The Malaysian Smart School Conceptual Blueprint outlined that a smart school is a learning institution with a few important components, namely: Teaching and learning; administration and management; school processes; people, skills and responsisbilities (collectively known as stakeholders); policies; and technology.
The trouble is not many people in the Ministry of Education fraternity actually knew the whole concept, more so the policy makers and the advisors. The fascination with ICT component obfuscate the whole concept. When they announced the the formation of cluster schools, little did they realised that the whole notion of giving autonomy to schools and allowing schools to utilise their strength to the hilt was already explained in the smart school blueprint. But due to little or no connection with ICT, people did not see the idea as part of the smart school. The all encompassing smart school umbrella should be used to explain the concept. When one cluster school in Seremban (which by coincidence is also a smart school) excelled in R&D and collaboration with external expertise, little that they realised that they are actually excelling in the stakeholders component of the smart school. Instead of packaging the R&D as a new initiative (as in cluster school niche areas), they should have leveraged it as a part of the smart school enhancement initiatives. When LPM announced that they are piloting the online assesment and school based assessment (known in BM as Sistem Pentaksiran Pendidikan Kebangsaan – SPPK), it should be seen in the context of the expansion of the smart school initiative. There is a whole chapter on school assessment in the Smart School Conceptual Blueprint that covered various facets of what a smart school assessment should be including the details on school based holistical assessment as espoused in the SPPK. Of course some of the details in the blueprint were rather dated and I strongly believe that we should be seriously updating it by now.
Therefore I was not a bit surprised when one teacher stood up at the seminar venting her frustrations at having to accommodate all sorts of similar and redundant programmes from various parties in the Ministry. Another principal was proposing that the smart school should be viewed as an ICT application. What an uncoordinated lot we are! Fortunately, one principal from Pahang stood up and proposed that we should all go back to the smart school concept as outlined in the blueprint and work from there. He must be from the old school that thouroughly understood the concept. All new MoE’s initiatives to schools should be seen in the context of the smart school concept. And finally we should again see the smart school initiative in its wholesome sphere rather than the myopic lens of ICT context. I am not saying that we should forego ICT. That would be foolish. Technology is a compulsory enabler to the smart school. It is just so happen that the current most efficient technology is ICT, it could well be different in a few years time. It would not be very smart if users do not capitalise on ICT to expedite their school processes.
My fervent hope is that, as Dato’ Najib was the minister who initiated the smart school, he would streamline things and we as the Ministry officials should endeavour to endear the new Education Minister on the holistic picture of the smart school. Oh…where is the smart school champion when we need one? Mind you two of the topmost leaders of the Ministry were former Smart School principals. We must coax them to dig deep into recepticles of their memories on the smart school concept, after all it was only eight or seven years ago. But then again, kita mudah lupa, yours truly included.