Press Statement By Irene Chang:
Since the schools physically reopened, positive cases have been reported in 10 schools in Sibu, including the 7 which were closed from yesterday on 12th April 2021. Upon a positive case being confirmed, fellow teachers, students and parents would be thrown into a confusion of fear and anxiety.
Teachers would also be mentally, emotionally and physically stressed out, from fear for their personal and their family’s well-being as well as from the expectation for them to effectively teach in this highly undesirable school environment. The constant closing, sanitisation and reopening of schools upon a positive case being reported causes havoc to their teaching schedule and lesson plans. Their focus is now being diverted from teaching effectively to the need to make sure that their students are following the SOPs and keeping the school environment virus free. Amid this highly charged tensed environment, teaching and learning become a burden for both teachers and students.
SDMC and MOE therefore need to rethink if the benefit of opening physical classes outweighs the benefit of continuing with the PdPR classes.
Given the increasing figures, what needs to be done immediately is to close the urban schools and revert to PdPR learning until the pandemic is under control in Sarawak. This would release both teachers and parents from the mental and emotional stress so that they can truly focus on teaching and learning through online facilities rather than being constantly on edge to switch from physical class to PdPR class and vice versa.
For long term strategy, SDMC and MOE should consider preparing the schools and teachers to adopt a blended learning which combines live online teaching with physical face-to-face classes. Even with the availability of vaccines, this approach is the best way forward until our society can go back to the normalcy as before the pandemic.
Due to the different circumstance which we now face, teachers of this technology age should switch from traditional whiteboard and blackboard teachings to electronic teaching. Each teacher should be equipped with a tablet/laptop for this purpose and they should use it to teach even in the face-to-face classes. Students who opt to continue their studies online would have to log into the online system at the same time as the physical classes. In this way, the teacher would only need to teach once and both students in the physical classroom and students in the virtual classroom would be able to keep up with their lessons at the same time.
Through blended learning, students and parents have a choice to make. Families with no online facilities or with parents who are not able to sit by their children’s side are able to opt for face-to-face classes, whereas parents who are rightly still worried about the current situation and have access and means to online facilities at home would be able to allow their children to continue lessons from home. Teachers would also need not prepare several lesson plans just to adapt to the constant changing decisions of the MOE. Of course, all children and teachers attending physical classes in school should continue to follow strict SOP with face mask and face shields on.
With blended learning, physical contact between the teachers and students can be controlled while at the same time, they can ensure that all students are not left behind in education.
I believe that traditional physical classes can go hand in hand with e-learning especially when this is already a tried and tested approach in most of the higher learning institutions with their university students. During these trying times, where physical or virtual classes are neither here nor there, blended learning seems to be the only viable way forward for the younger generations.