ARE WE SERV­ING?

New Straits Times - - Letters -

and sup­ple­ments the text­book, or one that alien­ates it?;

AN in­creased fi­nan­cial strain on our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, which could be spent on other vi­tal stu­dent needs. We could use the money on sports. If we think about it, is this what govern­ment schools need right now? I have three boys who have all been schooled in govern­ment schools, from Year One to Form Five. I have seen, over the years, how lack of funds and fi­nan­cial re­sources has led to schools cut­ting down on sport­ing fa­cil­i­ties. Given the choice, I would rather the au­thor­i­ties spend the money to give stu­dents more chances to take part in sports. Chil­dren need to spend more time out­doors in healthy sport ac­tiv­i­ties;

SPEND more on up­grad­ing sci­ence labs. Who will pay for the in­tro­duc­tion of these mo­bile de­vices in schools? The govern­ment? If so, all schools should have well-equipped com­puter labs by now. That has not hap­pened. It is also a well-known fact that sci­ence lab­o­ra­to­ries in many schools are poorly equipped (even in ur­ban ar­eas), lead­ing to the ad hoc im­ple­men­ta­tion and then aban­don­ment of prac­ti­cal ex­am­i­na­tions for sci­ence-based sub­jects in the Si­jil Pe­la­jaran Malaysia ex­am­i­na­tion in re­cent years. Up­grad­ing sci­ence labs should be a higher pri­or­ity;

CAN all stu­dents af­ford elec­tronic de­vices? If the min­istry is go­ing to sug­gest a BYOD (Buy Your Own De­vice) pro­gramme for mo­bile de­vices and shift the bur­den onto par­ents, not ev­ery­one

will be able to af­ford it, es­pe­cially those in ru­ral ar­eas. That aside, what about Wi-Fi cov­er­age?;

We are not talk­ing about pri­vate schools, where par­ents are more af­flu­ent. We are talk­ing about govern­ment schools. I strongly be­lieve that a school is a place for stu­dents to be equal. Af­ter all, that is why we have uni­forms. And that is also why the in­tro­duc­tion of such a pol­icy must be clear, un­der­stand­able, uni­formly im­ple­mented and fair on all stake­hold­ers: stu­dents, teach­ers, par­ents, ed­u­ca­tors, etc;

“GO­ING dig­i­tal”. The phrase im­plies a kind of grandeur or so­phis­ti­ca­tion, as though it is a divine elixir that we must sip to ex­pe­ri­ence ed­u­ca­tional bliss. I beg to dif­fer. In fact, I strongly be­lieve that as a so­ci­ety, our over de­pen­dence on tech­nol­ogy is not just alarm­ing, but dan­ger­ously ad­dic­tive. Stu­dents clutch their mo­bile phones as though they are life­sav­ing de­vices, a ba­sic need to live on this planet. Do we want to give them more of these?;

CHIL­DREN need less screen time. It is true that chil­dren need to be equipped with the nec­es­sary tech­no­log­i­cal skills lest they be left be­hind in to­day’s world. But, bear in mind that the av­er­age pre­teen or teenager will al­ready be spend­ing a large amount of screen time at home. Sta­tis­tics re­veal that teens, aged 13 to 18, spend a whop­ping 10 to 15 hours on gad­gets daily. This ef­fec­tively dis­places time that can be spent on out­door ac­tiv­ity and ex­er­cise, or face-to-face in­ter­ac­tions with fam­ily and friends;

A NEG­A­TIVE health im­pact. Tod­dlers

as young as 2 (or even younger) are be­ing in­tro­duced to iPads and smart­phones for en­ter­tain­ment pur­poses. Some­times, these gad­gets even act as nan­nies. If school­child­ren spend more time with elec­tronic de­vices, their eye­sight may be ir­re­versibly im­paired, caus­ing in­creas­ing rates of my­opia and reti­nal dam­age in the long run. Their pos­ture may also be af­fected. As to the long-term ef­fects of screen ra­di­a­tion dam­age, only time will tell;

STU­DENTS for­get­ting how to write leg­i­bly. Over-re­liance on tech­nol­ogy is detri­men­tal to the de­vel­op­ment of fine mo­tor skills, such as writ­ing. As a teacher for more than two decades, I can see the dif­fer­ence my­self. Two decades ago, stu­dents’ writ­ing skills were much bet­ter. That came with the older gen­er­a­tions’ and teach­ers’ em­pha­sis on writ­ing and spell­ing skills, and on pens, pen­cils and ex­er­cise books be­ing on desks. To­day, more stu­dents are not able to write leg­i­bly. This prob­lem will be ex­ac­er­bated with the in­tro­duc­tion of elec­tronic de­vices into class­rooms. Stu­dents fail to re­alise that they have to write dur­ing their ex­ams. Their writ­ing must be clear and leg­i­ble;

ANTI-SO­CIAL be­hav­iour and the “look down pol­icy”. As a teacher, I al­low a cer­tain de­gree of flex­i­bil­ity in class when I con­duct tu­to­ri­als. I am fine with stu­dents be­ing on mo­bile de­vices, such as lap­tops and tablets. Some­times, they will take down notes or ac­cess a par­tic­u­lar site for class dis­cus­sion, re­search and de­bate. But, what I in­vari­ably find is that this of­ten re­sults in what I re­fer to as the “look down pol­icy”, where stu­dents are look­ing down at their gad­gets all the time, so much so that no one is ac­tu­ally look­ing at each other.

The teacher and stu­dents are re­duced to pieces of fur­ni­ture in class, which I find to be, al­beit un­in­ten­tional, unso­cia­ble be­hav­iour. There is very lit­tle con­tact in these sit­u­a­tions, ren­der­ing the class­room at­mos­phere ster­ile and lack­ing in hu­man con­tent. We are not ro­bots, and the class­room must not be de­prived of the warmth of face-to-face hu­man con­tact, emo­tion and con­nec­tion be­tween teacher and stu­dent;

THERE is no com­par­i­son be­tween on­screen read­ing and tra­di­tional read­ing. Many of us have also for­got­ten the beauty of read­ing a book, a hand­writ­ten let­ter, or a post­card/note from a friend. Read­ing print is a joy and can­not com­pare with the cold at­mos­phere of read­ing on­line. When we read a book, we do so in a slow and de­lib­er­ate man­ner; and,

THE sti­fling of imag­i­na­tion and cre­ativ­ity. The phe­nom­e­non of too much time be­ing spent on elec­tronic de­vices has been re­ferred to as the “Google Ef­fect”. Nowa­days, chil­dren go straight to their gad­gets to find out about some­thing. This can, at times, lead to a “cut-and-paste” men­tal­ity. As such, dan­gers of pla­gia­rism must be taken se­ri­ously and com­mu­ni­cated at school. Over-re­liance on elec­tronic de­vices can cause a lack of crit­i­cal and cre­ative think­ing.

I am not say­ing that we should go tech-free at school. Tech­nol­ogy is both in­valu­able and in­dis­pens­able in the 21st cen­tury. We need to em­brace it, but cer­tain mo­bile de­vices in pri­mary and sec­ondary schools may cause more harm than good in the long run if not im­ple­mented prop­erly. There must be ad­e­quate dis­cus­sion, de­bate and thought be­fore this pol­icy is in­tro­duced.

We must ask whose in­ter­ests we are serv­ing. We need to act in the best in­ter­ests of stu­dents, teach­ers, par­ents, ed­u­ca­tors and other stake­hold­ers in ed­u­ca­tion.

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