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Monday, December 30, 2013

Secret pre-Iraq War talks between Blair and Bush to be published Published time: December 30, 2013 13:45

ony Blair and George Bush exchanged voluminous correspondence prior to the start of military operations in Iraq. Now, the UK is moving to declassify details of the talks for an inquiry into Britain’s involvement in the conflict, British media reported.
The release, set for the upcoming year, is expected to include more than 100 documents, described as a collection of notes, records of 200 minutes of ministerial level talks, telephone conversations and private meetings between the British prime minister and American president, The Independent reported.
This will give the green light for the Chilcot Iraq Inquiry to publish an account of the conflict, where much attention will be given to decisions made by then Prime Minister Tony Blair. Indeed, the files could play a major part in determining Blair’s historical legacy, which critics say has been stained by the Iraq War.
Blair has been criticized for failing to challenge then-US President George W. Bush on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, specifically chemical and biological weapons, which a Joint Intelligence Committee report said in September 2002 “could be ready for firing in 45 minutes.”
The former Labour leader said he worked to restrain the Bush administration’s seeming determination for military involvement in Iraq, even as UN weapons inspectors on the ground failed to discover any chemical or biological stockpiles.
A senior government official predicted the results of the inquiry will not do Blair any favors: "In the new year it seems the Chilcot inquiry is going to be published. Everyone will be assuming: bad hair day for Tony Blair and Jack Straw." Straw served as Blair’s secretary of state.
One noteworthy correspondence between Blair and Bush, contained in a note dated July 2002, suggests the then prime minister had pledged Britain’s support to the United States in a military operation to oust former Iraq President Saddam Hussein.
Blair told the inquiry: "In a sense what I was saying to America was: 'Look' – and by the way, I am absolutely sure this is how George Bush took it – 'whatever the political heat, if I think this is the right thing to do I am going to be with you. I am not going to back out because the going gets tough. On the other hand, here are the difficulties and this is why I think the UN route is the right way to go.’"
British soldiers walk past a dead fighter around the parameters of Basra technical college, Iraq 03 April 2003. (AFP Photo / Odd Andersen)
British soldiers walk past a dead fighter around the parameters of Basra technical college, Iraq 03 April 2003. (AFP Photo / Odd Andersen)

Meanwhile, a British government source on Sunday said officials were trying to declassify the records in a way that does not threaten national security.
“The intention is to be as open as possible,” the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was quoted as saying by The Independent. “There is an ongoing process of declassification, which is attempting to strike a careful balance to ensure that you are not setting a legal precedent that could oblige you to publish other documents in the future or damage national security.”
Aside from providing a public account of the government’s actions in the run-up to the Iraq War, publication of the documents will also allow individuals who come in for criticism in the report to explain their actions before hostilities in Iraq began.
A Cabinet Office spokeswoman commented on Sunday: “The Government is currently engaged in discussions with the [Iraq] inquiry which the inquiry recognizes raises difficult issues, including legal and international relations issues.
“As the exchange of letters between government and the inquiry shows, these issues are being worked through in good faith and with a view to reaching a position as rapidly as possible. The inquiry should be allowed to publish its findings and we should not pre-empt the content of the report.”
There has been some speculation, however, as to how effective the Iraq Inquiry can hope to be in determining the British government’s - not to mention Tony Blair’s - position on jumping on board George W. Bush’s Iraq war bandwagon.
UK officials said their “intention is to be as open as possible,” yet the final decision on what will be released will be made by cabinet secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, the same individual who fought against publication of the Blair-Bush correspondence in the first place.
At the same time, another government source told The Independent, “There are likely to be some redactions – but only where absolutely necessary.”
The decision to invade Iraq, which led to a lengthy war that ran from March 2003 until December 15, 2011, attracted large protests around the world, and caused the United States to lose much of the global support it had received in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
In November 2003, Bush paid a visit to London where he pledged, amid large protests, that“democracy would succeed” in Iraq due to America’s military intervention in the country. One decade later, however, the country is experiencing regular episodes of violent acts, mostly in the form of terrorist bombings, a largely unheard of phenomenon before US troops invaded the country in 2003.
In Iraq, an estimated 8,955 people have died, making 2013 the deadliest year since 2008, according to the Iraq Body Count.
In September 2004, Kofi Annan, then UN Secretary General, expressed his views on the invasion, saying,"I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN Charter. From our point of view, from the Charter point of view, it was illegal."
The Chilcot Inquiry, named after its chairman, Sir John Chilcot, who pushed for the release of the classified documents, is expected to be released by the end of 2014.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

What Is Takaful?

