Hard Work Needed to Narrow The Chasm of Digital Tech In Rural Areas


Press Statement by Kelvin Yii:

I welcome the Education Ministry’s decision to postpone SPM/ STPM and also to cancel UPSR/PT3 for the year 2020 in view of COVID-19 outbreak as safety of the students and teachers is always the major consideration in this matter.

Over the past years, the Ministry has been talking about revamping the education system especially for primary level learning including removing UPSR and introducing a more hollistic and direct assessment for the students to promote a fun and progressive learning environment in line with education reforms in many other developed countries as well.

So this actually gives a good opportunity to push the Ministry to innovate and progress on providing creative learning experience for the students as well as hollistic student assessment in view of the current scenario.

However, school closures even this period may have longer-term consequences, especially for the most vulnerable and marginalised, magnifying already-existing disparities within the education system.

While i encourage home based learning and creative learning through computers, tablets and the internet, but we also need to take into account families that may not have the privilege to own this gadgets or even proper internet coverage especially in the rural areas of Sabah and Sarawak.

That is why, MOE needs to properly bridge the digital divide urgently especially among the rural areas. These include looking at issues related to access, teacher preparedness and school-family communication.

In Singapore for example, the Ministry of Education has provided about 3,300 devices; tablets and laptops, and more than 200 dongles for internet access for their students.

While the government has introduced educational TV programs on RTM 1 for these students that may not have internet coverage, but this is still limited and can be expanded to include more subjects, and for different levels and longer hours in a day so it can become a whole day learning experience for the students including students from the vernacular schools.

Another factor to consider is how some homes in the rural area cannot access TV channels due to the change from analog to digital from analog by RTM and they do not have the necessary decoder.

That is why we may need to look at different ways to reach out to them and even maybe look at utilising the Radio stations for such learning. This has been practised in some countries to adapt to current pandemic.

More importantly, parents especially in the rural areas need to be trained how to guide their children through this interactive home-based learning. Without proper guidance and discipline, the children may not know where to begin, and eventually be left out even further.

If we do not address this properly, this may then broaden the urban-rural divide as well as the educational gap between the students and put the rural students at an unfair playing field compared to the students from the urban areas.This also is against the principle of equal education for all.