How former education minister Maszlee is making sure ‘lost generation’ of students don’t drop out

In November, Maszlee launched the #UntukMalaysia intiative, a movement aimed to resolve the learning problems faced by students nationwide since the Covid-19 pandemic struck the country. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
In November, Maszlee launched the #UntukMalaysia intiative, a movement aimed to resolve the learning problems faced by students nationwide since the Covid-19 pandemic struck the country. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 30 ― It has been over a year since Maszlee Malik resigned as education minister, and the administration that he served has since fallen after a takeover by Perikatan Nasional.

But with the Covid-19 pandemic still raging keeping many students out of classrooms, the Simpang Renggam MP now vows to avert what he called a “catastrophe” in the making affecting what some are calling the “lost generation” of students.

“The issue of the lost generation is real and it is going to be a catastrophe in the long run. Can you imagine if this generation will continue to grow up and shape the future of our nation?” Maszlee said in a recent remote interview with Malay Mail.

According to him, the gulf between the haves and have-nots has only widened when learning requires technological resources, leaving those who are not only in Standard 1 and 2, but also Standard 4 to 6 still not mastering the essential skills of writing, reading and counting.

“All of this happened because of the pandemic and because of the loss schooling hours that they have gone through since last year,” said Maszlee.

Intevention for primary school ‘drop-outs’

In November, Maszlee launched the #UntukMalaysia intiative, a movement aimed to resolve the learning problems faced by students nationwide since the Covid-19 pandemic struck the country.

Its most recent campaign #SelamatkanMuridCicir, (Malay for “save the lost generation”), the movement has called for sponsors and volunteers to provide intervention by the way of targeted tutoring for Standard 1 to Standard 6 primary school students who are having difficulties to read, write and count.

In an update to Malay Mail, Maszlee said that it is hoping to slowly expand the initiative from the around 1,000 students it is focusing on, based on available resources.

The targeted intervention is designed with a tutor — called “change makers” — who will be in charge of two students within their respective localities, with two separate sessions conducted weekly. The programme is scheduled to last from February to November of this year.

“So after ten months we hope that these children could no longer be categorised as part of the lost generation and able to master the basic foundation of learning and afterwards they could learn on their own and we hope this small intervention will have its own snowball effect,” said Maszlee.

However, Maszlee stressed that the tutors are only allowed to teach within their respective neighbourhood or within the 10km travel limit as set by the National Security Council. 

Maszlee also stated that tutors are properly vetted to ensure the safety of the students, with the #UntukMalaysia movement even providing online training sessions to better prepare the volunteers. 

A platform for teachers by teachers

But even prior to the tutoring campaign, Maszlee had also earlier this month published an online education platform called Sophia.my, as a way to help students, teachers and parents to access lessons for free.

The platform links to some 13,000 content and can even act as a platform where teachers can share their own materials with their fellow educators.

“I think that is very helpful to the teachers. Teachers can make full use of those content that we have linked up through Sophia.my. 

“Actually, we did not produce our own content but we are actually linking up contents in YouTube and Vimeo that is produced by our own teachers,” said Maszlee, referring to two of the major video hosting networks.

The interactive and interesting contents could also help teachers to better prepare for their lesson plan and provide a much more interactive experience for both the educator and their respective students, said Maszlee.

“This would be helpful for the teachers rather than pressure them or burdening them for things beyond their abilities and capabilities. 

“Not all teachers are talented enough to conduct online classes, so what they could do is they can just make some preparation, choose some good videos to be shown to their students and their role is to discuss whatever the students are watching and before the students watch they can impose certain questions,” he said.

Maszlee expressed his hope that Sophia.my could become the “Netflix” for education content, in reference to the TV series and film streaming giant.

To further enhanced educators, Maszlee also said #UntukMalaysia is looking into conducting online classes for educators with the help of education experts but explained that initiative is still under development.

On many occasions and even in Parliament, Maszlee raised attention to the dangers of the “lost generation” of students, including those facing difficulty in pursuing their studies due to an array of complication throughout the pandemic.

While many facets of education have primarily moved online, Maszlee had pointed out that nearly 40 per cent of students across the country do not have access to the internet and electronic devices that would enable them to study effectively.

This comes as Malaysian students have lost over 190 days of normal schooling days since the movement control order (MCO) was called into effect in March 2020.

Maszlee had resigned as education minister in January 2020, making him the first from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Cabinet to go since the 14th general election.

He had then said he made the decision on the advice of the then prime minister. Dr Mahathir would then hold the education portfolio, but would soon resign as prime minister at the end of February that year after his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, conspired with former political enemies to take over Putrajaya.

Maszlee, formerly from Bersatu, would later become an independent MP rather than joining Dr Mahathir’s new Parti Pejuang Tanah Air.

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