Economics the deciding factor?
Tarikh : 02 June 2020
Dilaporkan Oleh : Roslan Bin Rusly
Kategori : News
By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak - -
I AM still struggling to understand what is "face-to-face" (F2F) or being "in-person" concept is all about given the varying available context amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
For instance, F2F differences in commercial spaces like shopping malls or supermarkets in comparison to that of educational settings like schools and universities or other knowledge-based sites such as museums, botanical gardens, zoos and so on.
This is in view of the disparities observed between them. The former seems to be enjoying a more flexible approach with lots of political support and justifications from the related authorities, while this is not the case so far for the rest, and they remain relatively closed.
Casual observation shows that there is tremendous mingling among the public in the commercial centres for a number of weeks now, whereas the academic institutions are almost deserted in terms of learning activities, and few seem to care about it.
This is a global phenomenon. In the US, the entire country witnessed the reopening of the economic activities at different pace. In some, social spaces like beaches are also open to the public.
The opposite can be said for schools and institutions of higher education (IHEs), where the debates to reopen are still raging on.
The UK Telegraph last week (May 30) is still coming up with headlines like: "When will universities reopen in the UK?" with the subtext, "Universities operate separately from schools and have no fixed dates for a return to campus; some have said lectures will be online-only."
So is the case for Malaysia except that there is not much debate being heard from those concerned — administration, and staff. Why?
More baffling is why is the commercial counterpart seen to be more proactive or pushy, despite warnings to be cautious on reopening too soon. Plus, they are minimally supervised or controlled in terms of movement and mobility, distancing and even purposes?
Some took the opportunity to run "real" errands, while others are just there for the fun of it.
Contrast this to schools and IHEs, where staff and students are present for a specific purpose, that is, to teach and learn F2F.
The ambiance is relatively safer and better managed due to the formalised setting. But all these does not seem to carry weight in the decision-making process. To justify this, some have argued that the younger children are less disciplined; yet they cannot be worse than those at the shopping malls, where some are loitering aimlessly on their own!
Even sharper contrast is the case for schoolgoing children whose environment is governed by rigid rules and regulations aligned to the specific learning goals. The ecosystem is well regulated from the lowest levels upwards.
Succinctly, all forms of instructions are better enforced in comparison to the commercial places.
Ironically, this is still not enough because the key factors are more directed to economics, rather than education per se. That is, F2F can be made more "acceptable" when it generates economic benefits despite warning from the health and scientific experts!
Lest we forget, education too cannot function in an economic vacuum.
By delaying the (re)opening of educational institutions, especially universities, they are gradually being crippled financially. Some are even pushed to the brink of bankruptcy — financially and academically.
This is because students will be reluctant to register due to the policy uncertainties, let alone in cases where they are demanding refunds to compensate for the period delayed.
What with other extra-budgetary expenses focused on tightened security and heightened medical protocols due to Covid-19, the financial oversight is just too much to bear. Are these being taken into consideration in the decisions to procrastinate in (re)opening F2F education?
The question that begs for urgent answers is "Why is the education sector being treated differently from commercial ones?" After all, education is also under threat commercially speaking; worse because it has intellectual consequences that is invaluable to nation-building.
Students may lose interest and fall into the group of those who are already left behind, whereas education is intended to do just the opposite as a leveller of society.
All these have undue hidden cost to the psyche of the country where education is concerned.
There must be some rational and evidence-based information to cite in arriving at such critical decisions and policy-orientation.
Moving forward, we need to hear them out now!
The writer, an NST columnist for more than 20 years, is International Islamic University Malaysia rector
Source : https://www.nst.com.my/opinion...