A Different Ending to Secondary School

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School has reopened and closed quite a number of times over the last two years due to the pandemic. Read how this has affected the students themselves. A reflection contributed by one of my mom’s many students.

A Different Ending to Secondary School

My secondary school ended like no other batches before mine. For a whole year of 2020, my Form 5 year was filled with disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. It turned out to be a full year of an experience which changed my idea and perception of what school and education stand for.

School

The pandemic hit Malaysia in earnest in March. By the end of that month, it was obvious that it was going to hit harder if the government didn’t do anything. Countries all over the world started to announce lockdowns and we shut down as well. Schools had to close as a result. We were told that lessons would move online. Up till that point, I think not many students in the country even knew how online lessons felt like. This is my experience.

The sudden transformation from offline to online

By April, only two of my school teachers started online classes. The first adapted very quickly and her lessons were well executed so much so that I felt they weren’t any different from our face-to-face sessions. She used Zoom and Google Meet to present her slides. She also recorded some of the lessons so that we could watch it at our own time. It made it possible for those who could not go online to follow her lessons.

Our education system couldn’t adapt quick enough

On the other hand, the other teacher’s online classes were hard to follow. One of the reasons was he used a phone to capture his live teaching which was being executed on a piece of paper. The video quality was so low that I couldn’t concentrate on what he was talking about. After a few lessons, I stopped attending his lessons as I could not follow the lessons. Everything sounded so disjointed. I felt the time might be better used to learn on my own.

As for the rest of my teachers, some posted exercises in the Google Classroom. Others shared YouTube videos with us which I thought were not relevant. And some did nothing except create their Google Classrooms which basically remained empty. So, from March to June only two of my teachers carried out online lessons. When I realized that I couldn’t depend on my teachers, I took charge of my own learning.

I took charge of my own learning

I turned to Khan Academy. I subscribed to online pre-recorded lessons and also watched YouTube videos which I picked based on the topics that I needed to learn. This journey taught me a lot. But one thing for sure was this. I understood many topics better. Many of the topics taught were better quality than what I would get from school.

The reopening of school

School finally reopened on 23rd of June. When I went back to school, I found out that most of my friends were not making any or little progress in most subjects except for those who went for tuitions. However, my friends told me that only a few tuition teachers had started online lessons, mostly the younger ones.

Going back to face-to-face class, I realised that those teachers whom I previously thought were good, were not explaining things very well. I could see for the first time that they were not making basic concepts clear. I could even identify their errors. I attribute this to the deep learning that had taken place through all those sessions which I had to struggle through on my own.

Read also: What after SPM?

Eventually, I started to feel that school was mostly a waste of time because I could learn more effectively from the Internet. The months when I had so little instruction from school made me realise that actually I can learn most of the school syllabus on my own from the Internet. Some of my friends felt the same way but they relied on their tuitions. They go to school because it is compulsory to do so.

Lessons learned

In short, one year of “on-and-off” school made me realise a few things. Some of my teachers did not really put effort into teaching because they feel most of their students go for tuitions. But that has always been an open secret. However, I feel that is not fair because students like me don’t go for tuition. We depend on the school teachers. That is why we go to school. One of my teachers didn’t even finish the syllabus before I sat for SPM.

1. Help yourself when no one helps you, and find support

My thoughts on this whole experience. It is not that I am super smart or anything like that. I had no choice but to struggle and find my own way. I am told that not all students can do that. I think I am inclined to agree. I am more fortunate than many because I have a supportive mom, who believes that I can do it. I also have her friend who constantly motivated me and gave guidance as to where and how to find my own way. Not everyone can have that. Hence, I think it is important that teachers do what they have been tasked to do, which is to teach (properly).

2. Help is nearer than you think

I am also lucky that help is readily available these days. There are many websites and applications we can learn from and many are free of charge. Also, I have learned that school is not necessary for those who are independent and have solid basic skills like a good mastery of language, etc. I thank my primary school teachers for laying those foundations in me. I now can see too that learning online can be a very positive experience because we can go on at our own pace and learn more. Deep learning takes place more often.

Final thoughts

I have spent a total of 11 years in school. It is with a tinge of sadness that I find school to be a waste of time in my last year. It is not that I think teachers are not necessary. I think good teachers are important. Good teachers can help us see beyond our limited world view. They motivate and inculcate values together with their lessons. They build character along with that too. I think I didn’t get much of that from school in my last year or my secondary years.

For this MCO, perhaps the teachers were not able to handle going online. However, the fact that my friends and I went for a few months with most of the classes disappearing into the digital network also points towards something that does not augur well for our schools. What’s the point of going to school where most teachers are not as good as tuition teachers and not really doing their job? It’s better for students to stop school and go for tuitions by the best teachers then.

– A 2020 SPM graduate

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