Back To Work

Alhamdulillah, I am back. I guess I have missed a lot of things around here. That’s good because you know life did go on as usual with or without you. Now that I am here at the office everything has started to come back again …the letters, the meetings, the orders etc. I should not complain too much, I know, this IS my job. Anyway, on the other side of the coin, I am proud to know our students have won that Multimedia competition and some have also won at Promed’11. Congratulations to all lecturers that have contributed their time and effort into these; directly or indirectly. I hope those involved have some kind of official appointment so you will get some merits out of these as well, of course, along with niat ikhlas and good deeds. A big congratulation goes to Dr Normaly as our latest “warrior” came back with full medal from his PhD battle. This success I hope can motivate others to endure all challenges and complete theirs as well. I know a lot more are in the pipeline and waiting to submit so I pray for their strength to proceed and finish it with a successful note. Lan Ismail and Su are back from the land down under; I wish them all good luck and hope their return will enlighten our department with new and a fresh zest of knowledge. Congratulations also go to the recipients of Anugerah Perkhidmatan Cemerlang (APC 2010) which this time includes truly yours. A small token of appreciation every now and then from UiTM is good; in my case, after 20 years of service. It’s good to know that your boss has finally recognised you…20 years later. But I just could not imagine that it took that long for people to acknowledge your contribution. I am not sure to be happy or sad. But with or without the award, I will be here doing what I know I can do—teaching and learning…hmmm maybe a bit of research. And also congratulations to those who have just come back from Haj ( including myself of course) which reserves separate physical as well as spiritual experience for the body and soul. Maybe many more success stories occurred in our department that deserve a celebration, let it be known so we can tumpang gembira. As the new Hijri year started to make its way and carves more histories, we ponder as to where our journey in life will take us next. Yesterday, as my dear friend and our colleague from Business Faculty (Adam Mat) passed away (dengue case); we know death is always close to us. As we celebrate our good times let’s not forget things that will eventually come to us.
Let’s take this semester to a good close and thank you for all the support and time spent for the department. God bless.

When the fcuk-off letter is here

Today I was officially given the letter “ Ucapan Penghargaan dan Terima kasih” ( aka the fcuk-off letter) that will end my brief tenure at this place called InED. I have no regret just disappointment for this brief period of my long career path holds a contrasting perspective of life and work; humanity and responsibility. When I came to this place less than a year ago, I was overly excited as I thought it could get me to know the world. Usually the work involves visiting the many franchised colleges that run UiTM’s programs; and they are all over Malaysia. Hoping for sunshine to last till the evening but the rain came in the afternoon (ku harap panas hingga kepetang tapi rupanya hujan di tengahari….). something like that. Actually I was not expecting much in the first place but once you got into it you would like to give it the best and as a human you expect nothing less in return. I think I have to work on that a bit more— the part to expect something in return because this is usually where the pain begins; people don’t always give what you expect for sometime they have no ability to do so.

My career path is like a journey that I’m on. I saw this opportunity that I thought would take me somewhere in my journey so I grabbed it. It’s not going my way; I knew that for a fact but I embarked on it anyway only to know I was up for a bumpy ride. Let me put it another way; I was heading to KB; that was my aim and without any doubt I knew I would get there. For the moment there was no bus going to KB, so I have to wait for God knows when. A friend told me to get on this bus going to Kuantan and maybe from Kuantan there would be easier to find another bus going to KB. I guessed it was OK so I hopped on. Ironically I knew the driver, ok this is going to be a smooth ride after all. There were many passengers in the bus and I thought they were all going to Kuantan. As I went in to find a seat I realized many of them did not like the driver due to his reckless driving. Soon I found these people are a bunch of really nice people; caring and like to share their food with each other. They gossip the driver a lot though. I was quite comfortable sitting and chatting as I was accepted right away. I learned a lot from these people even though we met in this brief bumpy bus ride. Many of them are older than me so they treat me like their younger brother. I felt so honored to be working with these people ; but soon the bus will reach Kuantan and whether I like it or not my journey will end there. As we reach Kuantan the driver just kicked me out because he said I did not have the ticket and some other reasons that I did not understand myself. OK I am going just don’t push it. That what makes it so bitter, so fcuking bitter.

