Stupidest idea for suicide prevention ever.

The Malaysian police is planning to criminalise suicide by arresting those who attempt suicide. According to their twisted logic, jail is enough of a deterrent and besides, they can be counselled in jail anyway.

STUPIDEST. IDEA. EVER.

Mental health, depression, and suicide are issues that touch me deeply. I have lived with depression and anxiety for about half my life now, and I have attempted suicide before. Thankfully I have found Skincare Rejuvenation’s review and people that were able to reach out to me with compassion and kindness, and now I’m living a full happy life while managing my mental health.

I could hardly get anyone to respect me, or others with mental health issues, in school. We were all brushed off with “oh it’s just in your head” and “don’t do your exams here, you’ll just bring the pass rate down” (for what it’s worth, our school had a 100% pass rate on the SPM, even with at least 2 confirmed mental health cases taking the exam). The emails that I receive nowadays through EducateDeviate show that nothing much has changed. I still get people asking me for help, despairing that their dilemmas over university choices and their families not accepting their dreams are enough to push them over the edge.

Here are some things about depression:

  • Depression can be caused by a number of things: malfunctioning neurons and hormones, stressful situations, genetics – or some other links that are currently being researched. It’s both biological and environmental.
  • There are currently a lot of therapies, both conventional and alternative, that help with depression – medication, psychology, naturopathy, massage, acupuncture, colour therapy, sports, other things. Different things help for different people.
  • People who attempt or commit suicide usually feel like they’ve run out of options, or that they’re crying out for help. When you’re suicidal or depressed it’s extremely hard to think about other people’s reactions because you’re stuck in the brainwave of “no one cares about me anyway, I’m useless”. Jail is not a deterrent.

Here’s what helped me through my many years of ups and downs with depression:

  • Helplines like The Befrienders, who I absolutely recommend. Give them a call or email if you’re depressed and need an ear. sam@befrienders.org.my, 03 7956 8144/5.
  • The company of supportive and caring friends and family, who didn’t hold my depression against me and treated me with patience and compassion.
  • Being involved in fun, fulfilling projects that fitted my interests (a lot of my depression had to do with feeling “trapped” in situations I wasn’t fond of but felt obligated to do).
  • Medication and psychological therapy – it’s great to talk to experts about practical ways to manage the depression.
  • Breathing, meditation, flexible sports like yoga, dance, or circus – it takes your mind off the depression for the moment as you concentrate on your moves.
  • Self-care like massage, good books, a filling meal – this is something we absolutely suck in as a country, and which I’m still working on. Our culture doesn’t encourage taking care of ourselves – and yet it’s absolutely necessary for survival.

I read this article on suicide in South Korea and it saddened and worried me. So many of the factors mentioned in the article – the pressure to succeed, saving face, honour in death – are also evident in Malaysia. Yet our mental health services are almost non-existent, particularly for young people who may not have enough independence to seek out their own psychiatrist or counsellor. School counsellors may not be of much help too, if they follow the line of “suicide is a sin!” – yeah, as if that’ll help anybody.

How else can we create awareness and compassion for mental health in Malaysia? How do we help those trapped in the web of suicide and depression?

Some other pertinent links:

The suicidal need support, not punishment (Letter from T. Maniam, National rep of the International Association for Suicide Prevention)
Suicide a cry for help (letter from The Befrienders)
Hostile reception pushes Bostwanian students to the brink of suicide (hooray racism!)
Suicide rate high among ethnic Indians in Malaysia
Excerpt from “Suicide Prevention” about suicide rates in ethnic Indian communities in Malaysia

What’s After SPM? – OMG AWESOME BOOK PROJECT

This project blows my mind. I was actually going to start a very similar project, but I’m glad some other young people are taking the initiative.

What’s After SPM? is a collection of real-life stories about the myriad of options open to people after SPM. From the typical foundation/pre-U/A-levels/STPM to more unusual choices like opening a restaurant. It just goes to show that you could do whatever you want after the exams (or nothing, if that’s your boat).

From Tara and the rest of the production crew:

For most of us, the end of secondary school education (or the lack of it) marked a turning point in our lives where we moved from studying together under an umbrella education system (SPM) to embarking upon vastly different pathways.

The transition process for the more fortunate among us would no doubt have been aided by the various resources made available to us: school counselors, advice from worried parents and knowledgeable seniors, counsel from helpful relatives, visits to campus open day sessions, mountainous stacks of college brochures, education sections in local newspapers, education resource websites etc.

