TODAY, May 7, marks the beginning of the second Movement Control Order (MCO) for Federal Territory Kuala Lumpur, thus joining several other districts in Selangor and Johor that have previously been subject to similar ruling.
It is the reminiscent of March 18 last year when we first enforced this. In this period of about 14 months, we have observed many things.
The increase of those laid off, the poverty of the B40 group, the lethargy of frontliners, the economic downturn, decision of big investors to flee the country and many more. Many interventions have been introduced by the Perikatan Nasional government to deal with all this although not many have succeeded
Unfortunately, despite the complexity of the effort, we don’t hear much about education. Except for 3 things. First, the abolition of UPSR and PT3, second is opening of schools and third the closing of schools. Only the first matter involves policy and system changes. The second and third are just decisions made over and over again, intermittently. And in most of the time, it was done at the eleventh hour. More chronic, teachers and schools were threatened to be fined.
Our school is in a state of chaos. Parents are confused. The teachers are worried. For students, it is even worse. They no longer understand the existing school system. In fact, they are at great risk of becoming a dropout generation.
UNESCO reports that the average student worldwide loses 2 out of 3 academic years due to school closures. And our country has been closing schools for about 36 weeks or eight months over the course of a year since the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Without clear policies and measures, imagine how much time is lost and wasted? An estimated 1.6 billion students worldwide will be affected which leads to 23.8 million dropouts if the pandemic continues.
There are a number of things that should be done or considered by the Senior Minister in charge of the education.
First, create a special committee to study the best approaches and policies for education in the pandemic era. This committee must examine practical and radical needs and ways out. Rather than simply discussing whether to open or close schools according to the number of daily COVID-19 cases. Review and develop the best approach to be adopted by the schooling system so that learning is not stunted even in a pandemic era.
The target approach or proposed policy change must extend as far as the next 5 years, instead of issuing recommendations for the next 2 months. In fact, this is the best time to coordinate and restructure our education allocations so that the country’s largest expenditure is truly capitalized in a way that shows results.
Second, optimize the involvement of all parties in creating a resilient and effective pandemic education ecosystem.
The issue of education is a national issue that transcends ideologies, races and social castes. All parties must be involved and help. It is time for the Senior Minister to reach out to other parties such as PTAs, industry players, providers of educational technology and open learning online platforms, private tuition providers, NGOs, local residents’ associations and various volunteer movements. All parties have a responsibility and duty to contribute equally.
The pedagogy and assessment system used must change. And that’s not to mention we’re talking about the need for schools to be equipped with energy and human resources in the aspects of counseling, morale and mental health, which are now critical issues. At the same time, it is critical that special needy pupils are not neglected at all.
To be sure, we must be aware that today’s students are not only facing an academic burden but a pandemic challenge.
Third, keep abreast with changes and emulate other countries. If the Senior Minister has run out of ideas, do not be shy and hesitant to emulate and take guidance from other countries.
In a report by OECD 2020 entitled Initial Education Policy Responses to the COVID-19 Pancemic, it stated that Norway not only ensures free access to all online learning platforms to schools but also has special programs targeted to help specific groups of students.
Japan’s Education Beyond the Cricis of COVID-19 – Leave No One Behind published by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) in September 2020, said the country has devoted a serious focus to adding staff and human resources support to all educational institutions in ensuring that the learning process during pandemic runs smoothly without overburdening teachers.
Unfortunately, we have never even heard of an increase in staff and aid teachers in our country. Perhaps the Senior Minister of Education is of the view that the more schools are closed, the fewer teachers are needed. In reality, it is the opposite.
No one is stating that the pandemic era is easy. It’s a tough time. However, this is not a reason for us to take lightly the system and effectiveness of education. True, this is a pandemic era. However, school should never falls sick!
DATUK SERI KHALED NORDIN