‘LOST GENERATION’ ONLY LOST IF THEY DIE:POOR QUALITY TEACHERS, WHETHER FACE TO FACE OR ONLINE, IS NOT THE FAULT OF THE CHILDREN – WHY SHOULD THEY SACRIFICE THEIR SAFETY; NOT ENOUGH MONEY OR TIME FOR LAPTOPS & ONLINE LEARNING, B40 FAMILIES HOWEVER DIFFICULT THEIR SITUATION ARE STILL BETTER OFF IF THEIR KIDS DON’T PERISH FROM COVID-19 & LIVE TO FIGHT ANOTHER DAY – EDUCATION EXISTS IN MANY FORMS & FORMAL EDUCATION CAN ALWAYS WAIT, SOCIETY WILL HAVE TO ADJUST – REOPENING SCHOOLS ALSO EXTENDS THE VICIOUS CYCLE OF RISK INTO THE REST OF SOCIETY, NOT ONLY ARE KIDS DIRECTLY AFFECTED – BUT SO ARE THEIR PARENTS, FAMILIES & SO ON – IF THE KIDS SURVIVE BUT THEIR PARENTS CONK, HOW GOOD IS THIS FOR THEM?

Now the right time to reopen schools? Some say yes

Unhappy over the government’s decision to reopen schools for face-to-face teaching and learning sessions beginning today, many netizens have been flooding social media, as well as the Ministry of Education’s (MoE) Facebook account, with their comments objecting to the move.

They feel it is not the right time yet to reopen schools what with the pandemic still raging and many parents already having bought laptops, tablets or smartphones for their children to enable them to participate in home-based teaching and learning (PdPR) and would now have to fork out more money to buy them school uniforms and shoes.

However, is the “voice” of the netizens representative of the entire society and socio-economic groups? Not necessarily. In fact, many families in the B40 group living in urban, rural and interior areas are relieved schools are finally reopening as their children have not been reaping the benefits of PdPR due to poor Internet connection and lack of electronic devices.

As for secondary schools, those located in Johor, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu will reopen on April 5 and schools in Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Penang, Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya on April 6.

Eager

Amirah Haikal, 15, a Form Three student at a school in the Klang Valley, and her friends, who are all from the B40 group, are eager to return to school. She said most of them were not able to participate in PdPR last year as they did not have smartphones, tablets or laptops.

“We’re relieved school is reopening soon. My mother is a kuih seller who earns about RM60 a day while my father is sick and they can’t afford to buy a computer.

“We have a smartphone which is an old model and gives problems when we use it for too long. Not only that, my mother can only afford to buy Internet data plan worth RM20 which I have to share with my three siblings. It’s barely sufficient to support our online classes and I am only able to download some schoolwork. I feel I have missed out a lot,” she said.

It has been widely reported that since schools were shut down following the enforcement of movement restrictions last year to curb the Covid-19 pandemic, access to education has been hampered for students in the B40 group and those living in rural and interior parts of the country mainly due to the lack of Internet infrastructure, mobile devices such as smartphones and computers, and a conducive learning environment.

According to a study carried out by MoE between March 28 and April 2 last year on the preparedness of students for virtual learning, it was found that 36.9 percent of students did not possess any device to enable them to follow online learning.

The MoE study involved 670,118 respondents comprising the parents of 893,331 students, 6 per cent of whom had personal computers, 9.3 per cent (laptops), 5.8 per cent (tablets) and 46.5 per cent (smartphones).

 Parents want schools to reopen

Meanwhile, Anuar Ahmad, a senior lecturer at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Centre of Community Education and Well-Being, welcomed the reopening of schools for face-to-face PdP, saying that it is “long overdue”.

“To tell the truth, many parents have been requesting for schools to reopen. Many teachers want schools to reopen too. Our children have not been in school for nearly a year and have not been taught properly. Many of them are trailing behind in their studies while some have lost their focus and motivation to continue with their studies.

“Hence, the decision to reopen schools is a good one and anyway, children are the low-risk group where Covid-19 is concerned,” he said, adding that countries such as France, Germany and Spain that are badly hit by the infectious coronavirus have reopened their schools with strict standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place.

Elaborating on why he felt schools should reopen as soon as possible, Anuar said besides the issues surrounding Internet access and ownership of mobile devices, many of the parties involved are themselves not ready for the PdPR ecosystem in terms of skills or preparation of suitable teaching materials.

A study carried out by UKM’s Education Faculty on the readiness of teachers to implement PdPR found that the online teaching methods utilised by the teachers were not that effective because they were not in line with the abilities and learning levels of the students.

According to the UKM study’s findings, 70 to 80 percent of the teachers reported that garnering the attention of their students was the main challenge they faced whilst conducting PdPR.

Added Anuar: “It’s clear that PdPR 1.0 (last year) had failed after 10 months of its implementation. Many issues arose, including the teachers’ lack of skills in online pedagogy as they were not trained for this. Apart from that, many parents were either not ready or didn’t have the knowledge to help their children with their online learning.”

