ISSUES relating to Teaching and Learning at Home (PdPR) once again attracts my attention as Barisan Nasional’s Head of Special Education Team. The system which started on June 13-14 resumed again for 25 school days until the mid-term break on 16 July for group A and July 17 for group B states.
Prior to that, on 25 April 2021, the Senior Minister of Education Datuk Dr. Radzi Jidin announced that PdPR 2.0 session will be implemented for 10 schooling days after Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
With the number of Covid-19 infection cases still showing no significant decline under the lockdown on June 1, I really think face-to-face schooling sessions will not be feasible and PdPR will continue. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) report, 203 million students worldwide were affected by school closures.
PdPR Manual Version Two issued by the Education Ministry in February, namely Paragraph 5.1 states that:-
“No Student Dropped Out in Learning – Schools need to ensure that all students can follow PdPR based on their needs and readiness. Teachers need to identify appropriate PdPR methods so that students can master the content of the prescribed subjects. Teachers must explore different and appropriate ways for the continuity and increase of student involvement in PdPR. ”
The main issue that I want to raise is related to the presence of students under PdPR. My concern is based on the study results by Faculty of Education, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) which found that the attendance of students in the PdPR process did not even reach 80 per cent.
The findings were very frightening for me as a former principal who never took attendance for granted. Perhaps the findings can be disputed because the PdPR process has various modes, namely ‘on-line’, ‘off-line’ and ‘off-site’.
In our current situation, it is difficult to blame any party due to the fact that many factors influence what happens at home. Simply put, it is the parents who should take a role in ensuring their children enter online classes.
The attendance figure of less than 80 per cent can actually be considered a big issue to the PdPR process as a whole. The question is, are students bored with what is served by teachers? Does PdPR no longer inspire the students? Or are they tired of staring on their computer screens or gadgets?
Views of the former Education DG Datuk Dr. Amin Senin in Utusan Malaysia should be taken into account. Pupils, he said cannot give 100 per cent focus if teachers teach online for 30 to 40 minutes according to the regular class schedule.
According to him, the duration should be shortened by improving and diversifying teaching methods such as making short videos not exceeding 10 minutes.
The opinion is in line with a UKM study led by Prof Dr. Azlin Norhaini Mansor who found that most students did not focus in PdPR due to the unconducive residential environment. A total 70-80 per cent teachers reported that the main challenge of PdPR was the difficulty in getting students’ attention.
Studies also show that communication between students and teachers through PdPR is very limited. Some teachers give too much training to students to burden the parents because they have to help their children practice. Teachers, on the other hand, are bound because they have to complete the syllabus in addition to having provide a report as proof that the PdPR is implemented.
MOE should submit all data related to PdPR process comprehensively to woo all parties, especially parents, especially related to the issue of PdPR dropouts. A mechanism needs to be sought to prevent students from continuing to be ‘lonely’ at home and not entering PdPR classes without feeling guilty.
The MOE should also have a clear ‘roadmap’ to restart school sessions face to face so that parents’ worry can be eliminated.
Next, once the school starts to open, the MOE must also conduct a rehabilitation process for students who are unable to participate in PdPR. There needs to be a comprehensive answer to ensure that no student is left behind.
A study by the National Union of Teaching Professions of Peninsular Malaysia (NUTP) related to parents’ views on PdPR also needs to be refined. The 16,554 respondents requested MOE to examine the PdPR problem.
Meanwhile, Khazanah Research Institute in its research report entitled ‘Covid-19 and Unequal Learning’ found that 37 per cent of the 900,000 students surveyed did not have the appropriate devices. That is also another polemic that still plagues all parties.
The problem of internet access, especially in rural areas and the assistance of devices to students from B40 families should also be a priority to the government.
Referring to 2021 Budget, the government has provided an allocation of RM50.4 billion or 15.6 per cent of the total expenditure to the education sector. That makes education the second highest receiving sector after health.
What about the laptop allocation for students? As of June 12, 2021, it was reported that a total 40,290 units laptops had been handed nationwide as a result of contribution by the GLCs.
The problem of broadband access in rural areas, for example, has a solution if we take into account the latest broadband network services provided by Tenaga Nasional Berhad’s (TNB) subsidiary, Allo Technology Sdn Bhd.
Allo provides TNB’s existing fiber optic network throughout the Peninsula that provides high quality internet networks, especially to suburban and rural areas where such services are not yet available.
A collaboration should be drawn up in detail between the government and the broadband service providers to benefit the country’s education sector and the people in rural areas in particular to enjoy the internet access.