Govt could have used e-learning on UPSR and PT3 students during the lockdown period and have them evaluated on some basis instead of cancelling the exams
pic by AFP
COVID-19 will be the catalyst that hastens the e-learning process and this is going to be the future of education.
Although e-learning exists presently in various forms, the Covid-19 pandemic is going to streamline and make it mainstream and unfold the tremendous opportunities that current technology can bring to education to make it affordable and effective.
New ways will be explored to make less use of teachers and open up new avenues for the introduction of expert teachers to formulate lessons, study guides, discussions, explanations, exams, evaluations, etc.
The ballooning education budget can be drastically lowered with reduced books that greatly reduce the number of teachers being employed and students’ time in school and thus, opening the way for more extracurricular activities.
The present rote learning methods will be speedily phased out to bring wholesome and holistic education for students that will prepare them for a better future. Exams and evaluations need to be re-formulated as part of the e-learning process.
The modular system needs to replace the year-end exams to facilitate e-learning, especially for the secondary schools. Parents will also have to ensure that their children diligently follow the e-learning system and benefit from this new method making the parents be equally responsible as the teachers in ensuring success.
In Malaysia, e-learning can be speedily carried out since Bahasa Malaysia and to a lesser extent English is the main medium of instruction and the same standard textbooks are used all over the country.
This facilitates the e-earning process and there are no major problems unlike in some countries which have different languages and education policies that prove to be a handicap for them.
For Malaysia, the quality of e-education is important to build confidence in the system, especially by parents and students. The e-learning process can be slowly introduced from standard four onwards and students will be able to study fully for the Primary School Achievement Test (UPSR) through this method.
The Education Ministry needs to set up a panel of expert teachers under the e-education concept for every subject from UPSR onwards. These specialist teachers will be the ones who will be setting out the study materials, the explanations, study guides, questions and answers, revisions and methods of evaluation and exams for the subjects.
Students from the UPSR onwards to Form Three Assessment (PT3), Malaysian Certificate of Education (SPM) and Malaysian Higher School Certificate (STPM) can participate in the e-learning formulated by these panels of teachers, who will undoubtedly raise the quality of knowledge and understanding of the subject. This must be made available nationwide.
It is a well-known fact that some teachers have a better in-depth knowledge of the subject and can offer better simplified explanations, answer questions and doubts and make subjects more interesting, which is what the panel of expert teachers should do. Students will study better if they understand the topic well which makes the explanation and coverage of the topic to be more comprehensive via e-learning than those in the textbooks.
I have noticed that students who go through revision programmes offered by newspapers for the major exams like SPM and STPM get a better understanding of the topics due to the effective explanation given by more proficient teachers.
The quality of teachers posted to rural areas differs from those in urban areas and e-education will be a great leveller and equaliser in bridging the urban-rural gap. The quality of teachers is also dependent on their training and academic background.
An effective e-learning system will help students to widen their knowledge. Students will find online education more interesting and will seek out other wider sources to improve their knowledge.
This will also mean as they explore further they will find that they need to be more fluent in English, the main language of the Internet. Exposure to more English will help improve their fluency in the language, which is what the government has been trying all these years.
Furthermore, e-learning will motivate the students to explore and search wider for better knowledge, a practice that will keep them in good stead when they go for tertiary education.
Students re-sitting for their SPM and STPM can, while working, continue their studies privately through e-education as they can access the study materials provided for the school students, short of marking and evaluation which are available for the school students only.
Students who left school a few years ago may not be familiar with the change of the syllabus and topics for study and e-education will help them in their endeavour to re-sit for these exams.
E-education will also do away with private tuition as one of the main reasons for parents and students opting for private tuition are that they need to better understand the topic for study and get good grades.
The reason for this is that what teachers may have taught may not be enough for weak students who do not get a good grasp of the topic. As such, it is felt that they need tuition. E-learning will do away with this need for tuition as the in-depth lessons prepared by the specialist teachers will be enough and easy to understand.
Presently, parents spend a lot of money for private tuition, not to mention the burden on students in terms of time and travel to the tuition centres to which the latter can use the time for sports and other activities.
To encourage e-learning, Internet providers need to come up with lower rates for students. It has been said that a large number of students do not have access to computers. However, the smartphones, which is more prevalent, can be used as an alternative and the government also needs to use the Universal Service Provider fund paid for by the telecommunication companies (telcos) to provide computers for the poorer students. Parents can ensure that computers are shared by their children to reduce costs.
The government could have allowed the teaching for the UPSR and PT3 to go on via e-learning during the lockdown and have the students evaluated on some basis instead of cancelling the exams for this year.
This could have been done on a trial and error method and would have given the government valuable inputs. E-learning needs to be enhanced for SPM and STPM students, whose exams have been postponed to early next year.
It is not known when the pandemic will end and classes can be resumed. Private schools and Chinese schools are implementing e-learning during the lockdown to keep the students studying whereby completed lessons are emailed to the teachers for assessment. Schools will be possibly the last to be re-opened as the risks from infection is highest among the hundreds of thousands of students who will be confined to their classrooms.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about many changes and challenges such as employees working from home. E-education too will make rapid strides during and after the pandemic for students as it will offer better quality education and will do away with a lot of the present shortcomings and disadvantages of conventional education. E-education has a bright future.
Marsha Sarah Mathews
The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board.