04 March 2011

With a sigh ( Pt 5 – sec II) – Awang Goneng’s Comments

In this second section, as promised, I will express my personal opinion on three areas contained in Awang Goneng’s newspaper column and the comment he left for Pakcik.


(a) Of methodology

It saddens me whenever I find teachers believing that, firstly, ‘methodology’ is the tool without which teaching is meaningless and, secondly, knowing ‘exam format’ is of necessity to score good results. The business of teaching by old methods and the use of old proven reference and text books are looked upon with disdain. For the lack of these necessities I was once belittled. I relish the thought of relating in brief the occasion I was spoken of as an individual unqualified to teach.

Some time ago a secondary school, headed by a new principle with brilliant ideas, decided to introduce an ‘elite group’ in Form Three. Naturally, the group was made up of the top performers of the previous year’s Form 2 exam. The aim was, of course, the typical number game, to achieve greater number of top scorers in the PMR exam at the end of the year.

Together with their parents, about fifteen pupils with potential to satisfy the thirst for excellent results were called for a special briefing by the principle to mark and publicise the launching of this special 'elite' plan. Among the many steps to be taken for this special group – (never mind the bulk of other Form Three pupils numbering not less than three hundred) – many extra classes and special ‘camps’ would be arranged. It so happened that most of these selected pupils had been attending tuition classes at Almanar steadfastly for two years. Many of them were average performers when, two years earlier, they began their Form One at the school.

During the question time that followed, a father of one of the pupils, the top performer in that group, stood up to make an appeal that, whilst the many extra classes planned for the 'elite' group were appereciated, he hoped that his son and his friends would still have time to continue attending tuition classes at Almanar as they had been doing so for so long. In response to that appeal a senior official of the school proudly declared, in the presence of his boss, that Pakcik of Almanar was nothing more than an x-x-x- , not a qualified teacher by profession, and as such, was unlikely to be familiar with the methodology and exam format required to help pupils perform well in the exam, full stop.

The above father was so disgusted with the derogatory remarks uttered that he decided to call on Pakcik at the end of the day to relate the incident, and to say how sorry he was over the stance shown against Pakcik of Almanar. He was more than convinced that his son with 2A,2B and 1C ( the 'C' was in English) would not have progressed that far over the two years without some help from Almanar. (Incidentally the boy continued to get ‘A’ in English, Maths and Science subjects in his PMR through to SPM.)


(b) Of extra-mural activities

Of the ‘extra-mural activities’ mentioned by Awang Goneng I have to admit belonging to the old school. My advice to pupils is to enjoy whichever games they like but never at the excessive of their studies. If it is just reading they like, by all means, so be it. But these days one is almost literally forced to take up extr-mural activities under the threat of not getting into a university without the precious 10% points – a must even if one fails in all the academic subjects which account for 90%! Pakcik would probably be a fisherman today as a punishment for getting 0% points in extra-mural activities more than half a century ago when my buddies played soccer bare-footed.

Now let us see what has become of tuition class at Almanar on a sports day.

Yesterday was a record day for Almanar. It was sports day at school and I did not know it. Children were required to attend - or be punished, so I was given to believe. As a result we had a record of ONE pupil who turned up at Almanar for Form 1 tuition class! But that was not all because the one who turned up was a boy, hence another record , 100% male!

Now who is this boy, so brave to absent himself from the school sports?

He is the third, the youngest, of three brothers in a family. His two elder brothers attended Almanar, obtained all the As they wanted in their PMR and SPM exams and are now in universities. And this little brother, in my assessment, has the highest potential of the three. I found it my duty to teach him yesterday and I did it with great pleasure ; he was so much like my own grandchildren. I think, Insya Allah, this boy will perform no less than his two successful elders.

To be continued.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan


1bloghopper said...

assalamualaikum pakcik.

i have been reading your blog for a long time now, but i could not bring myself to comment because i usually tear up even before i was done reading your entry. the entries are not sad, but i am an emotional person. :)

i'd even thought that maybe some day i'll give al manar a visit and chat with the children that you have been tutoring all this while. some day, insya-Allah.

i was an untrained educator myself for two years, once i got the qualification i thought it was only a paper, it doesn't matter. the two years teaching without being qualified didn't hold me back from using every method i could find to teach.

you may say at that point of time, my ignorance of all the learning strategies in the world was a bliss for me. 80% of my students got As for their spm, i was the happiest at that time, even without the paper.

i feel for the children who are tied to school when they need to learn much more. learning should not be rigid, and i personally the schools nowadays seemed to produced robot-like person instead of a human being, very much capable to change their life to be better.

it is really disappointing that almanar has to face such problem, it is not making any profit at all, and why should others put it down in such way. don't blame yourself pakcik, for the absenteeism, if it is for the best, Allah will show the way. insyaAllah.

quite a long response from a silent reader. :)


Wan Sharif said...

May Allah be pleased with our efforts.

Al-Manar said...


It makes me feel so satifying to occasionally get an honest response like the one from you. If without identifying ourself it makes want to open up, by all means do so. If you feel what you say openly makes you feel uneasy, drop me a line by email (almanar@pd.jaring.my). I wish you would elaborate on the two years' exoerience you mentioned. Perhaps I can learn something - from success or failure.

Sila datang lagi.
Wassalaam to you

Al-Manar said...

Ayah Wan

I notice you are now into medicine world now - such a varied talent.
Charge a small fee for consultation.

Wan Sharif said...

I ventured into the "heart" topic as so many of my classmate and office friends have open "heart" procedure.. I am anxious to know about the subject.. even though I am not sure that the knowledge would put me in better condition..

