IN less than a week, the year-end school holidays will begin, marking the end of a tumultuous year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Understandably, it has not been an easy transition for students and teachers to adapt to online teaching and learning (PdP) in the new norm.
But parents – worried that the pandemic will stretch on – are claiming that their children have been inundated with homework through quizzes and worksheets, often covering topics teachers have yet to teach.
These children have lost hours of lessons and online teaching is not being conducted well – if at all, the parents claimed.
On Dec 1, Deputy Education Minister Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon told Parliament that the ministry had provided a home-based teaching and learning (PdPr) manual as a guideline for teachers in the implementation of a structured and well-planned PdP so students could continue learning in an optimum manner.
The manual covers the approach via online, offline or off-site either by adopting the learning module or project-based learning, he said.
Assuring that the ministry would continue to ensure all students would have access to learning, he said teachers can take the initiative to deliver materials directly to students who do not have access to the Internet or the relevant devices.
Students, he added, can also use copies of textbooks as a guideline, note preparation and summary as well as to draw a concept.
He said teachers could assess their students based on the appropriateness and conduct intervention based on the level and the capabilities of the students.
With the new academic year starting on Jan 20, parents are anxious for a solution to the ineffectiveness of the current PdP – especially if a spike in Covid-19 cases forces schools to close indefinitely.
They are worried about whether their children will be able to cope when school reopens as they have yet to master their current syllabus.
What can be done
Interact with teachers to find an amicable solution, the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) advised parents.
Its secretary-general Harry Tan said it is vital for parents to be involved and engaged with their children’s teachers.
“We must not forget that teachers are not trained to teach online as this form of teaching requires a new set of skills.
“Teachers need formal training as well, ” he told StarEdu.
SK Putra in Jelebu, Negri Sembilan, headmaster Syed Zulkafli Syed Abdul Karim is firm — his teachers must guide their students and they must print hard copies of the homework and deliver it to the pupils’ homes for those who do not have gadgets and access to the Internet.
“My teachers will even go to the pupils’ houses to make sure they participate in the online teaching and learning session.
“In the coming weeks, I will go down to a few Orang Asli villages near our school to monitor if the kids are signed in to our online lessons — we have to take these steps; it’s our responsibility as educators.”
At the end of the day, it comes down to the school administration and parents, a teacher who only wants to be known as Wai said.
School heads must monitor their teachers and parents must communicate their problems directly with their school administrators.
“Teachers have a responsibility; they cannot only be giving worksheets and exercises.
“As we all try to navigate through the new normal, we must not forget about our pupils during this period of school closure, ” said the teacher who teaches in a primary school in Kuala Lumpur.
Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim suggested that a soft landing approach be taken in the reopening of schools.
The government must have a plan on how to do this effectively, she said.
“Schools don’t have to start regular hours immediately. A fixed number of hours can be allocated per week so that children can have face-to-face sessions with their teachers and simultaneously have some form of social interaction with their friends.
“Teachers should make an attempt to interact with students online.
“Instead, many are merely sending links to their students and expecting them to self-learn, ” she said, adding that the Education Ministry must be strict with principals to ensure that daily lesson plans are followed and that there is progress in the students’ learning.
Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education chairman Mak Chee Kin pointed out that while there are bad apples, one must not discount the hard work of good and dedicated teachers.
He, however, stressed that educators relying on worksheets to pass off as teaching are no different from parents giving their children homework through workbook exercises bought from bookstores.
“It is important for parents to bring such cases to the attention of their school heads.
“Headmasters and principals need to get teachers and parents to work together. School administrators must have an effective system in place to monitor their teachers, as some schools do.
“Parents too have to monitor their children closely. Approach the school’s principal or headmaster with proof, ” he said.
Like Noor Azimah, he said teachers who are willing to conduct face-to-face lessons should be allowed to return to school for a few hours.
Headmasters and principals, along with state education departments, should decide if this method is feasible and safe for teachers.
Agreeing with them is a primary school headmaster in Selangor, who said that allowing teachers to return to school to teach is a step towards solving the problem that is plaguing parents, teachers and students.
“This way, we as school heads can monitor our teachers, ” the headmaster said.
Pointing fingers at schools and teachers, said Nina Adlan Disney from an education social enterprise, is not the way forward.
A child’s education, she said, is a collective responsibility.
“We must provide a system which allows for autonomy in the dealing of different issues facing specific schools and communities.
“We must also see this as an opportunity to focus on the quality of the learning experience and not just on exam results, ” the LeapEd Services executive director said.Study@Home
Teaching and learning (PdP) must be carried out for schools and educational institutions which have been closed. The administrators of the institutions must ensure that home-based teaching and learning (PdPr) which is suited to the needs of teachers and students is conducted throughout the affected period.
In October, the ministry released a 20-page “Teaching and Learning From Home Manual”, which serves as a guide for teachers and also enables students to follow the PdPr optimally.
The manual, which can be downloaded at moe.gov.my, is also a reference for school administrators, district education office officers (PPD) and state education departments (JPN) as well as Education Ministry divisions.
By definition, PdPr is teaching and learning that is carried out at home, community centres or any other suitable location. It can be done either online, offline or offsite in a structured and planned manner.