Friday, July 30, 2010

Teachers and politics

Should teachers be allowed into active politics?

Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan’s announcement that graduate teachers on grades DG41 to DG48 can soon take an active part in politics has received mixed reactions from the people.

Those in favor of the move argue that the involvement of the graduate teachers will enhance the quality of the nation’s political leadership as these teachers are generally more knowledgeable in all fields. As such they can be expected to provide a better and more intellectual leadership at the grassroots as they are also generally well respected and well-liked by the people.

Furthermore teachers have been involved actively in politics before and they had proved to be effective in molding the policies of the nation in a positive way. There is no reason why they cannot continue to do so now.

Malaysians in general have attained a high level of maturity and creating balanced political awareness in the young is the only way to enhance better political governance that would lead to greater transparency and accountability in administration. In order to do that involvement of teachers in politics may be an added advantage rather than a setback.

Those who oppose the move to allow teachers to involve in active politics are fearful that it could affect the neutrality and impartiality of teachers in relating to their students. This neutrality is vital as the young minds should not be adversely influenced as their priority in schools should be focused on obtaining a sound education. Moreover allowing teachers to involve actively in politics may invariably lead to the indoctrination of the students either deliberately or otherwise.

There is also the possibility that teachers who hold important posts in political parties, especially the party in power, would use their political influence to “bully” their school heads and fellow colleagues. It would be extremely difficult for school heads to discipline their uncooperative subordinate teachers who are well connected to political parties, especially the ruling party. Such a situation would ultimately lead to the breakdown of the line of hierarchy with serious repercussions on the quality of teaching.

Involvement in politics is a basic right of every citizen and it would be unfair to deny anyone, including teachers, of that right. What is important is not to forbid them but to regulate their involvement so as not adversely affect their duties to their students. In fact if well regulated they can instead help create a balanced political awareness among the students especially on the importance of good governance, integrity and morality in politics.

Teachers may be allowed to participate in politics as an ordinary member, to support any political party they want, but they should be warned not to misuse their position to indoctrinate their students with their political views. They should not be allowed hold high positions in political parties as vying for such posts would compel them to indulge in political campaigns that would lead to neglect of the students.

The government should get the feedback from teachers themselves on this important issue of them involving in active politics.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

World Cup 2010 – Lessons

Are we ready to move forward?

More than two weeks have passed by after the World Cup 2010 finals in South Africa. We have already got used to being without the daily early morning matches that became part of out excitement during the one month long games. It may be pertinent for us to reflect on some of the lessons that the World Cup had to offer us, particularly in Malaysia.

Hundreds of young men from 32 countries fought very hard, some getting injured in the process, to win the prestigious FIFA Cup for their country but the one who stole the show was not any particular player but a non-human in the form of an octopus, named Paul from Germany. It gained the world’s attention, not for playing football, but for its ability to predict the winner in a number of matches with 100% success.

What was disturbing is that a tool of betting made headlines instead of the players themselves. In fact Paul became a great star overnight, superseding all the renowned players in the world. It is distressing to realize that the World Cup, which used to be just about doing the best for the nation, is now increasingly becoming more of a commercial undertaking.

It is extremely disturbing that betting is becoming more entrenched in sports as can be seen by the increasing number of allegations of match-fixing. Sadly the FIFA World Cup seems to be succumbing to such corruption which is taking away its glory as the greatest sport in the world.

Another major lesson from the last World Cup was the no-nonsense enforcement of the rules of the game by the referees. It was very encouraging that every referee on the field did his best to enforce the rules as strictly as possible, within his limitations, without fear or favor. Fouls committed were punished in accordance with the rules regardless of who commits them. Even prominent world class players were not spared the yellow or red cards when they committed a foul.

This is a good lesson for Malaysians who are generally do not take rules seriously especially when they are against them. We tend to bend the rules to suit us whenever possible and even go great lengths to justify our actions. We see nothing wrong in breaking the rules as long as nobody notices us doing so.

The general decline in standards in many areas can be ascribed to this lackadaisical attitude of Malaysians to the rules governing the various organizations they belong to. Strict compliance to established rules will promote a disciplined society that is vital for progress and development. Unless we adopt such an attitude of strict compliance to law and order we will never achieve our dream of a developed nation.

