The Malta Independent 3 August 2021, Tuesday

Most educators want to keep virtual schooling for students with long-term illness, survey shows

Tuesday, 15 June 2021, 15:12 Last update: about 3 months ago

The idea of virtual schools for students who have a long-term illness seems to have been a very positive experience among educators, with 93.3% of educators agreeing that it should be kept.

This emerged from a survey conducted by the Malta Union of Teachers (MUT). The survey is part of the new edition of the publication “Il-Ħsieb”.

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Following the reopening of schools in October 2020, a host of new practices were introduced as mitigation measures due to the pandemic.

The MUT has evaluated these practices, which were introduced in Kindergarten, Primary and Secondary schools, with the aim of understanding their impact and to be in a better situation to assess whether there are grounds to keep some of them in the post pandemic period.

The original intention by the education authorities was to implement the measures temporarily for the duration of this scholastic year 2020-2021, but a survey by the MUT shows that respondents think many of them should either be retained or kept with some changes to make them more effective and applicable to their situation.  

According to the survey (filled in by 328 educators) which was conducted between 29 April and 10 May 2021, many of the new practices were very popular with respondents.

The educators were asked whether schools should retain the request for medical certificates from students of all ages certifying they are fit for school following sickness. 85.1% of respondents would like to keep this in place, with only 9.6% wanting it to be kept with some changes and 5.3% who would like to discard it. Respondents said that there was less absenteeism due to this practice, and it led to less transmission of colds and other illnesses.

Another asked whether Teleskola recorded lessons should be kept as supplementary resources to students. 83.9% agreed with this and only 13.5% would like the idea to be discarded, while 2.6% would like it to be kept with some changes. “The general response was that this is a useful supplementary resource and that it was a lifesaver for many educators.”

Educators were also asked about the new practice of staggered arrival/dismissal of students, with 78.3% agreeing that it should be kept, 20.1% not agreeing and 1.6% agreeing but with some changes.  “Many stated that it was very important to keep it staggered as a standard procedure since it made the arrival and dismissal process more efficient, better managed and orderly. Stampeding and chaos at dismissal were avoided in this way.”

The new practice of online parents’ days is very popular as well, with 81.2% agreeing that it should be kept, 6% agreeing but with some changes and only 12.9% wanting it discarded as soon as the pandemic is over. “The overall comments received were quite positive, stating that it was very successful and prevented wasting time in queues. Many commented that it worked well for both educators and parents.” Still, some comments stated that physical meetings should still be available but should be requested in advance and if both parties agree.

The use of an online platform is also a practice that was deemed as positive, with 84.5% of respondents saying that it should be kept, 7.4% want it kept with some changes and only 8% stated that it should be discarded. “The idea of a workable platform was seen as a good and useful experience with many respondents, one stating that uploading notes and assignments on Teams is very convenient and students can keep track of what they might have missed when absent. It is also a very good means of communication between students, teachers and parents, and that all courses and meetings should be kept online.”

There were some practices which the majority believe should be discarded.

A question asked whether the new practice of recorded lessons for option subjects and a selection of other subjects instead of lessons in person should be kept or not. The majority of respondents, 68.8%, did not agree with it, while 26.8% agreed and 4.5% would like it to be kept with some changes. “Many respondents stated that lessons delivered in person are always the better option, and if this is not permitted due to the pandemic, then there should be online live lessons. Recorded lessons in this respect are the worst type and should be discarded as soon as the pandemic is over.”

“Other practices had mixed reactions, including home-class grouping instead of sets in Secondary schools, staggered breaks and online records of student attendance for all lessons in Secondary schools instead of online records once in the morning only. Educators also mentioned practices to be discarded once the pandemic is over, including the many Covid-19 restrictions, Peripatetic teachers doing replacements, bare classrooms and non-compulsory schooling.”

MUT President Marco Bonnici said that "educators are often incorrectly portrayed as opposing and hostile to all changes when this couldn’t be further from the truth. The results of survey like this one show, in effect, that educators are open to changes if these are reasonable and right within their school’s circumstances and if educators are involved in these decisions."  

The MUT will be analysing the results in more detail and the outcomes of this survey shall assist the union to formulate its respective positions for prospective discussions with the Ministry for Education.

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