Education in Malaysia now 3. What is the future direction for education?

The establishment of new international schools has continued at a rapid rate over the past 5 years in Malaysia, a country which has a complicated national education system for different ethnic groups (refer to the previous article “1. Sudden increase in international schools and “2. The challenging education system of the multiracial country, Malaysia”).

The main reason why Malaysian people are becoming more interested in international school education is most likely because of the increasing concern regarding English competency – in Japan, where people hope for English competency, Malaysians are concerned.

Many people say English is useful in Malaysia and it is true. I can’t speak Bahasa Malaysia at all, but I have never had a problem, at least in Kuala Lumpur. English is generally used as a common language for business and conversation among the different races. 

Interestingly, however, it is thought that this high level of English proficiency is falling within the younger generation.

There are many people in their sixties or older who speak English fluently because English education at school was a part of government schools until the 1960’s. Since the 1970’s, however, language policy has focused on Bahasa Malaysia and, despite measures to strengthen English literacy, there has more emphasis on Bahasa Malaysia recently.

Therefore, parents who are concerned about their child’s English competency are more interested in international schools, or private local school which focus more on English. This tendency is more obvious in middle-class Chinese or Indian Malaysians who are at a disadvantage in public schools because of the Bumiputera policy. They question their future potential to earn by acquiring Bahasa Malaysia.

Also, parents are increasingly doubtful of the Malaysian style education which emphasizes test results.

One of Japanese who has experienced working in a Malaysian educational interface for many years talk about the current cramming system of education:  


Japan followed a similar path in the past – the “cramming” style of education was effective in improving the national education level in a short time and for producing the elite to lead the growing country, but now it stands at a turning point. An increase in the number of students dropping out, the tendency to “burnout” after graduation, and a lack of creative skills etc. are recognized as the harmful consequences of the current education system. There is a growing sense of the crisis that Malaysia might not survive international competition if the trend continues. However, the government cannot find an approach to change the existing education system – it’s difficult to retrain teachers who know only teaching by rote.


We know that all countries, including Japan, face difficulties in educating the next generation which carries the weight of responsibility for the future of the country. Even nations as a whole grapple with what is the ideal education, so it’s natural that we, as parents, sometimes don’t know what to do for our children.

Incidentally, I feel very sorry for young primary students being ranked by scores, though they seem surprisingly unconcerned even if they finish at the bottom.

The government has designated the international school industry is a part of NKEA (National Key Economic Areas) – I feel this is overly bold, but how do you feel?

I am interested in what can be expected from international school education, that’s why I am wondering;

How does each school recruit enough high-quality teachers according to its own educational policies and content?

Do teachers have enough experience?

Does an international school education justify the expensive fees?

Isn’t there too much supply in comparison with demand?

I will focus on the various doubts surrounding significant, personal expectations next time.

4th International school fair held at a big shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur

Finally, let me write about more familiar issues concerning bilingual education.
My elder son joined an English language preschool and I was sure it would prove to be advantageous for him. But since he turned 4 years old I’ve been more and more concerned because his speech is often a mixture Japanese and English, and he prefers to count numbers in English because counters in Japanese are difficult to remember.

I realized all over again that his Japanese ability is the base and he will not understand arithmetic or science, let alone Japanese, without a high level of Japanese or imagination based in Japanese. I have become impatient about the fact that my son may lack the ability to think and write well in Japanese if I don’t carefully support him. I have to avoid this no matter what.

I found out for the first time that this is what the mother tongue is for us and I was more able to understand why each race in Malaysia is supported by their school.  

Reported by Makiko Wada, Sugawara Institute

‘Washi’ proves an asset for Italian culture

Posted on The Asahi Shimbun on November 16, 2014 Akiyama shows the traditional way of making Japanese “washi” paper 

at the Japan Cultural Institute in Rome on Nov. 13. (Hiroshi Ishida)

By HIROSHI ISHIDA/ Correspondent

ROME–In this soccer-mad country, a sellout crowd of 150 watched the methodical and precise moves of a Japanese artist creating “washi” paper in the traditional hand-produced way.

The 53-year-old artist, Nobushige Akiyama, performed five times on Nov. 13 at the Japan Cultural Institute in Rome.

