Thursday, July 26, 2007

Social Development: Importance of "Blowing Water".

It was my first EC P-3 Curriculum Planning lecture cum tute this morning, and I was late! You could say that my lecturer, D. was not too pleased about it with everything that has happened. :-P

I will state that the rest of this entry will be about the maintanence & continuation of relationships, and its important regardless whether with both children, or adults. I had already made a prior appointment with D. after class, and she gave me some feedback which I found difficult to understand. Apart from that, we were going to have a group assessment task which was causing me undue stress from the anticipation of having to work in a group context, as I am the only Asian in class!

Out of desperation, I contacted a mate from Hong Kong, John who has been in Australia for almost 3 years now. We later went for lunch with his "Aussie mom", Mary.

An Aussie Mom is basically an Australian family or couples who volunteer to take on international students and act like their "substitute parents" for the duration of the time the international student is studying at that particular univeresity.

It was interesting to meet Mary, who spoke with an Australian accent, but had almost indistinguishable "asian features". To which I found out that she IS a child of mixed parentage. Ah, that explained it.

Anyways, some of the rare pearls of gem that John, "the man of few words" surprisingly dropped onto my platter among which included are:
  • to learn to "blow water" as the Chinese call it. The english translation for this phrase is "compliment" or "persuade" which I am atrocious at. I must admit that I can be utmost willfully blunt at times (if I am on the opposite end of partiality of a motion which is not my cup of tea.)
  • to learn to compliment and praise people where attention is due.
  • cultivate a relationship with the person in charge. This is regardless of the context. I guess having close contact with the person of position helps a lot when you need support with the implementation of ideas or to have a head-start with a project. :-)
  • John explained that every "head" or the person in position has their own style of looking at things. He said it was good practice to ask this key person for their feedback. This has some play with matters of people relationships. Of course, if the key person had initially given the green light to initiate a project, it would show them in a bad light if they refracted it later, right? This is not only relevant at university, but at home with parents or at work depending on the context.
It is difficult for me to "change" my ways, as I can have the will of a bull, and my temper is just as fiery although I have not red hair. I'd say that learning to "give-and-take" is important in learning how to maintain relationships. It is essential not only as an educator, but modelling to your own children as a way of maintaining peace & harmony at home, especially if there are a few siblings and they start arguing and fighting! Young people or inexperienced people who have such mentors, are able to demonstrate it as "deferred imitation" (ability to recall and act it out) and internalise it as part of their own behaviours.

Having individuals who are well versed in the arts of diplomacy is an asset to every organisation as they help to create calm in the midst of a storm and saves companies losses to threat of a situation which is tense. :-)

Australia: Primary Connections Syllabus

Wednesday was my first lecture cum tutorial for semester 2. The course content was Science and Technology Education.

The text used for this semester is Primary Connections, as well as the current Science and Technolgy syllabus published by Queensland Education. Primary Connections is an "innovative and exciting new initiative linking the teaching of science with the teaching of literacy in Australian primary schools".

It seems that Australia is currently trialling the Primary Connections syllabus, which links the key learning areas (or subjects) of science and literacy which will supercede the current Queensland Science syllabus, as well as the rest of the science syllabus used in the other states of Australia.

According to hearsay at the lecture, the govt has spent about 3 million dollars and is serious about its implementation, as the finances used to publish and republish syllabuses all over the different states costs the govt more than needed.

It seems ironic that New York city with approximately the same number of population as Australia is using ONE education syllabus, whereas the entire nation of Australia with about the same number of population has over 4-5 different education syllabus published for each state. This is a total waste of the taxpayer's money which could have been put to more productive use.

Related links:
Primary Connections

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Experiences of a Canadian Teacher in Thailand.

There can be days where I totally "go into my own cave" and isolate myself away from the madding crowd, but today is not one of those days!

In fact, I am feeling on top of the world right now. At the Christian social mixer at uni tonight, I was introduced to yet another student from Malaysia who commenced studies in BECH without going through my former college. She's 32 years old, starting from Year 1, and this is her first degree! (and all this while I thought that I was old!)

Wait, actually two as of this moment of writing! One is a mature lady whose name is Maria, and is from my previous college. *laughs*. She's a mother of two grown up children (wow!). As she is Malaysian, it would be most interesting to know how she will be able to cope and handle the Australian context.

