COVID-19 Op-ed

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on one’s enjoyment of the right to education

Dr. Mariam OthmanDeputy Director (R & D)SEAMEO RECSAMJalan Sultan Azlan Shah11700 Gelugor, Penang, Malaysia

Malaysia first bout with Covid-19  happened on 25 January 2020, when three Chinese tourists entering Johor Bahru from Singapore on January 23 were detected with the virus (New Sarawak Tribune, March 17, 2020).When the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Covid-19 a pandemic on 11 March 2020, the Malaysian government announced Movement Control Order (MCO) on 18  – 31 March 2020.  This means no gatherings including closing of schools with the exception of essential services such as food, health, security, telecommunications, finance, petrol stations, and transport.  However, the MCO has eventually been extended to 14th April 2020, due to rising of positive cases to 1,796 and 19 deaths on 25th March 2020. (National CPRC, MOH, 2020)Initially, schools in Malaysia were closed for a week from 14 to 22 March 2020.  However, in compliance with MCO, closure of schools were initially extended to 31st March 2020 and later to 14th April 2020 following the second phase of MCO.  Nevertheless, The Ministry of Education (MOE) had made an early decision to postpone all schools and extra-curricular activities in March 2020 (MOE Malaysia, 2020a).The Covid-19 pandemic affected school pupils in many ways especially on classroom teaching and learning. No one nor system came prepared for this health crisis and its effects on the educational system. Although, online education are available and made accessible to many students, it is still compulsory for pupils to attend schools especially primary schools. Students and parents still have to learn the ropes of “studying from home” through online technology.Nevertheless, MOE developed and promoted e-learning platforms for teachers and pupils so that teaching and learning could continue.   Some of the e-learning platforms websites provided by MOE include, and (MOE Malaysia, 2020b).All these measures are supposed to support teachers and to ensure that no pupil left behind.The Covid-19 also affected the postponement of public examinations this year especially for pupils taking examinations as a criteria to further studies or basis of job qualification, such as Malaysian Education Certificate (SPM) for Form Five and Malaysian Higher School Certificate (STPM) for Form Six pupils. MOE has taken early precautions in by postponing the 2020 public examination calendar from October to November for SPM. Meanwhile, STPM will be postponed from May to December 2020 to November to March 2021 (MOE, 2020d).The Director General of Ministry of Health Malaysia advised that no mass gatherings after the second phase of MCO will take place (Malay Mail, 2020).  Thus, the rescheduling of the pertinent examinations is on the right track provided the MCO will not be extended.  However, MOE should think of other strategies in case this national policy continues on.One suggested strategy is to develop an alternative assessment tool in lieu of SPM and STPM. Technology should be maximised at this point and make it more accessible to test takers.Malaysia is well-prepared in terms of providing quality education needs to its citizens during this health crisis.  However, there is still room for improvements and the public could contribute constructive ideas as requested by MOE through their official Facebook and cooperate with the government during this dire needs.  In addition, the government through smart partnership with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), humanitarian agencies and related embassies should further plan and develop strategies to cater marginalized children such as out of school children including non-citizens.References:

  1. “Chronology of COVID-19 in Malaysia”. New Sarawak Tribune (2020) cited from Bernama 17 March 2020. Retrieved from on 7 April 2020.
  2. National CPRC, Ministry Of Health Malaysia (2020). “Jumlah Kes dan Kematian Terkini Covid-19 Malaysia pada 25 Mac 2020”. Retrieved from National CPRC, Ministry Of Health Malaysia on 30 March 2020.
  3. MOE Malaysia (2020a). “Kenyataan Media: Penangguhan Program Sukan Dan Aktiviti Kokurikulum Berikutan Penularan Jangkitan Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19)”. Retrieved from on 7 April 2020.
  4. MOE Malaysia (2020b). “Kenyataan Media: Pelaksanaan Pengajaran Dan Pembelajaran Berikutan Perlanjutan Tempoh Perintah Kawalan Pergerakan”. Retrieved from on 7 April 2020.
  5. MOE Malaysia (2020c). “SUSUNAN RANCANGAN TV PENDIDIKAN DI TV OKEY RTM” Retrieved from on 7 April 2020.
  6. “Interactive learning”. The Star (2011). Retrieved from on 7 April 2020.
  7. MOE Malaysia (2020d). “Kenyataan Media: Penjadualan Semula Peperiksaan Bawah Kendalian Kpm Berikutan Perintah Kawalan Pergerakan Disebabkan Penularan Jangkitan Covid-19”. Retrieved from on 7 April 2020.
  8. “Get used to no mass gatherings in next six months, Health D-G tells Malaysians”. Retrieved from on 7 April 2020.


About the author