Education plays a role for self-advancement, while governments view it as an vital mechanism for national development. Students have more opportunities to create and work with new knowledge (Bereiter 2002) and requiring them to apply their learning in new ways.
The participation of an educated society contributes the economic growth of a country and affect positively in the life of people, especially those of the least advantaged. According to Katharina (2000), education helps in increasing the individual salary from the notion that education results in learning that raises a worker’s productivity. This is supported by Musai and Barghi (2012) that education helps in creating more productive labor force and income opportunities.
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Therefore, the achievement of MDGs Goal 2 which is achieving universal primary education in 2015, one of the 8 Millennium Development Goals signed in 2000 by UN member states and development agencies is a key for the achievement of the rest of MDGs (World Bank 2011; Vandemoortele, 2002; United Nations 2000). Most of countries in SouthEast Asia have adopted the 2000 Millennium Declaration and develops a number of projects targeting MDGs, particularly goal 2, education using ICTs as enabler (UNESCO 2004). For instance, SmartSchool Project in Malaysia is the most visible project of a national ICT plan in relation to ICTs and education (Belawati 2004).
This lead to the author to discuss further on examining the challenges of adopting ICT in Primary schools in Malaysia, review the effectiveness of SmartSchool project and proposing solutions to address the challenges of the SmartSchool project. The rest of the essay is structured as in section 2, literatures on ICTs and Education in SouthEast Asia and Malaysia. In section 4, Malaysian SmartSchool project and its background is reviewed. Design Reality Gap framework is also presented and discussed in light of its suitability to analyze the SmartSchool project followed by the application of the framework with its ITPOSMOO dimensions. Finally, conclusions are drawn from the analysis in section 4.
2.1 ICT and Education in SouthEast Asia
In the South East Asia countries, access to education has improved dramatically over the past few decades (MOE 2012; World Bank 2010). Primary school enrollment is high in most SouthEast Asia countries with 92 per cent (MOE 2012; Fahimi & Moghadam 2003; World Bank 2010). The demand for education has increased as it is seen as an important agent to enhance social, economic and political (Amutabi and Oketch 2003). Welch (2011a) supports that this trend is also spread in SouthEast Asia countries. ICTs have empowered teachers and students, promote change and assist the development of 21st century skills (Trucano 2005).
Although primary education systems of Southeast Asia region started from different historical backgrounds and have experienced plentiful phases of development, influenced by colonial heritage, economic development, nation building efforts, it is clearly set out their education development policy on providing quality education for all (Mitaray 2000; Sadiman 2004).
The Southeast Asia region is the huge geographic diversity comprises sprawling landmasses and enormous expanses of ocean dotted with numerous islands (World Bank 2012). Socio-economic characteristics also contrast across the region. In terms of economic development, the Southeast Asia region includes nations with the various GDP in the world. Some of the diversity between countries is reflected in Table 2.1, which records estimates of population, youth literacy and expenditure on education in eight nations in the region. The literacy rate for youth in the region shows the Malaysia and Singapore are the highest rate with 98% (World Bank 2012; UIS UNESCO 2012).
Table 2.1: Selected demographic and educational indicators (estimates) for eight nations in the Southeast Asia region
Literacy rate (%), youth
Expenditure per student, primary (% of GDP per capita)
Source: Data extracted from World Bank 2012 (http://data.worldbank.org/); UIS UNESCO 2012 (http://www.uis.unesco.org)
ICTs have great impact to motivate teachers and students in school. Both teachers and students feel ICT use contributes to student motivation in learning (Trucano 2005; infoDev 2012, Elnord 2006). In addition, students who use a computer at home is seen more confidence than pupils who have no access (Trucano 2005; Education Center 2007). NCREL (2012) concludes that “technology become a catalyst for teaching and learning (T&L) in the classroom”.
Some criticism state that technology adoption is providing minimal value-added benefit to educational efforts (Cordes & Miller 2000; Cuban 2011; Oppenheimer 2003). Trucano (2005) argues that “Having advance technology before education is one of the continuing difficulties in education whereby educational planners and technology advocates think of the technology first and then investigate the educational applications of this technology later”
Another criticism is the positive impact of ICT in education has not been proven yet (infoDev 2012) and the impact of ICT on student achievement remains challenging to measure (Trucano 2005; Wenglinsky 1998). Hiebert (1999) raised a similar point where student’s over-practice procedures before they understand them, they have more difficulty making sense of them later; however they can learn new concepts and skills while they are solving problems.
