Friday, March 5, 2021

2020, a roller-coaster ride for education

From changes in government to the impact of Covid-19, teachers, parents and students experienced a whirlwind of events this year.

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From the resignation of its minister to the closure of schools nationwide due to the Covid-19 outbreak, education has seen a tumultuous 12 months as the year 2020 draws to a close.

As early as Jan 2, the country was shocked by the resignation of Maszlee Malik as education minister while Pakatan Harapan (PH) still held power in Putrajaya.

The portfolio was taken over by Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the second time the veteran statesman had held the post following his first appointment to the job in the Cabinet of Abdul Razak Hussein.

Not long after, the education minister changed yet again following the collapse of PH, triggered by Mahathir’s resignation as prime minister.

Radzi Jidin, PH’s former deputy minister of economic affairs, was appointed to take over the position after Perikatan Nasional, led by Muhyiddin Yassin, took over Putrajaya.

The education sector subsequently saw a reshuffle of its calendar as the government struggled to deal with the fallout from Covid-19. Schools, colleges and universities were eventually closed and all classes shifted online.

Here are some of the highlights of the education sector in this year of the pandemic:

UPSR, PT3 cancelled

For the first time in Malaysia’s history of education, the government announced in April that the UPSR and PT3 examinations would be cancelled.

This followed the implementation of the movement control order (MCO) in March, which brought school sessions to a halt although the government pledged that it would not jeopardise students’ development.

Radzi, who was by then education minister, said a new method would be put in place to replace those exams, specifically for students seeking entry to full boarding schools, the Mara Science Junior College, and technical schools.

SPM, SVM and STAP postponed

The SPM, Sijil Vokasional Malaysia (SVM) and Sijil Tinggi Agama Malaysia (STAM) examinations, meanwhile, were postponed to the first quarter of next year.

Admission to institutions of higher learning for basic programmes, matriculation, diplomas and degrees was likewise delayed.

Tuition centres shut down

Tuition centres were also affected, with many owners saying they could no longer afford to stay open given the drop in student numbers after schools were ordered to close.

MalaysiaNow previously reported that the three-month MCO saw many tuition centres forced to shut down, especially in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.

Even the owners of well-known centres which had been in operation for decades were willing to sell their businesses for as low as RM7,000 just to pay their teachers and cover the cost of their utilities.

The locations of tuition centres listed for sale included Cheras, Pudu, Damansara, Bandar Tun Razak, Subang Jaya and Shah Alam.

Online degrees

Where online degrees were once scorned for their lack of pedigree, they became the norm as universities shifted their courses from physical to virtual classrooms.

The development gave rise to the question of whether the quality and qualifications of graduates who earn their degrees online would eventually be perceived as on par with those who attended traditional lectures.

Internet access and online learning

In June, Universiti Malaysia Sabah student Veveonah Mosibin made headlines after a video of her climbing a tree in order to reach an internet signal went viral, catching the attention of Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, among others.

The incident opened the eyes of many to the need for better infrastructure facilities, especially in the rural areas of Sabah and Sarawak.

Rocky road for private schools and kindergartens

Many parents feeling the pinch from salary cuts and retrenchments this year moved their children from private to public schools, leaving institutions of private education in the lurch as the Covid-19 pandemic took its toll on them as well.

Many were forced to close down due to financial problems.

A similar situation unfolded with private kindergartens which had struggled to pay their teachers and support staff due to a decline in number of students.

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