Only the brave teach


Show of solidarity: Fellow teachers and
unionists gathering at the Seremban magistrate court last month in
support of Cikgu Azizan (centre in white).

 

ONE tight slap – I still vividly remember that hard, stinging smack across my cheek as my teacher flew into a fit of rage after I did something naughty as a primary school pupil at St Xavier’s Institution in Penang.

I can’t recall which teacher hit me, but there must have been more than one. They pinched my stomach and even my nipples. Many of my classmates can attest to that, even 40 years on.

There was also the occasional caning, which I felt was an act of gross injustice and, perhaps, even one of perversion on the part of our disciplinary teacher. To me, back then, he was an unfair individual, and my opinion still stands. To this day, I have no idea why I was caned and not given the chance to defend myself.

But, bless his soul, because he has passed on. Most students from back then would have forgiven him by now, for he probably knew not what he was doing.

However, one thing is certain – as far as I know, none of us returned home and complained about this disciplinary action to our parents.

Comedian Harith Iskandar always reminds his audience that if one complained to their parents, they can expect to get another tight slap that “would burn your face and send an electrifying chilling effect to all parts of your body,” and consequently, leave a lifetime’s reminder.

So, the smartest thing to do, as most older Malaysians can testify, was to keep quiet. Of course, we also warned our classmates, some of whom were our neighbors, to swear to keep things under wraps and not tell their parents about the drama at school.

The caning and slaps, by disciplinary standards, were the “final” punishments. We surely remember the use of rulers, feather dusters, belts, black board dusters and in my case, even a shoe that flew in my direction.

And I wasn’t even in the naughty boys’ category. I didn’t get into fights or was caught loitering with the bad hats after school.

As one writer, Adrian Lee Yuen Beng, wrote in Aliran: “The teachers were our ad hoc parents who taught with joy and passion, and like their predecessors, never demanded any recognition. They customarily stood at the back of the class, silently rejoicing as the students celebrated their exam success.

“We received an education steeped in tradition as mission schoolteachers took teaching seriously; it was not a mere job, but a vocation, nay, a calling.

“Our teachers were proud of their lessons and believed in their form of education. They shaped us into intellectuals, sportspersons, politicians, educators, religionists, physicians and other important societal figures.”

Fast forward to today – and it’s the total reverse. The guilty party – the student – runs home to complain to his parents.

Now, the father and mother fly into a rage and decide to confront the teacher at school the following day. What unnecessary drama!

Adding insult to injury, the parents then seek the help of a politician, who has likely been deprived of the media’s glare for a while. Then, all three confront the teacher.

Lodging a police report is, of course, the next thing they do, and to embarrass the teacher and school further, they call for a press conference.

This is modern Malaysia. Perhaps, today’s family is smaller. There are only one or two children in a family, and they are, invariably, pampered.

During my time, there were at least four or five siblings and even so, we were still regarded a small family. Dad was always too busy earning a living, trying to put food on the table, so, he was thankful that the teacher played surrogate father, at least during school hours. The lesser-educated father would have been equally respectful of teachers. After all, it’s accepted that teachers mould the character, calibre and prospects of their students.

However, the modern-day father thinks he’s smarter and earns more than the teacher, his condescending and confrontational attitude not boding well for the situation.

He probably thinks the teacher has a dead-end job or is too busy distributing business cards to pupils for after-school tuition.

But, for an old-school type like me, I find it difficult to accept news of teachers being hauled to court for purportedly hurting their students.

Honestly, don’t the police and prosecutors have better things to do than to charge these teachers who were merely trying to discipline the children – responsibilities which may have been neglected by their caregivers?

In December, a teacher facing the charge of hurting his student, was given a discharge not amounting to acquittal by the magistrate’s court.

Magistrate Mohd Zaki Abdul Rahim delivered judgement after the prosecution told the court that they wished to withdraw the case.

Azizan Manap, also known as Cikgu Azizan, claimed trial to the charge of slapping an 11-year-old male student on the left cheek in April for indiscipline, the misdemeanour including sniffing glue, bullying and playing truant.

He was charged under Section 323 of the Penal Code for voluntarily causing hurt and was left facing a jail term of up to a year, a fine of RM,2000, or both, upon conviction.

Leading up to his discharge, several hundred people, including fellow teachers, gathered at the court in a show of solidarity for Cikgu Azizan.

