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Sakmongkol ak 47

Wednesday 7 April 2010

NEM-Prioritizing education imperatives.

Allow me to illustrate. Each year, the Pahang state government sends hundreds of students to universities in the Middle East. The bulk goes to Cairo and some other universities in Saudi Arabia. They study religion. They come back as young ustazs or religious teachers.
There's one problem. Most of them couldn't get jobs. The number of mosques and suraus are finite. The budget allocations and number of religious establishments are not that big. The institutions and the budgets cannot sustain them. The MB's office can absorb a limited number as religious advisers or special officers.
Where do the others go to? Many of them ended up teaching at KAFA classes- that's beginner's classes in the fundamentals of Islam. These highly trained scholars end up teaching what can be done by elementary teachers. It's like forcing a thoroughbred to pull a milk cart.
The rest and there are many of them, ply their trade as religious professionals, independent preachers, haj piligrimage consultants and tour guides and operators.
Tabung Haji should farm out these services to our young ustazs who can speak and know their way around the Middle East countries. Stop farming out to companies formed by your directors and employees. Let's see TH comes out with a concrete plan to do this other than presenting the PM with some perked up business plans.
Pardon that short digression.
I suppose, this is a scene dreaded by many political leaders. Can they create jobs to absorb these graduates? That means creating a robust and vibrant economy. It means also fitting graduates skills with the requirements of the vibrant economy.
Cheaper now, damn expensive later.
In Pahang's case, the decision to send these students is probably dictated by the economics of it. It's cheaper to send them there. Unfortunately, it will become expensive for everyone in the future. Unemployment of the educated becomes of hot bed of social agitation. Unemployed ustazs become fiery sermoners. Malays don't argue with religion and when religion is used by experts they become believable. Most of the time, independent serrmoners don't have anything good to say about how the government runs things.
But the decision may also stem from mistaken prioritizing of education imperatives. For what purpose do we educate our young? Sending students to become ustazs may be driven by the cultural and political imperatives. Chief among these is the overarching need to underscore this government's commitment to Islam. Ok, we have proven we are more Islam than everyone else. We produce thousands of graduates trained in various religious branches. We build special schools for them.
But always, the haunting question, can we find jobs for them? We haven't succeeded right? Because our education imperative is misdirected. We need engineers, technicians, doctors, those trained in the hard sciences, businesses to build up this country. To build up a vibrant economy with which to absorb the army of graduates.
Each year too thousand of Malay graduates come out from our universities. We call them degree mills. They emerged armed with all sorts of degree- sports medicine and the like; they read the soft sciences, liberal arts, literary studies and so forth. We are driven by the political imperatives to produce as many Malay graduates as possible. We easily achieved that agenda but we couldn't give them jobs. So we find many Malay graduates as unemployables because the skills they have, even though at degree levels do not match industry requirements. Industry requires technicians, numeric graduates, accounting, finance, - the harder sciences.
Look again at our ustazs. Other than religious disciplines, most of these couldn't fit into mainstream jobs. They can't get into business disciplines, administration, management, hard sciences etc. I always thought that a good solution is probably getting them into the services- the police notably. With thousands of religious graduates inducted into our police force, who knows, the profile and demeanor of our police force will change for the better. As a rule, religious sanctions would be a natural deterrence for the many grouses the public has against our police force at the moment.
Yes, why not induct them as police cadres so that in 10 years time, religion trained graduates become our top police officers. If a son of an ustaz has failed us, maybe an ustaz will do better. In 10 years let's have a PhD in Islamic studies become the IGP.
In line with the NEM, we have to ask- what's the overriding objective now? Between now and 2020, it's the economy. Raising PCI from USD 7k to USD 15k. That's our main indicator to becoming a high income country. It's another name for being a developed country by 2020. That was the same economic agenda set by Dr Mahathir. In that sense, DR Mahathir sounded most agreeable when he says the NEM fulfills the idea of 1 Malaysia. For Dr. Mahathir 1 Malaysia simply means vision 2020.
Except Dr. Mahathir has different methods to achieve vision 2020 while PM Najib has different strategies. Dr. Mahathir is all for forced entry. PM Najib is all for voluntary cooperation of human endeavors- aka the free market. Dr. Mahathir is all for guided free market which at once elevates the status of decision makers and most notably the PM to that of an omnipotent being. PM Najib said the era of government knows best is over. He says, by adopting a different strategy, he has placed his head on the chopping block.
But he needs to do much more than positioning himself to approach this agenda differently from Dr Mahathir. He must exorcise the ghosts of the past.
There is one area however, where the pragmatism of a clinically trained doctor appears to be more sensible. In terms of education, Dr Mahathir appears to accept that reality of the world, demands Malaysians especially Malays be proficient in language and technical skills. The PM appears to realize this too. In this aspect, they share similarities.
This is the economic imperative of our education agenda. To align the education system so that it can support the quest to become a developed country and a high income economy. This means that we have to teach literacy in English and the mother tongue, technical skills, science and technology. In 10 years, we review the imperative. Perhaps after that it's the cultural imperative and perhaps a common cultural imperative stressing the commonalities.
We don't have the luxury of experimenting with holistic education. Singapore which is a developed country with a small population has that luxury. So, personally, I think we can forego for the time being, this nebulous idea of holistic education agenda. Do what's needed first. From now up to 10 years (2020) our education imperative is economic.
Right now we need more technicians, engineers, scientists per 1000 people than poets, literary experts per 1000 people. To move into the service industry? We need more economists, finance graduates, investment analysts, and accountants per 1000 than dramatists, concert pianists, and actors per 1000 people.
As I have written earlier, education has 3 imperatives- economic, cultural and political. In the heydays of the Cultural Revolution in China, the overriding agenda of education was political. To instill the belief in Mao's brand of peasant based communism. When Deng took over, the imperative was economic as Deng believed that to be rich is glorious.
Our Education Minister may lack the charisma of a Deng- but he can cultivate the same pragmatism and sense of reality of what is needed more at present.


