The lost generation — Joni K. Sundram

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JANUARY 26 — Our school-going children have become part of the lost generation. They have not received proper lessons or been in school for almost a year now, following the unprecedented Covid-19 outbreak in our country.

Many issues have popped out when we moved the heavily textbook-based classroom online. Among the most prominent matter is digital access for students from underprivileged families as well as those in rural areas, lack of teacher-student physical interaction which no doubt will lead to major drop out when school term begins.

Yet, Malaysia is not the only country with the lost generation. Not all children in Japan have digital access at home and they have been slow in embracing and adopting digital technology, especially in education as they too have been traditionally relying on textbooks. However, this does not give us a reason to be slow in rolling out the plans for our children’s education.

The government has allocated RM150 million to provide 150,000 laptops for school children from 500 schools. There are a number of questions that I would like to seek on how this rollout will be like.

1. Assuming students who receive these laptops are living in rural areas or in areas where there is no internet connectivity, how will they be able to access to the internet? They can’t just subscribe to an internet network when there’s no access in their area. 

2. How can we safeguard that the laptops will be used for education purposes and children or their family members will not misuse the laptops to access inappropriate content on the internet or in a worst-case scenario, pawn the laptop?

3. Will there be live streaming classes where a teacher will be in a school laboratory to show students the changes in a chemical reaction for a Form 4 chemistry class or any science classes? We just cannot teach sciences based on texts or teacher reading from scripts on the screen. Students will need to be able to see, what more touch, smell and imagine in order to grasp sciences.

The Ministry of Education should have come up with a planning last year and we cannot just rely on the digital rollout itself.

Perhaps, the ministry needs to the academic year and come out with a standardized teaching format. We need to reassess the deliverables. Yet, we must not be in haste in digitalising our education as not only are our children falling out of step, but even teachers do not know how to teach virtually and digitally.

I would like to suggest for teachers in rural area to teach students in a community, rather than being school based. They can make use of a community hall where teachers will conduct short classes for students especially on math and science subjects. Students should also be back to school at least one day per week to catch up on their studies that requires a teacher’s guidance.

We cannot afford to lose another year for children to miss out on education.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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