THE movement control order (MCO) has propelled almost every educational institution in the country to embrace digital teaching and learning.
Now finally, skills training institutes are getting on board with e-learning.
While some are coping well, others are facing difficulties in conducting online learning as 70% of the syllabus involves hands-on practical training.
The president of a technical and vocational education and training (TVET) action committee comprising private skills training institutes said they should be allowed to concentrate on theory lessons instead of the practical training portion the Sijil Kemahiran Malaysia (SKM) National Occupational Skills Standards (NOSS) syllabus during this period.
“Once the MCO ends, we can resume lessons and continue with the practical training, ” said Nordin Abdul Malek.
While some students don’t participate in the e-learning sessions due to their lack of academic interest, Nordin said many can’t do so because they do not have gadgets as they are from the B40 (low-income) community.
“Some students aren’t able to buy data and the environment they come from isn’t conducive for e-learning.
“We requested the government allocate a one-off allowance to students of all five SKM levels but they have so far only approved RM200 for levels Four and Five.
“Due to this new norm of online skills training, we hope the government will provide a bigger allowance to assist them, ” he said.
Another challenge that inundates the sector amid the pandemic, he said, is that many government agencies are not familiar with the e-learning system for TVET.
E-learning for skills training is a culture shock to them because it’s never been done before and they aren’t prepared, Nordin added.
The Human Resources Ministry department of skills development (JPK) guideline is a temporary measure that is only valid during the MCO, he noted.
“The challenge is how to implement it as a permanent training system moving forward. It is a good opportunity for JPK and other bodies to identify the best solution.
“TVET is technical and requires hands-on training to ensure that students master the skills.
“So the question is, how do we adapt and conduct this form of training without compromising on our high training standard.”
Another problem with e-learning, he said, is identifying how skills training institutes are to receive recognition from the Malaysian Qualifications Agency, industry-led bodies and employers.
“The assessment system must be looked into because previously, everything was conducted face-to-face.”
To overcome these challenges, he said JPK should have a common e-learning platform for all skills training institutes and standardised measures to conduct e-learning.
Currently, he said, everyone uses different platforms.
Skills training institutes also need a bigger allocation to equip students with the necessary software and hardware for e-learning.
“This pandemic will affect physical classes in training centres, ” he said.
Agreeing, Federation of JPK Accredited Centres (FeMac) president P. Sailanathan said the change and technological infusement in teaching and learning will be a problem for some skills training providers that need to ensure that their low-income students can access the online training.
“This must be addressed so that no one gets left behind, ” he added.
FeMAC is an association comprising members who are accredited TVET providers.
While the private skills training sector is ready to implement e-training, the government must ensure there is nationwide access for every student if the digital drive is to be successful, he said.
To keep the online lessons interesting, Gain Forlife Academy in Likas, Kota Kinabalu, gives their students tests through applications like Kahoot.
Founder and managing director Nelson Mosinoh said students’ level of interest and engagement are reflected in their scores on the app.
“All notes, handouts, files and other related materials are stored in Microsoft’s One Drive, which is accessible to all our students.
“While online teaching is the only option available now during the MCO, this method has its limitations and disadvantages.
“Most students who join skills training institutes come from poor homes and live in remote areas with very poor Internet connection.
“Before the MCO, some had to walk for 30 minutes from their home to the nearest town just to get Internet access.
“Due to their socio-economic status, these students do not have enough money to buy, let alone top-up their data.
“Most end up using their parents’ smartphone as theirs is not advanced enough for online learning.
“Worst still, those who live in the rural parts of Sabah have to contend with regular power cuts, ” he shared.
The villages depend on small power generators, he said, which are only enough to supply power to a few homes during the day.
“In the evenings, the generators will be switched off, causing students difficulty in completing their assignments and accessing lessons online.
“If the government wants online learning to be the future of teaching and learning, they must first address the challenges faced by students who live in rural areas, ” he said.
Look at subsiding or reducing the import duty levied on smartphones, computers and laptops so that it is affordable to everyone, Mosinoh suggested.
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