Are You Gonna Go My Way,  7 April 2010 at 18:01  

studying Islam and hoping to get some salary from not right at all...

Islam is about amalan..not about getting a degree..Allah does not look at your degree...

They''ll all end up becoming ahli kitab...the people that will twist your mind..from the truth and the right path.

Anonymous,  7 April 2010 at 19:16  

Dato' Sak;

Kudos for a well-written article. Iv always enjoyed reading economics posting from an economist than from malay studies grads; articles on construction from an engineer not from an ex-teacher turned contractor.

Donplaypuks® 7 April 2010 at 19:48  

S'pore took the right steps more than 10 years ago by motivating the best to join the teaching profession by:

1. Increasing their pay and perks dramatically.
2. Publicly recognising outstanding teachers with bonus, medals, honours and promotions.
3. Providing on the job training overseas in leading countries such as USA, UK, France, Grmany etc.
3. Keeping oustanding teachers as teachers for as long as possible and not promoting them to dead end admin jobs or as HM's where they will inevitably rise to their own level of incompetency!!
4. Annual performance reviews of all teachers!

The results are spectacular.

We can do the same instead of rewarding only the top tier of civil servants many of whom can be seen openly jockeying for titles and post retirement cushy job at some quango, GLC or plc as the non-executive chairman or the golf kaki "independent director!"

We are all of 1 race, the Human Race

walla 7 April 2010 at 21:03  


Occasionally there are some job specs from the electronics and financial services sectors which seem a cut above the rest but it would be instructive to know how many local graduates actually meet the exact requirements headlong.

And certainly, there hasn't been any job openings for 'an innovative new enterprise which will pay you handsomely including equity'.

Maybe a convention of private sector human resource practitioners can be quickly held to pin down the supply chain shortfall in the light of the new thrusts from the NEM. Let that meeting take place without the participation of anyone from the public sector, except as observers and note-takers.

So, 50:50 again.

It remains for me to add one suggestion which has not been brought up before. I suggest now that all companies incorporate quality assurance requirements into their operating manuals from the very day of their incorporation. Instead of trying to get ISO and other certification years later by the nightmarish exercise of trying to fit their operations into a box of requirements, they should from day one run their business or plant based on those requirements, which are basically self-test points on monitoring. If their administrative procedures are already quality-assured, they can be certified compliant as early as one year after start-up. That earns marketing points which earns higher profits which earns higher income.

Since i have to go look for food now (;P), let me sum up with a conclusion. On 50:50 for both weight points agains the cards and the challenges, what is needed the most is willed focus.