I had the most interesting conversation with Tom, a Canadian gentleman who is undertaking his first semester in Masters in Education, and has previously worked in Thailand for about 8 years. He told me how he handled his Grade 2 class in this international American school, where he
  • wrote personally to both the parent and the child before the start of the year. Both child & parents had to sign a "contract" stating that they agree & understand the ground rules presented in the classroom. This contract will be referred to throughout for the rest of the year.
  • asked the child to be present together at the parent-teacher conferences. Therefore, there would be no secrecy between the parent, child & teacher.
  • expected the teacher-student to co-own the class.
  • used a blog to interface and connect with his class children, parents and distribute home assignments. The teacher would read the letters written by parents to the child in class.
Of course, the other teachers in the school felt *threatened* by his actions, as he presented himself to be somewhat different from the others. I would say that I did have my fair share of such strategies which I implemented with my 4 yr kindergarten class a few years back. It would be most fair to say that I think that the parents really did appreciate the effort that I took to keep in contact to communicate with them, as well as creating an online photo gallery (which no other teacher in the school did).

Although this was only my exposure to an American international school where I had worked as an assistant for a short period of time before leaving (gasps!), but it gave me some understanding of how American schools were managed nonetheless. I am not sure how the other teachers in the school felt, but that was not of my concern, as I was the one who was enthusiastic to do my own part as a collaborator of parent-teacher relationships, and to make it a good one.

One of the questions that was on the tip of my tongue that I wanted to ask him was how different is Canada from Australia (or at least in the part of Queensland where I am at).
His answer was:
  • Canada is a Commonwealth country.
  • Has a Queen (Queen Elizabeth 2, who else?)
  • Has almost similar issues with the indigenous groups.
  • Has almost similar issues with the implementation of a National Curriculum.
  • Has similar issues with political-correctness of child handling & management in schools.
Summary: Canadians will have less trouble adapting to the Australian context as compared to Asians anyways. Which is what I wanted to know as it confirms my understanding of the western culture and values.

National Aboriginal & Islander Day Observance Commitee: 50th Anniversary

The flag above represents the indigenous people of Australia. Today my uni celebrated the 50th Anniversary of NAIDOC at the quadrangle. For this occasion, there was:
  • free balloons
  • free bush tucker tastings of emu, kangaroo and crocodile meat (although I only tried emu meat. *yummy*)
  • sausage sizzle.
  • some band playing. Not sure who.
NAIDOC stands for National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee. The aim of NAIDOC is to promote the rich Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage to all people on a regional, national, and even International level. It is also a celebration of the uniqueness of Indigenous traditions and cultures and recognition of the on-going struggle for justice and equality for Indigenous people.

I gave my balloon away to my lecturer, Karen. I thought she might like one as she looked stressed out after a long day's work. Ha ha. I would loved to have taken pictures, but it was a pity I didn't bring my camera. It was really a grand affair.

There are indigeneous children in the primary school classes that I meet when I go out on professional experiences which you may not realise at first, or you may have trouble differentiating those from PNG. Each nation has their own type of indigenous people issues and culture. Like Malaysia (with our bumiputras), Canada, America (the Red Indians), New Zealand and maybe many more others that I do not know about.

What among the creations I like of the indigenous culture are their their mural paintings as it can be quite eye catching and striking, and I have bought some of their created artefacts in Melbourne last year. There is also a display of all things indigenous in the museum in SouthBank, Brisbane. However, picture photography is not allowed due to cultural reasons.

Related links: NAIDOC

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A cheap laptop for each child: $100 only.

Nicholas Negroponte, chairman and founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Labs founded OLPC: One Laptop Per Child.

It's vision: to provide children around the world with new opportunities to explore, experiment and express themselves.

Its mission to:
tap into the children's innate capacities to learn, share, and create on their own. Our answer to that challenge is the XO laptop, a children's machine designed for “learning learning.”
Source: Laptop. Org

Of date, as many as 11 organisations have signed up to participate in this worldwide international project. Among which are AMD, Google and Red-Hat to provide the green XO Laptop. Intel has just recently joined the group amidst previous allegations that it was producing their own cheaper version of the laptop, the Classmate and undersell it below cost in an attempt to undermine the entire OLPC operations.

Among the features of the the XO Laptop includes:
  • Processor: AMD 433 MHz
  • Memory: 256MB SDRAM
  • Storage: 1GB Flash
  • using a free bespoke Linux open source software which allows users to access and alter the code designed by Red Hat.
  • low power dual-mode display between colour and B&W screens to reduce power consumption.
  • dual wi-fi antennas.
  • sealed green rubber keyboard.
  • 640x480 video camera.
  • 3 USB ports.
  • SD Memory Card slots
I reckon that I would get this laptop if not but just for the experience of having a cheap, functional & hardy laptop with all the basic necessities that I could wreck havoc on without worrying about spoiling it. It's definitely something you would give your child to use without worrying about them accidentally formatting or deleting your important data in the computer!

