in manipulating racial issues to get votes. Racial slurs have even been used by some politicians as their "registered marks".

Also, some of the so-called rights groups are prone to resort to extreme measures by using the excuse of defending their racial groups' interests which have been threatened. Their leaders also make very inflammatory remarks and the demonstrated exclusion and hatred have reached an extremely dreadful point.

Meanwhile, moral discrediting practices in recent years have on the one hand demonised their political opponents and on the other hand moralised and sanctified themselves. They seem ridiculous and very shameful. However, they can meet the voyeuristic desires of some people and they carry also terrible destructions.

No one dares to come forward to admit that they are the manipulators behind the scene as such election ploys are indeed too dirty and shameful until they themselves have no guts to face them. Hence, we can hear something like underhand campaign tactics to woo voters. Both the ruling and alternative coalitions have their own weaknesses and the people can hardly tell who is good and who is evil.

The by-elections have turned out as political shows for spreading hatred and discrediting morality. It is undoubtedly the greatest tragedy of democracy.

Such a negative election culture is definitely a stumbling block to the progress of democracy. It must be eliminated. If the police cannot do anything about it and let the backstage manipulators do whatever they like and tear the society apart, I am afraid that the people would be disappointed and believe that politics is dirty.

Sin Chew Daily

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Anwar's links to Jews. Again.

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s ex-aide Rahimi Osman emerges to fight against Anwar's "lies." Rahimi said today that he will focus on Anwar’s alleged links to Jews, Israel and the United States in his talks here rather than Sodomy II as the case was still being heard. The Malaysian Insider report may be accessed here.


So what will help the rakyat and move Malaysia forward is a politician who's anti-Jew, anti-Israel, and anti-USA .


What Kerdau and Merlimau say about us

Chinese dominance

These and more are the stuff that by-elections (and political campaigning) in Malaysia are made of. Of course, accusations like these get thrown about by everybody - usually at the opposition coalition - but nobody takes responsibility.

So, Malaysiakini reports that, "More and more print campaign material emerges, painting Pakatan as anti Malay and anti Islam. Most do not bear party logos but several were seen distributed by Puteri Umno during BN candidate Roslan Ahmad's visit to the Pasar Malam yesterday."

As long as these campaign materials do not originate from a certain party, it is apparently alright to use them.

I find the whole exercise of using the racial and religious card utterly despicable and beneath contempt. It's flinging mud at the other person with earth dug from under your feet.

Sure, it will be dismissed as race-religion baiting and condemned as dangerous although hypocritically endorsed by certain parties as necessary political tactics. This race-religion shill is a mockery of everything that BN supposedly stands for.

Secondly, it does nothing to elevate political discourse in the country; it merely exposes the depth to which some politicians and their parties are willing to go - not for the sake of the rakyat, but to remain in power.

Thirdly, instead of leading politicians to renounce these dangerous underhanded tactics of disinformation and vicious diatribe, the opposite invariably happens.

Finding themselves on the back foot, aspiring politicians, political parties - in this case Pakatan - are forced to declare they are NOT anti-Malay, NOT anti-Islam, etc. Invariably, proof is offered to back up their stand - ala Lim Guan Eng in Penang - which in turn entrenches these same racial-religious shill and perpetuate them at the same time. Hence, the good guys are for Malays, for Islam, etc.

Maybe I'm too naive, but it appears there are no other issues to frame our discourse. It seems that these issues are being clearly manipulated not just to taint BN opponents, but also employed to further embed them as irreversible social determinants.

We cannot promote a more egalitarian and equitable Malaysia without a serious paradigm shift. We have yet to see the emergence of credible agents driving the nation towards such a change. But one thing is clear: we cannot support any individual or party that refuses to move in the direction of change for the sake of ALL Malaysians.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Small Acts, Big Change

Howard Zinn
August 24, 1922-January 27, 2010

Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people,
can transform the world.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sarawak's open secret


Suaram is appalled with the silence maintained by the government with regards to the release of a list of secret foreign assets connected to the family of long-serving Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud by the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF).

Taib, who has been the chief minister since 1981, is also the state finance minister as well as the state planning and resources minister. He and his family is believed to have set up a worldwide business empire across eight countries and is estimated to be worth at least several billion ringgit, according to the list released by the BMF on February 21.