New internet technologies are not yet operational completely especially emerging wireless protocols including 802.11 or WiMax. It supposed to provide connectivity to remote areas but the technologies are only covers for the most part in planning stages and face many regulatory obstacles (Trucano 2005). World Bank (2012) states that Myanmar at the lowest percent with 0.06 per cent and Cambodia at 0.15 per cent broadband Internet subscribers. While Singapore are the highest broadband user with 25 per cent includes digital subscriber line, cable modem, or other high-speed technology.
ICT and Education in Malaysia
Malaysia strives to meet government’s Vision 2020; educational reform across all educational sectors has become imperative. ICT and capacity building are essential components in the reconceptualization of teacher education programs (Nykvist 2009). Malaysia has actively encouraged the integration of ICTs into education system to accomplish a diversity of objectives, and is considered a regional leader in the implementation of computers and the Internet in schools, more over use of the ICT in Education become as part of continuous national planning process (infoDev 2007).
Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) project is shaped near the nation’s capital to attract ICT industry in Malaysia and the subsequent education development known as SmartSchool. The implementation of the SmartSchool Project in 1999 indicates a dramatic change in the Malaysian education system. This project aims systematically to reinvent the T&L processes in schools. Ministry of Education (2004) state that “IT technology is utilized in every aspect of education and produce students who are knowledge and ICT literate and able to use technology for the betterment of themselves, their communities and their nation”. By deploying latest information technologies to revolutionize the education system, Ministry of Education organized for pilot project with 88 schools were connected, equipped with IT-trained teachers and integrated smart school management system to be completed in December 2002. However, a standardization process was deployed to measure the use of ICTs in all 88 smart schools in 2006. Subsequently, all 10000 of Malaysia’s primary and secondary schools would be smart schools by 2010 (Government of Malaysia, 1997, p. 9; UNPAN 2006).
Applying Smart School Management System (SSMS) in SmartSchool project includes the technology, financial management, human resources, facilities, security, school governance, student affairs, and educational resources, external resources are the excellent National Educational Programs plan. MOE also has established the Smart Partnership plan with local companies and multinational companies consists of telecommunication provider, hardware company and educational training company (UNPAN 2006; Zain et al. 2004).
Technologies are invested to enhance T&L process as well as management. For instance, Television, compact disk (CD), video cassette recording (VCR) and radio sets used to enable schools to access educational TV, courseware and radio programs. This equipment, together with the computers, helps in cooperative learning. While internet access enable schools to obtain T&L materials recommended by the MOE. (Smart School Project Team 1997).
Besides, teachers use computers to automate marking and recording of school-based tests. Administrators also use management software to handle the school’s financial, staff development, student affairs, and curriculum management tasks (Halawany et al. 2008).
The project has been reviewed several times and it seems that the mega project has partially failed to meet its target. The plan to have all 10000 of Malaysia’s primary and secondary schools would be smart schools by 2010 have not been reality. Some researchers found that the plan is too smart for Malaysia since MOE needs to ensure the internet connectivity to be in place, readiness issue with regards to the students, teachers and parents’ acceptance on new technology in education, country budget and also massive expenses to be invested for the super project (Cloke et al. 2006; Shaharuddin & Abiddin 2009; Mokhtar 2000). New reformation in education system has been launched due to this project failure and Education Delivery Unit (EDU) is created to evaluate the success and efficiency of the transformation plan for the next education project before implementing it (MOE 2012).
Obstacles to the integration of ICT in education in Malaysia
Figure 1: Obstacles in integrating the ICT in education
Lack of government support & policies
Source : Developed from UNESCO 2012; Samuel & Abu Bakar 2006; Chin Wee & Abu Bakar 2006; Carnoy 2004; Ngai & Wat 2002; (Lawrence & Tar 2010) ; Love et al. (2001)
Infrastructure facilities in Malaysia still become the most important factor. This is due to internet access and connectivity is the vital factor for the ICT in education. There are some reasons of internet access such as network being disconnected, server maintenance, hacker attack or cabling problem or no electricity supply (Chin Wee & Abu Bakar 2006; ITU 2011). Table 2 shows the condition of school access towards ICT in 2000.
