IT’S BACK to school again. Form One Science teacher Mary Lim gets ready for school – she puts on her best ensemble (the one she bought for Christmas), packs her lunch and organises her bag. Just as she is ready for school, she realises she has forgotten something – her notebook, her computer notebook that is!
Like Lim, tens of thousands of teachers will begin teaching this year with the aid of notebooks, LCDs and other new teaching and educational tools. In fact, 2003 will see many changes in schools, making things more interesting, albeit challenging, for teachers, students and even parents.
One major change of course comes with the implementation of Mathematics and Science in English at Year One, Form One and Lower Six. As with all things new, the school community is both excited and slightly apprehensive about the move.
“It is something which will make our lessons more interesting, not the same old thing we have been doing in previous years. I just hope I can handle the problems that may crop up,” says Lim.
Schools too are gearing up for the change – some have even organised “test runs” with teachers having a go at setting up the equipment and using the CD-ROMs a week or two before school re-opens.
At Chinese primary schools, a special “formula” was worked out whereby pupils study four periods of Mathematics and three of Science in English plus an additional two periods of English each week. Maths and Science will continue to be taught in Chinese for six and three periods respectively each week.
To accommodate the reduced hours for Chinese, some schools have taken pre-emptive measures. Many six-year-olds who are registered with Chinese schools have been attending “tuition classes” in December at their respective schools.
One school that conducted optional classes for a few weeks before school re-opened was SJK (C ) Puay Chai in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
“We organised Mandarin classes for those children who are not fluent in the language. These classes were optional and no one was forced to attend. However, parents who wanted their children to at least get a grasp of the basics (of the language) before school re-opened sent their children,” says headmistress Tan Sook Ha.
Thumbs up for English
Equally geared up for the changes in store this year is parent Betty Lim whose eldest son Alex is just about to start Year One.
“I think teaching Maths and Science in English is a good move for Alex as he is already familiar with the (English) language at home. The only drawback will be that his command of Bahasa Malaysia may not be as advanced,” says Lim, 35.
For Ann Marie Vadaketh, 34, the switch to English as the medium of instruction for Maths and Science will have a positive effect on her son Ryan in the long run.
“It will make life easier for Ryan when he goes to pursue his electrical engineering degree at MIT! Seriously though, I support it because if Ryan has the opportunity to study abroad, it will be an easier transition for him having learnt Math and Science in English,” says Vadaketh.
Like all parents, Lim has done all she can to prepare Alex for his first day in school.
“I registered him in the school, bought his textbooks, his uniform, shoes, socks and writing materials. I am also taking three days off to see that he adjusts to the school and to psych him into getting used to school. I will also be teaching him how to buy food from the canteen and show him where the toilets are, etc.
“My only anxiety is that he will panic if he does not see anyone familiar in school, as he's experienced of getting lost before. Alex is quite apprehensive about school, especially the part about going home by bas sekolah. He does not think the bus drive driver will be able to send him back to the right house.
“However, I have advised him to tell his teachers if he faces any problems in school and to make friends and help his teachers whenever possible,” she shares.
Lim’s advice is not only practical but necessary. Ann Rajadurai, whose daughter got through Year One last year with some mishaps says she learnt the hard way how important it was to prepare a child for their first day of school.
“We may see things like showing our children where the school canteen and toilets are as trivial but it really makes a difference to the young ones. When my daughter started school last year, she was too scared to ask anyone where the toilets were and one day, she ended up doing her ‘business’ in her panties.
“She was so embarrassed when the other children pointed it out and did not want to go to school for the next few days. I finally managed to persuade her and kicked myself for not thinking of showing her where the toilets were on the first day of school,” said Rajadurai. (See list of dos and don’ts on page 11.)
Another important thing for parents to remember is to stay calm and to be a pillar of support for their young ones as nothing rattles a child more than seeing their own parents rattled.
Says Vadaketh, “I bought Ryan’s school books and we wrapped them up together (even though I did most of it); we bought school shoes and uniform, etc, together and these activities got him quite excited about school. And today, we will pack his schoolbag together.
“However, his father will be taking him to school on the first day. I am usually more nervous than the kids and I don’t want my nervousness to be infectious. Dad is much calmer and more sensible in these situations.”
For Rashidah Ishak, another cause for concern is whether the food in the school canteen is nutritious and, more importantly, halal.
“I know there will be some halal food but I want to make sure my daughter Norimah knows what is halal and what isn’t. Also, I will show her where the surau is and introduce her to the religious studies teachers,” she adds.
Thankfully, however, since the implementation of Orientation Day for Year One kids in 1990, things have been less chaotic – for both teachers and parents.
“Before Orientation Day (usually a week day before school reopens) was introduced, teachers had their hands full dealing with frightened and crying pupils and hordes of anxious parents waiting outside the classrooms or in the canteen. Now, however, parents and pupils have a chance to get to know the school environment, school regulations and teachers before the first day of school.
“For the school, Orientation Day often involves all the teachers in the school and not only those teaching the Year One pupils. This way, pupils get the opportunity to get familiarised with the whole school,” says Mrs Tang, a principal of a school in Klang.
Apart from getting to know their teachers, the Orientation Day gets pupils acquainted with their new environment beforehand – they are taken to their respective classrooms and are introduced to their teacher and classmates. They are also given a tour around school so they will know where the tuck shop, bookshop and toilets are.
More often than not, adds Tang, Orientation Day calms the nerves of parents more than the children.
“Many a time, we see parents who are even more anxious than their children! And almost always, anxious parents make pupils more uneasy. Because parents attend the orientation session with their kids, they feel a little better knowing that their child is familiar with the school and has some friends,” she says.
She adds that parents often kick up a fuss about the class they want their children to be in.
“Although there is no streaming, parents want their children to be in a class they think is the first class. For example, last year, we had many parents fighting for their child to be in 1 Anggerik just because Anggerik starts with A.’’
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