Back in the faculty the Dean asked me to hold a HOD position. For some reasons I can’t say no In UiTm a no is a big sin; as it means your refusal to accept responsibility to the university which is punishable by “ academic death”. You’re finished. So I said , let me think about it; and she said, OK but you must start now. That was about two weeks ago and I have been attending meetings and events without any formal appointment letter. It’s kind of hard because it’s like going to a battle without any weapon; what I can do is to avoid any attack and save my ass. As of now I have started to realize that this position is not a piece of pecan pie, soon my ass will burn. But the problem is why that letter has not arrive. The appointment is from Deputy VC office and it should be here now. I guess they must be waiting to see what the future will look like; will it turn yellow? Yellow means trouble and we don’t want trouble makers to hold any admin post, do we? What can I say? I do have an invitation to an event on the 9th in KL and out of respect to the hosts , I might dress yellow. It’s clean(bersih?) and beautiful. So let’s see what the future holds.

In the meantime I will keep this letter close to my heart as a reminder not to expect too much of anything. Do it as a good deed for the sake of Allah.

Is a pensyarah similar to a teacher?

When I was in a primary school my ambition was to be an assistant district officer (ADO) or a teacher. My parent was so cooped up with their nephew who was an ADO of Pasir Mas at that time and talked about it all day and night until I came to think that’s the coolest job on the planet. He went on to be the State Sec of Kelantan and recently being an ass to the ailing sultan. But when I found out the world is bigger than my hometown Pasir Mas, I let go the first intention and hang on to the second one until this day. Well, sort of….I end up to be a lecturer instead. I admired my teachers a lot because they were the most successful people closest to me. Although they beat me up and looked me down as a loser bum who could not even kick a ball, I admired them nonethelessly. That’s what a small child does to an adult no matter what happens. I was made to believe that I deserved all the bad things that happened to me. So naïve I went on to love and admire my teachers. So one of the reasons I wanted to be a teacher was that I can be good to my students and teach them the world without any prejudice or preoccupation. You are what you are just let me show you the way.
I practiced writing on the blackboard so that my writing would not go up and down but straight from one side to another. I wrote large letters so my future students could read properly. I practiced to speak loudly word by word so my future students could listen to me clearly. Just like a kid spending time playing doctor or soldier; I spent my time playing teachers. When it was about time for me to leave school I wondered why my teachers were mostly studied at a “maktab” and not a university. I didn’t want to go to a maktab, it sounded so dark and horrible. Maybe that’s why all the teachers were like that—unfriendly—because they came out of this dungeon. So I thought. Can I go to the university and still be a teacher? —when I got the answer to that question, I had no doubt of what I would do for the next one thousand years.

Is a pensyarah similar to a teacher? The answer is no, it’s not similar. But since being a teacher is said to be noble and sacred, we tend to tag along and menumpang tuah of those teachers. When people celebrate the Teacher’s Day we close one eye and pretend to be one and be so proud for one brief moment. I am not sure whether it is a good thing or bad when I said our profession is not similar; but one thing for sure we are not the same. Maybe if I could make a list ,it would be as follows:

  1. A teacher is much more closer to the students and responsible to nurture not only their academics but other aspect of a human needs such psychological, sociological, spiritual and physical.
  2. Development of a child at different level of growth.
  3. Students demand a very focused and specific learning experience to cater for their intelligence and skills.
  4. Teachers claim a special social status in the community.
  5. In order to execute all those tasks, teachers would require a special set of teaching skills that they can get from a maktab.

Pensyarah on the other hand may be fit into that list between 20-30% only. Mainly because we attend to the different group of students that require and demand different things altogether. All those small kids have grown into much more elegant adolescence who know what they want and what they hate. They seek fun all the time and come to the class only when there is absolutely positively nothing else to do. And they burn all our money in  cigarettes, BBQ ,weekend drifts and drags. And do you know what a pensyarah does to tackle these issues? Nothing. We have one Timbalan Dekan for student affairs in the faculty and we put all the blame on this poor guy. We lecture, put up some quizzes and tests, see what they have to say in a presentation and off you go. I guess we are not much of a help in that area—-the teaching part—-but we are also responsible for other academic endeavor such as research and publication which teachers do not focus. So is it good enough reason to justify our dissimilarity? Frankly speaking, I don’t really know how to answer that….maybe it is not that important.

