IPTS students in 2 minds on campus reopening on Oct 15

MoHE is urged to draft clear SOPs and guidelines for IPTS on the resumption of face-to-face classes


STUDENTS at the higher education institutions are in two minds on the return to physical learning next month, as they question the lack of standard operating procedures (SOPs) and a possible U-turn on the government’s decision.

The Student Representative Council (SRC) for Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TARUC) and Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) leaders have expressed their dissatisfaction, saying that the decision was too focused on the public higher learning institutions (IPTA) rather than private higher learning institutions (IPTS), with no clear SOPs for the latter.

“The target of reopening on Oct 15 does not fit well with many academic calendars for IPTS and as of now, there are no clear SOPs for IPTS to resume face-to-face class,” TARUC SCR president Wong Yew Lee said.

Wong urged the ministry to treat IPTA and IPTS equally; while ensuring future announcements will remain inclusive for both institutions.

They also suggested the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) draft clear SOPs and guidelines for IPTS on the resumption of face-to-face classes and grant more freedom and autonomy to IPTS to decide on which courses require face-to-face classes.

“Take necessary measures to guarantee and safeguard the wellbeing of IPTS students, provide platforms for a more inclusive IPTS representation on the national level,” he further said.

The students also complained of being left in the dark in any discussion or consultation session with the MoHE prior to the announcement.

“Representing 50,000 students across eight campuses in Malaysia, we were not involved in any consultation or engagement session with MoHE,” UTAR SCR chairman Hoong De Shan said.

Last week, Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Dr Noraini Ahmad (picture) said students who have been completely vaccinated will be returning to campus in stages starting Oct 15. She said this involves states in all phases of the National Recovery Plan, with priority given to students in need.

“Therefore, strict SOPs must be practised in managing the movement going in and out of campus,” Noraini said.

Some students, however, welcomed the announcement, saying it is now time for them to make up for missed time due to online learning since the pandemic began.

They said the decision is seen as beneficial in relieving their mental exhaustion, as online classes are starting to take their toll on them.

Mohammad Hakeem Zainal Abidin first year student Bachelor of Computer Science at International University Islamic Malaysia said: “I am ready and quite excited to resume the physical class, given the process is gradual with only fully vaccinated students being allowed for the physical learning.

“Consider the vaccination rate in my campus with over 90% for staff and over 60% students are fully vaccinated, it is a good number. Because the university will open in stages, that is helpful for the community to adjust,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

He also hopes that the university management will prepare and exercise caution, in an event of Covid resurgence.

“If we look at what occurred last year, there are slight worries of a U-turn in case the virus spikes again. Hence, the university management must think ahead and exercise caution.”

He added that normal education should resume as long as the SOP is in place.

Muhammad Luqman Hakim Mahari a third-year Communication student shared a similar sentiment, saying the decision for physical learning requires an immediate short and long-term plan to ensure that the faculty is accommodating to the current needs.

He learned that MoHE also requires SOPs such as a classroom with a good ventilation system.

“Some universities do show that they are able to control the crisis in education and are able to be a good decision-maker,” he added.

Meanwhile, international student Zubiya Siddiqui a fourth-year student in Psychology, shared that after a year of studying from home in Japan, she is not quite ready, both practically and emotionally to return.

“My concern was that I haven’t been vaccinated yet. My country’s vaccine rollout was relatively late and I haven’t been able to book an appointment so far. I wouldn’t be willing to travel without the vaccine.”

The 21-year-old student was also concerned about the mandatory quarantine and basic tasks such as the pending visa procedures.

“On a similar note, going fully physical seems impossible considering the number of international students stuck in their home countries. I think the hybrid learning mode would be the middle ground we’re looking for,” Zubiya said.