Book review: How your child learns best by Judy Willis

By Anita Matthews
Published in  ParenThots, The Star, March 8, 2010

By Judy Willis, MD, MEd
Publisher: Sourcebooks

Parents and teachers who struggle to motivate and inspire their children to learn will certainly benefit from Dr Judy Willis’ book that offers “brain-friendly strategies to ignite the learning process”.

Her combined qualifications as a neurologist and school teacher, who had the opportunity to experiment brain-friendly techniques on her own children, further underscores the value of the strategies shared in this book.

Having read brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor’s book My Stroke of Insight that documented her full recovery after suffering a massive stroke, Willis’ book had a ready reviewer at hand. Taylor had written extensively of the plasticity and capacity of a brain to relearn the old or learn new things. Imagine what a parent can do with a regular kid by adopting Willis’ methods.
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Book review: We need to talk by Richard Heyman

By Anita Matthews
Published in ParenThots, The Star, Feb 8, 2010

By Richard Heyman
Publisher: Adams Media

Communications professor Richard Heyman’s book is a refreshing change from the standard staple available on store shelves. Instead of focusing on why parents need to communicate with their offspring, Heyman details the “hows”.

That nailed it for me. As a parent I have often found it difficult to say the right thing to my children and more often than not, I come off sounding as if I am taking sides. Needless to say, most times, the right words come to me only in retrospect. Perhaps I should write down past experiences for future reference. That is exactly what Heyman delivers in the 200-odd pages of this very useful book.

He starts off by sharing his and his wife’s experience of teaching their son the value of responsibility. The latter was 18 and of legal age but was jobless and not interested in college. According to Heyman, his son had always rejected parental authority and they knew they were unable to manage him. The best solution was for him to move out and take charge of his own life.

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Adam Haywood: Making culinary waves

By Julian Matthews
Published in StarMag, The Star, Nov 27, 2005

Adam Haywood

THERE is something fishy going on at the Still Waters restaurant in Hotel Maya. Swimming nonchalantly at the bottom of your appetiser’s bowl is a live Siamese fighting fish.

“Guests love it,” said chef Adam Haywood. “It’s great way to get the meal off to a good start with some animated conversation. We recently held a winemaker’s dinner and some of the guests were so captivated by the concept they’d even forgotten all about the wine.”

He confirms, with a smile, that the fish is not meant to be eaten, that it’s just a garnish of sorts for the restaurant’s amuse-bouche, a bite-sized treat before every meal (the phrase is French for, literally, ‘‘mouth amusement’’).

Haywood was barely a week into his new appointment as the executive chef of Hotel Maya Kuala Lumpur when he came up with the idea with chef de cuisine Michael Koh.

“We try to surprise the guests with the amuse-bouche; sometimes it’s a prawn salad with warm mayonnaise or mixed seafood with mango, or chicken fillet in a crispy basket,” he said.

Adam Haywood
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Kampung Kirkby First To Hear Of Merdeka Date

By Julian Matthews
Published in The Star Merdeka Supplement, August 31, 2005

On a chilly winter’s day on February 7, 1956, about 300 students of Malayan Teachers’ Training College in Kirkby, Liverpool were told to assemble in the hall to receive a Malayan delegation from London.

The students, aged between 17 and 21, had no inkling at that time they were about to become a part of history.

“Every time a dignitary came, it was customary for us to dress up in our traditional finest,” recalls Chiam Tah Wen, a Kirkby student then.

“That day the ladies were in their sarong kebayas, cheongsams, sarees and Punjabi costumes and we were smartly dressed in our college blazers or baju melayu and songkok. The hall was decorated with various state and Federation of Malaya flags,” said Chiam.

PRECIOUS MEMORIES: The significance of the Kirkby announcement in February 1956 only struck Chiam much later at a rally on Aug 31, 1957 in Kuala Lumpur.

According to The Panduan, the college magazine at the time, the students and staff had “taken great pains” to decorate the compound. “Palm trees and potted flower plants lined the entrance. Flags and buntings adorned the hall. And all the students had put on their best multi-coloured national dresses…”

Moments later, beflagged black Humber Super Snipe limousines drew up at the hall. Alighting from them were the then Chief Minister of Malaya Tunku Abdul Rahman and the then Education Minister Dato’ Abdul Razak.

Tunku had taken the 340-km journey up from London fresh from meetings with the British government.

