Youth: Open Space #4 : Access and The Right to Education
The pandemic has impacted education a lot, not only in Southeast Asia but also globally. Education is now moving to virtual spaces and teaching and learning activities are facilitated through the internet while it is apparent that ICT is not equally developed in Southeast Asian countries. Inequality in education is worsened, and it brings to fore the reality that access and the right to education in the region is very alarming.
On the 26th of July (Sunday), ASEAN Youth Forum conducted the Youth: Open Space for youth to discuss access and the right to education during the coronavirus pandemic and their situation in Southeast Asia. Over 80 youth in Southeast Asia attended the session. The participating youth are coming from 9 countries, which are Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, The Philippines, Timor Leste, and Vietnam.
It was an entirely youth-led discussion, co-hosted by Nazurah from Brunei Darussalam, Pirun from Cambodia, Alynna Carlos from The Philippines, and Esther from Malaysia.
Majority of youth are doing online / distance learning and they face challenges, including access to Internet, mental health, and digital literacy. Youth recommend to prioritize the increasing availability to ICT infrastructure, especially in remote areas.
Here are some highlights from the session
In Myanmar, there is a region which has no electricity. The university students cannot have online education system. I don’t hear any news about that region.
Yin Nyien (Myanmar)
About online education, for me, I am a university student currently studying medicine, one of the disadvantages of online education is for a medical student very hard for us to study about clinical skills in treating patients etc. which has to be done in lab, we now have no access to lab in our schools. Hard for us to learn on this via online meeting via zoom or other platform. I am worried about the quality that student should have is decreasing due to this.
I am a second year student in university. Everyone in my classes has taken online classes. Their parents, in my case, my dad, his salary was decreased by his employer, his salary is barely enough for us in a month, I have siblings who is also studying. Aside online classes, I read that in basic education it is understandable not all students have online classes so they distribute modules. Teachers are not hands on in teaching students. This is alarming. Some parents who cannot read. Distributing modules to parents to teach their children is also challenging. On gap year, some students help their parents working i.e. online selling, freelancing.
Celestil (The Philippines)
Access to education means interaction with teachers to learn better, to gain information better. I have gone through online classes and not that effective compare to learning in schools. It is better that the schools open and maintain social distancing and good hygiene.
Webinars is everywhere so I think it is not a problem for the internet access but the problem is how to use the technology especially our teacher is in their 30s-40s. Fortunately so many online course is free so we can get more information.
Another thing that not all students have resources in learning and one issue here in the Philippines is really a weak internet connection.
Kristine (The Philippines)
I am a teacher assistant in University at Timor Leste for major Language and educational policy. During the pandemic we have had to encounter the problem as well, dealing with the student and engaging for online learning. In our case, we have a couple of problems. One of them is about internet access not only affecting education for E-Learning systems, because our internet connection is not working properly. When we have a problem like that, normally we call them straight away from the phone and email them when they are facing the problem that they can not make it and look for the solution. Normally we talk to the IT department to follow up the companies/ providers asking what is happening , why they are unable to access the internet.
Herculana (Timor Leste)
My solution would be the radio education basic education.
I think this could be a good idea to make sure the education still continues. Because recognizing that second wave, possible second wave coming up. And I think our government can do this to provide basic education access. And most of all, my suggestion is that the internet is still a necessity for middle income people, the government must look at these issues and find a better solution.
We are also having problems related to exams. Currently I am attending my 1st year in Technological University. I just only have to finish one subject for the first semester exam, and also the university students not enough finished their first semester. And in our country we have a matriculation exam, which is the exam that will decide the university you can go to. But, this year the student who took that exam still doesn't have the result because of the pandemic and another issue is most areas in Myanmar regions do not have the internet access at all, and electricity. Like in my town the electricity once closed off and this is really inconvenient because during this pandemic I have to attend online classes and this is not OK. Some students who have to learn through electricity thing, like doctor or engineering have to canceled because of the pandemic
The Government also declared that some schools like modern schools, boarding schools are not allowed to open. In some rural areas, some students must stay at monasteries or churches and come to government schools from this, as government didn’t allow it to open.
The government really wants to push the online classes this august despite being so unprepared esp. in the Covid response, lots of students and families that can’t afford online classes and don’t have the privilege to actually learn sustainably with online classes. We really did not have any proper solutions to face covid-19, no mass testing.
Alaine (The Philippines)
Online education cannot help all the students but the authorities especially ministry of education provides education through TV and Facebook to help students to watch to improve their ability and skills in what they are going to learn.
Romario (Timor Leste)
Online education in Timor Leste is a bit lacking, not as sufficient as learning directly but we’re learning from TV, I would prefer online classes because they give us exact subject that we are studying because it is specific, while TV is more general.
Aidden (Timor Leste)
I live in Borneo. It is better if schools are reopening. We have a survey that says only 30 percent of students in Malaysia with have no internet, but it is an unfair comparison between the privileges and unprivileged. I agree on Tarra that it is better that school is reopening. Although we in Malaysia only have 36% of students who don't have the access to internet connection. In our early lockdown, so many rural areas students get into news and articles just because they climbed up tree, camp in the forest just to get a proper and stable internet connection. It is so saddening to see that the rural areas in Borneo and the urban areas in peninsular Malaysia have this big gap in development and infrastructure. As for urban areas students that are having online learning, they mostly scared and nervous because 88% students say that they mostly hate it because of unclear and unstable instructions from the teacher. But our government is quite adaptive and really good in responding the Covid-19 pandemic.
I am working as a Junior lecturer as well at Phnom Penh at University for History. In order to make it inclusive or include as many students I can, so far I provide an online lecturer to my student, but for those who can not get access or slow internet, I uploaded it on Youtube. So, they can access whenever they are available like when they go to the coffee shop or place that has internet access. And for those who still can not, I also uploaded it on google drive and allow them to gain access. There are also online activities for them to conduct for public class and before the class.
Our condition is a little bit different with in Jakarta because in Bali wes till have place that can not have a good signal like in the mountain area., and some children cannot do the online learning because of the lack of the signal and also the other condition is not all of our students have the tools to learn online because laptop or smartphone for children who is living in the mountain area are very expensive things so they cannot afford it. So sad to see that our children are trying so hard to learn online even though the government already broadcast the material to learn at the National TV Station, but it's not enough for the children because they only have one hour a day. So the children gone have enough material for education. Our initiatives is now we ask people if they need laptop or smartphone to be distributed and tools to study but it also quite hard because people who have to use the phone they will use it for their sisters, nephew, even their neighbour. So it's quite a challenging time for us here in Bali especially to sponsor our students in mountain or remote areas because they do not have a signal for online learning even if they have the tools.
Currently Philippines are still implementing lockdown, and still forbid people to go out home, but regarding the economic, business, industries, slowly being opened up for like 30% allow back to go to work. But still facing numerous problem like the transportation. Public transportation in Philippines still suspended .Government now plan to push online classes by August. So for me personally, we experienced already online classes in the mid half of the semester. And that experience are really hard for us, since most of us surprise. From the faculty member of the students and policy department and government, the whole education not prepare for the online classes. So currently situation is lack of resources like laptop, tablet or phone and good or stable internet connection.
Carl (The Philippines)