Malaysia needs to buck up our preparation for home-based learning

Image Source: Channel News Asia

As the Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin mentioned in his speech last Friday, schools will remain closed until the spread of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) is no longer a threat.

As in April 13, 2020, Covid-19 has affected 1,576,615,423 students; 91.4% of total enrolled students. This is due to 192 country-wide school closures.

Malaysia must be prepared, that even when MCO is lifted, it is highly possible that schools will remain closed for a longer period, and will only be in operation by stages. Ministry of Education must come out with plans to deal with this unprecedented situation. Home-based learning will be our new norm.

School closures will have longer-term consequences, especially for the most vulnerable and marginalized, magnifying already-existing disparities within the education system. Therefore, it is essential to take into consideration the risks of exacerbating disparities.

First of all, MOE needs to tackle the digital divide urgently. These include looking at issues related to access, teacher preparedness and school-family communication.

In Singapore for example, the Ministry of Education has provided about 3,300 devices; tablets and laptops, and more than 200 dongles for internet access for their students. What’s our plan to assist those students without devices during home-based learning?

Home-based learning is not only done through online learning. A substantial part of it also involves offline readings and assignments. In Singapore, each child’s HBL will occupy him/her for four (primary) and five (secondary) hours each day. However, HBL guidelines by MOE stipulates a maximum of 2 hours for online work.

As more and more private sectors, such as kindergarten, after-school care centres, tuition centres, are also providing online learning, it is imperative for the government to prepare an e-learning guideline. Parents must also be advised about the risk of too much screen time.

I applaud the effort of MOE by bringing back education through television. TV Pendidikan is now aired on TV Okey, one of Radio Televisyen Malaysia’s (RTM) channels, for two hours daily. For areas with limited internet access, television can be an alternative channel to provide education. Currently, it only prepares lessons for Form 4 to Form 5, also year 1, 4, 5 and 6 students. And only a handful of subjects are available. I hope in the near future, more subjects for more grades will be prepared, not forgetting the needs of the students in vernacular schools.

Teo Nie Ching

Kulai Member of Parliament

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