Being from the IT industry myself and doing a fair bit of work for e-learning type solutions, I'm really curious to see the report when it sees the light of day. In the IT boom years, when the Smart Schools formed one of the key hyped-up flagships by the Multimedia Super Corridor, I remember reading lustily, the type of budgets and tenders which were out there for the development of Smart Schools back in 1997.
Back then, our current deputy prime minister, Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak was the Minister of Education (while I was barely 27). Through one of our bumiputera partners, we managed to secure a presentation to him to present our "breakthrough" e-learning solution which fitted the bill for a low-cost, efficient and speedy nationwide implementation. Expectedly, the meeting didn't lead to anything tangible.
Looking back at all the tender documents for the Smart Schools project (I've kept every single one of it, even though I didn't participate in them), I will be surprised if even more than 70% of it has been successfully implemented. The vision was too big and the parties involved including all the big IT names such as IBM and Microsoft were just too eager to just sell their wares. The execution and co-ordination of the projects by the Ministry were so poor, that there were so many parallel similar pilot projects being implemented all over the place.
The circumstances was so confusing, it gave birth to unscrupulous parties creating non-existent smart school projects to cheat unsuspecting and hungry IT vendors who willingly paid upfront monies to secure these contracts. I know of a listed company who lost hundreds of thousands (or possibly millions of ringgit) for placing hardware orders for a ficticious nationwide giga-infrastructure wireless Wide Area Network project connecting "Islamic Smart Schools" from Kulim to Putrajaya. But that's a story for another time.
Anyway, back to the main topic, the Auditors would do well to compare what has been implemented today to what was envisioned in the "The Malaysian Smart School: A Conceptual Blueprint" prepared by the Ministry of Education some 10 years ago. In particular, I would be interested in the progress of Smart School Teaching-Learning Materials Project and the Smart School Assessment System.
The former is to create materials to be used in classes, which incorporates built-in assessment, promoting "learning in a manner that is best suited to the student's individual learning pace and style." The latter address the Smart School's "assessment packages and the Life-Time Database, which sall assess and record students' academic progress and performance."
But the way things turn out, it appears that our Smart Schools are nothing much beyond equipping the schools with expensive notebooks for teachers and multimedia projectors for classrooms. After all, our Minister of Education had previously redefined the Smart School concept as such, when challenged with an impossible task by the Prime Minister, as blogged here.
And when asked on the spend by the Ministry by the Star, the Minister again focused his replies on supplies of hardware equipment.
He said that under the programme, laptops and LCD projectors are sent to teachers and trained by his ministry to use them ...his ministry supplied the computers and built the necessary computer labs for schools while the Energy, Water and Communications ministry took charge of the networking.So, we'll see. I'll definitely be interested in reading the final audited report, on whether the qualitative and teaching aspects of the Smart School projects will be audited, or will it just be an accounting exercise of determining the number of teachers who possess notebooks.
“All this will be accounted for, including how many notebooks have been supplied to teachers, how many teachers had undergone computer courses and how many more teachers needed to be sent for such training.”