Sunday, June 30, 2013

Right ways to boost teaching of English in Malaysia

In part two of his article, Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon puts forward a multi-pronged approach that can be adopted to reach the goal of improved English literacy among Malaysians. Reintroduction of English-medium schools along the lines of private and international schools but affordable to a larger segment of the population is one of the options. 

WITH the Education Blueprint currently being finalised, there remains an excellent window of opportunity to re-chart our course for the future. At the primary school level where parental choice is significant, it appears that the dream of a national school where students of different races come together at age seven is more unattainable than it was in 1970.

In 1970, almost a third of the students were enrolled in English-medium schools which were ethnically mixed and growing in significance in terms of share vis a vis other language medium schools before the policy was abruptly changed.

Fast forward to present day and it is patently obvious that after four decades of implementation of the policy, our primary schools have become more ethnically separated – statistics on student enrolment in national schools reveal that 94% of the students are Malay and 96% of Chinese parents now enrol their children in Chinese schools, up from 50% in 1970.

Mother tongue

Ironically, it is the Chinese vernacular schools which are now the most ethnically mixed, with a good 9% from the Malay community and 3% from Indians and others.

For a large and growing proportion of Malaysian families, English has and remains the effective language of communication to the extent that it has become a mother tongue. Such families no longer speak their ethnic tongue.

Much has been said about the pursuit of national unity through the study and use of a common language, Bahasa Malaysia (BM).

However, this does not and cannot mean that learning and pursuing knowledge in languages other than BM will erode national integration efforts, patriotism or make us less Malaysian.

Virtually all our past and present prime ministers were educated in English-medium schools. In fact, the current Minister of Education I and II went through English-medium schools and universities. They are certainly not less nationalistic on account of that experience. On the contrary, they are more confident and accomplished on the Malaysian and international stage because of it.

By bringing back the option of English-medium schools, teaching not only science and maths but other subjects like geography and literature in English will allow us to tap into world-class curricula, textbooks and, more importantly in this Internet age, enhance access to virtually unlimited storehouses of up-to-date knowledge which are predominantly in the English language.

In such schools, BM should be taught intensively as a compulsory subject to enable students from English-medium schools to take and pass the same Form Five BM paper as their counterparts in the national schools. This ensures all attain the same competency in the national language while allowing students to be more proficient in English and able to engage fully with the world.

An independent survey undertaken in April 2012 by Introspek Asia revealed that 26% of Malaysians “always, most of the time and sometimes” speak English to their children. For this large group of people, English is effectively their mother tongue.

The argument therefore is that this English-speaking multiracial group comprising 23% to 26% of the population should be allowed the option of sending their children to English-medium schools.

Furthermore, this option already exists for the higher income families who can afford the English-medium private and international schools in the country.

However, this option is not available to the vast majority of parents of all races who would like their children to benefit from an English-medium school education as a means to enhancing their upward social mobility just because they could not afford it.

Closing the divide

This has contributed to widening the performance divide between students in the rural-urban areas and household income categories and the government should step in to provide this option to level the playing field.

Any attempt to improve English proficiency must take cognisance of the fact that international research has shown that at least 60% immersion in English and subjects is necessary for full English proficiency to take root, and this can best be done in an English-medium school.

Teaching English as a subject and devoting only 10% to 15% of the teaching hours to English may be inadequate in building English operational proficiency (as acknowledged in the 2012 Blueprint p. 4 to 9).

At least 60% immersion is necessary to raise the level of English proficiency among students, and ensure that children from the lower income households are not deprived of the opportunities enjoyed by students schooled in private and/or international schools.

Expand opportunities 

Obviously, a programme to increase English immersion cannot be identical for each of the 10,000 schools in the country, given varying capabilities to implement the programme.

What is clear is the country’s wish to reclaim lost ground in English language proficiency.

Milestones have been identified to measure outcomes, for example, the official target of making English a compulsory must pass subject by 2016 and the announced goal of achieving 70% pass with credit in the Cambridge 1119 English language examination paper by 2025.

We need to do things radically different if we are to attain these goals.

There has to be a multi-pronged approach to reach the goal of improved English literacy amongst Malaysians.

Towards the end of last year, the Ministry ascertained that the majority of the 70,000 English language teachers do not have the necessary skills level to teach in English and have set in place a series of programmes to upskill them. This is a basic requirement that has to be done but this process will take time.

In the meantime, while the upskilling process is going on, to increase the pool of teachers we need to call upon retirees who can teach in English – there are 400,000 teachers and 3% of them retire every year – i.e 12,000 a year.

If we consider that teachers between the ages of 55 and 70 can still teach effectively, the total number of retired teachers would be 180,000 in that age group and if only 10% were capable of teaching in English, there is a pool of 18,000 to call back to active duty.

We should offer them full pay and at the same time, they would continue to draw their pension (approximately 60%), and this would mean that they would take home a total of about 160% of their last drawn salary.

This is very different from the pre-2005 days when teachers were offered to work beyond retirement at the same pay as then they would be working for only 40% of their salary since their pension would be paid anyway, and that is the reason why not many would want to extend beyond their retirement age.

There are also thousands of other retirees who are fluent in English but were not teachers. On a short course basis, it must be possible to call upon some of them to be teachers in English in this national effort.

In addition, flexible working arrangements like part-time work can also attract mid-career mothers who have left the workplace because they could not do a full-time job.

Having dramatically increased the supply and pool of English teachers using the above, we need to apply the immersion method of English learning through three channels:

1. National Schools: Increase the contact time in English from the current 15% to 40% or more in stages over the next few years.

Projects and activities to be conducted in English in addition to Bahasa Malaysia. Progressively add subjects to be taught in English to raise the contact time in English

Using textbooks, if necessary from other English-speaking countries, we can quickly add subjects to be taught in English progressively until we reach 40%.

The time spent in English in national schools to be dramatically raised, and to work out the resources to be applied to reach those targets and not the other way round.

2. Some national schools are, however, more ready to take off in the English language than others. For example, high-performing schools and some mission schools, which have quicker access to retired teachers who can come back to teach in English.

Model schools

These schools are to be given increased autonomy to adopt international curriculum and assessments. Bahasa Malaysia will continue to be a compulsory subject and taught intensively. Given their capacity to implement faster, they could become model schools in a pilot project that could be extended to other schools later.

3. Re-introduce English-medium schools as an option along the lines of private and international schools but affordable to a larger segment of the population. These schools teach in English for most subjects but offer Bahasa Malaysia as a compulsory subject.

Using a multi-pronged approach, we have a chance to achieve the goal of having 70% of our schoolchildren attain a credit pass in Cambridge 1119 English by 2025.

More importantly, it allows for our students to quickly tap into all the knowledge available in the Internet, which is primarily in English.

