Bracing for educational change as a result of Covid-19

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There is a quote from Disney-Pixar’s animation Wall-E that seems rather apt for the conditional movement control order (CMCO) that Malaysians find themselves in today: “I see the ship’s log is showing that today is the 700th anniversary of our five-year cruise. Well, I’m sure our forefathers would be proud to know that 700 years later we’d be…doing the exact same thing they were doing.”

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As the nation enters the second round of protracted school closures in Malaysia, people have been forced to wonder just how long this will drag on and what needs to change to ensure education can continue.

Or, just like the crew on the Wall-E ship, will it be that Malaysians will be doing the same thing 700 years from now? Just who could have known that a joke from a 2008 animation would become relevant 12 years later?

In terms of education, teachers and educational administrators across the globe are finding new ways to tackle the unique set of problems brought on by e-learning.

Most teachers agree that there is no replacement for human contact and physical in-school classes; however, they would also be the same teachers who readily agree that if the situation truly demands it, there is no choice but to embrace strategies like e-learning.

So, what is it that teachers and parents are stressed about?

Well, chief among their concerns is that access to technology is not equal – thus, likely causing a further rift in society between the haves and the have-nots.

Cheating is also likely to be rife, particularly in the early days as people adopt new methods of assessment.

elc International School head of counselling Geetanjali Chaabra goes as far as saying that “the lack of social interaction leads to more mental stress.”

She explains, “We need to be wary of the mental well-being of individuals and be on the watch for increased cyberbullying”.

Really, the physical cues that teachers typically pick up during the course of the school day are much harder to see on a screen, especially when shared with 19 or more students simultaneously.

As a result, students are unlikely to get the emotional support they need as quickly as they should.

Of course, these are just a handful of the concerns and there are serious academic studies already underway that are attempting to quantify and measure the severity of the situation.

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However, many teachers are also pondering whether e-learning is a blessing in disguise, and that the negatives are simply a vain attempt to stop the tide of change by those intimidated by it.

A tide that – if positively and proactively embraced – may just lead to an updated system of education far superior to anything people have seen to date.

Incorporating e-learning into education delivery seems a logical and progressive step forward, especially given the circumstances brought about by Covid-19.

elc International School’s Sungai Buloh campus head of primary Diane Grimes highlights how Malaysia’s MCO has shown the “ability to adapt to new challenges, for both students and teachers”, and that with “supportive, understanding and appreciative parents”, effective teaching and learning has continued despite the switch to e-learning.

elc International School’s senior leaders have also all unanimously agreed that the stay-at-home order has, on the whole, seen families come together and begin to understand each other better.

Students have remarked to teachers about instances of “genuine” shared moments with family members – from meals, to board games, to simple conversations.

Encouragingly, these interactions help tether families to the “real” world, despite the increased reliance on technology. It is this tether and connection that makes students resilient.

Whilst not an exhaustive list of strengths and weaknesses, the one thing that is clear is that the feedback being received on e-learning is often contradictory. Really it depends on each individual’s point of view and unique mix of experiences.

elc International School acknowledges that the educational challenges Covid-19 has brought about are significant.

Senior academic leaders have no doubt there will be unpopular decisions that must be made along the way as they try to strike a balance between physical classes and e-learning.

Some of these decisions may even turn out to be outright mistakes that simply do not have the desired results. However, elc International School will continue to push the boundaries and always seek academic excellence from students and teachers.

Perhaps its Sungai Buloh campus head of secondary Chong Soh Nee’s optimistic sentiment best sums up elc International School’s positive outlook: “(The MCO has) changed the way people do things, how they perceive normal daily routines and how they react to unexpected challenges.

“I believe that in the face of much adversity, the human spirit rises above problems, pain and suffering to look for the positive and the beautiful.” – FMT

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