School Management System: A panacea in danger of turning into a heartache?

Back in early 2000s when I was part of the Pilot Malaysian Smart School Team, I was coaxed ( coerced rather) to lead the Smart School Management System (SSMS)team. SSMS was an ambitious system that was supposed to automate the the school management. Unfortunately it was rather ahead of its time and the client-server system was unwieldy. It has only one web based function, the rest was only usable for the school LAN. It was piloted in 88 schools but it failed to take off, mainly due to the inability of the system to win hearts and mind of the teachers to use them. Teachers view the system as a programme that they to have to do and on top of that they still need to do the manual processes. This double work further burden the already burdened teachers. Despite much change management sessions, many teachers still did not play their roles in using the system. Most of the works were done by the ICT coordinators or data teachers. The usability and ease of use factors were not there and that led to dissatisfaction. Without users satisfaction, the system was never adopted by users. Fast forward 14 years, a new cloud based version of the system is being rolled out. We still had problems in ensuring teachers use the system as they play in role in the manual processes. To ensure the system is running when the authority came to check, schools tend to assign certain teachers to complete the various tasks. As part of our effort to slowly run in the system with the schools, we start with the students attendance module. In order to sign in students, schools had to ensure all the basic data were in place. That was the strategy to ensure schools fill up the basic data to prime the system. Unfortunately, many schools still resort to assigning a few teachers to do the job despite in real life students attendance should be done by all the class teachers. So far we only get about 60% of the school using the attendance module regularly. Regular problems like slow connectivity, data loss, data duplication, and instability began to circulate in the social media postings. Some even predicting that this system could go the way of SPPBS – causing so much heartache to teachers, the government decided to scrap the system altogether. I am really worried that come 2015, where the attendance module had to go fully live, we would face the same problem as the SPPBS. We are working really hard to rectify the possible problems. Furthermore we have developed the mobile version of the module to enable teachers to use their mobile devices to enter students attendances. Going by the social media postings, even this lite version is apparently has run into problems. Please God, make this work this time. We have worked so hard for this.

Do we really need ” I want to touch a dog” event to explain Islamic rules and regulations?

The recent uproar over the “I want to touch a dog” event got me thinking. Is the knowledge of our young muslims about Islam today are so shallow that we need to have an event for them to learn? I said young muslims, because from the various images that i saw in the media depicted that most of the attendees were the young ones. I might be wrong there. Another point that perked my interest, why is the event so attractive so much so that about 1,000 people turned up?. And who brought the dogs? Are our youngster so interested in cuddly dogs, many had no inhibition at all in not only touching but cuddling, and even kissing them, probably just like what they saw in the movies. Of course the organiser had also brought along many knowledgeable people to give instruction to the muslims on how to cleanse themselves after touching a dog in a process called “sertu” or “samak”. But how many really come to learn? I had this gut feeling that many turned up to grab the chance to cuddle or pet the dogs.

One posting in the Facebook shown a black and white photo of a row of ulamak in the 40’s (i think) who were just finished their discussions on dogs from Islamic perspective. What is interesting, the photo has a dog on a leash, patiently sitting in the forefront. The impression that I got, the poster was trying to show, even an ulamak has a dog, it is no big deal for Muslims to rear dogs. Of course Muslims can rear dogs but for the right reasons – as guard dogs, hunting dogs,or as sheperd dogs to look after your herds. You’re not suppose to rear them as pets, let alone let them roam into the house. Back home in the sixties, we used to have a dog called Jabut. But of course our house was on stilts, no way Jabut can enter the house. Jabut was a stray dog who came to the house. Mum fed it and we never touch it and kept our distance. It stayed around as our guard dog and I don’t remember what happen to Jabut. It was so skinny and ugly anyway, unlike those cuddly poodle brought to Padang Utama that day.Funny that one of my distant uncle remarked that we might as well rear pigs as both pigs and dogs carry the same level of najis.At least he said one can sell pigs. He made the remark in anger at our Jabut. but Jabut was an innocent dog in a need of a help, so we help it.

Of course, Islam recognise the fact that dogs are Allah’s creation that deserve respect,love and care. The organiser may have a noble intention but they probably did not thoroughly discuss with the religious authority on how to handle the event. He had apologised but then is the event really necessary? Judging by the huge turnout, it probably is. Then again, do the participants came for the right reasons. God knows. I would have thought, it would be more beneficial if we can organise “I to touch a book” or something that would bring tangible benefits to Malaysia.

