Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Impact of Technology on Language Learning and Teaching: What, How and Why

Date and Venue:

20 - 22 April 2009

SEAMEO Regional Language Centre
30 Orange Grove Road
Singapore 258352


The Regional Language Centre (RELC), an educational project of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO), is located in Singapore. The members of SEAMEO are Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The associate members are Australia, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Norway. The main objective of SEAMEO is to provide constructive direction to the forces and the challenges of change in the contemporary world through joint and cooperative efforts for regional educational development. RELC was set up in 1968 to provide assistance to SEAMEO member countries in the area of language education. To achieve its purpose, the Centre conducts advanced training courses and undertakes research, publications and information dissemination, and other activities related to the linguistic needs and problems of Southeast Asia. The RELC International Seminar is a major event in language education in the region. It is held annually and is attended by some 500 participants – mainly scholars, lecturers, curriculum developers and educationists from the region as well as from other parts of the world.


Monday, January 19, 2009


Posted by Chad Perry

Paper presented to the ANZ Doctoral Consortium, University of Sydney, February 1994, with later additions to 18 September 1995.


This paper addresses the problem: how should a PhD candidate in management or a similar field (and his or her supervisor) present the thesis? The structure developed provides a starting point for understanding what a PhD thesis should set out to achieve, and also provides a basis for communication between a candidate and his or her supervisor. Firstly, criteria for judging a PhD thesis are reviewed and justification for its structure is provided. Then writing style is considered. Finally, each of the five chapters and their sections are described in some detail: introduction, literature review, methodology, analysis of data, and conclusions and implications.


These notes were originally based on ideas of Drs Geoff Meredith, Bert Cunnington and Mike Watkins and also on University of Oregon (n.d.). However, views and errors are the writer's own. He has written the paper with a beginning PhD candidate in mind, and so has presented some positions as starting points for drafting a thesis rather than as the only positions that can be adopted. He thanks Drs Kwaku Atahuene-Gima, Robert Brown, Alan Buttery, Gail Craswell, Hank Johnson, Di Lewis, Estelle Phillips, John Roberts and John Rossiter, and Barry Bell, Diana Best, Claudia Hope and Tony Ward for commenting on earlier drafts, and thanks Barry Bell, Len Coote, June Dunleavy, Marliyn Healy, John Jackson, Ben Lyttle, Cec Pederson, Tony Ward and Vicky Schinkel for ideas for some examples.


Ideally, PhD research in management or a related field should:

* cover a field which fascinates the candidate sufficiently for him or her to endure years of hard and solitary work;
* build on the candidate's previous studies, for example, his or her course work in a Master's degree;
* be in an area of `warm' research activity rather than in a `cold', overworked area or in a `hot', too-competitive, soon-to-be extinguished area;
* be in an area near the main streams of a discipline and not at the margins of a discipline or straddling two disciplines - being near the main streams makes it easier to find thesis examiners, to gain academic positions, and to get acceptance of journal articles about the research;
* be manageable, producing interesting results and a thesis in the shortest time possible;
* have accessible sources of data;
* open into a program of research projects after the PhD is completed; and
* provide skills and information for obtaining a job in a non-research field, if a research or academic job is not available or not desired.

Whatever research a PhD candidate finally chooses to do, he or she must record the research in a thesis. This note is written for PhD candidates in management or a related field and their supervisors and outlines a structure for a five chapter PhD thesis. The structure is summarised in figure 1 and in table 1. Other writers have provided general procedures for the many parts of the PhD research process (for example, Davis & Parker 1979; Phillips & Pugh 1987; Perry 1990), but these notes concentrate on the PhD thesis itself and do so more comprehensively and with far more examples than other writers (for example, Clark 1986; Pratt 1984; Witcher 1990). That is, this paper addresses the problem:

How should PhD candidates and their supervisors present the thesis?

This problem is clearly important for PhD candidates. Many universities provide little guidance to candidates, prompting the criticism that, at one university, `the conditions for the award of degrees in the Graduate Study section of the calendar give more precise information on the size of the paper to be used and the margins to be left on each side of the sheet than on the university's understanding of what a thesis is' (Massingham 1984, p. 15). By using the structure developed below, a candidate will ensure his or her PhD thesis demonstrates the key requirements of a PhD thesis (Moses 1985):

* a distinct contribution to a body of knowledge through an original investigation or testing of ideas, worthy in part of publication (see chapter 5 described below) -this is usually the most important criterion for a PhD;
* competence in research processes, including an understanding of, and competence in, appropriate research techniques and an ability to report research (see chapters 3 and 4, plus the whole report format); and
* mastery of a body of knowledge , including an ability to make critical use of published work and source materials (see chapter 2) with an appreciation of the relationship of the special theme to the wider field of knowledge (see chapters 2 and 5).

The candidate should ask to see a copy of the letter sent to examiners to determine the priorities of his or her faculty for the three criteria above and if the faculty has additional criteria (Nightingale 1992). As well, a supervisor may be able to produce copies of previous examiners' reports.

The foundations for the structured approach were the writer's own doing, supervising, examining and adjudicating conflicting examiners' reports of many master's and PhD theses in management and related fields at several Australian universities, and examining requests for transfer from master's to PhD research, together with comments from the people listed in the acknowledgments section.

The paper has two parts. Firstly, the five chapter structure is introduced, possible changes to it are justified and writing style is considered. In the second part, each of the five chapters and their sections are described in some detail: introduction, literature review, methodology, analysis of data, and findings and implications.