It is proposed that a detailed programme of engagement be worked out, starting with a survey both in the urban and rural areas among parents of students in existing schools as well as parents of children about to enter the schooling system. This survey should gather data by postcode location on whether parents would send their children to English-medium education if given the choice.

With the survey results, the government can assess the size of the demand for English schools and make the necessary plans to satisfy it at least through a pilot implementation.

The results of the pilot study will provide government with better policy-making inputs on the potential outcomes that can be expected from such schools in terms of ethnic integration, achievement rates and
proficiency in English moving forward.

In addition, the results, if positive, will also serve to soften the hard stance of those opposed to a change in the policy that may be long overdue. We owe it to our children and grandchildren of all races to see this through.

> Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon is managing director of Royal Selangor and President of the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers. He also serves on the boards of EPF, MIDA and Matrade.


Related posts:
Charting the way forward for English-medium schools in Malaysia
Right, Bring back English schools would be a smart move for Malaysians 
Winning education, America and China! 

Beware of Malaysian Chinese school leavers being lured into dubious degree and diploma programs ! 
English language in Malaysia in dire straits! 
'Poke-eye' Melayu English blunder, Mindef blames ... 
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Charting the way forward for English-medium schools in Malaysia

There has been much talk about English-medium schools in recent days. The end of English-medium schools came abruptly with little or no discussion during troubling times. Now may well be the time for discourse on such schools.


 Over the past few weeks, many articles and letters have been published on the desirability of reintroducing English-medium schools in Malaysia. Those among us who were schooled in the 50s and 60s often reminisce with fondness and nostalgia about the good times we shared with friends of all races.

We also recall the many devoted teachers who “terrified” us but yet earned our highest respect, so well portrayed by Lat in his cartoons in the characters of Mr Singh, Tuan Syed and Mrs Hew.

Students then identified strongly with their schools and healthy inter-school rivalry contributed to raising not just academic standards but the standard of sports and other extra-curricular activities, including inter-school debates.

Looking back, it is easy to see why so many of us recall our schooling days with such fond memories and wish to revisit those days of old.

In looking back, it is important to get a sense of how multiracial schools were then and the significant role played by English-medium schools in bringing us together as Malaysians before such schools were phased out from 1970.

Statistics are difficult to come by but there is a gem of a publication entitled Educational Statistics of Malaysia 1938 to 1967 published by the Educational Planning and Research Division of the Ministry of Education Malaysia in 1967 which is available online at http://www.fmm.org.my/upload/Educational%20Statistics%20of%20Malaysia%201938-1967.pdf.

Also included was an important graph charting the enrolment of students in assisted schools between 1947 and 1967 (see chart).

It is clear from the chart that enrolment in the English-medium schools enjoyed the highest rate of growth among the language streams and would have become the largest group of schools in the country if the policy had not been abruptly changed in 1970.

Suffice to say that by 1967, English-medium schools accounted for 33.8% of all students in the country, Malay-medium schools 40.3%, Chinese-medium schools 21.4% and Tamil-medium schools 4.5%.

It is also useful to recall that parents were allowed, then, to choose the language stream of the schools they enrolled their children in.

As no statistics were available on the racial breakdown of students in the English-medium schools, a close approximation was made by dividing the total population of students in 1967 according to the racial composition of each group in that year and subtracting the number of students already enrolled in their respective language medium schools.

The balance is a realistic approximation of students enrolled in the English-medium schools. Using this method of approximation, the English-medium schools had attracted a healthy racial mix of approximately 34.6% Malay, Chinese 43.1%, 16.4% Indian and 5.9% “other” students. (see chart 2)

At the secondary school level, English-medium schools, administered by both the government as well as mission schools were by far, the most popular type of schools, attracting more students than any of the other language streams, a choice made by the majority of parents throughout the country.

Students followed a curriculum used worldwide and textbooks in English that were carefully selected and graded in complexity through years of use and fine-tuning.

Students then sat for examinations that were internationally graded and recognised as the “O” Levels of the Cambridge Examination Board. Such students later went on to assume important positions in all sectors of the economy – the government, bureaucracy, academia and the private sector.

The landscape, however, changed radically after the May 10, 1969 general election and the riots of May 13. Amid the uncertainty and following the trauma of the events, the then newly appointed Education Minister, Datuk Abdul Rahman Yaacob, only two months into the job, and with little if any consultation, announced a new policy.

The policy was that from 1970, English-medium schools would cease to exist and remaining students in English language-medium schools would be phased out over the next 11 years until they completed Form Five in 1982.

This radical decision saw the beginning of the gradual erosion of the strong English language foundation, a competitive edge that Malaysia had enjoyed over its neighbouring countries for decades.

Along with the removal of English- medium schools, a number of serious problems emerged in the education system, including low achievement rates in science, mathematics and reasoning as evidenced in Malaysia’s low PISA and TIMSS scores, the employability of graduates and their relative competitiveness in an increasingly globalised world.

It is no mere coincidence that the top 10 scorers are from the OECD countries and Asian tigers, and if we are to achieve sustainable high income status in the future, our scores in these benchmarks have to be improved.

We are heartened by the current national dialogue taking place over the drafting and finalisation of the National Education Blueprint. Various interest groups and stakeholders have been consulted, including right up to the Council of Rulers, and rightly so given the special place that education has in the heart of every parent and central to the competitiveness of a nation.

Contrast this consultation with the overnight decision then to abandon English as the medium of instruction – a decision taken whilst the country was caught in the immediate aftermath of the May 13 riots where many people were killed and cars and shophouses were burnt and the priority then was security and bringing back life to normalcy.

We will leave it to researchers and insiders at the ministry at that time to reveal the reasons for this sudden promulgation of a policy that had such a long term negative impact on our competitiveness.

We only know, for example, that veteran politician Dr Goh Cheng Teik wrote in December 1970 in his book The May Thirteenth Incident and Democracy in Malaysia that the radical educational policy change in 1969 was made without the knowledge or authorisation of then Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman.

Referring to the same issue, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in his book Doctor in the House wrote, “Out of the blue, Tun Rahman Yaacob announced that all government secondary schools and government-aided schools would become National Secondary Schools where the teaching would be in Malay. Schools in Sarawak and Sabah, however would be exempted. His decision made Tun Rahman very popular with the Malays, particularly Malay university students, but the move had a political rather than an academic agenda.”

It is not too late in the day to revisit the issue of English-medium schools – this time not under the shadow of the events that occurred in May and June 1969, but in the light and with the benefit of the knowledge and experience that we have accumulated over the past 44 years.

We owe it to ourselves to have this serious conversation on the way forward for education, the bedrock for maximising the potential of all citizens and enhancing the competitiveness of our nation in these globally challenging times, especially with the advent of this Internet age.

