Understanding cultures for harmony

Twenty-eight full-time students of WOU taking the Comparative Religions course in the May 2018 semester recently put together an exhibition showcasing the major religions in the country.

 Staff checking out the foods sold at the Hinduism corner.

Staff checking out the foods sold at the Hinduism corner.

The two-day exhibition on ‘Culture and Religion’ was organised by the students with the support of WOU’s Learning & Library Services (LLS) unit and held at the main campus on July 9th and 10th.

The exhibition featured the six major religions in Malaysia - Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism and Taoism. Visitors were able to view items like the Last Supper drawing, rosary beads and votive candles at the Christianity corner; white sacred ash, incense sticks and thirumangalyam (wedding) set at the Hindusim booth; and lotus flowers and Buddha teachings at the Buddhism cubicle. There were explanations to enlighten about the different beliefs.

 Items related to Christianity.

Items related to Christianity.

The students sold foods like huat kuih (prosperity cakes), popiah (spring roll), cream puffs, cup cakes, doughnuts, kuih lapis, fried beehoon and various tidbits and desserts.

WOU Acting Vice Chancellor Prof Zoraini Wati Abas declared open the exhibition today, after which the crowd were entertained by a lion dance, a simple Malay joget routine and an Indian folk dance performance.

 Prof Zoraini mentioned the common good values found in all the religions.

Prof Zoraini mentioned the common good values found in all the religions.

In her speech, Prof Zoraini said the exhibition highlighted the diversity of the cultures in Malaysia and the harmony among people of different faiths and beliefs. She said the Comparative Religions course at WOU is beneficial in fostering mutual understanding and respect in the students.

 Being creative - the students perform a simple, improvised lion dance.

Being creative - the students perform a simple, improvised lion dance.

She mentioned the cultural assimilation and harmony that exists in Indonesia, which she observed first hand during her stint abroad in Jakarta. She remarked, “In Malaysia, we are fortunate that we live in a multiracial country. There is so much to gain from learning about each other’s culture and religion. Every religion teaches us the same common values, which is to be respectful, to understand each other, and to be a good person; not to harm anybody, but to live in peace and harmony as well as to help each other in times of need.”

 Pranaven Pratapan (foreground, left) and his coursemates do the joget.

Pranaven Pratapan (foreground, left) and his coursemates do the joget.

The Comparative Religions course is taught by School of Humanities and Social Sciences Deputy Dean Jasmine Emmanuel, while the chief coordinator of the project was Pranaven Pratapan. The LLS head Chew Bee Leng and her team along with Head of Student Engagement, Dr Gurdip Saini, contributed towards the exhibition.

 Indian dance performance by Asswni Mariappan.

Indian dance performance by Asswni Mariappan.

Building relationships through fellowship and forgiveness

In keeping with WOU’s focus on staff engagement this year, the annual Hari Raya Aidilfitri lunch held at the main campus was indeed an engaging affair as staff took time to mingle leisurely over good food.

 Staff interacting at the gathering.

Staff interacting at the gathering.

They were encouraged to embrace a spirit of forgiveness through a poem read out by Acting Vice Chancellor Prof Zoraini Wati Abas

The event held today was organised by the Muslim community of WOU, with the Information Technology Services (ITS) department and the School of Science and Technology taking the lead, and supported by other colleagues and the full-time studies Student Council.

 Ladies in a row...in attractive baju kurung.

Ladies in a row...in attractive baju kurung.

Many staff and students showed up in their colourful baju kurung attire, while the venue itself was decked with ketupat decorations, greeting cards and glitter.

Everyone was presented a quaint door gift packet holding dodols of different flavours, and each table had plate servings of ketupat, lemang (glutinous rice) and serunding, along with generous helpings of satay with gravy, onions and cucumber.

 Receiving dodols in small packets as door gifts.

Receiving dodols in small packets as door gifts.

Among the entertainment was the popular “Selamat Hari Raya” song by the late legendary songstress Saloma rendered by the Student Council president, Muhammad Farid Arsyad Foad, as he strummed the guitar. He was accompanied by fellow student Ooi Jie Wen on keyboard.

