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Updated: 5 days ago

From left: Natalie, Adam and Sean.

21 Feb 2021

By Ilona Andrew

KOTA KINABALU: The long wait to 'freedom' will be over soon as tomorrow (Feb 22), candidates of 2020 Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) are finally sitting for one of the most important examinations in their lives.

The 18-year-olds were supposed to be relaxing or looking towards entering university by now, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the implementation of movement control order (MCO) which caused the deferment of the actual examination date, they had no choice but to delay the thoughts for a little longer.

For the course of over a year, they only got to attend about four months of face-to-face classes and then had to rely on virtual technology for the rest of the time in order to absorb all the knowledge they need.

The pandemic has forced them to get used to online home-based learning via applications such as Google Meet, Google Classroom and Skype.

Surely this has been very challenging for them considering the new norm that they have to adapt to for such an important exam they are about to sit for.

However, Natalie William Mogindol of SMK St Francis Convent felt that the government could have done more to help fellow SPM candidates have better access to online education throughout the pandemic.

"The Education Ministry should take every layer in society into account. There are too many students, especially those living the rural areas, who have little to no source of materials for online classes.

"As much as we think educational resources are being distributed, I believe there are still students out there who are sidelined.

"The first initiative is definitely to provide a sufficient and stable internet connection followed by good quality laptops or tablets for students to use in a long run.

"Other than that, the Education Ministry should also provide teachers with proper guidance and materials to conduct these online classes. This is because the teachers range from different ages, thus why one teacher might be more tech-savvy than the other," she pointed out.

The 18-year-old from Penampang also spoke up about the habit of the higher authorities to postpone and make last-minute decisions for students that should be halted.

"The education system should be more systematic, and think about long-term solutions rather than short-term solutions. The mental health of most students is already jumbled up, which is why I think exerting extra pressure on students should also stop.

"All in all, I think there will always be room for improvements in the education system and I believe with the cooperation from all parties, it is not impossible for our education system to advance and be recognised worldwide," she expressed.

For Natalie, despite all the new norm she had to adapt to throughout her journey to SPM, she resorted to a simple kind of preparation which works best for her.

"To be honest, I am still figuring out my own method even though my exams are approaching. One thing I prioritise is jotting down my plans beforehand for the next day, to have a more organised schedule in order for me to not miss out on anything, or be in a rush.

"I usually wake up around 5 to 6am and start my day early. I don't start studying straight away but I do freshen up to keep the right mindset which will then help me go through my day. Hence why the first step is to start the day with a clear mind and then begin studying, in order for us to actually understand and absorb the knowledge," she explained.

"I focus more on what I should complete on that day and do my best to complete it. The goal is the amount of knowledge I decided to give myself, not the amount of time I should be studying.

"It is also important to use all the resources provided such as Telegram chats, online materials and most importantly YouTube videos.

"So many teachers out there voluntarily provide videos for students to watch and learn, especially during the pandemic where students are not able to have face-to-face study sessions. so it is vital to take advantage of all the resources," she emphasised.

Natalie who wishes to pursue law education also stressed that rest is an important element throughout the journey. "Whenever I feel like my brain is not responding, I will take naps because I know I need it."

"All in all, I believe everyone should study based on their own capabilities, not based on other people’s expectations.

"For those who will be sitting for important exams, do what you can and enjoy the process. Use your goals as your motivation and do it for yourself before anyone else," she advised.

Another Form Five student who expressed having tough times studying online at home is Adam Fabian, a Form Five student in SM La Salle.

"Based on my experience studying at home via online classes, it is not the most effective way of learning because of the home environment.

"It takes away your focus, determination and will to pay attention. Apart from that, I also feel that schools tend to add pressures to students that are already miserable with homework and assignments," he expressed.

However, he opined that schools should only reopen after the number of Covid-19 cases dwindles to a stage where it poses less harm and threats to health.

To ensure he doesn't fall out of his studies, Adam writes down notes in his best and creative way possible, while taking time to process and understand a certain subject.

"I also sometimes watch SPM videos on YouTube to summarise the format or techniques for answering a certain paper.

"As a science student, I make sure to have all the reference books for each Science subject which includes Chemistry, Physics and Biology. While for Maths and Add Maths, I would try to master the topics by increasing the level of difficulty of each question.

"Subjects that involve reading such as Sejarah can be a real snooze festival and make me feel bored, but I still try to push myself by revising based on past SPM questions as I know it is compulsory to pass the subject," he said.

Adam revealed his plan to work his way up in becoming a successful engineer after finishing his SPM later.

"This is a real cliche but my plan is to earn a lot of money and be responsible with it ... In my opinion, being rich is not about how much you have, but it's about how much you give.

"So I would say my future plan is to get a good education, and then be in a great work environment that pays me well so that I can support my family and friends, as well as to contribute to society."

Meanwhile, Sean Bradley Ng mentioned that the downside of PdPR is that he could not study face-to-face with a group of friends in a conducive setting.

"Back then, we could study with friends in groups, in conducive settings like in libraries. We could easily assist each other right there and then.

"But since the pandemic, we had no choice but to make use of the technology to help each other in our studies. Covid-19 has certainly made it hard for us to prepare for SPM, but still, it is possible," he told Nabalu News.

The student of SM La Salle also admitted that the online learning (PdPR) sessions was really tough and could be distracting, and he prefers going to school for proper teaching and learning sessions.

"I am honestly glad that schools will reopen soon as it is not easy for students to study at home. Students are not used to studying at home as there are a lot of distractions. This can lead them to stress and feel unmotivated, which then results in procrastination and could deteriorate their studies," he said.

Despite the difficulty of learning via PdPR, Sean made sure to do his revisions by doing a lot of exercises using past year SPM questions.

"Most of the time, I would work with the same exam set of a subject twice, just to improve more. After all, we did not have the opportunity to sit for the usual trial exams in school," he said.

"And although I used to study face-to-face with my friends in groups, I still find it helpful to talk to my classmates and teachers through a messaging app whenever I have questions.

"I think students are more comfortable to contribute their own ideas via a messaging app because it is convenient and everyone gets to have a say," he added.

The young man who aspires to become an engineer mentioned that he doesn't keep track of his revision time, but would stop for a while after two to three hours, and have around 10 to 15 minutes of rest in between.

"My plan after SPM is to get into a good university where I can study the course that I am interested in and then find a job that pays well.

"From there I can support and repay my parents for all their sacrifices. I also hope that we would all be able to fight off Covid-19 as I would really love to achieve my dream of travelling around the world."


Nabalu News is an online news portal that will bring you all the latest news and stories from Malaysia, particularly Sabah.

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