Going for the new normal in education

Everyone should have an equal opportunity to education despite the difficult time.

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Published by Malay Mail, New Straits Times & Sin Chew, cited by UPM, image from Malay Mail.

As expected by most Malaysians, the movement control order (MCO) has again been extended by two weeks to 28 April 2020. This time around, it comes with the permission for additional sectors to operate with standard operating procedure (SOP) set by the Ministry of Health (MOH) as well as guidelines established by other agencies.

Undeniably, these decisions provided reliefs to the employers and employees who are involved in the sectors, as well as Malaysians who prefer to continue staying at home given the uncertainty that remains about Covid-19.

Although the education sector remains closed in that schools and universities are still not allowed to operate with good reason, the government has introduced some novel things to get the educational sector going.

After all, “education is a continual process, it’s like a bicycle If you don’t pedal, you don’t go forward”, said the President of Liberia, George Weah.

According to UNESCO’s observation as of 10 April 2020, 91.3 per cent of the world’s student population (1.6 billion children and youth) has been hit by school closures in 188 countries. In Malaysia alone, school closures have affected 8 million students nationwide.

Therefore, this is the time when digital preparedness comes in crucial to support the students in terms of obtaining education. Education institutions have responded by holding online classes to ensure continuous learning. This is also to avoid the teachers from having to make time for replacement classes and rushing through syllabuses once the schools are allowed to open.

While the Education Ministry has listed online learning platforms like EduwebTV and CikgooTube, Google Classroom, Microsoft TeamsKahootQuizizz, as well as the list of learning resources provided by the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), not all students are as fortunate to get access to these options. They would need Internet access as well as digital devices such as computer, laptops, tablets or smartphones.

Despite the improved Internet access rate to 90.1 per cent in 2019 compared with 87 per cent 2018, there remains households which are underprivileged to get access to Internet at home due to reasons such as high cost of equipment and low level of confidence, knowledge and skills to use it.

And in line with this data, the government has reached out to the students via television rather than Internet access. This is particularly so when the access to television among households is relatively higher to Internet at 97.6 per cent, based on the ICT Use and Access by Individuals and Households Survey by the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) in 2019.

Malaysia has pursued this move with the introduction of television-based learning sessions through Radio Televisyen Malaysia’s (RTM) new channel named TV Okey, beginning 6 April this year. The government took this approach with the mindfulness that not all students have the access to Internet but their households do own televisions.

Secondly, the government can opt for an alternative, which likely requires direct spending or cooperation from the respective schools to provide digital devices particularly for the less-fortunate students in the rural areas.

Based on the similar survey done on ICT usage and access by DOSM, computer usage in the rural areas appeared to be left behind at only 54 per cent compared with 77.3 per cent for Malaysians who live in urban areas. Thus, these data show the need to address this issue.

Like China, the government is assisting students by providing computers to the low-income families. While in France, digital devices are being lent and printed learning materials are given to 5 per cent of students who do not have access to Internet or computers.

These are some of the familiar measures that can be refined from time to time or acted on during the extended MCO period. Nevertheless, communication is also important between the educators and students or parents in ensuring the learning transition become smooth sailing.

The teachers have to make sure they tailor classes based on students’ needs and convenience. By this, they should ask if each student has appropriate devices for e-learning and if they have stable Internet connection at home.

If these are not possible, teachers could provide suggestions to the students or parents on the alternatives that are readily available such as television-based learning.

For big examinations, reviews may need to be done on the schedules should the pandemic shows no signs of recovery in the near future. Lives are more important rather than having them to sit for exam papers, which can be performed at any time.

Distant learning would inevitably place burden to several households due to lack of resources or parents having to juggle between their jobs and handling the children. However, the new reality is happening in such way because allowing students to go to school or universities would be risky in many ways.

Hence, this is an opportunity to reform our education system by looking for productive solutions coupled with coordinated efforts from every party involved.

Anyway, we are not alone in facing education challenges caused by the global pandemic, as there are 187 other countries searching for ways to resolve the same problem. So, it is important to learn from each other and do our best for the sake of the children’s future!