By all means, go ahead and Google it: there are numerous reports of teachers threatened or roughed up in schools, and surprisingly, we seldom hear of offensive parents charged in court for criminal intimidation or causing bodily harm.

We have now been made to understand that the old ways don’t work anymore. The children need counselling and their hair needs to be stroked to motivate them. Have these methods worked better? That remains to be conclusively proven.

One thing’s for sure, though, the tight slap was unbeatable in my time in instilling discipline. Now, when I enter a lift, the millennials are too busy looking at their handphones, so don’t expect them to address you as “sir” or even greet you.

You’d be lucky if they called you “bro” and gave you an enthusiastic high-five, instead.

Would the proverbial one tight slap work today in curing disciplinary ills? Hardly likely.

By Wong Chun Wai

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.

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Moving forward with affordable housing


One way to solve housing shortage problem is to build more houses.

“If we take a look at countries with commendable housing policies such
as Singapore and Hong Kong, we notice that the government plays a very
important role in building and ensuring a sufficient supply of housing
for their people.”

THE issue of affordable housing has been a hot potato for many countries, especially for a nation with a growing population and urbanisation like ours.

In my previous article, I mentioned that there was a growing shortage of affordable housing in our country according to Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Muhammad Ibrahim. The shortage is expected to reach one million units by 2020.

According to Bank of England governor Mark Carney, one of the most effective ways to address the issue is to build more houses. There are good examples in countries like United Kingdom, Australia and Singapore, which have 2.4, 2.6 and 3.35 persons per household respectively.

In comparison, the average persons per household in our country is 4.06 person, a ratio which Australia had already achieved in 1933! To improve the current ratio, we need to put more effort into building houses to bring prices down.

If we take a look at countries with commendable housing policies such as Singapore and Hong Kong, we notice that the government plays a very important role in building and ensuring a sufficient supply of housing for their people.

For example in Singapore, their Housing and Development Board (HDB) has built over one million flats and houses since 1960, to house 90% of Singaporeans in their properties. In Hong Kong, the government provides affordable housing for lower-income residents, with nearly half of the population residing in some form of public housing nowadays. The rents and prices of public housing are subsidised by the government and are significantly lower than for private housing.

To be on par with Australia (2.6 persons per household), our country needs a total of 8.6 million homes to house our urban population of 22.4 million people. In other words, we need an additional 3.3 million houses on top of our existing 5.3 million residential houses.

However, with our current total national housing production of about 80,000 units a year, it will take us more than 40 years to build 3.3 million houses! With household formation growing at a faster rate than housing production, we will still be faced with a housing shortage 40 years from now.

Therefore, even if the private sector dedicated all its current output to build affordable housing, it will still be a long journey ahead to produce sufficient houses for the nation. It is of course impossible for the private sector to do so as it will be running at a loss due to rising costs of land and construction.

In view of the above, the government has to shoulder the responsibility of building more houses for the rakyat due to the availability of resources owned by the government. Land, for example, is the most crucial element in housing development. As a lot of land resources are owned by government, they must offer these lands to relevant agencies or authorities to develop affordable housing.

I recall when I was one of the founding directors of the Selangor State Development Corp in 1970s, its main objectives was to build public housing for the rakyat.

However, today the corporation has also ventured into high end developments in order to subsidise its affordable housing initiatives. This will somehow distract them from focusing on the affordable housing sector.

Although government has rolled out various initiatives in encouraging affordable houses, it is also important for the authorities to constantly review the original objectives of the relevant housing agencies, such as the various State Economic Development Corporations, Syarikat Perumahan Negara Bhd, and 1 Malaysia People’s Housing Scheme, to ensure they have ample resources especially land and funding to continue their mission in building affordable housing.

A successful housing policy and easy access to affordable housing have a huge impact on the rakyat. It is hoped that our government escalates its effort in building affordable housing, which will enhance the happiness and well-being of the people, and the advancement of our nation.


Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in property development. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please email feedback@fiabci-asiapacific.com.
By Alan Tong

In the digital dumps: technology triggers teen depression


Teenagers are unable to disconnect from their
smartphones, causing them undue anxiety and distress. But according to experts, saying no to smartphones is not the solution.

Teenagers feel if they’re not on social media all the time, they’re missing something important, or will miss out on a  funny conversation, or someone might say something about them, according to Nolan. — 123rf.com
Technology is how teenagers maintain relationships so Nolan advises parents to discuss and find healthy ways to use it. — dpa
“We know that people rely on smartphones. A recent study shows we touch them about 2,500 times a day on average ”

Brian Bolan, guidance director at Andrew High School in Tinley Park, Illinois.