 Performance by Farid and Jie Wen.

Performance by Farid and Jie Wen.

In her welcoming remarks, Prof Zoraini noted that Hari Raya Aidilfitri, like all other festivities, is an occasion for family reunions and open houses. She also shared a simple Malay poem that spoke about forgiving others and seeking forgiveness for any wrongs and slip-ups so as to foster closer relationships.

Tangan dihulur maaf dipinta,
Erat hubungan sesama kita,
Semoga gembira di hari yang mulia ini,
Salah dan silap harap dimaafkan,
Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri,
Maaf Zahir dan Batin.

 Prof Zoraini reads a poem on forgiveness and relationships.

Prof Zoraini reads a poem on forgiveness and relationships.

The gathering was graced by Chief Operating Officer Yeong Sik Kheong, consultant Wong Hun Heng, School of Science and Technology Dean Dr Wendy Bong Chin Wei, School of Humanities and Social Sciences Dean Assoc Prof Dr S Nagarajan, along with Heads of Department and staff from the main campus.

They feasted on rice served with fried chicken, mutton kurma, vegetable dalca and cucumber-pineapple salad, complemented with sliced watermelon and honeydew fruits, teh tarik and a sweetened drink.

 Generous helpings of satay and delicious dishes at the luncheon.

Generous helpings of satay and delicious dishes at the luncheon.

Enhancing the quality of early childhood care and education

The structure and content of early childhood care and education (ECCE) in Malaysia has evolved in light of several neuroscientific findings that recognise the impact of experiences on the developing brain in the first five years of life.

 WOU Acting Vice Chancellor Prof Zoraini Wati Abas shared the quote, "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men" during her welcoming remarks.

WOU Acting Vice Chancellor Prof Zoraini Wati Abas shared the quote, "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men" during her welcoming remarks.

Datuk Dr Chiam Heng Keng, President of National Early Childhood Care and Education Council, was presenting on “Early Childhood Care and Education: An Evolution” to over 140 people at the public talk on ECCE organised by WOU’s School of Education, Languages and Communications at the main campus today. The audience comprised mainly ECCE providers and preschool teachers.

 SELC Dean Prof Santhiram Raman highlighted WOU's Diploma in ECE before the talk.

SELC Dean Prof Santhiram Raman highlighted WOU's Diploma in ECE before the talk.

She said ECCE has evolved structurally from two separate units comprising childcare and preschool under the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, and the Ministry of Education respectively to an integrated entity to provide a smooth progression from childcare to preschool. She shared that both Ministries have formed a committee co-chaired by the respective Ministers to systematise the regulations and operations of early childhood education.

 Dr Chiam stresses the need for one integrated entity to oversee childcare and preschool.

Dr Chiam stresses the need for one integrated entity to oversee childcare and preschool.

Dr Chiam highlighted the evolution in the content of ECCE as well, as reflected in the Programme Standards on what a child in preschool today needs. She stated that the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) has set up Programme Standards for all ECE programmes, ranging from Certificate to PhD in ECE, adding that the Programme Standards were enforced in May 2015. “The programme standards has been planned that it contains all the knowledge and competencies needed by every preschool teacher to become a professional early childhood educator.”

She said the teacher does not merely teach the child to read, write and draw but must provide the right kind of environment and experience to give them the right start in life and have a strong foundation. She added that the teacher must therefore be ethical and moral and enable the child in terms of safety, health, nutrition and mental health. As such, the curriculum should teach the teachers how to develop good mental health, how to guide the young child with appropriate discipline, and how to assess.

 The crowd listen to Dr Chiam expound on the ECCE curriculum.

The crowd listen to Dr Chiam expound on the ECCE curriculum.

She said the Malaysian Ministry of Education has therefore invested in quality ECCE, through measures like instituting Programme Standards for all early childhood programmes to ensure trainees of ECCE receive the necessary knowledge and competencies and lecturers have appropriate qualifications. The Ministry has also enforced Diploma in ECE as the minimum qualification of preschool teachers and set up the National ECCE Council to professionalise and assure quality control of the ECCE industry.

