Yesterday I raised the issues that the Ministry of Education must deal with following the 2nd Movement Control Order.
These are some proposals for the Government to consider.
The Ministry should announce the exam dates for both exam batches—especially the batch of 2021 – so students and their schools can prepare accordingly.
For the 2021 batch : will the November date for SPM be postponed to give students and teachers more time? Remember the latter will now have to teach 2 batches of exam classes this year.
Under the circumstances, the Ministry must set the number of school days for the year for exam and non-exam students where holidays may be trimmed.
This will also be an opportunity for the Ministry to consider focusing on simply teaching a trimmed down syllabus and centralised online testing for key subjects only.
If JPA can already do online testing for candidates applying for the civil service, why not the Ministry of Education?
As for states under CMCO and RCMO, keeping the SOPs—and hence the students, teachers and their respective families safe—can be facilitated through a staggered approach in bringing students back to school.
For instance, for primary school, only Standard 4—6 students—should be allowed to return to school as they will have exams to prepare for and are old enough to understand and follow the SOPs. It is extremely difficult for teachers to help Year 1 students especially to follow SOPs.
For secondary schools, perhaps keeping Forms 1 and 2 at home will help towards this end.
Of course, staggering returns to face-to-face learning may compel parents who are working in essential industries to have to arrange day-care for their school-going children and hence increase their financial burdens.
The government must look into the mental health of teachers and students, which have been adversely affected due to Covid-19. When the time comes to open schools, teachers and students must be reassured to prevent schools from becoming pandemic clusters.
As it is, schools often act as “day care centres” even for parents who are working from home, as having children in school—especially the younger ones—will help improve productivity. Perhaps the government can subsidise the cost of day care in these cases.
Besides this, the Ministry must obviously ensure that there will be enough bandwidth and data in schools and in the Matriculation Colleges for teachers to prepare and conduct online classes.
The Ministry must also announce what actions they have taken in supporting teachers and schools in providing good quality online teaching and learning as well as ensuring the tracking of student attendance for online classes.
As I have also said before, perhaps it is about time we review our whole education system in terms of its philosophy, goals and objectives so we can prepare our children to live in a world threatened by disease, climate change and weakened institutional structures and values.
The sad fact is that successive governments keep trying to fit the current education system into a structure that no longer exists thanks to Covid-19 and other dislocations.
Bold action is needed. But the government has instead chosen to undertake another hard MCO lockdown and a divisive Emergency.
This is clearly not the actions of an administration that has the interests of its people at heart. But it is not too late for it to change tack and help ensure that the “Generation Covid” does not become a lost one.
NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
KEADILAN PARLIAMENTARY SPOKESPERSON FOR EDUCATION
SETIAWANGSA MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT