Feature: Into The Remote Interior

By Jimmy Teo Hui Thian (jteo@oum.edu.my)

During my recent work visit to Sabah, I had the pleasure of meeting groups of teachers who have been posted to the remote interior to teach in government schools.

Four questions were posed to 180 teachers. The questions were simple and straightforward as the whole exercise was simply to find out their views on learning spaces.

The questions and paraphrased responses are as follows:

  1. What is “learning space” to you?

    To many, “learning space” is, well, a place to learn. Some went on to add that it must be a place that is quiet, conducive, comfortable, free from disturbance, a place that suits the individual, where learning could take place, and where there is mental preparedness. Very few teachers thought of learning space” as a formal classroom, library or tutorial room.

    “Learning space is not a physical place or space but where there is mental preparedness to learn.” (Respondent A)

  2. Do you have your own learning space?

    Almost all the respondents said that they had their own learning spaces. Only a few referred to actual physical spaces like their houses or their rooms. Most imagined learning space as a meta-space or conceptual space which they have created. Some said they had limited opportunities to create their own learning spaces due to work and family commitments.

    “Yes, I have my learning space but it depends very much on my surroundings. I make it comfortable by adapting to my surroundings.” (Respondent B)

  3. Does your remote location make a difference to how you construct your learning spaces?

    Most of the respondents answered “Yes” to this question. They were quick to add that in the remote interior, learning space was what you make it out to be. The individuals would have to adapt and create a comfortable space for themselves as they did not have the luxury of nice libraries, resource centres or even proper rooms.

    “Yes. Here, it would depend on the situation. I have to adapt and make it comfortable for me.” (Respondent C)

  4. Is the quietness of the locality a blessing or otherwise?

    Almost all of them agreed that it was a blessing as there was less or no distraction at all. This is in contrast to how it usually is in the cities. But some lamented that being in the interior also meant there would be limited or no access at all to further learning resources.

    “It can be both. It can be a blessing because there is no distraction and you can fully concentrate on your learning. However, it can also be a liability since it can be limiting in terms of electricity, time and other learning resources.” (Respondent D)

*TCX would like to thank all respondents for taking part in the survey.

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As a tutor, I believe that I can help learners to create learning spaces by:

Encouraging them to think independently by giving them short essay tests
 
Encouraging them to work as a group
 
Adding variety to the assignments and encouraging them to think from a different perspective
 
Ensuring that the tutorial room is always conducive for the learners
 
 
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