Thursday, September 08, 2005

All Schools to be Smart Schools...

In the same speech our Prime Minister gave at his alma mater, High School Bukit Mertajam (HSBM), Pak Lah highlighted that he has given instructions to our Minister of Education, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein that all schools nationwide, should be converted to "Smart Schools".

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.

[Source: Official Malaysia Smart School Website]

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."

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.

"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.
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."

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.)
Even if all the above are working in proper order, and fully utilised by the schools, they schools should not be in anyway be defined as "Smart Schools". That's in effect, enlarging the goalposts by a mile, so that you can never miss the target! The Ministry of Education had defined the Smart School concept (which is still available on its website) and it should definitely abide by its own definitions.

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! :)


Anonymous said...

To be a smart school, consider the following seven challenges:-
1. Leadership is The Key Ingredient – How committed are the top management of the education system on the idea of Smart School, a lot of rhetoric but not much of action?
2. The Technological Infrastructure – Is the ICT infrastructure emplaced to support the non traditional way of teaching and learning?
3. Technical Support – Did the school has enough technical expertise to maintain the ICT infrastructure?
4. The ICT Training Program – Teachers need more training on ICT than the students
5. Easy Access – Can the ICT facilities be accessible to the school community even when the school is not in session?
6. Content Creation & Electronic Learning Community – Can the educators created enough digital contents for used in new learning environment? Is the connectivity stable enough to support information anytime and anywhere so that teaching and learning is not just confine to the four walls of the classroom? A teaching and learning community that extend beyond the traditional school walls.
7. Teacher Readiness To Use And Teach Using Technology – How ready are the teachers? Students are more ready to embrace the new ICT tools than the teachers, can the ICT become a pervasive tools in school environment?

Anonymous said...

So its all about equipment or at best the use of equipment? I don't think its going to be much use. China and India students have some of the worst equipment I have ever seen but their abilities are just amazing.

Frankly, I see a lot of poor rural parents know the importance of education. What they lack is proper educational influence and role-model. They are surrounded by mediocrity in everything and expectation of them. It does not matter if you throw more equipment and material at them, its not going to stick if they can't connect with it.

Anonymous said...

From the scenarios played out since the smart schools were first proposed, it seems that the ministry of education is completely clueless what it wants to achieve and how to go about it. They have been going round and round in circles on what state-of-the-art hardware they can acquire and how to spend the millions of ringgit budgeted for the project.

The minister and his staff need to determine the level of ICT eduction to be imparted. Are they talking about using the computer labs

1) as teaching aids for their current curricullum,
2) to teach basic computer knowledge to view multi-media content,
3) to teach application software/productivity suites to do schoolwork/projects/presentations,
4) for creating multi-media content
5) learning programming languages, or worse
6) to use the computer to play games!

Has the ministry considered what software content the smart labs are to acquire? Have they awarded the project to a capable party? Have the teachers in involved in the program undergone any form of meaningful training to harness the power of ICT (we are not talking about a 2 week holiday/leisure training seminar just to expend the allocated budget)?

Why is it then that even in the current crop of pilot smart schools, they are quite clueless about what is it that makes them 'smart'? We hope that the equipment in the smart labs do not end up becoming gaming machines or glorified typewriters or worse still, access points to undesirable content on the internet.

Anonymous said...

I am a dental student in the US from Malaysia. Have been living in the US for about 7 years, now and I would like to share some insights that may help view things from another perspective.

Lets consider few other interesting facts:

A comment was made where even the Western countries are going through a phase of "Brain drain". Let me tell you that it is not true.

This is why. Countries like the US are continuously reaching out in welcoming more and more foreign citizens in all important fields such as engineering, IT and medical. They will never go through "Brain drain".

1. If you recently graduated from a dental or medical school in the US, regardless of where you are from, you are eligible to apply for an expedited green card. In fact, they will approve your green card almost immediately so that you can start working.

2. All professors are encouraged to do research and studies in the summer and publish them. The more publication you have, the more likely you will receive a raise.

3. US was worried from a report published few months ago that foreign enrollment for masters were dropping due to tighter visa restrictions. They admitted that less foreign enrollment would greatly affect the R & D of the country. Why? Most R&D is done by foreigners and they are greatly recognized for it.

4. I know a South Korean guy who graduated from my school and went on becoming a dentist. Two years after graduating from dental school, he returned to my university to give a presentation. His English was fair, not that great but guess what, his 2 dental practices in the State of Utah, made US$3 million a year profit (not revenue).

5. In Malaysia, the pay for a medical lab assistant with a bachelor is RM800 - RM1000. In the US, the pay for the same position is US$1800 - US$2400. And they do look at color actually. If you are a foreigner (with a permit of course), silently preference will be given to you……….because they are loyal and hardworking.

To make it fair, even without converting the currency, we can see which country values its citizen and strives to improve their R&D. (Keep in mind, things are cheaper in the US than Malaysia……….without converting the currency……….You are lucky if you can buy a decent car……….)