Dr Chiam elaborated that neuroscientific findings show that at birth, the child has 100 billion neurons that need interactions with human beings, right experiences and the right environment to allow for the brain to develop, while negative influences like abuse, neglect, etc generate the stress hormones that adversely affect the child’s development.

 Prof Santhiram moderates the Q&A session with Dr Chiam and Dato' Dr Lai Fong Hwa.

Prof Santhiram moderates the Q&A session with Dr Chiam and Dato' Dr Lai Fong Hwa.

She said the findings of both economists and neuroscientists confirm the importance of quality ECCE from birth to at least 6 years of age, in the reduction in dropout and crime rates as well as in the reduction of expenses for justice administration, healthcare, security and welfare.

She also said the National ECCC Council is working on an enactment to change the image of early childhood educators as professionals. 

Letting the child explore to prepare for life

Early childhood experiences influences brain development and helps to prepare the child for learning and life.

 Registration for the event.

Registration for the event.

Dato’ Dr Lai Fong Hwa, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at Island Hospital, Penang, in his public talk on ‘Neuroscience Updates for Early Childhood Education’ at the WOU main campus today, said that at birth, the child’s brain is packed with billions of neurons, which begin to form synapses or connections as the child experiences things in the environment.

“The brain is built over time from the bottom up, as they see and hear sounds. As mummy plays with the baby, the synapses start to grow more and more. The connections continue to form until to about 2 to 3 years old, and then pruning happens. The synapses that get pruned away in the brain are those that are not so much used by the child.”

 Explaining how the brain develops.

Explaining how the brain develops.

He expressed concern that if a 1-2 year old is sent early to kindergarten to learn ABC, and this continues into preschool, there is the danger that the brain will prune away things unrelated to the writing of ABC. He stated that in the first few years of life, the brain forms more than 1 million new neuro-connections every second for different life functions like vision, hearing, language, higher cognitive functions, after which the ‘pruning’ process begins.

Dr Lai said a child may grow to be poor at socialising, interacting, or dealing with criticisms if one over-emphasises  academic results and forgets about social-emotional development.

 Dr Lai, who has impaired vision, is assisted in his presentation by his wife, Datin Indranee Liew.

Dr Lai, who has impaired vision, is assisted in his presentation by his wife, Datin Indranee Liew.

He highlighted the ‘Serve and Return’ relationship between children and parents which neuro-science research indicate impacts the brain developmental process. “If you let the child play iPad, watch TV, the brain isn’t developing as there is no connection. It must be two-way, like when the mother talks, smiles or plays with the child, there is serve and return, and connection happens.”

He stressed that children need supportive, caring relationships as most connections get built when the child is happy. However toxic stress like repeated abuse, neglect, unmet needs, extreme poverty and maternal depression can damage the baby’s developing brain.  “Playing is the best way to learn. Babies’ brains require stable, caring, interactive relationships with adults. Let them explore, see as many things as possible, like visiting the botanical gardens, zoo.”

 Many questions were raised on the academic qualifications for teachers.

Many questions were raised on the academic qualifications for teachers.

He also declared that the teacher/parent is important as they can only pass on the skills which they have learnt themselves. He listed 7 life skills every child must develop to succeed in life: focus and self-control; perspective taking; communicating; making connections; critical thinking; taking on challenges; and self-directed learning.

He shared that a game like ‘a,e,i,o,u’ can train the child’s brain to focus and control, thereby reducing negative episodes like temper tantrums. He also called for teachers and parents to be polite to the child since children learn to communicate by listening to what teachers and parents say.

 Group photo with the 2 speakers. At right, foreground, is Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research & Outreach) Prof David Ngo Chek Ling.

Group photo with the 2 speakers. At right, foreground, is Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research & Outreach) Prof David Ngo Chek Ling.

He concluded: “Kids must know that is alright to make mistakes and fail as otherwise they will not try new things. We should create a desire in the child to learn new things; then it stays with them for life.”

Strengthening women's leadership in education

[27-29 June, 2018]

About 40 participants from some 20 Commonwealth nations attended a 3-day women’s leadership training organised by WOU in collaboration with the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Canada.

 Participants and speakers of the workshop.

