KUALA LUMPUR: While the sentiment has been largely negative on social media, many parents and students are relieved that schools have finally reopened.
Even education experts have welcomed the move, describing it as long overdue, pointing out that face-to-face learning is always more efficient.
Pre-schoolers and pupils in Year One and Two were in class for the new school year yesterday. Those in Year Three to Six will resume face-to-face learning in class on Monday.
For those in secondary school, classes will resume on April 5 in Johor, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu, and on the following day in other states as well as the three federal territories of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan.
Meanwhile, netizens and social media users have expressed objection to the government’s decision to reopen schools, saying it is not the right time, given that the Covid-19 pandemic is still raging across the country.
Some pointed out that parents had already spent a lot of money to purchase laptops, tablets and smartphones for their children to enable them to participate in home-based learning (PdPR).
On the other hand, many among the B40 group from urban, rural and remote areas have welcomed the move.
They are largely those who cannot afford electronic gadgets such as laptops, smartphones and tablets and do not have access to the internet, making it impossible for their children to participate in PdPR.
Amirah Haikal, 15, a Form Three student in the Klang Valley, and her friends are eager to return to school.
She said most of them, who cannot afford new a smartphone, tablets or laptops, had not been able to participate in PdPR.
“We are relieved. My mother is a kuih seller and she earns only about RM60 a day. My father is ill, so we cannot afford a computer,” she told Bernama.
“All we have now is an old smartphone, which is constantly giving problems,” she said.
“My two siblings and I have to share the RM20 worth of data that my mother can afford, which is barely enough to support online classes and to download school work. I fear I have missed out a lot.”
An Education Ministry study on the preparedness of students for virtual learning between March 28 and April 2 last year revealed that 36.9% of students do not possess any devices to enable them to engage in online learning. The study showed that of the 670,118 parents of 893,331 students interviewed, only 6% had personal computers, 9.3% had laptops, 5.8% had tablets and 46.5% had smartphones.
Anuar Ahmad, a senior lecturer at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Centre of Community Education and Wellbeing, said many parents had been asking for schools to be reopened.
“Our children have not been in school for a year, and they have not been properly taught. Many are trailing behind in their studies,” he said.
A study by UKM’s Education Faculty showed that 70% to 80% of teachers reported that getting the attention of students was a challenge.
“It is clear that PdPR 1.0 has failed in the 10 months it was in place,” he said. “Teachers lack the skills and parents are either not ready or do not know how to help their children with virtual learning.”
National Parent-Teacher Associations Consultative Council president Datuk Dr Mohamad Ali Hasan said mobile devices and laptops would not go to waste as they could still be used for learning sessions during weekends or the holidays.