Table 2: Number of schools with Internet access
Level of schools
2 870 667
Source: Belawati (2004)
Availability of computers, software also peripherals also influence the success of the project. The MOE should ensure all 7715 primary schools in city or rural area in Malaysia are properly connected with the internet access and also provides with the equipment (MOE 2012). MOE employ the dedicated technical person to assist and provide regular maintenance for all schools involved. With the Education Development Plan, Malaysia schools receive almost 40 billion (MYR) for the administration and development. Therefore, regular maintenance and hardware purchasing can be made through the provided budget (MOE 2012). According to Chin Wee and Abu Bakar (2006), ICT tools are changing too fast included the new model of hardware and enhanced features which revealed by some students in Mathematics class; it shows that they are very frustrating to deal with different version of software package. Completely new software would mean teachers and learners need more time to familiarize and master it.
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Curriculum of ICT education and another core subjects been revised by MOE to cater for various levels of capability in ICT skills among pupils. It also introduces pupils to various entry points of ICT knowledge (Curriculum Development Center 2007). The education objectives has been streamlined to the new education needs. Types of teaching also upgraded with Knowledge-Based Approach and Skill-Based Approach and learning practices to the students are more on Project-based, Self-paced learning and Self-Directed Learning Approach (MOE 2011). However, it comes to the realization of ICT-related objectives which to reflect what have been targeted whether it can be applied in Malaysia’s school or if there is any readiness issue to the students acceptance. While evaluation on the project implementation plays an important role in assessing and providing feedback on job performance. Lack of evaluation of ICT integration in schools indicates that the school and administration of education does not value the teaching effort (Chin Wee & Abu Bakar 2006).
Lack of management skills in all level include schools, states and also country give bad impact to the success of ICT project. For instance, in school, absence of a central database in schools creates major problem as all data should be integrated and stored (Samuel & Abu Bakar 2006). Therefore, the information unable to be shared among students and teachers during T&L process. A Learning Management System (LMS) also hardly been used in schools as it is supposedly assist in administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery of education courses or training programs. Limited computers for staff to prepare examination questions and prepare reports (Samuel & Abu Bakar 2006). Due to this limitation, teachers find it rather difficult to prepare the T&L materials such as PowerPoint or courseware. Even though there are spare laptops, but it also sometimes out-of-order or not functioning well. While for the MOE level, the written policies on ICT and education must always be revised according to nation’s need and avoid from imitate westernize approach. For example, the language usage in courseware should be used in Malay language instead of English language. Due to this barriers, students from rural are having difficulties in understanding the module. MOE also has to arrange the administration team or monitoring team to each school that involve in this project and review the effectiveness in T&L system. Despite the fact that technical support infrastructure is properly plan by MOE, but the implementation should be in place and well managed by all people involve include the students, teachers, administrators and policy makers.
Without allocating fund on staff development such as in house or external training course to emphasize teachers’ skills and knowledge may not assist the objectives of ICT project. This is very crucial because teachers deliver the module based on their knowledge and having the excellent skills in computer’s knowledge surely help during T&L process. Under the 9th Malaysia Plan, the MOE has allocated US$6.3 million for the replacement of ICT equipment and infrastructure (UNESCO 2008). MOE also prepare the self-assessment of ICT skills for each teachers before they are stepping into the class and start to deliver the knowledge.
SmartSchool Project analysis
Modern organizations rely upon technology to manage internal communications and interaction (Bocij et al. 2008: 17). SmartSchool can be categorized as partial failed IS project for Malaysia as some groups does not achieve their major goals and experience some significant undesirable outcomes (Sauer 1993). To understand why the SmartSchool categorized as partial failure, ‘design-reality gap model’ is considered which analyzed the differences between design expectations and implementation realities (Heeks 2006).
Figure 6: The ITPOSMOO Dimensions of SmartSchool Design-Reality Gaps
Source : Adapted from (Heeks 2006)
There are four dimensions which is most likely contributed to the failure of SmartSchool. The estimated gap between the design and the reality among each dimension is assigned to scores (1-10), i.e. 1 indicates negligible gap while 10 corresponds to a big gap.
