Sunday, September 26, 2021

Pandemic takes its toll on reading and writing as well

Teachers say their students' literacy levels have nosedived since the closure of schools due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

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Teachers are voicing concern about a drop in literacy among their students following the enforced break from physical classes which stretched out over months as the Covid-19 outbreak kept tens of thousands of pupils homebound under various lockdown phases.

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, they said they are now struggling to catch up with the education recovery plans implemented at their schools.

They also said they had seen a significant change in their students’ reading and writing skills when schools reopened for face-to-face classes this year.

Dina, who teaches at a government school in Kedah, said her pupils’ literacy had been severely impaired by the long break from the physical classroom when schools were closed during the movement control order period.

“Their current level does not match the level that they’re supposed to reach at their age.”

Although home-based learning or PdPR was implemented through various digital platforms, she said this had not worked for most students.

“Their proficiency has badly deteriorated,” she told MalaysiaNow, adding that teachers were forced to return to the basics and to re-teach their students from the beginning.

While some had been able to retain what they had learnt through self-study, she said, for many “their current level does not match the level that they’re supposed to reach at their age”.

The United Nations recently warned that Covid-19 had created the largest disruption of education systems in history, affecting nearly 1.6 billion students in more than 190 countries.

It said the closure of schools and other learning spaces had impacted 94% of the world’s student population, rising to 99% in low-income countries.

Mazlina, a primary school teacher from Negeri Sembilan, said literacy was now a serious problem among her Standard 1 and 2 pupils.

She said nearly half of her students struggle with reading and writing, especially in English.

“Every year, I can see how my students’ reading and writing has improved when they are in Standard 2. But this time, I still need to struggle especially after the pandemic,” she told MalaysiaNow.

For some, she said, part of the problem was a lack of practice during PdPR. Others were unable to join the online classes at all, which she said had had a serious impact on their reading and writing skills.

For now, she is doing what she can to help her weaker students catch up with their lessons.

“Covid-19 has created the largest disruption of education systems in history.”

“I’m trying to change my style of teaching,” she said. “One-to-one sessions require a lot of effort from teachers but that is the only focus right now.”

She also groups weaker students together so that she can give them more attention, while high achievers are drilled and given extra activities.

At the so-called recovery classes or “kelas pemulihan” at her school, teachers are assigned up to five students with whom they work to reinforce core skills and provide a personalised learning experience.

But these classes focus mainly on the Malay and mathematics subjects. “For English, we need to handle the problem ourselves.”

The English language committee there does what it can by collaborating with the library to provide students with reading materials while for writing, classes are divided into low, medium and high achievers so that students can be given the appropriate writing practices.

At Dina’s school, students are also required to attend workshops in order to catch up with their lessons.

But extra effort is still needed from teachers and students alike to make up for the lessons they have missed.

So far, the teachers are working with no clear results to show how effective these programmes really are. But Dina remains hopeful.

“We hope that they can bring about a positive change for the students,” she said.

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