Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Think outside of the box, teachers urged as Covid-19 shuts schools again

Teachers are frontliners too, battling Covid-19 in the field of education, says Teo Kok Seong.

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As parts of the country revert to various stages of lockdown amid spikes in daily Covid-19 numbers, an academic has urged educators to think outside of the box in coming up with innovative ways to continue teaching despite the frequent disruptions to school sessions.

Teo Kok Seong from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia said this could be done through the use of communicative technology or even through conventional methods such as maintaining some form of direct contact with students.

“It could also come in other physical forms, such as delivering lesson materials directly to students and retrieving those assignments,” Teo, a member of the Malaysian Education Development Plan Committee, told MalaysiaNow.

Earlier this week, the government said 298 schools in the Petaling district would be ordered to close until Oct 25 as the area had become a red zone for Covid-19 infections.

This came a day before the announcement that Selangor, Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur and Sabah would be placed under conditional movement control order (CMCO) due to their increase in positive cases.

Labuan has since been placed under CMCO as well, with all schools closed until the end of the month.

Tens of thousands of students were forced to return to virtual classrooms, and while Teo acknowledges that online sessions are the best method to use during the pandemic period, he said educators could not rely solely on it.

“The most important thing now is that education should continue to be provided, even though conditions are unconducive.”

Although activities such as delivering lesson materials to students would burden schools, he maintained that this was the best way to innovate learning as not all students had access to internet facilities or devices.

The Covid-19 virus, first detected in Malaysia early this year, has wreaked havoc on the economy as well as society, bringing normal daily routines such as going to work and school to a halt.

But Teo said it would be useless if teachers only worried about the impact of the pandemic on education without being willing to make sacrifices as well.

He told MalaysiaNow that educators, too, were considered frontline workers who would have to combat the virus in their particular sector.

“The most important thing now is that education should continue to be provided, even though conditions are unconducive.”

Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia chairman Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said several issues need to be tackled in order to ensure that standards are still met in spite of the pandemic.

For one, she said, the government should allocate funds through the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission to ensure adequate and accessible internet connection throughout the country.

The next would be to ensure that students at all levels have the necessary devices to participate in the online learning process.

“Who can bear the expense of the devices for those who can’t afford them?” she said.

But most importantly, she said, focus should be given to the teaching of core subjects, with twice the amount of class time devoted to these.

“Meanwhile, other teachers need to assist those who are handling core subjects,” she said.

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