Enhancing youth literacy

Then and now: Star-NiE’s first-ever cover in 1997 (left) and a cover of a 2020 issue.

IT’S no secret that students who use the newspaper as an educational resource score higher on standardised tests, develop the habit of lifelong reading and are more likely to become engaged citizens.

Visionary Malaysian educationists and corporate sponsors who have tried and tested this methodology of teaching with The Star is the reason why The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) programme, which took off in 1997, has withstood the test of time.

The programme, which turns 23 years this month, relies on its content from The Star newspaper to teach current, authentic language in the classroom.

After its successful foray into education with Kuntum in 1980, The Star – recognised as the country’s leading paid daily – became a shot in the arm for educators who were looking for fun and creative English language lessons for Malaysian students from multicultural environments.

Today, The Star boasts an array of education products that have penetrated hundreds of classrooms with its monthly pullouts like NiE, Step Up and Kuntum that champion English and Bahasa Malaysia, as well as the learning of Chinese.

Endorsed by the Education Ministry, the education products have evolved over time to provide lessons that help students develop a better understanding of their community, state, nation and world, cultivate critical thinking, reading and writing skills as well as develop decision-making skills; skill sets that set the groundwork for a borderless world.

Star Media Group Bhd (SMG) chief content officer Esther Ng said education has been a priority for the group since its inception.

“Education, whether it is keeping society free of fake news or encouraging reading in schools, is part of our corporate social responsibility and it is something we take very seriously.

“It is not just about reporting on education issues and promoting language proficiency through our content and products.

“We also offer scholarships via our Star Education Fund because we believe that access to quality education is a right of every Malaysian.”

SMG, she said, will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next year and education will continue to be at the heart of the group’s growth.

“We started off with print but our content has now evolved and is available digitally as well.“As we continue our journey of growth and change, one constant remains – our commitment to cultivating a young community of readers who appreciate the value of a well-written story, ” she said.

Star Media Group’s education products

NiE is an international programme that promotes literacy by using the newspaper as a teaching tool.

Published bi-monthly on Wednesdays, the colourful Star-NiE pullout is written by a team of experienced English language teachers and specialists, and is packed with hands-on activities for the classroom.

The NiE pullout, which comes with a copy of The Star, has 16 pages per issue. The pullout follows themes in the national syllabus and organises its activities into elementary, intermediate and advanced levels.

Launched in 2011, Step Up caters to primary school pupils in Years Four, Five and Six. It is a workbook-cum-activity pullout aimed at helping pupils improve their vocabulary, grammar, writing and conversational skills while preparing for the UPSR.

The pullout features Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese translations of difficult English words, while its last two pages feature NiE activities.

Pupils subscribing to the pullout can now familiarise themselves with terms in BM and Chinese within one pullout.

There are 11 issues of Step Up a year, published once a month on Tuesdays.

Kuntum is the only children’s educational magazine that is endorsed by the Education Ministry. This monthly magazine, first launched in February 1980, aims to increase children’s knowledge of various topics ranging from Mathematics and Science to robotics and languages.

Catered to children aged six to 12, the Bahasa Malaysia magazine is filled with fun and stimulating activities, puzzles, exercises, exam tips and articles on current affairs and general knowledge.

With 40 years of educating and entertaining Malaysian children, its 76 pages now include content in English and Mandarin to help children improve in the languages.

Besides the print version, Kuntum is also expanding its online content.“

Throughout the years, some corporate sponsors have been ardent supporters of The Star’s education programmes. We thank you for your contribution in helping us build literacy among Malaysian youths.

"Students and teachers told us how Star-NiE had assisted them in learning English the fun and holistic way, which in turn improved their proficiency in the English language. As it has such a positive impact on the recipients, we chose to continue supporting the initiative year after year since 2011.

Furthermore, education is one of the main pillars of Mah Sing Foundation and we believe that children should be provided with rights and opportunities to fulfil their potential through quality education.

It is important for our children and youths to consistently strive to improve their proficiency in the English language in order for them to be equipped with the right skills and tools for the future.”

– Mah Sing Foundation chairman Datuk Indera Syed Norulzaman Syed Kamarulzaman

“Resorts World Genting has continuously lent support to The Star’s NiE programme over the years as it is a meaningful initiative that helps students increase their level of English proficiency and empowers them to progress in life both personally and professionally.

The annual contest was a great way to motivate the youths to hone their English language skills, exercise their creativity and find excitement in the process of learning. We were pleased to see that the students built special memories at Resorts World Genting and were inspired to write on various topics after their trip to the resort.”

– Genting Malaysia corporate communications & public relations vice-president Datuk Sri Kay Atisha Parasuraman

“Like it or not, English language is the preferred medium of communication globally. I believe that youths are capable of achieving great opportunities with better access to English education.

Learning English using materials other than the textbook, like Step Up and NiE, will help stimulate their creativity and interest to learn more.

We hope other like-minded corporations will consider supporting such meaningful educational projects by The Star to help build English proficiency among Malaysian youths, inspiring them and providing them with the right skills for the future.”

– Magnum Group CSR head Beh Swan Swan

“Our Trenglish programme in partnership with The Star was conducted to improve and enhance interpersonal English communication skills among primary and secondary school students in Terengganu. The subscription to Star-NiE as an alternative teaching aid has helped teachers and educators stimulate students’ interest in learning English. We are convinced that it has cultivated reading habits among students and, more importantly, encouraged critical thinking and heightened understanding on the importance of accessing credible sources of information.

Being proficient in English will definitely help them to be more connected and allow them to access information easily.”

– Petronas Group human resource management vice-president Farehana Hanapiah

“We are committed to building up youths. This programme helps them improve in English alongside the Chinese language.

This will open them up to more options and opportunities in the future. The other benefit of learning a second language at a young age is that children absorb languages faster and easier.

As this is indeed a good programme, we hope that other corporations will support The Star’s effort in laying strong foundations for the younger generation.”

– LBS Bina Group managing director Tan Sri Lim Hock San

​​​​​​​For Star-NiE’s longest-serving freelance consultant-trainer Lucille Dass, here’s what she has to say: “I unhesitatingly say that for me the kernel of satisfaction or joy in conducting the many workshops continually comes from observing how happily the teachers immerse themselves wholly – mind, heart, body – in the workshopping process to own the pedagogy experienced.

“Star-NiE practitioners have vouched for the positive impact of adopting or adapting activities for their use because the newspaper is an authentic resource for teaching English across subjects. This helps students develop and use multiple skills long-listed as core competencies of 21st century learning.

“The experiential and interactive nature of the activities make learning a meaningful and joyful experience that contributes to holistic learning – a key element in our National Education Philosophy. NiE has proven its staying power and potential for impactful language learning, ” she said.

She added, “Star-NiE continues to create modules to address the under-performance in English literacy in our schools. In fact, many learner-engaging lessons are already available online.

“Let me conclude by saying that the multi-dimensional features of the newspaper make it an unrivalled learning resource – no matter what form it takes. Reading the newspaper – inked or digitised – will continue to be a universal culture, a genre that develops multi-literacies. Happy anniversary to Star-NiE!”

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