The structured approach may be limited to PhDs in management areas such as marketing and strategic management which involve common quantitative and qualitative methodologies. That is, the structure may not be appropriate for PhDs in other areas or for management PhDs using relatively unusual methodologies such as historical research designs. Moreover, the structure is a starting point for thinking about how to present a thesis rather than the only structure which can be adopted, and so it is not meant to inhibit the creativity of PhD researchers. Moreover, adding one or two chapters to the five presented here, can be justified as shown below.

Another limitation of the approach is that it is restricted to presenting the final thesis. This paper does not address the techniques of actually writing a thesis (however, appendix I describes three little-known keys to writing a thesis). Moreover, the approach in this paper does not refer to the actual sequence of writing the thesis, nor is it meant to imply that the issues of each chapter have to be addressed by the candidate in the order shown. For example, the hypotheses at the end of chapter 2 are meant to appear to be developed as the chapter progresses, but the candidate might have a good idea of what they will be before he or she starts to write the chapter. And although the methodology of chapter 3 must appear to be been selected because it was appropriate for the research problem identified and carefully justified in chapter 1, the candidate may have actually selected a methodology very early in his or her candidature and then developed an appropriate research problem and justified it. Moreover, after a candidate has sketched out a draft table of contents for each chapter, he or she should begin writing the `easiest parts' of the thesis first as they go along, whatever those parts are - and usually introductions to chapters are the last to written (Phillips & Pugh 1987, p. 61). But bear in mind that the research problem, limitations and research gaps in the literature must be identified and written down before other parts of the thesis can be written, and section 1.1 is one of the last to be written. Nor is this structure meant to be the format for a PhD research proposal - one proposal format is provided in Parker and Davis (1979), and another related to the structure developed below is in appendix II. How to write an abstract of a thesis is described in appendix VI.

Table 1 Sequence of a five chapter PhD thesis

Title page
Abstract (with keywords)
Table of contents
List of tables
List of figures
Statement of original authorship

1 Introduction
1.1 Background to the research
1.2 Research problem and hypotheses
1.3 Justification for the research
1.4 Methodology
1.5 Outline of the report
1.6 Definitions
1.7 Delimitations of scope and key assumptions
1.8 Conclusion

2 Literature review
2.1 Introduction
2.2 (Parent disciplines/fieldss and classification models)
2.3 (Immediate discipline, analytical models and research questions or hypotheses)
2.4 Conclusion

3 Methodology
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Justification for the paradigm and methodology
3.3 (Research procedures)
3.4 Ethical considerations
3.5 Conclusion

4 Analysis of data
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Subjects
4.3 (Patterns of data for each research question or hypothesis)
4.4 Conclusion

5 Conclusions and implications
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Conclusions about each research question or hypothesis
5.3 Conclusions about the research problem
5.4 Implications for theory
5.5 Implications for policy and practice
5.5.1 Private sector managers
5.5.2 Public sector policy analysts and managers
5.6 Limitations
5.7 Further research




A five chapter structure can be used to effectively present a PhD thesis, and it is summarised in figure 1 and table 1.

Figure 1 Model of the chapters of a PhD thesis

In brief, the thesis should have a unified structure (Easterby-Smith et al. 1991). Firstly, chapter 1 introduces the core research problem and then `sets the scene' and outlines the path which the examiner will travel towards the thesis' conclusion. The research itself is described in chapters 2 to 5:

* the research problem and hypotheses arising from the body of knowledge developed during previous research (chapter 2),
* methods used in this research to collect data about the hypotheses (chapter 3),
* results of applying those methods in this research (chapter 4), and
* conclusions about the hypotheses and research problem based on the results of chapter 4, including their place in the body of knowledge outlined previously in chapter 2 (chapter 5).

This five chapter structure can be justified. Firstly, the structure is a unified and focussed one, and so addresses the major fault of postgraduate theses in a survey of 139 examiners' reports, that is, it clearly addresses those examiners' difficulty in discerning what was the `thesis' of the thesis? `Supervisors need to emphasise throughout students' candidacies that they are striving in the thesis to communicate one big idea' (Nightingale 1984, p. 174), and that one big idea is the research problem stated on page 1 or 2 of the thesis and explicitly solved in chapter 5. Easterby-Smith et al. (1991) also emphasise the importance of consistency in a PhD thesis, and Phillips and Pugh (1987, p. 38) confirm that a thesis must have a thesis or a `position'. Secondly, the structure carefully addresses each of the 31 requirements of an Australian PhD thesis outlined by an authority in a publication of the Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australia (Moses 1985, pp. 32-34). Thirdly, the structure is explicitly or implicitly followed by many writers of articles in prestigious academic journals such as The Academy of Management Journal and Strategic Management Journal (for example, Datta et al. 1992). Fourthly, the structure has been the basis of several PhD and masters theses at Australian universities that were completed in minimum time and passed by examiners with none or negligible revisions required. Fifthly, the structure is much like that which will be used by candidates later in their career, to apply for research grants (Krathwohl 1977; Poole 1993). Finally, by reducing time wasted on unnecessary tasks or on trying to demystify the PhD process, the five chapter structure provides a mechanism to shorten the time taken to complete a PhD, an aim becoming desired in many countries (Cude 1989).

