Let the learning continue unhindered
IT is our sincere hope that the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (MEB) will continue as planned under the helm of new Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid, who has been given the important responsibility of uplifting the country’s education system as it moves into the next level of the MEB plans. We would like to take this opportunity to welcome him, and wish him all the best in leading the task. Next year will see the MEB leaping into Wave 2, the second phase of its implementation timeline, to make Malaysia’s education system on par with the rest of the world. The recently published MEB 2014 Annual Report (AR’14) gave an overview of the programmes deployed in 2014. However, contrary to the ministry’s aim to enhance efficiency, the effectiveness of many of the programmes undertaken was not supported by quantitative evidence, only testimonial support from the participating teachers and students. Perhaps it is too soon to show results, but the programmes chosen should at least show quantifiable evidence that they were selected based on their ability to reach the desired outcomes. It would have been good too, to embed a research study to test a programme’s effectiveness, instead of merely putting it in without conducting a pre and post-analysis of their impact on students’ learning. Certainly, having data would aid in ensuring that only programmes that have an impact are selected, and can be replicated to benefit more schools. A case in point is the case study of Improving English Language achievement through Word Mania, piloted in SJKT Ladang Bute, Sepang. On a positive note, this is a good example of blended learning and the usage of Frog Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), which has been discussed in the MEB. However, the AR’14 did not specify how this programme improved English language achievement among the students. Instead, it showed attendance improvement and qualitative assessment on increased interest in using blended learning through ICT. The MEB puts high priority on the use of technology, making it one of the key initiatives under Shift 7, which is leveraging ICT to scale up quality learning needs. According to the MEB, all teachers must meet the minimum level of ICT literacy based on the standard provided by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) at end-2015. To ensure that teachers can realise the full potential of the 1BestariNet system, the ministry will train them. They were also required to complete a series of online training diagnostic tests by the end of 2014. As good as all these plans may sound under the developments of Wave 1 in the MEB, these initiatives were not updated in the AR’14 as part of the process of monitoring progress in ensuring that all teachers and ministry officials are ICT literate (Chapter 6, MEB). Will we reach the target of leveraging ICT in Wave 1 by the end of this year? As a committee member of the parent teacher association (PTA) in one of the top day schools in Kuala Lumpur, I am fortunate to have the information on the use of ICT in the school. FrogAsia, a council member of Page Malaysia, was also invited to see the ICT assets available and offered to give a presentation of what can be done to apply VLE. Not surprisingly, the use of VLE was evidently almost non-existent, limited to infrequent logins. Hence, it was diagnosed that FrogAsia needed to do training sessions with selected IT-savvy teachers. A one-day training session, combined with a week of monitoring progress, was the prescription given. This training will also be a platform to develop those who had been selected to become mentor teachers so the ICT knowledge can be transferred to the rest of the teaching fraternity, and continuously used as a teaching and learning tool. The school also has restricted internet access. It was assumed that the internet could be accessed anywhere in the school, but in reality, it is confined to selected places like the staff room, office and computer lab. Not all classrooms are therefore geared up to be smart classrooms at this juncture. However, even with limited access, many model FrogAsia VLE schools have managed to creatively use the available internet by scheduling their time in the computer lab to take advantage of VLE. The World Bank report mentioned in the MEB had cautioned that there is difficulty in using technology in education because most programmes do not take a holistic approach to ICT, causing many countries to fail to fully meet educational objectives. In moving towards a knowledge economy, it is necessary for us to embark on ICT, with its potential to transform education, but we must ensure that the implementation is realistic and done holistically. As it stands, we are short of achieving the targets outlined in Wave 1 and we must seriously look into this matter. We should learn from the RM2.6 billion lesson, the amount spent on PPSMI computer labs in 2002 to 2010, which were ineffectively utilised and caused a major implementation problem that resulted in the abolition of the policy. Tunku Munawirah Putra is honorary secretary of Page Malaysia, an education lobbyist that serves as a channel between concerned parents, the Ministry of Education and other education stakeholders. This article first appeared in Opinion, digitaledge Weekly, on August 24 - 30, 2015.