By YONG POH KON
> Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon is managing director of Royal Selangor and President of the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers. He also serves on the boards of EPF, MIDA and Matrade. Part Two of his article will appear in Sunday Star tomorrow.

Related posts:
Right ways to boost teaching of English in Malaysia
Right, Bring back English schools would be a smart move for Malaysians 
Winning education, America and China! 
Beware of Malaysian Chinese school leavers being lured into dubious degree and diploma programs !  
English language in Malaysia in dire straits! 
'Poke-eye' Melayu English blunder, Mindef blames ... 
“Clothes that poke eye”, Melayu English; Lost in ... 
'Poke eye' Melayu English in many public institutions ...

Friday, June 28, 2013

Samsung’s Galaxy S4 is going to get even faster with LTE-Advanced

 After announcing smaller and tougher versions of its flagship smartphone, Samsung is now gearing up to launch a new version of the S4 with support for LTE-Advanced networks, Reuters reports.

The phone could hit South Korea as soon as this month, Samsung co-chief executive officer J.K. Shin told Reuters. LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) is a major upgrade over the current LTE standard, and it could end up being the driving technology behind future “5G” networks. For now, though, it looks like carriers are approaching LTE-A as a way to speed up existing 4G LTE networks. T-Mobile, for example, claims it’ll be the first to offer LTE-A in the U.S. because it has newer LTE equipment than other carriers.

LTE-Advanced will potentially offer speeds up to 300 megabits per second (three times faster than LTE’s theoretical bandwidth), so you can be sure that carriers will want to market the heck out of that upgrade. Samsung claims its LTE-A Galaxy S4 will be about twice as fast as the current LTE models.

For the most part, the LTE-A Galaxy S4 seems like a show horse for Samsung. It gets to claim that it’s the first in the LTE-A handset market, but most consumers won’t be able to take advantage of the faster speeds for some time. The phone will also serve as a way to push Samsung’s 4G networking-equipment business. (After all, it’ll only be able to convince carriers to adopt its LTE-A equipment if there’s a phone that supports the faster network.)

By Devindra Hardawar/  VentureBeat

Samsung GALAXY S4 LTE 32GB - White/Black Mist SAM-GT-I9505ZKEXME

Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean)
GT-I9505 (quad core Snapdragon 600, LTE)
5.0" inch Full HD Super AMOLED
2GB RAM
32GB internal memory
13MP camera
2MP Front Camera
RRP: RM2,499
Maxi 4G LTE Network

FEATURES
WARRANTYExtra 1 year peace of mind with Senheng extended year warranty on top of the 1 year original Samsung Malaysia (SME) manufacturer warranty when you shop from Senheng Online Store.

Life companion

 Make your life richer, simpler, and more fun.

Make your life richer, simpler, and more fun. As a real life companion, the new Samsung GALAXY S4 helps bring us closer and captures those fun moments when we are together. Each feature was designed to simplify our daily lives. Furthermore, it cares enough to monitor our health and well-being. To put it simply, the Samsung GALAXY S4 is there for you.

Dual Shot


See both sides of the story

Two cameras, one extraordinary photo. Capture the ‘I was there’ moments of your life by simultaneously shooting with the front and rear cameras. Get the shot you want with more variety of styles to choose from. With Dual Shot, friends and family can experience everything with you, no matter how far they may be.


Sound & Shot


Listen to your photos

Every picture you take on the Samsung GALAXY S4 can come with sound. So now you can remember what was said, played, and heard, not just what it looked like. It adds another layer of excitement to help you relive and share every moment of each picture much more vividly.


Capture every action in one photo

Get a sequence of photos in one frame to create a collage that tells the story better than a single photo could. Drama Shot lets you take a series of pictures of any moving subject and puts them together - so you can see the detailed action that’s seamlessly merged into one very dynamic photo.


Group Play - Share Music



Share the enjoyment with friends

Get your friends together and let them enjoy your music simultaneously. Wirelessly connect multiple Samsung GALAXY S4 phones to play games and share photos and documents. Get all Samsung GALAXY S4 phones together and create a powerful sound system that enhances the sound quality and keeps the party going.


Story Album


An album for every occasion

Have the Samsung GALAXY S4 organise your photos and create albums based on specific events or customise them the way you want. You can even apply themes and choose various layouts. Then print the photos and hold the memories in your hand.


Samsung Hub


One stop shop for any content you want

With the Samsung GALAXY S4 you can browse and shop through any content available from every Samsung Hub in one place. Videos, games, books, learning - it’s all in one integrated store. It has what you’re looking for in an easy to use and stylish magazine layout.


S Translator


No more language barriers

Say or text what you need translated into your new Samsung GALAXY S4 and it’ll read or text back the translation. The Samsung GALAXY S4 is a handy companion while traveling abroad, allowing you to easily communicate with locals, discover exotic foreign dishes, and explore hidden hangouts around the world.
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* S Translator relies on a data connection and available languages are limited. Additional terms and/or data charges may apply. Results will vary by circumstance.


ChatON


More ways to communicate

Share what’s on your screen with one of your friends, even if you’re both in two entirely different places. Now with voice and video data call support, instead of just hearing what they’re up to now, actually see everything that friends and family are doing with Dual Camera. Connect with two of your friends or family on a more intimate level.


Air View


A simple and new approach from the ordinary touch

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Air Gesture


A simple and new approach from the ordinary touch.

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- Just wave over the screen to go through contents for a quick glance Respond quicker to your calls by answering with Air Gesture.
- Supported features: Quick Glance, Air Jump, Air browse, Air move, Air call-accept .


Samsung Smart Pause


A phone that follows your every move

Building off of the Galaxy S3’s Smart Stay, the Samsung GALAXY S4 knows what you’re doing and intuitively moves along with you - automatically scrolling up or down emails or websites when you tilt the phone from one side to another. Whenever you look away, the Samsung GALAXY S4 makes sure to pause whatever you’re watching, so you don’t miss anything. Amazingly, Smart Pause resumes where you left off when you look back at the screen again.


Samsung Home Sync


Enjoy your personal cloud

- Samsung HomeSync is the optimum personal cloud device for family entertainment. With 1 TB of storage capacity, Samsung HomeSync stores tons of pictures and videos once it's taken wherever you and your family members are.
- Bring Android games, movies, TV shows and streaming content directly into your living room on a large and vivid TV. Mirror Mouse, the specialised navigating feature of the Samsung GALAXY S4, is a much simpler and easier way to enjoy all the features of Samsung HomeSync!


Samsung WatchON


The ultimate TV remote

Connect your Samsung GALAXY S4 with your home entertainment system and let it be your TV expert. It suggests different programmes based on your preferences, provides programme schedules, and does the channel surfing for you.
The Samsung GALAXY S4 even allows you to remotely control the TV or set top boxes. So sit back, relax and let the Samsung GALAXY S4 take the work and hassle out of TV for you.
* Subject to information from local service provider.


