Friday, August 7

Crucial to prioritise internet coverage for all rural schools – Jo-Anna



KOTA KINABALU: The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the face of the education system.
 Looking at the statistics in 186 countries worldwide,   there are currently more than 1.2 billion children   affected by school closures due to the pandemic, said Jo-Anna Henley Rampas, Warisan Wirawati deputy chief said in a statement here yesterday.

“There has been a significant surge in the usage of the internet with education technology since the spread of the virus.

“This is a new path we’ve never trodden before and this generation is in fact opening a new road of techonological and digitalised transfiguration within all industries across the globe,” she said.
 However, the world population is estimated to be 7.58 billion and only 60% are online, she said.

“Hence, we can clearly draw the inference that the less digitally astute and affluent of a ménage they are, the further a student is left behind,” Jo-Anna added.

The biggest challenge in this new education and learning experience is the wide gap of internet and/or techonology access. And this issue has to be addressed thoroughly during this transcendent period.

This gap is also apparent across countries. For example, according to the OECD data, 95% of students in Switzerland, Norway, and Austria have a computer to use for their schoolwork, only 34% in Indonesia do.

“Rural Malaysia is still home to 7.3 million people. About 3.1 million of them reside in 46 remote districts in the peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak. In 2015, Sabah has the third highest rural community which stands at 43.9% of the Malaysian population after Kelantan at 53.3% and Pahang at 44.6%.

“We realise that Sabah faces the biggest challenge where some student are without reliable internet access and/or technology struggle to participate in digital learning.”

According to the Sabah’s Assistant Education Minister during her recent interview on Astro Awani, 70 percent of the students live in the rural and remote islands of Sabah do not have sufficient internet nor technology access which then subsequently impedes the online learning classes and they lose out to quality education.

“Most schools in affected areas are improvising to peservere on learning. However the standard of learning experience relies on the level and quality of digital access,” said Jo-Anna.

Tam, an Associate Dean of Corporate and Lifelong Learning and El-Azhar, a Senior Director, Strategic Communications and Market Development of Minerva Project, pioneers in educational transformation stated that this pandemic is seen as a favourable moment for us to ponder the skills students need such as informed decision making, creative problem solving, and most importantly adaptability.

Hence, Jo-Anna said for these skills to persist for all students, resilience must be brought into the education system.
 She said the swift mushrooming of this pandemic had validated the significance of building resilience in all sectors, that is, agriculture, tourism industries, businesses, education and even rapid technological change.

“Education is the backbone of developing states like Sabah.

“It is now more than ever we have to prioritise internet coverage and computer facilities to all rural schools in Malaysia. Unless the chasm in the techonology and education accessibility is narrowed, this socioeconomic equality will be further aggravated.

“Perhaps this imperative issue of education should be discussed had there been more than a one-day Parliament seating?” Jo-Anna concluded.