“When Tunku’s turn came on stage, he said the talks had went well,” said Chiam. “He then made the announcement that we would be getting our independence and the date was August 31st, 1957.

“There was a roar in the hall and we all clapped and cheered. Tunku then cried ‘Merdeka!’ and we all stood up and shouted very loudly in return ‘Merdeka!’ at least three times. Even the ‘orang puteh‘ lecturers stood up and cheered along. It was a very exciting moment,” he said.

It was perhaps the first time the cries of Merdeka! had ever been heard on British soil.

Zainal: ‘I think we were too young to know the implications of that day’

“I think we were too young to know the implications of that day,” said Zainal Arshad, 70, who was in Kirkby from 1954-56 and remembers the hall erupting and the euphoria of the moment when the announcement was made.

“We didn’t understand what independence meant. I was only 20-years-old back then. We only knew it was a happy occasion and we had reason to be proud,” said Zainal.

Chiam said it was only after he graduated, returned to Malaya, and later took part in the rally on Aug 31st, 1957 in Kuala Lumpur, that the significance of the event dawned on him.

“When I heard Tunku repeat the Merdeka cry in front of thousands in Kuala Lumpur, then it struck me emotionally. Especially recalling the incident in Kirkby, over a year and a half earlier. Then I knew what independence meant,” he said.

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Yes, sir, I’m from Kirkby

Published in Star Education, The Star, August 28, 2005

The Malayan Teachers’ Training College in Kirkby, Liverpool, existed for a short 11 years, between 1951-62, but changed the lives of its trainees and the nation forever, reports JULIAN MATTHEWS.

RETIRED headmaster Zainal Abidin Abdul Manaf, 72, leafs through a photograph album. In it are faded black and white photographs, some over 50 years old and no bigger than a matchbook, but neatly captioned by the fastidious Zainal. “That’s my mother and I on the train to KL before I boarded the plane,” said Zainal who, in his neat white shirt, had the brash look of a college freshman.

Andersonians At Kirkby
Kirkbyites from Anderson School, Ipoh at Kirkby. Note the huge, black heating pipes snaking their way through college. –-Photos courtesy of Zainal Abidin Manaf

Zainal was only 20 years old in 1953 when he was selected with five others from Anderson School in Ipoh, to attend a two-year course at the Malayan Teachers’ Training College in Kirkby, Liverpool.Between 1951 and 1962, 150 trainees from thousands of applicants were selected annually to attend Kirkby, a college set up specifically to meet the demand for trained teachers in Malaya back then (see sidebar Close to their hearts).

“At the time, going to Britain was something great,” said Zainal. “My parents were very proud and excited. We were given a RM500 allowance for clothing and we went to Whiteways (the only ready-made winter clothes store in Ipoh back then) and bought enough thick clothes for the two-year stay there,” he said.

Another Kirkbyite Tan Sri G. Vadiveloo said being selected was like “a dream come true.”

“I was elated. It was something special. My thinking then was that only the affluent went to London. How could an ordinary person like me go?”

The former president of the Malaysian Senate and one-time MIC secretary-general is the son of a Malayan Railways chargeman in Sentul.

”My brother and I were breadwinners for the family when the call to Kirkby came. Despite this, they gave me all the encouragement. The prestige of being ‘London-trained’ was there,” he said.

Plane jitters
The teacher trainees came from diverse backgrounds, from across Malaya. For the majority, it was their first time on a plane. “I was only 17 years old,” said Moira Hew, 68, who remembered they took off on a four-propeller British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) plane from Sungei Besi airport.

“It was the first time I’d seen an aeroplane, let alone been in one!” Hew confessed she fainted when she got on board and had to be revived.

“All of us were excited and laughing but on take-off everyone was quiet; some were even praying,” recalled Zainal. The plane to London stopped at “exotic” cities for the occupants like Rangoon, Calcutta, Karachi, Nicosia (Cyprus) and Rome.

“I remember seeing grapes for the first time at a restaurant during a stopover in Rome,” said Datin Ramlah Ahmad. “I also insisted on having Turkish coffee there; I remember how bitter it was,” she laughed. After the four- or five-day journey, the trainees made their way to Kirkby, 340km from London.

Zainal at Kirkby
Everyone celebrated each other’s festivals and there was no racial divide.

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Kirkby: Close to their hearts

By Julian Matthews
Published in Star Education, The Star, Sunday August 28, 2005
(Sidebar to “Yes, sir, I’m from Kirkby”)

Originally called the Kirkby Fields Hostel, the buildings at Kirkby were first established as housing for munitions factory workers during World War 2.

