“It’s the movement control order, not a learning control order” – Prof Dr. Pradeep Nair, Taylor University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer.
The global pandemic, COVID-19 has forced many countries, including Malaysia, to impose a form of ‘Movement Control Order’ (MCO) which has left 1.37 billion students out of school. On Day 2 of Malaysia’s MCO (19th March 2020), the Higher Education Ministry announced that all teaching and learning activities, including e-learning (also known as online learning), were suspended till the end of the MCO. A reason for the suspension of e-learning was not provided, however Prof Dr. Faisal Rafiq Mahamd Adikan; Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Vice-Chancellor, speculated that the unequal access to high-speed internet amongst students is a very probable factor.
The suspension irked the private and public institutions, educators, students and parents for a variety of reasons. For instance, the suspension would not only delay the academic calendar and exam, it would also increase the living costs for international and out-of-state students and disrupt their plans to return home. Within 24 hours, the Higher Education Ministry released a statement that permitted all higher education institutions to conduct online learning only.
As an educator (on an undetermined hiatus since July 2019) with personal experience as a graduate of Malaysia’s national (primary and secondary) education system, my question is "are Malaysia’s higher education educators well equipped with the skills, knowledge and equipment to conduct effective online learning session?"
In 2017, Malaysia proudly claimed that it is at the forefront of e-learning with the introduction of the nation’s Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) and the implementation of the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015 – 2025 (Higher Education): Shift 9 – Global Online Learning. Despite, being “at the forefront of e-learning”, some of my fellow Higher Education educators are struggling to adapt to the virtual classroom.
Their struggle is warranted and unsurprising for an array of reasons including the following (but not limited to):
- Insufficient training and development sessions emphasising the importance of employing technology as your ‘friend’ in the classroom, rather than a required tool or skill to learn simply to fulfil one’s KPI, has left some (experienced and relatively newer) educators at a loss of how to conduct online discussions, record lectures and design online assessments;
- The flawed mentality that the traditional pedagogical styles of the physical classroom are wholly applicable in the virtual classroom, including attendance requirements and live lecture sessions online.
As these educators (including preschool, primary and secondary school educators) strive to breach the technological gap for their students whilst caring for their own loved ones during this pandemic, let us remember the saying “those who can, do and those who can’t, teach” is a myth.
In my years as a student and educator, I have had the privilege of being taught by and becoming friends with educators who redefine their areas of speciality by pushing the boundaries of traditional teaching and learning styles. Hence, the objective of this column is to not only highlight the systemic issues with Malaysia’s education environment, but to highlight the educators who are redefining the way pedagogy is delivered at all levels of education.
Michelle Low is a Research Assistant with the Global Asia 21 Multidisciplinary Platform of Monash University. Her research comprises the topic of “Vulnerable Communities in Asia”. Prior to her current role, she spent the last five years as an educator and had actively worked towards redefining the way Humanities and Social Science subjects were taught in her classroom.
Her column will be featured on The People of Asia under #RedefiningEducation with Michelle Low