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Smart schools
Daunting task
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Outline of the Smart School flagship application
From the MSC Web site 

What is "smart" in Smart Schools?
From the Democratic Action Party Web site. 

Deepening the divide between educational haves and have-nots
From a report by the College Board. 

A daunting task ahead for schools

Two other developments involving five schools, the Batu Permai school complex and Putrajaya school complex, have met with similar fates. Students who were to have moved into the new wired-up schools found themselves stranded at their existing schools.

Spending cutbacks also forced delays in providing computer hardware, power and communications cabling and courseware for the 81 other schools involved in the pilot project.

A consortium of companies preparing the courseware failed to finalize the agreement with the Education Ministry before the new school term started, and negotiations are believed to be still ongoing.

The Education Ministry fell back on developing its own temporary courseware and providing training for 3,800 teachers to be deployed to the designated schools. Ironically, many of the schools involved were faced with the most fundamental of problems--not enough PCs.

A typical example is a designated Smart School in Perak that was forced to make do with as few as 14 PCs, mostly donated by the Parent-Teacher Association. In Malaysia, each class can have as many as 45 students.

Even with a low ratio of between three and four students per PC, the school went ahead with the makeshift curriculum for the four identified subjects--Bahasa Melayu, the national language; English Language; Mathematics; and Science--but limited these to a few selected classes.

"It can be done. It just takes a bit of imagination and creativity on the part of the teachers," said one Smart School principal who chose to remain unidentified. He conceded, however, that scheduling daily classes so that students could get adequate hands-on time on the few available PCs was a daunting task.

Controversy also surrounds the Ministry's classification of the schools involved in the pilot project, which determines the number of PCs a school gets. Nine of the still-in-limbo Smart Schools have been given Level A, which guarantees them over 400 PCs per school. But the rest have been graded Level B, which only allows for up to 42 PCs per school; or Level B+ which allocates 86 PCs per school.

For the shortchanged schools, anything less than one-PC-per-student ratio would seem inadequate.

To overcome the scarcity of PCs, the schools have been forced to be creative in raising funds while the Government itself has appealed to the private sector to support the troubled program.

Earlier this month, the Bukit Bintang Girls' School held a fund-raising dinner as part of a donation drive for its Smart School initiative. "We don't want our students to be left behind," said school principal Noor Rezan Hashim during an event to announce the dinner. The school has so far spent RM60,000 (US$15,800) of its own money to set up two computer labs.


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