Regarding School Uniforms

When I was a child, I used to wonder why we had to wear school uniforms. Those kids in the American TV shows didn’t have any sort of school uniforms and could wear whatever that they wanted to school. Needless to say, they looked really cool doing it.

Then, my mother explained to me the reasoning behind having school uniforms is to avoid discrimination e.g. rich kinds don’t get to flaunt designer clothes. Also, it helps avoid identifying oneself by clothing e.g. kids going Goth.

Now, we can argue the merits of such a restriction on freedoms of expression but that’s not the point that I’m trying to make here. The point is that our schools seemed to have lost track of the original intent and have taken things the exact opposite direction.

There are reports that a school has asked a student to NOT wear an approved uniform – the baju kurung – to school. A child has been barred from school for wearing a school uniform? Madness!

How did such a travesty happen?

At the end of the day, the government has to shoulder the blame. Through its decades of misdirected policies, our people now seem to identify each other through clothing. As an example, a Malay Muslim woman has to be covered and certainly show neither legs nor cleavage while a non-Malay non-Muslim woman should certainly show both tits and ass.

Saloma would laugh at such a proposterous notion.

While the feminists may argue that this is just further signs that our society loves to control its women, including how little girls dress to school, but that’s not what this post is about.

This post is about the the fact that we’re more than how we dress. If a man chooses to dress as a woman, biarlah. If a woman chooses to dress as a man, that’s fine too. If a non-Malay girl wants to wear the baju kurung, that’s beautiful. If a Malay girl wants to wear the Cheong Sam, that’s wonderful!

So, I actually like the idea to give our kids flexibility in wearing what they want to school, which has been implemented for the sixth-formers this year. While they’re still limited in their choices, it’s a good start.

Let’s just live and let live. Take it easy. Let people wear what they want so that we can wear (or not wear) whatever we want too.

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Elevation of Terror

I think that the word terror has been terribly overused over the last decade, which has resulted in it losing its actual meaning. Many criminal acts are now quickly classified as terror attacks by terrorist but the question must be asked – were these actually acts of terror?

You can see it in the recent attacks in France. As tragic as the situation is, I wouldn’t consider it a terror attack nor would I consider the Kouachi brothers as terrorists. Why? Simple because the attacks were targeted and were not designed to cause terror.

By all accounts, the killers were very specific with the people whom they wanted to kill. According to reports, they called out names and shot people to death. In fact, they targeted specific journalists and artists from Charlie Hebdo. Their objective was not to terrorise the whole of France but to shut specific people up, whom they felt had offended them.

Then, they ran off and tried to escape but were hunted down. In their final stand-off with the police, they did what every other cornered criminal would do – took hostages and committed police assisted suicide by forcing the hands of the police to act in defending the hostages.

The cops who were killed, were those who were doing their job and died in the line of duty. These cops are certainly heroes but they were obviously not the targets of the attack and should be considered collateral damage. Ditto, with the hostages who were killed.

If such acts were considered terrrorists attacks, then almost any murder should be considered a terrorist attack. Most murders are committed by a killer on a targeted person(s) often due to some personal offence that they had suffered. Also, hostage taking is the last defence of every cornered criminal.

Therefore, I think that it is a mistake to consider this an act of terror.

The 9/11 and 7/7 terrorists attacks were, in contrast, different. The attackers then did not call out a list of names. All they cared about was committing suicide while taking as many people as possible with them. Their objective was to make people feel unsafe even when going to work or taking public transport.

As for Charlie Hebdo, they’re going to print a million copies of their next run. I wouldn’t consider them cowed, which is good. The people of France are also not afraid and have all stood up in solidarity.

Therefore, I personally think that this attack, while tragic, should not be elevated to the level of terror attack. The only people such an elevation serves to benefit is the government of the day, whom would benefit the most when people are cowed.

Let’s put things in perspective and leave terrorism to real terrorists, not misguided kids with guns.

Learning vs Graduating

In light of the decision by University of Malaya (UM) to warn, fine and suspend some of its students for organising and participating in an unapproved event, I felt that I needed to say a few things about this whole idea that undergrads should focus on studying and graduating.