Justified changes to the structure. Some changes to the five chapter structure could be justified. For example, a candidate may find it convenient to expand the number of chapters to six or seven because of unusual characteristics of the analysis in his or her research; for example, a PhD might consist of two stages: some qualitative research reported in chapters 3 and 4 of the thesis described below, which is then followed by some quantitative research to refine the initial findings reported in chapters 5 and 6; the chapter 5 described below would then become chapter 7. In addition, PhD theses at universities that allow its length to rise from a minimum length of about 50 000 to 60 000 words (Phillips & Pugh 1987), say, through a reasonable length of about 70 000 to 80 000 words, up to the upper limit 100 000 words specified by some established universities like the University of Queensland and Flinders University, may have extra chapters added to contain the extended reviews of bodies of knowledge in those huge theses. In brief, in some theses, the five chapters may become five sections with one or more chapters within each of them, but the principles of the structured approach should remain. That is, PhD research must remain an essentially creative exercise. Nevertheless, the five chapter structure provides a starting point for understanding what a PhD thesis should set out to achieve, and also provides a basis for communication between a candidate and his or her supervisor.

As noted above, the five chapter structure is primarily designed for PhDs in management or related fields using common methodologies. Qualitative methodologies such as case studies and action research (Perry & Zuber-Skerritt 1992; 1994) can fit into the structure, with details of how the case study or the action research project being presented in chapter 3 and case study details or the detailed report of the action research project being placed in appendices. In theses using the relatively qualitative methodologies of case studies or action research, the analysis of data in chapter 4 becomes a categorisation of data in the form of words, with information about each research question collected together with some preliminary reflection about the information. That is, the thesis still has five chapters in total, with chapter 4 having preliminary analysis of data and chapter 5 containing all the sections described below. Appendix III discusses in more detail the difficult task of incorporating an action research project into a PhD thesis.

Links between chapters. Each chapter described below should stand almost alone. Each chapter (except the first) should have an introductory section linking the chapter to the main idea of the previous chapter and outlining the aim and the organisation of the chapter. For example, the core ideas in an introduction to chapter 3 might be:

Chapter 2 identified several research questions; chapter 3 describes the methodology used to provide data to investigate them. An introduction to the methodology was provided in section 1.4 of chapter 1; this chapter aims to build on that introduction and to provide assurance that appropriate procedures were followed. The chapter is organised around four major topics: the study region, the sampling procedure, nominal group technique procedures, and data processing.

The introductory section of chapter 5 (that is, section 5.1) will be longer than those of other chapters, for it will summarise all earlier parts of the thesis prior to making conclusions about the research described in those earlier parts; that is, section 5.1 will repeat the research problem and the research questions/hypotheses. Each chapter should also have a concluding summary section which outlines major themes established in the chapter, without introducing new material. As a rough rule of thumb, the five chapters have these respective percentages of the thesis' words: 5, 30, 15, 25 and 25 percent.


As well as the structure discussed above, examiners also assess matters of style (Hansford & Maxwell 1993). Within each of the chapters of the thesis, the spelling, styles and formats of Style Manual (Australian Government Publishing Service 1988) and of the Macquarie Dictionary should be followed scrupulously, so that the candidate uses consistent styles from the first draft and throughout the thesis for processes such as using bold type, underlining with italics, indenting quotations, single and double inverted commas, making references, spaces before and after side headings and lists, and gender conventions. Moreover, using the authoritative Style Manual provides a defensive shield against an examiner who may criticise the thesis from the viewpoint of his or her own idiosyncratic style. Some pages of Style Manual (Australian Government Publishing Service 1988) which are frequently used by PhD candidates are listed in appendix IV.

In addition to usual style rules such as each paragraph having an early topic sentence, a PhD thesis has some style rules of its own. For example, chapter 1 is usually written in the present tense with references to literature in the past tense; the rest of the thesis is written in the past tense as it concerns the research after it has been done, except for the findings in chapter 5 which are presented in the present tense. More precisely for chapters 2 and 3, schools of thought and procedural steps are written of in the present tense and published researchers and the candidate's own actions are written of in the past tense. For example: 'The eclectic school has [present] several strands. Smith (1990) reported [past] that...' and `The first step in content analysis is [present] to decide on categories. The researcher selected [past] ten documents...'

In addition, value judgements and words should not be used in the objective pursuit of truth that a thesis reports. For example, `it is unfortunate', `it is interesting', `it is believed', and `it is welcome' are inappropriate. Although first person words such as `I' and `my' are now acceptable in a PhD thesis (especially in chapter 3 of a thesis within the interpretive paradigm), their use should be controlled - the candidate is a mere private in an army pursuing truth and so should not overrate his or her importance until the PhD has been finally awarded. In other words, the candidate should always justify any decisions where his or her judgement was required (such as the number and type of industries surveyed and the number of points on a likert scale), acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of the options considered and always relying upon as many references as possible to support the decision made. That is, authorities should be used to back up any claim of the researcher, if possible. If the examiner wanted to read opinions, he or she could read letters to the editor of a newspaper.

Moreover, few if any authorities in the field should be called `wrong', at the worst they might be called `misleading'; after all, one of these authorities might be an examiner and have spent a decade or more developing his or her positions and so frontal attacks on those positions are likely to be easily repulsed. Indeed, the candidate should try to agree with the supervisor on a panel of likely people from which the university will select the thesis examiner so that only appropriate people are chosen. After all, a greengrocer should not examine meat products and an academic with a strong positivist background is unlikely to be an appropriate examiner of a qualitative thesis, for example (Easterby-Smith et al. 1991), or an examiner that will require three research methods is not chosen for a straightforward thesis with one. That is, do not get involved in the cross fire of `religious wars' of some disciplines. Moreover, this early and open consideration of examiners allows the candidate to think about how his or her ideas will be perceived by likely individual examiners and so express the ideas in a satisfactory way, for example, explain a line of argument more fully or justify a position more completely. That is, the candidate must always be trying to communicate with the examiners in an easily-followed way.

