National Early Childhood Intervention Council (NECIC) advisor, Datuk Dr Amar Singh HSS, and a group of concerned citizens have a plan for post-Covid-19 rehabilitation measures for education.
The World Bank reported that Malaysia has one of the highest learning losses among developing Asian nations, as schools were closed for more than 40 weeks due to Covid-19.
As many as 40 per cent of students could not participate in online classes due to the lack of digital devices or poor internet connection. The figures are higher in the rural areas of Sabah and Sarawak.
The group said education poverty has lifetime implications, not just for children, but also for the Malaysian economy.
To combat this, they have suggested the following:
- Undertake a rapid assessment of all students to understand each child’s situation and status.
- Maintain attendance by reaching out to school dropouts to enable their return to schooling or vocational skills training, and employment. The hardest children to identify will be those lost in transition – from pre-school to primary, and from primary to secondary school.
- Identify vulnerable children – those in poverty, and children with disabilities who need more support, including financial aid, to help them return to school.
- Institute staggered terms and years to catch up on lost education, via a flexible system for the next two years. This will allow students to redo an educational year, to yield time for catching up.
- Monitor the progress of each student using the individual education plan.
- Pursue special initiatives to support Standard 1 entry for those who did not receive pre-school education, including those with learning disabilities who did not benefit from early intervention.
- Assure parents of classroom Covid-19 safety.
- Move downstream to support pre-school services.
- Continue to use some digital means of learning to reinforce education.
- Be aware of, and address the mental health needs of students by identifying children affected, and offer support with the participation of mental health professionals and associations.
- Give teachers the support required to meet unique challenges.
- Leave no child behind. Give more individual attention to help at-risk children.
“There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ national solution that will work for all children.
“National plans must adapt to suit local-level conditions, taking into account the specific context, culture, and variable issues/resources,” said the group.
“Each region should be encouraged to identify schools requiring additional support, including those experiencing high dropout rates.
“The Education Ministry can enlist the help of parents, civil society organisations and other agencies to support local initiatives,” the group added.
They added that the focus should be broader than inclusion and academic achievement.
Apart from Dr Amar, the others in the group are Dr Ong Puay-Hoon, president of the Dyslexia Association of Sarawak, Gill Raja, committee member with the Sarawak Women for Women Society, Srividhya Ganapathy, co-chairperson, CRIB Foundation, Ng Lai-Thin, Special and Inclusive Education and Project Officer for NECIC, and Yuenwah San, Honorary Senior Advisor (Disability Inclusion), Social Development Division, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
Click here to find out more about their proposals.