Participants and speakers of the workshop.

The Pan-Commonwealth Training Programme on “Women and Leadership in ODL” in George Town, Penang from June 27th to 29th was attended by women in such positions as Pro-Vice Chancellor, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Registrar, Deputy Director, Dean, Lecturer, and Head of Department from various open universities and colleges/institutes.

The countries represented were Malaysia, Tonga, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Uganda, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia, Kenya, Mauritius, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Guyana, Antigua, India and Sri Lanka.

 The training programmme facilitator, Dr Balasubramanian.

The training programmme facilitator, Dr Balasubramanian.

COL Vice President Dr K Balasubramanian, who facilitated the training, said that COL seeks to strengthen women’s leadership in the education sector through the workshop.

WOU Acting Vice Chancellor Prof Zoraini Wati Abas presented on ‘Identifying the Leader Within’ in which she recounted her personal leadership journey through more than 30 years in education.

 Prof Zoraini shares her experiences and what led her to where she is now.

Prof Zoraini shares her experiences and what led her to where she is now.

She credited four role models for formulating her thinking, vision and passion. The columnists S H Tan with “Sweet Young Things” and Sri Delima with “As I Was Passing” fanned her desire to be a columnist, and she did this over 10 years of writing for three different newspapers, promoting computer literacy and the benefits of the Internet. Two female professors opened her eyes to academia, she added.

She spoke about having 5-year goals to rise from lecturer to Associate Professor and eventually, to Professor, stressing that focus, goal, confidence and passion directed her path. “The leader within is about focusing on your own personal desires and aspirations. That is why I gave the story of my own journey.”

 Prof Zoraini elaborates on a few leadership traits.

Prof Zoraini elaborates on a few leadership traits.

She next listed the six (6) winning leadership traits as passion, goal, confidence, a team concept, communication, and determination. She said leaders should know how important it is to listen to others and consider all factors before making a decision, and be true to their morals and values, while putting aside any ego. She concluded: “The learner within is equally important. Find your passion, your vision, before you lead others.”

Vice President of Dell Penang, Corina Tan, in speaking on ‘Empowerment through Technology” shared about her personal path to corporate success after starting work as a clerk  at age 21 and putting herself through college. She joined Dell 18 years ago as a senior manager.

 Tan speaks about her life journey and the lessons learnt.

Tan speaks about her life journey and the lessons learnt.

She encouraged the use of technology as an empowering tool to grow themselves and their company, since technology offers the flexibility to work anywhere, anytime, and encourages collaboration of work. She mentioned using mobile learning and gamification to attract youngsters to learning.

Tan said she plans for everything and is currently finishing her MBA to potentially do consulting after retirement. She added, “Our mentors and friends will encourage us but you are the one who is going to make the change, so plan for it.”

She highlighted three (3) critical factors for success: mindset shifts, where you are willing to learn and take steps to learn: building key skills; and networking to accomplish tasks.

 Tan lists 3 critical factors for success.

Tan lists 3 critical factors for success.

 The workshop also carried talks on student engagement, the challenges for women leaders, the art of negotiation, learning via social media, and decision-making through use of data analytics. 

Participants were very pleased that they were selected to attend the workshop, adding that the workshop had provided new thoughts and ideas.  Most participants, when prompted had shared their decisions on what they will do immediately after the workshop.  They reiterated that they had learned so much about leadership from the women leaders who presented at the workshop.

 Participants attending the workshop.

Participants attending the workshop.

New leadership for full-time student body

 The annual general meeting of the student body in progress.

The annual general meeting of the student body in progress.

There was a changing of guard as 23-year-old Muhammad Farid Arsyad Foad took over from the very able, competent and industrious Pan Bo Zhong, 25, as the president of the on-campus learning (OCL) Student Council during the annual general meeting (AGM) today.

 Farid takes over the helm of the OCL Student Council from Bo Zhong.

Farid takes over the helm of the OCL Student Council from Bo Zhong.