The sense of security of one’s life and property is natural to human beings. This sense of security gave rise the idea of insurance. Initially, insurance was a way to protect mutual losses to life, property and trade. It was not itself a business-like activity as it is now. We find the idea of insurance in the Muslim history. When Arabs expanded their trade in Asia they made an agreement with the members of the business expedition to contribute to a mutual fund which was supposed to be used to compensate any possible losses to life or property of the participants. Islamic term used for this kind of concept is Aquila. The traces of insurance can be found in the concept of Aquila. If someone might kill someone, and matter was settled with the payment of ransom money, the whole tribe of the murderer paid the ransom.
There is a Hadith of the Holy prophet, which goes:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet said, “If somebody dies (among the Muslims) leaving some property, the property will go to his heirs; and if he leaves a debt or dependents, we will take care of them.”(Volume 8, Book 80, Number 755)
The modern term used for Islamic insurance is Takaful, which means to compensate each other. This Hadith of the prophet clarifies another aspect of Islamic concept of insurance. So the basic concept of Islamic insurance is in fact in complete compliance with Islamic Shariah.
Click here for more info.
The Government continues to promote takaful as part of its strategy to make Malaysia a global hub for Islamic financial services, including through tax breaks and incentives. There are four joint venture takaful companies, of which foreign investors were permitted to own up to 49%. International takaful operators, both domestic and foreign, may apply for licenses to conduct business in international currencies, either as incorporated entities or as branches. International takaful operators are not subject to foreign equity capitalization requirements. Bank Negara is working with qualified local and foreign insurers to provide “re-takaful” (reinsurance under Islamic principles) services in Malaysia and to make Malaysia their center for re-takaful activities. New re-takaful operators will be given flexibility to conduct business in the country as a subsidiary or branch.
Article Source:
Please click here for more info by Rohani Hashim.
And click here for more details on Takaful Malaysia Home Page.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Malaysia tutup kalendar 2013 dengan ranking 154 dunia The Malaysian Insider

Skuad bola sepak negara menutup kalendar 2013 dengan peningkatan dalam kedudukan ranking bola sepak dunia selepas apabila menghuni tangga ke-154.
Ranking terbaru Persekutuan Bola Sepak Dunia (FIFA) semalam menunjukkan skuad negara naik empat anak tangga berbanding kedudukan ke-158 bulan lalu.
Pada Januari, skuad Harimau Malaya menduduki tangga ke-158 disusuli 159 pada Februari, 164 (Mac), 163 (April), 161 (Mei) selain kekal pada kedudukan ke-159 dunia pada Jun dan Julai, Ogos (162), September (161) dan Oktober (160).
Kedudukan terbaru itu menyaksikan Malaysia berkongsi tempat bersama tiga negara lain iaitu Liechtenstein, Puerto Rico dan India.
Dalam kalangan negara Asia Tenggara, Malaysia bagaimanapun turun dua anak tangga ke kedudukan ketujuh di belakang Filipina (127), Myanmar (130), Vietnam (144), Thailand (146), Singapura (150) dan Laos (152).
Di peringkat Asia, Malaysia naik satu anak tangga ke kedudukan ke-30 daripada 46 negara.
Sementara itu, naib juara Piala Konfederasi 2013, Sepanyol terus mengekalkan status selaku pasukan terbaik dunia dengan mengumpul 1,507 mata manakala Jerman dan Argentina masing-masing mengekalkan kedudukan kedua dan ketiga terbaik dunia.
Jerman dan Agentina masing-masing mengumpul 1,318 mata dan 1,251 mata. Kedudukan ranking Fifa itu melibatkan 209 negara. - Bernama, 20 Disember, 2013.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Pendidikan: Kerajaan hanya buat pengumuman kosong, kata Ideas The Malaysian Insider