“Nobody likes to feel a loss of control. So work with them to arrive at a
mutually agreed upon reasonable amount of time to spend on the phone.
Haveitbea discussion, a collaboration. That will probably yield better
results than just saying, ‘No phones’.”
– The Daily Southtown/ Tribune
News Service

Parents have to help teenagers turn off in a world that’s always on.

The problem with teens and ­smartphones, experts say, is “they’re always on”.

Both of them.

And that can take a toll on their mental health. A new study links anxiety, severe depression, suicide attempts and suicide with the rise in use of smartphones, tablets and other devices.

Parents are urged to help their children foster real ­relationships, the ones that involve making eye contact and ­interpreting body ­language. Local mental health experts encourage teens and ­parents to establish a routine that fosters a balance between real and virtual communication, even as many adolescents will no doubt have found gifts of technology under the tree last holiday.

For as smart as phones may be these days, they simply don’t know when to quit. To protect their kids’ mental health, parents must ­develop methods for outsmarting them, experts say, and often that involves simply turning them off.

Jean Twenge, psychology professor at San Diego State University and a graduate of the University of Chicago, has written extensively on youth and mental health. She has released a study that shows a ­correlation between the rise of the smartphone and increasing rates of depression, suicide attempts and suicide itself among teens.

According to news reports, the finding is based on CDC data and teen-issued surveys that revealed that feelings of hopelessness and suicidal contemplation had gone up by 12% during the time period and that nearly half of the teens who indicated they spend five or more hours a day on a ­smartphone, laptop or tablet said they had contemplated, planned or attempted suicide at least once – compared with 28% of those who said they spend less than an hour a day on a device.

Local school counselors and social workers as well as clinical mental health experts at local ­hospitals in the United States ­confirm they are seeing an uptick in signs of depression and/or ­anxiety among teens. But, they also say, there are things parents and professionals can do to help curb the risks.

Too much, too often

“I just came from a South Side guidance directors conference where we heard from a couple of hospitals in the area that treat ­students for depression or suicidal tendencies or high anxiety. They’re telling us they’ve seen quite an uptick, that they’re hiring staff, they’ve got longer waiting times, they’re running more programmes just to keep up with the need they’re seeing among high school kids and even younger kids,” said Brian Nolan, guidance director at Andrew High School in Tinley Park, Illinois.

Nolan said, “My belief is that today’s technology never allows children to truly disengage from their social lives. When we were kids we could hang out with our friends during the day and then at night, we’d have down time with the family or we might go shoot hoops or play Legos away from friends, so we could gain some kind of balance.”

But the smartphone’s ability to connect us all immediately doesn’t allow that social interaction to ever be turned off, he said. Some of the allure is the desire to be included, and some of it is defensive, he said.

“They feel like if they’re not on it all the time, they’re missing ­something important, or will miss out on a funny conversation, or someone might say something about them. There’s a lot of worry and concern and stress about what’s going on in social media at a time when it would be nice for a child to step away from it and not care,” Nolan said.

“We know that people rely on smartphones. A recent study shows we touch them about 2,500 times a day on average,” he said. “I use food as a metaphor. If a student is overeating or eating a bunch of junk food, you probably as a parent would have a conversation about better eating habits, the importance of exercise, moderation, things like that.”

“Cellphones are exactly the same. To tell a student you can’t use it, is the same as saying you can’t eat. That may sound extreme but that’s the ­reality. (Technology) is how they maintain ­relationships. So, it’s ­probably better to discuss healthy ways to use it,” he said.

Questions to ask your teen, he said, might include: Do you feel addicted to it? Are you checking it ­constantly? Can you set it down for awhile?

When students only ­interact via technology, Nolan said, “they’re much more likely to withdraw from healthier interactions and are more likely to be hypersensitive to what’s being posted. If they aren’t included they can feel lonely. If they are included, they can feel pressure to keep up”.

“I think parents feel bad (about this). It’s hard to attack a thing we don’t fully understand ourselves, because we didn’t grow up with it,” he added.

But, Nolan added, “modeling is a big piece of this. We as adults sometimes stop conversations with our own children because we have a text message coming in. Or we’ll text at the dinner table or while driving. So, we’re teaching our children that what comes through the phone is immediate and important and that it should take precedence over what we are currently doing”.

