Malaysians urge government to stop 'flip-flopping' on school reopening decision amid state of emergency

Many parents and teachers found themselves confused by the different set of rules imposed in states under the Movement Control Order. PHOTO: THE MALAY MAIL

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysian parents and teachers have urged authorities to avoid flip-flopping on their decisions regarding the reopening of schools as the country enters the second week of a state of emergency declared by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to stop the spread of Covid-19.

The Education Ministry had asked schools to reopen on Jan 20. But in a last-minute decision on Saturday (Jan 16), it ordered classes for students who are not sitting vital exams this year to be conducted online instead. All kindergartens registered with the ministry are allowed to continue holding face-to-face classes.

Even then, many parents and teachers found themselves confused by the different set of rules imposed in states under the Movement Control Order (MCO) and conditional MCO.

"No one wants this (not resuming face-to-face learning for the whole country) and it is a tough call when you are the decision maker," said a teacher, who wanted to be known only as Ram.

"Once and for all, they should put themselves in students' shoes before making any decision at this point. They should not keep changing important decisions as it affects the mindset of students, " he added.

Ram also said he was not surprised that the Education Ministry decided to implement home-based teaching and learning (PdPR) in light of the current situation.

Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education chairman Mak Chee Kin said parents were left wondering how the Education Ministry came to decide earlier last week to allow students in states under the conditional movement control order and recovery MCO back in school but not those in MCO states from Jan 20.

This decision by the ministry was changed on Saturday to disallow all education institutions under its purview from resuming face-to-face lessons.

Only students sitting for the 2020 Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM), Sijil Vokasional Malaysia (SVM), Sijil Kemahiran Malaysia (SKM), Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM), Sijil Tinggi Agama Malaysia (Stam) and Diploma Vokasional Malaysia (DVM) as well as other international level exams certified by the ministry are allowed back to school.

"Didn't they study and explore all their options and models before making a decision, especially on such matters that affect everyone's safety?" Mak said.

He added that although students from Year One to Form Five would not need to return to school, Form Six students were still required to do so.

"This is very worrying with the high number of cases right now.

"The students in Form Six colleges will face problems maintaining physical distancing and adhering to the standard operating procedure when they still have the same number of classrooms with the same number of students in them."

Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said the Education Ministry had reiterated that any decision it made regarding educational institutions under its watch would require the go-ahead from the Health Ministry.

"While the Education Ministry may appear to be flip-flopping, it is based on the recommendation of the Health Ministry. After all, positive cases are projected to rise significantly, " she added.

National Union of the Teaching Profession secretary-general Harry Tan Huat Hock said teachers understood why the ministry made such decisions that were based on what current information it had.

"The Education Ministry has no choice as safety is its priority as the number of cases keeps growing, " he said.

In a Facebook post, Muar MP and former youth and sports minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman also weighed in.

"Parents have already bought school supplies, school uniforms, school equipment and paid school fees, among other things," he said, adding that some parents had even sent their children to hostels, not knowing the schools would be closed.

"I know we have to take into consideration the Covid crisis. But that is not an excuse for doing things at the last minute, causing inconvenience to everyone. It has been almost a year since the pandemic has spread to Malaysia."

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