Badan bebas Institut Hal Ehwal Demokrasi dan Ekonomi (Ideas) membidas kerajaan kerana banyak membuat pengumuman kosong yang tidak menunjukkan hasil dalam meningkatan kualiti pendidikan negara.
Malaysia hanya berjaya berada di kedudukan ke-55 daripada 65 negara dalam ranking keputusan Program Penilaian Antarabangsa Pelajar (Pisa) yang diumumkan baru-baru ini.
Ketua Eksekutif Ideas, Wan Saiful Wan Jan (gambar), berkata terlalu banyak pembaharuan ‘berilusi’ yang dicipta menerusi pelbagai pengumuman oleh kerajaan.
"Tetapi kita kena ingat ini hanya pengumuman. Realitinya, tidak ada apa-apa yang berlaku dan kita tidak lihat satu sistem yang memberi faedah besar," katanya dalam satu kenyataan, hari ini.
Baru-baru ini, keputusan skor PISA menunjukkan sistem pendidikan negara berhadapan dengan krisis.
Prestasi pelajar berusia 15 tahun ketinggalan jauh di belakang negara-negara kurang maju seperti Vietnam.
"Ini adalah satu titik penting.
"Akses kepada pendidikan tidak lagi isu utama. Isu sebenar adalah akses kepada pendidikan yang berkualiti," katanya merujuk kepada keputusan terbaru Pisa itu.
Wan Saiful berkata, kebanyakan ibu bapa pelajar tidak menyedari hakikat ini, malah ramai yang mengganggap kualiti pendidikan masih berada pada tahap baik.
"Antara 80-90 peratus ibu bapa berpendapat sekolah berjalan dengan baik dan guru mengetahui subjek mereka dengan baik.
"Mereka percaya kerajaan memberikan pendidikan yang baik. Ia nampak satu penemuan yang positif, tetapi realitinya ia sangat membimbangkan," katanya.
Pisa adalah sebuah program penarafan mutu pendidikan di sekolah yang dikendalikan oleh OECD (Organisation for Economic Corporation and Development) bagi pelajar 15 tahun yang melibatkan negara dari seluruh dunia.
Ia menguji kemampuan dan penguasaan pelajar dalam tiga bidang utama iaitu membaca, matematik dan sains.
Pisa menjadi piawaian antarabangsa yang digunakan untuk menilai keberkesanan dan mutu sistem pendidikan sekolah di dunia.
Purata min skor ialah 494 dan kajian itu menguji 510,000 pelajar tahun lalu merangkumi tiga bahagian peperiksaan – matematik, sains dan keupayaan membaca. Malaysia memperolehi min skor 421.
Pelajar Malaysia dikatakan mendapat pencapaian yang teruk dalam bahagian membaca dengan skor 398 (purata:496), bahagian matematik, Malaysia mendapat 421 (purata:494) dan sains, 420 (purata:501).
Malah, Vietnam berada di tangga ke-17 dalam kajian itu dengan markah 511 manakala Shanghai-China mendapat 613 untuk mendapat tempat pertama dalam ranking itu. - 18 Disember 2013.