Farid, like Bo Zhong, is pursuing his full-time Bachelor of Business (Hons) in Management programme at WOU, having enrolled during the May 2017 intake.  The OCL student body is tasked to look after the interests of some 250 full-time students currently enrolled at the University in the six full-time degree programmes offered. The new team has indeed big shoes to fill in view of the tremendous job done by Bo Zhong and his committee.

 Bo Zhong did a superb job during the period of his leadership.

Bo Zhong did a superb job during the period of his leadership.

The new line-up of the OCL Student Council for the 2018/2019 period is as follows:

President:                       Muhammad Farid Arsyad Foad

Vice Presidents:              Michelle Tan Cheng Hooi Hooi
                                       Chew Chin Chai (Calvin)

Secretary:                       Pranaven Pratapan
Assistant Secretary:        Teoh Wooi Joo

Treasurer:                       Lee Pei Fong
Assistant Treasurer:        Loo Wen Nee (Cheryl) 

Public Relations:             Kelly Oo Kai Li and Sujanthan Selvarajah

Committee Members:

Nerroshini Manoraj
Asswni Mariappan
Surendren Chandra Sagaran
Leow Xu-En
Tan Jing Yang

 Farid, flanked by his two Vice Presidents, with his team.

Farid, flanked by his two Vice Presidents, with his team.

In his speech before presenting certificates to the outgoing office-bearers, School of Business and Administration Acting Dean Prakash V Arumugam advised the students to “take ownership of the student-related activities” as they are part of the WOU community and should not feel detached from the University.

 Prakash offers some words of encouragement and advice.

Prakash offers some words of encouragement and advice.

He also reminded the students to keep the council election as democratic as possible in line with the philosophy of the nation that subscribes to a free and fair electoral process and good governance.

He applauded the outgoing Student Council members for doing “an excellent job” in organising several activities for the benefit of the students and to help the less fortunate in society, besides enhancing the image of the University. He therefore cautioned and encouraged the new office-bearers to surpass the performance of their predecessors and be “one-level higher” in undertaking their respective roles.

 Bo Zhong and the outgoing committee members with their Certificates of Appreciation.

Bo Zhong and the outgoing committee members with their Certificates of Appreciation.

Financial aids for WOU students from Penang State Government

WOU’s full-time students can submit applications for 3 forms of financial assistance awarded by the Penang State Government, starting June 1st.

One of them is also awarded for part-time, open distance learning (ODL). Six representatives from the offering agencies participated in an Education Financial Assistance exhibition organised by the University at the main campus today, where they disseminated information and answered students’ queries.

 The full-time students checking out the educational assistance offered.

The full-time students checking out the educational assistance offered.

Firstly, the Penang State Government Education Loan is offered to those pursing a full-time or ODL certificate, diploma, Bachelor’s degree, Master’s or PhD programme.

Students can apply online at http://www.penang.gov.my or http://epp.penang.gov.my, from June 1st to August 30th every year. Applicants must be born in Penang or have at least 5 years’ schooling in Penang, and studying in an MQA-approved programme. The annual quantum for full-time study is RM4,000 for Diploma and RM5,000/RM6,000 for a Bachelor’s degree programme  in Arts/Science.

As for ODL, the annual loan is RM3,000 for Diploma, RM4,000/RM5,000 for a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts/Science, RM6,500 for Master’s and RM8,000 for a PhD.

 Inquiring about the Penang State Education Loan.

Inquiring about the Penang State Education Loan.

Secondly is the Penang Future Foundation (PFF) scholarship programme under the Penang Career Assistance and Talent Centre (Penang CAT). This scholarship is awarded to Malaysians aged 25 or younger to pursue a full-time undergraduate MQA-accredited programme in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Accountancy and Finance studies at local public and private universities.

Prospective students can either be a 'PFF Penang Scholar' or 'PFF Mutiara Scholar', but must be a Penangite or have studied in Penang.

 The PFF Scholarship programme under Penang CAT.

The PFF Scholarship programme under Penang CAT.

For PFF Penang Scholar, applicants must have a CGPA of at least 3.67 in STPM/Foundation/Matriculation/Diploma/UEC or equivalent, or in their undergraduate studies. The household income must not exceed RM15,000 a month. They will receive a living allowance of RM1,000 per month (paid quarterly) and a tuition fee of up to RM100,000 for the entire duration paid directly to the University.

