Evaluating PTK participants was not always an easy task. The exercise is to ensure that our staff is up to the minimum level of competency (as set for all govt servants). They have to present their publication and research proposal. The first day went through quite smoothly as we restrained ourselves from asking any question. We needed to evaluate too many people in a short period of time, so the trick was not to ask any question. I was the panel so when the boss said so I just did not try to say otherwise. I guessed there is no harm to try it. As they presented their work one by one I just could not believe the state of their publications; some were good but there were many not as good as expected. Mind you that they are lecturers with at least a master’s degree. A short abstract in a paper can be littered with so many grammatical errors; and the same mistakes appeared in many of the papers presented at several conferences and got into many proceedings. People just don’t read anymore and grammar is a small matter for most of us. At least you find someone to proof read the paper before sending it out. So I started to feel uneasy with this arrangement for not asking questions. They must know their mistakes and we must ensure that they will make the corrections. One after another the papers came before us with silly mistakes and we kind of ignore it. I did make some corrections with my red pen but sometime the errors were so severe that I felt like making a big X over the paragraph and exclaimed it with a silly word. We finished on time and everyone was so happy as there was nothing to it. I was never felt so guilty in my life; giving them wrong impressions of their work. I reckoned tomorrow will be different.

The next day I arrived early compared to yesterday as I was half an hour late. I just underestimated the traffics; but today I learnt the lesson ,planned the time properly and drove unforgivingly. The place was in Puncak Alam about half an hour drive from Shah Alam The participants started to present their research proposal. And right away I spotted the flaws in every slide that came on the screen. I am still figuring out how the mistakes were done. Weren’t they aware of the errors before coming to the presentation? How come such significant flaws being allowed to take the screen? I would take all effort to clean the slides; but how come some people just willingly ignore the errors made? I just do not understand. As I scanned through the proposals and tried to put together the meaning of them all, I developed a pounding headache. A sign of aging . I just could not do this as good as I used to. I used to read, spot the mistakes and propose a correction all within a minute or so, but not this time. I was tired and easily agitated; and that’s a recipe for a grumpy old man. I tried to be fair and objective but the flaws sometime became too ridiculous that I ignored some of them altogether. I think next time will start with a pep talk about evaluation and why we all need to be evaluated all the time. The process of evaluation will “mature” us and make us do things better the next time around. Would you like to walk around with your fly open or rather have someone to remind you to zip up?of course we do not want to be embarrassed ,right.well that the easy one to say, hey! Your fly is open la…..and have a good laugh with it. But when you talk with someone and smell a dog breath, would you have a gut to tell him that his mouth smells like an open garbage bin? I doubt it. Maybe we just make an excuse and ran away to the toilet and puke. But I think if someone dare to say so about my breath I would be thankful. You see evaluation is sometime painful but it would not do anything other than good thing to us. Good comments or bad comments will always improve us; but the bad ones will be most useful. But there is one tiny problem –we usually could not accept bad comments with open heart. We hate to hear that we are a loser, the one that fails or just could not make the point. The failure is hard to swallow. Well if you feel that then it’s normal; because we are human. What we can do is to train ourselves to accept it and not being carried away with the failure. Swallow the pride and dig into the mistakes ; improve it and represent yourself as the improved one. So how do train yourself to accept criticism? Get into the process of evaluation more often; the more you have people telling garbage onto your face the stronger you feel and you will eventually have the strength to resist and argue. And when you can argue, you have understood your stuff better. In the end, you start to appreciate the perfection of your work.

Our Malay culture tends to hide mistakes rather than to expose them. It is not proper to say bad things to people. Well that culture needs to be changed once and for all. I wish all PTK participants all over the country a smashing success, don’t worry about it, just enjoy the whole thing.

*PTK(penilaian tahap kecekapan)—an evaluation exercise  for all civil servants in Malaysia

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