A one-day trip down south today, an article the Singapore Straits Times gives a little clue as to how far we have fallen behind in terms of leveraging and embracing technology in education.
Tour a safari park, touch a lion's mane and watch nervously as a rhino makes ready to charge - all without leaving the school grounds. These are some of the things which students will be able to experience in "virtual labs" soon.Schools in Malaysia which are modelled pretty much on a top down approach - where the Ministry of Education directs and the schools feebly comply. This is despite the "yet-to-be-seen" 300 cluster of excellent schools policy devised by Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein. On the other hand, schools in Singapore, which are often given a large degree of independence, partly due to very competent school administrators, are instead requested to submit concept proposals by January on what they hope to do with infocomm technology in their schools. For example:
Virtual reality goggls and gloves are likely to be standard fare in a drive by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) to develop 15 "schools of the future".... This will fit in with IDA's Intelligent Nation 2015, a 10-year plan to increase the use of innovative infocomm technology.
At Crescent Girls' [School] in Tanglin Road, the entire school is covered by wireless broadband network. And most Secondary 1 to 3 students have their own tablet PCs which they use during lessons... Crescent Girls' which is aiming to be among the IDA's 15 benchmark schools, will prepare a proposal by this month.And I must say, unlike the Malaysian counterparts which define "success" as hard infrastructure set up, the educators recognises the importance actually "preparing students for the 21st century workplace". The IT department head of Crescent Girls', Mr Lee Boon Keng stated that:
"It's not about simply coming up with high-tech gadgets and infrastructure all over the school, but about how to prepare students for an environment dominated by technology and information."This is coming from a schools' head of IT, who clearly know his priorities. I wish the senior officials in our Ministry of Education will even have an idea of what it takes to be our schools of the future, beyond purchase of computers and multimedia projectors.