Related links:
Laptop: Laptop.Org

BBC: Factfile XO Laptop

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The development of critical thinking in our children.

Now you might not think that the case of Nat Tan is very important. You may or may not have heard of him. However it is important for me because of my current education training in Australia.

Nat Tan is currently a blogger in Malaysia who was arrested by authorities recently. The reasons for his arrest is still opaque as current. OPAQUE it states! Yet you may ask how is his case related to this blog of mine? In fact it does very much.

I really do believe that I am fortunate to have had the experience of coming abroad to Australia to be able to further my studies. Not many people are as lucky as I am to be able to come here, as the finances needed to sponsor a child to further their studies have cost my parents many a pretty penny.

After having been abroad here in Australia, and the experiences that I have been through in the past 1.5 years have opened my eyes to what Australia truly offers, and what Malaysia has been. Now I am not condemning my homeland, because it is what it is. However, I have found the attitudes of those of the institution that I am currently pursuing my education at to be severely lacking in terms of international perpective as well as open-mindedness. Which is not what the case should be.

Related to this entry is understanding of what basic human rights and benefits such as those found in Australia, which I have come to appreciate.
  • the freedom to question the policies made by the government
  • to argue and criticise their political leader's decisions
  • the availability of university and tertiary places for aspiring students based on meritocracy, and not on ethnicity and political connections.
  • the establishment of businesses without the need of having to have an indigeneous partner
  • minimum wages
  • the fact that workers are paid by the hour and have to be paid by the hour.
  • Freedom of religion. The freedom for one to convert in and out of one religion versus to those of the muslims in my country where you are born a muslim and die a muslim. Converting out means rehabilization for months (and months) by the Muslim law of courts and social ostracisation. You could lose your baby and your family.
To the Australians, how many of the citizens actually take this for granted? These human rights practically is of non-existence in the country where I come from. It is ironic that I have come here to learn about the education system in Australia only to find that yet the understanding of these socio-political and cultural issues on an international level is so severely lacking especially among the many tertiary staff that I have across recently.

I am expected to learn to teach children how to think critically, yet these same lecturers do not seem to display the same "skills" as how they should treat us to be. At the same time, although I do believe that whatever I am learning here is good, it will not be able to be put into practice successfully in a context like Malaysia.

My point is that although Malaysian teachers can be trained to teach the children how to question, argue and think critically, it is difficult when both culturally and socially, there is no support (especially from the higher authorities) but we are being caged in a square box when teachers are trying to teach children be round instead.

When students are not allowed to speak against the administration and management of the universities, or join rallies, how does that help our rakyat to think make decisions nor think critically?

Citizens of this land (and especially those who have lived their lives in many westernized nations) seem to be living in a time-warp and "protective bubble" where they constantly are on strike on existing issues such as Worker's Rights, higher minimum pay, homosexual and gay rights, female rights, in-flux of immigrants are what they consider to be "issues".

People in Australia, as I have come to know, are very particular about human and individual rights. This concept is practically an "alien" concept for many Asian international students who have never been exposed to such liberality before.

I was having a discussion with my cousin who had to "fight" just to enter a local Malaysian uni in Malaysia. The opportunity for a student of other ethnic groups only exists for a student who has performed sterlingly well in order to "quality" to enter a local university. Yet we both believe that these experiences has created him to be a much stronger person that he has come to be now. However, the same experiences has led him to have very much bitter experiences about the way the administration of things has been done by the authorities.

I really do believe that our country Malaysia has much to teach us. To appreciate the freedom and the power given to us once we have tasted it, and to continue fighting for it so that others we could not be complacent in the lives that we lead.

So now the question arises, would you want to raise your children in a place like Malaysia, where basic necessities do not come freely but you will be taxed less and your children learn to be strong along the way, or would you rather have your children be brought up in a first world developed country, and have their basic human rights given, but they take the basic necessities for granted, and are taxed heavily? What do you reckon?

Feedback is appreciated.

Related links:
Blogger's Arrest: Politically Repressive
Nation by Nation: Human Rights
Cultural issues: Japan learns dreaded task of Jury Duty

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Strength of Character: The foreign Student Teacher.

