Act now to address learning gap issue

Without a proper plan, more kids will be left behind and that will spell doom for Malaysia, as we seek to heal post-pandemic

RECENT news about a mother going to school to learn about Google’s registration for her school-going children speaks volume of the glaring inequality that is prevalent in the country’s education system.

The mother is one of the thousands, if not millions, of underprivileged parents whose child is at risk of losing out in school due to the implementation of online learning.

Another social media posting showed that there were parents who had to rent a laptop from school for RM1 per day, simply because they could not afford the online lesson equipment.

It is also worth noting, however, that not all schools are able to provide such facilities.

I had met with a family of six schooling children, whose only mode of Internet access is through a mobile phone, that also doubles as a business phone.

At this rate, it is baffling why the 100,000 laptops for the deserving students, as announced in the budget, were not distributed earlier before the school term started.

These “lost generations” could not afford to lose any more months on their studies, but somehow, this issue was not dealt with much urgency as one would have expected.

The MPs, especially from the Opposition, had to resort to crowdfunding in order to get learning devices for these less fortunate students. For the ones who have access, gadgets and stable Internet connection, online learning is relatively easier. However, they still lament the hassle of getting their kids involved in learning, and one could only wonder how hard it is for the teachers to keep their students engaged and worse, to ensure that the lesson is delivered optimally to all.

A teacher who requested anonymity said it will be a sheer miracle to have full attendance of the students in a day.

She added that almost a third of the Form 6 students have decided to drop out of school as they find it harder to cope each day.

Everyone has different struggles in this current crisis. Adults face the risk of losing jobs, income, while the students are on learning fatigue.

None of these struggles should be invalidated and there is no “one size fits all” approach for these issues.

Firstly, it is an undisputed fact that we are in the middle of a pandemic — it is risky to reopen schools at this rate.

However, after 10 months of dealing with this pandemic, it goes without saying that the people expected a proper education plan for both the schools and students.

Asking the teachers to “be creative” and telling these dedicated educators to implement the “appropriate offline methods” to reach their students are definitely not it.

The remarks by the ones in charge of Malaysia’s education is far from assuring and if anything, it inadvertently shows that there were no long-term plan in addressing the education issues.

It is also unfair to put the additional burden on teachers, especially those in remote areas.

The learning gap issue should be addressed before it gets even more prevalent in the future.

Without a proper plan, more kids will be left behind and that will spell doom for Malaysia, as we seek to heal post-pandemic.

  • Azreen Hani is the online news editor of The Malaysian Reserve.