KUALA LUMPUR: The Education Ministry wants schools to ensure that lull periods, usually abundant during major examinations, are put to good use.
The school administration must ensure that in planning the full school term, the days between major examinations — especially towards year-end, when absenteeism is high — are filled with lessons and activities to benefit students.
The New Straits Times had alerted Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan to the trend, where students in their “honeymoon year” stay away from classes when national examinations are ongoing.
The NST was told by parents that their children said there was no point in attending school, as teachers had nothing planned for them and some were not around because they were invigilating examinations.
The parents expressed hope that lessons and activities could be conducted, as the lack thereof could promote truancy.
Kamalanathan agreed to the NST’s invitation to join this reporter in a visit to a secondary school to assess the trend.
The administration of SMK Putra Perdana in Puchong said attendance during the ongoing Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examinations was low and had been so for years.
However, it attributed last week’s especially low attendance to the Deepavali celebrations.
Many classrooms were quiet and only several were occupied.
“Teachers who are not invigilating exams continue conducting lessons, but many students who have sat for the final exams are absent, as it is the first day of school after the Deepavali holiday and tomorrow (Saturday) is the weekend.
“Usually, attendance is at 85 per cent or higher, but in between major exams, it dips,” said the administrator.
Kamalanathan said schools would be told that the ministry expected them to continue with lessons between major examinations to prepare students for the following year.
“If there’s inactivity at school after the final exams, something is wrong.
“If parents want to register complaints on the matter, they can reach out to the ministry and we will investigate,” he said, adding that the ministry discouraged absenteeism during lull periods, as it could affect students when they tried to secure jobs or scholarships.
“Good attendance reflects discipline and a poor record can be a major disadvantage during assessments or interviews in the students’ future.
“There is always the chance of interviewers associating absenteeism with the lack of discipline.”
Working parents who raised the issue with the NST said the trend could encourage truancy, as mischievous students could lead their parents into thinking that they were in school when they were not, adding that schools might not consult parents about the absenteeism issue.
“It is normal for teachers to be less strict during lull periods and students may feel comfortable enough to mingle with teachers.
“Learning needs to be fun, and teachers need to interact with students to get them to attend school and continue with the learning process,” said Kamalanathan.
The ministry, he said, was always open to ideas to make learning during lull periods more appealing to students.
He said extracurricular activities should be carried out, as students should not be under the impression that there was nothing for them to do in school, especially after the examinations.
He told schools that had completed the year’s syllabus to take advantage of the period after examinations by closely engaging with students.
This, he said, was aside from teachers’ responsibility to ensure that the entire syllabus was covered in the school term’s 190 days.
“I have never seen a lazy teacher. There are 400,000 teachers nationwide and 99 per cent are extraordinarily dedicated to educating students.
“According to the policy, teachers are responsible for finishing the syllabus to ensure that when students return the following year, they have been taught everything necessary in the previous year.”
On schools’ lack of resources to organise activities after the final examinations, Kamalanathan said parent-teacher associations (PTAs) could work with the school administration to ensure students continued to attend school.
“PTAs can play a role in engaging with schools to ensure there is continuity in students’ development and learning.
“There have been reports of the poor relationship between PTAs and schools, and we need to address the issue.”
He said schools in certain districts were especially busy after the final examinations, as they had yet to complete the syllabus because of closure due to the haze.
“School days were limited this year because of the haze crisis, so some schools are using the lull period to finish the syllabus.”-nst