This easily-followed communication can be achieved by using several principles. Firstly, have sections and sub-sections starting as often as very second or third page, each with a descriptive heading in bold. Secondly, start each section or sub-section with a phrase or sentence linking it with what has gone before, for example, a sentence might start with `Given the situation described in section 2.3.4' or `Turning from international issues to domestic concerns,...' Thirdly, briefly describe the argument or point to be made in the section at its beginning, for example, `Seven deficiencies in models in the literature will be identified'. Fourthly, make each step in the argument easy to identify with a key term in italics or the judicious use of `firstly', `secondly', or `moreover', `in addition', `in contrast' and so on. Finally, end each section with a summary, to establish what it has achieved; this summary sentence or paragraph could be flagged by usually beginning it with `In conclusion,..' or `In brief,...' In brief, following these five principles will make arguments easy to follow and so guide the examiner towards agreeing with a candidate's views.

Another PhD style rule is that the word `etc' is too imprecise to be used in a thesis. Furthermore, words such as `this', `these', `those' and `it' should not be left dangling - they should always refer to an object; for example, `This rule should be followed' is preferred to `This should be followed'. Some supervisors also suggest that brackets should rarely be used in a PhD thesis - if a comment is important enough to help answer the thesis' research problem, then it should be added in a straightforward way and not be hidden within brackets as a minor concern to distract the examiner away from the research problem.

As well, definite and indefinite articles should be avoided where possible, especially in headings; for example, `Supervision of doctoral candidates' is more taut and less presumptuous than `The supervision of doctoral candidates'. Paragraphs should be short; as a rule of thumb, three to four paragraphs should start on each page if my preferred line spacing of 1.5 and Times Roman 12 point font is used to provide adequate structure and complexity of thought on each page. (A line spacing of 2 and more paragraphs per page make a thesis appear disjointed and `flaky', and a sanserif font is not easy to read.) A final note of style is that margins should be those nominated by the university or those in Style Manual (Australian Government Publishing Service 1988).

The above comments about structure and style correctly imply that a PhD thesis with its readership of three examiners is different from a book which has a very wide readership (Derricourt 1992), and from shorter conference papers and journal articles which do not require the burden of proof and references to broader bodies of knowledge required in PhD theses. Candidates should be aware of these differences and could therefore consider concentrating on completing the thesis before adapting parts of it for other purposes. However, it must be admitted that presenting a paper at a conference in a candidature may lead to useful contacts with the `invisible college' (Rogers 1983, p. 57) of researchers in a field, and some candidates have found referees' comments on articles submitted for publication in journals during their candidacy, have improved the quality of their thesis' analysis (and publication has helped them get a job). Nevertheless, several supervisors suggest that it is preferable to concentrate on the special requirements of the thesis and adapt it for publication after the PhD has been awarded or while the candidate has temporary thesis `writer's block'.

The thesis will have to go through many drafts (Zuber-Skerritt & Knight 1986). The first draft will be started early in the candidature, be crafted after initial mindmapping and a tentative table of contents of a chapter and a section, through the `right', creative side of the brain and will emphasise basic ideas without much concern for detail or precise language. Supervisors and other candidates should be involved in the review of these drafts because research has shown that good researchers ` require the collaboration of others to make their projects work, to get them to completion' (Frost & Stablein 1992, p. 253), and that social isolation is the main reason for withdrawing from postgraduate study (Phillips & Conrad 1992). By the way, research has also shown that relying on just one supervisor can be dangerous (Conrad, Perry & Zuber-Skerritt 1992; Phillips & Conrad 1992).

Facilitating the creative first drafts of sections, the relatively visible and structured `process' of this paper's structure allows the candidate to be more creative and rigorous with the `content' of the thesis than he or she would otherwise be. After the first rough drafts, later drafts will be increasingly crafted through the `left', analytical side of the brain and emphasise fine tuning of arguments, justification of positions and further evidence gathering from other research literature.

Further reading:

Kuching girl’s pollution project wins global award - Star

Jan 19, 2009

JOHOR BARU: She has been actively taking part in international competitions to gain experience and generate funds for her studies and research.

It was a great start to 2009 for Wendy Teo Boon Ting, 24, who struck gold when her year-long research was picked as the winner under the next generation category at the Holcim Foundation for Sustai-nable Construction Awards held in New Delhi.

The foundation awarded her US$20,000 (RM73,000) for her project on flooding and water pollution in Shanghai’s Suzhou Creek, considered one of the most polluted rivers in the world.

“With this prize money, I will be able to do more research in Malaysia,” said Teo who is from Kuching.

She said that the project was part of the thesis for her Masters in digital architecture which she is pursuing in Taiwan.

Teo added that she had won several other awards, with all her prize money going towards her studies and research.

The competition which received some 5,000 entries from 90 countries, also saw five students from Malaysia picking up an award.

The team from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, won the next generation encouragement prize. They took home US$2,500.

Team leader Ho Ching Keng, 21, said the team never expected to win because they had very little time to put together a project as they only found out about the competition days before the submission date.

The team concentrated on a mechanism to grow trees in urban areas and harsh conditions.

“Teamwork is crucial when pressed for time,” Ho said.

