By John Isaac
SINCE schools physically reopened, positive Covid-19 cases have been reported in 10 schools in Sibu, including seven which were closed from yesterday.
Upon a positive case being confirmed, fellow teachers, students and parents would be thrown into a confusion of fear and anxiety.
Teachers would also be mentally, emotionally and physically stressed out, from fear for their personal and their family’s well-being as well expectations for them to effectively teach in this highly undesirable school environment.
“The constant closing, sanitisation and reopening of schools upon a positive case being reported causes havoc to their teaching schedule and lesson plans.
“Their focus is now being diverted from teaching effectively to the need to make sure students are following the SOPs and keeping the school environment virus free.
“Amid this highly charged tensed environment, teaching and learning become a burden for both teachers and students,” said Irene Chang, the Bukit Assek state assemblywoman.
Therefore, she said the SDMC and Ministry of Education need to rethink if the benefit of opening physical classes outweighs the benefit of continuing with PdPR classes.
Given the increasing figures, what needs to be done immediately is to close urban schools and revert to PdPR learning until the pandemic is under control in Sarawak.
“This would release both teachers and parents from the mental and emotional stress so they can truly focus on teaching and learning through online facilities rather than being constantly on the edge to switch from physical class to PdPR class and vice versa,” said Irene.
For long term strategy, SDMC and the MoE should consider preparing schools and teachers to adopt a blended learning which combines live online teaching with physical face-to-face classes.
Even with the availability of vaccines, this approach is the best way forward until our society can go back to normalcy as before the pandemic.
Need for blended learning
“Due to the different circumstance which we now face, teachers of this technology age should switch from traditional whiteboard and blackboard teachings to electronic teaching. “Each teacher should be equipped with a tablet/laptop for this purpose and they should use it to teach even in face-to-face classes”.
Students who opt to continue their studies online would have to log into the online system at the same time as the physical classes.
This way, the teacher would only need to teach once and both students in the physical classroom and the virtual classroom would be able to keep up with their lessons at the same time.
Through blended learning, Irene said students and parents have a choice to make.
Families with no online facilities or with parents who are unable to sit by their children’s side are able to opt for face-to-face classes, whereas parents who are rightly still worried about the current situation and have access and means to online facilities at home would be able to allow their children to continue lessons from home.
Teachers would also need not prepare several lesson plans just to adapt to the constant changing decisions of the MOE.
Of course, all children and teachers attending physical classes in school should continue to follow strict SOPs with face mask and face shields on.
During these trying times, where physical or virtual classes are neither here nor there, blended learning seems to be the only viable way forward for the younger generation, added Irene.