Think tank warns of grim outlook for Malaysian education following poor ranking

A think tank has urged Putrajaya to urgently address what it said was a crisis in the Malaysian education system, following the recent findings that Malaysian students scored poorly in an international assessment test.
The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas), referring to the results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), which saw Malaysia ranked 55th among 65 countries, said the test scores revealed that the country was behind less developed countries such as Vietnam.
Ideas chief executive Wan Saiful Wan Jan also cited a recent World Bank report titled High Performing Education, which showed a connection between the country's future economic growth and access to quality education.
"This is an important point, access to education is no longer the main issue.  The real issue is access to quality education," Wan Saiful said, urging the public to pay closer attention to the looming education crisis.
According to Saiful, however, survey findings by Ideas on Malaysian parents' perception of their children's schools, revealed that a vast majority were happy with the system.
"In fact, between 80% to 90% felt the schools were effectively run and teachers know their subjects very well. They trust the government is providing a good education.
"This appears to be a positive finding, but in reality it is extremely worrying," said Wan Saiful, who added the nationwide survey polled parents in the bottom 40%.
He said it showed a wide gap between perception and reality as was revealed when the students were internationally assessed.
"Those in power seem to be very good at shaping how the poor view the quality of education their children receive but the trust among the poor should not be taken advantage of.
"They need true school reform to help the next generation  break away from the poverty cycle," he noted.
Saiful called on the public to demand immediate and real improvements in the quality of education in the country, saying there were too many "illusions of reform" created by the government's announcements.
"We must remember there are only announcements, when the reality is that nothing has happened yet and no real benefit has been realised in the system," he pointed out.
He said to safeguard the future of Malaysian children, the gap between perception and reality must close, noting that currently, the reality "looked rather grim".
Pisa, conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), tested 510,000 students aged 15 last year, covering the subjects of mathematics, science and reading.
Malaysia obtained a mean score of 421, below the average mean score of 494. In reading, Malaysian students fared poorly, scoring 398 (average: 496). In mathematics, they scored 421 (average: 494), while in science, 420 (average: 501). - December 18, 2013.

Idris Jala: Keep politics out of education

KUALA LUMPUR: Pemandu CEO Datuk Seri Idris Jala has asked both sides of the political divide to cooperate on education, which he stressed as the most important tool in achieving the nation’s goals in the long term.
“I’m no politician, but if there is one thing that I hope both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat would lay down their swords for and not politicise, it would be education. They must both come together and agree on what we need to do. You can argue about many things but do not argue about education,” he said during a panel discussion among five ministers yesterday in conjunction with the Economic Transformation Programme’s (ETP) third anniversary.
“In 50 years, if we do not up our game in education, we will be overtaken by other countries running faster than us. The longer-term agenda for poverty eradication is education. I came out of poverty, to be clear. To me, rural development is education. The competitiveness of nations is education.”
Jala added that the aggressive push for improvements in the education system as laid out in the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 would only bear fruit decades from today.
“If anyone were to tell me they can fix the education problem in the country over one or two years, they must be lying. There is no shortcut in education. The real results will come out 20 years from now,” he explained.
He said the government is not being “philosophical” about the education problem but is taking “concrete measures” to fix it.
“We took a very bold approach when we made every single English teacher in Malaysia sit for the Cambridge English placement test. People in other countries would tell us that if you make teachers who have been teaching for more than 20 years sit for a test, you would probably get a strike. But we got all 70,000 English teachers to sit for it.
“The bad news is that 70% of them proved to be not very good. We then took a very drastic approach to get all the teachers who did not make the standard to go for training with the British Council.”
He added that the importance of the education agenda to the government could be seen in that there are two full ministers involved in education.
Meanwhile, when responding to a question on whether the government would remove the work permit requirement for West Malaysians to work in East Malaysia, Jala said that East Malaysians would not want to give it away.
“When Sabah and Sarawak became part of Malaysia, many people there were worried that workers from peninsular Malaysia would take over their jobs. The work permit requirement became one of the conditions. But very rarely are there rejections. It is procedural. But that’s the deal we made with Sabah and Sarawak. If we push them too hard, they would argue that the oil and gas revenues they have been producing have been shared by the whole federation.”
Also present at the panel were International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Wahid Omar, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S Subramaniam, and Communication and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek.
This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on December 17, 2013.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Bekas menteri dakwa isu Syiah dikendali cara pandir, politik cetek The Malaysian Insider