Overcoming Stress in Your Exam

Many university or college students in Malaysia are having their exams in the next couple of weeks ;so the anxiety is running high. You may have read or listened to zillion of advice about the stress in an examination but many of you will put your thinking into a sleep mode just not to add more stress. I can’t blame you for that but you also need to realize how important to treat your stress properly as not to avoid the probable “black out” during the exam. If for any reason you want to quit reading this and go back to playing Farmville or whatever games you guys are into these days, then remember one thing—the more confident you have about the materials you have studied, the less stress you will be—so build more confident in you (and insyALlah) you will ace the exam.
The stress will get into you sooner or later; it is natural because man will become vulnerable for anticipating things of great uncertainties. The exam is one example of such uncertainties that our students have to face every now and then. Adult students will cope with this anxiety much better than their younger friends. I guess experience teaches us a lot how to relax and take the challenge of the exam more easily. Sometime students perspire until soaking wet, having a pounding headache all of the sudden, growling stomach ache, moving about excessively, smoking and jittering. Those are all the physical symptoms that we may have experienced right before the exam. My hands would be sweaty and my stomach would be twisted like twisting a wet towel—the pain was unbearable. But you know just let your body feel some of the stress; it’s natural because after a while it will be gone, only if you know how to control it. How to control it then? Well they are all originate from he top of your head—in your mind—so learn how to talk to your mind once in a while. Be positive. Get rid of the bad talk—“I don’t know it well enough—should have studied more—what if I freeze—I am dumb—no good—he is better than me—if I fail, I am worthless—it ‘s the end of the world”. How do you get rid of them? Well you can use a method that I developed some time ago called—method B (“B” for Belasah aje!). If you do fail, so what!—it is not the end of the world. Take my words okay, it is NOT the end of the world. You just failed that paper and not YOU as a person. Tell these things to yourself over and over again until you digest it whole-heartedly. Reduce the fear—don’t be afraid, just go for it—use method B remember!.
As the hour of your exam getting closer, your anxiety level increases and you become tense. So during the next 24 hours after you have finished studying, remember the following :
• Once you shut the book, you’re through. That’s it put a full stop and do something else.
• Go to bed early and let your body and mind rest.
• Get up in time for prayers, eat a light breakfast and prepare yourself. Don’t eat a heavy breakfast.
• Move and think calmly through out the day. Practice yourself to relax. Avoid loud music or irritating roommates.
• Don’t discuss your exam with anyone. You will feel “unprepared” and other negative thoughts will start to creep in.
• Don’t go too early to the exam hall. The hectic situation with people shuffling through notes and talking nonsense will produce more stress.
• Walk calmly and give your self enough time to arrive for the exam.
• Don’t think about the exam ; instead, think about the good things you will do after wards. Feel good about it and create a soothing ambience for yourself..
During the exam, acknowledge the fact that you probably won’t know all the answers. It sounds negative but will make you feel a lot better. To answer objective questions, you may ….
1. answer those questions you know first.
2. read the question carefully and answer on the basis of your first impression.
3. reread the question. Does your answer still seem correct?
4. Change an answer only if you are sure it is wrong and another right.
5. Watch for words like only, always , never.
6. Leave those questions you are not sure of and go on. Answering other questions will sometimes clarify ideas.
For the essay questions, you might want to …
1. Plan your time. Allow specified amount of time for answering each question and stick to this schedule.
2. Answer the questions you know first.
3. Read the question carefully. Express its meaning in your own words to make sure you understand all of its parts.
4. Outline your answer on a scratch paper so that you can organize your thoughts. Note key points, names and words.
5. Make your answers specific. Clarify by use of examples when possible.
6. Watch spelling, punctuation and format.
Above all take it easy and have fun in your exam. Leave it to fate; Allah will show the way. Good Luck.

Where to go with only 3 credits in your SPM?

Kids are a lot smarter than before; with all A’s students popped up at every corner of the world we exclaim that statement even more with stories and tales. The reality remains isolated and almost invisible from the public due to shame and frustrations. They are our children, nieces, cousins or neighbors that have more of other letters than A in their results slip. But not to worry, if they can dig up at least 3 credits from their results the hope is still there for a better future….only if they think going to college is better than selling burgers at pasar malam; otherwise please do not bother to read on.

So where to go with minimum 3 credits (the credits ( C grade)must include BM and Maths)? UiTM of course but for this special group the programs are run by franchised colleges (Kolej-kolej Bersekutu (KKB) UiTM) KKB Uitm are private colleges around the country who are allowed to run UiTM programs under strict franchise agreement. They have their own lecturers, facilities and management but deliver UiTM’s curriculum. So if you know anyone who is depressed for cannot go anywhere to study then help them to apply for this program. There are two pre-diploma programs : pre-commerce and pre-science. They will study for one year and if the results are good they can proceed to the wide range of diploma courses in the college of their choice. Pre-commerce will enable them to go for social science programs later on and pre-science for science/technical based programs in the respective colleges.