S Health


Achieve more for your health

Stay active and fit with the Samsung GALAXY S4. It will track your workouts, daily intake, and weight levels. Get the current status of your surroundings for your activities with the Samsung GALAXY S4’s Comfort Level. It shows your comfort level based on temperature and humidity. Monitor your progress with both Health Board and various charts. Together with the Samsung GALAXY S4, being motivated for better health has never been so easy.


Adapt Display


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Give your eyes a rest and let the Samsung GALAXY S4 adjust your view.
With 7 automatic modes and 4 manual modes, the Samsung GALAXY S4 provides the optimal viewing experience. See your favourite videos, games, books and emails displayed with amazing colour quality. Get the perfect and optimised view with the Samsung GALAXY S4.


Adapt Sound


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Hear everything with the right balance and perfect volume customised for you. The Samsung GALAXY S4 dials music up and down and balances left and right audio based on your hearing, the sound source and your preferences. The Samsung GALAXY S4 provides an optimal sound experience tailored to you.


Live in a world of infinite possibilities


He design of the Samsung GALAXY S4 defies what’s possible.
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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Proud of dubious titles: Datukship award ...

  
Abdul Latif presenting an award to Koh at an investiture ceremony at the ‘balai rasmi’ in Simpang Ampat, Malacca, on Feb 16, 2013

PETALING JAYA: Scores of recipients of questionable awards from territorial chieftains are shamelessly displaying their dubious titles of “Datuk”, “Datuk Paduka” and “Datuk Seri” online.

A website lists a number of people with Datukships conferred by Malacca’s Undang Luak of Naning, Dato’ Seri Raja Merah Dato’ Abdul Latif Hashim.

The website also contains a full list of awards conferred by the chieftain, compri­sing 60 awards under 11 categories.

Awards in the first 10 categories come with different titles while the last category – with three awards – does not come with a title.

The categories range from Anugerah Darjat Kerabat Gelaran, which lists the highest award as the Darjah Kerabat Undang Naning, to the Anugerah Kehormat Gelaran, which carries the title Datuk.

The Star reported recently that Abdul Latif handed out scores of unrecognised Datuk­ships and other titles to those who had “contributed” to the Naning Territory.

Another self-claimed “Malacca-Perak Sul­tan” Ahmad Shah Raja Noor Jan Shah had also awarded titles to over 90 people.

Awards conferred by territorial heads and self-styled traditional leaders are not recognised anywhere in the country, unlike those conferred by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and heads of state.

As of yesterday, two people had been identified on the website as recipients of the highest award, the Darjah Kerabat Undang Naning, which carries the title Datuk Seri Diraja.

Twenty-three others carry the title “Datuk”, of whom 17 were awarded the Darjah Kehormat Undang Naning while the rest were conferred the Darjah Kehormat Wilayah Naning.

Other titled recipients are Datuk Paduka Seri and Datuk Jaksa (six recipients each), Datuk Seri (one recipient), Datuk Paduka (nine recipients) and Datuk Panglima (five recipients).

The website also contains background information on Naning Territory, photographs of the Naning flag and those of its divisions, the current chieftain of Naning and pictures of his birthday in 2010.

‘I was told to pay RM90,000 for award’

By LOSHANA K. SHAGAR  loshana@thestar.com.my
 
KUALA LUMPUR: A week after his face appeared in the newspaper, a recipient of the unrecognised Dato Kehormat Undang Naning award has claimed that he was led to believe the award was genuine and he almost paid RM90,000 for it.

Sebestian Koh, 49, said there were over 100 recipients that day receiving one of three titles – Datuk Seri, Datuk Paduka and Datuk.

Koh also refuted a statement by Malacca’s Undang Luak of Naning, Dato’ Seri Raja Merah Dato’ Abdul Latif Hashim, that he did not confer the title.

Showing photographs of him receiving the award at the “balai rasmi” in Simpang Ampat, Malacca, on Feb 16, Koh said: “I think the confusion must have arisen because there were so many people being awarded titles that day, so he (Abdul Latif) might not have remembered me.

“I was told by a friend, who also received the award, that it was recognised by the Government. He said I could even include the title in my MyKad and passport.

“Although I had never heard of the award, I decided to accept it since they were conferring it on me anyway.”

Koh was speaking to reporters at the MCA Public Service and Com­plaints Department yesterday.

The Star had front-paged the issue of questionable titles conferred by Naning chieftains and interviewed Abdul Latif and Ahmad Shah Raja Noor Jan Shah, who claimed to be the “Malacca-Perak Sultan”.

Abdul Latif had said that the investiture ceremony to confer titles was purely customary and the awards were merely customary titles with no connection to those bestowed by the Malacca Government.

In November last year, Koh said his friend, a certain “Datuk” Teoh, had called to inform him about the Datukship and handed over a “surat watikah”.

He said he was also informed about the RM90,000 “standard donation” for the title, which would be “contributed” to the Naning territory.

Before the investiture ceremony, Koh said he paid RM6,000 for a yellow sash with red stripes, a medal with the words “Dato Kehormat” and a card identifying him as a title holder.

When asked if he knew that the award was dubious, Koh admitted that he did know that the historical state had no sultan.

“The one conferring the title claimed to be a descendant of the Malacca sultanate and I asked around to check if this was true,” he said, confessing however that this was not done thoroughly as whatever information he had, coupled with Teoh’s persuasion, made everything “look very real”.

A few months after he accepted the award, Koh said his friends asked if they could advertise their congratulatory messages, to which he agreed.

“Only after The Star article on the Datuks of Naning was published did I realise that I had received an unrecognised award. My friends are laughing at me for being a recipient of a fake award. It is very embarrassing.”

When asked about his next move, Koh said he would not lodge a police report but had set aside the award and moved on.

On whether the award might be revoked if he did not settle the “standard donation”, Koh waved it off as a non-issue, adding that “it was not recognised anyway”.

Related post/articles:

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Asian banks remain to be seen more scandals will surface

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Winning education, America and China!

Providing a student with a taste of life in two of the most powerful and dynamic nations in the world is a winning combination.

I AM always being asked by anxious parents about where they should send their sons and daughters to school or university.

As a graduate of a British university, most people would expect me to be a big promoter of UK institutions.
In the past, that would have been the case, but nowadays I’m no longer so convinced.

Indeed, the smartest Malaysian parents have already anticipated changing trends, sending their offspring to the United States, especially schools on the East Coast (and Ivy League colleges).

At the same time, virtually every young Chinese Malaysian scion is expected to spend at least a year or so brushing up his or her Mandarin in Beijing.

Some even attempt courses at the city’s prestigious Peking University.

