KUALA LUMPUR: The Covid-19 pandemic has changed education dramatically as it has increased the use of personal telecommunications gadgets such as smartphones which prior to this were prohibited from school grounds, for learning and teaching purposes.

This global crisis has made an impact on the conventional teaching and learning as well as on the responsibilities of educators, rendering it more challenging and they have to adapt to the new normal that requires the process to be conducted online.

In this new millennium that prioritises life-long learning, the way forward is by utilising technology and online education. The current context of education demands educators to have advanced literacy on the information technology.

Themed ‘Teaching for Knowledge, Shaping a New Generation’, the Teachers’ Day celebration this year focuses on educators’ roles in empowering knowledge and professionalism in shaping the nation’s new generations to meet the objectives of the National Education Philosophy.

Throughout the Movement Control Order (MCO) and the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO), teachers continue to impart knowledge via online platforms.

Malaysian Muslim Teachers’ Association (i-Guru) president Mohd Azizee Hasan opined that teachers have to equip themselves with adequate digital skills and to master e-learning geared towards knowledge dissemination.

“Teachers need to improve their knowledge, competency, change of attitude and be ready to embrace the new normal in education especially those which are related to online learning. This preparedness will be reflected in teaching, assessment and dissemination of knowledge.

“Teachers need to have a paradigm shift to be able to accept the new scenario in global education in order to build a generation with digital literacy which is very important to face the challenges brought forth by the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0).

Recognising the constraints in online education such as Internet access problems and the absence of smart devices, as well as lukewarm response from the students, Mohd Azizee stressed that teachers should consider ways to ensure the dissemination of knowledge continues.

He said, students who were unable to follow the online learning should be provided with the option of face-to-face learning in school so that they would not be left out.

“Not all students can accept online learning as there are students who need conventional learning for better comprehension. It is important to ensure the students are not demotivated from learning and teachers are not discouraged from teaching,” he said.

Meanwhile, Zuraini Eusope, 51, a Science and Mathematics teacher at Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Marian Convent Ipoh, Perak, told Bernama that teaching and learning scenario during the MCO was very different as almost all teaching and facilitating (PdPc) methods were conducted online via Google Classroom, Google Meet, Youtube, Zoom Cloud Meeting and various quizzes.

Zuraini, who has a 25 years of experience in teaching, admitted that not all teachers were comfortable in using the digital technology or could readily adapt to the new normal in teaching, especially the senior teachers.

“A number of senior teachers find it difficult to work around the technology but most of us will try our best, just like me. It really takes time but practice makes perfect. When there is a will, there is a way. We must be optimistic that we can do it, although we may take a bit more times to do it,” she said.

Zuraini said although teachers have provided various materials and preparations, there were still students who did not complete homework given and failed to attend online classes, that teachers had to wait for them for nearly two hours.

“Especially students from Year Six. Responses have been declining despite all the efforts made by teachers such as videos, cartoons, songs were being prepared in line with the PdPc. There are teachers who would diligently keep in contact with the parents to make sure their children attend the class,” she said.

However, it’s a different story in the rural areas, and according to Zubair Shuhaime, 29, a teacher at SK Kuala Kebulu, Sebauh in Bintulu, Sarawak, online teaching and learning have been restricted by limited access to the Internet and smart gadgets.

He said throughout the MCO, teachers in the schools categorised as Rural Three, would use the Parent-Teacher Association WhatsApp group to deliver assignments to the students while for those without access, the teachers would physically deliver the homework.

“This school is located between five to six hours’ drive from Bintulu, depending on the weather. To reach the students’ homes, teachers would have to travel through logging trails or using boats with the shortest travel distance is 12 to 15 minutes and the longest can reach up to two hours.

“Once the students completed the tasks, they would have to submit it to be marked by the teachers. Further reports and evidence of teaching and learning will then be sent to the administrators,” said Zubair who has been teaching at the school for six years.

While admitting that teaching in the rural areas pose a great challenge, Zubair said a bigger challenge would be whether the parents were aware of the importance of education for their children.

Relating a story about one family living in a deep rural area, he said the family would walk to higher grounds for a stronger Internet signal so they could download the tasks given by their children’s teachers.

“They would retrieve the assignments and the child would do the work there. The family even sleeps at a nearby area as long as the child finishes the school work before submitting it online. This is an example of parents who care about their child’s education,” he said.

There is no denying the dynamic roles that teachers and parents play in shaping a student’s character and success.

To all teachers out there, all your sacrifices and efforts in educating, guiding and shaping the nation’s younger generation are greatly appreciated.

Terima kasih Cikgu!