(Petaling Jaya, Sunday): The Education Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, should give a full and satisfactory explanation as to why the much-vaunted Smart School Project, one of the seven Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) flagship applications, is not having a smart start.
Although the government plan is to launch off the Smart School Project on the beginning the new school term tomorrow in 90 schools with a student population of about 90,000, it is clear that the government is just not ready for it.
This was why the Education Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak pleaded to the public in Ipoh yesterday for patience and understanding.
Najib said "teething problems" in the initial implementation of the Smart School Project were expected as the government was going ahead with the implementation.
New Straits Times quoted the Education Minister as saying that there was "a problem with the consortium of contractors supplying the hardware because of technical problems" and no agreement had yet been signed.
Najib said the Education Ministry’s technology education division had however prepared temporary multimedia courseware and software which will be used until the ones to be provided by the consortium is ready.
What is shocking is that the Education Ministry has spent RM53 million to develop this "temporary multimedia courseware".
As Najib had repeatedly described the creation of Smart School as "an exciting development" of the Malaysian education system, the launching of the Smart School Project tomorrow should be an exciting day. But this is not the case.
There is widespread confusion and even ignorance among parents whose children will begin schooling in the Smart School tomorrow about the project.
Principals and teachers of these Smart Schools have not helped to clear up parental confusion and ignorance when some of them explained that Smart Schools should not be equated with IT (information technology) and that the focus of Smart Schools is on "creating a smart teaching and learning culture, with or without computers".
If the Smart School Project is about "creating a smart teaching and learning culture, with or without computers", then why should it be one of the seven Muiltimedia Super Corridor flagship applications, why should the Smart School Project be delayed by the failure of the consortium of contractors to deliver their multimedia courseware and software and why couldn’t the other 8,500 secondary and primary schools in the country also implement the Smart School Project if it has nothing to do with IT or computers?
It would appear from these "explanations" that there are principals and teachers of the Smart School Project who do not fully understand the rationale of Smart Schools to thrive on a technology-enriched environment and do not know that information technology is the driving force behind the project.
This is the most disturbing part of the Smart School Project. Are the principals, teachers and parents of the students in the 90 selected "Smart Schools" prepared for the project?