Mixed reactions to ministry’s IT gadget policy
Posted on July 19, 2012, Thursday
KUCHING: The issue of allowing students to bring mobile phones and other information technology (IT) gadgets to schools effective next year has met with mixed reactions.
The majority of education leaders interviewed yesterday were concerned that these gadgets might interfere with lessons and distract attention in class.
Federation of Boards of Management of Kuching and Samarahan Divisions Chinese Primary Schools president Liu Thian Leong said while allowing students to bring mobile phones to school would make it easier for parents to contact their children, the school management must make sure that it does not affect lessons.
“If students were allowed to bring mobile phones and other IT gadgets to the school, schools should forbid students from using this stuff during lessons.
“Even adults are told to turn off their mobile phones, or put them on silent mode, during occasions such as a talk … what more to say when the phones are on the students’ hands. They have yet to learn to be fully responsible.”
Liu opined that the Education Department should issue clear guidelines to address this concern.
“This is not a big issue. The Education Department should have a proper plan, and take it seriously when it comes to bigger issues that would affect the whole education system.”
On Monday, Deputy Education Minister Datuk Wee Ka Siong announced that students would be allowed to bring IT gadgets to school effective next year once the Education Act 1996 was amended.
Wee said amendments to the rules and regulations of the Act were needed in order to encourage students and educators to embrace IT in line with the Ministry’s plan to implement virtual teaching and the ‘1Bestari’ learning programme nationwide.
Minister of Welfare, Women and Family Development Datuk Fatimah Abdullah too have mix feelings about this proposal.
She agreed that mobile phones had grown to become a need nowadays because parents often needed to contact their children or to give last minute reminders.
“It is a trend. Almost every child and teenager has a mobile phone now.
However, the main concern of teachers is whether the students will pay attention in class. There must be guidelines on when and where students are allowed to use mobile phones and IT gadgets.
“This must be thought out carefully.”
Committee of Management of Kuching Chung Hua Middle School No.1, 3 and 4 chairman Richard Wee too echoed Liu and Fatimah’s call for proper guidelines so that studies would not be affected.
He opined that students should not be allowed to use these things when the lesson is on.
“Parents should also try to avoid calling their children during lesson time. They should call only when there is something urgent. Our schools encourage students to use IT gadgets for the right purpose, but of course under proper management.”
Chung Hua Middle School (CHMS) No.4 principal Johnny Kon said there were more cons than pros in the Ministry’s latest announcement.
He too spoke of the need for the Ministry to come up with clear guidelines before implementing this policy.
“Students are not allowed to bring phones to school at present. But now I don’t know why the Education Department changed this policy? From the stand point of school management, I think this would create various forms of problems.”
He opined that students should be discouraged from bringing laptops and other IT gadgets to schools because most schools were already equipped with multi-media teaching facilities.
“Apart from the distraction it might cause, there could also be problems of theft and intrusion of privacy, where photos were snapped without permission.”
Kon said this new policy might also heap unnecessary pressures on parents.
“Students nowadays like to compare and have what their friends have. They would pester their parents to buy them the latest or most expensive model. They have peer pressure and cannot mix properly in school then.”
Kon said schools hours were fixed, so that shouldn’t be a problem for parents to pick up their kids. In the case of emergencies, he said they could always call up the school to past a message to their children.
However, he said his school do allow some students to bring mobile phones to school under certain conditions.
“We allow students who use bus to bring their phones to contact their parents. Some parents do request the school to allow their children to bring phones to enable them to contact their children.
“But those who make such requests need to apply for permission from the school. Even when permission is granted, the school would keep the phones until the class finishes.
“This would be a burden for the school management if we needed to do this for every student.”