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Let's keep schools open


By the time schools reopen in stages on Oct 3, 148 school days would have passed this academic year.

Out of that, our children have attended only 22 days of face- to-face learning. The rest was done through online home-based learning (PdPR).

We need to take the bull by the horns. Schools must be opened, but with precautions.

Concerns about the safety of students during face-to-face teaching and learning (PDPc) cannot be underestimated.

The Education Ministry needs to anticipate various challenges.

The ministry's outlook needs to change, from the mindset that schools must be closed until cases are reduced to manageable numbers, to that of schools must remain open.

The ministry needs to prepare strategies to restore the education system. One way is by opening schools in stages, in a staggered and hybrid school-opening manner: partially online and partially in person.

Schools can use the staggered schooling approach, where students attend school in rotation.

For example, Years 5 and 6 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, while Years 1, 2 and 3 on Tuesday and Thursday, until the situation recovers.

Now, PdPR, with the help of Didik TV, should be continued. There will be steps that will need to be taken, including analysing students' needs.

School attendance may be prioritised not only for those sitting examinations but also for special needs students, preschool and early primary schoolchildren and those whose learning environment at home is not conducive.

The decision to open and close schools is applicable to all schools, regardless of background. The circumstances and conditions of each school and its location differ from each other.

For example, there are schools in red zones, while others are in rural and remote villages that have no cases of Covid-19. Therefore, different approaches need to be worked out for different areas.

Autonomy and empowerment should be given to the district Education Office and schools, with advice from the district Health Office, to make modifications to the educational process, curriculum management and delivery.

With this, schools can be managed more optimally, by taking decisions based on local conditions.

Decentralisation is not a new concept. One of the shifts expected from the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 is Shift 6, which seeks to customise solutions based on needs.

The blueprint quoted a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation study in 2012, which reported that "Malaysia has one of the biggest centralised education administrations in the world", and "historically, many programmes have been designed according to a one-size-fits-all model".

International evidence suggests that different sets of interventions are required to serve schools at different performance levels.

Our children deserve a good education. As long as we are in a pandemic, we need to ensure a balance in all aspects of life for our children.

For this, the United Nations Children's Fund and Unesco have given the guide that "schools should be the last to close and the first to reopen". In Malaysia, the opposite has happened.

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