When smart schools burst onto the national education scene in 1999, they were met with great excitement from parents and teachers. A decade later, Malaysia is generating a similar buzz in other Asian countries. Last month, it bagged the United Nations' South-South Innovation Award for its Smart School Project in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.
The RM1.73 million capacity-building project under the Malaysian Technical Cooperation Programme was modelled after Malaysia's own Smart School Project to promote information and communication technology (ICT) growth and development in these countries. Since 2002, 570 teachers have been trained and 15,500 students have benefited there from access to ICT facilities. And while the UN recognised Malaysia's role in sharing its smart school experience, Norrizan Razali, Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) smart school senior manager, is equally impressed by the rate with which knowledge was passed on from teachers who attended training in Malaysia to those who did not — both to their own colleagues and to other schools in their district. In fact, Malaysia can now learn from how these four countries replicated the concept in rural areas. Norrizan now hopes to achieve similar results with 50 rural schools in Malaysia which MDeC has been tasked to help the Ministry of Education with over the next two years. And with the wisdom of hindsight, MDeC is setting the tone for its new mission by managing expectations.