In response to the current pandemic situation, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) outlined nine ideas for public transformation to advance the future education system1. These actions require all stakeholders to participate and play their roles as proactive members. In this article, we interviewed Professor Dr. Saedah Binti Siraj, a Professor at the Faculty of Human Development, Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) to share about the direction of the Malaysian national educational plan from her point of view. Prof. Saedah obtained her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Pittsburgh in 1990.
Education During The Unprecedented COVID-19 Era
Following the current global trend, the Malaysian education system is relying on a home-based schooling system where teachers and students are communicating through online platforms without physical contact. For a country with various socioeconomic backgrounds, the implementation of this system is relatively difficult due to the expensive devices required and inaccessibility to the internet connection in some rural areas. According to Prof. Saedah, parents are concerned for their children’s mental health and emotion due to lockdown and continuous online classes. To tackle these issues, several alternatives have been proposed by the Ministry of Education (MOE) including small onsite classes for children at the selected community center, offline video and audio materials, Didik TV, and the establishment of local academic support teams (AST).
Education Landscape: What’s Next?
For the long-term solution, MOE is consistently improving the national education plan. The focus is to be ready to face the possibility of the post-pandemic situation, based on statistical probability data collected throughout the years. Prof. Saedah mentioned that “Malaysia is not fully equipped to face a big leap especially in the aspect of mental and emotional capacities of the people. The direction of the Malaysian education system in the near future is unpredictable and requires years of planning to develop a systematic yet robust implementation”. She added that we need to immediately deploy projection studies to look into the three phases of the pandemic; preparation phase, peak incidence phase, and return to normality phase. The information on how the people respond to these phases is crucial in carving a proper pathway in the national plan, especially for the “return to normality” phase.
Inter-Ministerial Collaboration in Malaysian Education Ecosystem
The key player for a successful National Education Plan resides on the decision-maker, namely the MOE. A synergistic approach between different ministerial workforces will be crucial. In addition, regardless of the area of expertise, NGOs and private companies will be valuable assets for the progress of the national education system. “International cross-pollination will be our paramount effort to determine gaps between our national education plan and the world’s curricula which eventually will be our ultimate education goal,” she mentioned. Lastly, Prof. Saedah emphasized that we must foresee the crucial factor of psychological effects on children because they are our biggest stakeholders in this matter.
1International Commission on the Futures of Education. 2020. Education in a post-COVID world: Nine ideas for public action. Paris, UNESCO.