The 49 companies are located in Malaysia, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, the US, UK, the British Virgin Islands and Jersey. Some of the companies are involved in high end real estate and property, such as notable Malaysian companies Cahya Mata Sarawak (CMS), the largest private company in Sarawak, and the Ta Ann logging group.

Taib Mahmud is alleged to have abused his position, giving preferential treatment to his business interests who are engaged in the mistreatment and forced evictions of the indigenous population in Sarawak and land grabs of Native Customary Rights (NCR) land in the state.

Furthermore, Taib Mahmud has allegedly failed to be accountable for over RM4.8 billion in state funds over the past three years. In 2007, Japanese tax authorities uncovered a corruption scheme involving kickbacks from nine Japanese shipping companies in exchange for timber export licenses.

Suaram is surprised why the government, and particularly the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC), with such a vocal stand against corruption, has remain silent and failed to take any action against Taib Mahmud, even with the evidence put forth, virtually on a platter, by the Bruno Manser Fund and many other whistleblowers.

Suaram is concerned that inaction by the government will be seen as tacit approval of corruption and an inability or even an unwillingness to crack down on corruption, despite many public statements to the contrary.

Therefore Suaram demands that the MACC immediately investigate the allegations of corruption and misuse of power against Taib. The government must also cooperate with international efforts to identify and freeze Taib's illicit overseas assets, if any, for future restitution to the people of Sarawak.

(Letter written by Suaram coordinator, published in Malaysiakini 25 Feb 2011)

Related stories

Press Release: Bruno Manser Fund To Launch International Campaign Against Sarawak Timber Corruption
BMF Site: Stop Timber Corruption Campaign updates and list
Free Malaysia Today Report: "Freeze Taib's Assets Abroad"

Friday, February 25, 2011

Gaddafi's last stand?

Is this the end of the road for Libyan strongman Col. Moammar el-Gaddafi? He is blaming the unrest on Al-Qaeda, but more interestingly is this report that contrasts events in Libya and Egypt. This report pointed out that unlike the revolts in Egypt and Tunisia which were driven by Facebook-savvy youth, Libya's uprising is led by the mature.

But here's a lesson for autocrats like Africa's self-proclaimed King of Kings that there is indeed one Sovereign King, and His name is not Gaddafi:

"I am the LORD; that is my name. I will not give my glory to anyone else
or the praise I deserve to idols" Isaiah 42:8

Monday, February 14, 2011

There are some cases you can't win

Haha. I thought this ad for a law firm was funny.

Source: Boing Boing

Friday, January 28, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The silence of good people

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy
of this period of social transition
was not the strident clamour of the bad people,
but the appalling silence of the good people.

Martin Luther King Jr
1929 ~ 1968

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Distortions in Malaysian history textbooks

I previously posted the CPI Commentary which expressed deep concern with the extent of Islamic content in Malaysian history books. Based on a paper written by two Australian academics, the issue is not that there is no place for Islam (or religion for that matter) in the said textbooks, but its overwhelming prominence in the nation’s history.

Authors Michael D. Barr and Anantha Raman Govindasamy contend that distortions in Malaysia’s history book are part of a deliberate programme of Islamisation that can be traced back to Dr Mahathir’s premiership. Of this, few Malaysians will dispute. What is alarming is the lack of a response to the imposition of an Islamic identity upon a nation that still has a large percentage of non-Muslims in the population.

Reproduced below are excerpts from the full paper (Pt 1 and Pt 2) which puts the spotlight on recent developments and where that might lead us:

The Islamisation of Malaysia: religious nationalism in the service of ethnonationalism