The same, however, cannot be said of hundreds of thousands of kids all over Malaysia who, unlike us, have no regular access to the internet, are not blessed with well-informed family and friends, and who complete secondary school with little or almost no awareness of the opportunities that abound for them, as well as kids who are simply ignorant of the opportunities that surround them or just do not possess the faith and self-confidence to pursue their passions.

Therefore, we have decided to spearhead this project in hopes of reaching those kids and sending them this message: “Look, kids, now that you have completed secondary school, there are a million opportunities out there for you, a million pathways that you can undertake, a million places to visit, and you should explore those choices as much as you can. You can do anything you set your mind to. All it takes is keyakinan, a little bit of strategi, a little bit of tuah, and lots and lots of semangat dan usaha.”

We are now looking for a plethoric collection of stories of young Malaysians who have pursued different pathways after SPM. The stories will be published in a book to be distributed to as students and secondary schools as possible. And we would like to invite you to participate in this project by submitting your story, or persuading your friends to submit their stories.

It does not matter whether you are a scholar with stellar results and a 3-inch thick resume, a typical student who went to a local university after finishing Form 6, or a youth who has to work in the pasar malam at night to foot your technical college fees in the day. It does not matter whether you have chosen the oft-beaten path or the road less travelled. We believe that there every education background offers its own boons and banes. And we believe that there are merits in telling any story.

For more information on submission guidelines and how to help, check out their blog. Like NOW.

Live Your Passion: The Annexe Arts Career Fair 2009

OMG. I’ve been waiting MY WHOLE LIFE for such a festival or fair – and then the one time I decide to move overseas (possibly for good) it HAPPENS. Boo for me, but YAY for the rest of you, because it means that the Malaysian public’s starting to take alternative careers seriously and that there are people willing to provide resources.

The Live Your Passion fair is for people who are curious about the performing arts – dance, theatre, music, and visual art (even though that’s not exactly performancey) – and want to know more about it from a career and creative perspective. Leave behind the Hollywood stereotypes – here, you hear from the real deal.

Among the speakers are Sean Ghazi (singer, actor, Fame Awards winner), Jit Murad (actor and playwright of contemporary Malaysian English theatre), Yasmin Ahmad (she of the Orked trilogy and all the Petronas ads), and a whole host of creative people. There will also be people from public and private universities, such as Universiti Malaysia (UM) and Sunway College, presenting their arts courses on offer.

Live Your Passion will be held at The Annexe Gallery at Jalan Hang Kasturi, KL from 28th February to 1st March, 11am – 6pm. For more information, follow this Facebook event. And then tell me about it!

Youth Leadership Academy – Taking Applications

Just got this from the YLA team:

The Youth Leadership Academy is dedicated to nurturing and building capabilities of future young leaders. As a participant, you will have the opportunity to improve your leadership skills, and be inspired by Malaysia’s most successful corporate leaders and young professionals.

We are looking for a diverse group of 20-30 of the most talented and driven Malaysian undergraduate students in their first or second year of studies at a university in Malaysia. Candidates must demonstrate strong leadership potential, personal drive, and a passion and energy for making a difference in our community and country. The deadline for the application is 15 March.

For more information about the programme, and how you can sign up, visit our website at http://www.mckinsey.com.my/YLA or e-mail us your questions at YLA_Malaysia@mckinsey.com .

Racist brainwashing by Biro Tatanegara – GRR

Biro Tatanegara (rough translation: Civics Bureau) is a Government-run agency that organises mandatory “citizenship” workshops for students that have received Government scholarships for tertiary education. Under the guise of “education” and “building a multicultural Malaysian culture”, these workshops are hubs of anti-Chinese/Indian/etc racism and anti-Semitism, shaming non-Malays while claiming Malaysia to be a Malay-only nation.

Education in Malaysia has been compiling stories from students and observers of these workshops. Here’s an excerpt of their experiences:

Jew-blaming:

…Malaysiakini reported that first-year students of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) were told at a seminar organised by BTN that foreign elements which want to see chaos in Malaysia were funding certain student groups. The speakers drew a link between these local student groups, ASA and the National Endowment for Democracy, a non-profit organisation which they said was sponsored by American and Jewish elements.

Indians, blogs, and Christians are evil:

He even said, “Kalau ular dengan India depan mata, ketuk India dulu.” (If a snake and an Indian are in front of you, hit the Indian first.) … He said so many atrocious things that I will list them down in point form.

