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Author: savemalaysia   |   Latest post: Sun, 7 Mar 2021, 6:53 PM


Digital gap blocks quality education — Mohamad Ika Danial ‘Abdullah

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JANUARY 25 — January 20, 2021 is a historic date for all students and educators in the country who first attended the teaching and learning session from home (PdPR). However, it turns out that not all students enjoy the same technological facilities to attend classes online comfortably and effectively.

The ugly reality we must accept is that not all students can afford access to good digital education especially those who come from low-income families and below the poverty line. Moreover, the unemployment factor for some parents has also further reduced their ability to supply good equipment to children in this era of digital education. There are even children who have to share the same gadget with their parents.

Apart from socio-economic factors, geographical factors also contribute to the increasing digital divide in Malaysia. This is said because there are still many rural areas in Malaysia that have not yet received good and strong internet connectivity. This problem will definitely limit the ability of students to attend PdPR sessions smoothly and thus challenge the effectiveness of PdPR in creating equality in education.

Last year, a survey on the digital divide was conducted by a group of female academics from the Department of Political Science, International Islamic University Malaysia. Of the total 738 respondents, 69 per cent agreed that there is a significant digital divide between urban and rural areas. Furthermore, the survey also reported that 76 per cent of respondents believe in the digital divide between rich and poor.

The digital divide among students is a serious issue

In fact, the issue of the digital divide between urban and rural as well as between rich and poor is not something new in Malaysia. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, this issue did not get widespread coverage although there are many research papers that have been written because we were already comfortable with the conventional PdP systems. Unfortunately, the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic has forced digital education to be fully implemented to ensure that students do not leave behind in the academic field.

In this precarious situation, digital education is no longer a desire but a necessity for the survival of national education. In the excitement of the government, especially the Ministry of Education Malaysia (MOE) to enforce digital education in the country, the government should ensure in advance that every student has equal access to attend PdPR sessions. This includes the provision of electronic devices and good internet access in the student residence. It should also be emphasised that there are also educators who have similar problems that also need attention.

This goal can be realised with the establishment of a special committee in each State Education Department or District Education Office to collect statistics and monitor the needs of students from time to time. This committee can function by providing a direct report to the MOE on special necessities that should be given to students in need in the district or state.

What else can be done?

Through social media, many parents hope that the Education TV show that is being conducted by the MOE can further expand its network. Malaysian Excellent Teachers are also expected to be able to offer their services to teach through Education TV so that students can be provided with exam answering tips.

This effort is believed to fulfil the needs of students, especially those who cannot afford to own electronic devices such as laptops and smartphones. In addition, Education TV can also be benefited for students who live in areas that do not have a satisfactory internet network.

Khazanah Research Institute Research Advisor, Prof Jomo Kwame Sundaram also opined that the government should utilise existing resources instead of focusing on a system whose access is not owned by all students or families in Malaysia. In the meantime, the MOE needs to further strengthen cooperation with the private sector, especially telecommunication companies to meet the digital needs among students in Malaysia.

We should praise the actions that have been and are being carried out by various parties to help students. For example, Ustaz Ebit Lew recently offered to help students in need by giving out free Samsung tablets. In addition, Member of Parliament for Muar, YB Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman who also raised funds to ensure that every family in the district has a laptop. Indeed, efforts to bridge the digital gap require synergy from all layers of society, including governments, politicians and non-governmental organisations. We should not wait until an issue becomes viral, only then action will be taken.

Among other things that need to be considered by the government include curriculum restructuring, development of special modules for special education students and students below the poverty line, as well as psychological support and training for educators. Education is indeed for all. All students and children in Malaysia are entitled to equal access to quality education in the country. Although the proverb of “where there is a will, there is a way” is true, but we also need to ensure that all students are able to walk together on a fair and equal path.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.



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