Thursday, November 02, 2006

"Schools of the Future"

Til today, Malaysia is still foundering over the establishment of smart schools, a concept which was born during the dot-com boom in the late 1990s. With the exception of setting up schools with computers and multimedia projectors, the current "smart school" definition used by the current Minister of Education, there doesn't seem to be any coherent plan to bring technology into the actual education curriculum.

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.

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.
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:
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.

10 comments:

hisugaya said...

Sigh...
Talking about the schools of the future brings me back the reminiscence during my Form Six era in 2003 & 2004 whereby the sciences and Pure Maths were introduced and taught in English. One of my teachers who can't speak and explain properly in English in one of the sciences resorted to the subject courseware installed in a laptop and a projector and a speaker to 'teach' us, the students. By clicking the 'play' button, the courseware program will then do all the speaking and explaining which were shown in the blackboard. Finally, when the program finished, almost all the students came out blank. Some of us even fell asleep!

Anonymous said...

A SCHOOL IS A SCHOOL...NO SUCH THING AS A 'SMART' OR 'STUPID' SCHOOL

Anonymous said...

Anyone who has ran an IT department knows how hard it is to actually squeeze productivity from IT. Most IT heads will tell you that their investment in IT has basically prevented them from losing profit or market share NOT really gaining against the competitor. Yes there are examples of those who have gained against competitors using IT and these examples are well-documented.

Any IT head will tell you that even if you are in an industry that have found an edge with IT, to actually be the winner, takes a coherent strategy. For example, fundamentally a retailer like Wall Mart is based on efficiency of supply chain and delivering lower cost to customer.

In holy grail of education improvement using IT has been a struggle for decades. Innovative companies like Apple repeatedly try to explore this area but have had only marginal success. Sure there have been marginal improvement but the most succesful IT companies in education are not those that provide value to students but to operation of schools i.e., administrative. There are technologies that can help learning and even teaching but some are amazing technologically. But the amazing ones are way to expensive and hardly worth the cost like for example virtual reality things. Seriously, is it worth it to spent that much to bring an experience in virtual reality to students? No.

The truth is even in the US, there are so many struggling to wring productivity in education using IT. There are no simple homogenous solution. At best there are expensive consistent strategy of delivering productivity tools and experience to students, teachers and administrator that yields productivity in the long run. Its just not something we have the money or the administrative efficiency to execute. This is the core of why SMART school is just a waste of money and time.

Our politician is too fond of hypebole and grand ideas to make SMART school work or even just a small waste of money. It is a big waste of money and time.

Anonymous said...

No Maaaaa! Having smart schools mean millions of ringgits buying computers...which means money into some one's pocket or pockets. That is what matters....
but seriously i agree with anon above....

Anonymous said...

Well, we can't really hope much right? Since there are some group of disabled people which need to be pampered, certainly the government needs to care for them. After all they are the same species. We should just be content and love those disabled people more. Stop comparing with other countries.

Anonymous said...

Personally I feel that having IT incorporated into a daily primary/seco dary school is not of much use as teachers are the most important factor. It will just be a waste of resources by buying computers, projectors etc if the teachers are not competent enough. This is where the singapore education system always fare better than the malaysian which I am very sad to say.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I had the opportunity to work with MOE Malaysia to assess the impact of smart school project and I must say Malaysia does have her fair share of challenge to overcome before they could successfully build the schools of the future. In some remote part of the country, the computers were left unopened in the box as the schools simply lacked the basic amenities (toilet, or constant undisrupt supply of electricity). In addition, while some principals were very enthusiastic about the whole 'Smart School' concept, some were just following the order from the top. However, those challenges should not prevent Malaysia from accomplishing what our neighbour down south is achieving. The MOE officials I had the chance to work with were very enthusiastic and clear about what the government wanted to achieve in terms of 'memperbestarikan' our schools. Hardware infrastructure is definitely not the end although without that means, the whole initiative will not work. To ensure every school has undisrupt power supply itself will take a few years to complete. While Tony's intention to highlight the issue is good, I felt that Tony should do a more thorough assessment before giving reader the impression that our government was not sure what they were doing. IMHO, what our MOE lacks is probably the transparency to constantly keep the public posted of the progress of our schools of the future.

Anonymous said...

Anon Sat Nov 04, 04:12:02 PM

Are you paid for saying something good about the government? Maybe you can share with us the amount you received.

Anonymous said...

It is not about whether our government is good or bad. The point is we do have challenges our neighbour down south does not have or to say the least, not of the same degree. If the government is doing something good for the people, I dont see why we should not compliment them. Likewise, we should be critical whenever it is necessary. Just that I believe we have to compare a few more aspects before we can conclude anything.


Anonymous
Sat Nov 04, 04:12:02 PM