Contribution from the Corporate Communications Division, Ministry of Education
The world has gone through a significant transformation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This has caused a shock to the global education system due to school closures, thus slowing progress towards achieving global development goals, especially those related to education. Disruptions to education systems without face-to-face sessions have already resulted in significant learning deficits and inequalities.
His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam highlighted during the 32nd Teachers’ Day celebration that With 15 weeks of school closure, students in the first wave experienced an average learning loss of more than six months. Without the intervention, the learning loss will have a long-term negative impact on student productivity and well-being.
While it is commendable that distance learning has been attempted, it has its own limitations. School closures have affected children’s well-being and development, in addition to their academic progress.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the reopening of schools has not been enough: students need to be supported and guided to help them catch up on missed lessons. The academy must help schools meet the enormous challenges ahead, because the future of an entire generation is at stake. Therefore, now is the time to act.
CHALLENGES SCHOOLS FACE AFTER THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Following the COVID-19 outbreak in the Sultanate, schools faced several challenges. Students and teachers faced potential learning deficits as online teaching and learning caused delays in work schedules or curriculum coverage.
Many teachers have found studying online at home to be less effective than face-to-face teaching, especially when understanding requires dialogue-based instruction and more so on topics that students find difficult.
With the return of face-to-face learning, the use of masks has also made teaching phonics and reading difficult for primary school students. Teachers also had to cover the entire curriculum in a short time without full attendance, as students were infected with the coronavirus.
For students with special needs, losing social interactions and changing routines, as well as having their sleeping and eating habits interrupted due to the pandemic, can be particularly hard on their development. All of the above can contribute to learning loss.
To protect teachers and students, they were required to follow standard operating procedures and maintain social distancing. The practical lessons took place in the afternoon or divided into small groups when possible. Large areas are used as learning spaces, including lecture halls, libraries, school halls and surau. However, this posed another logistical challenge for some school leaders, as not all schools have spacious spaces for their specialist rooms.
LEARNING RECOVERY PROGRAM
To address the loss of student learning and reduced learning gaps caused by school closures, the Ministry of Education (MoE) has launched a Learning Recovery Task Force.
Their objectives are to help schools develop learning recovery strategies in the short, medium and long term; collect, evaluate and exchange evaluation data; and establish monitoring and evaluation (M&E) tools. The expected outcomes are reduced learning gaps, improved learning outcomes, increased student attendance, effective use of assessment data, and teachers with the necessary knowledge and skills to administer the Learning Recovery Program.
Principal of Raja Isteri Girls’ High School, Tutty Hyrneeita binti Haji Abdul Latip, emphasized, “The Learning Recovery Program is essential to ensure that every student has the opportunity to reach their full potential.
“The teachers at the school put a lot of effort into completing the program using a balanced education that would not only resolve academic loss but also support the student holistically.
“A balanced education at school involves thinking about how best to provide the ideal learning environment for students to demonstrate their value to the institution by providing them with additional tuition.
“Furthermore, it is about giving students the opportunity to have discussions with their teachers and peers inside and outside the classroom, to work in groups and, finally, to ensure that by the time exam season arrives, students have learned at least 90% of what their teachers had planned for them to learn.
FOCUS ON DATA-DRIVEN CULTURE
The need to establish a data-driven culture in schools was repeatedly emphasized throughout the Learning Recovery Program workshop. Teachers are expected to use data to guide their decisions in a data-driven culture. Schools should form teams to collect and analyze various data so that students’ learning progress can be tracked and help avoid prolonged learning loss when schools reopen.
It is essential that the school leadership team and all teachers regularly assess and make pedagogical decisions about how to support students affected by school closures during the pandemic. These decisions will be translated into actions as important success criteria to ensure schools have recovered from learning loss.
A member of the Learning Recovery Task Force, Hajah Nor Zurina binti Haji Assim, said: “During the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers have attempted to deliver lessons via home learning as a substitute for face-to-face lessons. Managing, teaching and learning in these trying times has posed many challenges for teachers and school leaders.
“So when the school reopened, teachers were able to identify their students’ learning loss affected by the school closure by analyzing data from the Student Learning Survey conducted in May 2022.
“The next way forward is to reinforce the data-driven culture of schools by constantly monitoring students’ learning progress using multiple education data to help them get back on track.”
In support of MoE initiatives, schools have implemented strategic initiatives in their relaunch programme, consisting of strengthening the foundations of literacy and numeracy for primary level and re-teaching content-based learning for the secondary level.
Learning is also accelerated during program hours by modifying and integrating lessons as well as improving the pedagogy of differentiated teaching and learning. Using digital learning, such as blended and flipped classrooms, is another educational activity that can help teachers accelerate their students’ learning.
Some schools also emphasize growth mindset activities to promote and develop their students’ social-emotional learning.
As school leaders said, once data is collected, the information should be considered one of the most valuable resources, as it can be used to track student growth and identify areas where teachers’ lesson plans need to be improved. Industrial Revolution 4.0, also known as the digital age, forces society to adapt to working with data and information.
A holistic approach to school learning recovery is when school leaders interact with the school community and seek their cooperation to ensure the plan is understood. In addition, it is essential to regularly assess how well the program is working in practice.
The Learning Recovery Program illustrates how data, when put to good use, can be used to improve lesson plans, foster closer connections with students and teachers, and ultimately encourage better outcomes. . If schools are to remain adaptable, strategic, and able to meet the demands of contemporary education, they must learn to embrace a data-driven culture.
Data-driven decision making can help make choices more manageable by providing a framework to achieve this goal.
FUTURE OF EDUCATION IN BRUNEI
The introduction of the Learning Recovery Program and the emphasis on data-driven culture has helped schools improve incrementally and solve problems to create a better teaching and learning environment. The pandemic has also heightened the use of digital technology that can be integrated into learning approaches.