Bangkok musings ii
Eleven countries were represented in the recently concluded workshopthat I attended in Bangkok in trying to hammer out recommendations to the meetings of SEAMEO Education Ministers in Jan 2010 and the meeting of SEAMEO high cuncil members in November this year. For those of you that may not be familiar the acronym SEAMEO stands for South East Asia Ministers of Education organization, something like the commonwealth countries counterpart, the Commonwealth Committee of Education Ministers (CCEM – which is incidentally would be congregating in KL in middle of this month. The organization is under UNESCO and shares the same main office as UNESCO Asia-Pacific in Bangkok. I was requested to represent Malaysia to state our case of integrating ICT in education.
It was such a great honour that Malaysia’s way of reporting was used as a showcase of exemplary reporting. It was such a varied crowd with Malaysia, Singapore and perhaps Thailand leading the laggards like Timor Leste where none of the schools had any PC and most of the schools are independently run by the Christian missionaries, and Myanmar which the rep reported that has just completed a new state of the art state capital but the schools are still lacking in the basics, or Laos and Cambodia whose Smart Schools are formed with the help of our MDec. It is rather ironic that our model of Smart school ( which are not entirely technology centrix as the public seemed to have fathom) are being copied and emulated in different parts of the world, but here in its own country, it has been vilified and branded as an abject failure. I wish they get their facts in proper perspective before making such remarks. I can understand when Lim Kit Siang said so. To him, none of the Government project is a success. But to hear similar comments from the Education Ministry officials, I found it rather difficult to swallow. When I heard Vietnam reporting on its success, I knew we have helped them, but then again…that is another story.
The difference in status between Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand and perhaps Vietnam are no longer that big. In 1999 we maybe leading but according to the reports by the various countries, Singapore is still leading with Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam and Indonesia and Brunei slightly behind. What we can learn from Singapore is a lot actually. No doubt the officer is gracious enough to admit that being small with only 345 schools all together give them better manageability. Singapore started their ICT in education master plan in 1997. It is already into its third review. They have just completed their second phase in 2008 and their third phase is in full swing. I cannot help but envy them. We only had to rely on our PIPP which is a bit too macro. Our ISP built for 2006-2010 with the help of MAMPU was never quite accepted. When a new Minister came, he appointed another team to build a new ISP. It was abandoned uncompleted in 2008. Then we were asked to build a new one, and we are still in the midst of doing it. And God knows when we’ll stop and baseline everything and starts working coherently. We are maybe ahead of Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, but only just. Their number of schools and geographical distribution are making it difficult for them. It is amazing to hear Vietnam managed to do video conferencing regularly with 63 districts education authorities using only 512kb/s connection. Well, later I discovered that they were not a fully video conferencing but the discussions were mostly audio and the video is only to make sure everybody can see each other. Then again, the fact that they are willing to try such a venture and graciously accepted the limitations is already to me a huge success. None of the participants mow down the initiatives as abject failures or other words to that effect. We should try that with our BTPN. Do not expect Aljazeera or BBC World News or CNN kind of conference connections. Be prepared to accept limitations and shortcomings and improve on them. Just do it. Wong Chee Kheon told me of a German saying – “Think big, start small, move fast” Maybe that is why he is a DG52 Super principal now and I am still in grade 48.