FOR YEARS, Star-NiE has been strongly associated with English teachers who are seen as the “ambassadors” of the newspaper-in-education (NiE) programme. They carry out English lessons using the The Star and oversee the annual contests which their students participate in.
But SMK Tunku Abdul Rahman, Nibong Tebal, teacher Tan Eng Keong bucks the trend. He is a Living Skills teacher whom the students approach when they want to participate in an NiE contest.
Last year, after checking with his colleagues who teach English language and getting the go ahead from them, he volunteered to oversee “Campaign 4 Rewards 2008” contest.
“But I was busy at the beginning of this year and wasn’t planning to get involved with the Mag Inc 2009 contest but the students who read about it in The Star were keen to participate again. ‘Sir, please do it. We’ll help you,’ they said when I told them I didn’t have time. I just couldn’t say no,” shares Tan who had 75 students participate last year and 35 this year.
He would organise extra weekend lessons and allow the students to work on the three-page magazine as a group.
“They didn’t mind sacrificing their weekends to complete their entries. As their teacher, I am really happy with their commitment and I think it’s a really great project.”
Tan was introduced to NiE by his wife Hooi Siew Yeng who teaches English at SK Methodist Nibong Tebal. She has been involved with Star-NiE for many years and the children, especially those from an estate nearby, find the contest literally rewarding too.
“We were really touched when some of the kids from her school who won the KFC vouchers as prizes several years ago wanted to take their food home to share with their parents who had never had KFC before.
‘Cikgu, boleh bawa balik tak? Ibu tak pernah makan KFC,’ one kid asked. It brought tears to our eyes,” shares Tan who was one of the teachers who attended Star-NiE’s 12th anniversary high tea in Penang on Monday.
High teas were held in Penang, Petaling Jaya and Johor over three consecutive days to thank over 550 teachers who have been faithful supporters of Star-NiE.
Hosted by The Star and Pizza Hut, the teachers had a ball of a time exchanging ideas and getting tips on the best ways to make the most out of the pullouts.
They also had the opportunity to look at some of the shortlisted entries for the state-level merit prize awards for Mag Inc.
Many walked away in awe of the work of the students and their thoughts on teenage angst, the theme for this year’s contest. On hand to welcome the teachers at all three locations was The Star executive editor Leanne Goh.
Apart from the generous servings of food, teachers were also given goodie bags that included issues of Kuntum, Galaxie and Flavours, as well as RM20 worth of Parkson vouchers, partially sponsored by Parkson.
Almost 250 teachers attended the central region function which was held at the Eastin Hotel on Tuesday.
SMK Seksyen 3, Bandar Kinrara teacher Nurlina Onn Abdullah said that the entries were very impressive, and the competition was a very good way to tap the students’ creative minds.
Asked whether she coached her students who entered the competition, she says: “Teachers in our school did not do much because we wanted to see what they could come up with on their own.”
Star-NiE contributor and teacher Mallika Vasugi says that the competition gives students a chance to widen their critical thinking skills and is an avenue to show their talents.
“We must not forget that education is not just academic. A major portion of learning is about gaining life experiences and exploring creativity, which Mag Inc allows students to do.”
She stresses the importance of newspapers, saying that teachers should think of incorporating their usage in classrooms because they are a bridge to the real world.
“Newspapers are always current. Apart from learning the English language, it also connects students with what is going on around them. Not using them would be like having a gold mine in front of you without recognising it.”
A table of teachers from the Sabak Bernam district were seen chattering away, while they enjoyed second and third helpings of dessert.
A teacher from SK Seri Utama, Sabak Bernam, Puziah Mohamed Shariff shares: “This is the first time we are attending this event as NiE is very new to us.
“We were especially impressed by The Star for their quick response to our needs recently and the way they handled the logistics, despite our location in a rural area.
Within a short span of time, they held workshops for some teachers and students in our district.”
Nurziatul Syima Muad from SK Tebok Jawa adds: “English is not commonly used among students in our district. By using Star-NiE in our classrooms, we would be able to make the lessons more interesting and fun!”
Joining in the anniversary celebration were the Education Ministry’s Sports, Arts and Co-curriculum division assistant directors Anita Mohd Ariffin and Norazmah Mohd Yunos.
Feasting in Penang
Over in the north, more than 150 teachers from as far as Kulim, Sungai Petani and Baling in Kedah turned up for the high tea held at the Cititel Hotel in Penang.
Nor Diyana Tan, who has been teaching English for the past 21 years in SMK Sultan Badlishah in Kulim, Kedah, says the NiE programme is very useful.
“My students learn new words and vocabulary by going through the pullout. The activities suggested are informative and practical,” she says, adding that her students get excited and show full concentration whenever the Star-NiE pullout is used.
“I also use the business section for students who are preparing for the Malaysian University English Test (MUET). They would look at the usage of words and write reports based on the charts and graphs,” she adds.
Teacher R. Parameswari from SMK Kulim says the Star-NiE pullouts allow students to learn in a fun way.
“Besides getting extra information, it also takes the boredom out of mundane lessons. I always believe in making lessons interesting,” she shares.
Ch’ng Chin Huat of SMJK Chung Ling says he encourages his students to read The Star every day as there are a lot of interesting articles on current issues.
Furziah Affandi, who started using NiE this year, says her students love using the pullouts and reading stuff@school. Her school receives sponsored copies from Advanced Micro Devices and representatives from the company received positive and enthusiastic feedback from the students when they came to observe her NiE lesson recently.
Joining in the festivities were representatives from Penang Seagate Technology, Suria College, Rapid Penang and Bukit Mertajam Summit Plaza who were among this year’s sponsors of The Star and the Star-NiE pullouts to schools.
For English teacher Habibah Ayub from SMK (P) Sultan Ibrahim in Johor Baru, seeing five Mag Inc entries from her school out of the 10 shortlisted for the state merit awards is “thrilling”.
“This is credit to the hard work the students put in. All the teachers brainstormed with the enthusiastic students before they produced their own magazines or video clips,” she says. Her school sent in 165 entries.
Habibah, 48, who is also the head of the school’s English unit, says that the English teachers were briefed on the competition requirements and its theme before they brainstormed with the students.
She adds that the efforts by Pizza Hut and The Star should be applauded as it gives students an avenue to practise English in a more informal manner.
“We’ve been subscribers of The Star for more than five years now. All the sections, especially Star-NiE’s pullout, have been very beneficial for the students, not just for English but for Science and Mathematics as well,” she says.
SMK Dato Jaafar English teacher Jothi Menon, 39, says that her students have improved in their English tremendously since the school started subscribing to Star-NiE every Wednesday.
“RHB Bank also sponsors copies of the newspaper for our school every Monday which allows our students to use the excellent Science and Maths guides F123 and F4F5.
“We use the newspaper in class and during our English Society meetings,” she says.
Jothi shares that her students have come a long way from having low proficiency in English to enjoying and mastering the language. This is evident in their enthusiasm in joining the competition.
“The competition cultivates their interest in learning English while nurturing their creativity. A total of 93 teams sent in their entries this year. The students have improved on their general knowledge as well; they now speak up when I quiz them on current affairs,” she adds.
She was among 60 teachers who attended the high tea held at the Puteri Pacific Hotel.
Other guests included officers from the Johor state education department, led by chief assistant director for Science Nor Ezah Mohammad, and the district education offices.
For subscription to Star-NiE, call 03-7967 1388 ext 1039.