Bridge the digital divide in education

Photo: Bernama

KUALA LUMPUR: The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) has urged the government to prioritise bridging the digital divide in its education policies in response to Covid-19.

In a statement yesterday it said, the ministry could use IDEAS’s Brief Ideas publication titled “Education during Covid-19”, by IDEAS’ Research Manager of Social Policy Unit, Wan Ya Shin which had listed the education challenges of the Covid-19 crisis in Malaysia as reference.  

“The identified challenges are the digital gap among students, the education system’s lack of digital preparedness, food access among poor families and the mental well-being of children,” according to the statement.

Furthermore, IDEAS said that in the Brief Ideas, Wan stressed the need for Malaysia’s education policies to have a long-term perspective and be inclusive of vulnerable children.

Yesterday, Education Minister Dr Mohd Radzi Md Jidin said the decision to reopen schools will only be made when the situation is truly back to normal.

He said the ministry understood that parents were concerned that they would not be able to make appropriate arrangements if a sudden announcement was made on the reopening of schools.

Meanwhile, IDEAS said a plan on how schools are to be operated post-movement control order (MCO) must also be laid out.

As the paper was written before the announcement, IDEAS said Wan further proposed three recommendations for both likely future scenarios, the further extension of the current MCO and the reopening of schools.

“If the MCO is extended further, the government should consider to distribute devices and increase access to online classes to reduce the digital divide, to further expand the digital lessons through television to provide more classes to children of all ages and throughout the day and encourage parents to instill learning outside the classroom.

“When schools are reopened, the government should consider to improve hygiene and sanitation in schools, implement a monitoring and prevention plan to prevent and respond to cases of infection in schools and expand the coverage of digital access to include all children in Malaysia in the long term,” it said.

According to IDEAS, while the Covid-19 pandemic had caught us off guard, the current situation would continue to be the “new normal” for all of us, including our children. – Bernama