By Farhan Kamarulzaman, Research Assistant at EMIR Research
As the Covid-19 pandemic is driving strong demand for the new norm of the education system, namely online learning, there is a vital need to focus on monitoring procedures to assess their effectiveness, efficiency and capability to ensure that students are not left behind in their learning.
The main issue now is that students are now expressing concerns about their learning because the Covid-19 pandemic has incredibly pressured them to practise online classes, which would likely expose them to lack of attention and concentration in their learning process.
For example, through online platforms such as Whatsapp or Telegram, most primary and secondary school students are now studying through materials such as video or slides that would be difficult for them to understand and hard for their parents to monitor their study.
This is in line with the findings of EMIR Research Quarterly Poll for the third quarter of this year (3Q20) that 80 per cent of respondents are worried about the quality of education due to the new norm of Covid-19 that dramatically relies on online education.
Not only that, Sinar Harian stated teaching staff at higher education institutions are still unable to carry out effective and efficient online teaching activities, where the situation is further exacerbated with negative consequences to students by various aspects, especially in terms of grades and desire to learn.
The Head of the Education and Human Development Cluster of the Academy of Professors Malaysia, Prof Dr Rosna Awang Hashim, also mentioned that this was because most institutions did not fully utilise distance-learning facilities before the pandemic.
What is evident here is that our education system might not be adequately efficient to apply the new norm of online education as some teachers and staff did not possess the necessary skills to handle online classes or teaching resources properly before the crisis.
Nevertheless, they are also not to blame as well because the teaching methods before this did not wholly encourage the use of online materials, tools and facilities, which then led some to have fewer skills to utilise them now properly.
Plus, the education authorities need some time to learn and master the skills of handling online facilities and also require appropriate training and courses to ensure that students can easily adapt to the new norm of our education system.
Prof Dr Mahizer Hamzah, Chairman of the Malaysian Association of Educational Technology Associate, said many teachers still need guidance on the technical aspects of online education, as well as suitable designs for the development of digital teaching materials, along with a comprehensive support system to assist them.
He also added the availability of sufficient teaching materials, the scheduling system and other learning options for students and teachers who do not have access to the internet.
And concerning the recent third wave of Covid-19 infection, it is more crucial for the education system to effectively adjust to the new norm for the continuity of classes through clear instructions from the government.
This will involve the government’s collaborative action through the related ministries to review the reliable ways of getting our education system back to normal and introduce crucial steps to succeed in the new standard of our education system.
Then, such efforts should be complemented by proper supervision of our education system in particular about the credibility of the current system and the adoption of this new mode of study by students and teachers to facilitate the government’s provision of effective strategies.
One excellent example of this is a new TV Pendidikan (Educational TV) programme, started on November 23, which will be aired on NTV7 to provide students with learning materials during the Conditional Movement Control Order.
The TV Pendidikan programme, based on a statement from the Ministry of Education, aims to increase the access of students to learning materials through alternative channels, in addition to online learning.
It is undoubtedly a right attempt by the government to help students gain more access to learning materials and also ease the responsibility of the educational authorities in providing students with learning materials amid this difficult moment that places a great deal of pressure on the education system.
But it is hoped the materials provided are great enough for the students to support them much in their learning effectively, perhaps the efforts can also be magnified by other authorities.
Besides, since the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is seen most students have been following the new norm well. Still, some find it challenging because of many factors, such as the lack of internet facilities and others.
Some students may also feel utterly uncomfortable with online learning at the moment, although they have faced the same situation for an extended period during the Movement Control Order (MCO).
The third wave of Covid-19 infection also currently delivers a pretty similar situation to our education system as during the MCO. It highlights the need for a major government priority at this moment to improve our education system as most students had hoped the Covid-19 pandemic would not reach this far and started to feel tired of studying via online platforms.
This is not to say our education system is not fully prepared for virtual learning to take place. However, it needs the government’s efforts to continuously analyse the current system and enforce the right initiatives amid the Covid-19 crisis that continuously hit our education system.
After all, students should also be fully prepared and committed to their online learning while allowing the government to address the challenges of online learning to make it more conducive for them.