IT experts and educators divided on tech in schools

PETALING JAYA: Educators and IT experts are divided on the move to have a technology stream in schools.

National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) president Kamarozaman Abd Razak said that it was good if students could be exposed to technology-based subjects, but said that the Government should look at the need for proper training.

“Right now, the training programmes for teachers are very limited.

“There is no budget, which consequently affects teachers’ performance and ability to catch up with the IT world,” he said.

Kamarozaman added that technology was constantly changing and evolving, so students should be able to adapt and be exposed to the field in a professional manner.

He said that currently, Form Four students have a science and computer subject, but some schools could not teach it because they did not have the facilities for it.

“If the Malaysian Communica­tions and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) can help the Education Ministry to supply computers to all schools, then we can have the science and computer subject,” he said.

He also said the country suffered from slow broadband speeds which prevented the proper teaching of technology classes in schools, adding that it was even worse in Sabah and Sarawak.

Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) School of Computer Sciences senior lecturer Dr Syaheerah Lebai Lutfi felt that a technology stream in secondary or primary schools should not be the main concern.

“Technology has a bright side which lets us optimise information delivery.

“However, the dark side is when we get too dependent on it.

“In universities, there are those seeking counselling due to Internet addiction,” she said.

Dr Syaheerah added that moderation is key.

“People think that there’s an ultimatum with technology, that you either have to keep up with it or become redundant.

“But seldom do they research what is really relevant, required and practical.

“Furthermore, policies are made without asking the end users like teachers who are obliged to use software in schools,” she said.

Although the technology industry has ample job opportunities, Sunway University’s School of Science and Technology associate dean and associate professor Dr Lau Sian Lun suggested that the science stream will do for now.

“I don’t believe that early exposure (to technology) will necessarily accelerate learning,” he said.

Dr Lau acknowledged that digital technology is already part of our everyday lives, but believes that technology literacy and innovation should be the main concern of the Government.

“Literacy allows generations to make good and full use of technology.

“Innovation allows new technology to be created for the future,” he said.

IT experts hailed the technology stream suggestion, with C.F. Fong saying that having technology-based subjects would further enhance students’ interest in IT.

Fong, founder of cybersecurity firm LGMS, said this can be seen in the younger generation who were already technology savvy.

He said such subjects should take on a more practical approach in schools, such as teaching them how to code, and analyse data.

However, he also wondered if Malaysia had the necessary resources to teach such subjects.

“I would say that the biggest concern is whether we have the people to teach the next generation,” he said.

Technology entrepreneur Dalbir Singh said that having a stream dedicated to technology was a good idea, but said its success would be dependent on collaboration with the other streams and also support from the technology sector to ensure the course content is relevant and sustainable.

“People in the arts and sciences should also have some basic technology subjects in their curriculum as technology is inevitable, irrespective of which business vertical you end up in.

“What would be excellent is to have a final- year project for students that will make it mandatory for the group to consist of students from the different streams.

“This would ensure cross-collaboration,” he said.

Dalbir added that such integration was essential as today’s workplace was moving away from silos to a “metric organisation”, where a person with a specific skill set can be used for projects as and when required.

“Having this kind of collaboration with different streams will kickstart them from the very beginning and set a good foundation up to the university level itself,” he said.

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