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Should the education sector reopen in October?
With the government’s decision in allowing the education sector to reopen in October 2021, many opinions and views have arisen.
Dr. Danny Ghee, an educationist with a Phd in Education Management, is of the opinion that it is not a good idea for schools to reopen so soon. With daily Covid-19 cases hovering around the 20,000 mark and daily death numbers that have exceeded the 300 mark, the health risk for students returning to schools in October is indeed very high.
Moreover, the new variants of the virus that are rapidly spreading infections are a great cause for concern too.
Dato’ R. Rajendran, Chairman of Koperasi Pendidikan Swasta Malaysia feels that kindergartens and childcare centres should be allowed to operate only if they have their standard operating procedures or SOPs in place and authorities are committed to do regular checks to ensure the safety of the children.
Nadia Abu Hassan, the Corporate Communications Manager of Krista Education Group, says that schools should reopen in line with the reopening of other economic sectors in the country. However, she stresses that this has to be done with utmost care.
There must be strict adherence to comprehensive SOPs and the safety of children as well as teachers must be uppermost in the minds of all involved in the operations.
Seow See Wah, the Principal of ESnet Academy, welcomes the government’s decision in the reopening of schools in October. He says that as an automotive engineering college, his ‘boys’ need to return for practical assignments otherwise they will lag behind tremendously.
Reopening of schools especially in October presents an awkward situation as there is only a two-month period before the year-end break.
However, Surendran Elangoven, the Director of IEG Campus, says that the government’s move is still useful.
He adds, “Though we are just 2 months away from the end of term, normalising the situation now will help in the preparation for 2022.”
Surendran is positive that getting back to a school routine will help, not only for students, but also for the teachers and parents.
Nadia agrees that even though it is just a short period, it is still beneficial for the children, ages 6 and below, for it is not good for their proper nurturing and development to be impeded for too long as these are crucial formative years for them.
Dr. Ghee feels that a rotating timetable for schools to reduce class size is helpful.
He says, “It would be like home-based learning. For example, Standard 1 and 3 children attend school on Mondays and Wednesdays but it will be online classes for the rest of the week.”
This would also help students conduct their practical assignments and allow the theoretical aspects to be conducted virtually.
Seow agrees that this is a workable idea as his college, ESnet Academy, have courses with 30% theoretical and 70% practical aspects in them.
The term, ‘Standard Operating Procedures’ or SOPs have become very prominent during the current pandemic.
Nadia says that teachers would need to be familiarised with the SOPs again before they start school. She says that the importance of following SOPs strictly by the teachers, parents and students cannot be over emphasised.
“We need to seriously walk the talk for it could be very well be a matter of life and death during such times,” she says.
Dato’ Rajendran remarks that there is an urgent need for kindergarten centres to reopen as parents are already working and would require their services in taking care of the children.
He feels that priority should be given to vaccinate school children between the ages of 12 and 18 and allow them back into schools in batches.
He says that the government can emulate the countries that have successfully vaccinated this age group of the population and that we should not be doing things our own way as we are not adequately competent when it comes to decisions and actions related to vaccinations and reducing the number of cases.
Seow, a father himself, does have some concerns. “This is natural because it’s our first time facing a pandemic which is deadly and causing great disruptions to our lives.”
However, Seow feels that notwithstanding all these, the children’s education must not be neglected and therefore, the education sector needs to open up again. He says that having students attending school for less than 3 months in a year is not sufficient for their development.
Surendran is optimistic that once the students are vaccinated, the chances of them getting infected with Covid-19 is lesser or may not be as serious.
“We will slowly need to treat this pandemic like an endemic. Therefore, parents need to be open about the idea of allowing or sending their children back to school. Parents can be given the option to send the kids to school, based on their preference,” he says.
After such a long period of not attending school, Nadia feels that it is important for the parents of younger children returning to school to encourage them positively and to be given the necessary support for they would need to adjust to the new normal environment.
Surendran remarks that getting them back to school will be quite a challenge, not only for the students but for parents and teachers as well.
“It is going to be a reverse culture shock for all. What used to be the norm, is different now and a new norm is in place,” he says.
Dr. Ghee says that school owners would be happy to be allowed to conduct physical classes. He hopes that students can be vaccinated as soon as possible in the fight against Covid-19.
Nadia feels that the reopening of schools in October is something to look forward to.
Seow is hopeful that the move by the government will allow his students to return in October so they can be re-educated.
-THE MALAYSIA VOICE