Hybrid learning

While Anuar is confident that the MoE has taken the necessary measures to ensure the effectiveness of the SOPs implemented in schools to prevent Covid-19 transmission, he said the ministry should also consider implementing hybrid learning, that is, a mix of face-to-face and online learning sessions to avoid over-crowding at schools.

“This is the best approach to take in view of the current Covid-19 situation. In fact, it’s not new because in July last year, the ministry had introduced the rotational or hybrid learning method,” he added.

National Parent-Teacher Associations Consultative Council president Associate Prof Datuk Dr Mohamad Ali Hasan, meanwhile, said the issue of the newly purchased mobile devices (to facilitate e-learning) going to waste will not arise because they can be used for weekend and holiday learning sessions.

He said schools, in collaboration with Parent-Teacher Associations and alumni, should consider organising online tuition classes over the weekends or during school holidays to help students to catch up with their studies.

Former Education Department director-general Tan Sri Alimuddin Mohd Dom had also supported hybrid learning. He was recently quoted as saying that the reopening of schools did not mean that PdPR should be forgotten because a combination of face-to-face and online teaching and learning methods would be beneficial for students. – — Bernama

Parents concerned but confident about start of new school yearwhatsapp sharing button

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The scene outside SK Dato’ Onn Jaafar this morning with parents sending their children to school in compliance with the SOPs.

PETALING JAYA: More than a million children started their school year today, with several parents telling FMT they were cautious about the high number of daily Covid-19 cases but confident SOPs would be followed in schools.

An education ministry spokesperson told FMT that 204,155 pre-school students, 454,827 Primary 1 students and 448,113 Primary 2 students were expected to kick off their school year today.

While the number of daily Covid-19 cases has been consistently above 2,000 for most of this year, parents agree they cannot continue sacrificing their children’s education while waiting for the figures to decrease.

“Their schooling has been stop-start since last year and it has affected their learning,” said Siti Arbiah Miasil before sending her daughter off to Primary 1 at SK Puchong Jaya 2 today.

“We may think it’s dangerous to send them back to school, but they have to catch up with their studies. We don’t know when this pandemic will end.”

Mohd Yusof Mokhtar, meanwhile, said he was confident the education ministry would have taken the relevant steps to ensure a safe return to school for students.

While he expressed concern about the high number of daily cases, Yusof believed it would be beneficial if students could return to school even if just for a couple of days a week so they could interact with teachers.

“I believe the students will be safe if they follow all the SOPs set out by the government and education ministry,” the 43-year-old said.

“They’re not very focused at home, and we (parents) can only guide them so much.”

On Feb 19, education minister Radzi Jidin announced that preschoolers, Year 1 and 2 students would start school on March 1 while those in Year 3 to 6 would return on March 8.

Secondary schools, meanwhile, will be opened in two groups on April 4 and 5.

Dennis Ong, 52, said it was only natural for parents to be worried about the return to school due to the high number of cases.

Ong’s son started Primary 1 today, and while he could not accompany his son to his class due to new education ministry SOPs, he agreed it was a necessary precaution.

“Hopefully everything goes well. We have to start somewhere,” he said.

“We have to make sure we send kids to schools when they reopen. If not, what are they going to do at home?

“I’m sure the school knows how to keep them safe.”

Meanwhile, parents at SK Dato’ Onn Jaafar in Subang mostly had mixed feelings about the reopening of schools, saying they were worried about the Covid-19 situation but also their childrens’ educational development.

Gunaseelan Gunasekaran, 41, felt a mixture of excitement and concern for his seven-year-old daughter’s first day in school, but said he was confident in the SOPs implemented in schools.

The IT senior engineer said studying at home for nearly one year had been quite difficult for kids due to the vastly different environment compared with being in school.

“It’s different learning at school than learning with their parents, so this is better. So far there have been no Covid-19 clusters in schools, thankfully,” he told FMT, when met outside SK Dato’ Onn Jaafar in Subang Jaya here today.

Herman Shah, 30, said his seven-year-old daughter was excited about going to school but he was more cautious about the Covid-19 numbers, telling FMT that children might forget about the SOPs.

“She’s excited but we’re a little afraid, especially since it’s her first day of school. But we’ll see how it goes,” he said, while accompanying his daughter.

A woman who only wanted to be known as Ong, said she was more worried about her eight-year-old because she might be too young to know how to take care of herself.

While the SOPs that have been set are good, the mother of two girls told FMT she was more concerned about whether the students themselves would follow the guidelines.

“We can give them everything, including hand sanitisers, face masks and face shields, but the question is whether they will use it or not,” she said.

When asked if schools in Selangor should have followed Sarawak in reopening two weeks later, the parents were ambivalent, expressing apprehension at the thought of their kids continuing classes at home.

They felt that while school reopenings could have been delayed but more importantly, it would have also affected their kids’ studies. – FMT

BERNAMA / FREE ALAYSIA TODAY

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