The UiTM franchised colleges around the country include:
The northern region : KPTM Alor Star(04-7309255), ACMS (Kepala Batas/04-5780800), Kolej Teknologi Pulau (Penang/04-8663351). Inst Teknologi Perak, Kolej Antarabangsa Tek & Prof (Kangar/04-9779177)

The Kang Valley region : Inst Prof Baitul Mal(Kg Pandan), KPTM-KL, KPTM-Bangi, Unikop, Kolej Teknologi Timur (Sepang) , Geomatika (KL/03-42524576)

The East Coast Region : KPTM-KB(09-7472048), Kolej Bestari (Besut), Shahputra(09-5737777), IKIP, KPTM Kuantan
The Southern Region : Instedt(07-8222008), Kolej Islam Johor, MiCOST(06-2329172), Kolej Uniti , Kolej Tek Yayasan Alor Gajah, Kolej SAL JB(03-20728598), Kolej Risda Melaka ,

East Malaysia : Kolej SATT(082-230586), Kucing Sarawak.

Good Luck.

Choosing a place to study

Too many choices can spoil you…….so the saying goes. But we can’t avoid from making choices because life is all about living our choices. With the SPM results out, the celebrations have soon become a frenzy dash to education fair and carnival. The parents are more likely to have headache rather than their still-in-cloud-nine teenager. Looking for the best scholarships with the best programs that match the tattered result paper. 

Well for the record my daughter got 6A+ , 1 A, 1A-, 1B and a C…..I am so proud of her. So much so I will accept whatever decision she made to further her study. Apparently, she has decided.”Ifah wants to study Computer Science at UiTM”, she said a few days ago as we sat for dinner. “Hhmmmm…..that sounds like my area and I do work in UiTM”, I silently calculated the logic. “Is that so? It’s settled then….” ,putting the end of the story. So our life goes on as usual like nothing big has ever happened despite the biggest ultimatum in life has just been decided. May Allah help us all.

Selangkah Ke UiTM

There are three basic things should be considered when hunting for a place to study: curriculum(the program itself), people(the lecturers and graduates), and the facilities.

UiTM has improved a lot and could be one of your top choices

The curriculum : this can be found in the brochure, handed out at the carnival or the place where the promotions are taking place. Universities and sponsors are going all out to attract students, so take this opportunity and spend sometime with them. The brochure should have all relevant information about the program. Go down the list of the subjects they offer in each and every single semester. If the subjects are not familiar due to some fancy names (they like to use some strange names that considered futuristic !) they put there, ask them to clarify and judge whether that is up to date or not. The important thing is to match the subjects with the name of the degree/diploma. A Diploma in IT could be as technical as computer science or applied as merely the use of word processor and spreadsheet. A computing-related diploma is worthy only if there are at least two subjects of programming (one intro and another intermediate/advanced level). So check the curriculum if the subjects are there. Another tip is to ask if the program is accredited or not by MQA(Malaysian Qualification Agency) or any professional bodies such as IEM etc. It is not too much to ask whether the license is still valid or not. If for IPTA then try to look if the program is ‘attached’ to industrial bodies such as CISCO,HP, Oracle, Microsoft and the like. Any link will show that the curriculum is up to date, relevant to current technologies and constantly monitored. If the results are good encourage your child to take up more challenging program and not just “apa2 lah asalkan dia belajar”. But again you know your kid better than anyone else.

The people : the first group of people are the lecturers. Find out what kind of lecturers they have in the department. Browse through the website of the university you are planning to apply and go to the “Staff area”. You want to look for their qualifications and academic activities. For diploma programs, the min qualification is to have a bachelor degree. See how many of them are from the field; if you are going for a computing program, check how many of the lecturers have computing degrees. What kind of computing degree? Where do they get them? Local universities/Foreign universities? The second group of people are the graduates. Look around and check how its graduates are doing. Can they speak well? High achievers? Or merely coffee-makers? They are the products of the university so that would be your child in a few-years’ time.

