Online lessons will go on

Access for everyone: With schools still shut, more needs to be done to narrow the digital divide as virtual lessons are a popular PdPR method. - CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

HOME-based teaching and learning (PdPR) has been fraught with problems from the get-go.

The biggest and most common complaint levelled against it is the fact that not every student has access to Internet connectivity and digital devices.

To this, the Education Ministry has, time and again, stressed that there is more to PdPR than online platforms.

PdPR, the ministry explained, encompasses a myriad of approaches teachers can adopt – it boils down to identifying the most suitable and convenient method for teachers and students.

It is, however, undeniable that online and hybrid learning is the future of education.

The Covid-19 pandemic has merely accelerated the process for our national schools.

Realising that many students were without access to devices when schools adopted online learning, the government launched the Cerdik Fund initiative.

When tabling Budget 2021 last November, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz announced that government-linked companies and government-linked investment companies would contribute RM150mil into a fund, to be known as Tabung Cerdik, or Cerdik Fund, to provide laptops to 150,000 students in 500 schools as a pilot project.

The target group of students for this initiative to provide digital access in the form of laptops, tablets, and data connectivity are those from lower-income families.

Yayasan Hasanah, the impact-based Khazanah foundation, is the secretariat of the Cerdik initiative.

The contributions involve 13 Government-Linked Companies (GLC) and Government-Linked Investment Companies (GLIC) representing companies under Khazanah Nasional Berhad, Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB), Kumpulan Wang Simpanan Pekerja (KWSP), and Petronas.

Yayasan Petronas, the corporate social responsibility arm of Petronas, for example, is distributing digital devices with data connectivity worth RM30mil to 12,000 students in 81 schools under the initiative.

The rollout which began in February, however, saw netizens taking to social media to complain about the slow distribution of the devices.

As months went by and students were forced to continue online learning amid rising Covid-19 cases, the criticisms grew louder.

Describing Cerdik as one of the most comprehensive pilot initiatives on digital learning in public schools nationwide, Yayasan Hasanah managing director Shahira Ahmed Bazari said delivery of the devices was on track based on the stipulated timelines.

The rollout was on track despite logistics issues due to the movement restrictions around the world, she said in a press release on June 24.

It is important to ensure no student is left behind during these difficult times, added Yayasan Petronas chief executive officer Nelly Francis Shariah.

“Through Cerdik, we want to provide equitable access to quality education for students as it is the first step to close the digital gap towards enriching their educational experiences and lives.

“With these devices and Internet service, we hope more students – especially those from underprivileged and rural communities – can better participate in online lessons,” she said in the press release. — By SANDHYA MENON

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