-Explained how the Malays aren’t racist but others are racist towards us.
-Bangsa Malaysia (The Malaysian race) does not exist, neither does Malaysian Chinese and Indians, only in the strict Malay, Chinese and Indians. (Interestingly, behind a booklet provided to us, one of the objectives of the programme is to produce a -“Bangsa Malaysia”. Obviously, he was ignorant).
-Bahasa Malaysia (Malaysian language) does not exist, it is Bahasa Melayu (Malay language).
-Nothing wrong with waving the Keris (A traditional ceremonial Malay dagger which some politicians have waved in anti-non-Malay sentiment).
-Bumiputra (Malays and indigenous people) hanya 55% di Malaysia, give birth more people!
-The University and Colleges Act was partly made to ensure a Malay Vice-Chancellor in Universities which should be the way.
-Blogs are “berdosa” or sinful.
-Christians will not like Muslims.

Even the Malays reacted badly:

The instructors blatantly told them that they should not question the rights and privileges of the Malays as the non-Malays should be thankful that they were given citizenship status and a place to stay on their soil. My daughter together with the other non-Malay students was shocked and went back to their dormitories depressed. And to the Malay students, the instructors told them to be aware of this fact and not to mix too freely with the non-Malays.

A Malay friend of my daughter came back crying to the dormitory saying that she could not take the racist position taken by the government authority. My daughter then began questioning the bumiputra policy and was disgusted with such blatant indoctrination. This incident has also made the students harbour anger and resentment. Their fear for the authorities and losing their scholarships made them keep their cool.

When Education in Malaysia blogger and MP Tony Pua queried Biro Tatanegara about these allegations, this was their reply, as roughly translated into English by me (it’s originally in Malay):

Biro Tatanegara is an agency that runs courses based on citizenship and patriotic spirit within the whole of Malaysian society. Participants of these courses come from various cultures and age groups.

BTN also uses information or statistics that are obtained from other government agencies such as the Economic Planning Unit (EPU), the Statistics Department, the Implementation and Adjustment(?) Unit (ICU), the Ministry of Finance, and other Ministries in presenting facts to the participants, and it is departmental policy to not allow BTN speakers to touch on anything that can disturb the feelings of any race, and if this has happened the Department will drop them from being a BTN speaker.

In relation to your query, BTN realises that it’s on the blogs on the Internet, and based on our investigations, [your] claims (the bit about the snake and the Indian) are false. It is possible that some speakers had explained a few Indian proverbs relating to Indian societal matters that were misunderstood by the listener. Investigations have been undertaken and we have found no recordings that could be used as proof to verify the allegation.

As for your second query, BTN has never received any complaints about the matters that you have mentioned, and as far as we know there has not been any airing of videos like the ones you described (anti-Semitic clips) in our courses as organised by the Department.

According to past scholars that have attended such workshops, all recording devices (including mobile phones) are confiscated upon entry and all materials are carefully counted upon return. Many have said that they are too fearful to speak out as they are threatened with the loss of their scholarship – which, considering that many recipients are from low-income backgrounds and there aren’t many other funding options available, would be a major blow.

This sickens me to the core. I’ve heard plenty of racism in school but was lucky enough to not get a Government scholarship and therefore be indoctrinated into BTN’s faulty logic. Some of those that have been to these workshops have sadly reported on their peers passing on racist messages through social networking sites and being completely influenced by these workshops. If anyone’s threatening national security, it would be these goons!

I would like to see a private scholarship fund started for these students, so that they still have funding options for higher study without being gagged and afraid to speak up. There should be a way to get recordings of these workshops, even if it means James Bond-style spy gear. This menace – which is 100% funded by taxpayer money! – needs to disappear.

(Side note to Mum: I’m sorry for scaring you again. [I participated in a rally against the Clean Feed filter in Brisbane and spoke up about censorship in Malaysia – she saw my words and video and got scared.] I take full responsibility for anything that comes out of this. But unless things are done quickly, more and more young people will be brainwashed and we’ll just have an intolerant nation.)

Malaysian royalty is surprisingly awesome.