Equal access to good and bad

In her 17 years as a social worker at Argo High School in Summit, Illinois, Allison Bean said she’s had “a front row seat to the shift from a time where kids couldn’t wait to leave the house to hang out with their peers to the present day digital age where our kids are reluctant to leave the couch”.

“Many of my students may not have adequate clothing, food or even running water in their homes; but they have phones,” she said.

Teens, she said, “are (physically) isolating themselves more and more from their real support ­systems during a period of their lives that, even under the best ­circumstances, is very turbulent and stressful”.

Exacerbating the situation, Bean said, is that the very device that can cause depression is also giving fragile teens access to websites that can encourage them to engage in self-harming behaviours.

To complicate matters, she said, mental health experts are warning about the dangers of technology at a time when more schools are going paperless and issuing tablets to students.

“While there may be an upside to going paperless, one thing is ­certain: Our kids will be spending countless numbers of hours in front of some type of screen during the duration of their education. Headaches, tired eyes, and ­insomnia are bad for everyone. For students that are already prone to mental health issues, this too often results in truancy, low test scores, poor homework habits and ­depression,” she said.

“They are depriving themselves of the opportunity to exercise their social skills; skills that are critical for life. This is obviously dangerous in numerous ways. Not only does it dissuade students from ­leaving the confines of their rooms to engage with peers in a ­developmentally appropriate way, there are many predators online who are able to find young people who are vulnerable, isolated and desperately seeking attention,” she said.

“There’s no question mental health crises are on the rise, and at the high school level, depression and anxiety are the primary ­diagnoses that I see in our ­community,” she said.

Signs of trouble?

It’s not just technology that is causing the trouble, said Rian Rowles, chairman of psychiatric services at Advocate Christ Medical Center. In his 12 years at the Oak Lawn, Illinois hospital, the ­psychiatrist has seen the number of patients referred to the ­adolescent programme rise by more than half.

“It’s also social media. It’s very clear to me that the advent of social media has exacerbated stressors. Not just depression, but anxiety as well,” he said.

“There are stressors that go along with adolescence but you used to be able to leave the interpersonal stuff at school. Bullying used to be a school phenomenon.”

Social media, he said, can make it a 24/7 thing.

“When you’re writing and ­posting things, there’s a phenomenon in which you don’t have the same filter you might when talking on the phone or in person. I think that lends itself to more abrasive statements,” he said. “So not only is it constantly there for these kids, it’s more intense.”

Rowles said adolescents can have the same symptoms as adults when it comes to depression and anxiety: abrupt changes in sleep ability, appetite changes (usually significantly less food), social ­isolation marked by less ­communicating with friends and less participation in social or school events, and drastic or ­significant personality change, say from calm to irritable or angry.

Parents can help by reducing the amount of time a teen spends on social media, he said. Professional help typically involves teaching kids ways to develop new coping mechanisms.

Something that might surprise adults, Rowles said, is that ­overusing technology can have a detrimental affect on them, as well.

“Not as drastic, because of what kids have to deal with at school. The phenomenon I see in adults is someone who is already in my care for anxiety or depression and then they get on Facebook,” he said. “People will sort of put on Facebook things that make their life seem very wonderful and it may not be the reality but other people see that and it can ­contribute to their depression. (Facebook) makes it seem like everybody has a better life.”

Widening the lens

Technology may not be the lone culprit, and it is not necessarily bad, said Nadjeh Awadallah, licensed clinical professional ­therapist at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park, Illinois.

The current increase in ­depression and anxiety among teens might be attributed to a ­higher frequency of smartphone use and the fact there’s less stigma about mental health issues, Awadallah said.

“Kids are more prone to ­speaking about mental health issues than maybe they were before,” he said.

A lot of adolescents, he said, would argue that the relationships they have with people online are real relationships. “If they’re ­interacting at a high level of ­frequency, either talking with friends or playing videogames, they’re actually interacting with them,” he said.

And a phone can be a kind of “digital security blanket” in that it enables a person who is dealing with anxiety to look at their phone instead of at other people.

“It’s kind of protective if you want to be left alone,” he said.

Nevertheless, Awadallah added, there is “a great deal of benefit to interacting with somebody face to face because so much of communication has to do with nonverbal communication and giving feedback. When you’re just texting you have to imagine how the person’s voice sounds. It’s hard to deduce if someone is being ­genuine, or sarcastic. So whatever the person transplants onto the thing that they’re reading can impact their mood.

