An educationist has called for a comprehensive recovery plan to help tackle the problem of students who have fallen behind due to the closure of schools throughout the pandemic-era movement control order (MCO) periods.
The move to shut down schools to help contain the spread of Covid-19 meant that lessons were disrupted for the better part of two years, to the detriment of academic progress, especially for students in rural areas and from low-income families.
When classrooms reopened in March this year, for instance, there were some in Standard One who were still unable to read.
Meanwhile, parents have voiced concern about the increasingly heavy syllabus for primary school students, and whether their children will be able to cope.
Figures from the education ministry show that 21,316 students or 0.22% dropped out of school or were left behind in their classes from March 2022 to July 2021 – a period coinciding with most of the school closures.
Anuar Ahmad said the country needs a national recovery plan for education in order to bring the problem to heel.
“We need to go back to the basics of reading, writing and counting,” he said.
“Make sure that these skills are mastered by every student.”
Anuar, of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, said such a plan should focus on curriculum reforms at the primary school level.
He said schools must ensure that students at this level have at least a few skills under their belt, including a mastery of both the Malay and English language.
If these skills are not grasped at the lower primary level, he said, problems will likely persist all the way to secondary school as well.
“If we don’t resolve the problem at its root, students will face difficulties learning and lose their motivation when it is time to move on to the next level,” he said.
“Their focus will slide, and they will end up failing.”
Another problem for him is the structure of school curriculums which has remained unchanged since the 1970s.
“There have yet to be any reforms,” he said. “We are still holding on to the old ways.
“We want learning to be fun for students, so they will feel that what they learn is meaningful.”
Giving the example of schools in developed countries, Anuar said pupils at the lower primary level should be given the chance to adapt and to learn basic skills before moving on to other matters.
“They don’t need to be taught so many subjects,” he said. “Things like science and geography and general knowledge can be taught in Malay and English classes.
“We can add on the elements when they reach higher levels, but maintain the number of subjects.”