EDUCATION: Back to school blues thumbnail

EDUCATION: Back to school blues

ONE day you’re in. The next day you’re out. And, no, we’re not talking about Heidi Klum or fashion.

On Jan 16, three days before schools reopened, the Education Ministry announced that institutions under its purview would continue to conduct home-based teaching and learning (PdPR).

Only students sitting for the 2020 Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia, Sijil Vokasional Malaysia, Sijil Kemahiran Malaysia, Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia, Sijil Tinggi Agama Malaysia, Diploma Vokasional Malaysia and other international exams certified by the ministry, were allowed to return to school for face-to-face learning as new Covid-19 cases peaked to all-time high of 4,029.

The Saturday evening announcement – via a press statement at 7.54pm – came just days after its minister Dr Mohd Radzi Md Jidin said PdPR would only affect states under the MCO.

Earlier, on the night of Jan 11, a press release from the ministry said the 2020 and 2021 examination cohorts were to return to classrooms on Jan 20.

The following day, on Jan 12, saw Radzi patiently fielding questions from the media, including why private kindergartens were allowed to continue face-to-face operations in states under the MCO.

The move “to accommodate working parents” did not sit well with Malaysians who were puzzled at the logic of keeping primary pupils home while allowing toddlers to attend kindy.

From day one, the ministry’s commitment, Radzi recently stressed, has been to get students back in school because prolonged changes in their daily routine would impact their personal development.

But “while we want them to go to school”, this is a decision that has to be made in light of the latest Covid-19 situation and measures taken by the government as a whole.

Indeed, if we are to err, then let it be on the side of caution. But surely caution is not synonymous with chaos – which is exactly what parents, especially those with children facing major exams, have been experiencing.

Parents, said the Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education, wondered why the ministry decided to allow students in conditional MCO and recovery MCO states back in school only to change its mind within days.

Didn’t they study and explore all options and models before deciding on matters that affect everyone’s safety, its chairman Mak Chee Kin asked.

Who can blame parents for being annoyed – to put it mildly – when two months ago they were told that the 2020 and 2021 SPM and STPM cohorts would return to classrooms in January, alongside Year One to Year Six pupils and Form One and Four students.

While the Education Ministry may appear to be flip-flopping, it acts on the recommendations of the Health Ministry, Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim reasoned.

Yes, safety must always be a priority and that sometimes means having to make quick decisions in an environment fraught with uncertainty.

This pandemic is unprecedented, but the ministry has had almost a year to get its act together and to improve how it manages information, hasn’t it?

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