Poor connection: Worries over students’ progress
Published on: Sunday, October 18, 2020
By: Audrey J Ansibin
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A screenshot of the virtual classroom involving Fay and her students
WORLD Bank recently reported that one billion students from developing countries may be out of school in light of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic crisis.

Its President David Malpass said: “The learning goes backward. That’s a particular problem in the developing world.

“We think there are one billion children out of school in the developing world waiting, really, for the recovery to take hold. So, if there’s the second wave, that’s a concern,” he said during an interview with CNBC. 

Daily Express asked two local teachers from public and private schools on how they are coping while working from home during the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) period and what they think of their students’ progress – or lack of.

The World Bank head’s concern was not unfounded. What we found from these teachers were a stark inequality in terms of engagement in virtual classes due in part to lack of basic resources.  

Students from the public school had trouble joining the online classes no thanks to the absence of devices like computer, laptop or even smartphone, in contrast to their more affluent private school-going peers. 

Daina Mojilis, 38, a teacher at SMK Bahang Penampang, said one of the biggest challenges the public school students faced was not only poor internet line but also the unavailability of their own learning devices.

“Some of them had to use their parents’ smartphones to join the online sessions,” Daina said, adding that while these students have genuine reason for not being able to join the virtual classes, some are just plain lazy while others have not responded to her queries at all on school work.

However, both private and public school students shared a common challenge: Bad internet service. 

“Some of them don’t even have sufficient internet connection. The least that they can do is read updates on WhatsApp. But to join online activities like Quizizz that require better internet line is not possible,” Daina said.

Meanwhile, Fay Fiona Constantine Limbai, 31, of SRS Datuk Simon Fung agreed that the internet connection was usually unstable and easily interrupted. 

“Without a good reception or connection, it is hard for us to proceed with the online teaching or lectures. Our internet in Malaysia may be heading towards 5G, but compared to Singapore or the United States, Malaysia is not yet able to overcome this issue. Even with Unifi, the connection can go bad at any time.”

Fay, who teaches students between the ages of seven and 10 years old at the private school, said their young minds are still growing. “We still need more time to get to know each other, but all our time has been taken away due to the pandemic. “Even though we see each other through video conferencing, as their teacher, I still miss them. 

“The students also missed going back to school to be with their friends. It’s quite overwhelming. But there is nothing we could do. We, teachers, also think the students are better off staying home for their safety,” she said. 

The new norm for virtual classes proved challenging for both teachers. They said it never occurred to them when they chose the profession, they would need to be at the forefront of utilising virtually every online means to ensure their students are not left behind on school syllabus. 

“Teachers’ knowledge on interactive learning is a must at this moment,” Daina said, adding that the mode of communication with her students included WhatsApp, Google Meet, Zoom, YouTube, Google Classroom and Quizizz, among others. 

“I hope the relevant authority would ensure all students can get better internet connection so none will be left out.”

She said getting the students to meet the deadline on online assignments and homework was another challenge. 

“Parents’ involvement is very important. If they don’t bother with the students’ assignments, neither would the students,” Daina said, adding that theirs is a Project-Based Learning (PBL). Elaborating on her students’ attitude towards the new norm, she said not all were equally as enthusiastic. 

“Those who were more hardworking and responded well during online learning showed better results during examination.

“Some students felt that online learning was difficult and they preferred face-to-face interaction.”

However, she felt that where there’s a will there’s a way and it’s up to the student whether or not they want to study – regardless of the circumstances.

Fay, meanwhile, said it never crossed her mind that teachers will be facing another hurdle, besides getting certified, which is teaching the students through webinars. 

“It would be difficult for the more senior teachers who aren’t really good with Information and Communication Technology. 

“We thought getting certified as teachers would be our last challenge. Yet here we are today, still learning and adapting to the new norm to get in touch with the students and possibly finish the subject’s syllabus as much as we can.” She said to communicate with her students, her school uses Zoom, Webex and Google Meet, including PowerPoint slides. 

“Some of us even prepared pre-recorded videos for students who are unable to join the session at the given time,” Fay, who herself is a postgraduate student, said.

“Our lecturers are using Google Meet for all our online lectures. Nevertheless, everything has its pros and cons.”

Fay expressed hope that there would be a course for all teachers, especially those who are still undergoing their studies, on the how-to’s of conducting online classes. 

“If Malaysia can work enhance the internet service, the present woes will be a thing of the past. I believe I say this for the rest of Malaysia.”

 

A student showing his Science project which was done through virtual classes. 

 

Public and private school Teachers Daina (above) and Fay say their students share a common problem of poor internet connectivity. 

 

A screenshot of the online classrooms Daina is in charge of. 

A Quizizz virtual classroom. (pic: Aaron.kr)

 

Fay’s virtual classroom as a postgraduate student. 

 

 

 





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