Easing the transition back to school

KUALA LUMPUR: With schools set to reopen in stages starting Oct 3, many children must be feeling excited at the thought of reconnecting with their classmates.

But not all children are eager to return to school due to various reasons, among them being the fear of contracting Covid-19, or feeling nervous about interacting with their friends and teachers.

Some children may also be afraid their teachers would question their poor home-based teaching and learning (PdPR) attendance record and rebuke them for not completing their schoolwork.

In fact, some experts have suggested that teachers take the soft approach in the first few weeks after schools reopen for face-to-face teaching and learning sessions, saying that a more relaxed classroom atmosphere was necessary to boost student enthusiasm levels and relieve any stress or anxiety they may be feeling, considering that they have been away from school for well over a year.

Child psychologist Dr Noor Aishah Rosli said teachers should consider organising leisurely activities, sporting events, and games for their students, with strict adherence to the standard operating procedure.

“I think in the first one or two weeks (after schools reopen) formal teaching sessions should take a back seat. Teachers should, instead, focus on reviving the school mood and stimulating the children’s social and communication skills.

“We want the younger children, particularly those in Year One and Year Two, to have a positive perception and to be motivated to study in their school,” said Noor Aishah, who is also a senior lecturer in the Department of Education Psychology and Counselling at Universiti Malaya.

She said teachers should also refrain from quizzing their students about their PdPR attendance record and schoolwork as it could dampen their enthusiasm about returning to school.

“These questions will make them feel stressed as not all of them were able to follow PdPR and complete their schoolwork diligently,” she said, voicing her concern that this may lead to bigger problems that could disrupt their studies.

Recognising that students who were not able to follow their PdPR sessions consistently for various reasons may, to some extent, be left behind in their studies, Noor Aishah said the focus now should be on improving their understanding of the subjects they were being taught.

She said “schooling should not be examination-oriented and shouldn’t purely be about completing the syllabus”.

“Virtual learning is just not the same (as face-to-face learning) and is not 100% effective for all students.

“At home, they are easily distracted and the environment may not be conducive (for learning)... and not all of them have their own desks and rooms to study,” she said.

To address the issue of students who are lagging behind, Noor Aishah suggested that teachers conduct brief revision on every topic for all the students, adding that they can make use of videos, pictures and mind maps to make it easier for their students to remember facts.

On Sept 20, the Education Ministry, in a written reply in the Dewan Rakyat, said the effectiveness of PdPR was at a moderate level, according to the findings of an online study on PdPR that was conducted between March and July last year.

The findings showed that urban student involvement in PdPR stood at 59.3%, compared to 51.4% for rural students.

The study also showed that 51.2% of the students felt stressed while learning at home, with 48.9% of them saying that they felt stressed due to the limited interaction with their teachers, 55% due to limited interaction with their friends, and 53.4% due to lack of guidance in the learning process.

The ministry also stated that 56.6% of students participated in the PdPR sessions actively while 66% of parents or guardians said PdPR was effective for their children.

Commenting on the option given to parents and guardians to not send their children to school due to the threat posed by Covid-19, Noor Aishah said in the case of parents with young children, the onus was on them to ensure they mastered the 3Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic).

“Eventually, when these children go to school and they have yet to master the 3Rs, their parents shouldn’t put the blame on the teachers,” she said, adding that parents should also observe their children’s progress closely.

“There are seven- and eight-year-old children who actually can read but are not trained. There are also children who have been taught and trained but still cannot read and this can be due to dyslexia, low IQ and other learning disorder.

“In such cases, the parents must take prompt action by taking their child to a specialist to resolve the problem,” Noor Aishah said. — Bernama

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