JANUARY 20 ― All of us have attended physical school the most part of the year.
In addition to academic studies we had club and society meetings.
We took part in sports and had various extra curricular activities throughout the week.
Practical sessions like the science lab and vocational training workshops were in use. Most of all the interaction with our classmates during and after school.
After school we had tuition classes to attend.Towards the exam period we had revision and motivation seminars giving us tips and spot questions,that prepared us for major exams such as SPM and STPM.
But as of 2020, all that has changed.
The coming of the New Norm.
Since March 2020 school children have not attended school on a regular basis. Instead classes were held online or for students without wifi or computers the teachers would whatsapp the home work through the handphone.
All forms of physical activities came to an abrupt end.
Children could no longer use the science laboratory or the vocational workshops.
For the most part of the year, the physical school and all the activities were suspended.
Children could not interact with their classmates.
Children are more to using their handphones to keep in touch with their classmates.
They play online games till the early hours of the morning.
Parents have to assume a role of waking up their children in time for the online classes, making sure they do and complete their homework and assignments and submitting them.
This new role has its challenge in that parents may not be knowledgeable on various subjects taught.
Most parents find it a challenge in getting the children out of bed in time for the online classes.
There are a number of issues that remain unsettled.
The first being children from poor background having no access to the internet are left out of online classes.
Take for example the family with five children living in the low cost flats.
The teachers in the school communicate through Whatsapp providing the homework, that's all, and no face to face interaction or classes.
Submission of assignments and homework is another issue.
All the children from this group will sit for public exams like SPM and STPM.
Examinations such as SPM and STPM are around the corner.
It appears that our education system is so rigid that no one has taken notice of the difference in the situation between the old norm and the new norm.
Children in the new norm will be sitting for major exams such as SPM and STPM having attended mostly online classes.
To think all of us sat for similar exams having attended physical classes most of our lives. This appears so unreasonable and absurd!
On paper it may show that the teachers may have covered the syllabus but in reality it may lack quality and in-depth knowledge.
How then the papers will be marked?
The fact that the students in the new norm will be taking the same exams as the children in the old norm who have had practical laboratory sessions and interaction in school.
Two major exams have been abolished, that is the UPSR and the PT3.
But the SPM and the STPM have been retained.
The new norm has created anxiety amongst parents and students as to how with the absence of physical classes that the children are required to sit for such major exams.
One way to deal with the issue is to alter the exam format to being assignment based.
Then children from both poor backgrounds with other children can have a fair sitting.
I personally feel in this new norm education system, with the large imbalance of who has internet access and the poor children without, appears to me a breach of fairness to innocent children and one that has to be addressed immediately.
Students are not ready to sit for the SPM and STPM examinations.
* Dr James Nayagam is the chairman of the Suriana Welfare Society.
** This is the personal opinion of the writer or organisation and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.