Part 1

Thus, by the time Malaysia entered the third stage of Dr Mahathir’s Islamisation program, the national culture had already been transformed into one that made non-Muslims feel marginalised, if not defensive. The third stage, beginning in the late 1980s, proved to be an intensification of this pattern, and it brought non-Muslims and Muslims into direct confrontation. The third phase focused on expanding the capacity and jurisdiction of the Syariah courts and legal apparatus, and standardising various states’ Islamic organisations (Hamayotsu 2003: 56). In 1988, the Malaysian Parliament approved constitutional amendments in the Federal Constitution and added Article 121 (1A)(Malaysian Federal Constitution 2006), which reads: ‘The [civil courts] shall have no jurisdiction in respect of any matter within the jurisdiction of the Syariah courts.’ This initiative was followed by all the other states in Malaysia in restructuring their Islamic legal institutions. The climax of Islamic resurgence occurred in September 2001 when Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad declared Malaysia to be an Islamic state (Martinez 2001: 474). These changes had a direct impact on the non-Muslims. Local government followed the state religious departments’ lead by introducing local initiatives that reflected the Syariah values being entrenched at the higher levels of government. For instance, even in the ethnically and religiously heterogeneous state of Melaka, state-sponsored ‘snoop squads’ of up to 60 members began monitoring social activities among the youth, looking out for immoral activity. This ‘moral policing’ targeted Muslims in particular, but little care was taken to distinguish between Muslims and non-Muslims (Kent 2005). Local governments also began limiting non-Muslim places of worship by refusing building permits and land allocations, and pro-actively destroying non-Muslims’ worshipping sites (Lee1988: 412). Moreover, on a national level, the civil courts began refusing to consider child custody cases when any party was a Muslim, claiming that jurisdiction on such matters lay solely with the Syariah courts.

Part 2

The old textbook, which was used until 2002, was titled Sejarah Peradaban Dunia: Tingkatan 4 (World Civilisation History: Form 4) (Ministry of Education Malaysia 1999), and was a broad civilisational history of the world. It contained six chapters titled (in English translation): ‘Early Human Civilisation’, ‘Islam Changed Human Civilisation’, ‘The Transition of the European Society and Its Impact’, ‘Revolution and New Phase of Human History’, ‘Western Imperialism and Local Reactions’, and ‘Moving towards International Cooperation’. In this textbook, Islamic history was presented conceptually as having a central place in world history as the religion that ‘changed civilisation’ by contributing to an improvement in world civilisation, but this conceptual centrality was not allowed to overwhelm the syllabus: it was studied in only one chapter out of six, with other chapters studying, for instance, Indian, Chinese and European civilisations. The syllabus also discussed in detail the pre-Islamic period in South-East Asia, with much emphasis on Hindu-Buddhist influence in the Malay world.

In the revised version, however, Islamic history was given an unprecedented prominence, occupying fully half of the book. This textbook, titled prosaically Sejarah Tingkatan 4 Buku Teks (Form 4 History Textbook) (Ministry of Education Malaysia 2002a), consists of ten chapters, five of which focus on Islamic history: ‘Islamic Civilisation and Its Contribution in Mecca’, ‘Islamic State in Medina’, ‘The Formation of Islamic Government and Its Contribution’, ‘Islam in South-East Asia’, and ‘Islamic Reform and Its Influence in Malaysia before the Arrival of the Colonial Powers’. The other five chapters survey the early development of civilisation per se: Indian and Chinese influence in South- East Asia (in Chapters 1-3), ‘Developments in Europe’ (Chapter 9) and ‘The British Policy and Its Impact on the National Economy’ (Chapter 10). The chapter on the British in Malaysia sits incongruously in a book on civilisational history, but its presence, along with Chapter 8 (‘Islamic Reform and Its Influence in Malaysia before the Arrival of the Colonial Powers’) serves to articulate the rest of the book very firmly into the history of Malaysia.

Read authors Michael D. Barr and Anantha Raman Govindasamy's 2-part paper at the Centre for Policy Initiatives website here and here.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Malaysian History textbooks: Whose history?

On Oct 23, Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced that History will be made a must-pass subject for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia from 2013. This puts the subject on par with Bahasa Malaysia in its degree of importance.

The ministry will also introduce a revised SPM History curriculum in 2017, for in that year those who begin One in 2013 would have reached Form Five.

Fresh elements to be incorporated when the History syllabus begins its new cycle are 'patriotism', 'citizenship' and 'the constitution', which by extension implicate the so-called social contract.

Muhyiddin said the reason for the move to expand the History syllabus is so that patriotism can be instilled in Malaysian youths.

On Dec 16 - responding to objections raised by some quarters on his proposal - Muhyiddin(left) guaranteed that the government did not have any "ulterior motives" and reiterated that the government in its decision "only wants to introduce a history education to appreciate [patriotism] to help them [the Fifth Formers] become more patriotic".

Is this the real agenda of Umno and the Ministry of Education bureaucrats and their support group of academics or is this another Umno political lie?

