Wise decision by the ministry to allow students to return to campus

KUCHING: Academicians are of the opinion that the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) made a wise decision to allow the six categories of students to return to their respective campuses.

This follows the ministry’s statement released last Sunday regarding students from institutions of higher learning being allowed to return to campus beginning March 1.

Dr Diana Mohamad

Dr Diana Mohamad, a lecturer from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), said that although the university was coping well with integrating its syllabus online, there were concerns for the learning outcome in the online learning approach.

In saying this, she added that the decision was timely as prolonged online learning could possibly further the digital gap among students.

“It is hard to say that it is the right time to resume physical learning, but we are very concerned with the learning outcome if we continue on with the online learning approach without effective interventions.

“At the end of the day, we need to produce qualified graduates who can contribute to the country’s human capital to steer future development.

“This decision shows that MOHE is paying attention to the difficulties experienced by students when taking part in online learning, especially those who are taking courses that are more ‘hands on’ or practical,” she said.

Diana also said that efforts were being made to design simple yet effective activities in order to cope with the changing landscape of the learning and teaching environment.

Dr Remmy Gedat

Meanwhile, another public university lecturer, Dr Remmy Gedat, said that students must be prepared for learning activities regardless of the situation.

She pointed out that the universities, too, must also be prepared to conduct physical learning in the new normal and the hybrid method must be utilised.

“I believe that students must always be prepared for both physical and online learning. However, I do agree with the six categories of students allowed to return to campus outlined by MOHE because it is not the right time to conduct physically learning as a whole if we look at the current Covid-19 situation.

“The challenge of physical learning is that we will not be able to control the students’ movements around the clock because not all of them will be staying on campus. There is also the concern of compliance to the standard operating procedures (SOPs),” she said.

Dr Siti Zanariah Ahmad Ishak

Dr Siti Zanariah Ahmad Ishak, who is also a university lecturer, opined that it was a wise decision to only allow selected students who were in need to return to campus as it would prevent universities from being overcrowded.

“It will be challenging to provide accommodation and learning space that complies with the SOPs if all students were allowed to return.

“We are almost one year into this pandemic and I’m sure that all the universities have set up their own risk management committees.

Although there are concerns on maintaining compliance to the SOPs, I believe that university students are mature enough to be mindful of the current Covid-19 situation,” she said.