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Digital textbooks for schools soon


Going online: Under the new system, students will be able to download their textbooks as PDF files.

Going online: Under the new system, students will be able to download their textbooks as PDF files.

PETALING JAYA: Schools are going digital with the introduction of e-textbooks next year, a surprise announcement by the Deputy Edu­cation Minister but not an entirely unwelcome one.

Secondary students will be able to download their textbooks as PDF (Portable Document Format) files, Teo Nie Ching said.

But the digital version won’t be available for primary pupils yet.

The move, said educationist Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam, was timely and a step forward in improving the country’s education system.

“Not all parents can afford to send their kids to private schools.

“It’s undeniable that private schools are more advanced, but we have to start somewhere and digital textbooks are the way to go,” he told The Star.

Siva said the Education Ministry could work with parent-teacher associations and private companies to equip schools with computers.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day. Parents and society must invest in the nation’s education system if we want our children to do well. We cannot just rely on the government to provide everything,” he said.

National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Harry Tan agreed, saying that e-textbooks were a good idea but the ministry must make sure that every child had access.

“Perhaps the ministry can work with the private sector to provide laptops and computers to all students,” he said, adding that students should not be allowed to download the textbooks on mobile devices or tablets.

He said allowing smartphones or tablets in schools could result in students abusing the devices, as some might use it to play games or access inappropriate content.

“Also, allowing such gadgets could lead to students becoming competitive as to who has the latest or best device.

“Teachers too will be burdened. Can you imagine if these devices get stolen?” Tan added.

While welcoming the move, Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education (Magpie) chairman Mak Chee Kin questioned whether it could be implemented so soon.

“Do all schools have computers and Internet connection?

“It’s only two months to the new year. Will all schools have the facilities to download these e-textbooks?” he said.

He added that the ministry must make sure that all the preparatory work was done before launching the e-textbooks.

“Why the rush, especially since new textbooks have already been distributed to some schools?” Mak said.

Teo announced yesterday that e-textbooks would be introduced in secondary schools starting next year, but details were still being ironed out.

E-textbooks, she said, would mean lighter schoolbags.

She also said the ministry was discussing whether to let students download these e-books on their personal devices or on school devices.

“For now it’s only PDF, but eventually we will make it more interactive,” she said.

Teo added that students still had the option of using print textbooks.

“Once the e-textbooks are introduced, we will look at whether its use is accepted,” she told reporters at the ministry’s Innovation Day celebration in Putrajaya.

She said the ministry would not introduce it among primary pupils yet as the use of electronic devices at such an early age had to be studied first.

In 2014, StarEducate reported that the Education Ministry would be digitalising textbooks to enable teaching and learning through a virtual learning environment platform.

Then Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the digital textbooks would help lighten both the students’ schoolbags and parents’ burdens.

Parents, he said, would not be burdened by the additional costs incurred from the implementation of these digital textbooks because the tools, including Google Chrome­books and high-speed Internet, would be provided to schools.

Muhyiddin said the textbooks would be released in two phases.

In the first phase, 313 titles would be made accessible to students, parents and teachers, through the 1BestariNet website.

The second phase, expected to be launched between 2016 and 2025, would see digital textbooks being made interactive.

Related story:

Lots of tech issues attached to e-textbook proposal

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