NB: This press statement was released on 18 July 2013 in Kuala Lumpur.

According to official ministerial replies to my Parliamentary questions, YTL Corporation Bhd and its subsidiaries appear to have hit a jackpot by means of a monopoly over the Ministry of Education’s ambitious ICT projects, as follows:

  1. High-speed 4G broadband under the 1BestariNet programme to all schools (RM663 million for a contract of 2.5 years);
  2. A Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) platform for teachers, students and parents (RM250.5 million for fixed-term licensing fees and RM262.8 million for management and maintenance costs); and
  3. Chromebooks under the 1 Student 1 Device programme (RM139.6 million for an initial order of 116,399 units at a cost of RM1,200 per unit).

I have previously questioned the rationale for awarding YTL a blanket monopoly over the entire package of programmes, including the supply of Chromebooks which would amount to RM6.6 billion for 5.5 million units. I have also pointed out that the price of Chromebooks as supplied by YTL appears to be higher than the prevailing market rates, despite ordering such a large quantity.

I would now like to focus attention onto the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) platform, which is an e-learning tool that will be used by schools, teachers, students, parents and basically anyone assigned with an ID and password. The VLE is an online platform that will provide virtual access to classes, class content, homework and other resources.

According to a Parliamentary reply I received on 9 July 2013, the VLE package that will be supplied by YTL will entail 10,000 instances encompassing 5.5 million students, 500 thousand teachers and 4.5 million parents or guardians.

The VLE is certainly an innovation, and if implemented well, would no doubt enrich the education experience of students and teachers exposed to it. It is also not new, as it has been in use in many countries around the world, from the United Kingdom to South Korea. However, the real question is, are Malaysian schools and teachers prepared to implement it? This applies not only in terms of their capability to use and teach with the VLE, but also in terms of their mind-set and willingness to embrace new technology.

Often, the problem with adopting new technology such as the VLE is not so much its technical aspect (which can be learnt), but whether the professionals in the field, in this case being teachers, are prepared to completely change their approach to teaching, as would be required. In other words, it is not a question of technology, but a question of pedagogy.

In fact, a 2009 report titled “Virtual learning environments: an evaluation of their development in a sample of educational settings” by the UK’s Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) has revealed that many schools and colleges which have adopted VLEs have not appeared to make much progress.

For example, the report states that although a lot of effort was made in introducing VLEs, their positive impact on learning is “not yet obvious”. From a sample of 34 schools surveyed, just over half of the comments regarding VLEs were positive, while the rest were cautious. It is also noted that VLEs were “not yet significantly helping learning”.

The report also goes on to stress that the effectiveness of VLEs depended very much on the enthusiasm of the teacher. While the report did note that a good grasp of information technology was not critical to the efficacy of VLEs, the e-learning tool is not particularly useful unless the teachers were confident and creative in developing materials via the VLE for use amongst their students.

In summary, it all boils down to the teachers. And lest we forget, our Malaysian education system has yet to recover from the PPSMI (Teaching of Science and Maths in English) policy fiasco, which was doomed to fail from the beginning considering that the Ministry failed to recognise the fact that our teachers lacked basic proficiency in English.

Bearing in mind that the VLE would require extensive training for teachers not only in equipping them with the technical know-how but also in transforming their teaching methods, I fear that the Ministry of Education’s grand ambitions for an e-learning environment will not translate into the revolution they are hoping for but instead end up as another multi-billion ringgit white elephant (albeit a virtual one).

Zairil Khir Johari, Member of Parliament for Bukit Bendera

Adakah program e-pembelajaran YTL merupakan revolusi pendidikan Malaysia atau satu lagi bakal projek gajah putih?

Menurut jawapan rasmi Menteri kepada soalan-soalan Parlimen saya, YTL Corporation Bhd dan anak syarikatnya kelihatan mendapat durian runtuh apabila dikurniakan monopoli dalam projek besar Kementerian, seperti berikut:

  1. Pemasangan jalur lebar 4G berkelajuan tinggi di bawah program 1BestariNet ke semua sekolah (RM663 juta bagi kontrak 2.5 tahun);
  2. Pelantar Pembelajaran Maya (VLE) untuk guru-guru, pelajar dan ibu bapa (RM250.5 juta untuk yuran pelesenan bagi suatu jangka masa tetap dan RM262.8 juta bagi kos pengurusan dan penyelenggaraan); dan
  3. Pembekalan komputer riba Chromebook di bawah program “1 Student 1 Device” (RM139.6 juta untuk tempahan 116,399 unit permulaan pada kos RM1,200 setiap unit).