Bekas Menteri Penerangan melahirkan rasa kesal dan tidak puas hati dengan cara isu Syiah dikendalikan di negara ini dan menyifatkan ia hanya permainan politik yang semakin cetek dan pandir sahaja.
Tan Sri Zainuddin Maidin dalam tulisannya di Sinar Harian berkata, setelah gempar seluruh negara bagaikan langit hendak runtuh, maka akhirnya kelak rakyat akan melihat tiada sesiapa pun yang akan bertanggungjawab untuk bertindak dengan berani dan tegas.
"Orang itu serah pada orang ini, orang ini serah pada orang itu," tulis bekas Ketua Pengarang Utusan yang lebih dikenali sebagai Zam itu.
Maka, katanya, kredibiliti kerajaan Barisan Nasional dan Umno semakin terhakis.
"Berapa lamakah kita harus berada dalam permainan politik seumpama ini," katanya.
Kementerian Dalam Negeri (KDN) yang mempunyai 10 bukti mengaitkan Timbalan Presiden PAS, Mohamad Sabu (gambar) sebagai  Syiah menyerahkannya kepada Jabatan Kemajuan Islam (Jakim) untuk tindakan selanjutnya.
Jakim pula melepaskan tangan kepada Majlis Majlis Agama Islam Negeri dan mereka  ini pula akan bercanggah antara satu sama lain dalam soal mengambil tindakan.
Ketua Pembangkang, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim mencabar KDN, jika mempunyai bukti yang kukuh, bertindak dan hadapkan Mohamad ke mahkamah supaya dia dapat membela diri.
Sebelum itu, Menteri Dalam Negeri, Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi mendedahkan orang nombor dua PAS adalah Syiah dalam ucapan penggulungannya di Perhimpunan Agung Umno 2013.
Semalam, Mohamad mengumumkan akan mengambil tindakan undang-undang ke atas Zahid.
Zam berkata, tindakan menendang ke sana sini untuk diambil tindakan menyebabkan rakyat akan tinggal dalam keraguan.
"Lebih bahaya lagi, mereka juga akan semakin ragu  sama ada ajaran Syiah bertentangan dengan Islam atau tidak," katanya.
Beliau berkata, di akhirnya rakyat akan melihat dan yakin bahawa ini hanyalah suatu permainan politik agama dan imej Mohamad atau lebih dikenali sebagai Mat Sabu akan lebih hebat walaupun merapu dan akan lebih banyak lahir orang yang mengamalkan ajaran seperti Ajaran Harun. – 18 Disember, 2013.

Friday, December 13, 2013

PAGE: World Bank report wrong, PPSMI did not cause education slide The Malay Mail Online

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 13 — An English-language lobby group has shot down a World Bank report that attributed the decline of Malaysian students’ science and mathematics scores to the switch in the language of instruction from Bahasa Malaysia to English.
Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim, chairman of the Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE), pointed out that the 14-year-old students, who were tested in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), were still studying the subjects in the national language when their scores were found to have dropped sharply in 2007.
“The PPSMI only started in 2003. So, in 2007, they were only in Standard Five,” Noor Azimah told The Malay Mail Online when contacted yesterday, referring to the Policy of Teaching Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI).
She said that Malaysia’s decline in TIMSS in 2007 and further in 2011, which was noted by the World Bank’s “Malaysia Economic Monitor: High Performing Education” report, was likely caused by the poor quality of school teachers and insufficient teaching hours instead.
Noor Azimah said according to the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025, a 2011 research study on 41 schools showed that half of the lessons taught were unsatisfactory, while 38 per cent were dubbed satisfactory, and only 12 per cent were found to be of high standards.
The blueprint also revealed that based on the Education Ministry’s education management information system database, school teachers spent only between 2.4 and 2.9 hours a day teaching in the classroom, which was 40 per cent lower than countries within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average, she said.
Parent Action Group for Education chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim. “Just based on these two points, it’s evidence enough that it has nothing to do with language, but with the quality of teachers,” said Noor Azimah.
“The quality of teachers is the most significant school-based determinant of student outcomes,” she added, quoting the blueprint.
She acknowledged that Malaysia’s drop in TIMSS in 2011 could also be due to teachers struggling to adapt to PPSMI.
“This was only the second cohort. For those teachers teaching these kids, it was a learning process. You can’t expect teachers to be excelling immediately,” she said.
She noted, however, that the questions in TIMSS were bilingual.
Noor Azimah also pointed out that according to the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey - which gave students the option of answering either in English or Bahasa Malaysia - she was informed that schools which answered in English ranked at the same level as schools in developed nations, whereas those which answered in Bahasa Malaysia scored very poorly.
The recently released global education benchmark registered declines in Malaysian students’ reading ability and science scores, albeit with improved mathematics scores, and ranked Malaysia overall 52nd out of 65 countries, far behind Singapore that placed second in the assessment.
“We want the Education Ministry to reveal the school rankings in PISA,” said Noor Azimah, adding that PISA had only publicly revealed the country rankings.
PPSMI was discontinued in 2012, but the Education Ministry has made it mandatory for students sitting for the Form Five SPM  examination to pass the English-language subject beginning 2016.

