Classroom studies to go digital

PETALING JAYA: Teachers will soon be telling their students to put away their books and take out their electronic devices in classrooms.

Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid said students in the country’s 10,000 schools would be allowed to bring certain mobile devices to class, starting early next year.

Current policy prohibits students from bringing electronic devices to school.

However, Mahdzir said mobile phones would not be allowed as students were to concentrate on studying, not chatting with their friends, in class.

Mahdzir added that phones were more distracting compared to devices that depended on WiFi or a local area network to connect to the Internet.

“You can access more things with a handphone,” he told reporters at Institut Aminuddin Baki yesterday.

He also said there will be a time limit on the usage of electronic devices depending on the subject being taught.

“We are in the final stages of draf­ting the guidelines on this,” he said.

In April, the ministry mooted a policy to allow primary and secondary school students to bring electronic gadgets to class to help with the learning process, in line with the digital age.

Mahdzir cited similar policies adopted in South Korea, Japan and Singapore, but said the ministry had not decided what kind of gadgets would be allowed yet. It was also mulling the question of pricing, as some students might not be able to afford the devices.

The ministry would also look at broadband speeds in schools, factoring in rural and remote Internet access as well.

Deputy Education Minister Datuk Chong Sin Woon said the ministry encouraged students to use electronic devices such as tablets for studying and learning.

Students could download homework or find information, he said, but mobile phones did not make the cut as they were not considered important learning tools.

“The ministry has no intention of allowing mobile phones in the classroom for the time being,” he said.

However, the policy would be monitored and fine-tuned as needed, he added.

Parents’ groups responded positively to the announcement, although several concerns were raised about affordability and the exclusion of mobile phones.

Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said not all parents could afford such devices, so the Government should find ways to make sure that no child was left without a device.

Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education chairman Mak Chee Kin said the policy would be helpful, but the ministry should let schools decide if they were ready to implement it.

“It could cause more problems without comprehensive (implementation) plans. The ministry needs to engage schools and parent-teacher associations to ensure everyone is onboard and ready for this,” he said.

Mak said the high price of such devices might lead to cases of theft.

Furthermore, he added, poorer students might be left behind because not every parent could afford the devices.

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