For those who are not familiar with the concept of "Smart Schools":
The Smart Schools initiative is one of the seven flagship applications that are part of Malaysia’s Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) project. The Government of Malaysia aims to capitalise on the presence of leading-edge technologies and the rapid development of the MSC’s infrastructure to jump-start deployment of enabling technology to schools. This will be done by creating a group of 90 pilot Smart Schools by 1999 that will serve as the nucleus for the eventual nation-wide rollout of Smart School teaching concepts and materials, skills, and technologies. By 2010, all 10,000 of Malaysia’s primary and secondary schools will be Smart Schools.According to the same source, "[t]he most distinctive feature of the Smart School will be a teaching and learning environment built on international best practices in primary and secondary education. This entails aligning the curriculum, pedagogy, assessment and teaching-learning materials in a mutually reinforcing, coherent manner."
[Source: Official Malaysia Smart School Website]
With Pak Lah now requesting, as part of his drive to "Provide Quality Education for All", for all schools to be made "smart schools" - our Minister of Education was reported to come out all guns blazing by announcing that the "Smart school goal [is] achievable", as reported in the New Straits Times today.
But from what I understand, there's an interesting catch to what he claims is an achievable objective. Datuk Hishammuddin highlighted that 95% of all schools will have the necessary hardware to become smart schools by 2010.
As of today, he reported that 4,500 schools have computer labs under the Computers in Education programme and 8,120 schools have broadband connections under the School-Net programme.
On top of that, all schools have laptops and LCD projectors to assist them in the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English. They are also entitled to take part in the TV Pendidikan (Educational TV) programme.Datuk Hishammuddin did of course, added that "...if we define [Smart Schools] according to international standards, like the Multimedia Super Corridor smart schools, then we are not there yet."
"If we define smart schools based on how well-equipped they are with IT appliances, then we can say that almost all schools are smart schools.
The question is, what is the point of defining "Smart Schools" as schools with:
- a "computer lab" (of which, I'm not sure how many are functioning properly and how frequently they are utilised)
- a "broadband connection" installed (of which, I'm not sure if they are utilised for there are >8,000 connections, but only 4,500 schools with labs!)
- a multimedia projector (?!)
- computer notebooks for teachers (of which, many I understand are unutilised - bagaikan si monyet diberi cincin; or some of which are taken home by the teachers as they were unutilised in school, so that their children will be able to make better use of them - one of my staff had this privilege); and
- being "entitled" to be part of TV Pendidikan provided by Astro (which was reported this earlier year to be severely under-utilised due to missing or malfunctioning television sets, lack of electricity or school administrators who weren't too bothered. And for those interested, this TV Pendidikan service costs RM18 million to set up, and RM400,000 annually of the tax payers monies.)
A "Smart School" should never be defined as just hardware and infrastructure. As elaborated in the Smart Schools blueprint, it involves creating an enriching curriculum which will enhance critical thinking skills; a pedagogy that seeks to make learning more interesting, motivating, stimulating, and meaningful; a holistic assessment system and teaching-learning materials which will accommodate students’ differing needs and abilities.
Datuk Hishammuddin should instead conduct a thorough and honest study of the implementation of the Smart School project which was awarded to Telekom Smart School Consortium in 1999. Did we meet the above objectives even for the 90 pilot "Smart Schools" which we have built (are there actually 90 built?)? What were the short-comings and what are the steps which must be taken to make sure that the short-comings are rectified? The Smart School concept is noble in principle - unfortunately, it appears that the actual execution of the project by the responsible parties were just not up to scratch.
I'll try to provide more updates to the Smart School project here. Watch this space! :)