HOTS without ethics

Pof Dzulkifli Abd Razak today wrote in the NST about the danger of inculcating Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) among our children without incorporating ethics into it. He said, based on current events, HOTS actually is already in abundance in this country, citing examples of the recent ATM scams involving foreigners and Malaysians. You got to have HOTS in order to hatch and carry out such an intricate scams. He also cited how custom officers managed to dodge the authorities with elaborate plans involving various levels to bypass the procedures in tax avoidance by smuggling contrabands from foreign countries especially ciggies and liqours into Malaysia. It took the authorities three years to unravelled the well coordinated plans. Unfortunately many of these application of HOTS were for the wrong purpose.
I have to agree with him, in our haste to be in the top third nation as per TIMSS and PISA assessment by 2025, we must not forget that our National Education Philosophy calls for nurturing of hollistic students capable of contributing to the well being of self and society. With the recent spate of corruptions charges against our customs officers and against the backdrop of the recent speech by HRH Sultan Nazrin that corruption at the higher level are more sophisticated, slick, elusive and involves a lot more value, we definitely need HOTS with ethics and moral. Without strong ethics and iman, HOTS would be just hot air scorching the nation.

Can Strepsils cure Malaysian common cold?

I have read a few of the speeches and articles written by HRH Sultan of Perak, but the one he delivered on the recent 47th anniversary of MACC must be amongst the most powerful, well researched and immaculate piece I have ever read. He must be one of the Malaysian brilliant minds. His speech on corruption entitled simply ” Corruption: Scenario and Challenges”. I must thank NST for translating the speech into English and publishing it in full over the last two days. It was very enlightening. His speech touched on origins of corruption, how it has spread historically and no nations is spared. The effect is more devastating in poor nations. He quoted that RM19.2 trillion was misappropriated in poor nations between 2002 and 2010. Every RM3.2 billion leaks resulted in 3.6 million deaths.
On the home front, he said corruption could be due to two main categories: One those who are desperate. Those who turned to corruption to survive due to their inability to balance their wages with having to pay for their daily needs.He noted that the fact that CEUPACS president requested bank to dispense RM10 notes through ATM indicated that at any given moment a number of ATM cardholders do not even have RM50 in their bank account. Whether the assumption is correct or not is beside the point but this goes to show income disparities breed corruption.The country cannot be in the state of denial over this. A formula must be found, it is not a common cold that could be cured by dispensing Strepsils.
The second category is even more dangerous. It is done by people in high positions, holding importnt posts, have great desires to live lavishly. This category usually involving bigger sums, more sophisticated, slicker, adept at washing their hands and are more powerful. It is a pity he said, many a time corrupters get away smelling like roses while whistleblowers were punished. This give the impression that coruption is alright and acceptable. A dangerous situation. During the regimes of Ferdinand Marcos, he instituted 9 new laws and involving 19 agencies to eradicate coruption but mere laws and acts are toothless without action. Marcos, as history have shown is chased away from the Philipines by angry citizens due to his and cronies largese lifestyles.
Corruption need stern and discriminate actions as well as preventive measures to strengthened integrity. Malaysia must take this action to weed out corruption or else we’ll continue to feature the mindset that corruption is all right.

Two and a half hours to get from Ipoh to Chemor!

Today we decided to go balik kampung for the Aidiladhaa. We tought the crowd would have thinned by today since they would have left yesterday. I was quite wrong. The jam started in Sungai Buloh but fortunately the rest of the journey was quite normal for a festive season. But the usually 15 minutes journey from Ipoh to Chemor was something else. We exited PLUS at Ipoh Selatan around 6pm, three hours after we left KL. I took the old Ipoh Kuala kangsar road since that is the shortest way to Chemor. We did not stop for Asar on the highway as we have of plenty time, and each RR was crowded. i imagined we could fulfill our Asar obligation when we reached kampung. Things started to get chaotic at the Tasik Junction, traffic was heavy and nobody is manning the affair. Many drivers, big and small, rich and poor, male and female took to the road shoulder only to cut in again when there is an obstacle in front. This create a massive jam. On top of that all the traffic lights were acting as if i was a normal day. Can you imagine the number of traffic lights that we have to go through from Tasek to Chemor? On my last count, it was easily more than 10. We were practically crawling. Being a good honest citizen, we follow the rules, stay on the normal path. We were defeated. Those who broke the law with impunity got away with a victory and they are enjoying the fruit of it. As a result, it took us two and a half hours to complete a 10km journey. I was forewarned that there was an accident after the Menora tunnel and most traffic were advised to take the old road. But I did not anticipate it could be this bad, even with the Raya crowd. I did not anticipate the we would be left on our own to manage the traffic situation. Where are the police, local authority, RTD, SPAD or can’t they at least get the the sukaRELA people to help. Left on their own, Malaysians took the streets with the law of the jungle. The fittest survive. I am still wondering how I manage to squeeze our Serena in between that huge SCANIA on the left and the crazy WIRA on the right plus the impatient CRV at the back. Alhamdulillah we reached our destination, but we had to stop in Klebang for our prayer.It was way past Isyak when we reached our kampung. Had I known the condition is so bad, I would have used the Tambun Chemor Ulu Kuang road or Jelapang Chepor Chemor road. Even in this day and age, the social media communication system is more interested in gossips than helping people to overcome this kind of situation. Malaysians are still a long way to become a developed nation as far as road manners are concerned.