This excerpt comes from Wikipedia but references a Bernama article, which doesn’t seem to be working at the moment:

On July 2008, Regent of Perak Raja Nazrin Shah said that getting a string of As is meaningless if students fail to understand, appreciate and practice good values, and describing that excellent results as mere pakaian luaran (external appearance), there would be uneven development of human capital if students failed to inculcate good morals. “This will lead to society and the country to suffer”. He also said that people with good moral values always hold firm to life principles especially in defending truth and justice. Students should be taught not to lie or rely on leaked examination papers just to obtain higher grades. He noted that while positions and posts could give one power, one would be judged by the people. “There are many people who obtained positions and posts but there are not many who die with a good name.”

I wish school administration officers had his common sense!

National Youth Entrepreneur Convention #2 – Tickets Available Now

The 2nd edition of YouthMalaysia’s National Youth Entrepreneur Convention, held in conjunction with YOUTH’09, is taking place at the Putra World Trade Centre, Kuala Lumpur on the 10th of January 2009.

2nd National Youth Entrepreneur Convention 2009

Among this year’s speakers are:

There’s also an opportunity to present your business plan at the convention – sign up and you’ll be in the running for a slot. Registrations are RM80 for individual earlybirds (before 10th Dec) and groups of min 3 people, and RM120 for individuals after 10th Dec.

I won’t be around this time; however, the folks at the NYEC have appointed me as a supporter of the event. As a supporter, I’ve been given a co-branded link that pays EducateDeviate RM10 for each registrant that registers through my link. This would really help cover costs for EducateDeviate’s eventual move (to its own server space & domain), as well as software and design – which costs more than I anticipated! Just so you know.

Register & Support EducateDeviate!

Speaking of design costs: NYEC has asked for a logo to be put on their marketing material. I don’t actually have one. I’m looking around, but does anyone have any logo skills that they’ll like to contribute? Greatly appreciated!

Anyone who goes, please let me know how it went – you can write a guest post here if you wish 🙂

The March Forward: Workshop for final-year tertiary students

The Star’s college youth pull-out R.AGE is organising The March Forward, a workshop-packed day aimed at helping final year students transition into the working world.

The workshops will feature talks by various industry experts on what employers seek in the workforce, developing your resume, branding yourself, and managing interviews. There will also be plenty of opportunities for you to ask questions about careers and job-seeking.

The workshops will be held at Menara Star, 15 Jalan 16/11, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia on the 23rd of November 2008 from 8:30am to 5:30pm. Registration is RM20 and is on a first-come-first-serve basis. Goodies from Clinique and Parkson are provided.

Download their registration form and contact Nelsen at 03-7967 1388 ext. 1456 or Leong at 03-7967 1388 ext. 1432 for more information.

Opportunities: YouthSays Seeks Uncommon Youth, Nescafe KickStart Wants Entrepreneurs, BarCamp Sets Up at JB

1. YouthSays are hunting for more people to join them for future projects, including the YOUTH’09 Festival. They’re looking for a Stats Beast, an Online Community Leader, and a Blogger + Art Director. Get in touch with Joel or Khailee for more information.

2. Nescafe KickStart is up for another season, and this time they’re focused specially on entrepreneurs. Take their entrepreneur evaluation and you’ll be contacted if they find you suitable for the program.

3. Malaysian entrepreneurship advocate Daniel CerVentus Lim of Ideapreneur.net is bringing international unconference camp format BarCamp to Johor Bahru on the 6th and 7th of December 2008. The main idea of unconferences is that participants build the program collaboratively, either online or on the day, rather than the program being set by a committee in advance. For more information and for registration, visit the BarCampJB wiki.

Tony Pua (Malaysian edublogger) arrested, jailed

EDIT: Tony has been released and was able to appear in Parliament today.

Tony Pua, founder of one of the first Malaysian education blogs, Education in Malaysia, as well as a Member of Parliament, has been arrested and jailed following his involvement in an anti-ISA peaceful protest.

It’s not immediately clear whether the arrest was purely due to his involvement in the protest, or whether other factors – such as his blog or his involvement with the Opposition parties – also played a part. After major arrests on bloggers mainly for what they wrote, it’s not entirely surprising if they thought his blog was potentially dangerous.

This does not bode well for anyone. After RPK’s release and the ruling of his arrest as “unlawful”, I figured that it was safe to comment on the Government’s education and youth policies, and was about to analyse some laws related to education and young people. But if Tony Pua – who hasn’t even done anything remotely criminal, and indeed is part of the Government now – could get thrown in jail, what hope does a Lain-Lain (racial “other” or minority) permanent resident have?

Good luck Tony; hopefully justice will prevail and you’ll be free soon.