Washi, which is expected to be added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list, is gaining attention in Italy, where it is called “rice paper” and is indispensable for restoring cultural assets, such as ancient documents and drawings.

Akiyama, who was originally from Yokohama and has been living in Rome for 29 years, usually uses stones or bronze in his art. About 10 years ago, he started featuring the light but strong washi in his works.

“High evaluations of washi in foreign countries are unknown in Japan,” he said. “I want the Japanese people to rediscover its values.”

According to officials of the Istituto Superiore per la Conservazione ed il Restauro (Superior institute for conservation and restoration) in Italy, washi fibers are long and can withstand solvents. If solvents are transfused into thin washi and it is pasted on drawings, it can protect their surfaces.

By HIROSHI ISHIDA/ Correspondent a4By hand, Nobushige Akiyama creates “washi” paper at the Japan Cultural Institute in Rome on Nov. 13. (Hiroshi Ishida)

“Washi” traditional paper-making set to be tacked onto UNESCO list

a2Posted on The Asahi Shimbun on October 28, 2014

A craftsman makes washi paper at his workshop in Higashi-Chichibu,
Saitama Prefecture, on Oct. 28. (Hikaru Uchida)


Japan’s traditional art of “washi” paper-making is in line to be added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list, the U.N. organization announced on Oct. 28.

Dating back more than 1,000 years, the craft of making “tesuki washi” (traditional handmade paper) had been nominated for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization list by the Japanese government.

UNESCO said its subsidiary that examines candidates for cultural assets proposed that it register washi-making as an Intangible Cultural Heritage.

It is a virtual certainty for the Japanese craft to be selected as the Intergovernmental Committee, which decides on the registration, has never rejected the subsidiary body’s recommendations, according to the Agency for Cultural Affairs.

The UNESCO list covers traditions representing cultural diversity and human creativity in fields such as the performing arts, festivals, traditional crafts and social customs.

The newest selection will be the 23rd heritage to be selected from Japan, following the induction of “Washoku, traditional dietary cultures of the Japanese” in December 2013.

The government plans the new induction to include “sekishu-banshi” from Hamada, Shimane Prefecture, which is already registered as a UNESCO cultural heritage item; newly added “honmino-shi” from Mino, Gifu Prefecture; and “hosokawa-shi” from Ogawa and Higashi-Chichibu in Saitama Prefecture.

The official designation of traditional washi paper-making will be decided during the meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee, which will be held in Paris in November.

An artisan dries honmino-shi paper under the sun in Mino, Gifu Prefecture.
 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)


Tokyo’s only winery looks to go local

Posted on the Japan News by Yomiuri Shimbun on November 12, 2014. Yomiuri Shimbun
Miwa Echigoya, seen with red wine she is making from Tokyo-grown Takao grapes at Tokyo Winery in Nerima Ward, Tokyo, says she wants to publicize Tokyo agriculture.

The Yomiuri Shimbun 

The only winery in Tokyo opened in a residential area of Nerima Ward in September. Just one month later it started selling its first three wines, made from grapes purchased from Yamagata and Nagano prefectures. Tokyo Winery was founded by Miwa Echigoya, 38, who used to work at the Ota Market of the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market as an intermediate vegetable wholesaler. She began the winery thinking, “I want to make wine using grapes from Tokyo.”

The winery is now making red wine from Tokyo-grown grapes. Echigoya is enthusiastic about spreading the idea of Tokyoites consuming Tokyo products: the drinking of wine and the eating of vegetables from Tokyo.

She opened Tokyo Winery in the Oizumigakuen district of Nerima Ward. One day in the year 2000, Echigoya was working at Ota Market and tasted a cabbage harvested that morning by a farmer in Nerima Ward. She was surprised at the freshness and sweetness of a vegetable grown in Tokyo. About two years ago, she decided she wanted to start her business so she could publicize agricultural products made in Tokyo.

In university, Echigoya studied agriculture and biology in the agricultural department, but she was an absolute amateur when it came to wine-making. She learned about wine-making by receiving training at a winery in Yamanashi Prefecture, and through reading books about wine-making she found overseas. She obtained her license for producing alcohol from fruits in September.

According to the National Tax Agency, Echigoya is the only person in Tokyo who holds the license.