“There’s a high correlation between people withdrawing from person-to-person interaction and depression because that’s what people tend to do when they’re depressed,” he said. “So it’s kind of like a chicken and egg relationship where you don’t know if they’re depressed because they’re on ­electronic media or if they’re on electronic media because they’re depressed.”

Smartphone addiction is a form of process addiction, he said. “It’s a non-chemical addiction where ­people compulsively use the Internet or phone in lieu of self-care actions likes eating or ­sleeping,” he said.

Signs there might be a deep-­seated issue: problems at school, such as concentration, lack of ­energy, poor attendance or a drop in grades; substance abuse or superficial self-harm (such as cutting as an emotional release); and a significant decline in self-esteem.

What can parents do? Awadallah said, “Institute a routine. Make sure kids aren’t using phones or devices when supposed to be ­sleeping because exposing ­themselves to unnatural blue light that’s going to be overly ­stimulating and not let them sleep well. If they’re more invested with ­interacting online than with people in person, you need to talk.

“Nobody likes to feel a loss of control. So work with them to arrive at a mutually agreed upon reasonable amount of time to spend on the phone. Have it be a ­discussion, a collaboration. That will ­probably yield better results than just saying, ‘No phones’.”

— The Daily Southtown/Tribune News Service

How can parents help their teens?

● Encourage downtime

● Be a good role model

● Teach your child to develop coping skills

● Institute a routine

● Mutually agree on time limits for devices and social media

By donna vickroy, The Star

Related Links:

Going big on social media – Nation | The Star Online

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High life of the young, carefree and broke Malaysians hit a new low


Younger set not living within their means and are bankrupt before they are 30

 

“When they start their own lives, they are not financially stable. Some want to get married.” – Datuk Abdul Rahman Putra Taha

They are young and carefree to the point of being careles, and have expensive tastes. Branded handbags, holidays to exotic places, fancy cars and lavish weddings all lead them into huge debts. By the age of 30, they are bankrupt. Some as young as 25 are among the shocking 60% of the 94,400 people declared bankrupt in the last four years.

PETALING JAYA: They lived the fast life, a life of Pradas and Guccis. When the cash is out, they max out on their credit cards.

Some even go as far as taking up personal loans to finance overseas trips, buying the latest expensive gadgets and holding lavish weddings.

And before they even turn 30, they are bankrupt.

Malaysia’s youth are seeing a worrying trend with those aged between 25 and 44 forming the biggest group classified as bankrupt.

They constituted almost 60% of the 94,408 cases reported from 2013 to August, according to the Insolvency Department.

Director-general Datuk Abdul Rahman Putra Taha said there were multiple factors that contributed to the trend, but singled out that many of them just wanted to “start their own life”.

“When they start their own lives, they are not financially stable. Some want to get married, but if the in-laws ask for hantaran gifts such as cars or a house, they need the money.

“Their pay can be considered low but they need expensive gifts. Where else can they go other than applying for personal loans?” he said in an interview recently.

Abdul Rahman also listed the top four reasons why a borrower was declared a bankrupt.

“Car loans took up 26.63%, personal loans (25.48%), housing loans (16.87%), and business loans (10.24%),” he said.

He revealed that the total number of people declared bankrupt from 2013 stood at 296,712 as of August, with Selangor having the most at 72,114, followed by the Federal Territories (46,377), Johor Baru (41,179) and Penang (22,136).

He urged the public to manage their finances prudently to ensure they would not be burdened by debt.

At the same time, Abdul Rahman said Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) was making huge efforts to ensure it would not be so easy for the young to obtain credit cards.

In response, he said the department was committed to ensuring that the Government meets its target, especially with the Voluntary Arrangement under the Insolvency Act 1967.

Almost 58,000 bankrupts have been cleared or had their bankruptcy annulled by the courts in about the last five years, marking the first phase of the Government’s efforts to reduce bankruptcy cases following amendments to several bankruptcy laws.

From 2013 to August 2017, the courts have cleared 1,356 cases while another 11,627 cases have been terminated upon annulment of the bankruptcy order.

A total of 44,950 cases were discharged via Insolvency Certificate from the director-general.

However, the Government is pushing to slash the number of people being declared bankrupt to just about 4,000 to 5,000 cases per year.

