The learning experiences for a student according to their socioeconomic statuses and backgrounds have been immensely skewed, and its only been highlighted throughout the pandemic.
Rakan Tutor is a non-profit organisation fighting educational inequality by offering free one-to-one tutoring. They aim to empower underserved students with the skills and confidence to perform better academically and gain the motivation to achieve their fullest potential.
The idea for Rakan Tutor was born out of a 3-month education research project in Malaysia. The founders were disheartened to find school closures have severely affected students despite a shift to virtual classes.
JUICE recently interviewed the team behind Rakan Tutor. Co-founder Kaveen Parthiban shared the inspiration behind the project:
“We heard many stories of students who do not have adequate data and devices, are unfamiliar with online tools, and drop out to work as the pandemic affected household income. In fact, many teachers told us that there was only 30% engagement in virtual settings.”
Rakan Tutor launched their programme on 12 June and had a first cohort of 250 tutors and 250 students, focusing on SPM Math.
Volunteer tutors will spend 2-3 hours a week over a few months to support students in preparation for their SPM 2021 examinations.
Tutors are volunteers who wanted to help out upon hearing the news through social media and word of mouth. They conduct one-on-one sessions with each student.
The initiative is focused on B40 communities and the sad reality is that they are often given short-term solutions to the issues they face.
Student Welfare Director Yeoh Pei Xin explained that “there have been initiatives that have offered free tutoring for B40 students, but in the fine print, have actually only stated a month’s worth of tutoring before requesting payment for further sessions.
“In actuality, there is a lack of free and available resources that can be accessible to the B40 community, so this ‘competition’ leads to distrust within not only their smaller community but also to other organisations wanting to make a change.”
Globally, there’s a loss of 0.9 years of schooling adjusted for quality after 7 months of school closures due to COVID-19, while learning loss continues to accumulate even after school reopens.
“Learning loss is when a student loses access to education accelerated by the pandemic and is especially evident amongst students today,” said Student Welfare Director Tam Jia Wie.
“Factors behind this issue are mostly out of the students’ control; lack of access to internet and devices, responsibility to earn an income for the family, and many more that have brought them into a disadvantage because of this pandemic.”
“In the early phases of this project, I talked to a student who expressed that she felt like giving up on her studies and her family encouraged her to focus on finding an income instead. It was my first exposure to the reality we have with our students today and why I believe initiatives that fight for education inequity are so important, ” said Tam.
Yeoh added, “a student was averaging an E in Mathematics due to data shortages within her family and conflicting times with her siblings. She was unable to attend her Google Meet classes from her teacher, and instead relied on notes from her classmates. This tailored one-on-one tutoring has given her the motivation to do well in her SPM and consider furthering her studies beyond SPM.”
“Seeing us receive more than 700 applications to become a tutor and personally interviewing a few of them was one of the highlights. I got to know so many Malaysians out there who were also just as passionate as us to help underserved students tackle learning loss,” Venecia Chai, Operations Director, proudly stated.
Co-founder Kaveen Parthiban concluded, “We started Rakan Tutor to support these students academically whilst giving them the motivation to achieve their fullest potential. It has been a surreal journey, and I’m thankful for everyone’s support as we help out underserved secondary school students that have been unfairly affected by the pandemic.”
Rakan Tutor aims to raise RM30,000 to purchase data packages, learning materials and safeguarding measures for students.