If we look at the nations that succeeded to go forward into the knock-out phase and subsequently to the semifinal and finals, we would realize that there were two major factors that contributed to their success. The first was patriotism to their country and the second was the technical sophistication of their training and execution of their plans as a team.

Patriotism is the pride for the country which one loves. Most of the players from the 32 countries had this patriotism that was shown by their eagerness to win at all costs. It was clearly shown in the faces of the players and their supporters each time they won or lost a game. It was seen in the determination of the players when they never gave up their fight until the final whistle. The large number of last minute goals bears testimony to this patriotic spirit of the players.

Small nations that were unseeded like Ghana and Uruguay progressed up to the quarter and semi-finals respectively because of such patriotic feelings. The US players never gave up until the final whistle despite trailing far behind on several occasions. Argentina did much better than expected because of the inspirations of the national coach and football icon, Diego Maradona. He might not have been a fantastic coach but he managed to inspire his players by taking them back to the memories of nation’s glorious past of 1986.

These countries may have succeeded to a certain extent but they would realize that patriotism can only take to a certain level. To become the champion they need something more than just patriotism. They need technical superiority as this was proved by the German, Dutch and Spanish teams. It was this added advantage that carried then to the semi-finals and finals. Like all sports football too has become a highly technical game and unless we master the latest sophisticated techniques in training and tactics, we stand little chance win the World Cup. It was disappointing that even former champions, France, Italy and Brazil seem to have lost that added skill at this World Cup.

We too have grand plans to qualify for future World Cup finals and we plan to set up a football academy to train our young men. This may be a good move but setting up an academy is one thing but the most important thing is to run it in a professional manner where the every citizen is given equal opportunities to contribute to the glory of his nation. How can you instill patriotism and excel in the sport when many of the best are not selected as players, coaches and management officials?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A man with two wives

Some people only learn a little too late

This is the story of a man in his forties whom I was very closely associated for some years. He was married with two children. He was a hardworking man doing multiple jobs to make ends meet as his wife was not working and of late was inflicted with some psychiatric disorder. According to the husband she is incapacitated and not even able to care for the children, let alone catering for his needs. Despite these setbacks he was responsible and caring to his family.

I used to help him, giving moral and occasionally some financial support to him and his family from time to time, which he greatly appreciated and was grateful. He used to consult me in many major issues that he confronted from time to time. Recently I came to know he has been going out with a single woman, a few years younger than him and was considering getting married to her.

I had a long talk with him about his plans to marry another woman when his wife was still with him and mentally deranged. I tried to make him see that he cannot solve one problem by inviting another. Despite all my attempts to make him see some logic he went ahead and got married to the woman without informing me. He did not feel the need to even invite me to the wedding knowing well that I was against it.

I was told he got married in the presence of his first wife and his children. None of the relatives from either his family or his first wife’s family attended the wedding or the reception. According to him, the first wife had consented to the marriage but from other reliable sources I came to know that she was threatened to accept the marriage. Whatever the situation, he was remarried and staying together with both wives and children under the same roof. I am not sure how he copes with such a life with two women, one mentally deranged, staying together with his children from the first wife in one house.

I was deeply disappointed by what this friend of mine had done. How can he betray his mentally deranged wife of over fifteen years? How can he marry another woman in the presence of his own wife? How would have the first wife felt witnessing her husband taking another woman in front of her? How would have his children felt seeing their father betraying their own mother of fifteen years and mentally unsound? What impression would he leave in the minds of his young kids?

A few months have passed by and I understand that the man has got into a lot of problems especially financial. His second who also earns does not want to support his first wife and children anymore. He is thus finding it extremely difficult to support them all by himself. His close friends and relatives have abandoned him because he did not listen to their advice not to go ahead with the second marriage.

I feel sorry seeing him so miserable. How should I relate to him now after he has done everything against what I believe? Should I continue to help him out after all that has happened? It appears that some people only learn after a serious fall, a little too late when their friends have all left them.