Lack of benchmarking, bad decisions bringing education standard down, says Wee

The failure to benchmark local education with international standards and not allowing schools and other stakeholders to make decisions that affect students are the key reasons the Malaysian education system is on the decline, said experts.
Former deputy education minister Datuk Wee Ka Siong (pic) noted that Malaysia was not up to mark in terms of education, even though Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin insisted it was, simply because, "we have not benchmarked our standards with the international level of education".
"That's why we have students scoring a string of As here but when it comes to international exams, they can't make it," he told The Malaysian Insider today, referring to Malaysia's dismal performance in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa).
The country only managed a poor 55th ranking out of 65 countries in the Pisa, which was done by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Malaysia's performance in the assessment of 15-year-olds using tests for maths, reading and science has been criticised by several opposition leaders who are calling for a major revamp of the education system.
Wee pointed out that Muhyiddin's statement showed that Malaysia was still trying to convince itself that its education standards was "not bad".
"We tell ourselves that it's not that we are not bad, it's just that other countries are really good because they have this and that.
"But this is not a valid excuse. If other countries can improve and we can't, then our standards will drop," he added.
Wee, who was deputy education minister from 2008 till early this year, said that national examinations in the country have been made too easy compared with years ago when it was tougher to pass.
Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) chief executive officer Wan Saiful Wan Jan, however, disagreed, noting that the government was already embarking on programmes to benchmark the education system here with international standards.
"We have been doing that by sitting for the Pisa assessment. The government is interested in improving the system.
"The main trouble with our education system is the desire to maintain centralisation of control," he opined.
For most countries with good education systems, Wan Saiful revealed, important decisions were made by stakeholders.
"These are people who are closer to students.
"But in Malaysia, the same decisions on policies are made by those furthest from the students, such as the minister. And it does not help that most educational policies we have are geared for political purposes," he said.
The average mean score in the Pisa test is 494 and the survey tested 510,000 students aged 15 last year, covering three examination sections, mathematics, science and reading ability. Malaysia obtained a mean score of 421.
Even Vietnam ranked 17th in the survey with 511 points while Shanghai-China scored 613 to take first place in the rankings.
Meanwhile, there has been no let-up from DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang, who continued to question Muhyiddin's silence over the Pisa rankings.
The Gelang Patah MP has been on a warpath with the Education Minister since the results of the assessment was announced recently.
"Malaysia’s declining educational standards is presently a taboo subject for the Deputy Prime Minister-cum-Education Minister who does not want to talk or be asked about it, especially after two events in December which highlighted the sad reality that the education system in Malaysia is facing a real crisis of confidence," Lim said in a statement today.
He was referring to the Pisa tests and the World Bank's report that: “Among East Asian countries that participated in the 2012 Pisa, Malaysian students only outperform their Indonesian peers, and lag even lower-income countries (including by a wide margin, Vietnam).”
Lim also criticised the ministry's answer to resolve the issue by forming yet another committee to improve Malaysia's ranking.
In response to the Pisa survey, the education ministry was reported as saying that the special committee would be led by the curriculum development section and would also comprise professional sections from the ministry.
The task of the committee is to identify and monitor initiatives to improve students' performance in international assessments such as Pisa.
In a statement, it said although the recent Pisa results were not encouraging, the authorities were confident that the Malaysian Education Development Plan 2013-2025 would help Malaysia to achieve a better ranking in the next Pisa instalment.
"Clearly, the person responsible for the ministry's statement does not know what is in the National Education Blueprint, for it is not about “getting a better position in Pisa 2015” but breaking out of the bottom-third Pisa bracket and achieving the international Pisa average in the 2015 Pisa and 2018 Pisa, and breaking into a top-third Pisa bracket in the 2021 Pisa ," Lim said.
"In other words, can Malaysia become a 'wonder nation' to achieve what no other country had ever achieved in three Pisa evaluations – a double quantum jump from bottom-third to top-third Pisa brackets?"- December 12, 2013.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