As a former lecturer, this is the crux of the problem that results in our universities producing mediocre to downright unemployable graduates that are tidak boleh pakai in the real world.

Our education system is plagued with this sad mentality that is education is equivalent to certification, which it isn’t. Therefore, we have school students who are capable of scoring strings of A’s but are unable to actually understand what it is that they are supposed to have been taught in school, much less apply their knowledge.

This problem is exacerbated at universities, which are supposed to be institutions of higher learning but are relegated to extensions of high school tuition centres these days. The ideology behind tertiery education as expounded by our authorities is that the students should study first and graduate, then worry about the real world.

What is really needed is the ideology that university education isn’t about studying but rather learning, specifically self-learning. However, students these days are no longer capable of learning due to the policy in our education system.

If a lecturer goes to class and does not provide a set of prepared notes and slides, the students are at a loss. Some would whip out their smart-phones to record lectures and take pictures of the lecturer’s scratches on the board. That’ll help with studying, but not learning.

I once tried to encourage learning by providing a reading list instead of notes, and talking in class instead of writing on the board. The result was that half the class failed the course and signed a complaint letter to the dean.

They even fail when it comes to extra-curricular activities. Where in the past I raised RM10,000+ from external corporate sponsorship to run student activities, the students these days tend to rely almost completely on internal grants to run their activities.

The thing is, our graduates are useless because they have been treated like children for far too long. University should be a safe place for them to experiment and explore with independence. They need to be given the opportunity to learn for themselves and do things for themselves. In simple terms – to grow up.

This is why I think that the decision from UM to suspend students who show any sign of independence is downright stupid. Now, keep in mind that these students are not your typical mat rempit troublemakers. Most of them are what would be considered good students with good grades and strong extra-curricular activities. All future leaders.

However, the message that we are sending is that we’d like the students to limit their extra-curricular activities to only the approved list of cultural and recreational activities. Any sort of serious activities need to be organised with great caution.

The fact of the matter is that the university panicked. Anyone looking from the outside could immediately see that. Then, they victimised the students in order to cover up their sheer incompetence. That’s the way that I see it, at least.

Years of promoting mediocrity has resulted in the upper management of the university being manned by people who are unable to think outside the box in tackling the students. Therefore, they have had to resort to the only tool that they have at their disposal – oppression.

Undergraduates need to be given the room to explore and expand in all ways, which includes exploring sensitive issues. If they are not allowed to do it, their development would be stunted. A university should be a little petri dish, giving the students a way to safely try things out.

Now, our undergraduates have learned that the university will take a sledgehammer to force the dough through the cookie-cutter. What the university fails to realise is that the sledgehammer would damage the cookie-cutter when used this way.

Anyway, I’m just rambling now.

I hope that the students who have been suspended will take the opportunity to play a more active role in civil society and student activism. Honestly, they have plenty of spare time on their hands now. They could view this as a form of extended internship which would help the months to pass faster.

Examine, Evaluate, Estimate

I recently read that the new Form 3 exams are going to be called PT3 – Pentaksiran Tingkatan 3. As far as I understand it, taksir means to estimate. Checking the DBP dictionary, it seems that I am not wrong in saying that one of the meanings of taksir is anggar or estimate.

So, we’ve moved from examinations, to evaluations and finally to estimations. Whomever came up with the idea for PT3 deserves a medal. I can imagine all the jokes that the kids are going to crack about their PT3 results – merely an estimate.

The idea of decentralisation is great, assuming that we have the system in place to manage it. Otherwise, it is just going to be abused by the schools to improve their own rankings by ensuring that everyone scores. It’s a win-win situation.

This is probably why they’re calling it an estimate – because the results are not accurate as they’re subject to what the teacher had for breakfast that day. A student’s results will vary depending on which school they were enrolled in.

In order to moderate and mitigate such problems, teachers need to be transferred regularly. This is the same system that I always use to moderate marks when judging national/international competitions.

The typical way of doing judging at these competitions is to break the teams up into groups and have each group judged by a different panel of judges. The judges then select the best from each group and then filter out which ones are the winners. If necessary, the finalists are called for another round of judging.

Much like the World Cup, actually.

