School Management System: A panacea in danger of turning into a heartache?

Back in early 2000s when I was part of the Pilot Malaysian Smart School Team, I was coaxed ( coerced rather) to lead the Smart School Management System (SSMS)team. SSMS was an ambitious system that was supposed to automate the the school management. Unfortunately it was rather ahead of its time and the client-server system was unwieldy. It has only one web based function, the rest was only usable for the school LAN. It was piloted in 88 schools but it failed to take off, mainly due to the inability of the system to win hearts and mind of the teachers to use them. Teachers view the system as a programme that they to have to do and on top of that they still need to do the manual processes. This double work further burden the already burdened teachers. Despite much change management sessions, many teachers still did not play their roles in using the system. Most of the works were done by the ICT coordinators or data teachers. The usability and ease of use factors were not there and that led to dissatisfaction. Without users satisfaction, the system was never adopted by users. Fast forward 14 years, a new cloud based version of the system is being rolled out. We still had problems in ensuring teachers use the system as they play in role in the manual processes. To ensure the system is running when the authority came to check, schools tend to assign certain teachers to complete the various tasks. As part of our effort to slowly run in the system with the schools, we start with the students attendance module. In order to sign in students, schools had to ensure all the basic data were in place. That was the strategy to ensure schools fill up the basic data to prime the system. Unfortunately, many schools still resort to assigning a few teachers to do the job despite in real life students attendance should be done by all the class teachers. So far we only get about 60% of the school using the attendance module regularly. Regular problems like slow connectivity, data loss, data duplication, and instability began to circulate in the social media postings. Some even predicting that this system could go the way of SPPBS – causing so much heartache to teachers, the government decided to scrap the system altogether. I am really worried that come 2015, where the attendance module had to go fully live, we would face the same problem as the SPPBS. We are working really hard to rectify the possible problems. Furthermore we have developed the mobile version of the module to enable teachers to use their mobile devices to enter students attendances. Going by the social media postings, even this lite version is apparently has run into problems. Please God, make this work this time. We have worked so hard for this.

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