To my mind, it’s a winning combination: providing a student with a taste of life in two of the most powerful and dynamic nations in the world.

This doesn’t mean that I think American graduates (even Ivy Leaguers) are cleverer than their British counterparts.

If anything, they’re just more articulate and confident.

These are qualities, however, that tend to evaporate the moment they put pen to paper.

Indeed, I’ve never understood the educational value of multiple choice tests so in vogue in the American education system.

Why is this trend occurring?

Well, for one thing, American universities really score in terms of the money at their disposal and the incredibly diverse student body.

This in turn creates a superb and influential network for the future for their students.

At the same time, one of the most high-profile recent British graduates was Bo GuaGua, the son of disgraced Communist Party apparatchik Bo Xilai.

The young Bo studied at the elite British public school, Harrow, followed by Oxford University’s Balliol College.

When his father and mother fell so spectacularly from grace, GuaGua’s ostentatious ways and flamboyant educational choices were viewed as evidence of his parent’s waywardness and lack of discretion.

With China now the source of the world’s largest number of overseas students (surpassing even India), GuaGua’s disastrous stint in the UK may well prove to be a powerful disincentive for other parents in Beijing and Shanghai.

Indeed, a million Chinese students were studying abroad by the end of 2006 and in 2011 alone, 340,000 students headed overseas.

The shift may well take time as London remains an important financial capital despite its fading diplomatic leverage.

Still, the Great Power rivalry across the Pacific means that the United States possesses a powerful allure for Chinese parents as they seek to prepare their children for the future.

The children of China’s new rich can now be found in places like the Phillips Andover Academy (founded in 1778, the alma mater of President George W. Bush), its rival Phillips Exeter (1781) and the Groton School (1884, where President Franklin Delano Roosevelt studied).

They’re attractive to Chinese parents because it gives their children the edge for entry to Ivy League universities like Harvard or Yale.

Even Bo GuaGua headed to the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) to study public policy after Oxford.

US Department of Homeland Security numbers indicate that there were 6,725 Chinese students in American secondary schools in 2011, compared to just 65 in 2006.

Overall, more than 157,000 Chinese students studied in America that year – a full 22% of the total number of foreign students there.

China again surpassed India as the largest source of overseas students for America in 2010.

Malaysia, in contrast sent just 6,190 students to America that year.

It would seem that many Malaysians still hanker for British educational institutions – perhaps to our disadvantage.

As this is being written, the best and brightest minds from the world’s two superpowers are rubbing shoulders in the schoolyards and lecture halls of America as well as, increasingly, China.

It’s always a good thing when young people come together.

Perhaps the long-feared clash between China and the West may not materialise after all as children from both compete in their respective elite institutions instead.

  Ceritalah
By Karim Raslan

Related posts:
Beware of Malaysian Chinese school leavers being lured into dubious degree and diploma programs ! 
Taikonauts teach from space  

Monday, June 24, 2013

Deactivate your Facebook account!


Malaysians have firmly entrenched Facebook in their lives

Did you know that Malaysians have the most number of Facebook friends in the world? A British research agency, TNS, revealed that on average Malaysians have 233 Facebook friends and spend roughly nine hours a week on Facebook. What a lot of time indeed!

Before proudly shouting Malaysia Boleh!, think about what this actually means. Facebook has become an integral part of our lives like nasi lemak, hence we need to fully understand its consequences before it becomes an enemy. Only a fraction of your Facebook friends are your actual friends.

It has become to easy to be Facebook friends with anyone. The list includes your neighbour’s best friend’s sister whom you once met at a Christmas party. The time spent on Facebook per week is disturbing. If today’s youth spend hours communicating online, what is the impact on their real life communication and social skills?

THE PERILS OF FACEBOOK

As we all know, online communication is a distant, disfigured cousin of face-to-face communication. Communication is a delicate tool with many layers to it.

To start off, there is verbal and non-verbal communication. This consists of spoken words, pauses, hand gestures, facial expressions, body language, vocal variety and intonation.

Facebook, like many other platforms of online communication, is a different ball game altogether. An entire conversation can take place without even a single properly constructed sentence. For that matter, an entire conversation can take place with just emoticons!

This has resulted in a generation who lack basic communication skills.There are so many people who can have hours of online conversations but can barely have a decent five minute face-to-face chat. In the real world, conversations cannot entirely consist of LOLs and smileys.

IMPAIRED COMMUNICATION

In reality, making new friends and meeting new people does not happen with a literal click. It takes time to build relationships and get to know people. Now, it is possible to be someone’s friend on Facebook without even having a single conversation or interaction with that person.

This destroys the natural flow of human interaction. Communication has been watered down thoroughly indeed. This evolution indicates the ebb of human communication skills.

Besides that, on Facebook, we are unable to observe the other party’s body language. This leaves a gaping hole in the communication flow, as body language makes up for nearly half of non-verbal communication.

Consequently, youngsters whom are major Facebook users are insensitive to body language responses of the other party. This will ultimately result in poor communication skills as youths are unable to decipher the non-verbal response of the other person.

It is also a common trend amongst the youth to respond to text/chat messages first rather than to the person speaking in front of them.

With electronic communication gaining preference over actual conversations, it is a common sight at gatherings to see people busy texting or tweeting instead of talking to the people at the party.

Our minds are tuned to prefer online communication, alienating traditional chit chat. It is a rather rude compulsion to respond to your beeping phone first as opposed to a person talking to you.


  Have we lost our offline communication skills? 

“SO WHAT?”

The inevitable “So what?” will echo from Gen-Y. Arguably, this is progression thanks to technology. Again, the age-old debate of whether technology is a bane or a boon. Using Facebook as an example, technology has created one-dimensional communicators.

There are a few scenarios to consider, the first being a job interview. Employers are invariably complaining about how job applicants are unable to hold a proper discussion despite scores of degrees and higher qualifications.

While they may have the knowledge, they are unable to communicate their ideas effectively. This is a career crutch, so to speak, because being able to shine in the workplace requries solid communication abilities. In this era, communication skills are a golden ticket to securing that job.

Another scenario would be networking events as traditional networking still plays a role in our personal and professional lives. Be it birthday parties, industry launches or university events, human interaction is much needed!

It is wrong to assume that being able to communicate and network skilfully online automatically translates to good face-to-face communication. Learning the art of networking can lead to obtaining valuable contacts and forging important relationships that will go a long way. Savvy communication skills will snag you a potential client or that really hot date.

As always, practice makes perfect. Thus, actively participating in such events instead of being physically there but virtually not (pun intended) will lead to better communication skills. We need to be able to sit down and enjoy a good old fashioned chat.

Another challenge young people face is to communicate with people of different generations, something you would not usually encounter on Facebook. While online, you tend to mingle with people of your age, with similar interests but in reality it is a useful skill being able to talk to anyone and everyone.

