Mission to educate continues amid COVID-19 pandemic

Photo used for illustration purposes only

PUTRAJAYA – After more than a year of twists and challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers continue to strive harder to achieve their important mission – to continue teaching and educating students.

For teachers, the educating task goes on as usual, and they have to work harder than before to adapt to home-based teaching and learning (PdPR), introduced by the Ministry of Education (MOE) following the COVID-19 pandemic which hit the country in March last year.

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“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we see the challenge faced by teachers; from face-to-face teaching is now changing to online, so teachers need to be more creative,” said Noorizan Mohammed, the recipient of the Tokoh Guru Kebangsaan 2021 award, Malaysia’s highest teaching award.

The former principal of SMK Jalan Empat, Bandar Baru Bangi, Selangor, said that educators now need to be more sensitive to changes and educational transformation, to produce students who excel holistically, in terms of academics, co-curriculum and personality.

Noorizan, who has served as a teacher for almost 35 years, said that students now not only need to listen to what their teachers teach but also need to be actively involved in a two-way interaction, so that they can think well.

“This means that teachers need to increase the number of programmes to shape the future of students in schools, so that they will be more creative, innovative and independent,” she said in an exclusive interview with Bernama, RTM and DidikTV KPM here recently.

However, she said that, due to the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, the task of teachers was now more challenging as they could no longer teach students face-to-face, and had to adapt to the PdPR method.

Noorizan, who is currently serving as an education advisor for the Sekolah Amanah (Trust School) programme in Jeli, Kelantan, said that for schools in rural areas particularly, teachers need to be creative to complete modules for students who face constraints in terms of device or internet access.

“Fortunately, parents have a better understanding of PdPR now and teachers are also more creative, innovative and good at teaching using the method, with students more involved compared with last year,” said Noorizan, who is determined to continue working in the field of education.

Apart from Noorizan, former Education director-general (January 2020 – April 2021), Datuk Dr Habibah Abdul Rahim, and former Education director-general (October 2017 – December 2019), Datuk Dr Amin Senin, have been named as recipients of Tokoh Kepimpinan Pendidikan Kebangsaan 2021 awards.

Ensuring teaching and learning not sidelined

Habibah, touching on the PdPR issue, said that the COVID-19 pandemic was one of the difficult challenges, not only for the MOE but also for schools, teachers and parents with children at home.

She said that some difficult decisions had to be made to safeguard the health and safety of the students, and at the same time it was also necessary to ensure that teaching and learning (PdP) was not sidelined.

“As learning conducted online, it is not the same as face-to-face sessions in the classroom, and we know there were students who were on (logged in) but as there was no video, we didn’t know if they were there physically.

“Hence, of course, there are ways for teachers to use their creativity to ensure that students participate in the PdPR, how to make the PdPR interesting so that students continue to be motivated to learn even online,” she said.

Habibah, who has 34 years of experience in the field of education, had served as a teacher in Biology in three secondary schools for seven years before pursuing a master’s degree, and later joining the MOE.

Meanwhile, Amin touched on the Primary School Achievement Test (UPSR), and pointed out that the complete abolition of the examination clearly showed that the country’s education system is on the right track.

Amin, a former Mathematics teacher, said that when the UPSR was first introduced, it was good to gauge the mastery of primary school students, but in the end, the purpose of the examination was ‘abused’ to the point of consuming the education system.

“Now we have to think of alternatives to UPSR. Since it was abolished, we need an approach to obtain data that gives an overview of primary school students’ achievements.

“However the COVID-19 pandemic is a blessing in disguise; it really helps us to backtrack our efforts to make sure that the students really learn. During this pandemic, people did not even talk about exams. They are more focused on how the students can continue learning.

“People no longer discuss how the students pass the exams. Even members of the public also, at the very best, want no exam during this pandemic. Hence, it means people have returned to the basic principles of education,” he said.

These three outstanding individuals received awards from Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in conjunction with the National Teachers’ Day 2021 celebrations, and each received a prize worth RM50,000 and a certificate of appreciation.