MP SPEAKS | I want to refer to the posting by Dr Anuar Ahmad from the Faculty of Education, UKM posted on his FB timeline dated July 7, 2021 titled, “PDPR: Dasar Pendidikan Yang Gagal?”.
He stated that the blanket approach to home-based teaching and learning (PDPR) implemented by MOE today has failed and will cause an increase of dropouts and education imbalance among children during MCO.
In his posting, Anuar has referred to an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report related to the approach employed by different countries to resume the children’s education during the Covid-19 pandemic. Based on the OECD report published in April 2021, studies by education experts in the OECD show the three best home-based teaching and learning approaches in most countries in the world throughout the school closures in their respective countries.
The three approaches are as below:
1. Online learning
2. Distribution of notes and worksheets; and
3. Education TV
Furthermore, the study also states that other methods have been utilised, such as education radio, smartphones, etc. Nonetheless, the approach’s effectiveness apart from the mentioned approaches is much lower and a lesser choice in the majority of the countries worldwide.
Among the three approaches, online learning is the best and chosen approach. Despite that, the effectiveness of online learning for school children in those countries must depend on the two main conditions, which are:
1. Quality internet access for every educator and student; and
2. Students are equipped with devices to attend the online classes.
Without these conditions fulfilled, the online learning approach will not be entirely implemented. As a result, it will significantly impact the country’s education system and can only be utilised as an alternate approach or learning aids.
This report acts as findings of the study and suggestions from education experts from OECD. They emphasised the issue of education inequality whereby it will affect the education gap among groups of students, be it among those who have the learning facilities and those who do not; among the wealthy and the poor, and among those who live in the cities and those who live in the outskirts especially in the rural areas. Due to this issue, it will have long-term effects on the economy and the income gap.
Therefore, they decided that countries that cannot afford to fulfill both conditions are allowed to resume home-based teaching and learning through the educators’ and school’s efforts by distributing notes such as modules or worksheets/workbooks. Students can learn with a manual guide/learning module and work on exercises after that. Furthermore, the exercises will be submitted to the educators for evaluation purposes.
As support, mobile phones are encouraged for students to ask questions through WhatsApp and Telegram. Several educators have adopted this approach in Malaysia as part of their initiative, especially in rural areas.
As for countries that have difficulties in physical access such as the long-distance between the school and students’ houses, or being forced to travel by river or using bad roads in the rural areas. So, OECD suggests three approaches, which are TV and Education Radio. These are the three approaches to home-based teaching and learning implemented by many countries globally, depending on their capabilities.
Home-based teaching and learning in Malaysia
In Malaysia, according to a study conducted by MOE on April 18, 2020, 36.9 percent of students do not have direct devices, which restricts them from attending online classes. This percentage is equivalent to 1.85 million students nationwide.
About 90 percent of students do not have personal devices for them to utilise. They either take turns in sharing the devices owned by parents or with their siblings. This situation has caused many children to not be able to attend online classes at home throughout the implementation of MCO. The most complicated issue is the low internet access. Poor internet speed causes a majority of the children living in rural areas not to participate in home-based online teaching and learning.
Apart from the study by MOE in April 2020, a study by NUTP and a research team from the Faculty of Education, UKM presents evidence that most parents and educators are not ready to implement home-based online teaching and learning.
Based on the data of this study, it is evident that utilising the online approach wholly as a primary home-based teaching and learning approach is not suitable for a country like Malaysia.
According to studies by OECD, NUTP, and UKM, MOE is not supposed to continue forcing home-based online teaching and learning all in one go on all educators, schools, and students. It will only cause more students to get left behind in their studies if the online learning approach resumes a direct approach to home-based teaching and learning.
In relevance to this situation, it is inappropriate for officers from the District Education Office (PPD) and the State Education Department (JPN) to monitor the educators amid the home-based teaching and learning implementation through the online method. It will only widen the gap of education, mistreat children and parents and burden the teachers.
In reality, during MCO 3.0, the MOE still resumes the home-based online teaching and learning approach as the primary approach. Although the Ministry said they gave schools the “autonomy” to adapt to the situation, the MOE still issued a schedule of home-based teaching and learning according to the subject schedule, and instructions to all teachers for preparing the attendance report of the online teaching and learning students given to the PPD and JPN.
We also discovered that most students who do not have a computer or a laptop have to resort to mobile phones as a replacement. A smaller mobile phone screen that cannot accommodate the needs of online activities will only affect the quality of children’s learning while impacting the condition of their eyes.