I have omitted the political and governmental transformation pillars because i believe those underpin the NEM execution even more, the elaboration of which will send this blog into the stratosphere, and all of you to be even more annoyed by my long-windedness.

If you read back the first sentence of this post, the private sector will do what the global market dictates because the local market is too small and its production factors too limited and sclerotic.

Our economy needs fresh inputs and a coopetition model that embraces real change. We have to cut the gordian knot that has tied us down all these years to a surrealistic state of our economy. Seriously, i think we have no choice but to assimilate the best of what the world can teach. Innovative growth can only take place in a pro-business environment if there is fluid interaction with the world. To say we are already an open economy misses the point that we are not an open innovative economy. So far, we have just been traders and assemblers. Just look at our dependency on foreign workers to understand the level of our production capabilities. We need a drastic jolt in that direction inasmuch as we need to ramp up our service levels and thinking abilities.

Because of the ten-year timeframe and the 50:50 weightings, i think we have to bootstrap everything...what do you think?

walla 7 April 2010 at 21:03  


But we shall say this segment should be taken as a bonus. If they surface, well and good for the country. Start them young as entrepreneurs and work hard to provide them the means and support to help them realize their dreams, bankers' criteria aside.

It is the bigger segment of those who will take the safer route of chasing more qualifications which we need to address.

In this, i agree with the blogger that we are beyond time to dabble in holistic education. That is because everyone else in the world is chasing more knowledge which provides the edge in doing things. Yes, most things require common sense in practice only but when it comes to innovation and competition, one doesn't have time to get it right the second time because in the first round, someone else would have done so and gained first-mover advantage. Even if one can succeed more as second-mover, that will still require know-how to finesse a better design that is more in keeping with sharper observations of market demands.

Therefore, stay focused on quality education that quickly grows relevant know-how in the field that is studied. In other words, the trainers, lecturers and teachers of certificate, diploma and degree courses, whether in public or private institutions, must teach market-relevant things. And a unit should be formed to focus exactly on that remit. But keep it separate from the present accreditation body.

In any case, if we also want holistic education, let that be developed in some co-curricular program that can be rolled out nationwide, graduated in levels which can also benefit the working SPM holder as much the worker who wants to upgrade know-how.

That hits the knowledge-based infrastructure part of the 8 strategic key reforms of the NEM. What one can have in mind here is very cheap high-speed broadband access with television-based vocational and business management training highlights coupled to best-of-breed training modules, perhaps those culled and customized for local application from the best corporations in the world, especially with regards quality assurance and innovation techniques.

Furthermore, not enough has been done on such basics as connecting the dots. For instance, the rakyat need to know/see what is the best quality of something and how it increases the value of the product or service which increases the price to lead to income. As corollary, what mistakes must be avoided and how to avoid them by doing the right thing right the first time. These can go into the know-how programs.

It remains to say that the foundation for a more technical-based society must continuously be laid. If we continue to depend on just agriculture and trading, we will become at best a nation of brokers in the future, susceptible to other more value-added providers.

There are pockets of innovation around. But whether they are institutional or individual efforts, we also know they seldom reach the commercial success stage. Perhaps they don't have capital to patent or market. Both factors should be revisited together with more concentrated publicity on them.

Meanwhile it is easy to take stock of the job market. Just look at the box ads in the daily papers. One cannot escape the conclusion that most jobs available in the present and past markets are just sales and maintenance.

walla 7 April 2010 at 21:03  


four, the NEM roll-out itself may be mired by inadequate briefing of what must be done, weak organization and monitoring, and leakage with subterfuge.

Now that we have both cards and challenges, we next weigh whether the best scenario can be achieved in the next ten years.

The objective is to double PCI in ten years. Income means wages. In the private sector, wages are raised by two factors: value delivered and supply shortfall. Value delivered comes from individual qualities plus skills plus results which impact corporate bottom-lines. Supply shortfall comes from market demand which comes from growth dynamics. Overarching these two factors is the economic factor. This third factor asks even if income or wages go up, it will be just a number if costs also go up. The ideal state then is to have higher disposable income so that the first weight is to consider whether higher income can be accelerated by lower cost of goods even if higher income means higher cost of services.

There are two ways of reducing the cost of goods. One, increase subsidies and that's canceled. Two, reduce duties and taxes and that's now considered next.