Holcim Foundation management board chairman and CEO of Holcim Limited Markus Akermann said that the foundation wanted to bring into focus the many opportunities and benefits of adopting sustainable approaches within building projects and processes.

The global Holcim awards will be held in Switzerland next year.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

SpotLight/Unrecognised qualifications: It's not quite a UM diploma - NST

Jan 18, 2009

You open the newspapers and an advertisement featuring the logo of a prominent public university jumps out at you. The ad offers an executive diploma programme at affordable rates and, to sweeten the deal, it can be done part-time. But these qualifications may not be recognised by the Public Service Department or the Malaysian Qualifications Agency. SONIA RAMACHANDRAN finds out what such qualifications mean.

MAY (not her real name) wanted to know more about human resources.

An advertisement in the newspaper with a Universiti Malaya (UM) logo caught her eye.

It was offering an executive diploma in human resource management.

"I thought 'Wow! It's UM and it is not easy to get in there' so I joined and paid the deposit," she said.
"I thought it was an accredited and recognised degree as it was from UM. Classes were also held in the UM campus and that added to the impression the qualifications were UM qualifications."

Only after paying more than RM7,000 and joining the course did May realise that she had joined the University of Malaya Centre for Continuing Education (UMCCed) and not UM.

"I still thought it was all right as it carried the UM name."

On the first day of class, May said they were told their diploma was recognised by Open University Malaysia.

Their diploma was not recognised by other public universities or the Public Service Department.

"This centre emphasises life-long learning, but how is this life-long learning when there is no avenue to do so as the diploma is not recognised by any accreditation body?

"If they cannot carry out the mission statement, it is an embarrassment to say this is a centre for continuous education. It is an insult to our intelligence."

Then they found out that their executive diploma in human resource management was not even recognised by UMCCed.

"After finding out that our qualifications were not recognised by Open University Malaysia, I had no choice but to continue with my degree in UMCCed.

"That was when I was told that I could not do so as my diploma in HR management was not approved by the UM Senate," said a student who wanted to be identified only as Sarip.

A Higher Education Department officer said UMCCed was a subsidiary owned by UM and established under the Companies Act.

The qualifications awarded by UMCCed, said the officer, should be treated the same as any qualification offered by a private higher educational institution.

The National Consumer Complaints Centre (NCCC) received 450 complaints in 2007 on misleading advertisements by higher education institutions.

Last year, there were 350 complaints.

Among these complaints were those regarding courses offered by "subsidiaries" of public universities offering "executive" courses.

NCCC chief executive officer Muhammad Sha'ani Abdullah said they received complaints that the students of subsidiaries of public universities received briefings in the public university itself.

"Some of these 'subsidiaries' have a campus outside the public university but when they recruit and give briefings, they do it on the public university's premises.

"The location provides the student with the impression that the course is affiliated with the university."

Sha'ani said the Higher Education Ministry should impose some regulations on these subsidiaries.

Malaysian Qualifications Agency chief executive officer Datuk Dr Syed Ahmad Hussein said most of the courses offered by the commercial arms of public universities, particularly the executive diplomas, did not fall within the Malaysian Qualifications Framework (MQF).

"The commercial arms are subsidiaries of the universities and are subject to their rules and regulations.

"Executive diplomas and other qualifications with the word 'executive' do not fall under us.

"But we have formed a technical committee last month, made up of top scholars, to advise MQA on some qualifications like associate degrees, executive diplomas and executive bachelor degrees that are offered around the world that have not been fitted into our framework."

Syed Ahmad said while seeking accreditation was not compulsory under the MQA Act, other related higher education acts, as well as the provisions made by funding agencies and foreign governments made accreditation of courses mandatory.

The Ministry of Higher Education also makes it compulsory for programmes in all institutions of higher learning to be in compliance with the MQF by 2011.

One proof of this compliance is accreditation.

"We are aware of courses by these commercial arms and are talking to the Higher Education Ministry and the public universities to see how these courses can be brought in line with the spirit and letter of the framework."

He advised students to always check the status of their courses when they were in doubt.

"Our door is always open. We will never reject any query or complaint and will forward it to the relevant agency or department if it does not fall under us."

Higher Education Department director-general Datuk Dr Radin Umar Radin Sohadi said any programme offered by any university in any form, had to be governed by MQF.

Under the framework, he said, the learning outcome, specifications and attributes of the programmes were specified.

"MQF is flexible in the sense that the method of delivery of the course can differ so long as it meets the attributes defined.

"Universities offering programmes in whatever form have to get them accredited."

SpotLight/Unrecognised qualifications: 'Subsidiaries must offer accredited courses' - NST

Jan 18, 2009

KUALA LUMPUR: Courses offered by subsidiaries of public universities should be endorsed by the Public Service Department (PSD) or the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA).

Former Higher Education Ministry director-general Prof Datuk Dr Hassan Said said this was to ensure that the courses would not create problems for people wishing to obtain higher qualifications or pursue career development.

Hassan explained that the corporatisation of public universities as proposed by the Education Ministry in 1998 was to enable public universities to generate external income to provide better services and facilities.

"That is why we allow universities to set up holdings, joint companies and subsidiaries to conduct business activities.

"However, these activities must relate to the core business or activities of the university," said Hassan, who is now Taylor's University College vice-chancellor and president.

He said this was how public universities started having incubators, research consultancy, distant learning programmes and franchise programmes as well as partnerships with private colleges.

Universities also diversified their academic activities by offering part-time programmes for people who were employed.

"We supported the idea as it allowed the universities to generate income and promote lifelong learning.