In October, she started to sell three kinds of wine using the chardonnay and Delaware grape varieties she had purchased from Yamagata and Nagano prefectures.

Currently, she is in the process of making red wine using fragrant Takao grapes originating in Tokyo. She aims to sell 8,000 bottles of wine under 10 labels in December.

Echigoya sticks to light, refreshing wine as she wants customers to drink her products with vegetables grown in Tokyo.

In the future, she plans to offer nibbles of made-in-Tokyo vegetables at a wine tasting space to be set up in her facility so that visitors can enjoy how they compliment with wine.

“I’d like many people to know that wine and vegetables can be produced even in Tokyo,” she said.

Newly opened wineries

According to the Tokyo-based Association of Nippon’s Wine Lovers, an association of Japanese wine aficionados, wineries exist in about 200 locations around the country. The number has been increasing by about 10 locations a year for the past several years. An official in charge at the association said that the number of restaurants that stock Japanese wine is also increasing, mainly in Tokyo.

The majority of wineries that opened recently are private enterprises like Tokyo Winery. Wine expert Fujitoshi Yanagida, professor at the Institute of Enology and Viticulture at the University of Yamanashi, said: “Japanese wine is becoming popular as its quality has improved. Original and rare wine made at small wineries is attracting attention and the situation has boosted private wineries.

The original article:

Education in Malaysia now 2. The challenging education system of the multiracial country, Malaysia

Over the past 5 years the establishment of new international schools continues at a rapid rate (refer to the previous article “1. Sudden increase in international schools”). Why are Malaysian people becoming more interested in international school education recently? To understand this, it is necessary to look at the setting of the Malaysia education system today.

The education system in Malaysia is much more complicated than the largely mono-racial education system in Japan, and a lot of specific issues arise because Malaysia is a multiracial country.

Firstly, there are the language policies of the school system.

There are “national schools (SK)” and “national-type schools (SJK)” for primary schools. SK use Bahasa Malaysia, SJK (C) Chinese and SJK (T) Tamil. The Malaysian education system provides options for parents to create ethnically-homogeneous environments at the primary level (6 years).

However, it is important not to ignore the Bumiputera Policy aimed at improving the economic standing of the Bumiputera (the Malay race and other indigenous peoples) which represents over 60 percent of the population and receives preference in areas such as university admissions and civil-service jobs.

The secondary level consists of 3 lower years and 2 upper years, the SMK for Bahasa Malaysia, and the presence of a single secondary school format does create convergence.

To Japanese, the Malaysian education may seem somewhat old-fashioned. Similar to the traditional Japanese style of learning by rote, its emphasis is on national examination results at the end of primary, lower secondary, and upper secondary education (UPSR/PMR/SPM) and places are allocated to students according to scores.

It must be very hard for Chinese and Indian Malaysians to integrate into SMKs (the schools using Bahasa Malaysia), and the effects of the Bumiputera Policy continues throughout the education system to admittance into national universities and employment.

I suppose it would be less burdensome for non-Bumiputera to go to SK, (national schools using Bahasa Malaysia), however, the data shows that the great majority of non-Bumiputera choose to go to SJK(C) for Chinese and SJK(T) for Tamil through respect for the mother tongue or benefits in the future. Moreover, it’s surprising that there is an increasing number of Malay and Indian applicants going to SJK(C).


According to the data, 99% of primary level students go to public schools, of which 74% enroll in SK, 21% in SJK(C) and 3% in SJK(T).
The racial ratio in each school is:
SK (National School in Bahasa Malaysia): Bumiputera (Malay) 94%, Chinese 1%, Indian 3%
SJK(C) (National-type School in Chinese): Bumiputera (Malay) 9%, Chinese 88%, Indian 2%
SJK(T) (National-type School in Tamil): Indian 100%(Source:

What about private education in Malaysia?

Approximately 3% or 145,000 of students aged 7 to 17 were enrolled in private schools (1% of total primary enrolments and 4% of total secondary enrolments) from the data for 2011. These schools are mainly categorized private schools that teach the national curriculum: local private schools, international schools, religious schools, and Independent Chinese schools.