Malaysian Youth Index – Absolute Rubbish

The Malaysian Youth Index is an analysis of surveys done on 4087 young people in Malaysia aged 15-40 in 2006. The idea was to get a feel for how young people in Malaysia are faring and what they get up to in their spare time.

It’s absolute RUBBISH!

The Index does not tell you anything about what young people are doing, feeling, or thinking – it’s stuck in moralising and patronising tones and is completely filled with bogus assumptions. The only good thing about it is that it reveals that most of the backlash against youth is just a big moral panic – though I’d disagree with their assertion that it’s the media’s fault and say that it’s mainly the Government pushing such anti-youth views in the first place.

Here’s what’s wrong with it specifically:

The Survey in General: Firstly, Malaysia seems to be the only country that defines youth as 15-40 years old. (there’s tons of problems with that act already but that’s worth a separate post.) The United Nations defines it as between 15-24 (with the Rights of the Child declaration going up to 18) and recommends separate analysis of teenagers and young adults. Those above 24 – or even 30 to be more permissive – have very different lifestyles; they are more likely to have worked for a while, started a family, and be more settled, whereas youth are still developing themselves and seeking their life path. This disparity is evidenced by the age range of people in the Youth sections of Malaysian political parties – most of them are closer to 40 than 14. This does not give an accurate representation of youth at all.

Also, the language use in the website is deplorable. I understand that there may have been language barriers, and that the document was most likely originally drafted in Malay. However, for a Government publication, editing and proofreading is crucial. Presentation is important, and the lack of care for the language shows a lack of care for the project overall.

The numbers and terms used in the analysis are very vague – what’s the difference between “good” and “very good”? How do you define those terms? Is a 70 “good” or “neutral”?

There is also no demographic information at all – what are the typical age ranges of the youth surveyed? Are they studying, working, having a family? What race are they? (I personally do not want this question to ever be asked, but it’s such a common thing in Malaysian research that it seems odd not to consider it.) Are they in urban, suburban, rural areas? What are their interests? Basically – who are the youth being surveyed? This would have a major impact on the results, as it could indicate a major skew in demographics.

Self Development: The terms used here are vague and open-ended. What do they mean by “Self-Esteem” and “Self-Efficacy”? Are the interviewees the best source of self-reflection? What does it mean to have “good Emotion”? Why is “Depression” on there – why not consult medical records? (Though it’s unsurprising to see a low number for that and for “no stress”). How do you measure those things anyway? It would be better to ask them in terms of activity or reaction – “if this happened, what would you do?” or “how would you react if…”?

Social Development: Why is the ONLY category here “relationship with parents”? Where are the measurements for relationships with friends, loved ones, other relatives (inc siblings), schoolmates, teachers, colleagues, mentors? What about those whose parents have divorced or separated, or who are orphans? What about those who consider other people as their parental figures? Again, how do you measure a “good relationship” – number of heart-to-heart chats? Good will? Presents bought?

Identity: Again, this just involves very vague terms and does not accurately reflect how youths really identify themselves. How about asking about their choice of clothing, associations, media? (this does get asked but in a later section.) How about their choice of friends or activities? Marketing people are usually good with this sort of thing.

The report claims that volunteerism and political activity is low – well, firstly, it’s not necessarily easy to do such work in Malaysia when it’s illegal for university students to join outside societies or political parties (the proposed amendments apparently make it easier, but there’s still a prohibition against blacklisted by the Home Minister, which could be anything) – if they did so, would they admit it in a Government survey? The demographic information would be very useful here – they may have deliberately targeted a more politically apathetic subsection (I certainly haven’t seen any open calls for youth census info). Also, many young people get involved in things that they won’t necessarily immediately associate with volunteering – such as Interact/Rotary/Kiwanis work, school clubs, or just helping a friend out. Asking specific questions about activities is crucial here.

Health: Why are they asking the youth themselves for this info – isn’t this what medical records are for? Anyway, they’re asking about really major diseases that don’t often happen amongst young people. However, this doesn’t mean that youths are necessarily healthy – it’s not diseases but habits that indicate that. Do they exercise? Do they eat well? What do they eat? How do they take care of themselves (do they)? There was a survey some time back about how artists perceive their health as being good yet reported all sorts of symptoms that could lead to moderate/major illnesses (sore muscles, headaches, low appetite, etc) – could this be happening here too?

