Students can’t wait to be back in school

There’s no place like school: Aleesya Ariana Mohd Hairil (left), 12, and her sister Aleeya Adania, eight, busy studying at the walkway of their flat in PPR Sri Perak, Sentul. Their school is on the right. — IZZRAFIQ ALIAS/The Star

PETALING JAYA: Students are looking forward to face-to-face lessons with schools reopening soon, according to a study.

A nationwide study by Universiti Malaya (UM) found that over three-quarters of Malaysian students are eager for physical classes to resume in three weeks’ time.

This comes as students in Malaysia have endured nearly 35 weeks of school closure – the longest in the world – throughout the pandemic, according to the Unesco Institute for Statistics’ “Global Monitoring of School Closures Caused by the Covid-19 Pandemic” data.

In comparison, as at July 31, schools in the following countries were closed for between zero and 16 weeks: United Kingdom (16 weeks); China and New Zealand (nine weeks); France (seven weeks); Singapore (four weeks); Japan (three weeks); and Sweden (0 weeks).

Prof Dr M. Niaz Asadullah from UM’s Faculty of Economics and Administration said 75.9% of students he surveyed say they prefer to return to school physically.

Of this, 66.4% stated that they only want face-to-face lessons while the other 9.5% prefer a hybrid learning model.

Prof Niaz’s study also found that 22% of students did not show up for home-based teaching and learning (PdPR) while a quarter did not attend regularly.

Completed in January this year, the survey also revealed that only 18.2% of students were happy with virtual learning while a third reported being unhappy with the switch to PdPR. Almost half (48%) were neutral.

“PdPR does not guarantee ‘joyful learning’ at home,” he told The Star.

He said attending school is not just about face-to-face lessons but also socialising and seeing one’s friends.

“For many B40 children, the environment at home is not healthy and child-friendly, so school is often the only safe space they have access to,” he added.

His study will be presented in a conference jointly organised by the Asian Development Bank, Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute and National University of Singapore

It surveyed over 6,800 bumiputra secondary school students nationwide to assess “learning continuity” during the ongoing school closures.

Prof Niaz’s study also found that 34% of those surveyed did not find online or video lessons easy to follow, with some saying they were not happy with the quality of the programmes.

“This implies that students are unhappy with the way teachers manage online schooling,” he said, adding that this still needs to be studied further.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre Psychiatry Department head of child and adolescent psychiatry unit Assoc Prof Dr Fairuz Nazri Abd Rahman said students learn better when they are physically in the same room as their teachers and classmates.

“They can have hands-on experiences with their learning material, allowing them to learn better,” she added.

Education Minister Datuk Dr Radzi Jidin had earlier announced that students would be able to return to school from Oct 3, starting with exam year students in Forms Five and Six for states under Phase Two of the National Recovery Plan.

Schools in Phase Three states could open in full, but schools in Phase One states would remain closed.

He is expected to announce the details on the reopening of schools today.

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