Home-based learning, teaching to be better


We’re on the way: Teachers from SMK Pulau Gaya, Kota Kinabalu, board boats to send materials to their students – Photo: Education Ministry

JUST as teachers were getting used to home-based teaching and learning (PdPR), timetables have to be redrawn as the Education Ministry has issued new guidelines.

The “Teaching and Learning at Home Timetable Implementation Guide”, a manual released in Oct 2020 by the Education Ministry, was revamped on Feb 2 this year. Known as the “Teaching and Learning at Home Manual Version 2” (PdPR 2.0), the manual aims to standardise the duration of PdPr due to inconsistent patterns of implementation among schools.

Based on the ministry’s observations, schools were having anything between one and four hours of sessions daily, said Education deputy director-general (policy and curriculum) Datin Seri Nor Zamani Abdol Hamid.

Hence a standardised timetable was necessary to ensure curriculum completion so that students are ready for the next level.

“The timetable is very important in our school system so that teaching and learning can be implemented in an orderly and systematic manner, ” she said in a YouTube video on Feb 8.

The guidelines, she added, includes the teaching and tutorial times allocated for each subject.

Tutorials, she explained, are for students to complete activities or exercises, either online or offline.

Though not set in stone, Nor Zamani said, teaching should be followed by tutorial times to minimise the amount of time a student spends staring at the screen.

“Allocate short breaks of two to five minutes for every 30 minutes of a PdPR session and five to 10 minutes before the next session.

“Have the students do activities such as stretching or light exercises to keep the students active. These can also be bathroom breaks, ” she said.

Dedication knows no boundaries: Sabah-based teacher Franky Collin Kulam braves the rough road conditions to SK Buayan, 30 km from Penampang to send learning modules to his students in a rural school. – Photo: Franky Collin KulamDedication knows no boundaries: Sabah-based teacher Franky Collin Kulam braves the rough road conditions to SK Buayan, 30 km from Penampang to send learning modules to his students in a rural school. – Photo: Franky Collin Kulam

In addition to that, said Nor Zamani, the PdPR timetable needed careful planning based on the specific subject goals and requirements so that students get the knowledge, skills and values they need to advance in their learning.

She also said that the school timetables drawn up must take into consideration the situation, facilities available and electronic devices on hand for teachers and students.

Standardisation is not the only objective of the new guidelines, she said, adding that the ministry also wants to prevent students from being overburdened with homework.

She said the ministry had received a lot of feedback from frustrated parents complaining that teachers were only loading their children with exercises and homework without any interaction.

This seemed to have happened when teachers were giving learning modules, either online or offline, and expecting the students to just complete their assignments on their own, she added.

The requirements for a proper learning module have also been outlined in the guidelines, said Nor Zamani.

“A comprehensive module has instructions, the objective of the content, activities and some questions.

“So teachers have to give clear instructions and outline the goals and skills that need to be mastered at the beginning of the module.

“They should not just assign activities without helping the students understand the content and how to perform the tasks given, ” she added.

Out of the blue

While lauding the guidelines which has to be read together with PdPR 2.0, National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Harry Tan said the union, despite representing some 220,000 members, was not engaged in the formulation of both documents.

“Now, we are gathering feedback from parents and teachers, ” he said, adding that the “PdPR: Helpful or Burdensome” survey was launched on Feb 6.

It garnered over 10,000 respondents in the first 12 hours alone.

The implementation of PdPR 2.0, he said, should be postponed as it adds to the burden of teachers, parents and students.

It comes across as though the ministry has not taken the learning situations at home into consideration, he said in a statement.

“Students have the right to an education, even if they can’t attend school.

“The ministry has to think of the best approach (in this situation) to enable students to continue learning from home without adding to their burden, ” he said.

Among the reasons the NUTP wants PdPR 2.0 and the timetable guidelines to be put on hold is because students are not used to studying in front of their screens from 7.30am until 1pm. The hours are just too taxing.

And parents, especially those who are not highly educated, struggle to guide their children at home. PdPR is also seen as burdensome as it adds to the students’ workload, he said.

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“Many teachers also have to adapt to the new methods of teaching.

“For us teachers, the show must go on. Students must be educated no matter what, ” he said.

Former education minister Dr Maszlee Malik said it is unreasonable to expect teachers to conduct PdPR non-stop just like they do in schools.

He claimed that state education departments had issued instructions to teachers to teach five subjects per day.

“Teachers are also human. Humane considerations and discretion should be the pillars of the Education Ministry when experimenting with the new PdPR norms, ” he said in a statement on Feb 5.

Mazlee urged the ministry to consider the teachers’ autonomy and capabilities to teach PdPR, as well as whether students have the means for this teaching method based on their location and access to gadgets and Internet connection. The Simpang Renggam MP, said the latest manual and guidelines should be scrapped.

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Meanwhile, educationist Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam said teachers nationwide are trying their best to deliver PdPR but not all of them know how to do it well.“Those who can pick up the methods fast can help their students but those who are slow face difficulties in delivering lessons in the new norm, ” he said, adding that teachers should help each other so that no student gets left behind.

Subramaniam said he believes the ministry has done its best to implement the PdPR in the last 11 months.

“When we complain about the ministry, we must realise that it needs the support of parent-teachers association (PTAs) to implement policies successfully, ” he said.

Subramaniam pointed out that there are many parents who are not only tech-savvy but creative as well in PTAs who could help the teachers make lessons more interesting.

“They can also help deliver learning modules and homework to students who have no means of digital communication.

“I think it is only fair that the ministry listens to what parents and teachers are saying about the PdPR setbacks they are faced with daily.”

How teachers are coping with PdPR...

SANJAY, a secondary school teacher from Subang Jaya, said both the “Teaching and Learning at Home Timetable Implementation Guide” and “Teaching and Learning at Home Manual Version 2” (PdPR 2.0) should have been released before schools reopened on Jan 20.

“The documents should have been given to schools before we prepare our teaching plan. It’s not right to throw teachers and students into uncertainty again when school is in its third week.”

As for his own classes, he does not see the need for specific tutorial times as per the timetable guidelines.

He, however, said the PdPR 2.0 manual is good.

“Put yourself in the shoes of a teacher and a student. At least talk to the people who are experiencing PdPR to find out if the methods recommended are practical and workable.”

Norhailmi Abdul Mutalib said the new documents provide more details on managing issues teachers and parents face.

Students, he said, stand to benefit from the standardised class timings.

“Everyone realises that we are entering our second year of PdPR. It has been tough for everyone as more people are demanding quality online experience, ” said the science teacher from SMK Jerlun, Kedah.

Teachers and schools should adopt and adapt the solutions which work best for their students. There should always be room for flexibility, he said.

“I prefer using digital forms of PdPR as it is better to train my students now to embrace digital learning.

“This is where the world is heading, ” he added.

An English teacher, who wanted to be known as Amanda, said teachers have no choice but to adopt the new manual and guidelines.

“This is the new norm. These new guidelines are more student-friendly.

“Our time in front of the screen is reduced. It’s very tiring when there is a long stretch of classes. Teachers also need a break from the screen, ” said the KL-based teacher.

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