A sad scenario nowadays would be a family out for dinner but everyone is glued to his or her smartphone and tablets. Again, there is minimal interaction, defeating the very purpose of having dinner together.

THE PHONE STACKING GAME

There is a popular game to combat this issue; the stacking game. Commonly played with friends, it requires everyone to stack their phone in the middle of the table and the first person who reaches for the phone has to foot the bill. This ensures there is proper conversation and interaction between everyone present, with less virtual distractions.

So, be proactive about the situation. Consciously monitor your online and offline communication. Ensure you have sufficient skills to hold a conversation with just about anyone for a reasonable duration.

Realise that while online communication is good, offline communication will take you a long way especially in terms of career and relationship building. Take the initiative to practise and sharpen your communication skills before it is too late.

There are many organisations out there dedicated to improving communication skills such as Toastmasters International. Find out how you can be part of it.

Should we deactivate Facebook? Admittedly it is a little too harsh, but striking the right balance between our online and offline communication is the key.

Undeniably, Facebook has become part of our lives. Just like McDonald’s, the key is moderation. A good practice is to engage with people when with company instead of communicating with someone else online. Learn to be more articulate and expressive when speaking as there are no emoticons! Let us work together to ensure technology does not cause the annihilation of proper communication skills amongst us.





Sunday, June 23, 2013

For the sake of money people will risk anything

Singapore's investigation into banks was triggered by the Libor-rigging scandal last year. 

HOT on the heels of the London interbank offered rate (Libor) rigging scandal comes the Singapore interbank offered rate (Sibor), the Singapore equivalent of the Libor rigging.

HSBC, Standard Chartered, JP Morgan Chase, Barclays and DBS are among 20 banks in which 133 traders tried to manipulate the Sibor, swap offered rates and currency benchmarks in the city-state, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said in a statement recently.

For the sake of money, people will risk anything. In this case, Singapore is well known as a tough regulator, but they still dare to mess around with the Sibor. They are definitely asking for trouble.

According to South China Morning Post, MAS has censured banks for trying to rig benchmark interest rates and ordered them to set aside about S$12bil (RM30.13bil) at zero interest, pending measures to improve internal controls.

It is surprising that these traders have been caught with their pants down.

Regulators have cracked down on market players following the Libor rigging fiasco, which involved Barclays, UBS and the Royal Bank of Scotland paying fines of up to US$2.5bil (RM7.89bil).

This is why even when news emerged on punitive measures for the Libor rigging, very few people believed in its effectiveness.

MAS said it would make rigging key rates a criminal offence and bring supervision under its oversight.

To put this into process may take some time, while these market players exploit any loophole or weaknesses.

The fact that Asian banks are also involved in this Sibor rigging makes it even more unpalatable.

So far, Asian banks have remained strong amidst the financial crisis. Their reputation has remained largely untarnished, although most have been quite silent on their risk management.

Many of their Western counterparts have had to shed jobs massively and close down or downsize businesses, with some even having to accept taxpayers' money to survive.

At the same time, banks in the West became embroiled in the blame game, came under heavy fire from regulators and some even had to undergo a serious revamp of their business model.

Among the positive things happening among Asian banks is the recruitment of talent at a time of major job cuts in the Western banking sector.

But even that little positive aspect is going to be drowned by accusations of the Sibor rigging.

Manipulation of interest rates is a serious offence. Resulting from such collusion, some disruption may be seen in market movements, which may give rise to uncertainties.

Plain Speaking - By Yap Leng Kuen

Columnist Yap Leng Kuen reckons it is not always true that once bitten, twice shy.

Related posts:
'The year of shame 2012' get any worse in 2013? 
The Libor fuss!
HSBC Bank fined $1.92 billion for money laundering

The rotten heart of capitalism: interest rate-fixing 

No privacy on the Net !

Revelations about PRISM, a US government program that harvests data on the Internet, has sparked concerns about privacy and civil rights violations. But has there ever been real privacy and security on the WWW?

 Demonstrators hold posters during a demonstration against the US Internet surveillance program of the NSA, PRISM, at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, Germany, ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit to the German capital.

IMAGINE a time before email, when all your correspondence was sent through the post. How would you feel if you knew that somebody at the post office was recording the details of all the people you were corresponding with, “just in case” you did something wrong?

I think quite a few of you would be upset about it.

Similarly, some Americans are furious over revelations made about a system called PRISM. In the last few weeks, an allegation has been made that the US government is harvesting data on the Internet by copying what travels through some of its Internet Service Providers.

The US Director of National Intelligence has said that PRISM “is not an undisclosed collection or data mining program”, but its detractors are not convinced that this doesn’t mean no such program exists.

I think there are mainly two kinds of responses to this revelation: “Oh my God!” and “What took them so long?”.

The Internet has never really been secure. Because your data usually has to travel via systems owned by other people, you are at their mercy as to what they do with it. The indications are that this is already being done elsewhere.

Countries such as China, India, Russia, Sweden and the United Kingdom allegedly already run similar tracking projects on telecommunications and the Internet, mostly modelled on the US National Security Agency’s (unconfirmed) call monitoring programme. For discussion, I’ll limit myself for the moment to just emails – something that most people would recognise as being private and personal.

I find many people are surprised when I tell them that sending email over the Internet is a little bit like sending your message on a postcard. Just because you need a password to access it, doesn’t mean it’s secure during transmission.

The analogy would be that your mailbox is locked so only you can open it, but those carrying the postcard can read it before it reaches its final destination. Of course, there are ways to mitigate this. One has to be careful about what one put in emails in the first place. Don’t send anything that would be disastrous if it were forwarded to someone else without your permission.

You could also encrypt your email, so only the receiver with the correct password or key could read it, but this is difficult for most end users to do. (For those interested in encrypting emails, I would recommend looking at a product called PGP.)

The analogy holds up for other Internet traffic. It’s easy to monitor, given enough money and time. And as easy as it is for the Good Guys to try to monitor the Bad Guys, it’s just as easy for the Bad Guys to monitor us hapless members of the public.

But who do we mean by the Bad Guys? Specifically, should the government and law-enforcement agencies be categorised as ‘Bad Guys’ for purposes of privacy? Generally, the line oft quoted is “if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to worry about”.

Yet, I think we all accept that there should be a fundamental right to privacy, for everybody from anybody. An interesting corollary to being able to express your thoughts freely is that you should also be able to decide when and how you make them public.

The fault in relying on organisations that say “trust us” isn’t in the spirit of their objectives, but in how the humans in them are flawed in character and action.

An example quoted regularly at the moment is how the FBI collected information about Martin Luther King because they considered him the “most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country”.

One way of defining the boundaries are by codifying them in laws. For example, the Malaysian Personal Data Protection Act prohibits companies from sharing personal data with third parties without the original owner’s consent.

