Media statement by MP for Kota Melaka, Khoo Poay Tiong on 22 January 2021:
MOE must strengthen SOP for schools and implement concurrent online learning
I have been informed that a teacher from a school in my parliamentary constituency (Kota Melaka) has been tested positive for Covid-19. All teachers and students who were in close contact with the said teacher have been asked to self-quarantine while waiting for further instructions from the health department.
Currently, the Ministry of Education requires students who will be taking public exams, such as SPM and STPM, to attend classes physically in school. These students were supposed to sit for the public exams last year, but the exams have been postponed to the first quarter of 2021.
The current policy to allow physical classes in schools would definitely increase the risk of spreading Covid-19, such as what has happened in the said school in Melaka.
However, the education of students taking public exams are also important, as public exams such as SPM and STPM will have a huge and lasting impact on their future. These students have been attending school online throughout the past year with various limitations and constraints. The current physical classes in the next 1-2 months may play an important role for their final preparations before the exam.
The Ministry of Education must strengthen the SOP for schools to ensure that health risks are minimised. I propose three steps to be taken immediately:
(1) There should be mass Covid-19 testing for teachers and students who need to attend physical classes. The tests should be carried out every two weeks;
(2) Classes should be divided into smaller groups and carried out over a longer period of schooling hours to reduce transmission risk; and
(3) Schools should also be sanitised daily.
Some parents have also raised concerns and fears on allowing their children back to school. The Deputy Minister of Education, Mah Hang Soon, has said that parents who are worried can choose not to send their children to school.
However, students who choose to do so were asked to study at home by themselves because online classes are no longer offered. This is unfair to the students as it is akin to asking them to choose between their health and education.
The Ministry of Education should therefore implement online learning concurrently with the physical classes so that those who chose to stay at home are not left out.
Khoo Poay Tiong
MP Kota Melaka