"For example, this allowed people who are working in supermarkets, factories and banks to continue to study without leaving their jobs"

The universities had to ensure that these programmes underwent processes set by the Higher Education Ministry to enable them to gain recognition.

"They should not compromise on quality and should have in place a proper quality assurance framework for their executive programmes.

"I think it is wrong for subsidiaries of public universities to offer something that is not recognised by national recognition bodies.

"It should be recognised unless it is a tailor-made programme for special skills requested by a company like retail training for hypermarkets.

"If it is not recognised, this could lead to the student being misled by the public university logo in the advertisement promoting the course he signed up for.

"It is unthinkable for the public that programmes by the public university are not recognised by the authorities, and worse still, not by its own university."

Hassan explained that executive programmes were the same as any programme offered to full-time students, except that it was offered the "executive" way.

"Students should understand that an executive programme is meant for those in the workforce.

"It is meant for someone who is trying to upgrade themselves."

Hassan suggested that subsidiaries of public universities look at high-end programmes such as executive postgraduates and certain types of academic programmes that the other institutions could not afford to offer.

There should not be competition between the private and public sector.

"It is inappropriate for senior public universities to get involved in low-level programmes like certificates and diplomas which should be handled by other institutions like community colleges and polytechnics.

"They should instead focus on programmes for high-end knowledge-based communities like professionals, as well as be more active in research and innovation activities.

"The huge investment by the public should be returned appropriately," he added.

SpotLight/Unrecognised qualifications: Varsity defends centre - NST

Jan 18, 2009

A UNIVERSITI Malaya spokesman said the University of Malaya Centre for Continuing Education (UMCCed) was a part of the university and was considered one of its faculties.

On whether the qualifications conferred by UMCCed were recognised by the Public Service Department, he said: "Actually, no. But, you have to look at the history of UMCCed to understand this.

"The UMCCed was set up to promote lifelong learning so that a person who had no opportunity to study while he was growing up could be provided with the chance to do so.

"It is not recognised by the PSD as the target students for UMCCed are those in the private sector."

Are the courses accredited by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency, which was formerly known as the National Accreditation Board?
"Because the target group for courses at UMCCed are different from those for normal courses, there is no need for accreditation. The entry requirement for qualifications is based on working experience, so accreditation is not necessary."

So who recognises these qualifications?

"The private sector," he said.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

SPSS Events in Malaysia

SPSS Training offers you a wide range of options for learning how to optimize your use of SPSS software. With more than 60 courses on topics ranging from statistical analysis and survey research to data mining and predictive analytics, you will find courses that will help you provide greater value to your organization and further develop your own skills.

Events organized by SPSS Malaysia:

Note :
1) The events and schedule listed above are subjected to change without prior notice.
2) The SPSS training courses are HRDF claimable under the SBL scheme.
3) The SPSS training courses are limited to priority enrolment for SPSS users.

For more enquiry, please email us or visit:

P values. One-tail or two-tail?

Jan 13, 2009

When comparing two groups, you must distinguish between one- and two-tail P values. Some books refer to one-sided and two-sided P values, which mean the same thing.

What does one-sided mean?

It is easiest to understand the distinction in context. So let’s imagine that you are comparing the mean of two groups (with an unpaired t test). Both one- and two-tail P values are based on the same null hypothesis, that two populations really are the same and that an observed discrepancy between sample means is due to chance.

A two-tailed P value answers this question:

Assuming the null hypothesis is true, what is the chance that randomly selected samples would have means as far apart as (or further than) you observed in this experiment with either group having the larger mean?

To interpret a one-tail P value, you must predict which group will have the larger mean before collecting any data. The one-tail P value answers this question:
Assuming the null hypothesis is true, what is the chance that randomly selected samples would have means as far apart as (or further than) observed in this experiment with the specified group having the larger mean?

If the observed difference went in the direction predicted by the experimental hypothesis, the one-tailed P value is half the two-tailed P value (with most, but not quite all, statistical tests).

When is it appropriate to use a one-sided P value?

A one-tailed test is appropriate when previous data, physical limitations, or common sense tells you that the difference, if any, can only go in one direction. You should only choose a one-tail P value when both of the following are true.

* You predicted which group will have the larger mean (or proportion) before you collected any data.
* If the other group had ended up with the larger mean – even if it is quite a bit larger – you would have attributed that difference to chance and called the difference 'not statistically significant'.

Here is an example in which you might appropriately choose a one-tailed P value: You are testing whether a new antibiotic impairs renal function, as measured by serum creatinine. Many antibiotics poison kidney cells, resulting in reduced glomerular filtration and increased serum creatinine. As far as I know, no antibiotic is known to decrease serum creatinine, and it is hard to imagine a mechanism by which an antibiotic would increase the glomerular filtration rate. Before collecting any data, you can state that there are two possibilities: Either the drug will not change the mean serum creatinine of the population, or it will increase the mean serum creatinine in the population. You consider it impossible that the drug will truly decrease mean serum creatinine of the population and plan to attribute any observed decrease to random sampling. Accordingly, it makes sense to calculate a one-tailed P value. In this example, a two-tailed P value tests the null hypothesis that the drug does not alter the creatinine level; a one-tailed P value tests the null hypothesis that the drug does not increase the creatinine level.

