Looking back, the smart school management system so called failure reflects the nature of Ministry of Education’s – starts with a bang and end with a whimper. Over the years, it has started, implemented and somehow quietly forgotten many IT initiatives only to repeat the whole cycle all over probably with different name and different leading players. Sometime we wonder whether, it was all a political vehicle of politicians to; one, propagate their political agenda; two, share the inevitable economic and financial spoils that came with the projects; three, prove their educational acumen. Back to the school management system, lessons that we all could learnt from its implementation are aplenty. Offhand, I can think of a few. Being a sociotechnical project, people normally only talked about the technical deficiencies of the system forgetting the social aspects of the project. The social aspects usually becomes the sideshow or the byproducts of the technical reports. Telem said, the social aspects is equal if not more important than the technical aspects of implementing information system in schools. A few of those social issues are:
For a project with such a magnitude, a true champion is definitely needed. The champion must be someone with enough clout and guts that can cut through the hurdles not only at education ministry level but also at other level. I would hazard a candidate nothing less than the Director General to be a suitable champion. Well, maybe at the ministry level we need some mini champions especially to zap the project through the various territorial boundaries of the various departments in the ministry.
ii. Buying in and sustaining interest
The most important buying in is at the source, meaning; schools.. Being a highly centralized education system, most of the main policy decisions are made at the ministry level, buying the support of the schools is crucial. Schools must be willing, ready, and fully aware of the commitment expected of them. Forcing such a project to unprepared or unwilling schools is a recipe for disasters. Readiness of the target school includes physical and mental aspects. Being physically prepared means the school has proper rooms with suitable size and location; enough uninterupted power supply; securely protected from lightning, thieves, flood, fire, storms, and other natural and unnatural disasters. Sustaining interests is even more difficult. Just like winning a sports championship is difficult but maintaining it is even harder. I am sure Alex Ferguson can vouch for that. The mental readiness includes having a common clear vision and understanding of the project among the staff. The staff must be made aware of the kind of work, pressures, or activities that they have to go through. If they perceived the project is being useful in enhancing their tasks, research have shown that they would naturally support the project. Davis Technology Adoption Model indicated that users would happily adopt technology if they perceived the system as useful and easy to use.
(to be continued)