In light of the current situation, PdPR learning is the best approach to reduce the risk of infection among students after several clusters were detected in educational institutions in addition to the latest trend where children were reported to be infected in the third wave.
Although most parents are relieved that PdPR is extended for another 25 days, there are also concerns if online learning will be continued for a longer period.
If remote learning is prolonged, it will definitely pose a big challenge, especially to students who will be sitting for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) 2021 examination, because they have had less opportunity to face-to-face learning since last year, following the spread of Covid-19 infection.
The SPM 2021 candidates are in a different situation as those who sat for the SPM 2020 examination were able to attend school in Form 4 and were only faced with the PdPR challenges when they were in Form 5.
Commenting on the concerns, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), School of Education Studies (Guidance and Counseling) senior lecturer Dr Syed Mohamad Syed Abdullah said several parties have raised their anxiety over the matter.
"Indeed, this time around, SPM 2021 students will be the most affected. Based on surveys and observations, it was found that although parents feel relieved that their children are at home, at the same time they are worried if PdPR is prolonged.
"Parents are worried as they cannot determine whether their children are able to understand what are being taught through PdPR and they seem to be less enthusiastic because of the problems or constraints faced when learning online," he said.
In this case, Syed Mohamad sees that this is related to the issue of parents and students still struggling with having to accept PdPR learning because parents still consider that face-to-face sessions in school is vital for better learning.
As such, to address the anxiety and demotivation among students, especially SPM 2021 candidates, the best approach at this time is to make the success and enthusiasm of SPM 2020 students as an indicator for them to be more focused and to remain resilient.
"They need not have to worry or feel down. Instead they should take on the spirit of their SPM 2020 seniors who achieved excellent results despite the uncertainties through PdPR learning, which means it was not an obstacle to success.
"Actually, the SPM 2020 candidates were faced with more challenges because in the midst of their studies, the PdPR learning method was introduced and as we know, various problems cropped up because it was still new," he said.
Although there is no denial that there are still some problems in its implementation, efforts are being made by the Education Ministry (MOE) and teachers to boost PdPR’s effectiveness and acceptance among students.
"If you look at it logically, the SPM 2021 candidates actually have an ‘advantage’ because they have been exposed to PdPR much earlier and this will definitely help them to adapt better to the learning approach,” he added.
In fact, Syed Mohamad is confident that the MOE and schools will have a plan and strategy should online learning be prolonged further, based on what had been experienced before.
"Furthermore, there are various alternatives in implementing PdPR, as it is not limited to just online learning. There is the educational television channel DidikTV, as well as the involvement of various other agencies and government linked companies (GLCs) which are also helping to make PdPR learning session much better than before.
"Although there are improvements, the MOE needs to further study the effectiveness of PdPR to identify the gaps and shortcomings, so that these can be addressed immediately. We may not be able to make the improvements all at once, but efforts must be enhanced from time to time, such as helping children from B40 households in their studies,” he said.
Meanwhile, SEGI University psychology expert Prof Datin Dr Mariani Md Nor is of the view that DidikTV should be utilised to highlight programmes that can help students reduce stress.
Through the television channel, Mariani said schools, teachers and parents could play their respective roles in the current ecosystem to protect the emotional and mental health of students during the pandemic.
"To cope with virtual learning at home, I recommend that we dedicate an episode on DidikTV for us to organise a workshop or webinar that can help and teach students to stay calm and be more positive with the ongoing challenges faced during the pandemic.
"Besides teaching, teachers have the responsibility to encourage and guide students. Utilise the guidance and counseling teachers to give students advice and support,'' she said. - Bernama