Independent Chinese schools operate only at the secondary level and are very competitive among Chinese students. 46% of the 145,000 students in private schools today enroll in the 60 nationwide schools. The schools prepare students for a standardized examination known as the Unified Examination Certificate (in Year 6 of secondary school), although many schools also prepare their students for the SPM. The workload for students is said to be seriously intense. It’s not uncommon for Chinese families from the beginning to opt out of the Malaysian education system, seen as being disadvantageous for their children, and gear them towards overseas universities.

When I consider the Malaysian education system I feel that, despite being a multiracial country, it is a system characterized by inequality between different races and unfair conditions.

I asked my Chinese Malaysian friend how she felt when she couldn’t enter the national university because of its race quota. She said that of course she was frustrated, but her response about the situation wasn’t as strong as I had expected since she didn’t complain about the Bumiputera policy or show any anger about the different social standings of the various racial groups in Malaysia.

I don’t know the reality, but Chinese Malaysian are culturally different from Malay people and tend to be predominant economically, so it may be easier for them to accept this simply as a matter of being different. If the same situation of preferential treatment existed in Japan, there would be mounting tensions.

There have been racial riots in the past, but Malaysia is said to be peaceful internationally in comparison to other countries and the national character moderate. I think Malaysian people have wisdom about living with ethnically different people because of its long history.

Malaysia is a multiracial country and, as such, it has certain specific educational requirements. If economic problems can be resolved, it looks like the private education market with its international schools has the potential for growth.


Reported by Makiko Wada, Sugawara Institute

Lose the weight, not the potatoes

Released on EurekAlert! On Oct. 13, 2014

Newly-published research shows potatoes can be part of a weight loss regimen


Denver, CO., October 13, 2014 – Research published this week in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition demonstrates that people can eat potatoes and still lose weight.

The study, a collaborative effort between the University of California at Davis and the Illinois Institute of Technology, sought to gain a better understanding of the role of calorie reduction and the glycemic index in weight loss when potatoes are included in the diet.

“Some people have questioned the role of potatoes in a weight loss regimen because of the vegetable’s designation as a high glycemic index food,” explained Dr. Britt Burton-Freeman, PhD, the lead investigator of the study. “However, the results of this study confirm what health professionals and nutrition experts have said for years: it is not about eliminating a certain food or food groups, rather, it is reducing calories that count,” said Burton-Freeman.

Ninety overweight men and women were randomly assigned to one of three groups: (1) reduced calorie/high GI, (2) reduced calorie/low GI, (3) control group with no calorie or GI restrictions. All three groups were provided potatoes, healthful recipes and instructions to consume 5-7 servings of potatoes per week. At the end of the 12-week study period, the researchers found that all three groups had lost weight and there was no significant difference in weight loss between the groups.

“There is no evidence that potatoes, when prepared in a healthful manner, contribute to weight gain. In fact, we are seeing that they can be part of a weight loss program,” said Burton-Freeman.

Interestingly, even the control group reduced their caloric intake and lost weight despite not being provided with a specific calorie restriction. “The fact that all groups, even the control group, lost weight is a curious finding and provides cause for future research,” said co-investigator Dr. Tissa Kappagoda, MD, PhD.

The study results are good news for potato lovers and any consumer who craves the satisfaction of wholesome yet healthy meal options. One medium-size (5.3 ounce) skin-on potato contains just 110 calories per serving, boasts more potassium (620g) than a banana, provides almost half the daily value of vitamin C (45 percent), and contains no fat, sodium or cholesterol.



This study was funded by the United States Potato Board. Visit for a wealth of potato nutrition information and healthy recipes.

About the United States Potato Board

The United States Potato Board (USPB) is the nation’s potato marketing and research organization. Based in Denver, Colorado, the USPB represents more than 2,500 potato growers and handlers across the country. The USPB was established in 1971 by a group of potato growers to promote the benefits of eating potatoes. Today, as the largest vegetable commodity board, the USPB is proud to be recognized as an innovator in the produce industry and dedicated to positioning potatoes as a nutrition powerhouse—truly, goodness unearthed.