“The enforcement of the newly amended bankruptcy law began this year. If they meet our criteria, qualified borrowers will be automatically discharged as bankrupts three years from the date of filing of the Statement of Affairs (Penyata Hal Ehwal),” said Abdul Rahman

Under the amended laws, someone at risk of being declared a bankrupt can settle his debt without bankruptcy proceedings with a voluntary agreement.

“Our intention is to ensure that borrowers will be able to pay back their loans without undue suffering and creditors will get their money back, too.”

He said debtors must adhere to the agreed sum of contribution paid to the creditors and they must also file their pay and expenses slip statement every six months throughout the three-year period.

“As long as they fulfil the payment within the period, we will release their names,” said Abdul Rahman.

Under the new amendments of the Bankruptcy Act 1967, the Government has introduced a rescue mechanism with a single bankruptcy order to replace the receiving order and adjudication order from the courts as practised previously.

“This move ensures that creditors are also protected under the amended laws,” he said.

The Act has also paved the way for the setting up of the Insolvency Assistance Fund and a release from bankruptcy without objection by the creditors for certain groups of people.

These include social guarantors made bankrupt under the Bankruptcy Act 1967, those who have died, those categorised as people with disabilities (OKU) by the Welfare Department and those certified by government medical officers as suffering from chronic or serious diseases.

The Star Malaysia by RAHIMY RAHIM rahimyr@thestar.com.my

Sway of the Chinese language as China rising, but English is still king


Sway of the Chinese language on display  

AT a recent forum in Hong Kong, Jim Rogers, a Wall Street tycoon, played a video of his daughter reciting a classical Chinese poem.

This is not the first time Happy Rogers has exhibited her proficiency in the language.

At an event in Singapore in 2013, the then nine-year-old showed off her nearly perfect Putonghua pronunciation and tone when she recited a not-so-well-known poem by Li Qiao, a Chinese poet during the Tang Dynasty. She won a big round of applause from the audience, most of them Chinese descendants. Happy’s sister Baby Bee, then five years old, did equally well, singing nursery rhymes in Chinese.

While it is not uncommon for young Chinese language learners to recite ancient poems, Happy spoke in classical Chinese with a fluency that could make even some native Chinese speakers envious, according to a report in Guangzhou Daily.

And recently, during US President Donald Trump’s visit to China, his granddaughter Arabella’s recital of Chinese poems went viral online, making her a “popular figure” among Chinese audiences.

There is a long list of foreign celebrities and their children learning Chinese, including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ four children and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his daughter. Even Prince William, media reports say, studied Chinese in school.

The increasing popularity of the Chinese language has led to the introduction of various programmes and classes worldwide. It is estimated that more than 100 million people outside China, including overseas Chinese, are studying the language, as many believe it can be used as a tool to gain access to conveniences in not only China but also some other countries.

The growing enthusiasm of people in other countries to learn Chinese can be attributed to their love for Chinese culture.

It perhaps explains why traditional Chinese cultural elements, from kung fu films to ancient works such as The Analects of Confucius and Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, have won so many global diehard fans. Many foreigners even believe that Chinese characters are an expression of aesthetic appreciation – maybe that’s why many famous personalities including former soccer star David Beckham have got Chinese characters tattooed on their body.

China’s economic and social development is another important factor for the growing interest in the language and culture. As the world’s most populous country and the second-largest economy, China for years has accounted for the largest number of students studying in other countries, which might also have made people overseas interested in the language.

As Jim Rogers said, whether you like or not, the 21st century will belong to China. He always tells people that if they have children, they shall encourage them to learn Chinese, “because Chinese will be the most important language”. For foreign companies intending to do business in China, they can have a huge advantage over their competitors if they can master the language.

And with the Belt and Road Initiative progressing smoothly, a number of Chinese enterprises will venture into countries along the ancient trade routes for business, which means a higher demand for Chinese speakers.

Source: China Daily/Asia News Network


China rising, but English is still king

 

Asia News Network and The Star recently published an article “Sway of the Chinese language”, detailing the rising popularity of learning Chinese as posted above.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, US President Donald Trump’s granddaughter and billionaire investor Jim Rogers’ daughter are among some of the famous people or their family members brushing up on their Chinese language skills.

Tourists from China are splashing their cash all over the world (in some countries such as Thailand and Malaysia, the Chinese can also go cashless by making their purchases through Alipay).

Meanwhile, economists predict that the GDP of China, currently the world’s second largest, would surpass the United States’ within 10 years. As the economic value of the Chinese language grows, it will unseat English to become the world’s leading language. Or so we are told….

