JOHOR BARU: Eighty students from Austin Heights Private and International School took part in a New Straits Times-Newspaper in Education (NST- NIE) workshop which opened their eyes to the wealth of knowledge contained in the newspaper.
The students aged 15 to 17 were introduced to the different segments of the newspaper while dissecting and discussing articles in the News, Sport, Business, Life & Times pullouts and Op-Ed commentaries.
Activities such as a 'Scavenger Hunt' to find articles, group performances where they mimed an article of choice for the other groups to guess, and matching headlines to texts and pictures, among other things, kept them on their toes.
A student, Channelle Chong Ziyi said she expected a workshop using newspapers to be boring but was surprised how useful the NST is for her studies.
The 16-year-old was impressed with sections such as the Life & Times' Heal pull-out on Tuesdays as it contained articles that reflected her passion for physical and mental health matters.
"When I was told that I would attend a workshop using the newspaper, I thought it will surely be boring. But after seeing the quality and in-depth articles in the NST, I can't wait to go home and tell my father to subscribe to it," said Chong.
Lee Shu En, 15, admitted she never read newspapers despite playing the role of 'reporter' once while taking part in a field trip.
"I am guilty of never having read the newspaper before. Being introduced to the NST today was an eye-opener as it is comparatively a better resource than any text book or reference book," she said, adding that many 'Story of the day' articles provided good ideas for case studies in class.
Lee Zhao Yong, 16, who is the school's head boy, said he took a leaf from the writing styles in the newspaper and liked topics on health, technology, economy and politics.
"There are many topics that interest me in the newspaper. More importantly, I learn about the news style of writing that can help boost my vocabulary and English proficiency," he said.
Bhuvanadevi Elanchelvan, 15, said she prefered the 'feel' of a newspaper over reading news that was uploaded on social media or online portals.
"Of course, people my age prefer reading things online. But trending topics are delved into and examined in the newspaper, and this makes it a more reliable source of current issues," said Bhuvanadevi.
Pooja Balachandran, 14, praised the NST-NIE workshop's facilitator Vincent D'Silva, who is the Johor English Language Teaching Association (Jelta) president, for conducting a lively session.
"He encouraged us to write in sections such as School Times, and if we are confident enough, we could even write to the Letters to the Editor if we are passionate about certain issues.
"I never knew how interactive a newspaper can be," said Pooja.
Meanwhile, Austin Heights Private and International School founder and chairman Datuk Steve Chong Yoon On said that keeping abreast of current issues helped students to prepare for the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) examination.
"The school has a weekly programme called Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) which rewards students who read the most books every week.
"Given a choice, students opt for books or novels but the NST-NIE workshop has made us realise what a vibrant reading material the NST is. It should become a regular reading material for students," said Chong.
The school's chief executive officer Datin Low Peck Tim said the workshop inspired students to use the newspaper as a source for its weekly video broadcast under the school's Austin Heights News Club.
D'Silva said reading newspapers takes on a new meaning for students who take O-Levels or A-Levels at international schools.
"Consistent with a syllabus which promotes thinking skills on global issues, reading newspapers widens the scope of students' knowledge and improves their thinking skills," he said, adding that teachers should use newspapers as it provides students with a window to the world.
"The beauty of the newspaper in the classroom is that it is also fresh every day. It comes to you with the latest news and information and, unlike other media, comes beautifully written with lots of detail," he said.