All religions teach us to forgive and forget which easily said than done. Even if we forgive him what happens to his mentally sick wife and his children? How can they get justice? How can the pain he caused them be erased and compensated?

Very often we all encounter similar problems from time to time with our close friends and relatives. They refuse to listen to us and go ahead with certain decisions that are obviously wrong. Later as expected they get into trouble for doing so and expect us to help them out. What should we do in such circumstances?

Oppostion heads S'gor PAC

Opposition equally important in a democratic system

The appointment an opposition state assemblyman to head the Selangor Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is a historic one worthy of praise. In fact the appointment of BN assemblyman for Sungai Burung, Datuk Shamsudin Lias as the head of the PAC is unprecedented and should serve as an example for others to follow. Such an appointment would go a long way to promote the check and balance that is vital in a democratic system of governance. It would also be a boost for the formation of a two- party system that Malaysians envisage for the nation.

The state government should go one step further to increase the number of opposition members in the powerful PAC for a better check and balance and enforcing discipline among state assemblymen as the representatives of the people. Indiscipline and irresponsible behavior should never be taken lightly especially among the representatives of the people.

Will the other legislative assemblies follow the example of the Selangor State assembly has yet to be seen. Parliament should take the lead in appointing an opposition MP as its PAC chairman and more opposition members into the committee to make it more effective in checking abuses by the ruling party regardless who that may be.

The ruling and opposition parties are equally important in any system that practices democracy. To the rakyat it does not matter who rules the country provided the party that is elected fulfills the aspirations of the people by formulating and implementing better socio-economic policies, fighting corruption, eradicating poverty and providing a just government that is people-friendly and fair to all. To fulfill these aspirations it is essential for the ruling and opposition parties to work together by pooling their resources to provide their best for the people.

The party in power should not see the opposition as a hindrance but as comrades in their service to the people. It must give importance to the opposition to enhance the check and balance in the administration. History as shown that any government in power for too long will tend to abuse its powers to some extent and it is with a strong opposition this abuse can be minimized at all levels.

As such the opposition should be encouraged and its role facilitated not hampered if the government is serious in its efforts to combat the various ills that plague us, especially corruption which has become the highly malignant cancer in our society.

The high-handed police action against Opposition leaders and other forms of persecution of them is uncalled-for and undemocratic. The people’s maturity and intelligence must not be underestimated and their patience should be tested too long. They know what is right and wrong and will not hesitate to act to reject the wrongs at the right time.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Abolishing exams unwise

The recent proposal to abolish the UPSR and PMR examinations had created a heated public debate among Malaysians who in general are against such a move. I too join in the chorus calling for the idea to be dropped. It would be irresponsible and unwise to abolish these exams which have been in place for many decades and served their purpose.

Our education system may have become very exam oriented but the cause is not the exams themselves but their abuse. It is indeed sad that many major changes to the education system are made abruptly without due debate and consideration only to realize the folly of the decision a little too late when the damage has already been inflicted. The case of English for the teaching of maths and science is a good example to illustrate such a catastrophic situation.

Tendency to become exam oriented is a universal problem that is not just peculiar to us. Nations all over are going through such problems, some even worse. They have not done away with exams but found alternate ways to overcome it to some extent. Doing away with exams will only create bigger issues that will be disastrous.

Whether we like it or not exams are necessary as there are no better means available to assess the capability of the student. If we abolish exams what are going to use to gauge a student’s knowledge and capability to base the selection for entry into universities and scholarships? How are we going to set a national standard for all students?

Instead of abolishing existing exams, we should to device ways to make the exams more ‘intelligent’ whereby they can be used to them assess the overall ability, aptitude and capability in thinking, reasoning and maturity of thought. Examinations should be tailored to evaluate these aspects instead of the usual ‘vomiting out’ of memorized facts as it is now.

It is deeply disturbing that the national education system has been long used as a political tool which is the main reason for the pathetic state it is in now. There seems to be no sense of purpose or direction with repeated changes to the education policies. It should be left to the officials in the ministry, academia and teachers to run the system in more professional manner without undue political interference.

Historic Parliament after historic GE14

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