Media Prima : A day with the media giant

When I was told, or coerced rather, to attend this so called “Media Training”, I was very skeptical. But then since the big boss insist that all directors or deputies must go, I reluctantly drove to the Balai Berita, in Bangsar this morning. We were greeted with the big guns of the Media Prima Group, except for their chairman Tan Sri Johan Jaafar, the rest of the team were there to greet us. Wow, I said this is something. So when Ally Iskandar took the floor as the compere for the morning session my interest was already perked up. The morning session was packed with briefings and demos about Media Prima’s radio network, the demo session was handled by Ikhwan, Hot FM’s DJ. The morning session had a surprise visit from Amy Search and one Dr JJ from Pengajian Tinggi gamely took the mike and had a rousing karaoke session with him. Surprising he (this Dr JJ) did not disappoint our ministry, this Dr JJ really sung the song Rozana very well indeed with Amy. I forgot the name of the other lady celebrity brought in especially for the photo session, it was Anzalna or something. All i know she drives this gleaming red BMW. She must be famous to own such a car. The morning session is all about how to use radio as a medium to disseminate info. Radios are still alive and well. Surely, i remember the song Radio Gaga by Queen with a lyrics ” Radio, someone still loves you”
In the afternoon, we had a session with Nur Farahin Jamsari on how to dress ourselves before we appear on TV. and by the time Zainal Ariffin of the Jejak Rasul and Misteri Nusantara fame came on stage and talked about sincerity, I was really ashamed of myself. He (zainal) said, if you are not sincere,it will appear as your aura when you came on air. It will show on your face and body language. That really got me all flustered. Azwan Azir talked about making friends with your compere, not to be overawed when you appear in front of the camera. Despite having been the boss of our TV department for three years, the TV cameras still give me the jitters. It is all about being well prerpared. If you know your stuff and came prepared you should be OK. Of course if the studio set are using chromakey, avoid using green, blue or grey. I know that.

Azmi Anshar, being a truly honest journalist, told us a few nasty things about the media. “We have little time and little space to print your story. If your story has no news value it won’t be carried”. “You dont tell us what not to ask, in fact we’ll asked exactly the same thing, maybe from a different perspective”. Ahmad Izham Omar, the music guy who turned to TV and took it by storm, shared with us some secrets on branding. MoE must brand it self into an unforgettable product. It as quite sad that he had to resort to a video from Singapore’s MoE to illustrate a point on a good teacher branding video. It was a body blow that he could not find any fitting video from our EduwebTV. I do not know whether he really looked. I remember a few moving stories from our our archives in EduwebTV. Thats another painful lesson – EduwebTv desperately needs a huge promotion.

I love the session by Datuk Zainul Ariffin. Being a big fan of his weekly article in in the NST, I was really impressed by his take on the new media. MoE or BTP for that matter should have a media trooper team to trawl through all the media comments and see what is trending. Then we can truly plan actions to tackle the real issues being debated by the social media. Finally Dato Kamal Khalid provided some tips on how to handle crises using the media. He cautioned MoE to prepare for some legal actions that might be taken by parents who would disappointed with the UPSR results due to the repeats.
I also had the chance to visit the Balai Berita to see how they are preparing for the publication of the New Sunday Times tomorrow. I got the chance to see some real faces behind the names that I often see in the NST. I must say it was a rewarding experience despite having to work till almost maghrib on Saturday. How often you get to see Pang Chin Fei’s face for almost four hours continuously – she was the compere for the afternoon session.