Students take a computer-based national exam at a vocational school in Aceh on March 24, 2020. (Antara Photo/Syifa Yulinnas)

Academic Year to Start on Schedule, But Classes May Need to Wait

BY :TARA MARCHELIN

JUNE 06, 2020

Jakarta. The government plans to start the new academic year normally in July, but classes may reopen at a later time due to national health crisis caused by the coronavirus outbreak, an education official has said.

“A lot of people still misinterpret the ‘new school year’ term. New academic year only marks the beginning of teachings for the 2020-2021 calendar but it doesn’t necessarily mean schools will reopen concurrently,” Education and Culture Ministry’s spokeswoman Evy Mulyani said in a virtual discussion on Beritasatu TV on Friday.

“As we have planned, the school year will start on July 13 until the end of June 2021. Starting dates may vary among regions but it’s not a significant issue,” she added.

In regions where school buildings are allowed to reopen, the learning method will be adjusted to the government’s health guidelines with priorities on the safety of students and teachers.

The government encourages distance learning and will provide options where classes can continue without physical presence of the students, Evy said.

“We have prepared various alternatives of learning mode as well, including the use of television, radio and self-learning modules,” she said.

Indonesian Child Protection Agency (LPAI) Chairman Seto Mulyadi said in the discussion the government and school managements should respect decision by students or their parents against face-to-face teachings due to coronavirus fear.

“We need to respect the rights of student and their parents who might be worried and reluctant to return to schools after reopening,” Seto said. 

He warned that even if the school in question is located in an area where the Covid-19 outbreak has been largely under control or even terminated, there is a chance that several students or teachers who live in affected areas can become carriers of the virus in classrooms.

In response, Evy said the ministry has imposed strict requirements for schools who want to reopen classes.

“If we consider a school in the green zone is not feasible to reopen, then it won’t be allowed to do so and has to implement distance learning instead,” she said.

“Green zone” is the term used by the government to identify an area considered safe from the outbreak, otherwise it’s called as “red zone”.

Erna Mulati, director of family welfare with the Health Ministry, said students living in the red zone will be asked to follow online classes.

“If a positive case [of coronavirus] is detected in the school after reopening, classes will be immediately returned to distance learning,” Erna added.

She said education and health ministries are collaborating to prepare the health protocol for in-person teachings that adheres to physical distancing guidance and limits the number of students in a classroom.

Kindergarten, Pre-School Last to Reopen

Seto suggested that kindergartens and pre-schools be last to reopen, saying children are particularly vulnerable to the virus.

“Toddlers are very active. If they return to school, they will likely make physical contact with their friends. Meanwhile, a teacher usually has to oversee a lot of kids, making it very difficult to handle. Kindergartens and pre-schools should be the last to reopen,” he said.

Unifah Rosyidi, chairwoman of the Indonesian Teachers Association or PGRI, agreed with Seto, but said the Education and Culture Ministry needs to provide clear guidance for parents because they will get deeply involved in distance learning for toddlers.

“Distance learning can be a great interaction opportunity for parents and their kids, especially because kindergarten and pre-school students are at their golden age. There should be a guidance to help parents understand the development of their own children,” Unifah said.

Unifah said the association has prepared a proposal on a school curriculum during the pandemic that encourages students to enjoy self-learning.

“Basically, it’s a collaborative and program-based learning that doesn’t require a lot of school tasks. Teachers and students will design the learning plan together so that they will not be burdened by the learning process during the pandemic,” she said.

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