Extraordinary year for education


Higher Education Minister Datuk Dr Noraini Ahmad.

FROM the resignation of a minister, to the closure of schools due to the Covid-19 pandemic and adapting to online learning, 2020 has been an unconventional year for students, teachers, parents and the education ministries.

As the year comes to an end, StarEdu reflects on the year that was for the country’s education sector.

JANUARY

> The school year began with 4.67 million primary and secondary students attending the first day of school.

> Dr Maszlee Malik resigned as Education Minister. The former education minister shocked everyone with his resignation after serving the ministry for 20 months. Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said there were “many reasons” which led to Dr Maszlee’s resignation, saying that it was “necessary”.

FEBRUARY

> The collapse of the Pakatan Harapan government and the change in government led to the Higher Education Ministry making a comeback. Higher education had been part of the Education Ministry until 2004 when then prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi separated the ministry into the education and higher education ministries. Subsequently, both ministries were merged in 2013 and then split up again in 2015. Following Pakatan Harapan’s win in the 14th General Election, then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced that there would only be one ministry in charge of all matters regarding education.

MARCH

> Dr Mohd Radzi Md Jidin and Datuk Seri Dr Noraini Ahmad were appointed as Education and Higher Education Ministers, respectively, by newly sworn in Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. Deputy education ministers were Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon and Muslimin Yahaya. Datuk Dr Mansor Othman was named deputy higher education minister.

> Schools and higher education institutions nationwide were ordered to close, at the start of the movement control order (MCO), due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Teachers and students were instructed to continue teaching and learning online.

> National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) loan repayments deferment was extended for six months.

APRIL

> Due to the spread of Covid-19, all major national examinations were either cancelled or postponed. The Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) and the Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) Semester 3 examinations were postponed to the first quarter of 2021. The Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) and the Form Three assessment (PT3) were cancelled for this year.

> TV Okey, an educational channel on RTM, was launched by the Education Ministry and the Communications and Multimedia Ministry to cater for students during the MCO.

> The National Union of the Teaching Profession commissioned the “Post-Covid-19 Pandemic Schooling Research Based on Social Distancing Pedagogy” study to prepare a social distancing schooling pedagogy for the new norm.

> Some 100,000 college and university students who were staying on campus during the MCO period were allowed to return home.

MAY

> Postgraduate students and another five groups of students were allowed to return to campus in stages between July 1 and Oct 1.

JUNE

> A total of 500,440 Forms Five and Six, Sijil Vokasional Malaysia (SVM), Sijil Tinggi Agama Malaysia (STAM) and STPM students from 2,440 schools and hundreds of international schools returned to physical classrooms according to a staggered schedule.

> The Education Ministry released a 34-page detailed school reopening management guidelines which included small classes of no more than 20 students; 1m distance between tables; students buying pre-packed food at separate times; and eating only in classrooms under the teachers' supervision. The guidelines were applicable to all schools and institutions registered with the ministry.

> Year-end holidays were announced. Depending on the state, the holidays would be from Dec 18 to 31. The year-end holidays for schools in Johor, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu were reduced from 42 days to 14, while schools in Melaka, Negri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Penang, Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya would have a 13-day break.

JULY

> Schools fully reopened for the first time since the MCO on March 18, with the final phase involving Years One to Four pupils.

> Schools could choose to reopen based on three models of operation – one-session, two-session or rotational operation model.

> Thirty per cent of private higher education institution (IPTS) students began returning to their campuses starting this month.

> Entry of new international students into Malaysia was put on hold.

> Students at public higher learning institutions received a reduction of up to 15% for their hostel, administrative and activity fees, which was applicable to those who were in the second semester of their 2019/2020 academic session. This was to help reduce the burden of the students and their families, especially those who have been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

> The Higher Education Ministry set up a national taskforce to look into issues facing the IPTS.

AUGUST

> The new school year would start on Jan 20,2021. The later date was announced after taking into consideration the effects of the pandemic.

> All primary school pupils, and Forms One to Six and vocational college students will start face-to-face lessons on the same day.

> PTPTN loan repayments were extended for another three months, from Oct 1 to Dec 31.

SEPTEMBER

> Higher education institutions (HEIs) put registration of students on hold; schools closed again. Varsities only allowed students from green zones to register to avoid congregation.

> Schools in some states were forced to close again due to the spike in Covid-19 infections.

OCTOBER

> HEIs across the country fully reopened since the closure in March.

> In a sudden announcement, institutions were told to carry out online registration for the new semester, and that all teaching and learning activities should also move to online platforms to keep staff and students safe. The announcement caused fury among students who started arriving at their campuses for the new semester.

> More schools, this time in the Petaling district, were ordered to close due to the spike in Covid-19 cases.

> Malaysian teacher Samuel Isaiah made the top 10 list for the prestigious Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2020.

NOVEMBER

> The SPM and the STPM were again postponed to February and March next year.

> All schools would be closed until Dec 17, the last day of the school year. Home-based learning would be continued until then.

> The Education and Higher Education Ministries received a total of RM64.8bil from Budget 2021. The former received RM50.4bil – the largest amount allocated for a ministry.

> Universiti Malaya broke into the top 10 of the Quacquarelli-Symonds (QS) Asia University Ranking for the first time.

DECEMBER

> After two years of heated discussions resulting from Dr Maszlee’s 2018 announcement that from 2019, students would step out in black shoes instead of in white, the Education Ministry said students could wear black or white shoes, and socks according to the colour of the shoes, when school reopens.

> The Education Ministry revealed that it was in the final stages of its study to abolish the UPSR.

> The Education Ministry said it would launch a multilingual resource manual which will include Jawi, Chinese, Tamil, as well as the native languages of Sabah and Sarawak.

> For the first time since 1999, Malaysian students scored more than 700 points in Mathematics and Science in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

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