Self Potential: Very, very vague. How do you measure entrepreneurship? Leadership? Skills? What skills? What about skills – how much do they know, how much are they willing to learn, how do they learn? This section would have been better off being measured through external evaluations and observation – people can have skewed perceptions of their own abilities.

Media Penetration: The results show what sort of media youths use, but it doesn’t reflect how much information they absorb or what they do with the media. “Computers and Internet” is unnecessarily broad – there are vast uses, from blogging to gaming to creating own works. How about alternative media? Oh wait – that’d get you arrested.

Leisure Time: The survey results imply that youths do nothing with their time. However, there’s obviously more to life than sports, exercise, or clubs! Young people hang out, they work, they meet friends, they travel, they read, they help their familiesm they indulge in their own hobbies, they do all sorts of things. Limiting it to three is not helpful, and will of course show that youth are “lazy” – when indeed they are extremely productive and have contributed heaps to the national economy. (That report, produced by a Canadian agency for the UN, is much more reflective of Malaysian youth issues.)

Deviant Behaviour: Hello moralising! With that tone, who’s going to admit they partake in “deviant behaviour”? What if they don’t find it deviant? (Don’t give me the tripe about “all religions and cultures believe the same things are deviant” – this ignores the vast diversities in Malaysian culture.) Some of these measures shouldn’t come from asking young people – they should come from medical and police records. Besides, what’s “obscene” or “loitering” specifically?

With extremely vague categories and a distinct lack of categories in some sections, lots of moralising, and generally awful methodology, it’s pretty obvious that the Ministry of Youth and Sports have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. They’re planning an International Conference on Youth Research at UKM in December – I can’t decide whether to go or not. On the one hand, I could set them straight and get proper insight; on the other hand, if this is how they do their research, it could all just be a huge mess.

Now Hiring: Press & Partnerships Officer, YOUTH ’09

If you are good with people and connections, and would like to get involved in something for three months, take this opportunity to apply for the role of Press & Partnerships Officer for YOUTH ’09, the second in a series of annual youth festivals organised by YouthMalaysia.

According to Khailee, who is a main player in YouthMalaysia (and various other projects) alongside founder Joel Neoh, this role involves liasing with media partners to handle pre- and post-event publicity and coverage, as well as liasing with program partners that are presenting events at YOUTH ’09. To qualify:

  • You have excellent spoken and written skills in English.
  • You possess outgoing, social, positive, youthful energy.
  • You possess your own transportation
  • You must be available full-time from 15th October till 31st January
  • You are willing to learn, do whatever it takes to MASTER this role
  • Must be not older than 30 years old (this is a youth-for-youths event after all)

Experience in media and public relations is a bonus, but not necessary.

If you’re interested, send your CV to Khailee at khailee@youthmalaysia.com by the 18th of October 2008.

    Interesting changes afoot

    So it seems that there are quite a number of interesting changes to the Malaysian education system, following the Ministry of Education’s blueprint:

    1. A holistic, less exam-oriented primary school curriculum. I like this idea. The early childhood years are highly formative and children should be given the opportunity to explore all facets of life and learning, instead of already being indoctrinated into exams (well, no one should be indoctrinated into anything period). I like the six focus areas – communication, spiritual values, humanitarianism, ICT & science literacy, physical health, and personal development. My only worry is that a certain type of moral value or belief will be pushed through this curriculum (as has happened in the past) – but if this goes well we would definitely have more well-rounded kids who are able to adapt to life’s challenges creatively.

    2. Greater focus on vocational and technical education. Vocational education gets a bad rep in Malaysia – it’s usually seen as the pathway for those who failed. However, there is a lot of value in vocational education, and a lot of skills and knowledge required to survive – mathematics, science, logistics, logic, creativity, and so on. To make this successful, we need to increase awareness and respect for vocational education, and transform it from something undesirable to something worthy of exploration – like the apprenticeships system in Australia.

    3. School-based examinations instead of central examinations. This could be interesting. On the one hand, this gives greater freedom and flexibility for schools to develop their own curriculum and testing methods, and experiment with alternative teaching styles. Alternative schools systems (like Waldorf and Sudbury Valley) will also be able to thrive as they don’t have to “teach to the test”. However, some schools may not be able to adjust, or end up pushing a very non-productive method of testing. The Ministry is considering looking at more semester-based assessment and reducing exams, which to me is a good idea – instead of putting all the pressure on one week’s worth of work, let people work at a more gradual pace and relax a bit.