VADIVELOO: We were a close-knit group. There were no racial remarks, cliques, or the polarisation we sometimes see today.

It was set up far enough from the Mersey River to escape the intense bombing suffered by Liverpool and other Merseyside cities.After the war, Britain needed to alleviate a severe shortage of teachers in the country and Kirkby was converted to become one of 55 temporary emergency colleges for that purpose.

In 1951, the last of the courses for British teachers was completed at Kirkby.

Meanwhile, in Malaya, the school population was expanding rapidly and there was also an urgent need for trained teachers, especially in rural schools. When the offer for Kirkby came up, the government of the day grabbed it.

Negotiations were made by the Federation of Malaya and the British Colonial Office to set up a college to train future teachers from Malaya there.

HEW: I am quite proud to say that I am the fierce, horn-rimmed bespectacled teacher Lat often draws.

The rationale back then was that it was better to have a whole college rather than distribute students across many colleges in Britain. Despite some protest on the expense, the plans went ahead.

Unique experiment
The pioneer principal of the college Robert Williams had noted: “By any standard, it was a unique move in the history of education. Never before had any government in the world set up its own college in Britain.”

The Malayan Teachers Training College in Kirkby accepted its first batch of 150 students on January 2, 1952.

They arrived on a cold wintry day after a three-week journey on the steamship SS Chusan.

After that, 150 trainees arrived every September in four-propeller planes. About 1,500 teachers and over 300 teacher-trainers were trained in Kirkby before the college was shut down in 1962.

Sadly, the Kirkby College that became so dear to the teachers who trained there is no more.

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Focus on services, says Acer’s Shih

by Julian Matthews

KUALA LUMPUR: Acer cofounder Datuk Dr Stan Shih advises Malaysia to focus on services in order to get ahead of the curve and compete in a globalised economy.

He said thinning margins in hardware manufacturing and the rise of China as the “factory of the world” has left manufacturing-dependent countries like Malaysia with little choice.

“The services industry is the next wave in economic development. In advanced countries, the services sector comprises two-thirds of their economies. There are higher returns and more opportunities in services.

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Book review: Jeremy Rifkin: Still relevant … perhaps more so


How the Shift from Ownership to Access is Transforming Capitalism
Written by Jeremy Rifkin
Publisher: Penguin (2001)

AUTHOR Jeremy Rifkin’s book titled The Age of Access: How the Shift from Ownership to Access is Transforming Capitalism is a bold warning of how society is hurtling happily to a life of “paid experiences.”

Blame it on the forces of globalisation, pervasive technology and the growing culture of instant gratification. But as Rifkin has it, we are apparently warming up and embracing the trend of paying for everything including stuff that can be got for nothing.

The edition that I read was published two years ago, so why pay any attention to a dated version and for that matter, why read this review?

Simply because it is a noteworthy read and a good follow-up to his previous books that included the 1995 bestseller The End of Work, that was on the mark about how technology in use at the workplace will eventually displace jobs.

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Malaysians abroad: Plotting a food path

By Anita Matthews

Yougeswari Subramanian literally fled her parents when she moved to New Zealand in 1991. Her husband Vijay had joined his sibling in Auckland in November 1987 when Vijay’s business venture fell through. “My five-month-old daughter Santhiya and I moved back to my parents home in Buntong,” said the 42-year-old mother of two.

Moving home brought back embittered childhood memories where Youges, the sixth of seven siblings, was forced to cook and clean in her family home. Having lost an older sister, Youges became the only daughter and indirectly burdened with housework. “Even as a 12-year-old I had learn how to budget the weekly expenses, buy groceries for the week and cook meals daily. I could not understand why my mother made me do all these things and felt that life dealt me a bitter blow at such a young age,” she recalled.
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Malaysians abroad: Helping troubled children

By Anita Matthews

PSYCHOLOGIST Lim Eng Leong remembers his late father’s advice well. “My father always said that in whatever we do, to do it to our best and pursue it to the highest,” recalled the 42-year-old former secondary school teacher.

Coming from a middle class family, the Kuala-Lumpur born Lim could have easily followed his father into the legal world but opted to teach upon receiving his bachelor degree from University Sains Malaysia in 1984. He spent 10 memorable years teaching at secondary schools in rural parts of Selangor that also included a stint at a Petaling Jaya suburb. Yet Lim felt he was not doing enough.

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