But if history is a clue, this may not happen so soon.

In the heyday of the Roman Empire, as the great Julius Caesar and his successors conquered the Mediterranean, Latin became the dominant language of the European continent. The Roman Empire began to disintegrate in the fifth century. Latin, however, remained relevant for many centuries to come. (The Eastern Roman Empire, also known as Byzantine Empire, survived into 15th century, but its capital was in Constantinople, and its official language was Greek.)

In year 1215, the unpopular King John of England, pressured by rebel barons, issued Magna Carta. The document established for the first time the principle that everybody, including the king, was subject to the law. It is considered one of the first steps taken in England towards establishing parliamentary democracy. The Magna Carta was initially written in Latin.

In year 1687, Sir Isaac Newton published three papers which were collectively known as Principia Mathematica. These works form the foundation of classical mechanics. Principia Mathematica, like the Magna Carta, was written in Latin. That was more than 12 centuries after the demise of the Roman Empire.

In ancient times, Malay language was the lingua franca of the Malay Archipelago. Then the Western powers came, created the modern states of Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia. Post-independence, Javanese, who make up 40% of Indonesia’s population, dominate the republic’s politics and economy. Somehow, Bahasa Indonesia is based on Malay rather than Javanese.

By 2050, China will become the world’s largest economy. The US will drop to second place. In the third spot, as economists believe, will be India. Like Malaysia, India was a British territory. And like our country, English, the language of the former colonial master, is still widely spoken.

By mid-century, the combined GDP of English-speaking and English-as-second-language nations, which include US, India, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, the Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia, will likely be larger than that of China.

I do not doubt that Chinese language will get more important every year, and I encourage everyone to learn it if conditions allow. However, it would be foolish if we, in the advent of “China’s Century”, neglect English.

By CHEW KHENG SIONG Kuala Lumpur

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Young, carefree and broke Malaysians hit a new low


Younger set not living within their means and are bankrupt before they are 30

 “When they start their own lives, they are not financially stable. Some want to get married.” – Datuk Abdul Rahman Putra Taha

They are young and carefree to the point of being careles, and have expensive tastes. Branded handbags, holidays to exotic places, fancy cars and lavish weddings all lead them into huge debts. By the age of 30, they are bankrupt. Some as young as 25 are among the shocking 60% of the 94,400 people declared bankrupt in the last four years.

PETALING JAYA: They lived the fast life, a life of Pradas and Guccis. When the cash is out, they max out on their credit cards.

Some even go as far as taking up personal loans to finance overseas trips, buying the latest expensive gadgets and holding lavish weddings.

And before they even turn 30, they are bankrupt.

Malaysia’s youth are seeing a worrying trend with those aged between 25 and 44 forming the biggest group classified as bankrupt.

They constituted almost 60% of the 94,408 cases reported from 2013 to August, according to the Insolvency Department.

Director-general Datuk Abdul Rahman Putra Taha said there were multiple factors that contributed to the trend, but singled out that many of them just wanted to “start their own life”.

“When they start their own lives, they are not financially stable. Some want to get married, but if the in-laws ask for hantaran gifts such as cars or a house, they need the money.

“Their pay can be considered low but they need expensive gifts. Where else can they go other than applying for personal loans?” he said in an interview recently.

Abdul Rahman also listed the top four reasons why a borrower was declared a bankrupt.

“Car loans took up 26.63%, personal loans (25.48%), housing loans (16.87%), and business loans (10.24%),” he said.

He revealed that the total number of people declared bankrupt from 2013 stood at 296,712 as of August, with Selangor having the most at 72,114, followed by the Federal Territories (46,377), Johor Baru (41,179) and Penang (22,136).

He urged the public to manage their finances prudently to ensure they would not be burdened by debt.

At the same time, Abdul Rahman said Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) was making huge efforts to ensure it would not be so easy for the young to obtain credit cards.

In response, he said the department was committed to ensuring that the Government meets its target, especially with the Voluntary Arrangement under the Insolvency Act 1967.

Almost 58,000 bankrupts have been cleared or had their bankruptcy annulled by the courts in about the last five years, marking the first phase of the Government’s efforts to reduce bankruptcy cases following amendments to several bankruptcy laws.

From 2013 to August 2017, the courts have cleared 1,356 cases while another 11,627 cases have been terminated upon annulment of the bankruptcy order.