This is the situation throughout the country. There is a state government with the cooperation of telecommunication companies to provide mobile phones for this home-based teaching and learning to promote the online learning approach further without looking at the efficiency of the blanket online learning and the effectiveness of using the small handphone screen for students education and health.
In the OECD study, the use of mobile phones for home-based teaching and learning purposes is in fourth place and is not the top choice. It turns out that using this mobile phone is not the preferred approach for most countries in the world. According to the study, its effectiveness is also lower than the distribution of notes and the use of Education TV. However, due to the MOE’s decision not to consider the community’s situation, especially the poor and rural groups, this decision made the online home-based teaching and learning increasingly failing to be implemented effectively.
Unfortunately, the MOE does not share the reports on the effectiveness of home-based teaching and learning with the general public. If it is shared, the data will be questioned as the reporting methods being practiced are more directed towards punishing and monitoring teachers for punishment, and not for the real purpose of reporting, which is to find the best solution for education for the students, and teachers alike.
The truth is that most Malaysians are still unable to implement home-based online teaching and learning due to the factors of internet access and device ownership. This reality is based on a study conducted by MOE itself. Unfortunately, the study results are not a turning point for the MOE to be dynamic and improve the situation by considering the opinions of experts as well as OECD reports and various other international education experts.
Nevertheless, the MOE should turn to the second and third techniques proposed by the OECD, i.e., through the distribution of notes, manuals, worksheets, and maximum use of TV and radio. In addition, MOE can not only rely on Education TV (Didik TV), which has been passed to a private company to manage. The MOE also has to work with RTM to create government-owned Education TV and Radio. These education TVs and radio programmes must be fully coordinated in the home-based teaching and learning system.
It should be noted that the learning pedagogy amid the pandemic should also be changed. The education curriculum should also be modified. Educators can no longer be forced to spend the syllabus solely on a textbook. Students should be equipped with the skills and knowledge gained through education, TV, and radio. The production of quality materials can no longer be collected and monopolised by one party as it is happening now. The MOE needs to provide a more open opportunity for many publishing houses to produce educational TV programmes as many of them are more likely to cease operations. They need to work with BSTP owned by the MOE.
Thus, the module distribution techniques, TV, and education radio are the fundamentals. In contrast, any school that can conduct online can do it as a different approach. However, at the national level, all educators need to focus on four of their significant roles during the implementation of home-based teaching and learning:
1. Preparation of notes distribution modules;
2. Answering student’s questions via mobile phone;
3. Checking student’s exercises and;
4. Interacting with parents through the appropriate and effective medium.
In conclusion, the MOE needs to re-evaluate the decision to resume the online approach on a larger scale and as a blanket approach in a situation where students are left out and incapable.
As mentioned before, the current MOE’s decision will only cause learning dropouts to continue to occur, especially among poor and rural students. Managing an online class also makes the educator’s tasks very difficult to the extent that some are forced to find a river and climb a hill to obtain internet access. Why does the MOE want to trouble parents, educators, and students when the MOE has other more suitable options for our environment?
In addition, the MOE should also begin to discuss with the JPNs and relevant PPDs, especially in Sabah and Sarawak, about the schools in the rural areas (especially in the P2 and P3 regions) that have fewer students to grant permission to operate with the agreement of MOH.
Currently, the children in the rural areas receive the worst impact of the pandemic. Not only they were denied from following online learning because of poor or no internet access, the schools too are closed for them to learn. Surprisingly, schools in those places are closed even though they are within the green zone without any Covid-19 cases, and few hundred kilometres away from affected/infected areas. It is more unfortunate that the schools with fewer students in the rural areas are located merely at the front of the longhouses or residential houses.
However, they cannot operate as Putrajaya decides the blanket closure of the schools throughout the nation based on cases in the red zones located about a hundred miles away from them. They are the most affected and left behind compared to the rest. Bold actions must be taken to avoid these children becoming a group of student dropouts in the country’s demographics.
Pass the power/autonomy of teaching to the school to determine the best approach to managing home-based teaching and learning and not burden educators with online class reporting. The essential reporting is the teacher’s reporting to parents or continuous communication between teachers and parents. For the upper secondary is the communication of teachers with the students themselves.
In today’s harsh and critical situation, non-conventional approaches are needed to save the children’s education. We cannot take the future of children’s education lightly. Our stubbornness to listen to expert advice and continue using the failed approach will only put our country’s and people’s future in shambles.
MASZLEE MALIK is Simpang Renggam MP and former education minister.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.