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COMMENT | 2020 - the lost year in education

I Lourdesamy

Published

COMMENT | Any honest educationist will tell you that this year (2020) is a lost year in education. Policymakers and education providers pretend there is no problem and that education is proceeding as usual, except that it is now using technology to deliver classes.

The truth is, Covid-19 has seriously affected the teaching and learning of students at all levels – schools, colleges, and universities. It is not only their education that has been affected. Many students are suffering from mental distress because they have been cut off from their routines in schools and colleges.

I would venture to say that little learning has taken place in 2020. This is not just in Malaysia. It is true for almost all countries in the world affected by Covid-19. The difference is only one of degree. Some countries are handling Covid-19 better than others, but all are struggling to cope with teaching and learning where students cannot meet face-to-face with teachers and instructors.

This is largely because learning is collegial and interactive. At higher levels, like post-graduate studies and research, learning is more individual. It is self-learning and self-motivation. A periodic chat with your academic supervisor to make sure you are on the right path will do. Learning technologies are most useful at this level of education.

At the school level, the learning and teaching dynamics are completely different. Learning is teacher-centred. Education theorists will disagree. They will argue for a student-centred learning environment. But anyone who has taught in schools will know the central and critical role of teachers. Everything else is supplementary.

A teacher-centric environment does not mean the student is not important or he has no role in his learning. He has, but that role is activated by the teacher. It is the teacher who is the initiator of the learning process. He guides, cajoles, inspires, and expands the learning environment. Take the teacher away, the student becomes passive and his learning frontier shrinks. This is noticeable in classrooms. Where the teacher is exciting and inspiring, there is a great deal of learning going on. Where the teacher is dull, the class is dull, with little learning taking place.

This is particularly true in elementary and primary schools. The teacher is the role model and the catalyst. He/she is seen as the know-all by the student. This relationship is central to the learning process. Sitting at home with gadgets can never be the same. Online learning, at best, can only ...  

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