Mood: Annoyed.


It's been a while since I updated. Nonetheless here is a short entry which I feel has to be written. I just returned from a social Christian gathering at uni later, where I was introduced to a new international student who has just enrolled in from an institution I was previously enrolled in. I shall address her as Newbie for the sake of this entry.

Now Newbie was telling me that she would be enrolled for 3 years in Australia (which actually entitles her to apply for PR in Australia), as this qualification enables her to work in the centre as a Childcare Adminstrator. Anyways, to get to the point.

Newbie wanted to ask me questions in relation to the professional experiences here. As one who was trying to be helpful, I needed to know some background information about her before I can give her the tailored information I need to give here.

When I proceeded to tell her that for the first professional experience she would be undertaking requires a lot of hands on "cleaning" and sanitising, I was given the answer hence where she was required to clean prior Montessori equipment and she was used to that. I was guess what I was trying to say is that, in Malaysia, there is the cleaner to do that and they are supposed to clean up but in Australia, the Group Leader or the Assistant has to do those jobs. Change nappies. Do all those roles.


Of course, the next thing I was annoyed with her was that she spoke in her own vernacular dialect with me, which is Mandarin. It's not that I do not think that students should not speak their own vernacular tongue, but the way I see it going, Newbie had better start speaking in English. The first obstacle she will have to go through once she starts her pract is that she has to speak in English to the children. I am not trying to present a very negative picture here, but I am just being very realistic.

Unless a student teacher has a very workable grasp of the English language, it will make things even more difficult if she has trouble listening to the children's accents and usage of slangs. Even for me (whose command of English is considered commendable) had difficulties understanding the slangs that the children used when out on practical experiences. Having a workable command of English helps the adult to "guess" what the child has to say, especially if they are prone to using slangs in the classroom, which I have been made very aware of since I started my practs last year!

I can only imagine a student who has a poor grasp of grammar and the English language trying to complete her Professional Experience 5 in a primary school. The mentor will have very scalding remarks and on top of that, the student has to work doubly hard just to buck up on her English language pronunciation to just prepare the literacy lesson plans (I am not kidding!! I've been through that and it was tough!).

Student teachers are expected to "model" the language spoken in primary schools (in class that is. :-p). Due to that reason, it is important that they do not speak the typical way (like how Malaysians are used to especially when out socially), as they are expected to "model and teach the usage of the English language" to the children.

Of course, finally I would like to say is that you cant assess the children which will be brought up here (which there was a 2 year old Chinese kid in the gathering earlier) in what you will assess them against of what you had used to know in a Malaysian setting. This is as the kid will grow up, and develop an Australian accent, and be assessed against criteria set out by the Australian Education system (with some differentiation maybe in some individual areas in relation to physical or social traits). Heh.


As I have said before, unless you have previously worked in an international educational setting, you will have to prepare yourself to be mentally prepared to experience culture shock. Which I believe she is, although her face shows disbelief to what I had to say. Well, if she doesn't want to believe, only facing it first hand will knock her off her high pedestal.

I know that it is very common for new students to compare the way they have lived in another country, to the "new country" in which they will be spending the next 3 years of their life. Unfortunately in my experience, it is common to do that. Disbelief, I shall state. Oh well. That's life.

On the other hand, one of my mentor friends wanted to introduce me to an American girl who is an exchange student in Education. I was trying to disassuade him, because I thought myself of no use to an American exchange student as frankly speaking, there is less of a difference in say Americans vs Australians, compared to that of Australians vs Malaysian culture.

Americans and Australians adopt an almost similar (but maybe manifesting some differences) in terms of culture. But apart from that, development of independence, individualism and freedom of speech, I feel is almost practised in both nations. However, since I do not know the American girl's temperament, I guess I should not make any judgements yet.

I am just thoroughly very much annoyed with the Newbie Malaysian girl. She will get off her high horse in time.


SilverFox thinks that by my writing of this entry, I am trying to sell out my Malaysian mates, or that I am cynical, which I am. However, what I am trying to point out is that there is a lot of politics and parties involved, ESPECIALLY in the Education Faculty, at least for where we are based now. She just has to toughen up and fight her way through the system. Well, I did at least.

It is the survival of the fittest in the jungle out there that will make it through in the end.

Related links:
-Exploring Culture Shock Moments: Canada program for Immigrant Pre-Service Teachers.
-Cross Cultural & MultiCultural Issues in Advising: Mount Holyoke

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