In response, a middle-rank leader of the MCA (not the party president or deputy president or any of the other non-Malay BN party chiefs who have gone mute, dumb and deaf on this issue) has urged the Education Ministry to review the "imbalanced" account of the country's history in the school textbooks.

The present national narrative imparted to students - alleges the MCA - favours one race and one religious civilisation. According to Loh Seng Kok, the deputy chairman of the MCA publicity bureau, a review is necessary to rectify the shortcomings to "prevent ethnic disharmony in our nation".

Strong words, but from a level of leadership that carries little weight.

Furthering Ketuanan Melayu-Islam interests

Historian Dr Ranjit Singh Malhi, who has written some revision books, recently pointed out that not only do the secondary school history textbooks contain exaggerations and mistakes, but they have also "been used to promote political interests".

For example, Kapitan Cina Yap Ah Loy played a major role in the development of Kuala Lumpur as a commercial and tin-mining centre but the Form Two history textbook had only one sentence on Yap as "one of the persons responsible for developing Kuala Lumpur".

The Hindu civilisation of Lembah Bujang in Kedah - which can be traced back to the first half of the first millennium - is dismissed in just two paragraphs whereas the communist contribution to helping Malaya gain Independence is omitted.

Besides the expurgation or omission of key events and developments in Malaysian history, in which non-Malay and other civilisational contributions have been prominent, there is a conscious and concerted attempt at propagandising Islamic elements into the curriculum.

A concerned parent complained in her letter to the editor that the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) writers assigned by the Education Ministry have not confined the textbook content to history alone. "Instead they have extended its boundaries seemingly to push a certain agenda. In the process, our history textbooks seem to have taken on a quest of its own - to win the hearts and minds of our children for that particular agenda," she wrote.

History as Islamic Studies

The introduction to the Four Four History textbook by the panel writers begins with "Syukur kepada Allah s.w.t. Tuhan Yang Maha Agung, selawat dan salam ke atas Rasul utusan yang mulia, para sahabat, dan mereka yang berada di jalan yang benar hingga ke hari kemudian kelak".

Students belonging to other faiths, who Muslims do not consider to be walking on "the true path to the Hereafter", will apparently have to re-orientate their mindset in order to do well in this subject.

The introduction to the Form Five textbook by the director-general of the Education Ministry starts on the note of "Syukur ke hadrat Allah s.w.t. kerana hasrat dan wawasan Kementerian Pendidikan Malaysia untuk menerbitkan semula buku teks KBSM dan KBSR telah terhasil".

The Education DG Abdul Rafie Mahat found it expedient to thank Allah for the success of his ministry's vision to republish the textbooks under the revamped syllabi.

In fact, two out of the four writers of the DBP writers selected to do the job for the Form Four syllabus are specialists in Islamic history. Their knowledge of Malaysian history and the history of non-Islamic civilisations, however, appear dismal.

Not only is an overwhelming proportion of the Form Four history textbook devoted to Islam (115 pages), conversely the other religions are barely given a passing mention; Hinduism gets half a page in Chapter 3 on the early civilisations of southeast Asia.

The concerned mother who wrote the letter, already widely disseminated online, has charged that History in Malaysian schools "seeks to influence the young minds of our children who come from various faiths, to follow the prophet [Muhammad] ... who is repeatedly praised throughout the chapters.

"Students are repeatedly exhorted throughout the book to emulate him as a role model in life", added the concerned parent. It is quite true what the letter writer observed, as flipping through the History textbook pages, one comes across the said exhortations which are indeed explicit and in those exact words (see endnote).

Do they write History in this way in other countries and do national textbooks elsewhere repeatedly exhort impressionable young minds to follow the behaviour of an individual who features overwhelmingly in their History curriculum?

Furthermore, this subject is a compulsory pass - fail History, fail SPM; no credit in History, no Grade I in SPM. Students are thus coerced to memorise the above brainwashing and internalise the indoctrination or else they will not get through their secondary education.

Non-Muslim parents are correct to worry about the five bulky chapters (out of the 10 chapters in the Form Four textbook) devoted to Islamic history and civilisation because they have been written "in a way that seems to be conditioning the minds of our youth to accept Syariah laws as the basis of our legal system in the future".

