More needed to reduce school dropouts

Expert advice: (left to right) Vishalache, Wang and Muhammad Noor are suggesting multiple ways in which teachers, parents and authorities can address the issue of school dropouts.Expert advice: (left to right) Vishalache, Wang and Muhammad Noor are suggesting multiple ways in which teachers, parents and authorities can address the issue of school dropouts.

PETALING JAYA: The manner in which lessons are delivered in school needs improvement in order to stem the number of dropouts, according to an expert.

Universiti Malaya Centre for Research in International and Comparative Education director Assoc Prof Dr Vishalache Balakrishnan said this was one of the things that needed to be done to reduce the number of school dropouts.

“Teachers, remember to teach and provide knowledge, skills and values rather than just focus on homework and exams,” she said when interviewed.

Vishalache was commenting on Deputy Education Minister Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon’s statement that the total number of school dropouts from March last year to this July was 21,316. He told Parliament on Monday that the number of dropouts was reduced by more than 10,000 during the Covid-19 period, compared to 2018 when 34,074 dropouts were recorded.

To this, Vishalache said the numbers were still high because home-based teaching and learning – the learning method employed through most of the pandemic – came with its own set of discouraging challenges.

To counter this, she said efforts should be pumped into educating parents so that they understand the challenges faced by their children.

“They face the screen the whole day and are struggling to complete their homework which needs lots of research. If teachers, classes and schools have a pull factor, there is no need for parents to push their children to attend school,” she added.

Universiti Utara Malaysia College of Arts and Sciences School of Education senior lecturer Dr Muhammad Noor Abdul Aziz said a close partnership between the schools and parents must be established.

He said schools must alert parents if children were absent, facing problems or having disciplinary issues.

He also said a linked database or network should be created between medical institutions, the National Registration Department and schools to ensure every child was registered in school even if parents failed to do so since all records were already stored in the system.

National Union of Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Wang Heng Suan said schools needed more counsellors to help address the dropout problem at the preliminary stage.

He said each school only has three counsellors on average, with some schools having an enrolment of over 2,000 students.

“We notice that students are in low spirits as they have had to study from home due to the pandemic. Now that they are back in school, some feel they can’t catch up with the curriculum, so they stay home,” he added.

Wang also said some students had left school to find jobs to support their families when parents lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

The government should look into absorbing these students into skills-based education as they do not have the interest to pursue academic studies, he added.

Educationist Prof Tan Sri Dr T. Marimuthu said the government must identify who these students are before coming up with remedial measures.

“They should strategise educational and counselling programmes, and enrichment classes for these students to get them back to school.

“Losing even one student is a loss to the economy, and 21,316 is a significant number. If we do not tackle it, I fear these students will not have the skills to enter the workforce to do something (meaningful) and may fall into social ills. We must save these students and they must be given educational opportunities,” he added.

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