The chatter of a lost generation and being academically left behind as faced during the last 1½ years of pandemic and Online schooling interspersed with physical schooling was not that evident at Sri Bestari Private School Kuala Lumpur. The internal school-based assessments and exams as well as the SPM 2020 results together with the IGCSE results paint a very uplifting scenario.
Although the SPM 2020 was delayed by almost 3 months to February 2021, the results was overwhelming positive with students attaining 10As, 9As, 8As, 7As, 6As, 5As, 4As and so on. Some questioned the leniency of marking but in comparison to the students who also attempted the IGCSE exam a few months prior to SPM, the results achieved was very comparable. Two (2) Form 5 students who achieved straight 7A* in the IGCSE Exam had one of the students being awarded the Outstanding Cambridge Learners Award for Foreign Languages. Both students also achieved 9As in the SPM 2020.
Our internal assessments of students’ achievement throughout the period of Online classes and some physical schooling when it was allowed in 2020/2021 also depict remarkable academic achievements. Skills-sets, application of knowledge gained and understanding of theories and concepts was similar to that of a full physical schooling. This can be attributed to the diligence and focus in ensuring Online instruction was as effective as physical schooling by the team of very dedicated and committed teachers and administrators.
Class schedules were maintained for a full day, 5-days a week. Class projects, assignments, homework, quizzes and exams were carried out throughout. Science experiments and assignments were crafted to be home-based friendly where students and parents could utilise simple basic ingredients and apparatus available in almost every home or could easily be obtained from a grocery store. It sure took an immense amount of planning and improvising by the teachers to innovate and try things out never explored before.
There was of course a lure towards utilising the many educational apps and sites accessible at the click of a button on the Web but here at Sri Bestari Private School Kuala Lumpur, the good old fashion ‘hands-on’ approach was much preferred. Faculty members at the school had realised the decline in the ability to write among the younger generation due to the over reliance on touch screen and use of the keyboard. A simple aspect such as pencil grip is nowadays an issue faced by the young. Acknowledging that this growing trend cannot be easily reversed, the school ensures as many opportunities as possible for writing, colouring, drawing and hands-on activities when in the school as it is imperative that students develop a sound ability to write as assessments and examinations at tertiary levels are still traditionally paper based exams needing written answers. Therefore, teachers did not just rely on those online teaching aids or apps for convenience but crafted things themselves to meet the very specific learning outcomes for each and every lesson.
The STEM-Computer Science subject was particularly effective as experienced this 2021 when many students had purchased the STEM Kits and able to work on practical aspects of STEM-CS in the comfort of their home under the guidance of the teacher/instructor via Online instruction (ZOOM). The Robotic ECA program which is into its fourth year at the school very effectively introduced Micro:bit which is deemed the pocket size computer transforming the world with students having the basic tools to work at home taking instructions via Google Meet sessions. These aspects of IR4.0 is even more evident during this pandemic when AI, Data Analytics, Algorithms, Machine Learning, Coding, Programming and many more are affecting our lives in such a profound manner and students need to be exposed to it despite a pandemic or lockdown. The team of teachers, instructors and administrators had worked so very hard in ensuring materials reach the students at their homes and ensure teaching takes place albeit Online with opportunities for students to ask questions, explore things on their own and learn in a collective manner with peers via the Online platform. One aspect we learned from this whole Online Home-Based learning is the importance to allow students some space and time to interact among themselves as with physical schooling as often there is so much learning and discovery which could happen in such windows of opportunities. It does take a bit of skill on the teacher’s part in allowing for such avenues in an Online platform.
The school also realises that there are multiple means to connect with students and even leaving materials at the school guard post for collection and return of assignments for correction can be very effective and produce the desired results if all stakeholders to a child’s learning work hand-in-hand and this has been tested and proven to be a successful approach which compliments the other methods utilised. Being nimble and flexible in one’s approach to reach out to a diverse group of students with varied technological ready home environments is key to success of Online Home-Based Learning not learnt at teachers training but improvised in creative manners as they go along. The constant support and guidance by the Ministry of Education to explore and adopt creative approaches for Online instruction was a dawn of hope for the teaching community at Sri Bestari Private School Kuala Lumpur which spurred all on to do whatever it takes to rise above this pandemic and lockdown. It is imperative that we ensure the teaching and more important the learning is a huge success for our students despite this lockdown as advised by the eminent Professor Emeritus in Physics, Yves Quéré from France. Incidentally, the Sri Bestari Private School KL Science Centre is named after the renowned professor i.e. the Yves Quéré IBSE Pilot Centre in collaboration with the La Fondation La main à la pâte in Paris for their innovative approach to exploring the teaching of Science not only in France by around the world through Inquiry Based Science Education (IBSE). IBSE has taught us that exploring mother nature and Science is not confined to just one particular manner but through various methods.
In conclusion, throughout this COVID-19 pandemic we have to acknowledge the immense role teachers play in keeping students engaged in their studies and personal development. Their responsibility surpasses anything faced in the past from the training they had undergone. Some liken the current situation to being in a straightjacket but on the contrary the situation avails an unlimited opportune for exploration and innovativeness in teaching approaches as long as the end objective in nurturing students are achieved. Therefore, education today is akin to the common adage of ‘the skies the limit’ and all in the teaching profession must and can rise up to the occasion to continue to make that significant difference in moulding a young child’s mind and soul and it is surely doable.