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With UPSR scrapped, rural schools need better facilities

Academic warns that the rural-urban education gap may widen.

7/5/2021 4:33:00 AM

Academic warns that the rural-urban education gap may widen. FMTNews OrangAsli RuralSchool UPSR

Academic warns that the rural-urban education gap may widen.

Pupils in an Orang Asli school. (Bernama pic)PETALING JAYA: An academic has called for improved facilities in rural schools to enable effective school-based assessments now that UPSR has been abolished.Poverty expert Fatimah Kari of Universiti Malaya’s Centre for Civilisational Dialogue said there would otherwise be a risk that the rural-urban education will widen.

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She said rural schools would continue to lag behind if no efforts were made to improve their infrastructure, the quality of their teachers and their internet capabilities and other learning resources.“Abolishing UPSR without providing all of the above will widen the gap,” she told FMT.

“Poverty and deprivation, especially of nutrition, will continue to influence their school attendance and achievements and will increase dropout rates, especially among indigenous groups in the peninsula and minority ethnic groups in Sabah and Sarawak.”

Mastra Irfa Nasrun, a teacher at an Orang Asli school in Johor, agreed. She said it was crucial to improve internet facilities so rural and Orang Asli children would not be left behind.“We need better access and we need high-speed internet. We want children to get used to apps and other technological advancements.”

Mastra, who has been teaching children from the Jakun tribe for the past three years, said she wanted rural students to be exposed to skills and knowledge available to their urban counterparts. Improved internet facilities were, therefore, non-negotiable.

She welcomed the abolition of UPSR, saying exam-oriented schooling did not work well with Orang Asli children. According to her, these children have inherited from their communities their own skills, talents and learning styles.“UPSR definitely did not help them to compete,”she said.

“We know UPSR questions are standardised. The Orang Asli children knew they had to compete with those in urban areas. This put them under a lot of pressure.”Mastra said the scrapping of the UPSR would encourage holistic learning. “The focus will not be confined to academic subjects alone.”

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However, she said there was a need for an effective mechanism to evaluate students so Orang Asli children would be able to compete nationally.Zuwati Hasim, a lecturer at Universiti Malaya’s education faculty, told FMT teacher workload might be the main hurdle in carrying out assessments that are school-based or class-based.

She said the shift from UPSR to school and class evaluations must be planned properly so teachers would not be burdened by paperwork, unnecessary data storing or administrative tasks.Addressing the question of whether a large number of students in a classroom would make it difficult to carry out school-based or class-based assessments, she said: “This should not be the main issue if training is given on classroom and assessment management.”

Zuwati said there was no need for a teacher to give feedback to individual students all the time.She called for a redesign of the school syllabus to ensure that students would fully understand their lessons and reach meaningful learning objectives.“We need to ensure that the subject contents are suitable for their age and level,” she said.

Education minister Radzi Jidin said last week the decision to do away with the UPSR was made after consultation with school principals, teachers, parents, students and other parties.The USPR was introduced in 1988 and the idea to abolish it was mooted in 2010 by then education minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

Read more: Free Malaysia Today »

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