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Urban Poor Children Struggling To Keep Up With Classes

Education institutions in Malaysia had to juggle between the ever changing landscape of pandemic. The battle between physical and online classes remains at a tug of war stance as the Ministry of Education weighs between students’ health and safety and their capacity to keep up with the syllabus.

The sudden move to online learning in March 2020 was a drastic change for both teachers and students. Not everyone was able to transition to e-learning, leaving countless students left to gamble with internet connections and availability of electronic devices, while teachers had to work hard to keep their students’ attentive and engaged throughout.  

Source: Malaysian Reserve

A year into the pandemic, most parents (82.5%) prefer their children return to physical school, primarily those in the urban poor demographic. Concerned parents disclosed that their children were faced with multiple challenges with e-learning.

The main challenges were that children were unable to concentrate fully on their studies as their homes did not have the space designated for learning (49%) and that parents were unable to supervise their children’s education (43%)[1]

Other challenges faced by these students include the lack of electronic devices (23%), unstable internet connection (22%) and the decreased interest in studying (14%)[1]

Most of the children in urban poor households were using only mobile phones for online learning (88%). This included completion of homework, attending classes, and any examinations or quizzes. Only 29% were using laptops[1]

Source: Free Malaysia Today

Online learning is good, but nothing beats attending schools. It is hard to share one phone between three children, that all study… It is difficult. Ms F, 38-year-old [1]

Prema Thiyagu, the co-founder of Hope Selangor, a charitable society, agrees that online learning may not be the best learning option for children in low-income households. She has been distributing food packets to PPRs (People’s Housing Project) and other low-cost housing projects in the Klang Valley area and her first-hand account of children coping with online education is very evident – they indeed are struggling[2].

They [the children] need an internet connection and a device. These families can’t afford to buy laptops or smartphones for all their children, and most times, they just share one. They can’t use a prepaid connection. They need a stable connection as they need to use applications such as Google Meet and Google Classroom, so they need WiFi. – Prema Thiyagu, co-founder of Hope Selangor[2]

At the end of the day, a child’s education is one of the most important keys to unlocking their future potential. Yet, the number of children losing interest in studying completely has become dangerously high. 

Source: The Star

61% of households agreed that the children were losing interest, 78% were simply unable to stay focused[1]. These numbers are even higher for female-led households with 65% of children losing interest, and 83% unable to focus[1].

While other alternatives such as EduTV are utilised, four out of ten households found it difficult to understand and keep up. 

Currently, the students are slowly adapting. Making the most out of the situation that is always changing. Their livelihoods and interests are extremely important and need to be catered to. Malaysia’s education system takes pride in its ability to make sure “No one is left behind”. Those exact morals should be exercised in these times of crisis. 

Explore Our Sources:

  1. UNICEF. (2021). Families on the Edge: Issue 4: Two-Steps Forward, One Step Back: The New Normal for Malaysia’s Urban Poor? Link. 
  2. Free Malaysia Today. (2021). For poor families, online learning is a drag. Link.

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