7 Bad Beauty Habits That Make You Look Older

Age is just a number. Irrespective of how clich├ęd that statement sounds, the fact is that aging depends less on your actual age and more on the environmental factors. Your lifestyle, food habits, and emotional and mental wellbeing actually determine how fast you age.
Many a times we come across a person who looks quite younger than his/her actual age. Similarly, there is no dearth of people who are, let’s say, between 28-30 years, but look way older than their real age! Unhealthy beauty habits affect the youth quotient of your skin massively. Read on to find out which bad beauty habits make you look older than you really are:

1. You’re Careless About Cleansing

Time and again, it has been emphasized that in order to maintain a young and flawless skin, proper cleansing, toning, and moisturizing is essential for you. Failing to adhere to this routine leads to clogged pores, which obstructs breathing of the skin. Naturally, lack of oxygen will lead to the formation of wrinkles and blemishes on your skin, not to mention severe acne break out and blackheads! Toning helps in shutting skin pores after cleansing, which firms up the skin. Moisturizing keeps the skin soft and supple. Hence, ensure that you follow this routine religiously every day.

2. You Over Exfoliate

Alright, scrubbing your skin for revitalizing is beneficial and it’s great that you are aware of it. However, at times exfoliating the skin more than two or three times a week could sabotage your new and young skin cells. As a result, you would be troubled by skin darkening and experience rough and lifeless skin. Limit your scrubbing to twice a week and use mostly natural homemade scrubs like lemon and sugar scrub, dried orange peel scrub, walnut and rose water scrub, and so on.
If you do not have the time to prepare scrubs at home, choose a good quality scrub from a trusted brand. Also, never forget to deep moisturize your skin after scrubbing.

3. You’re A Sunbathing Addict

So, you simply adore bathing in the sun and attaining that sensuous, sun kissed look! Sunlight is a great source of Vitamin D for your body that will keep your bones healthy. However, at times people tend to overdo it, seldom realizing that excess of sun exposure could not only lead to sun tan, but sun burn, which is an inflammatory reaction. The ultra violet rays of the sun stimulate the pigment called melanin in our skin cells, which leads to skin darkening. The skin cells damaged by the UV rays, not only augments aging but can also lead to skin cancer.

4. You’re Too Tired To Remove Makeup At Night

You’re back from work after meeting the tight deadlines of office, dealing with your boss’s mood swings, sitting in traffic. In a nutshell, you are dog tired and just want to drop dead into your bed and sleep in! It’s quite natural.
However, sleeping with makeup on your face can prove to be hazardous for the skin. A moment of laziness can sabotage your skin cells and agitate aging as sleeping with clogged pores hinders the oxygen supply of the skin. Use olive or coconut oil, or a high quality makeup remover in order to clean face at night and then sleep.

5. You’ve Befriended The Yo-Yo Diet

These days, people are getting more and more conscious about their body image. Do you envy the slim, sultry girl in your office and the stylish clothes she wears every day? Not accepting yourself and constantly trying to fit into the common mold leads to desperation. Usually, people succumb to crash diets, commonly called the yo-yo diets, which do not include carbohydrates and healthy fats.
While fruits and salads are great for your health individually, they would never get absorbed in your body without being combined with proper carbohydrates and healthy fats. They drain out all nutrients from the body and make you look old and weak.

6. You Sleep With Uncombed Hair

Not combing your hair at night and with wet, uncombed, and tangled hair is very harmful for your hair health. The roots grow weak and it eventually leads to hair fall. Even worse if you go to bed with tied hair that you did up in the morning. Proper blood circulation is necessary for healthy hair. Hair loss will make you look old and unattractive, so caress your hair with love for a young and gorgeous look.

7. You’re A Nail Biter

Your nails, the skin around your nails, and cuticles tend to become unhealthy and hard due to lack of proper nutrition and moisturization. Many a times, we do not even realize that have developed the awful habit of biting nails and cuticles. It leads to even more dryness and would make your nails and hands look shabby and will add more age to your hands. Apply a good cream for hands and nails, or you can out some fresh milk cream on the area in order to avoid this problem.

