FORCED to teach from home because of Covid-19, educators had to step out of their comfort zones to come up with creative, new ways of teaching so that their charges would not fall behind despite the absence of face-to-face learning.
The task was made especially difficult as they were not able to read their students’ body language, nor were they able to gauge if the students understood what was being taught.
Most teachers were unsure if lessons could be disseminated effectively considering the challenges students faced in terms of gaining access to digital devices and Internet connectivity.
The Education Ministry’s Teaching and Learning At Home Manual Version 2.0 (PdPR 2.0), however, gave educators some degree of autonomy in determining the best teaching methods, so teachers were not limited to online platforms.
Those especially from the rural areas, took up the challenge with aplomb to ensure that teaching and learning (PdP) could continue effectively.
This included organising their students’ timetable.
They were also expected to come up with innovative teaching methods in a matter of months when the pandemic hit and schools closed.
Understandably, many took time to find their footing as they were not used to being given so much leeway.
It is not to say that our educators were never empowered but unlike the successful Finnish system that gives teachers great autonomy by placing them at the heart of education, Malaysia implements a centralised system with a national curriculum.
Former Education Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Habibah Abdul Rahim, in a StarEdu report on May 16, said there is flexibility for individual school administrators to handle things in a way that suits them best.
The ministry does not prescribe what they must do.
Not many, however, understand the autonomy they have.
School administrators and teachers must understand what they are empowered to do so that they can exercise discretion and not be afraid to take action, explained the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Adjunct Professor.
Stressing on the importance of good leadership, she said solutions must be tailored to the specific needs of a school, classroom or group of students.
Universiti Malaya Education Faculty senior lecturer and teacher-trainer Dr Zuwati Hasim said autonomy in the classroom is crucial – especially in ensuring the success of PdPR.
Unesco, she said, recommends that teachers be given professional freedom and allowed to participate in educational decision-making and negotiation.
Teachers, she told StarEdu, are agents of change for education development.
“The concept of autonomy allows teachers to plan and make effective decisions.
“To increase teacher autonomy is to acknowledge the basic role and rights of a teacher,” she noted.
Teach For Malaysia (TFM) chief executive officer Chan Soon Seng said autonomy is important as teachers know their students well and are the best judge of what is most appropriate for them.
“We always encourage our teachers to get input from their students about what works best,” he said of their two-year programme for TFM fellows.
The programme includes ongoing training and school-based coaching to ensure theory gets translated into practice.
The fellows, many of whom were not trained to be teachers, also study part-time for a Postgraduate Diploma in Education, with Institut Pendidikan Guru Malaysia
“We see our role as exposing our teachers to as many methods as possible and letting teachers decide, alongside their students, the best way to go about their lessons,” he added. — By REBECCA RAJAENDRAM
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