The facility : Take some time to go and check out the facility. Do not take it for granted especially IPTA, usually diploma programs will be the least in priority. So you could see they dump 30-40 students in one classroom and send a soft-speaking lady to teach in a noisy surrounding, not a good place definitely. IPTA can usually get away with this thing. Although IPTS can also get away, they are constantly monitored by MQA or University panel. Computer labs must be well-equipped for programming courses and technical subjects; so check if such facilities are available.
some lab facilities to aid learning 

even for diploma  good facilities show firm commitment 

Same thing goes for overseas universities, try to check as much as possible through the internet or the current students from that particular university. If you have time and money, pay them a visit. Please do not rely on the sponsors because they have their own panel ( and usually made some weird observations) but most importantly to remember is that they have their own constraints to consider…and that usually involves money. Basically the programs selected by the sponsor are not necessarily good (double check to make sure they are what they are supposed to be).

Some people might want to know the difference between matriculation program and diploma. Matriculation program is a bridging program for a particular university or program of study. There is no cert being given after you finish; only a place at a university. And if you fail matriculation it is just awful because you have wasted 1-2 years of your life. This is what we call a non-terminal program. A diploma on the other hand is a terminal program and you will get a diploma at the end of it. Majority of students will proceed to a bachelor degree after their diploma and they seem to be more prepared compared to matric students. The reason being they are exposed to the area of study while they were doing diploma taking introductory subjects and getting used to the culture of tertiary study. So in short :

  • Matriculation program : good for those who are not qualified to get directly into the feeder program for areas of study such as medical or engineering. So get into matriculation, score four flat and reapply.  
  • Diploma programs : good for those who are determined to get into a particular university and will proceed a bachelor degree at that university in the future.

InsyaALlah those are some tips for the children and parents that are busy contemplating for a place to study. Pray to Allah for He knows best. Good Luck.

PhD anyone?

I went through the files of my PhD students and smiled…nothing is funny actually. The records desperately seeking some actions but I held on for some thing good to come out some where….I am praying for some miracles. Out of 5 students registered under my supervision, one is missing in action, maybe indefinitely, another one has been spotted in Dubai (maybe on self-exiled mission), another just come and go as pleased and I am left with just two active students. And nowadays people are talking about KPI; so this is my KPI and it does not help me at all. I need to “graduate” someone fast or I’ll grow old waiting for nothing. I have been through the process and have experienced the ups and downs of it so please trust me. Deep down inside I have a strong feeling that they can make it through, that’s why I took them in the first place. But as they started the journey, they turn into something else—untouchable souls that defy the law of nature. At the first turn they became the “honeymooners”, the ones that have just unleashed the true face of freedom seekers. Paid holidays with running salary and a handful of pocket money, my honeymoon will start right now, thank you very much. Well that’s okay, don’t feel bad about it, enjoy before it lasts. This thing will come to an end eventually , okay; some will come down to their senses but there is always a handful of them that refused to accept the fact that the honeymoon is over.
At the next turn, when the dust settled, the work begins. It is not like a hard labor that will break your back but you have to turn on the light and start flipping the pages, running the programs and talking to people. The next phase is not easy to follow through but not as hard as you might think. PhD is all about doing things correctly, report the findings truthfully and the “discovery” part will eventually emerge. The keyword is DOING and if you’ve done nothing , there is no finding to report and with that there is absolutely no discovery. If you want to swim from this edge to the other end, then you have to do the swimming yourself, I will look from the distant and see if you need help. I will go in only if you are about to drown or something but do not expect me to swim with you in the water. The hard part of doing PhD is finding the reasons (Why?) when everything works against you. It’s like a group of people keep bashing your head while you’re trying to get up. Believe me that part is unbearable and it takes a strong gut to pull you through. I had been there and gone through it myself. I wrote about this and it is somewhere in this blog , dig it if you’re interested to know my story. At the end of the day you have to get up and face like a man. Cry yourself to sleep or bang your head but never give up. You must refuse to give up, even if someone told you to do so. Heck I’m not going home empty handed, no way—what I used to say when the faculty refused to accept my thesis. Well , the British have their own ego when it comes to this, how come this kampung boy from former colony want us to believe this rubbish…… I argued and stood behind my thesis. And the rest is history.

The three year-period is not that long but one needs to know exactly what to do, one thing after another and by the end of it your model has been justified and ready for the presentation. Don’t depend on luck because in PhD nothing is left to luck, everything must be accounted for. Believe in yourself and what you can do; make doa for your consistent effort and blessed intention. You can expect something rewarding to follow after you’ve finished…maybe more than you expected. Only Allah knows. I wish best of luck to my students and any of my beloved readers who happen to follow this same path. Good luck.