Rahmah said...

salam pakcik,

trained or not, i believe you must have used certain methods (although you don't think methodology is very important to teach English )in your teaching although these methods may be not be those exposed to TESL trained teachers. in my opinion, these are just the means to an end. of course the means are important in order to justify the end but what's more important is the enthusiasm on the part of the teacher because enthusiasm will take you far. many teachers fizzle out half way due to the challenges in teaching nowadays but if you're enthusiastic, you will always find ways/methods/steps/to do something for your students.

i always propagate teaching English for proficiency but the system is such that A's is all that matter!! i can tell u it's has not been easy being in this business for over 20 years now and i have seen many a good teacher give up or quit teaching. after all is said and done, what happens in the four walls of the classroom is what matters. methods are fine but the teacher's enthusiasm and sincerity are what keep them going.

persevere pakcik!

Al-Manar said...

Ayah Wan

If it does not get better it would not get worse I am sure. Keep it up - biaa jjadi macang worang mude.
Tapi kalu doh jjadi mude jangang mmiker hok pelekpelek pulok.

GUiKP said...

Salam Pak Cik Hassan
Am in UK now, just for a week. May I link your post to my facebook. It is quite related to a discussion I had with some friends on a related topic sometime ago. Thank you.

Al-Manar said...

Cikgu Rahmah,

You have the experience added to your specialised qualifications to rightfully comment on any subjects related to teaching. Of course you are right to say that one cannot get something done without employing one method or another. We need means in order to justify the end. But to be obsessed with just one formally taught method and no other methods are good enough, in the way the senior teacher disqualified me from teaching, is unacceptable and it did irritate me when it came to my knowledge. It is true, too, there is more than one way to kill a cat as Cat-in-Sydney nicely put it in her comment. Above all, as you aptly put it, “what's more important is the enthusiasm on the part of the teacher”. Enthusiasm probably tops it all. Indeed, where there is a will there is a way.

I am glad, expressed in different ways, we concur.

Al-Manar said...


Nine months ago you declared, "Can't get enough of England." Now you are back there again to satisfy your longing, perhaps. Does it mean, when or if you are back, you will then have peace of mind to update your blog?

Use whatever parts of my posting for whatever purpose other that to cause a scandal, in which case I will have engaged a lawyer of 'taraf antara bangsa' from the city of K Terengganu to initiate a legal extradition case!

Have a good time, wassalaam.

Cat-in-Sydney said...

Dear Pakcik,
What a long sigh....and in parts too. Since nama kucing dah disebut...kenalah mengiong juga ye? Anyway, my Mama had a taste of this methodologist freakiness when she was in uni. A megalomaniac of a lecturer penalised her for solving a Maths problem NOT USING the method he taught in class. Instead, she used a shorter and simpler and easier method found in a reference book. After a few hours of heated arguments in the dean's office (plus profanities and four-letters from that maniac), Mama won the case. Though perhaps because Mama employed a different argument technique - soft persuasive, almost pleading voice - compared to the lecturer's bullying and brass ways. A classic example of "there are many ways to skin a cat", non? Oh, also helped by the fact that the dean was a just man, bless his soul. He also gave Mama an A+ in her teaching practicum. purrr....meow!

Al-Manar said...


So it was cat-and-dog fight ending in the cat’s favour. One day a pupil asked Pakcik what that quadratic equation was all about. Pakcik, like a typical old man, took pain to give an overview of the subject, finishing with different ways of solving a problem. She (a typical she cat) was curious why Pakcik had been taught that way. She was not taught like that in class. To save a lot of time during an exam, according to her teacher, one should practice using calculator to find the roots, without wasting time thinking. Secondly know how to use the formula. To that I had to explain that her kind of calculator was not even in mathematicians’ dream during Pakcik’s era. The in-thing, a bit of showing off, was having a six-inch ‘slide rule’ sticking out in one’s shirt pocket. But that fantastic invention, known as slide rule, of that era could not find the roots of a quadratic equation. The poor brain had to do its share of work. I told her how envious I was of her relaxed way of getting her calculator to work out 2 times 2; whereas I had to tax my brain to produce the answer. Congratulations.

That is why I draw a long sigh as I realise how far behind time I have been. I have to adopt the way I know. As long as the taste is good who cares gguana mu mmasok, ggoreng, rebuh, kukuh, singgang, prang dalang ppayang, salaa atah pare, jerok, panggang macang ikang panggang hok kucing berahi tu. Asaa rase sedak dok lah. Now stop grrr or lick my hand for favour. I only talk about grilled fish.

nali said...

dear pakchik, it is such a sorry state indeed when school admins would go the extra mile for select students in order to obtain the target number of 'a's, and to think of those not apt academically as a lost cause.
one of my fondest memories of learning english was when the teacher had brought us out of the classroom and had the lesson under a tree on the school grounds. he made us listen to the song 'vincent-starry starry night' by don mclean. (i had always admired van gogh's paintings and had liked the sound of that song but never made the connection till that day).
we had grammar lessons using that song.
i wish that senior school officer had not been so full of disdain for you. maybe then he would see that what you impart to the students go beyond the 'a's on paper.

Anonymous said...

Salam to Pak Cik,
Pak Cik, I was the one who used to be forced by my school to attend all the camps just to score well in the exams. Camps are not useful at all. They just give students all the spotted questions those might be asked in the exams. What is the point of learning those skills? I could not imagine what will become to our generations soon if this kind of education system keeps pursuing. I hope for the best. InsyaAllah.


Al-Manar said...


We belong to a schoolong era when fun and games were parts of the teaching/learning system. There was pleasure from them and we remember them as something dear to us. Now games seem to be part of the famous so called KOKO-- , a new world with points to score.

You have a lot of opportinity to apply, within your own family, teaching the old way.

Al-Manar said...


We live and learn. What is useful is that you know what to do when the time comes.