The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said in Tokyo on Monday that the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) will have the best soft infrastructure of supporting laws, policies and practices to ensure its success and which would enable companies to explore the Information Age without “any of the usual constraints that frustrate them”.
The laws are divided into societal and commerce-enhancing cyberlaws to cover intellectual property, digital signature, computer crime, distance learning, telemedicine and electronic government.
Mahathir said policies that were successful during the Industrial Age that had helped Malaysia so much must now be removed to “unleash the full potential of the Information Age”.
While having the best soft infrastructure of supporting laws, policies and practices are important to the future of the MSC, there is another soft infrastructure which is even more critical if the MSC is going to be a technological and national success beneficial to all Malaysians - as the last thing Malaysia wants is a Third Wave island in a Second Wave or First Wave nation. This is the creation of a world-class soft infrastructure of knowledge workers in Malaysia.
This problem has been highlighted by the secretary-general of the National Union of Teaching Profession, N. Siva Subramaniam, who said in a statement yesterday that the NUTP is concerned over the trend where students are more computer-literate than teachers these days.
He called on the Ministry of Education to urgently tackle this “very unhealthy trend”, admitting that the situation now was such that even some primary schoolchildren were more knowledgeable in computers than teachers.
In the Information Age, there will not only be radical changes in the workplace, the “learn place” whether schools, colleges or universities will also undergo revolutionary changes. However, we must recognise that the problem of making the 250,000 primary and secondary school teachers in Malaysia IT-literate is one of the biggest challenges facing the country if Malaysia is to become a nation of knowledge workers. The ability of teachers to use technology to promote students’ acquisition of basic IT skills and subject-matter content is critical to our success to produce a future workforce of “learners” and not “knowers”.
Apart from ensuring that the teachers become computer-literate, teachers will have to learn a new pedagogy to use IT creatively where teachers would no longer serve as repositories of all knowledge but more as mentors, guides and facilitators for students who would be encouraged to define their own learning goals and then seek, sort and analyze information to achieve them.
The Education Ministry should seriously launch a crash programme to ensure that the 250,000 teachers in the schools are computer-literate by the year 2000, which should include a special loan scheme to encourage and provide an incentive to teachers to buy a personal computer and get special discount to get connected to the Internet.
A special Education Technology Task Force should be formed to be responsible for a continuous school IT improvement programme, providing ongoing training opportunities and incentives to the 250,000 teachers to acquire both IT-literacy as well as master a new IT educational pedagogy.
The Government should consider a special Teachers’ IT Education Programme incorporating a IT competency evaluation process and to use it to monitor the attainment of its goals, as dividing teachers into three categories:
All new teachers should acquire Level Two proficiency while there should be a scheme to encourage current teachers to attain Level One proficiency by the Year 2000.
Teachers with Level Three proficiency should be paid special allowances in helping to train other teachers to acquire Level One proficiency.