Extending 2021 school year a rational move – Academic

Photo used for illustration purposes only

KUALA LUMPUR – The Ministry of Education’s (MOE) decision to extend the current academic calendar for schools to February 2022 has taken parents and even teachers by surprise with many of them questioning the rationale behind the move.

It is understood that the extension of this year’s school term was to facilitate teachers to assess the competency levels of their students, particularly those who are having trouble following the home-based teaching and learning (PdPR) sessions, and ensure they are ready to progress to the next level of their education.

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However, some parents are questioning the necessity of stretching the current school year to next February, saying that it would have an impact on the length of their children’s schooling as they would have to remain in the same class for the first two months of next year before moving to a higher level in March.

Education Minister Datuk Dr Radzi Jidin, who is also a senior minister, announced earlier this month that the 2022 academic year for schools will begin in March next year.

He said the 2021 school term would be extended to February 2022 to enable children to catch up with their studies and be ready to progress to the next level.

This would mean that the students would remain in the same classes they were in this year during the first two months of 2022 before proceeding to the next class in March.

Wake-up call

Describing MOE’s move as rational and as a “wake-up call” for students who have grown too comfortable with the “long holiday” (studying from home), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Faculty of Education senior lecturer Dr Bity Salwana Alias said it would ensure the students are truly ready to move to the next class.

She said it is also a wake-up call for students who have been slacking off and taking things easy following the implementation of PdPR

“There are also students who are finding it difficult to follow the PdPR sessions. This could be because they are not able to adapt to the system or due to other constraints such as lack of gadgets or living in an environment that’s not conducive to learning.

“And, exactly how many students are diligently attending the PdPR classes? Some are supposed to be present (in an online class) but ‘hide’ behind their name or profile photo… at the end of the day, probably only a few students are left in the class,” she told Bernama.

Asked to comment on some teachers’ concern that they would have to repeat teaching the same syllabus until February next year, Bity Salwana said they need not have to do so as they can use the “extra time” to assess and test the effectiveness of the PdPR sessions conducted earlier.

“The teachers can also carry out activities to improve their students’ performance, and try out various new teaching methods to help them to improve their knowledge and skills, as well as help in character-building and co-curricular activities,” she said.

She is confident that teachers now have what it takes to apply new and more innovative teaching methods as a result of the experience they have gained from PdPR which saw them making use of various technology-based teaching approaches.

Paradigm shift

Peninsular Malay Students Coalition president Mohd Alif Anas Md Noor, meanwhile, sees the extension of the 2021 school term to February 2022 as a positive renewal process and said it should be well-received by all parties.

“It’s a paradigm shift for the national education system and I feel it is highly relevant to retain it (starting the new academic year in March) in the coming years as it will benefit the entire education system,” he said.

He feels there is nothing wrong with changing the school academic calendar, pointing out that the move will, in fact, benefit teachers and students in the east coast states where floods usually occur at the beginning of the year.

Mohd Alif Anas also said that MOE should take this opportunity to improve the academic calendar so that there is a balance between the school sessions and holidays.

“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t accept the MOE’s move (to extend the 2021 school year to February 2022) because it can be tailored according to the needs of the students.

“And, I don’t think the students will experience ‘fatigue’ as a result of being in the same class until next February… the important thing here is teachers must do their part to improve the performance of the weak students during this period (before the start of the new academic year in March),” he added.