Wan Junaidi doubts schools in Sarawak ready for digital textbooks

Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar

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KUCHING, Dec 20: Santubong Member of Parliament (MP) Dato Sri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar is sceptical about the Education Ministry’s plan to introduce digitalised textbooks for students next year.

Will it be a burden or a benefit? Wan Junaidi foresees that the implementation would raise as many problems as it solved, as there are many complex issues that need to be figured out, particularly in Sarawak, including infrastructure, effectiveness, affordability and security regulation.

“No device will be provided, and will students be allowed to bring their own (tablets)? This is even a problem in private schools, where privileged kids attend,” he exclaimed in a press statement today in response to the parliamentary reply given by Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching on Dec 6.

Teo, in her reply regarding the ministry’s measures to reduce usage of paper in schools and tertiary institutions, said the digitalised textbooks would be introduced for Form One to Three students next year to lighten school bags.

This will be followed by Forms Four to Six in 2021, and the ministry would monitor the progress before the programme is expanded further.

The ministry, however, has no plans to provide students with the devices, such as tablets, but students will be allowed to bring their own.

“The device is not cheap even for a second-hand or third-hand. So, not everyone can afford them. Moreover, not all urban parents can afford a tablet for each child, what more to say of rural parents,” Wan Junaidi commented about the burden that parents would need to bear.

Elaborating on infrastructure, Wan Junaidi pointed out that accessibility to robust and stable Internet connectivity was still a problem in many city schools, so the less equipped rural schools would be left behind when it comes to technology and computing.

“Using multiple devices and to be connected to the Internet at once will require a lot of bandwidth. Do the schools have the infrastructure to support education technology? For example, government schools generally have 35 to 45 students per class. So if there are 10 classes, that means at least 350 students will be connecting to the internet.

“Then there is the question of security. Giving children access to the Internet even for academic purpose opens the floodgates to the possibility of accessing the Internet on a regular basis, and this would increase the chances of cyberbullying for instance,” he cautioned.

Wan Junaidi shared that studies had shown that cyberbullying was the most rampant form of bullying today, which was the reason why many schools worldwide have discouraged or even stopped the use of such devices in the classroom.

“There are also serious concerns about the rules and regulations pertaining to the use of the device in the classroom. What about security measures, including setting up a firewall to prevent students from misusing or abusing the Internet as well as anti-virus for protection?

“All that require finances to build and set up. It is not cheap to install licenced software. For instance, the Window operating system costs roughly RM850 per computer,” he said, adding that urban schools were already sweating nervously thinking of the implementation, what more to say rural schools.

On top of that, he said there were other problems surrounding the implementation, including Internet access, stable electricity supply, ensuring a stable connection, fixes for Internet connection and services hang-ups, maintenance of services and devices in schools, and students.

“Think of the number of schools and students in the country; how is the ministry going to manage? All these little gritty things that will arise in computerising education need to be figured out before schools and students can benefit.

“Good teachers don’t need textbooks to teach. Students need them for revision. If teachers are able to use proper teaching strategies in their teaching and encourage the love of learning, the students don’t need to bring too many textbooks to school,” he suggested. — DayakDaily