Mohd Fadzil

KUCHING: While the idea of encouraging the use of online learning system is a good fit to ensure continuation of education during the ongoing movement control order (MCO) period, it is easier said than done.

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) Leadership Centre chairman Prof Mohd Fadzil Abdul Rahman concurred with the online learning system as an alternative, but he noted that it was not a holistic approach.

“We are supportive of the online learning system as an alternative but I am concerned over the schools especially those located in the rural areas.

“The online platform will only benefit those who can afford it and the schools in urban area which can afford to be fully equipped with the technologies.

“However, the same approach is not applicable to the rural areas due to constraints in terms of Internet access and basic infrastructure. It is not easy and it is costly,” he told the New Sarawak Tribune yesterday.

He urged the government to look into the matter seriously and to come up with better strategies to face the challenges at present or even as preparation for the future.

Fadzil was responding to a directive by the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Higher Education to ensure the continuation of teaching and learning for students and encourage learning institutions to use online learning system (OLL) such as Google Classroom, Schoology, Telegram, WhatsApp and other viable medium.

“It is very important to look at the situation as a lesson learnt and I urge the federal government to look at Information Technology (IT) infrastructure seriously because in times like this, we cannot simply do it half-baked.

“The federal government must allocate fair budget to establish the means for basic infrastructure and to disseminate education throughout the nation as well as to ensure that we are prepared to execute it,” he emphasised.

Subsidy for basic computers

Fadzil stressed that it is important for the government to consider and bring back the subsidy for basic computers.

This is because it might be easy for the Ministry to give directive on using online learning platforms but such alternative is quite difficult to execute with the unavailability of decent infrastructure in certain schools especially in rural areas.

“Amongst the issues that arise would be the bandwidth, Internet connection, etc. All these would become obstacles in the teaching process,” he said.

Education Technology Division

Fadzil opined that another critical aspect that the government could look into is to intensify the Education Technology Division which would provide earlier preparation towards embarking on new education policies.

He shared that the division, under the Ministry of Education, was no longer active like in the 1970s and 1980s.

“The division is not that aggressive anymore whilst it should be… It should be intensified to prepare the nation’s education in moving towards the future so that it will be easier to disseminate teaching and learning with the advanced technologies available at present,” he said.

Among the important matters include having ready teachers to teach online as well as to have good methodologies to execute the learning.

“Apart from that, the division needs to have selective materials because we cannot afford to have everything recorded. So, they need to work the extra mile to get the gist of disseminating effective teaching and learning for the students,” he said.

He noted that for the rural areas, it is not easy and also costly, but he applauded the Sarawak government for doing a good job now in introducing initiatives to embark on digital technology.

“The state government is actively promoting digital technology and establishing digital infrastructure throughout the state to expedite the process. Thus, I think the federal government needs to be aggressive in ensuring that the education system is moving forward.”

Face-to-face education still relevant

However, despite moving forward into a digital era, Fadzil explained that the education system could not transform 100 per cent to be dependent on advanced technologies as some subjects could not be taught online.

“For instance, engineering or labwork. Perhaps the university can manage digital platforms because they have resources. Everything is put in place. But it is still not the same as face-to-face teaching and learning.

“This can already be seen at present whereby most universities are adjusting their academic calendar involving the months of June and July.

“Those months were supposed to be the semester break period but the universities are adjusting (for classes) and this means that face-to-face education is still important.

“In addition, we are also not ready for online-based exams. The facility is not there,” he explained.