Schools becoming madrasahs

These concerns of worried parents have found serious academic backing.

Two academics from Australia's Flinders University in their paper 'The Islamisation of Malaysia: religious nationalism in the service of ethnonationalism' similarly noted that the upper secondary History syllabus "is a more traditional celebration of Malay nationalism, with barely a mention of Chinese or Indians".

Michael D. Barr and Anantha Raman Govindasamy, who co-authored the paper, believed "the overtly Islamic textbook... was not the result of a whim on the part of the authors, but part of a systemic [Islamisation] programme".

They pointed out that the term 'ummah' in its unqualified use in the context of Chapter 4 of the Form Four History textbook "carries the clear message that the Muslim perspective is being privileged in this history".

Barr and Anantha Raman added: "The imposition of an Islamic metanarrative at this point can be neither accidental nor incidental.

"It must be regarded as a deliberate attempt to impose a new form of identity on both the Muslim and non-Muslim children. This conclusion becomes even more pointed if we look beyond the teaching of history, and consider that the Islamisation process has permeated the entire schooling experience for those students who attend national schools".

Sane, progressive curriculum thrown to the winds

With the two authors' permission, CPI will be reproducing their paper in full tomorrow. Barr and Anantha Raman's Flinders University paper was first published in the Australian Journal of International Affairs, Vol 64, No 3, in June 2010.

The paper unequivocally provides evidence that the Malay and Islamisation of the school syllabus has been taking place for some time.

Muhyiddin's recent announcement of this impending move by the Education Ministry portends the final nail in the coffin. A sane and progressive curriculum that meets the needs of a multi-racial and multi-religious society is thrown to the winds.

Meanwhile, the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) has similarly voiced its concerns over History becoming a compulsory subject and the potential impact this will have on students.

On Nov 27, NUTP revealed that the present passing rate for History is around 60 percent.

That the remaining 40 percent of the batches who sat the paper previously have failed it means more students than ever will fail the entire SPM when the Education Ministry decision takes effect in 2012.

Make no mistake. If Malaysians do not raise their voices now and stand up for their concerns, not only non-Malay but also Malay parents and students will reap the bitter harvest of this step backwards in our education system.

This commentary was released by the Centre for Policy Initiatives.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Christianity 101

For a long time, Basic Christianity by John Stott was my favourite go-to book for seekers. As Christianity 101 for people with serious questions, it is credible and well-reasoned, presenting readers with a Person in whom one must decide to believe in or reject. It’s hard to imagine that the book was first published in 1958. It’s still an excellent introduction except that the venerable book may not appeal to people who are asking different questions today.

If there’s one book better suited to – if I may be bold enough to suggest – replace Stott’s volume, it’s Don Carson’s The God Who is There (not to be confused with Schaeffer's book of the same name). Like Stott’s book it focuses on the gospel, but this time, it invites readers not just to embrace the claims of Jesus, but to be a part of an eternal story.

The subhead Finding Yourself in God’s Story, is thoroughly appropriate as finding God is certainly about locating oneself in a drama-in-progress. Carson understandably tips his hat to this generation’s quest for a sticky metanarrative, and it’s possibly a rejoinder to emerging types with a fixation on story as well.

I like it for its fresh take on familiar questions, presented with knockout clarity and depth while maintaining faithfulness to big-picture doctrine. Respectful and not condescending, it is obviously written for people who have the vaguest ideas about Christianity. Carson didn’t set out to be preachy, but I thought I detected the faintest hint of smugness that might not sit well with some. Nevertheless, it’s the one book I’m more than happy to recommend to anyone who wants to know what Christians believe.

If you’ve got a sceptic who doesn’t give a toss about the claims of Christianity, but who might (and it’s a big might) want something less ‘theological’ in tone, something closer to a conversation or a spiritual journey, what then?

Here are 2 books I would suggest in a heartbeat: Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz, and Philip Yancey’s Rumors of Another World. Miller’s Blue like Jazz has pop-culture street cred (for a start it has Jazz on the cover) while Yancey’s appears to be more ‘literate’, replete with references to writers and poets. Both are thoughtful and a real delight to read, but don't look for the standard presentation of core beliefs in these books. These are sympathetic accounts of a search, an exploration, a heartfelt look at the paradoxes of faith. But they're great books to have at hand.