If the govt wants higher PCI, it should consider abolishing duties and taxes on everything, making this country a duty-free nation, selling that point to the world, augmenting tourism dollars in the services sector as well.

Two things can happen on that occasion. One, the govt loses a big chunk of its revenue...but the people get cheaper things which indirectly increases their income holdings, perhaps to invest in growth activities. Two, the local goods makers face more competition and if they are not ready to compete, they will fold which closes off jobs which reduces PCI directly. But if they are ready, they will harden to compete, effectively on the world market because their goods will be competing locally with the world's goods brought into the local market which acts like a mirror image of the world market.

If we are today adopting the Asean agreement on regional tariff reductions, then that's in the same direction as liberalizing and opening up our local market.

The risks in this weight point are whether the govt can absorb loss of import tariff revenue suffered as additional opportunity cost to itself in the light of what it wants the rakyat to enjoy, and whether the local makers can rise to compete effectively in a direction which they will have to consider as inevitable as the dilution of affirmative actions in a high-income society.

In a manner of speaking, the abolition of all import duties and taxes would be akin to making every part of this country a free-trade zone. That also means the cost of semi-finished parts taken in by the local makers will be reduced for them to finish making their goods more competitively for the export market, raising their taxable revenue.

Let us be optimistic and say that the final result is 50:50 for this possibility (cough).

Next, we need to explore the minds of the two groups; the SPM holder and the post-SPM holder with regards innovative enterprises.

There will be a segment in either group who will be enterprising enough to strike it out on their own - provided they have idea, capital and other production and marketing resources. In fact, these factors can form services in themselves acting as glue in society to hold the NEM together as it rolls out. The segment should in fact be anchored to SME support programs.

walla 7 April 2010 at 21:03  

If one may say, the core objective of the NEM is to catalyze private-led innovative growth in a competitive pro-business environment.

Innovation needs brains. Brains are nurtured by education. Education takes time. In the time that education takes, the catch-22 of which comes first must also be resolved.

The catch-22 says that the education system will produce what the market wants but on the other hand the market will only move when there are already people that it needs.

Since the NEM wants innovation and value, it thus mandates that the system must produce first before the market starts to move. There will be no loss in doing so because that's also what the world wants. If they cannot find jobs here, they can find jobs elsewhere.

With that out of the way, the next thing is to consider how to prime the human capital needed by the market. In our case, this reduces to either one or two options:

one, what to do next for the at best SPM holders who are the majority of the workforce, and

two, how to prime those with higher qualifications than the SPM so that in highly leveraged positions, they can spearhead innovative growth activities.

In the first case, there are two things which can happen to the SPM holder. One, he goes to do a certificate, diploma or degree course and adds to the corpus of the second case. Two, he joins the job market in relatively low-income capacities, and stays stagnant until he gets additional skills or starts his own entrepreneurial business.

Now that we have the cards on the table, we have to figure out the challenges that any combination of them will face.

There are some significant but broad challenges ahead:

one, human capital is key but domestic human capital is unequal to what is needed both in terms of depth and size; moreover, local production resources for the right human capital are also limited in ability and there are no experts to train them alongside their already-full schedule to train their students;

two, the success of the NEM will have to depend on massive cooperation of everyone, at all levels and in all locations; some will resist for fear of losing affirmative expectations; others may resist for fear of increased competition or costs;

three, at present the global market is tepid, both as buyer and as investor; the tepidity can however be reduced if there are sufficiently strong and good business reasons to buy and/or to invest, which will also be occasioned by how well the NEM is promoted against past records, and

dua sen,  7 April 2010 at 22:28  

We can't even fix our education system and Muhyddin gloats at UNESCO offering our services to train teachers in 3rd world ? If this is not a joke what then ?

If Najib don't use the carrot and stick to shape up Muhyddin, then be prepared for the globalisation tsunami. Education policy should not be dictated by politician. We need to setup education council comprising of academicians, captains of the industry (not apple polishers) to draw up consistent education policy with economic imperatives. This is so that even if a monkey becomes a minister, the human capital plant is not disrupted.

Your analysis is SPOT ON ! Bravo Dato Sak !