Management systems and structures
The design assumed that the SmartSchool created with proper planning, acquisition, development and to meet the quality standards of information (MOE 2011). In reality, it is supported by Samuel and Abu Bakar (2006) that the management and structure of SmartSchool are not properly implemented. Hamzah and Azman (2009) states that teachers’ workload is increased after SmartSchool implementation while at the same time teachers should focus more on the KBSM’s syllabus. SSMS also not been utilized as daily system such as teacher’s attendance and this has shown that system are just wasting. School management also have to do duplicate task because different system used between state’s education official and district’s education official (Hamzah & Azman 2009). Touch and Go system been launched to monitor the staff attendance and students access to school. Evaluation for ICT Usage System (SPPICTS) in school has been implemented to all teachers in order for MOE gather all the feedback from teachers upon the ICT (SMART 2006). Lack of monitoring by Education officials to the schools because they were not using the SSMS system (Hamzah & Azman 2009). Therefore, an estimated design-reality gap score of 8 was observed in the management systems and structures.
The design assumed that the technology and infrastructure facilities are the vital factor in integrating the ICT in schools. In reality, insufficient computer laboratories for student’s usage and poor maintenance by school administrations are the key issues for this issue. Maintenance is poor and fund allocations from the MOE are moderately slow (Chin Wee & Abu Bakar 2006). Internet connection also unpredictable in rural area such as in Sabah and Sarawak (Samuel & Abu Bakar 2006). Internet access is not constant which cause to no internet service in certain days and computers being hacked by virus (MOE 2011). Malaysia telecommunication provider and Government Integrated Telecommunications Network require to assist the access issue and also block any computer virus (CDC 2012). In addition to this, the present cabling and wiring cannot take the full load of electricity when all computers are on at the same time (Hamzah & Azman 2009). Having said this, the internet service speed has been upgraded by the MOE from 2MB to 4MB and there are 80 personal computers located in the computer labs, a kiosk, offices and classrooms (MOE 2011). On average, one personal computer is allocated to every 13 students (UNESCO 2008).
In addition, the IS should have the establishment of a database where all data is integrated and stored. It can assist all departments in schools to access the information in a database according to teachers and students’ needs (MOE 2011). In addition, school servers are shut down after school hours and the servers only play a limited role (CDC 2012). By applying old technology such as store data in diskettes or in ‘thumb drives’ increasing the access issue and security. If anyone requires any information, he submits a form to schools and teacher provides the details accordingly. If there is central database in school, the MOE officials can extract information about teachers or school information (MOE 2011). Thus, an estimated design-reality gap score of 7 was observed for technology dimension.
Staffing and skills
The design assumed that the SmartSchool is managed by dedicated teachers and other admin staffs with the high level of IT skills. This is supported by (Boddy 2002:556) that the main reason of failed IS are teachers were not fully ready on the computer usage in class. MOE also set aside RM288 million for teacher’s ICT training (Shaharuddin & Abiddin 2009) and the teachers who undergo this training become catalysts for the coordination of efforts and success of the national education. This is because training is a wide process, and clearly it can assist in the development of the human resource (Nadler, 1984). The Teachers Education Section, MOE has been assigned the responsibility to implement SmartTraining in the effort to supply education’s work force which will help achieve the objectives of SmartSchool (Shaharuddin & Abiddin 2009). In reality, the teachers do not fully prepared to raise their capability to the level of ICT excellence. Among 230 thousands teachers in Malaysia, only 20 per cent has the pre-knowledge in ICT while the others are new to the ICT technology (EMIS 2013; RURAL 2013). The process of ICT training is very important and will ensure that it becomes a national agenda for implementation on continuous basis. Since teachers do not have the pre-knowledge of ICT, teachers have to skip their teaching class for long hours and require to replace another time due to attending the training (MOE 2011). This has created another problem which the class will be unattended by teachers or been replaced by another teachers (Mokhtar 2000). Sometimes the SSMS system only been implemented after a year teachers’ attending the training. Hence, the skills and knowledge can only be utilized quite late and lack of skills will happen to them (Hamzah & Azman 2009). Moreover, the trained teacher and skilled in the SSMS system sometimes to be relocated to another schools and left untrained teacher at the school (MOE 2011). Thus, an estimated design-reality gap score of 8 was observed in the staffing and skills dimension.