However, this results in a lot of favouritism as each panel will have their favourites and will try to stick to their favourites. This is what I’ve seen every time I conduct judging at these competitions. To solve the problem, I rotate the judges at the group stage.

As a result, there are no fixed panels and every judge sees a different set of teams. So, it’s not easy for anyone to hold onto their favourites. We’ll still need to find the best teams from each group, but the judges in each group are now rotated – and moderated.

So, I’ll recommend a similar system be used for PT3 – that teachers are rotated regularly so that they do not keep to their favourites. At the very least, their exam papers should be divided into groups and marked by teachers from different schools.

But this is just going to complicate things and I doubt that the MOE has the resources to coordinate such things.

Good luck to those taking their PT3 this year though. It’s tough being the guinea pigs.

What is My Malaysia?

This video got me thinking.

What is my Malaysia?

I see Malaysia as full of possibilities. We’re a nation blessed in so many ways. We have an abundance of natural resources, have a diverse population, and are strategically located. But I think that it’s our people that are our greatest assets.

Malaysians are special.

We are a nation of cynics. Malaysians view the cops as the most corrupt, more so than politicians. That’s quite an achievement for a country with the longest surviving civilian government in power for over 5 decades, to be considered less corrupt than the cops.

We are a nation of creative thinkers. Sure, our kids don’t do very well in problem solving tests, but give them a road without a zebra crossing and they will find a way to cross it even if they don’t have to. You won’t find this in Singapore. We have our own ways to settle all problems.

We’re also a nation of geniuses. Every Malaysian is multi-lingual. Recent studies have shown that people who speak more than one language are smarter. Malaysians are so damn smart that we’re in high demand throughout the world. As a recent World Bank study showed, we have the highest level of diaspora in the world.

We are also the most lalang people around. We can bicker and fight about the most sensitive of things such as race and religion. But give us a Thomas Cup finals and we can flip aside all differences and come together as a nation for at least 6-hours. Of course, we go back to arguing about race and religion right after. But this shows that our differences aren’t all that deep.

We also have so many pretenders around – Chinese who do not speak Chinese, Indians who do not speak any Indian, and even Malays who have trouble with Malay. A nation of pendatangs, we’re all caught in an identity crisis. None of us are truly who our ICs say we are. We are truly and uniquely Malaysian, in that sense.

Anyway, I could go on but I need to get back to studying.

I love you, Malaysia.

PS: When did Nat become an artiste?

Double Traffic Standards

This rant has been a long time coming. I am kind of frustrated with the blatant law breaking ways that motorcyclists in this country ride on the roads. Honestly, it has come to the point where, if I were to see a motorcycle involved in an accident, I’m inclined to presume that it’s the motorcyclists fault.

As far as I a know, all motor vehicles are governed by the same Law in Malaysia. The fact is that we all take and pass the same undang-undang test before we are allowed to get our license. While we are governed by the same Law, it seems to be applied differently to motorcyclists.

Firstly, motorcyclists seem to think that they are merely petrol powered bicycles. They are often found going in the opposite direction as traffic and riding on pedestrian or bicycle lanes. They do this largely to cut through short cuts and avoid the main thoroughfares.

They are also endangering the lives of others when they do that – particularly that of pedestrians and bicycles. I have actually seen pedestrians curse at motorcycles who horn them to get out of the way.

Secondly, motorcyclists don’t seem to realise that they are supposed to ride in the lanes of the road and not on the dotted lines between the lanes. This is a sure fire way to get themselves killed by motor vehicles that cannot see them. They do this largely to get an express lane through traffic.

The troubling thing is that they think that it’s their right to do so and don’t even realise that it is wrong – and it’s going to get themselves killed. When riding between lanes, they are exposed to being hit from more sides than if they were within a lane.

Thirdly, motorcyclists like to weave through traffic even when it’s flowing normally and not at a standstill. I’m sure that you know what I mean when I say ‘weave’. What makes it worse is that they will even curse at you if you’re in their way.

What’s worse is that such unlawful and dangerous practices have become entrenched because there has never been enforcement action taken against them. Now, they think that it’s a legal right, regardless of what they learn in undang-undang class.

Sadly, this is the state of traffic double standards in Malaysia.