With all this said, if a person is qualified and have a family to support, why would they want to go through the trouble of "not getting promotion because of color", "not getting admitted to university because of race quota filled", and lastly after spending more than RM400000 on medical school, you are to spend 5 years slave laboring for the government, not knowing how you are going to pay the debt and support your family although you hold the prestige "Dr".

These are all things that distract from progressing for an individual and for the country. Our country is losing a lot of time and talent but subjecting all these on qualified individuals. So what you do, not let this effect your progression.

We have to take care of ourselves first and after that worry about patriotism. Patriotism is not going to put food on the table or grow money tree outside my house.

I am not planning on returning back to Malaysia (to settle) unless things change in Malaysia. But with the money I will earn, I can visit Malaysia every year and contribute to the tourism industry. When I reach the age of 60 and retire, then I will return to Malaysia.

Anonymous said...

We made a decision to migrate to Australia 15 years ago deserting my high fly corporate position with our three children.

If history could turn back, we would still do the same.

It is a joke when our three children are fully qualified in their respective professions, then our Malaysia leaders only realize that "Actually English is very important in this era of globalization, let's go back to English again in our primary school for science and mathematics subjects".

It is fortunate that we had our own thinking and were able to jump out from this "black box" of trial and error type of management in practically every aspect of the government administration machinery. As a result, our children do not waste their precious years.

Our children enjoy the experience of equal opportunity not only in education but also in employment. That has a very strong impact in character development because then they believe in themselves i.e. their own ability and equal opportunity available for personal development to the fullest extent. And they could fight for their own rights too simply because the environment encourages them to do so i.e. Freedom to think, and freedom to express. They enjoy their work in their respective professions and they have both close Asian and Australian friends.

The Australian authority treats the problem of racial discrimination very seriously and takes action very fast. I still remember those days when my youngest son was teased by certain racial remarks by his schoolmate. My wife reported the case to the school authority and after a proper investigation, the Aussie kid was made to make a public apology to my son and was suspended a week from school attendance.

Australia herself is a country of migrants from all over the world, the Britishs, the Italians and other Europeans also never give up their citizenships though they may stay for over many many years. If they tell you to go back to China, you have equal right to tell them to go back to whatever country they come from. "Fight for your right" is the spirit.

What we are concerned is actually the management of the country. There is enough wealth to be distributed among all the people who can theoretically enjoy better education, better life and medical facility. But poor management and the evil "corruption" have eroded away what the people deserve. If people demand a change, "racialism" is always a powerful tool to protect the regime.

The Australian government extinguishes any little spark that concerns racial issue. There are strict laws and they are very good in enforcement. The two party systems ensure no one monopolizes the government. If the government is not good, people will vote it out for sure.

It is a land of plenty, and of equal opportunity for everyone. One will make his way if he is prepared to seize the opportunity and work hard for it. No one believes in "God" will give, and most believes the creation and reward from their own hands and intelligence.

Though we pay high taxes, the future is more or less ensured as in case we are sick or in difficulty, we have all the assistance from the authority. It is the right for every kid in Australia to have the opportunity to finish his tertiary education if he could make an attempt and possible financial assistance is always there.

Australia's economy is very robust now and most graduates and school leavers are doing very well. My three kids who are qualified as professionals at a very young age are doing very well. They would not have achieved that type of level if we were to remain in our country of birth. Thank God!

We face less racial discrimination in university and workplace in Australia than in our country of birth.

The ironical fact is that we are being treated more a first class citizen in our host country than in our own country.

Human rights, good administration, equal opportunity and transparency convince us that it is no point wasting our precious time in our own country.

If you really miss our own country, earn and save more money in the host country and join the shiver hair program later on. If you have the money, any country will welcome you for sure.

In general, it is an educated society. People talk not shout, and people reason not accuse and more over it is a much cleaner and more beautiful place to live. I am pleased with my decision and have no regrets at all.

Grace said...

I'd rather they change the syllabus first.

Future leaders can't lead a country by textbooks.

Anonymous said...

Public universities and institutions of higher learning are set up and run using public funds. In other words - taxpayers' money with all races being taxed on the same rate.

Therefore every citizen should have the fundamental right to enjoy the same benefits provided by these public-funded institutions.

In private colleges and universities, local or overseas, students pay a hefty sum for the tuition fees.

Except for some privileged few from wealthy families who do not even consider the local universities as an option, most are from middle- or working-class families who have to take a study loan or use their parents' life savings to pay for the fees.

And there are some who do not even have such avenues.

The declining standard of universities in Malaysia is so glaring that everyone knows about it but does not wish to talk about it.

Every educated man on the street knows about the double standards in our education system. We hear the Education Ministers comparing matriculation and the STPM stating that they are comparable in standards.

Most educationists know that they are not of the same standard but the question most people would ask is if they are of the same standard, why not have a common entry examination for all Malaysians?