The issue in choosing between one- and two-tailed P values is not whether or not you expect a difference to exist. If you already knew whether or not there was a difference, there is no reason to collect the data. Rather, the issue is whether the direction of a difference (if there is one) can only go one way. You should only use a one-tailed P value when you can state with certainty (and before collecting any data) that in the overall populations there either is no difference or there is a difference in a specified direction. If your data end up showing a difference in the “wrong” direction, you should be willing to attribute that difference to random sampling without even considering the notion that the measured difference might reflect a true difference in the overall populations. If a difference in the “wrong” direction would intrigue you (even a little), you should calculate a two-tailed P value.


I recommend using only two-tailed P values for the following reasons:

* The relationship between P values and confidence intervals is more straightforward with two-tailed P values.
* Two-tailed P values are larger (more conservative). Since many experiments do not completely comply with all the assumptions on which the statistical calculations are based, many P values are smaller than they ought to be. Using the larger two-tailed P value partially corrects for this.
* Some tests compare three or more groups, which makes the concept of tails inappropriate (more precisely, the P value has more than two tails). A two-tailed P value is more consistent with P values reported by these tests.
* Choosing one-tailed P values can put you in awkward situations. If you decided to calculate a one-tailed P value, what would you do if you observed a large difference in the opposite direction to the experimental hypothesis? To be honest, you should state that the P value is large and you found “no significant difference.” But most people would find this hard. Instead, they’d be tempted to switch to a two-tailed P value, or stick with a one-tailed P value, but change the direction of the hypothesis. You avoid this temptation by choosing two-tailed P values in the first place.

When interpreting published P values, note whether they are calculated for one or two tails. If the author didn’t say, the result is somewhat ambiguous.


What are the differences between one-tailed and two-tailed tests?

Jan 13, 2009

When you conduct a test of statistical significance, whether it is from a correlation, an ANOVA, a regression or some other kind of test, you are given a p-value somewhere in the output. If your test statistic is symmetrically distributed, you can select one of three alternative hypotheses. Two of these correspond to one-tailed tests and one corresponds to a two-tailed test. However, the p-value presented is (almost always) for a two-tailed test. But how do you choose which test? Is the p-value appropriate for your test? And, if it is not, how can you calculate the correct p-value for your test given the p-value in your output?

What is a two-tailed test?

First let's start with the meaning of a two-tailed test. If you are using a significance level of 0.05, a two-tailed test allots half of your alpha to testing the statistical significance in one direction and half of your alpha to testing statistical significance in the other direction. This means that .025 is in each tail of the distribution of your test statistic. When using a two-tailed test, regardless of the direction of the relationship you hypothesize, you are testing for the possibility of the relationship in both directions. For example, we may wish to compare the mean of a sample to a given value x using a t-test. Our null hypothesis is that the mean is equal to x. A two-tailed test will test both if the mean is significantly greater than x and if the mean significantly less than x. The mean is considered significantly different from x if the test statistic is in the top 2.5% or bottom 2.5% of its probability distribution, resulting in a p-value less than 0.05.

What is a one-tailed test?

Next, let's discuss the meaning of a one-tailed test. If you are using a significance level of .05, a one-tailed test allots all of your alpha to testing the statistical significance in the one direction of interest. This means that .05 is in one tail of the distribution of your test statistic. When using a one-tailed test, you are testing for the possibility of the relationship in one direction and completely disregarding the possibility of a relationship in the other direction. Let's return to our example comparing the mean of a sample to a given value x using a t-test. Our null hypothesis is that the mean is equal to x. A one-tailed test will test either if the mean is significantly greater than x or if the mean is significantly less than x, but not both. Then, depending on the chosen tail, the mean is significantly greater than or less than x if the test statistic is in the top 5% of its probability distribution or bottom 5% of its probability distribution, resulting in a p-value less than 0.05. The one-tailed test provides more power to detect an effect in one direction by not testing the effect in the other direction. A discussion of when this is an appropriate option follows.

When is a one-tailed test appropriate?

Because the one-tailed test provides more power to detect an effect, you may be tempting to use a one-tailed test whenever you have a hypothesis about the direction of an effect. Before doing so, consider the consequences of missing an effect in the other direction. Imagine you have developed a new drug that you believe is an improvement over an existing drug. You wish to maximize your ability to detect the improvement, so you opt for a one-tailed test. In doing so, you fail to test for the possibility that the new drug is less effective than the existing drug. The consequences in this example are extreme, but they illustrate a danger of inappropriate use of a one-tailed test.

So when is a one-tailed test appropriate?

If you consider the consequences of missing an effect in the untested direction and conclude that they are negligible and in no way irresponsible or unethical, then you can proceed with a one-tailed test. For example, imagine again that you have developed a new drug. It is cheaper than the existing drug and, you believe, no less effective. In testing this drug, you are only interested in testing if it less effective than the existing drug. You do not care if it is significantly more effective. You only wish to show that it is not less effective. In this scenario, a one-tailed test would be appropriate.

When is a one-tailed test NOT appropriate?

Choosing a one-tailed test for the sole purpose of attaining significance is not appropriate. Choosing a one-tailed test after running a two-tailed test that failed to reject the null hypothesis is not appropriate, no matter how "close" to significant the two-tailed test was. Using statistical tests inappropriately can lead to invalid results that are not replicable and highly questionable--a steep price to pay for a significance star in your results table!

Further details:

Monday, January 12, 2009

Education industry expected to remain positive this year - Star

Jan 12, 2009 By ELAINE ANG

PETALING JAYA: Meg Tan, who has always dreamt of studying overseas, has had her dreams dashed by the current economic downturn.

After completing her Cambridge A-levels in a local private university college, she was looking forward to pursuing an accounting and finance degree in Britain.