As quipped by freedom fighter, Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Nur Sofea Hasmira Azahar is Research Analyst at EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.

中文

刊登在:星洲网 (Sin Chew).

就如大部分大马人所预料般,行动管制令(MCO)再度延长2个星期至2020年4月28日。宣布延期后,政府这次允许特定领域恢复运作,不过要符合卫生部所设下的标准作业程序,及其他部门新增的指南。

无可否认,上述宣布让在相关领域的雇主和雇员松了一口气,同时也让那些因Covid-19疫情不定,倾向继续留在家的大马人暂时放心。

虽然教育领域持续关闭,学校和大学没有好理由不能开放,不过政府推出一些新颖的做法,来让教育领域继续前进。

就如非洲国家利比里亚总统韦亚曾说过,“教育是一个持续的过程,它就像脚踏车,如果你没有踩踏板,你不会前进。”

根据联合国教科文组织(UNESCO)截至本月10日的观察,全球91.3%的学生人口(16亿孩童和少年),已因188个国家关闭学校而受到影响。仅在大马,学校关闭影响了全国800万名学生。

因此,如今是关键时刻,要做好科技装备数码化来协助学生继续接受教育。教育机构以线上课程来作为回应,确保学生持续学习。此举也避免了教师在学校获准重开后,要挤出时间补课和仓促赶课。

虽然教育部已列出一些线上学习平台如EduwebTV 、CikgooTube、谷歌课室、 Microsoft Teams、Kahoot、Quizizz,及大马数字经济机构(MDEC)列出学习资源,但并非所有学生能有幸触及这些学习选项,前提是他们要有网路、科技配备如电脑、手提电脑或者智能手机。

虽然大马在2019年的网路渗透率,已从2018年的87%提高至90.1%,但仍有一些家庭因各种原因无法上网,包括器材费用高、信心低、不懂如何使用等。

因着这样的数据,政府选择通过电视,而非网络来接触学生,根据统计局2019年一项调查显示,在大马家家户户有电视的比例达97.6%,比网路普及率高。

大马国营电视台于4月6日起通过TV Okey来推动电视学习,政府如此做,是考量了非所有学生家里有网路,但几乎人人家里有电视。

第二,政府可以有另一个选择,但这措施可能涉及学校开销与合作,即学校可在乡下地区,提供科技设备给那些弱势家庭学生。

根据统计局同样的调查显示,我国的电脑使用率有显著的城乡差距,与城市地区77.3%的电脑使用率比较,乡下地区仅有54%,远落在后头。这些数据都点明,有必要解决这类课题。

以中国为例,该国政府为低收入家庭学生提供电脑,在法国,5%无法上网或没电脑的学生,他们能租借器材和获得纸本学习材料。

这些都是一些在大马行动管制令延长期限,可尝试操作的措施。无论如何,沟通仍非常重要,教育工作者和家长或学生,都要确保这学习过渡期平顺无阻。

教师要确保课程设计符合学生要求和便利。要做到这点,他们就要询问每位学生,是否有合适的器材用于电子学习,及家里是否有稳定的网络。

如果条件不足,教师可提供家长或学生替代选择,例如现有的电视学习管道。

至于大型考试,教育部宣布取消UPSR和PT3,展延SPM和STPM至明年。生命远比叫学生如期应试来得重要,且任何时候都可以安排考试。

一些家庭资源不足,或父母忙于工作和照顾孩子,远程教学无可避免地对他们带来负担,但真实的情况就是如此,因现阶段让孩子去学校或大学上课,是冒险的事。

因此,如今正是机会,通过有效的解决方案及结合各方努力,一起来改革我们的教育体系。

无论如何 ,这波全球疫情造成的教育挑战,我们并不孤单,其余187个国家也在寻找方法解决同样的问题。因此,为了孩子的未来,我们要互相学习和尽可能做得最好!

就如自由斗士曼德拉所言,“教育是你用来改变世界最强而有力的武器!”

苏菲雅阿兹哈是EMIR Research的研究分析员, EMIR Research是一个独立的智囊团,专注于根据严格的研究提出战略政策建议。

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