Online Professional Development of Teachers: An Examination of Structure and Trends in Malaysia
Kabilan, Muhammad Kamarul, International Journal of Instructional Media
The ubiquitous nature of Information Communication Technology (ICT), which swept around the globe in the 1990s with great effect, had contributed much to the Malaysian education system in the new millennium in many ways. The Malaysian government is aware that the society needs to be empowered with information so that a knowledgeable and intelligent society, which is essential for k-economy, could be nurtured, and achieved in the long run. Thus the Malaysian government embarked on an ambitious plan to leapfrog into the ICT by providing intellectual and strategic leadership plans. These plans were conceptualized in the form of Multimedia Supper Corridor (MSC). Briefly, MSC is an integrated environment with seven unique elements and attributes (also termed as flagship application) necessary to create the perfect global multimedia climate to "help companies of the world test the limits of technology and prepare themselves for the future" (MDC, 2000a).
In terms of education, the Smart Schools (SS) is one of the seven applications of MSC (other applications include Electronic Government, National Multipurpose Card, Telemedicine, Borderless Marketing Centers, World Wide Manufacturing Webs, and Research and Design Cluster). In general, the concept of Smart School revolves around the notion of using ICT as one of the tools to support and enhance the teaching-learning cycle. In lieu of this, the SS is alluded to the production of future workforce which is expected to be primarily creative, innovative and technologically literate.
Dato Sri Mohd Najib Tun Haji Abdul Razak (then the Education Minister) explained that the SS were planned not only to meet the requirements of MSC, but also to create a new generation of Malaysians--Malaysians who are more creative and innovative in their thinking, adept with new technologies, and able to access and manage completely the information explosion. The SS is also widely considered as a tools to initiate responses to the need for Malaysia to make the critical transition from an industrial economy to a knowledge-based one. Therefore, it was hoped that the SS would be able to produce a "technologically literate and thinking workforce" which is well able to perform in a global environment and use "information-age tools and technology" to improve productivity (MDC, 2000b).
The smart school initiative has 5 main goals (MCD, 2000b):
1. to encourage all-round development of the individual covering the intellectual, physical, emotional, and spiritual domains,
2. to provide opportunities for the intellectual to develop his or her own special strengths and abilities,
3. to produce a thinking workforce that is also technologically literate,
4. to demonstrate education such that every child has equal access to learning and,
5. to increase the participation of all stakeholders such as parents, the community and the private sector, in the education process.
The first two goals above are targeted at the individual level, the third is related to the needs of the society, and the fourth and fifth goals are targeted at the education system. To get things running, an integrated set of strategies is employed to achieve these goals, which include an emphasis on thinking, language and values across the curriculum; the introduction of vertical integration, whereby students progress at their own pace and yet remain at their own age cohort; redefinition of teachers' functions, specifically more as "facilitators of learning" rather than "purveyors of knowledge"; and focusing on a larger extent of self directed learning. These strategies are supported by appropriate people, skills, and policies, and processed with the information technology as the enabler (MDC, 2000b).
The Education Ministry of Malaysia plans to transform all the existing 10 000 schools in Malaysia into smart schools by the year 2010. To kick start, the ministry has identified about 2000 primary and secondary schools located in the rural areas to be equipped with computer labs in stages by the end of 2001, with the aim to promote and augrnent computer literacy and Internet-based learning, and also to enable learners to enjoy the new smart learning concept. …