The design assumed that the SmartSchool contains with good SSMS and courseware for T&L purpose (EMIS 2013). The SSMS has four main modules which is Attendance, Lesson, Co-curriculum and Timetable modules. It is not possible to extend the SSMS to all primary schools in Malaysia (Government of Malaysia 1997). The automated functions in SSMS can help to reduce the administrative burden of teachers. In reality, only 30 SmartSchool are using the Smart School Management System (SSMS) (MOE 2011). However, Hamzah & Azman (2009) states that SSMS does not suitable for the school’s need. Though MOE has developed 1949 interactive courseware for the subject of Science, Mathematics, Malay language and English for primary schools (MOE 2011). In the following years, the MOE evaluated this implementation among the SmartSchool involved. However, utilization levels on the courseware provided were low and it was under-utilized by teachers and students (Kamaruddin et al. 2008). It was also reported that a lot of interactive courseware failed to provide a quality experience for the learners (Multimedia Development Corporation, 2006). Therefore, an estimated design-reality gap score of 8 was observed in the information dimension.
The design assumed that the SmartSchool project using the English language in Mathematics and Science subject. The project known as PPSMI or ‘English as the Language of Instruction for Mathematics and Science’ and was established since 2003. It is a government policy aimed at improving the command of the English language among pupils at primary and secondary schools in Malaysia (Yassin et al. 2009). In reality, students who had poor command of English could not acquire the knowledge of Mathematics and Science as they were not proficient in the language that the two subjects were taught (MOE 2011; Jawarneh et al. 2007). This could be due to cultural influences which had a noticeable impact. A majority of teachers used a mixture of Malay language and English and teachers had to switch to Malay language in teaching process because students could not understand their lessons in English (MOE 2011). MOE’s study showed that the PPSMI has not been implemented as intended. “Results of studies showed that less than 5% from the total classes in 7,495 primary schools fully used English for Maths and Science. Students took a long time to understand maths and science because they did not understand English. This forced the teachers to teach in BM so that they can understand the two subjects. This problem did not just happen in rural areas but in the cities as well. If we continue PPSMI, a large portion of students would not be able to grasp the subjects well and would be left out” (Yassin 2011). Therefore, an estimated design-reality gap score of 6 was observed in the information dimension.
As shown in Figure 2, the overall analysis of the SmartSchool using the Design-Reality Gap model indicates a significant design-reality gap of score 7.4 in the implementation of the project.
Figure 2: Graphical view of the estimated design-reality gap score of SmartSchool
Discussion and Conclusion
Technology has improved in advanced economies in 21st century includes the electronic commerce. Therefore, the success of SmartSchool project is not only based on its own information technology, but also surrounded by the whole component includes the involvement of people, skills and the cultural issue. Despite the fact the SmartSchool project has partially failure, MOE has acknowledged of the lesson learnt and taken several steps for educational reform.
Since teachers as the important agents to translate the transformation theory to transformation reality, it is clearly very important that efforts must be made to develop the knowledge, skills, positive attitude of the teachers and also prepare for on-going guided training (Shaharuddin & Abiddin 2009).
While the MOE has implemented the MBMMBI project (Upholding the Malay Language, Strengthening the English Language) in 2011 to replace PPSMI project. Implementation of PPSMI shows only 4% of Mathematics and Science teachers used English in the T&L process. By having this education reformation, the Education Delivery Unit (EDU) is created to evaluate the success and efficiency of the transformation plan for the education project (CDC 2012; MOE 2012).
UNPAN (2006) also states that the viability of Smart School Integrated Solution such as management modules should be scalable and flexible for integration with on-going ICT initiatives. Another method for ICT project is web enabled to all schools in Malaysia by having Web based and International Open Standard (SCORM). While technology infrastructure shows as computer ratio too high for students accessibility and network connectivity sometimes disconnected due to slow internet. New technology such as broadband access also may help the students and teachers to access the internet anywhere.
According to ITU (2011), the lessons learned from the project are taking diverse needs and eâ€readiness of the society into consideration, evidenceâ€based advice for policy makers and ICT to support transforming pedagogical paradigm which requires harmonization between curriculum, pedagogy and assessment. The change management for educational reformation should focus on holistic approach and alignment of objectives at all levels is required within the Ministry and between Ministries and also agencies (UNPAN 2006).
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