Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Standard of English of Young Malaysians

back in the 70s, my late bro, who came back fr. the UK after getting his MRCP, was offered as a lecturer in the faculty of medicine of UKM. my brother, like me, was concerned with the quality of students produced. we both want our students to come out to the outside world with knowledge that befits them - in this case, for my brother, to produce quality doctors. unfortunately though, he was pressured to pass the students eventhough they're not up to the mark. finally, my brother left, and became a specialist in the govt. hospital. he was offered a lot of money to join the private hospitals, but he declined the offer - because he wanted to train young doctors doing their housemanship and to ensure they're of quality.

now, i raise the same question of quality, and although i'm not a medical doctor like my late brother, i question the standard of english among the young malaysians nowadays. to be sure, there are good english speakers, good english writers - those who are exposed to the language at such an early age or use it at home as their 1st language rather than their mother tongue. then there are those who are motivated because of their keen interest in the language.

one of the reasons why students dont perform well is that they're not interested in the language. yes it's the same excuse, but it is the reality. they dont see the point of learning the language, or worse, they would rather read other subjects such as Physics, Chemistry, Biology. some brilliant graduates are jobless because they cannot communicate in english. which is a big shame, really. my niece, who went for the interview to become a PTD (diplomatic and admin officer) was appalled to see how graduates who could speak eloquently in bahasa during a presentation, struggled to speak in english during an oral english presentation.

parents should play the key role in motivating the students by speaking in english at home. yes, everybody is embarrassed to speak in english at first (for those who are not used to it) but it gets better with practice. which is more important, pride or the benefit of the children? they should also motivate the students to read in english. as i often told my students, even the most brilliant professor in english cant teach them everything there is to know in english, and they should help themselves.

unfortunately though, some students live in communities that still see english as a colonial language " bahasa penjajah", and some extremists view english as the language of the infidels "bahasa kafir". english is just a tool for communication, it has no religious nor political connotations. if the extremists are so worried for the souls of their children, they should bear in mind that their mother tongue is not the language of the Quran either (read this in a very dry note).

another main reason: some organisations which i cannot mention here, are instrumental in presenting malaysians with a facade. the teachers have a certain standard for their students, but after the results of public exams are out, students often get better results. some deserve the good grades, but some are questionable. sometimes we are told to accept answers that do not really answer the question. which makes this brain wonder again.... what has become to the standard of english? thus, we present malaysians with another reality. a constructed reality. my fren, who is working at one of the organisations, said that there are some who question why students who performed well in 1119 cannot perform in muet. i'm not going to provide the answer here. it is up to the readers to think. as descartes said, cogito ergo sum - i think, therefore i am.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Getting a Maid:A Manual

i'm maidless right now, which is equivalent to a greek tragedy. i've been so used (and spoiled) to having small luxuries, that now i miss all those days. like having all my clothes including nightgowns and caftans ironed.

i'm waiting for the new maid to arrive now, and you'll never believe how expensive a maid can be. last 2 years, we paid RM5k to get a maid in and paid her RM370 a month. now we've to pay RM6.7 to get a maid in, and her salary will be RM500. if you get one through licensed agencies, that is.

so basically, what do you have to do if you want to get a maid? first of all, survey. you ll have to know
1. how much the agency's service charge is
2. how much the indon agency's service charge is

however, it is my advice that you do not opt for unlicensed agencies, as the qualities of the maids might differ. of course, they offer much cheaper price usually half of the price set by licensed agencies, but if you want a peace of mind in your house, it's going to be difficult.

then, after you've chosen the agency, browse through the profiles the agent shows you. my agent uses her Chinese study of judging people from their physical appearances in helping us to decide on a maid. i found it amusing at first, but her judgment tend to be accurate. after you've chosen the the profile, the agent will start on the legal documents. some agencies do all hassle of going to the imigration, some dont. mine dont, but it's okay, because she prepared everything and i just went to the imigration, and they approved my application in a jiffy. to those of you who have to do the paperwork on your own, you'll get a few sets of forms frm your agents. you have to prepare copies of IC, borang EC, 3 months of your payslip, and if you have children under 18 years old, then make copies of their birth certs, if you're getting the maid for your sick parents, then you'll have to make a copy of your birth cert to prove your relationship to the parents. also, get a medical report from a doctor to prove the parents need assistance in doing their daily activities if your parents are below 70 years old. after preparing the copies, get duty stamps worth RM50 stamped on the application forms. when everything's in order, go to the imigration and bring along with you RM430 for the levy. the officer will approve your application, though i cant promise you that the application can be approved in a short time.

when you get the maid, you're responsible in getting her a medical check up. this is done through fomema and they will give you a list of panel clinics. you also have to pay RM190 for this.

before i forget. make sure you get an insurance to cover the maid frm the agency. if, let's say, the maid meets an untimely demise, you'll have to bear the cost of RM8k to transfer her body back to the country. if you apply for the insurance, however, you dont have to pay much, just a couple of hundreds.

so, what do you do when you get your maid? you've to train the maid according to your taste. what i mean is, how do you want your house to be run - how many times does she have to mop the floor in a week, what time is she supposed to set the table and so on. this is the biggest headache, because it's not easy to train a maid. if you get a garang maid, you'll be in trouble if you're soft because she'll bully you. if you get a slow maid, you feel like screaming your head off. you have to use your discretion, dont be too strict. dont be too friendly or else they'll be on your head. be firm but reasonable.

so that's just a few tips that i can offer you, based on my experience. bonne chance!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Judge Dread (not Dredd)

it's that time of the year again - when migraine attacks and gastric pains occur. when you rack your brain, thinking of things linguistically. when you ask yourself - to give or not to give?

yup. judging students' exam scripts. it's not an easy feat to read and to award marks to students. it is, after all, about deciding one's fate. of course, the fact that we dont know the candidates make it easier for us to evaluate the scripts fairly. though the hardest part is trying to decipher what the candidates are trying to convey in their essays. it's like driving a car. sometimes you get to drive a BMW - a smooth ride; sometimes you get to drive cabuk cars so it's a bumpy ride. there are candidates who wrote impressive pieces, so impressive that i thought that this cant be written by a 17 year old...what a diction! such precision, such sophistication!

i'm not going to talk much about this, since i'm bound by the Confidentiality Act. may God give me a clear mind to mark for the rest of the month until 2nd Jan.