Sebelum ini, saya mempersoalkan rasional menganugerahkan YTL dengan monopoli keseluruhan projek, termasuk membekalkan Chromebooks yang akan berjumlah RM6.6 bilion bagi 5.5 juta unit. Saya juga telah menunjukkan harga Chromebooks seperti yang dibekalkan oleh YTL lebih tinggi daripada kadar pasaran semasa, meskipun jumlah pesanan itu dalam kuantiti yang besar.

Saya kini ingin menumpukan perhatian ke Pelantar Pembelajaran Maya (VLE) yang merupakan satu alat e-pembelajaran yang akan digunakan oleh sekolah-sekolah, guru, murid, ibu bapa dan sesiapa yang diberikan dengan ID dan kata laluan. VLE adalah platform dalam talian yang akan menyediakan akses kepada kelas maya, mata pelajaran, kerja rumah dan sumber-sumber lain.

Menurut jawapan Parlimen yang saya terima pada 9hb Julai 2013, pakej VLE yang akan dibekalkan oleh YTL akan melibatkan 10,000 instances yang merangkumi 5.5 juta murid, 500 ribu guru dan 4.5 juta ibu bapa atau penjaga.

VLE sudah pasti satu inovasi, dan jika dilaksanakan dengan baik, tidak syak lagi akan memperkayakan pengalaman pendidikan murid dan guru-guru yang terdedah kepadanya. Program ini juga bukan baru, kerana telah digunakan di banyak negara di seluruh dunia, dari United Kingdom hingga Korea Selatan. Walau bagaimanapun, persoalan sebenar ialah, adakah sekolah dan guru-guru di Malaysia bersedia untuk melaksanakannya? Persoalan ini bukan sahaja dari segi kemampuan mereka untuk menggunakan dan mengajar dengan VLE, tetapi juga dari segi pemikiran dan kesanggupan untuk menerima pakai teknologi baru.

Seringkali, masalah dengan penggunaan teknologi baru seperti VLE bukanlah berkenaan aspek teknikal (yang boleh dipelajari), tetapi sama ada golongan profesional dalam bidang ini, dalam kes ini guru, bersedia untuk mengubah sepenuhnya pendekatan pengajaran, yang akan dikehendaki. Dalam erti kata lain, ini bukan soal teknologi, tetapi soal pedagogi.

Malah, satu laporan bertajuk “Virtual learning environments: an evaluation of their development in a sample of educational settings”  oleh Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) di UK mendapati murid yang terdedah dengan teknologi ini tidak menunjukkan perkembangan yang memberangsangkan.

Sebagai contoh, laporan itu menyatakan, walaupun banyak usaha telah dibuat dalam memperkenalkan VLE, kesan positif terhadap pembelajaran “belum jelas”. Daripada sampel sebanyak 34 sekolah-sekolah yang dikaji,  hanya separuh daripada komen mengenai VLE adalah positif, manakala selebihnya lebih berhati-hati. Laporan ini juga menyatakan bahawa VLE “tidak ketara membantu pembelajaran”.

Laporan itu juga seterusnya menekankan bahawa keberkesanan VLE amat bergantung  kepada semangat guru. Walaupun laporan itu menyatakan kefahaman baik terhadap teknologi maklumat tiada hubungan langsung dengan keberkesanan VLE, alat e-pembelajaran ini tidak berguna kecuali guru-guru yakin dan kreatif dalam membangunkan bahan pengajaran dan pembelajaran melalui VLE untuk digunakan dalam kalangan murid mereka.

Secara ringkasnya, tekanan besar adalah kepada guru-guru. Dan jangan kita lupa, sistem pendidikan kita di Malaysia masih belum pulih daripada PPSMI (Pengajaran Sains dan Matematik dalam Bahasa Inggeris), kemelut dasar yang telah ditakdirkan untuk gagal dari awal memandangkan Kementerian gagal menyedari hakikat bahawa guru-guru kita tidak mempunyai asas penguasaan Bahasa Inggeris yang kukuh.

Menginsafi bahawa VLE akan memerlukan latihan yang banyak untuk guru-guru bukan sahaja dalam melengkapkan mereka dengan pengetahuan teknikal tetapi juga dalam mengubah kaedah pengajaran mereka, saya amat khuatir cita-cita besar Kementerian Pendidikan untuk mewujudkan persekitaran e-pembelajaran tidak akan diterjemahkan kepada revolusi pendidikan yang diharapkan tetapi berakhir sebagai satu lagi projek gajah putih yang melibatkan kerugian berbilion-bilion ringgit.

Zairil Khir Johari, Ahli Parlimen Bukit Bendera