Anonymous,  8 April 2010 at 03:20  

We need to open up this kind of imperatives and the public has to be made aware of the issue.
There is a need to put on the pressure or otherwise bet you that this country will not go anywhere but instead will fall behind miserably.
You have brought up many relevant issues in your blog but it is doubtful that the power that be cares to look at it. But we cannot sit idle and just ignore it, if we care for the future generation of Malaysia. It will be a sad story if what you have raised in your blog is simply ignored or without a follow up action. A public debate on this kind of imperatives is required. Education is not the only imperatives but there are many others that need to be defined as the element of national power that will meet whatever good intention that Najib wants to do but above all he must be sincere and no flip flopping. Or otherwise even the nation has 99.999% outlook of AK47, it will not help. Just say good bye and duduk sahaja dalam masjid!!!!! Sometime I wonder whether Najib as PM knows what need to be done or he is another misfit in our political leadership?!!!

flyer168 8 April 2010 at 06:29  


donplaypuks® has a point there...

Singapore's Scholarship Funding is very "Cost Effective, Well Planned & Structured" based on "MERITOCRACY & the NATION'S Intellectual, Finance, Ecomomics, Professional, etc Forward (not present!) NEEDS/Shortages" without any wastages...

This is where they have the "Best Brains" to serve the nation's NEEDS with no SURPLUS to NEEDS graduates...

As much as we have "Guided Democracy"... we must also apply the same with our Limited Funds & Resources...

Our nation's Scholarship Funding should NOW be based on the Nation's TRUE & DYNAMIC Statistical YEARLY NEEDS with a Realistic LEAD TIME (not 10 years of scholarship to do a 3 to 5 year degree course!)

Make out the Dynamic/Pro-active Forward Listing Priority needs for FULL Scholarships based on "MERITOCRACY & NATION'S Intellectual, Finance, Ecomomics, Professinal, etc NEEDS"/Shortages without any wastages...

Next, Half Scholarships for the Nation's next Priority Needs List.
Any other "Arty-Farty" Courses not in the Priority List will have to be "Privately or Corporate" funded.

Even then it has to be "Controlled."

Today we see "Graduates" who were slotted into "Irrelevant Unemployable" courses with "NO Planned Structure, Priority & Return On Investment Considerations = NON MARKETABILITY in the DYNAMIC Nation's/Corporation/Private Sector Employment Needs.

Why? Because of "Political" Agenda's & $$$ (Corruption at every level & to be "Beholden" to the Powers that be") instead of the "Nation's & Citizen's NEEDS.
So it has been a pure "Waste of Public Funds" to help the Malays (majority) to just get his/her "Unemployable Piece of Paper Scroll Exercise & then throwing them into the REAL WORLD Lion's Den!"....

QUANTITY but with no QUALITY & RELEVANT EXPERIENCE = "Unemployable Graduates with a Piece of Paper Scroll" from the unrecognised so called "International Universities" locally & overseas!


flyer168 8 April 2010 at 06:40  



Remember, "outside the 4 walls of our home" is the "REAL, UNCOMPROMISING, COMPETETIVE, CRUEL & HOSTILE WORLD" which many of our Graduates will not be able to Survive in, so they blame everyone else but "Themselves"...

I sent my daughter (Malay) with straight A's (definitely not 20A's, etc) at my own expense (why wait for scholarship & miss the opportunity slot???) when she won a place at the NSW Uni in Sydney...20 years ago, to do her 5 year double degree in Comm & Fin...

As they say "Peluang/Opportunity" comes but ONCE whereas, "Funding/Money" boleh di "Cari" asalkan "Rajin Berusaha/Berkorban" untuk anak...

I had to "Sacrifice" for my daughter's future by working harder, investing & saving more.

Even then it cost RM30K for the Fees & RM20K for her other expenses per year!

Her course included "LIVING SKILLS" to "SURVIVE" as a student in Sydney a "Basic Pre-requesite" towards her Degree course...

She SURVIVED & made it...worked with a Top Multi National Foreign Bank in KL for 10 years...until she became a Senior Manager based on MERITS....No more, No Less!!!

I have also encouraged friends to send their straight A's children to Singapore (Established Quality Education System & Internationally recognised!) where it is definitely better than in Malaysia & Overseas - Cost Effective & Marketable Quality.

After their "Basic Degree/Qualification" then, they can either go overseas for their Master's Programme, come back to work in Malaysia, work in Singapore with PR options, etc.