To be a PFF Mutiara Scholar, applicants must have a CGPA between 3.00 to 3.66 and a household income not exceeding RM5,000 per month. They get a living allowance of RM600 per month (paid quarterly) and a tuition fee of up to RM60,000.

 Much interest from students about this generous scholarship given for academic excellence.

Much interest from students about this generous scholarship given for academic excellence.

Students must maintain a CGPA of 3.33 and 3.00 respectively to continue being a PFF Penang Scholar and PFF Mutiara Scholar.

The PFF 2018 online application is open from 1 June 2018 to 21 June 2018. Online application can be made at http://penangfuturefoundation.my/online-application/

Lastly, the one-off student registration aid is for students offered a place to study for a diploma or Bachelor’s degree at 20 public universities, 36 polytechnics and 5 private universities in Malaysia, including WOU (a RM1,000 one-off scholarship).

 

 A one-off study grant to help students embark on their academic journey.

A one-off study grant to help students embark on their academic journey.

Applications can be made online at http://ibita.penang.gov.my from 1 June to 30 June and from 1 September to 30 September every year. Applicants must have a household income (basic plus allowance) not exceeding RM8,000 and one parent/guardian must be a  registered voter in Penang.

Universities must prepare learners to deal with emerging technologies

The emerging technological trends will have great implications for tertiary education and on the future of jobs, said Commonwealth of Learning (COL) president Prof Asha Kanwar.

She was delivering a public lecture on “Learning in the Era of Digital Transformation” at the main campus today attended by over 150 people from various institutions of higher learning.

 Registration of attendance at the talk.

Registration of attendance at the talk.

She said that the fourth revolution is marked by artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics as well as the growth of open educational resources (OERs), massive open online courses (MOOCs), and micro-credentials. She mentioned the impact of four innovations, namely MOOCs, blockchain, micro-credentials and OERs, on tertiary education.

“MOOCs can disrupt the traditional classroom lecture while blockchain will allow employers to verify the credentials of students and so challenge the authority of the accreditation bodies.  Micro-credentials call into question the relevance of full degrees, and OERs are disrupting business models built on intellectual property rights.”

 Former WOU Vice Chancellors Emeritus Prof Dato' Dr Wong Tat Meng (left, back to camera) and Dato' Dr Ho Sinn Chye (right) chat with the speaker.

Former WOU Vice Chancellors Emeritus Prof Dato' Dr Wong Tat Meng (left, back to camera) and Dato' Dr Ho Sinn Chye (right) chat with the speaker.

She stated that big data and cloud computing are critical for artificial intelligence. She cited a few examples of AI-powered systems in education like the virtual teaching assistant or chatbot that offers personalised assistance to learners by using text and the robots with human-like speech that can teach. The role of teachers will change from a provider of knowledge to an overseer who will monitor the progress of learners, lead non-academic activities and provide pastoral support, she added.

She shared that Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality technologies can improve learner experience through real-world environment and simulated experience, but that these technologies are presently with the commercial systems due to the very high cost.

 Prof Kanwar introduces the topic of her lecture.

Prof Kanwar introduces the topic of her lecture.

She said that AI will drastically transform work and the future of jobs with an Oxford University study reporting that 47% of today’s jobs would be automated in the next 20 years.  “Middle level jobs are most likely to disappear while we may see a marginal increase in highly skilled jobs.  All the cognitive type of repetitive jobs will be better done by robots and likely disappear, and so human beings need skills in areas where only they can contribute.”

She called for changes in the way education is delivered to prepare learners to these eventualities. “Learners will have to skill and re-skill themselves, moving back and forth from academia and employment. Micro-qualifications and micro-credentials will be as important as degrees because they don’t need to do the degree again; they just need a micro-credential for the new skills which they have learnt. The faculty also will have to become lifelong learners to keep pace with these changes.”

 The speaker highlights the impact of artificial intelligence on work and the future of jobs.

The speaker highlights the impact of artificial intelligence on work and the future of jobs.

