(This is a sponsored article with MITI.)
When schools had to close in March when the Movement Control Order (MCO) was announced to curb the surge in COVID-19 cases, Malaysian teachers had to innovate and switch classes online.
A common struggle has been to get their students' attention online.
For Ratha Nadaraj, the headmistress of The Learning Connection, a school for children with special needs, this was a mountain to climb. It took her team weeks to create a proper digital lesson plan while addressing the shortage of online classroom materials.
The challenge that the nature of their work brings with it
Children with special needs often need special attention, and most of them are more responsive to specialized and personalized teaching. Of course, they also need the right support from family members. For this reason, Ratha had to find unique ways to interact with the children individually and digitally.
Ratha Nadaraj, one of the principals at The Learning Connection / Image Credit: The Learning Connection
“The impact on teachers was big as we had to create programs to interact with our students. Because the change was abrupt, the school's resources were not available. We also had to figure out how to address the children with special needs through the computer, ”said Ratha.
"Not all of them have the same autism spectrum disorder, so our approach had to be different."
The team then considered developing theme-based lessons with a wide variety of activities to grab the children's attention. Despite the lessons, getting the students on board was another challenge.
Ratha noted that some students were familiar with equipment, but others had problems following the instructions. Students found it difficult to listen or answer teacher's questions.
“This is where the saying 'It takes a village to raise a child' comes into play. We needed parents, grandparents, and siblings to help us with their children with special needs. "
While some family members could lend a hand, not many enjoyed the luxuries. Some members of the B40 group and single parents were unable to help for various reasons.
Achieve balance despite adversity
Ratha said one of the most popular lessons was "a trip to Kuala Lumpur," where a teacher took her students on an interactive city tour while playing slides of landmarks with sounds.
She believes the students got a good response for recognizing the landmarks. "We even came up with some exercise programs like yoga."
The teachers having a zoom call after their sports day / Image Credit: The Learning Connection
The Ratha team has managed to rotate, develop and innovate the way they offer their courses for children with special needs. This demonstrated the ability of Malaysians to cope with adversity, which is in line with the theme of this year's Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum hosted by Malaysia.
Malaysia was also the first country in APEC history to make a name for itself for the first time in APEC history.
APEC is an annual forum where member countries gather and discuss ways to improve trade and economic issues. However, its main goal is to create more prosperity for people with balanced, inclusive, sustainable, innovative and safe growth through economic acceleration, with an emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region.
With COVID-19 as one of the most important highlights of this year's forum, the member countries discussed ways to cushion the effects of the pandemic.
This year Malaysia successfully published the APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040 and 2020 statement in Kuala Lumpur to show the way for the region.
Note: In APEC, member economies meant APEC members, which includes Singapore, China, Vietnam, the United States, Chile, and 16 other countries.
However, for Ratha, despite the good results they have had with online courses, it is not a substitute for face-to-face interaction as children with special needs have different moods and behaviors.
“We have to carry on in this new normal. The children need us. I hope and pray that we can go back to school next year because the children will be deprived of their teaching experience, ”said Ratha.
- For more information on The Learning Connection, see Here.
- For more information on APEC 2020, please visit Here.
- Read what we wrote about APEC Here.
Selected image source: The learning connection