Original Article released:

Link Cited on: LINK de DIET


An apple a day could keep obesity away

Released on EurekAlert! on Sep. 29, 2014

Granny Smiths promote friendly bacteria


PULLMAN, Wash. – Scientists at Washington State University have concluded that nondigestible compounds in apples – specifically, Granny Smith apples – may help prevent disorders associated with obesity. The study, thought to be the first to assess these compounds in apple cultivars grown in the Pacific Northwest, appears in October’s print edition of the journal Food Chemistry.


“We know that, in general, apples are a good source of these nondigestible compounds but there are differences in varieties,” said food scientist Giuliana Noratto, the study’s lead researcher. “Results from this study will help consumers to discriminate between apple varieties that can aid in the fight against obesity.”


The tart green Granny Smith apples benefit the growth of friendly bacteria in the colon due to their high content of non-digestible compounds, including dietary fiber and polyphenols, and low content of available carbohydrates. Despite being subjected to chewing, stomach acid and digestive enzymes, these compounds remain intact when they reach the colon. Once there, they are fermented by bacteria in the colon, which benefits the growth of friendly bacteria in the gut.


The study showed that Granny Smith apples surpass Braeburn, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, McIntosh and Red Delicious in the amount of nondigestible compounds they contain.


“The nondigestible compounds in the Granny Smith apples actually changed the proportions of fecal bacteria from obese mice to be similar to that of lean mice,” Noratto said.


The discovery could help prevent some of the disorders associated with obesity such as low-grade, chronic inflammation that can lead to diabetes. The balance of bacterial communities in the colon of obese people is disturbed. This results in microbial byproducts that lead to inflammation and influence metabolic disorders associated with obesity, Noratto said.


“What determines the balance of bacteria in our colon is the food we consume,” she said.


Re-establishing a healthy balance of bacteria in the colon stabilizes metabolic processes that influence inflammation and the sensation of feeling satisfied, or satiety, she said.


Original Article released:


Link Cited on: LINK de DIET


Education in Malaysia now 1. Sudden increase in international schools

It’s still half-dark at 7 a.m. in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

School buses of different international schools arrive to pick up students from the condominiums of mainly foreign residential areas. 

The establishment of successive international schools continues. Four years ago there were only 21 international schools in Malaysia, but today there are 99, and an additional 23 licenses have already been issued by the Ministry of Education Malaysia. 

The government aims to promote Malaysia as an education hub by 2020 and as the quota of 40% local students in an international school was removed in 2010 new comers rushed to join this industry. 

The government’s target is to increase the number of international schools to 87 by 2020; although this figure has already been surpassed. According to the latest announcement by the Ministry for Education in April 2014, however, the total student enrolment is only at 39,460 against a target of 75,000 students by 2020.

New Schools increase enrolment capacity, so the target of total student enrolment will probably be achieved by 2020. But I wonder what percentage of households can afford to pay such expensive fees for international schools in this country when the average wage per worker is about JPY 76,000, according to the government statistics in 2013. 

International schools were originally established with the purpose of providing the equivalent education of the countries from where the overseas students came. So, students in international schools mainly consisted of overseas students (many of them receive educational support from companies) and it was an exclusive option for the rich local households. But recently, it appears that the target of various international schools is now towards local students. It’s surprising to know that, at present, Malaysian students make up 50.3% of total student enrolment.



International schools are somewhat synonymous with expensive fees. The fee usually increases with the grade and the fee for Year 13 is about JPY 2.5 million per annum for a middle-range school and no less than JPY 1 million per annum even for lower-range schools.

Many education-minded parents are interested in an integrated system of junior high and senior high schools in today’s Japan, but these international schools generally have a system of nursery through to high school – how much is the total cost from preschool in these international schools?!

It’s said to cost at least JPY 1.5 billion (RM 30 million) to build a new international school, so it’s big business, but is this huge investment worth it?



Malaysia is attractive to Japanese people as a place to receive an English education which is more affordable compared to the USA, England or Australia. It is this growing interest in Malaysia as an education hub that the government is aiming for.

The Japanese media often reports cases of mothers and elementary school children staying in Malaysia. But if a Japanese family moves to Malaysia and chooses an international school, the fee is much more expensive than a general private school in Japan, and almost the same as an international school in Japan, so is it really financially advantageous?

Next time, we continue with the topic of the education system and issues in Malaysia, and consider why the demand for international schools is rising.

Reported by Makiko Wada, Sugawara Institute