Last week we had a seminar commemorating the 10th anniversary of the smart school initiative. Due to the current severe economic constraint we had to tone it down and the seminar was held in one of the pilot school – Sekolah Sultan Alam Shah in Putrajaya. Originally, the Honourable Minister of Education was scheduled to grace the opening ceremony. Unfortunately, due to his work commitment doubling up as Deputy prime Minister, he had to delegate the event to our Secretary general. By a cruel twist of fate, on the same day and time, the Prime Minister decided to hold a meeting with all the top guns of the civil service – hence, our very own Director was asked to officiate the opening. I am not to dwell too much on the event itself but more on the smart school initiative. For those of you who were not born before 1999 may not have heard of Smart School or Multimedia Supercoridoor (MSC). It was the rage way back in 1997. Cyberjaya was specially built as the hub of the MSC and the area within 50km of Cyberjaya was declared the supercoridoor. The PM at the time launched the MSC with much fanfare with seven flagship applications, and malaysian Smart School is one of them. The initiative was piloted for three years form 1999-2002 in 88 schools throughout the nation with a cost of RM300 million. It was a huge sum then and probably even bigger now.
Now let us see what is this animal called smart school. To my understanding, the term ‘smart’ in the context of the reinventing the learning institution is quite misleading. If you look at the definition in BM, that is ‘BESTARI’, it would be more appropriate. In BM, the term bestari does not only means smart, intelligent, or efficient; it also carries the human side of the term – courteous, high morality and integrity. Thus the term bestari goes beyond mere technological centric as the term ‘smart’ connotes. Unfortunately, we failed to explain the full meaning of the term to the public at large and people quickly connect smart school with ICT, or computers rather. Given the rave at the time with smart card, smart chip, smart homes, smart phones etc, the technological skew in the understanding is understandable or unavoidable. rather.
In the Smart School Conceptual Blueprint, if only people care to read it carefully, it was outlined that The Malaysian Smart school is a learning institution systemically transformed (the actual term used was “reinvented”, but under current circumstances I took the liberty to change it to transformation) in terms of teaching and learning and school administration and management to prepare students to face the challenges of the information age. The key words here are: systemic, teaching and learning, school management and administration; and information age. These are the operative words that a smart school success or failure should be looked at. If you notice, the term ICT was not even mentioned. (to be continued in part II)