She mentioned three essential literacies to equip learners for the future: human literacy, data literacy and technological literacy. Human literacy is to prepare students to perform jobs that only humans can do, make ethical choices and for social engagement through effective communication, while data literacy is to help learners find meaning in the flood of information. “Technological literacy is essential to understand machines and how we, as educators, can use them.”

She said in the era of digital transformation, “learning how to learn” will be the biggest skill to provide learners as nations must continually skill and re-skill the workforce. She called for universities to emphasise on employability by focusing on hard and soft skills and to develop a curriculum that addresses market needs and future requirements.

 Part of the crowd at the lecture.

Part of the crowd at the lecture.

She concluded by reminding of the 3 Es, Empathy, Equity and Ethics. “What human beings can bring to the table is Empathy. How can we teach this to our learners?” She mentioned equity in the distribution of emerging technologies, and for ethics, she inquired, “Will these technologies be like the Monster Frankenstein or will they bring peace and harmony in the world.”

During Q&A, she reiterated that the teacher is “not dead” with AI but that the teacher’s role will change. On employability, she urged universities to keep pace with the competencies needed by industry and train learners to become problem solvers, creative thinkers and people who can work with others, and have passion and perseverance.

 Prof Kanwar responding to questions during the Q&A moderated by Acting Vice Chancellor Prof Zoraini Wati Abas (left).

Prof Kanwar responding to questions during the Q&A moderated by Acting Vice Chancellor Prof Zoraini Wati Abas (left).

She agreed that education has become so commercialised that it has lost the values of empathy and sympathy, stressing that “values are absolutely fundamental to education” and students must be taught the importance of character.

 Senior WOU management, including School of Business & Administration Acting Dean Prakash V Arumugam (2nd from right), emcee for the lecture, in conversation with Prof Kanwar.

Senior WOU management, including School of Business & Administration Acting Dean Prakash V Arumugam (2nd from right), emcee for the lecture, in conversation with Prof Kanwar.

Keeping CeMBA/CeMPA relevant with changing times

The updating of the Commonwealth Executive Master of Business Administration or Master of Public Administration (CeMBA/CeMPA) programme to meet contemporary needs, the revision and adding of courses, and introducing more specialisation streams were among the decisions taken at the recent Commonwealth of Learning (COL)-led meetings held at WOU.

 Prof Kanwar chairs the Academic Board meeting.

Prof Kanwar chairs the Academic Board meeting.

WOU was privileged to host the 29th Academic Board (AB) and 13th Executive Governing Board (ECG) meetings for the CeMBA/CeMPA programme respectively on May 7th and 8th, attended by the deans/heads of departments and the Vice Chancellors from the 10 partner institutions offering the programme. The meetings were chaired by COL President Prof Asha Kanwar, who was accompanied by Prof Romeela Mohee, COL Education Specialist for Higher Education.

The 10 partner institutions offering CeMBA/CeMPA are WOU, Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU, Pakistan), Bangladesh Open University (BOU), Botswana Open University; Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST, Ghana), Open University of Mauritius (OUM), National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Open University of Sri Lanka (OUSL), University College of the Caribbean (UCC, Jamaica) and University of Guyana (UG).

 Acting WOU Vice Chancellor Prof Zoraini Wati Abas (centre) with the AB members and the COL delegates.

Acting WOU Vice Chancellor Prof Zoraini Wati Abas (centre) with the AB members and the COL delegates.

Prof Kanwar said that today’s world of business has changed immensely due to elements like ethics, sustainability and technology. “Are we able to give some ideas to students who will be dealing with the future of business on how to handle the kinds of changes which are happening so quickly?”

She reflected that the MPA stream had hardly any takers since the beginning in 2002, but noted that UCC and UG have lately revived interest in this public administration steam. She informed that some 34,000 people have enrolled in the CeMBA/MPA programme of the partner institutions over the years, with almost 18,000 or some 50% having graduated to date.

 Prof Kanwar highlights the gender incentives to draw more women into the programme.

Prof Kanwar highlights the gender incentives to draw more women into the programme.

She also mentioned that COL has developed gender guidelines or incentives after consultations with partners in order to draw more women into the programme, adding that this will be re-looked to make it more inclusive without diluting the programme quality.