Her parents, however, have decided for her to continue her studies locally instead – via a twinning or an external degree programme – to save costs.

“It is the prudent thing to do. We do not know how long the economic downturn will last and whether our jobs will be affected. We can always send her overseas for her last year if finances permit.

“The degree programmes in the private colleges here are pretty flexible in this aspect and our financial burden will be eased substantially as we save more than half of what we need to spend if we send her to Britain,” says Meg’s father Paul Tan.

With more families tightening their purse strings and letting their children study locally rather than abroad to save costs, the outlook for the private higher education industry is expected to remain positive this year, say industry players.

The Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities (Macpu) executive secretary Ko Kim Hooi says the current economic downturn can be an incentive for students to look at twinning and external programmes as cheaper alternatives.

“The education industry is seen as a recession-proof industry as education is a necessity, so the outlook is still good for us.

“During the 1997/98 financial crisis, the local private higher education industry came up with various twinning programmes to help students save costs and this move boosted business as well,” he tells StarBiz.

Ko says more students studying locally will also help the country save on foreign exchange.

According to Monash University Sunway Campus pro vice-chancellor and president (Malaysia) Prof Robin Pollard, the university is showing above-normal application rates.

An artist's impression of Taylor's University College Lakeside campus

“So it appears as though some people prefer to study at home rather than face an uncertain future with higher cost commitments by going overseas,” he says.

Some may also decide to further their education rather than enter an uncertain job market, thus leading to a rise in enrolment even in a declining economy, adds Pollard.

“Of course, the hope is that when the economy improves, the additional learning will lead to benefits,” he says.

Moreover, most parents would have set aside education funds for their children since birth as education is an investment for the future.

“Most in the affluent market who can afford to send their children overseas, would have pre-planned and allocated money for their children’s education,” says Taylor’s University College vice-chancellor Professor Hassan Said.

He adds that Taylor’s has a strong line-up of new programmes in the pipeline for students, in addition to its own degrees such as engineering and architecture.

Taylor’s, which is one of the largest pre-university centres in Malaysia, providing British, Australian and Canadian education. has about 10,500 students this year, of which 18% to 20% are foreigners.

Vinayaka Missions University pro-chancellor Dr S. Sharavanan believes it is unlikely the economic slowdown will affect the higher education scenario, especially for bigger institutions offering professional programmes.

“As an investor, we see long-term prospects in the education sector in Malaysia beyond the current and anticipated economic slowdown,” he says.

An additional advantage of the economic slowdown can be an influx of foreign students into the country as Malaysia is seen as a relatively cheaper education hub compared with Britain, Australia and Singapore.

Currently, Malaysia has some 63,000 foreign students.

Very few education providers are listed on the local stock exchange. They are HELP International Corp Bhd, SEG International Bhd (SEGi) and Stamford College Bhd.

HELP International scored top marks for the financial year ended Oct 31, 2008 (FY08) with net profit jumping 22% to RM11.8mil compared with FY07.

SEGi’s financials also showed a marked improvement as net profit doubled to RM6.98mil for the nine months ended Sept 30 versus the previous corresponding period. Earnings were boosted by a gain from the disposal of a property in Kota Damansara, Selangor.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tea Talk Lecture Series - 1/2009 @ OUM

Posted by Richard Ng Jan 9, 2009

It was indeed a rare honor to be given the opportunity to kick start the Tea Talk Lecture Series on Thursday, Jan 8, for the year 2009. My sincere thanks to Prof. Zoraini and the members of the Institute of Quality, Research & Innovation (IQRI) team of OUM who have organized it very well.

Prof Zoraini, Director of IQRI, was doing the Intro before the start of the talk

The Tea Talk session was attended by members of the faculty of OUM including interested individuals and students. It was held at the Conference room of OUM main campus. The purpose of the talk is to allow me to present the award winning paper entitled "E-Mathematics: Pre-instructional and Supplemental Instruction and their impact on students' online participation and final exam score". The paper won a silver medal at the International Conference in Tian Jin, China recently, which was organized the Asia Association of Open Universities (AAOU).

The audience were listening attentively to the presentation

The medal was an honor for Malaysia and Open University Malaysia. The innovative model consists of three components; Pre-instructional Workshop, Supplemental Instruction and Online Video Support. Those who have attended the tea talk agreed that the new approach of teaching math for open and distance learners does have a great impact on students' online participation and grade improvement. The model also will increase students' confidence and retention rate.

Taking questions from the floor

The session which was started at 2.30pm ended 5.00pm. I felt very much appreciated by the audience who gave me a standing ovation at the end of my talk. My special thanks go to Prof. Abtar who was instrument in getting the project started. I also wish to thank my team members - Prof. Latifah, Prof. Ramli and Siti Farina.

Further comment on the talk can be found at:

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Give More Rooms For Young Researchers, Says Award Winner

PENANG, Jan 7 (Bernama)

Award winning researcher Prof Datuk Dr Khalid Abdul Kadir has urged local universities to give more rooms to young people to conduct their research.

Prof Khalid, one of five recipients of the inaugural Merdeka Award, said that young researchers should be funded to conduct their research, adding that the result of their research should be published.

He said this after kicking-off his inaugural Merdeka Award Lecture Series themed, 'Hormones, Stress and Metabolism: A 30-year Journey' at the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) here today.

Prof Khalid advised young researchers to understand medical clinical research as it could be quite an arduous journey.

"Collaborating with a group of intelligent and enthusiastic people is important as research is a team effort," he noted.