A total of 44,950 cases were discharged via Insolvency Certificate from the director-general.

However, the Government is pushing to slash the number of people being declared bankrupt to just about 4,000 to 5,000 cases per year.

“The enforcement of the newly amended bankruptcy law began this year. If they meet our criteria, qualified borrowers will be automatically discharged as bankrupts three years from the date of filing of the Statement of Affairs (Penyata Hal Ehwal),” said Abdul Rahman

Under the amended laws, someone at risk of being declared a bankrupt can settle his debt without bankruptcy proceedings with a voluntary agreement.

“Our intention is to ensure that borrowers will be able to pay back their loans without undue suffering and creditors will get their money back, too.”

He said debtors must adhere to the agreed sum of contribution paid to the creditors and they must also file their pay and expenses slip statement every six months throughout the three-year period.

“As long as they fulfil the payment within the period, we will release their names,” said Abdul Rahman.

Under the new amendments of the Bankruptcy Act 1967, the Government has introduced a rescue mechanism with a single bankruptcy order to replace the receiving order and adjudication order from the courts as practised previously.

“This move ensures that creditors are also protected under the amended laws,” he said.

The Act has also paved the way for the setting up of the Insolvency Assistance Fund and a release from bankruptcy without objection by the creditors for certain groups of people.

These include social guarantors made bankrupt under the Bankruptcy Act 1967, those who have died, those categorised as people with disabilities (OKU) by the Welfare Department and those certified by government medical officers as suffering from chronic or serious diseases.

The Star Malaysia by RAHIMY RAHIM rahimyr@thestar.com.my

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Chinese are the unsung heroes of South East Asia: Robert Kuok Memoirs


They are the most amazing economic ants on Earth, ‘Sugar King’ writes in memoir

Good Chinese business management is second to none; the very best of Chinese management is without compare. I haven’t seen others come near to it in my 70year career. Robert Kuok

The overseas Chinese were the unsung heroes of the region, having helped to build South East Asia to what it is today, said Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok (pic).

He said that it was the Chinese immigrants who tackled difficult task such as planting and tapping rubber, opening up tin mines, and ran small retail shops which eventually created a new economy around them.

“It was the Chinese who helped build up Southeast Asia. The Indians also played a big role, but the Chinese were the dominant force in helping to build the economy.

“They came very hungry and eager as immigrants, often barefooted and wearing only singlets and trousers. They would do any work available, as an honest income meant they could have food and shelter.

“I will concede that if they are totally penniless, they will do almost anything to get their first seed capital. But once they have some capital, they try very hard to rise above their past and advance their reputations as totally moral, ethical businessmen,” Kuok said based on excerpts of his memoir reported in the South China Morning Post .

“Robert Kuok, A Memoir’ is set to be released in Malaysia on Dec 1.

Kuok said the Chinese immigrants were willing to work harder than anyone else and were willing to “eat bitterness”, hence, were the most amazing economic ants on earth.

In the extracted memoir published by the South China Morning Post, Kuok, pointed out that if there were any businesses to be done on earth, one can be sure that a Chinese will be there.

“They will know whom to see, what to order, how best to save, how to make money. They don’t need expensive equipment or the trappings of office; they just deliver.

“I can tell you that Chinese businessmen compare notes every waking moment of their lives. There are no true weekends or holidays for them. That’s how they work. Every moment, they are listening, and they have skilfully developed in their own minds – each and every one of them – mental sieves to filter out rubbish and let through valuable information.

“Good Chinese business management is second to none; the very best of Chinese management is without compare. I haven’t seen others come near to it in my 70-year career,” he said.

“They flourish without the national, political and financial sponsorship or backing of their host countries. In Southeast Asia, the Chinese are often maltreated and looked down upon. Whether you go to Malaysia, Sumatra or Java, the locals call you Cina – pronounced Chee-na – in a derogatory way,” he said.

He added that the Chinese had no “fairy godmothers” financial backers.

“Yet, despite facing these odds, the overseas Chinese, through hard work, endeavour and business shrewdness, are able to produce profits of a type that no other ethnic group operating in the same environment could produce,” he said.

Kuok ultimately attributed the Chinese survivability in Southeast Asia to its cultural strength.

“They knew what was right and what was wrong. Even the most uneducated Chinese, through family education, upbringing and social environment, understands the ingredients and consequences of behaviour such as refinement, humility, understatement, coarseness, bragging and arrogance,” he said.

 

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