When quality is sacrificed at the altar of quantity, this is what will happen.

But instead of learning from these mistakes, our Education Ministry announced that it wants more substandard students to enter local universities so that we will have more graduates. What we will have in the end is a perpetual dependence on foreign labour.

The prime minister was moaning about the attitude of always waiting for subsidies and handouts. He shouldn't blame anyone but the government.

The Umno-led government's folly of spoon-feeding for the last 35 years means that they now cannot change the 'subsidy mindset' without risking losing seats in a general election.

They wanted to help the bumi but they went about it the wrong way and for far too long. In the process the non-bumi has become more resilient and hence more sought after by the private sector which unlike the government, is not inclined to pay fat salaries for dead wood.

There is a saying, 'As you sow, so shall you reap'.

All we can do is pray that those in power will arrest this dangerous problem in the education system immediately.

Anonymous said...

Truth hurts.

No matter what the government is doing about the education system and for many years it has put across a system starting with quota and then matriculation and now meritocracy, to me it meant just another dead end that has polarised the malays as outnumbering other races in the value good only in quantity than in quality. The result is unemployment amongst the malays in big numbers.

We have a situation that the government we choose is fulfilling their promises by providing the malays with the privilege regimes, but not the future.

The point is while you provide the platform for the malays to take off and fly high, there is no place for the malays to land, so we have to search for a landing ground and crash-land anywhere we can and hope for the best.

We have a situation now where our politicians are quick to use this as the bullets to shoot back at the malays for failing to make use of the advantages. Just where are the advantages the malays have if only few of us did really make the grade to become peers amongst other races who have not the privileges but have proven themselves at far greater pace?

If the professional malays are good in their command of English, the malays too may one day be employed out of Malaysia and that is a real advantage to say the least.

I have a vision that if our learning medium is English, we can have a true Malaysian legacy of education system without class or strata where the future generation of malays and other races of Malaysia no longer talk about issue of privileges, but working together to generate world class citizens by using and mastering that single language of education.

We have to sacrifice our ideals for the sake of our future Malaysian school going generations.

The malay race is not racing with other races of Malaysians to live in Malaysia. We should build a Malaysian race to race with other nations of the world to achieve the vision 2020 of one developed nation.

Anonymous said...

If we look at the situation before and during Merdeka, it is true that malays were lagging behind the Chinese and some Indians in all aspects as a result of the British's divide and rule policy.

If meritocracy was applied then, other communities would have surged a head of malays and the malays would have been left poor and helpless.

Now, 48 years has since passed, the malays are still lagging behind despite all the special rights and privileges being continued till today. The New Economic Policy, a policy described as official discrimination policy by foreigners, has failed to lift the malays on par with other races especially the Chinese. The Indians average per capita income may be higher than the Malays but they are still many Indians living below the poverty level.

Who is to blame for the malays failure to catch up with others? The Government, the malays, other races, globalization or economic crisis?

The special privileges have obliviously done more harm than good. Malays now are spoon-fed all the time by the government that they have come to believe that the special rights and privileges are here to stay forever.

What did the non-malays do to be born and bred in Malaysia only to be discriminated in many aspects including entry to university, cheaper houses, business permits, business opportunities, etc. We did not ask to be born in this country.

Is it their fault to be born a non-malay in this country? I believe no one has the answers, not even the Prime Minister.

The government, for the sake of uplift of malays, shall continue with all programs designed to assist bumis but it should consider reviewing some aspects of this policy which has been abused and has caused great dissatisfaction among the non-malays.

The malays now take the rights and privileges for granted that they do not wish to work hard and only expects more benefits from the government.

Same applies to privatization projects and government contracts given to malays only to be bailed out later due to poor management and abuse.

The quality of education has deteriorated due to entry of students without merits. No wonder none of the country's universities are among best in Asia.

The government has to review and redesign programs to assist the malays. Programs and initiatives to assist malays should result in malays who have the skills, resources and knowledge to be self-sufficient and have confidence of his own abilities rather than depending on government for everything.

At the same time, the non-malay shall not be deprived of their basic rights as a citizen of this country. Or else, we will see this issue cropping up every now and then in the future.

Anonymous said...

Let us not get into the rhetoric of race, NEP and so on.

The basic problem has always been the "Pentium Inside, Idiot Outside" syndrome. Having the necessary hardware does not mean things will work UNLESS the human software is there. All too often, I see teachers who are uncertain of their computer skills trying to avoid giving classes so that their inadequacies will not become evident. Otherwise, it usually a case of "in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king", with teachers teaching inaccurate stuff.

In any event, Smart Schools are all very well for WEST Malaysia but will not work in the interior of Sarawak where even the most basic infrastructure needs are lacking - no electricity, no telephones and so on! As for the much lauded e-Bario project, see (
11th February, 2003).

This might sound dated news but things have not changed!

Anonymous said...

CAn't change the sllyabus but add it.........