KUALA LUMPUR: Students in Malaysia will return to schools in phases, beginning with pre-schoolers as well as Primary 1 and Primary 2 students on Mar 1.
In a press conference on Friday (Feb 19), Senior Minister for Education Mohd Radzi Md Jidin said the rest of the primary students will return to schools a week later on Mar 8.
"For secondary schools, all levels will attend schools on Apr 4 or Apr 5 (depending on states)," he said.
Those in Johor, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu will return to their classrooms on Apr 4, while the rest on Apr 5.
The dates apply to all government and private schools registered with the ministry, the minister said.
Dr Mohd Radzi explained that pre-schoolers and the lower primary students have been scheduled to start schools earlier to enable teachers to get their young charges familiarised with the schools' standard operating procedures (SOP).
"This also allows teachers and parents to find the best way to handle dispersal at the end of the schooling day," he added.
Meanwhile, he explained that the first week of April had been selected for secondary students to resume schooling due to logistics, as the school-leaving Malaysian Education Certificate (SPM) exams would require more space compared to previous years.
Delayed from last year, the SPM exams, to be held from Feb 22 to Mar 25, would take up more space than just an exam hall, the minister added.
"The SOPs are very detailed and tight to ensure our children who are going to sit for SPM can do so in a safe and calm manner.
"This time, we are also prepping alternative rooms for students to take their exams, as well as transit rooms for those who are taking perhaps two papers on the same day," Dr Mohd Radzi said.
Therefore, the ministry decided to resume secondary schooling after the mid-semester break, which begins at the end of March until the first week of April.
Currently, the states of Selangor, Johor and Penang as well as the federal territory of Kuala Lumpur is under the movement control order (MCO), while other states are under conditional MCO or recovery MCO.
National COVID-19 case tally stood at 274,875 as of Thursday.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted Malaysian students' education for most of last year, when Malaysia went into its first MCO on March 18.
Schools, along with all non-essential businesses, were closed and interstate movement was curbed. Major school-leaving examinations were postponed to 2021.
As a result, teachers sought workarounds, such as conducting classes via Zoom and other video-conferencing apps, to help students keep up with their studies.
Home-based learning proved to be challenging for some, as those in rural areas grapple with connectivity issues while less well-to-do families do not have enough electronic devices for their children.
Schools reopened later in phases from mid-July onwards as case numbers dropped. On Oct 14, schools in the states of Selangor and Sabah and federal territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya were shut again due to rising infections.
This shutdown was later extended nationwide from Nov 9, ahead of the last day of the school year on Dec 17 and 18, depending on states.
This meant most students in Malaysia only attended school in person for about five to six months in 2020.
Physical school sessions began on Jan 20 this year only for those sitting for school-leaving examinations.
DidikTV KPM, a special television channel dedicated to educational content, was launched by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Wednesday as an effort to increase access to education for students nationwide.