Teo Nie Ching: Where are 150,000 laptops?

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The Education Ministry must inform parents, especially those from the bottom 40 group, when it will distribute the 150,000 laptops allocated under Budget 2021 to poor pupils, said former deputy education minister Teo Nie Ching.

The Kulai MP said the laptops are important to ensure that home-based learning can be carried out effectively.

Under Budget 2021, government-linked companies (GLCs) and government-linked investment companies (GLICs) would cough up RM150 million for the Tabung CERDIK to provide laptops to 150,000 pupils in 500 schools as a pilot project.

“The ministry should explain to the parents when these 150,000 laptops will be ready and distributed,” Teo said in a statement yesterday.

Low Lay Phon/Starpix

The ministry conducted a survey involving 670,000 parents with a total of 900,000 pupils between March and April last year and found that 6% of pupils have their own computers, 5.67% own tablets, 9% own laptops and 46% have smartphones.

However, 36.9% did not possess any device with which to follow online lessons.

Teo also urged the ministry to come up with a comprehensive home-based learning plan considering that it is inevitable given the current climate.

All pupils in primary and secondary schools are to remain at home and follow online classes from January 20, said the ministry after Putrajaya reimposed the movement-control order (MCO) to curb the spread of Covid-19.

“It is obvious that home-based learning is inevitable, and we can predict that many pupils will be ordered not to return to school for the foreseeable future.

“Therefore, it is crucial for us to know what are the latest plans for home-based learning.”

She also questioned why the ministry is asking pupils to download digital textbooks, given that some do not have access to tablets or mobile phones.

“I appreciate the effort to introduce digital textbooks to the parents and pupils, but hard copies should also be made available before school sessions resume because nearly 37% of the pupils do not possess any digital device,” she said.

The digital textbook project is not meant to displace hard copies immediately, but as an alternative, Teo said.

Even for those with digital devices, their prolonged use is not advisable for young children, she added.

“Parents and pupils should be given the option to collect textbooks from school for their home-based learning.

“The ministry should know by now that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach does not take into account variances in income level and digital gap, across districts and states.” – TMI