However, this law explicitly does not apply to the federal and state governments of Malaysia. Another clause indicates that consent is not necessary if it is for the purpose of “administration of justice”, or for the “exercise of any functions conferred on any person by or under any law”.

In relation to the revelations of PRISM, several questions come to mind: Can Internet traffic (or a subset of it) be considered “personal data”? Is it possible for government agencies to collect and store such data without your consent?

And if so, what safeguards are there to ensure that this personal data is accurate, is used correctly and is relevant for storage in the first place?

This should be a sharp point of debate, not just in terms of which of our secrets the government can be privy to, but also of which of the government’s information should be readily accessible by us.

True, there is so much data out there that analysing it is not a trivial task. However, companies such as Google are doing exactly that kind of work on large volumes of unstructured data so that you can search for cute kittens. The technology is already on its way.

Perhaps I am being over-cautious, but it seems a bit fantastical that people can know your deepest and darkest secrets by just monitoring a sequence of 1’s and 0’s. But, to quote science fiction author Phillip K. Dick, “It’s strange how paranoia can link up with reality now and then”.

Contradictheory
By DZOF AZMI

> Logic is the antithesis of emotion but mathematician-turned-scriptwriter Dzof Azmi’s theory is that people need both to make sense of life’s vagaries and contradictions. Speak to him at star2@thestar.com.my.

Related post:

US Spy Snowden Says U.S. Hacking China Since 2009

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Taikonauts teach from space

Historic lecture broadcast live to millions of students all over China.

Students gathered in a school in Beijing ask Chinese astronaut Wang Yaping questions as she delivers a lesson from the Tiangong-1 space station  



ABOUT 1,000 Form 4, 5 and 6 students from the Beijing No 2 Middle School were glued to the projection screen in their classrooms to watch the historic lecture broadcast live from space together with millions of pupils and students in China.

Many students from the school could not take their eyes off the 40-minute physics lesson in which three Chinese taikonauts on board the Tiangong-1 orbiter first showed how they meditated airborne and measured their weight using a special scale, designed based on the Newton’s second law of motion, in a gravity-free environment.

Wang Yaping, China’s second female taikonaut and the teacher in charge of the lecture, then demonstrated how a gyro in a high-speed rotation motion could actually maintain the position of its axis in space like that on Earth.

She pushed a static gyro in the air and then spanned another gyro. The static gyro rolled forward but the rotating gyro kept its axis intact.

She noted that the fixed axis concept of the high-speed rotating gyro has been widely used in the aerospace field, saying that a wide range of gyroscopes had been installed in the Tiangong-1 orbiter to measure its flight pattern accurately.

Fifth former Wu Tong said she was especially fascinated with the experiment conducted by Wang to examine the movement of a small ball tied with a string to a holder fixed on a metal plate.

“Previously, we have been taught on the theory and not the practical side of it. It is rather difficult to simulate a vacuum environment.

“In class, our teacher used to tell us that the ball would move in a circular motion (when one pushed it) and would not stop. Today, we finally saw it for ourselves,” she said.

To many students, another highlight of the lecture was the water ball experiment that explained how zero-gravity magnified the surface tension of water.

Wang made a water film on a metal ring by inserting the ring into a water bag. Then she added more water onto the ring to form a thicker water film and eventually a water ball.

The water ball miraculously did not break even when commander of the crew Nie Haisheng used an injection needle to extract the bubbles inside the water ball.

After that, Wang moved closer to the water ball and said: “Look at this water ball. Does it look like an inverted microscope? Through it, you can see my inverted image!” At this moment, the classrooms were filled with thunderous applause.

Wu described the experiment as “magical and ingenious”.

“The experiment was well designed. They also injected gas and coloured liquid into the water ball to show us the increasing surface tension of the water,” she said.

Another fifth former Gu Xu said: “We have just studied this topic on surface tension. It is quite amazing to see how the coloured liquid spread all over the water ball.”

Apart from a total of five experiments, the taikonauts also took questions from four students who were attending the lecture at the High School Affiliated to Renmin University in Beijing.

On the presence of space debris, Wang said they had not spotted any space debris since they entered the orbit but they do exist.

“The number is quite big but the possibility of the debris hitting the spacecraft is rather small. If they do collide with the spacecraft, the consequences could be disastrous.

“That’s why before embarking on our mission, we had conducted an analysis of space debris and taken preventive measures to protect the Tiangong-1 orbiter,” she said.

“Did you see any UFO?” asked a Standard Four pupil amid laughter from the rest of the students.

Wang said that through the spacecraft window they could see the beautiful colours of the Earth, the moon and stars, but no UFO.

Wu said the lecture was very meaningful for her to widen her knowledge of space science.

She said she was proud of the Chinese taikonauts for conducting the nation’s first lecture from space, after other such feats by space exploration powerhouses like the United States and Russia.

Gu said the gravity-free environment in space provided scientists with new ideas and it was important for China to take the lead in exploring space and acquiring its technology.

“The research and development in science has no limits. When we are in command of everything on the land and in the sky and sea, space will be our new frontier,” he said.

MADE IN CHINA BY CHOW HOW BAN

Related posts:

China's space dream comes true with humble 

hina's space dream crystallized with Shenzhou-10 launch 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Malaysian students are disclosing their dirty secrets on Facebook 'confessions pages'

PETALING JAYA: High school and tertiary students have been flocking to certain online pages where they confess their dirtiest secrets and read those of their peers.

The pages contain postings that range from lewd sex fetishes and illegal activities to struggles with depression and suicide.

Students submit confessions anonymously to a mystery page administrator (whose identity is always kept secret), who then publishes it on the Facebook-based confession pages, mostly without any verification of the stories.

Many of the confessions are sex-related. Some goes: “I’m not sure if I have a sex addiction. Possibly.

“I masturbate a LOT and I’m bisexual. I think it’s really unhealthy but I don’t really know how to stop.”

Others use the pages to confess their personal struggles, including one that read: “I had an abortion before about six years ago and it still breaks my heart every single day.”

Another student confessed plans to commit suicide within 60 days, while another told of how he or she turned to marijuana to ease his/her depression.

The trend has grown globally, with news reports from countries like the United States, Australia, India, South Africa, Singapore and Saudi Arabia mentioning the confession pages over the past few months.

The pages (many of which have thousands of followers) are usually linked – without approval – to a school or university, which makes it easier for students to identify who the people confessing are.

One page administrator said the students were sometimes even tagged by friends in their confessions, thus revealing their identities.

The administrator for HUCP, a confession page for HELP University students, said the university’s authorities were aware of the page.

“I don’t think it’s unhealthy. It’s just a tool. It can be used for good or bad,” said the administrator, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

He added that he filtered all the confessions he received to avoid any offensive content.

