Teo Nie Ching, the Deputy Education Minister for Malaysia, has announced that schools will go digital with the introduction of e-textbooks for students.
Starting 2019, students in secondary schools will be able to download their textbooks as PDF files, she said.
E-textbooks, Teo said, would mean lighter schoolbags.
She also said the Ministry was discussing whether to let students download these e-books on their personal devices or on school devices.
“For now it’s only PDF, but eventually we will make it more interactive,” she said.
Teo added that students still had the option of using print textbooks.
According to reports by the Star, Teo told reporters at the Ministry’s Innovation Day celebration in Putrajaya that, “Once the e-textbooks are introduced, we will look at whether its use is accepted.”
E-textbooks will not be introduced among primary pupils yet as according to Teo, the use of electronic devices at such an early age had to be studied first.
The surprise announcement has received mixed reactions however.
Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education (Magpie) Chairman Mak Chee Kin, while welcoming the move, questioned whether it could be implemented so soon.
“Do all schools have computers and Internet connection?
“It’s only two months to the new year. Will all schools have the facilities to download these e-textbooks?” he asked.
However, educationist Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam, lauded the move as timely and a step forward in improving the country’s education system.
“Not all parents can afford to send their kids to private schools.
“It’s undeniable that private schools are more advanced, but we have to start somewhere and digital textbooks are the way to go,” he said.
Siva said the Education Ministry could work with parent-teacher associations and private companies to equip schools with computers.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day. Parents and society must invest in the nation’s education system if we want our children to do well. We cannot just rely on the government to provide everything,” he added.
National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) Secretary-General Harry Tan agreed that e-textbooks were a good idea but said the Ministry must ensure that every child had access.
“Perhaps the ministry can work with the private sector to provide laptops and computers to all students,” he said, adding that students should not be allowed to download the textbooks on mobile devices or tablets.
According to Tan, allowing smartphones or tablets in schools could result in students abusing the devices, as some might use it to play games or access inappropriate content.
“Also, allowing such gadgets could lead to students becoming competitive as to who has the latest or best device.
“Teachers too will be burdened. Can you imagine if these devices get stolen?” Tan added.