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Friday, December 6, 2013

‘Apex’ university bleeding talent over slow promotions, MP claims

 Malaysia’s “apex” university is losing academic staff in several key courses owing to unhappiness over allegedly slow career progression, DAP MP Dr Ko Chung Sen has claimed.
Frustrated by the purportedly dim prospects in their academic careers, some of the unnamed university’s “hardworking and well-qualified” staff that taught “critical courses” - medicine, dentistry and pharmacy - are opting to join other universities and even the private sector, Ko claimed.
Although Ko did not name the university, he said the institution was awarded “Apex University” status in 2008 when it achieved the 307th spot in the Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings, but noted that it has since fallen to the 355th place this year despite “hundreds of millions” of extra funding.
“It was disheartening to hear from a concerned academic that many highly qualified academicians are leaving the critical courses in an Apex University because of the slow process in the promotional exercise,” the Kampar MP said in a statement today without naming the “concerned academic”.
In his statement, Ko alleged that this university had not promoted any staff for the past three years until May this year, with a long queue of academic staff now waiting for assessment and promotion.
“Even then, now there is a huge backlog of qualified applicants to be promoted but they have no external evaluator to assess the candidates,” he said.
Ko further claimed that these critical courses were at risk of non-recognition by the relevant professional bodies, owing to the allegedly failure to meet the lecturer-to-student ratio requirements.
“This had become so critical that the ratio of lecturers to students is now in danger of not fulfilling the requirements for accreditation,” the heart surgeon said when speaking of the alleged “exodus” of the academic staff from the university.
He later added that many universities, government departments and major private firms conduct assessment exercises to promote their staff annually.
In his press statement, Ko enclosed a purported letter from an unnamed individual who signed off as a “Concerned Academic”, which contained largely similar claims against the “apex university”.
“Unfortunately, it appeared that the apex university had problems retaining the best of the talents it has, let alone attracting them,” he claimed, urging the Ministry of Education to review and to speed up the university’s promotion process.
The government had previously granted Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) - one of the country’s leading institutions of higher learning - the status of “apex university”.
In QS’s World University Rankings 2013-2014, USM and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) shared the 355th spot.
In the same global ranking, Universiti Malaya at 167 had the highest ranking among local institutions here, followed by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia at 269.
The other universities in the survey are Universiti Putra Malaysia.(UPM) in the 411-420th region, while the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) and Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) respectively ranked between 501 to 550 and beyond the 701th spot.
In response to The Malay Mail Online’s query, USM’s public relations office’s head Mohamad Abdullah said Ko’s claims were not true, saying that the university promotes its academic staff “annually”.
“To say ‘no promotions at all’ is not true,” he told The Malay Mail Online over the phone, explaining that USM was “selective” and “careful” in deciding on the promotion of its academic staff.
“As an Apex University we want talent. And promotional process is a quality benchmarking process and takes time,” he later added.
Explaining that USM announces promotions annually or bi-annually depending “depending on the number of applications and the process of evaluations”, Mohamad said  the evaluation process for the latest exercise initiated in the middle of this year was still ongoing.
“We have opened a new exercise this year which is a meticulous and detailed process whereby all applications are evaluated. This is a time-consuming process. External evaluation is one of the many steps involved,” he added in an email reply.
He acknowledged that there was some “brain drain” of staff for the medicine and dentistry courses, but noted it happened throughout the world.
“For us, brain drain in medicine is a global phenomenon because of the demand in the sector, when there are better offers, they will go,” he said on the phone, maintaining that there was not much “brain drain” happening among those who taught pharmacy.
Mohamad said USM gets accreditation for its courses as it maintains “close relationship with professional bodies”.
While saying that “attracting and retaining talent is a challenge for any institution”, Mohamad said that lecturers who leave may do so for various reasons, including the seeking of “new experience in new environment”.
“In the Higher Education scene in Malaysia there is always movement of staff from one Higher Education Institute to another for various reasons. At the moment such movements are manageable,” he said in the email.
He also said it was incorrect to say that USM did not have enough lecturers.