Malaysian Communications and Mul­timedia Commission chairman Datuk Mohamed Sharil Tarmizi urged caution when it comes to such pages.

According to Section 114A of the Evidence Act 2010, administrators can be held liable for any offensive or defamatory content published on their pages.

“In the case where anything posted from anywhere online that breaks the law of the land, the authorities have the right to intervene and call the people involved for investigation,” said Sharil.

> For the full story on school and university confession pages, turn to today’s R.AGE cover story.

By IAN YEE and DENIELLE LEONG
alltherage@thestar.com.my


Baring it online  

THE 19-year-old founder and administrator of the unofficial Catholic High School (CHS) confession page on Facebook received a shocking “confession” a couple weeks back – a student said he had “contaminated” the school canteen’s chee cheong fun sauce. You don’t wanna know the details.


As outlandish as the claim was, the admin – who takes his anonymity quite seriously – thought nothing about it and posted the confession on the page, just like the other 100 to 200 he receives daily about secret crushes, school gossip and, of course, sex.

“Since then, the chee cheong fun stall has been almost completely empty,” said the admin with an embarrassed laugh. “We’re trying to use the page to get people to eat there again, to help the uncle out.”

Welcome to the world of school, college and university Facebook “confession pages”, where students can submit anonymous “confessions” to a secret administrator, who will then post it on the page (not sanctioned by the schools or universities, of course). It’s all very Gossip Girl- y.

The confessions can be quite innocent, like: “To the girl who wearing pink t-shirt and carrying a LV bag, you’re pretty, hope to see you again [sic].”

Or they could be very raunchy, like: “I am a girl and I have a serious pornography addiction. Every night, I cannot go to sleep unless I spend at least an hour looking at porn.” And that’s just one of the posts we were allowed to publish.

Occasionally, they can be heart-wrenching: “Going to commit suicide in less than 60 days. Pressure mounts from every area in my life and I have just given up today. The reason I give myself 60 days is because my results will be out then and I am certain I will fail almost everything.”

According to American Degree Programme student Joanne Raena Raj, the university pages are usually more explicit.

“At my uni, it’s mostly about sex, drugs and how students don’t attend class,” she said. “There was even a confession about someone who saw a couple having sex in a lecture hall, filmed it, and uploaded the video to the Internet.”

With scandalous confessions like that, it’s no wonder these pages have become wildly popular. The UTAR Confessions gained 1,000 followers in just a week, and is now closing in on the 14,000 mark.

The Catholic High School page has over 3,700 “Likes” (and counting), and it has only been around for about a month! According to the admin, the school only has around 3,000 students.

“Our page statistics show we have followers who are 30-40 years old, and they’re from everywhere – the United States, Britain, Taiwan, Egypt... A lot of them are former students, who write about how they miss the school,” said the CHS admin.

The page masters 

It’s important to remember that none of these confession pages are officially associated with their respective schools or universities. Anyone can start a page, as long as they’re willing to act as a page admin. The pages that gain the largest followings simply end up as the school’s “official” unofficial page.

But being an admin isn’t easy (more on that on page four). Some of them have to go through hundreds of confessions a day, trying their best to approve as many as possible while making sure they don’t post anything that could get them in trouble.

Most pages use the same system – a Google Docs form for users to submit confessions (instead of the Facebook messaging system, which does not provide anonymity), and a Facebook page where the admin can publish them.

The admin for the HUCP page, which serves students from HELP University, said he started the page “just for fun”.

“The way I see it, it’s an outlet to express feelings,” he said. “It’s not just about love and relationships. Some discuss education, and critique their lecturers. We always say students should speak up in college, but when the lecturers ask, they don’t know how to do it.

“So this confession page is like a stepping stone to give people the courage to speak up instead of always bottling it up.”

The response to the posts have been very positive, even from the lecturers, who often get tagged.

“You see a lot of encouragement in the comments. One of the lecturers gives really good advice too, especially on a few posts about teenage pregnancy.”

Like all the other page admins we spoke to, the HUCP admin is very careful about keeping his identity a secret. His witty comments on the page have attracted a fair amount of interest from other students, but he doesn’t intend to reveal himself.

“I’m not doing this to get famous. Plus, some of them can get unhappy with me (over certain confessions). It’s also a good way for me to remain unbiased,” he added.

Official word 

Many universities and higher education institutions are aware of this trend, according to Monash University Sunway Campus senior marketing manager Ooi Lay Tin, who was quick to add that they are “not endorsed or controlled by the institutions in any way”.

The HUCP admin said the university has so far taken a fairly liberal approach towards his page. He said they’ve tried to find out who he is with no success, but they still managed to get in touch with him online.

“The university’s head of social media said it was fine for us to post our opinions – just don’t use the university’s name. And I respect that, I understand that, so we closed the group and started a new one – HUCP,” he said.

A university media relations officer, who had no idea her university had a popular confession page, was more wary.

“It’s good that the students have a place to rant and vent their frustrations, but confession pages are not the right platform as they could jeapordise the institution’s reputation,” she said.

For the HUCP admin, the key is moderation. Some admins are quite daring in approving confessions, but he makes sure everything that goes public on his page is not offensive or defamatory.

“The students have to learn to self-censor. The admins will moderate, but you should think for yourself and know what you should or shouldn’t post.”

CONFESSION pages have been sweeping the world, with news reports from the United States, Australia, India, South Africa, Singapore and Saudi Arabia all bringing the trend to light.

There’s no telling how, where or when the trend started; but the pages, which are unofficially linked to schools and universities, allow students to submit anonymous confessions to be published on a Facebook page – and they have caused quite a stir with the often raunchy nature of the “confessions”.

According to a story by Reuters, police in Montana, US moved to shut down two high school confession pages due to the constant offensive content, but the students simply started a third, prompting the police to threaten defamation charges. Pages in Idaho and Arizona have also been shut down by schools.

A more worrying case surfaced just three months ago when a student at Aragon High School in the US posted a threat against the school in a confession page, which has lead to police patrols around the school.

In Australia, ANU Confessions, a page for students of the Australian National University, was removed from Facebook due to explicit descriptions of sexual violence against women.

But that hasn’t stopped confession pages from popping up all over the world. Princeton, Harvard and Yale all have pages now (though they are very inactive, leading one user to comment “there’s a reason why they bring home Nobels”), while the National University of Singapore even has its own website (confesslah.com) with over 89,000 confessions and counting.



There’s even a website called www.college-confessions.com, where users (mostly from American universities) can publish confessions directly to the site, and not through a Google Doc form like most other Facebook-based pages. All confessions are tagged along with others from the same university, with the University of North Texas currently leading the way with almost 8,000 posts.

Most active confession pages
stuff

By DENIELLE LEONG, IAN YEE and KEVIN TAN