[This is a sponsored article with MITI.]
When the schools were ordered to shut down back in March when the Movement Control Order (MCO) was announced to curb the rise of COVID-19 cases, Malaysian teachers had to innovate and to transition their classes online.
One common struggle was capturing the attention of their students online.
This proved to be a mountain to climb, doubly so for Ratha Nadaraj, the Head Teacher at The Learning Connection, a school for children with special needs. It took her team weeks to craft a proper digital lesson plan, while dealing with the lack of online teaching materials.
The Challenge Brought By The Nature Of Their Work
Children with special needs often require extra attention and most of them respond better to specialised and personalised teaching. Of course, they’ll need the right support from family members too. Because of this, Ratha had to come up with unique ways to interact with the children individually, digitally.
“The impact on the teachers was great as we had to create programmes to interact with our students. Since the change happened abruptly, the resources in school were not available. We also had to figure out how to engage the special needs kids via the computer,” said Ratha.
“Not all of them are in the same autism spectrum disorder, so our approach had to be different.”
The team then thought to devise theme-based lessons with plenty of different activities to capture the children’s attention. Even with the lessons drawn up, getting the students on board was a different challenge.
Ratha discovered that some students were comfortable using devices but others had trouble following instructions. The students were finding it difficult to either listen or respond to the teacher’s questions.
“This is where the saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ comes into play. We needed the parents, grandparents and siblings to help us with their special needs children.”
While some family members were able to lend a hand, not many had that luxury. Some of those in the B40 group and single parents were unable to assist due to various reasons.
Achieving A Balance Despite Adversity
Ratha said one of the more popular lessons was ‘an excursion to Kuala Lumpur’ where a teacher took her students on an interactive tour of the city while playing slides of landmarks with sounds.
She believes it got a good response from the students because they recognised the landmarks. “We even came up with some exercise programmes like yoga.”
Ratha’s team managed to pivot, progress and innovate the way they offer their classes to special needs children. This showcased the capability of Malaysians in tackling adversity, which is in-line with the theme of this year’s Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, which was hosted by Malaysia.
Malaysia also made its mark as the first country to host APEC virtually, the first time in APEC history.
APEC is a yearly forum where member economies gather and discuss ways to improve trade and economic issues. But their main goal is to create greater prosperity for the people with a balanced, inclusive, sustainable, innovative and secure growth through economic acceleration, with a focus on the Asia Pacific region.
With COVID-19 as one of the key highlights for this year’s forum, the member economies discussed ways to cushion the impact of the pandemic.
Note: In APEC, member economies meant APEC members which include Singapore, China, Vietnam, the USA, Chile and 16 other countries.
For Ratha however, despite the good results they had with online classes, she believes it is no substitute for in-person interaction as children with special needs have different moods and behaviours.
“We have to soldier on in this new normal. The kids need us. I hope and pray we will be able to return to schools next year as children are deprived of the classroom experience,” said Ratha.
- For more info on The Learning Connection, click here.
- For more info on APEC 2020, click here.
- Read up on what we’ve written about APEC here.
Featured Image Credit: The Learning Connection