    4. Allowing schools to administer the International Baccalaureate exams instead of the SPM. Now this is a VERY interesting development. The IB tests, which are internationally recognised, and also of a higher level than SPM (I believe they are closer to STPM), demand a stronger grasp of knowledge but also a greater sense of creativity and critical thought. This is not an exam you can teach to. Schools that administer IB tests need to adjust their teaching styles to allow for fuller, more holistic learning. Hopefully this will become the impetus for schools to stop worrying about grades, and do what they’re there for – education.

    The NST also has a report on a pilot project to test career aptitudes of primary school children. The idea is that they will be tested at Years 5 and 6 to see what career paths suits them. I really DON’T like this plan. The kids are 11 and 12 – they haven’t even completely developed their capabilities yet! How can you push them towards a certain future when they’ve hardly lived their lives? As it is, asking young people to decide their entire lives by 18 is too much – people change and new opportunities come up all the time.

    Kids are overtested already. There’s no need to make them decide their future now. Give them some time to experiment and get to know what they like.

    Young Malaysians – how can we support you?

    Hey EducateDeviate readers – especially from Malaysia – I need your help.

    I’m planning to apply to the Sauve Scholars program, a one-year fellowship based in McGill University in Montreal, Canada, where you are given full support and resources to research, study, and work on a project of your choice.

    I would like to use the year to come up with a project plan for resources that help young people find support for their passions and interests – mainly from a Malaysian perspective, as there’s nothing there (as you probably know) but involving research into how young people are supported in other countries. To do that, I first need to know what Malaysian youths need in terms of support. So:

    Young Malaysians – how can we support you?

    Do you need a space for support and advice?
    Do you need more information about what’s out there in Malaysia and beyond?
    Do you need more money?
    Do you need changes in your school?
    Do you need a mentor or a support group?
    Do you need a club or society?

    Whatever it is you want or need, feel free to comment below or email me. Anything from “I would like a personal counsellor to tell me what options I have” to “I would like a million dollars and stuff for my rock band” works. Anything at all.

    If you’re not a young Malaysian but you still have ideas, feel free to contribute too. The more I know what to look for, the better I can be at making this project plan. And even if the Sauve Scholars thing doesn’t work out, I still have some concrete starting points to do something back home.

    Please also forward this post to your friends and peers – the more ideas the better!

    p.s. If you’ve done an undergrad degree, you’re under 30, and you have strong passions for any field of your choice, feel free to apply to Sauve Scholars too 🙂

    Be at the 2008 Global Youth Forum in Armenia – here’s how

    My sister alerted me to ASTRO’s competition to send a young Malaysian to the 2008 Global Youth Forum:

    We are banking on you, the country’s youth population, to generate fresh and innovative ideas to win a berth at this year’s United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID) Global Youth Forum to be held from 21 – 24 October in Armenia! This competition, The Malaysian Chapter, is open to all Malaysian youths aged 18 – 25 years (individual or two members per team), who would have to select one or incorporate all of the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals in a written document, a 3 – 5 minute video, or an active electronic presentation demonstrating their strategies, plans and solutions in addressing and achieving these goals.

    The Eight UN Millennium Development Goals are:

    1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
    2. Achieve universal primary education
    3. Promote gender equality and empower women
    4. Reduce child mortality
    5. Improve maternal health
    6. Combat HIV / AIDS, malaria and other diseases
    7. Ensure environmental sustainability
    8. Develop a global partnership for development

    If your entry is selected, we will then award you and/or your team a paid trip to participate and showcase your work at the 2008 UN GAID Global Youth Forum in Armenia!

    So hurry, think of how you can save the world today. And together, we could make a difference!

    Let’s make Malaysia proud! Enter THE MALAYSIAN CHAPTER of the UN GAID Global Youth Forum 2008, TODAY!

    Entries* must be submitted together with the Registration Form via post to the following address or email to yd@astro.com.my and all Contest entries must reach Astro on or before 11.59pm on the 25th September 2008 to be eligible for the contest.

    *Maximum file size 10MB

    Astro Youth Dynamics Division
    Astro Entertainment Sdn Bhd
    Ground Floor Wisma Penyayang
    No 6 Jalan Equine
    Taman Equine Bandar Putra Permai
    43300 Seri Kembangan
    Selangor,
    Malaysia

    I’m glad that companies like ASTRO are completely on board in supporting young people. This is a great initiative (don’t get scared off from “Armenia”) and I truly encourage everyone to give this a go.