On the topic of programme specialisation, she stated that three streams have been proposed in HR, Finance and Marketing. “There is a general consensus that specialisation is the way to go to offer more options and to upgrade the programme.”

 Prof Zoraini presents a brief overview of WOU.

Prof Zoraini presents a brief overview of WOU.

Prof Kanwar also shared about the decision to review 2 courses, Research Methods and Quantitative Techniques, and once these courses are ready they will be reviewed by the Academic Board and authorised to offer by the EGB. “We want any new courses which we develop to be based on OER to save time and to harvest the best quality content which is available free on the Internet.”

Prof Mohee highlighted that a 6-credit course on Sustainable Development has been developed by OUM (Mauritius) and is now available as an OER course to all CeMBA/MPA partner institutions to add as an elective from this academic year.

 Prof Mohee (centre) talks about the new course on Sustainable Development.

Prof Mohee (centre) talks about the new course on Sustainable Development.

Acting Vice Chancellor Prof Zoraini Wati Abas and School of Business & Administration Acting Dean Prakash V Arumugam represented WOU at the AB and EGB meetings.

 Prof Kanwar (centre) and Prof Mohee (2nd from left) with members of the Executive Governing Board.

Prof Kanwar (centre) and Prof Mohee (2nd from left) with members of the Executive Governing Board.

Be Engaged, students advised

Students should grab the opportunities offered at WOU to learn not only through the classes and lecturers but also from peers, through interactions on campus and the various extra-curricular activities available to them.

WOU Acting Vice Chancellor Prof Zoraini Wati Abas was speaking during the morning orientation session for the new on-campus learning (OCL) full-time students from the May 2018 intake, held at the main campus today.

 Prof Zoraini addressing the new students from the May intake.

Prof Zoraini addressing the new students from the May intake.

She said WOU’s small classes will allow the students to forge a close-knit relationship and this will contribute to their success as students.  “Not only is the University fees affordable, students are getting good quality education at WOU.  Our team of academicians come from a broad background and with diverse experiences.  Students should be able to benefit through their teachings and interactions. Take the opportunity to learn from them and ask questions, not just on academic content but on life.”

She also spoke about WOU’s student engagement concept. “We give you opportunities to learn, be it formal through lectures and classroom assignments, or informal when you participate in extra-curricular activities. You will be able to pick up knowledge and living skills.”

 Motivating the new students to be actively engaged with the University.

Motivating the new students to be actively engaged with the University.

Prof Zoraini continued, “Student engagement is when you are actively engaged. You come to class, you do your homework on time and submit assignments on time. Be engaged with the lecturers, the activities and in whatever you do, including going to the library, making friends. Be engaged with the University and the learning process.”

She encouraged the students to be the best student they can be, and reiterated, “Learn from the subject matter and from the experiences of your lecturers. They are here to help you.” She also advised them to try out kayaking and to participate in the events of the OCL student body to sharpen their soft skills. 

 Muhammad Danial leads in reciting the students' pledge.

Muhammad Danial leads in reciting the students' pledge.

Freshman Muhammad Danial Irwan Zuhaimi, 22, who is newly enrolled in the Bachelor of Business (Hons) in Management programme, then led in the oath-taking ceremony.

Penang Regional Centre (PGRC) director Ching Huey Ling and OCL programme coordinator Dr Chuah Poh Lean took to the podium to respectively introduce the PGRC team and the academic advisors.

 Ching (right) introduces her team from the Penang Regional Centre.

Ching (right) introduces her team from the Penang Regional Centre.

Prof Zoraini also presented certificates to 19 OCL students receiving the Dean’s List award for their academic excellence in the September 2017 semester.

 Eight of the Dean's List recipients with their certificates.

Eight of the Dean's List recipients with their certificates.

Among those present were Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research & Outreach) Prof David Ngo Chek Ling, Registrar Dr Andy Liew Teik Kooi, School of Humanities & Social Sciences Dean Assoc Prof Dr S Nagarajan and School of Business & Administration Acting Dean Prakash V Arumugam.