That is what we SHOULD be "Looking at/Inculcating" - POSITIVE & CORRECT ATTITUDE, DISCIPLINE, LIVING SKILLS, SURVIVAL, INITIATIVE, Willing to Learn & be the Best, etc

In the 60s, 70s & 80s our Corporates required their trainees to spend time at the Outwardbound School (not like our Stupid Wasteful NS!!!) to "Inculcate" the above VALUES...even before they can be trained/employed.

I was exposed to that System, so are my children & I hope to have my grandchildren do likewise.

Be that "Self Confident, Disciplined, Self Achieved & Succesful" Anak Bangsa "PAR" with all the other successful Malaysians!

One must have the above values inculcated, to be able to "Control one's Destiny" & not be/feel "Threatened" by someone better, etc!

With our God given Intelligence/Akal....

WE ALL HAVE A CHOICE to be humble, honest, sincere, willing learn, strive to be better & be in harmony with the Malaysian soceity and nation!

That is what I call a Pro-active, Positive & Productive “Education” System to “EDUCATE & INCULCATE” our students/undergraduates with the correct VALUES” for our “Future” society & nation.


Unknown 8 April 2010 at 15:24  


You said,

"But always, the haunting question, can we find jobs for them? We haven't succeeded right? Because our education imperative is misdirected. We need engineers, technicians, doctors, those trained in the hard sciences, businesses to build up this country. To build up a vibrant economy with which to absorb the army of graduates."

That is the Crucial Question. How many of your friend's sons have opted to become a Pilot After Obtaining Degrees in the "Hard Sciences"? I have seen much too many. Especially Malay Boys....

Being a Pilot is not only glamorous but also pays well!

Doctor? If you are a GP you have to slog for a long number of years and if you manage to survive without some form of life threatening ailment that will shorten your life, you are better off coopting some Myanmar Doctor or other to work in your clinic.

Engineers? How many engineers you know are doing solid engineering work that a technician cannot do?

My SME friends prefer Technical Diploma holders to Degrees, that he can afford to pay and listen to him instead of him having to put up with dissatisfied employees.

Its all about Organic Growth.... Unless we all want to end up with the "Dutch Disease" whereby we become totally dependent on Oil / Resorces Income for survival.

Anonymous,  8 April 2010 at 17:44  

Datu sak. Religious graduates are also not suitable for police. The police need law graduates. So they are no good.

flyer168 8 April 2010 at 20:29  

Dear Dato' & Nik,

An addition to my earlier postings...

"Knowledge" is a Double Edged Sword...

In the Positive sense with the Right People & Right purpose, for the Progression of Mankind, Soceity & Nation Building...

In the Wrong Hands for the Wrong purpose can be "Dangerous, Abused, Destructive and can also Kill their intended victim/s"...

"Glamour" - In the Aviation Industry we used to be familiar with this Aussie joke....

"Glamour Pilots & Stewardesses"...

or "Glorified Bus Drivers & Glorifies Waitresses"....

The only REAL "Glamour & Glory" comes "Much Later" say after about 15 years atleast or more of "Gruelling International Standards Skills Training, Work Schedules Demands, Family Demands, Management Demands, Family Demands, Customer Demands, etc" and many were "Disappointed & Distressed"...

Yes, the "Return on Investment" on those "Glamour but Gruelling" jobs is faster & more visible rather than Medicine, Architecture, Lawyers, Civil Engineers, etc.

So the "Rewards" of their "choice & hardship" is something the average Malaysians must appreciate.

In conclusion, it all comes down to CORRECT ATTITUDE, Humility, Willing to LEARN, STRIVING to be BETTER HONOURABLY, SINCERELY & be able to APPLY the KNOWLEDGE in ones CAREER for the BETTERMENT of SOCEITY & NATION Building.

Sometimes someone who GRADTUATED from the University of "Hard Knock" are more "EDUCATED" in the REAL Hostile world context as compared to so called MBA, Phd Degree "Holders"...and I prefer "hard Knock" guys sometimes for their "Resourcefulness"...

The "Opportunist" hopes the winds will Change....

The "Pessimist" complains about the wind...

But the "REALIST" Adjusts his Sails accordingly & MOVES ON Confidently to get to his target Destination!

They do not exhibit "Cry Baby" charades!


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