Urgent need to address home-based learning fatigue

By Muhammad Basir Roslan

This article is written in conjunction with Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP)’s 65th anniversary this year, themed ‘Aksara Nan Hidup Sepanjang Zaman.’

It also shares insights on how best to deal with pandemic fatigue, a phenomenon described as burnout and dwindling motivation among home-based learners brought on by Covid-19.

THE COVID-19 pandemic has forced school closures nationwide. As a result, education has changed dramatically, with schools embracing the home-based teaching and learning (PdPR) system to mitigate the transmission of the virus.

However, the approach is not without its flaws as it has indirectly caused primary school pupils, in particular, to experience learning burnout or lack of motivation to learn and read.

In a recent survey, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) voiced concern over the rise in education dropouts as remote learning continues.

According to the study, six out of 10 pupils from B40 or lower-income flat dwellers around the city here were losing interest in school due to difficulties in home-based learning.

Expressing concern over this worrying trend, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) lecturer from the Centre of Community Education & Wellbeing, Dr Anuar Ahmad said the issue of students missing out on learning and experiencing burnout should be urgently ironed out to avert a ‘lost generation’. 

(Lost generation refers to a cohort of school dropouts who are unable to attend regular schooling. A lost generation is characterised by learning losses due to prolonged war, major disaster or infectious disease outbreak).

Need to lift students’ spirits

Citing statistics from the Ministry of Education (MOE) released on Oct 11, 2020, Dr Anuar said the number of primary school dropouts rose to 0.13 percent last year compared to 0.12 percent in 2019 while the dropouts among secondary school students increased 1.26 percent last year from 1.14 percent previously.

However, he expects the figure to rise further given that the current pandemic situation shows no signs of waning in the near term.

“In Malaysia, it is common knowledge that there are various teaching methods used, such as online, offline, distribution of notes and TV Pendidikan (Education TV). However, under the current situation, priority is given to online lessons.

“Emerging issues indicate that Malaysia is not fully prepared for PdPR or home-based online learning. There are two reasons for this, limited availability of devices and poor internet connection,” he told Bernama.

He said the MOE has attributed the lack of devices as among the main challenges faced by an estimated 1.85 million students today.

In addition, Dr Anuar said the switch from traditional to online learning has taken a toll on students. A 2020 study conducted by the UKM Education Faculty led by Associate Prof Dr Azlin Norhaini Mansor showed that 70 to 80 percent of teachers said among the major challenges were garnering the students’ attention.

The findings also revealed that student attendance did not attain 80 percent and many were not able to focus on the lessons as their home environment was not conducive to learning.

Changing approach

Dr Anuar also expressed concern over the likelihood that students are not able to follow the online classes effectively.

To this, he said improvements should be made to the PdPR’s implementation, with the shift towards teaching based system from the traditional school concept. In other words, emphasis should no longer be placed on classroom attendance but on engagement or participation based on needs and students’ capabilities.

“To reduce stress prevalent among students and teachers, priority should be given to core subjects while subjects that are not important should be dropped. This could be the panacea for learning burnout faced by our students,” he said.

Dr Anuar also proposed that the home-based learning and teaching methods be managed professionally and in an organised manner, with all relevant information including PdPR reporting records be integrated under one system for easy access to all stakeholders.

Create e-School

“I suggest we create a web or e-School application to centralise all PdPR activities. Each school can kick start the initiative. This is a virtual school (that focuses only on PdPR matters),” he said.

Dr Anuar said a dashboard can be created as a platform for both parents and teachers to use e-School, noting that creative teachers can be engaged to develop the website. At the same time, parents too can assist in developing the website, and if possible, develop the application as well, he added.

To enhance the website, he said a dashboard button can be created based on the school curriculum and secondary level. This allows teachers to post announcements based on PdPR groups. Students or parents need only to press the button which has the names of the relevant teachers to obtain information on PdPR-related activities.

He said after completing their online learning lessons or video recordings for offline purposes, teachers can upload video links of their lessons and training exercises in the dashboard including date of delivery.

He said students should be given a suitable timeline to answer the questions, while those who are still doubtful can replay the video prepared by the teachers.

To enrich the content, he said links to additional teaching resources for each topic can also be included. For schools using the Google Classroom (GC) platform, GC links can be inserted in the e-School web, he added.

“e-School can build bridges of friendships among classmates who have been physically separated due to the pandemic,” he said.

He expressed hope that the proposal could lessen the burden and burnout gripping students, teachers and parents brought on by the PdPR’s constraints and boost students’ learning and reading interest.

Meanwhile, the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Harry Tan said from his observation, more teachers have acquired the necessary skills in PdPR, while there are some who have demonstrated their teaching creativity.

 “We use the PdPR as collateral for our students. The pandemic has unleashed the teachers’ creative potential in implementing the PdPR. But once schools reopen, teachers as professionals can forge ahead with innovative ways for effective intervention as well as undertake recovery measures for the benefit of our young learners,” he said.

At the same time, Tan called on the MOE to work together with the community, especially the parent-teachers associations by facilitating communication between the students and their teachers. – Bernama