I haven't worked out the syllabus for the course yet but I'll draw upon my years of experience in newspaper journalism to come up with something that will help the students become adept at writing straight news, feature articles and commentary pieces.
It's going to be a challenge, for sure, as the students at New Era College are mainly Mandarin-speaking.
To be very frank, I think Oon's probably going to be in for a fairly rough ride as to the standards of English among his students. This will be true not just at the New Era College, but at many other universities and colleges as well, particularly those which attracts the most Chinese school students. The objective the course he is conducting is:
... to enhance listening, note-taking and reading skills in English. We hope that at the end of the course, the students will acquire the nuances of the English language, the particular appeals in the design of persuasive and informative messages as well as the fundamentals of different types of news.Oon will have a major challenge ahead. Meeting these objectives will be very difficult, not because New Era College is a poor college, but because our primary and secondary schools (both national and vernacular) do not provide sufficient quality and training in English language. Hence unless the students come from an English speaking family or happen to "mix" with English speaking friends from the early years (I have fortunately fallen into this category - and yet I still struggled to a B3 for my 'O' Level English in Singapore), his or her standards are likely to be poor. Please note, I have no doubt that many of these students would have been good English speakers/writers, if they have had the right education opportunities.
I have no doubt that Oon would have many ideas to incorporate plenty of interesting lesson plans for his students. However, he will most likely have to incorporate many of the English language basics including strengthening vocabulary, dramatically improving grammar (simple stuff like tenses) and subsequently, working to "straighten" their thought structures.
One of the basic lessons which I believe will be most useful for his students will be to teach them to write professional resumes as well as how to answer simple questions often posed in application forms (which tends to be a feature with large local companies or MNCs). This will not only touch on the students English language skills but also prepare them for their next steps in seeking employment. Some of my grievances with graduates and their applications are blogged in "Graduates Need to be Serious 1".
As a student/graduate seeking employment, I should pay particular attention to the "freeform" question segments. Some examples of questions asked as part of the job application process are (examples from Jobstreet):
- What would you consider as your biggest achievement and why?
- Describe a situation where you tried your hardest but failed.
- How did you handle your most challenging experience in your previous job?
- Describe the last time you did something that made you feel good about yourself.
- Describe your personal qualities that suit the requirements of this position.
- Describe a time you were asked to do something you did not think was right.
Why did it take so long?
- Well, first of all, it took me a while for the "writing juice" to start flowing
- I would think of the answers and plan a tentative outline
- I would think of the answers which will catch the attention of the employers
- I would think of the answers which I believe strengthen my case in securing the job
- I would research the company in great detail, understand their "culture" and seek to provide answers which will fit those cultures (it's so easy with Google now!)
- I would have friends with "A*" for English help review my language and grammar
- I would draft the answers, leave them for 2-3 days and return to review the answers again, to obtain a fresh perspective on them.
- I would read the answers I've written from the perspective of an employer, to see if "I" would be satisfactorily "impressed", differentiating myself from the tons of applications they must receive.
- I finally sent in the application after being satisfied that I can't make further changes to the answers "overdoing" it :)
- It's a job I clearly wanted, and I wanted to do justice to myself
- These questions offer me a chance to distinguish myself from the tons of applications the employers receive, and I decided to take it
- On hindsight - it was well worth it, I got my first job after being shortlisted and attended 3 rounds of interviews.
However, I realise that the graduates putting in applications today can't be bothered to spend some quality time "answering" these questions. Jobstreet has an interesting function which tells you how much time a candidate spends writing the answers to the questions - most spend bare 3 minutes! I know that submitting resumes online is a breeze today, but what's the rush? The candidates seem to regard these simple questions as bothersome as well, wasting their precious time. You can tell how "bothersome" these questions are, when the number of candidates who applied for a position I advertise for (e.g., web application developer) dropped from between 800-1,100 candidates to approximately 150-300 candidates after Jobstreet installed the "Test" and "Question" features in the application process. Even then, many of these candidates who proceeded to submit left the question's answer blank.
The key errors in the candidates submissions are as follows:
- Bad spelling, grammar and vocabulary
- Candidates do not answer the question. I asked about "A", I'll get stories about "Z".
- Candidates to not structure their answers logically and coherently (i.e., their thoughts are all over place)
For the benefit of those who would like to read some of the answers which I have received, I've listed some below. These submissions are from students all over, local and overseas colleges, and of all races. I've also ignored answers from very weak candidates e.g., 3rd class honours, as they are even worse (well, actually, most of them leave it blank). These answers are extracted from candidates who submitted their application for an Analyst position advertised in March this year:
Question: Why do you think you can make a difference in this position?
- "I am into analyzing and is a better speaker than a technical person. I have great interest in business especially e-commerce. I believe myself can be a good consultant."
- "I can help the business to grow by introducing new technology to the business example like m-business which all includes wap phones, PDA and so on..."
- "i have knowledge in IT areas and Business areas cause i did my degree in Business information system with IT and i did my master in international business"
- "I am sure i will gain a certain degree of experience from the post. I am willing to learn any kind of experience from the post. I think the post will be a challenge for me."
- "i have learn management consulting when i was studied in London...and i get upper second class in my degree. i have experience enough to handle this job. i willing to work more and indepentendly. besides that, i feel very interested in e-business."
- "For this position i would like to make myself have a differences changing in my future. Base on this positiion this a like and analysts & consult so i have interested with this task."
- "By having good analytical skill and technical background in system development, will be able to produce practical business solution to the client and work closely to the development team."
- "I am Computer Science student that graduated from Tunku Abdul Rahman College which is a recognize college in Malaysia. I am gained the knowledge of E-Business in my study and the skill of communication with customer from my working experience, most of the customer of my current job is from oversea such like Belgium, USA, England, Thailand, Singapore, China etc."
- "I'm very confident my knowledge and experience could help me make the difference in this position. I'm also a strong person in analyst issues and technologies to make difference solutions. I've the strong leadership skills as well as working independently for certain task and also a good team player. I've also the multi tasking skills in handling projects or task with a good result as output. This is provent by me handling or holding few position in one time."
- "since i have the experience working in consultant company,it is an advantage for me to serve better in your company."
- "Yes with the multitude of experience from many different fields i think i will be a good option. "
- "I can persue my strong interest in this position by contributing the best for the company. In this position, I am able to make the best out of me by delivering excellent solution to client & provide excellent satisfaction with our team work. I believe having a strong interets in what I'm doing will give me more satisfaction & with this, a good job can be done much more efficiently..and most of all, happiness will last if I'm working on a dream job."
- "With the given opportunity and confidence, i believe i'm here to drive myself towards my employer's mission and vision. "
- "I hold 3.84 for CPGA in degree study and score 9As and 2Bs as my SPM result (science student). Besides, I am interest in e-business application development in my university study. "
- "I'm have an outgoiung personality that makes me suitable for this position in addition to those theory knowldeges in IT that i have gained during my studies. I just need a chance to learn up and contributing my skill in this employment of real life work situation. "
- "I am hardworking and willing to learn. Given the position, I will dedicate myself to it, and will definately do my best in it."