One of the news that caught my attention this week was "Students can take handphones, IT gadgets to school from 2012" (link). Man, the headline sounds so familiar.. Then I remembered.

7 years ago, back on 23 December 2005, the MOE released a pekeliling to schools stating that students are allowed to bring handphones to school. But then in less than one month, on 20 January 2006, MOE decided to say that they were joking about revoking the pekeliling and that students cannot bring handphones to school at all. Our government seemed so fickle-minded. Changing their minds in just less than a month for such a major decision. At least that is what I think.

Of course back then in 2006, there was a huge debate between the pros and cons of bringing handphones to school. Most adults (parents and educators) had strong opinions on this issue and some students (I read a news where head prefects were interviewed and shared their opinions) had their say. Back then social media wasn't that popular in Malaysia so no one was vocal about the issue I guess. And no one was demonstrating :P

The Personal Story
My personal experience was this. I wanted to bring my handphone to school once when I was form 3, 4 or 5, couldn't remember clearly. I needed the handphone to call my mum to fetch me home because I was going somewhere else first. I knew the consequences of bringing the forbidden item to school - say goodbye to your phone because it'll be confiscated and only can be retrieved at the end of the year. (Ya school sucks because even if your parents come to school asking to claim the phone back, the school would ask you to collect it during the December holidays -_-).

So, naive as I am, I went up to a teacher and asked her if she could keep the phone for me first and I would get the phone from her after school. I have no intention to use the phone during school, see? But no, the teacher says that she doesn't want to bear any responsibility and she warns me if I bring it to school, she will confiscate it. -_- I don't know how I should respond. Sigh. It's a lose-lose situation for me back then. I wanted to be honest, I really need the phone but the teacher doesn't want to "help" me. So what option do I have? Break the rules then. 

The For Argument
1. Technological Advancement - There are countries that allow students to bring phones to school many years ago. We're lagging behind. It's good to motivate and encourage innovation through phones. It's a basic need to have a phone nowadays.

2. Safety - Parents/Children need to contact each other easily

3. Schools are there to educate - A good opportunity to educate discipline in students.

4. Cost and long-term benefit for Mama nature - Introduce e-books. Save papers.

5. Gen Y are tech savvy - Since Gen Y peeps are tech savvy, it's good to capitalise on their strengths.

6. Maturity issues - If this is about maturity (in handling one's own gadget and how they use it), adults shouldn't be allowed to bring their gadgets to the workplace too because they also Facebook/Call/Text/Do other stuff

The Against Argument
1. Distractions - Games, Texting, INTERNET (with the Internet you can practically do everything now)

2. Peer Pressure - Less privileged students will feel the pressure when they see all their peers surrounding them have a (smart)phone.

3. More Work For Teachers (Mostly this is from a teacher's POV) - Teachers would now have more responsibility to look after students' gadgets and monitor their behaviour (ie. don't let them break the rules/guidelines)

4. Maturity issues - Students are not mature enough to have good self-control and would abuse gadgets to other stuff that are not school-related when in school.

5. Safety - Bullying, Stealing, Robbery, Kidnapping?

6. More Highschool Drama - Video, Pictures, Cyberbullying.. *think Gossip Girl :P

My personal opinion
Sure, a lot of people are concerned about how handphones would create a lot of problems, I agree. Social problems from mobile usage are already on the rise. I can imagine a 14-year-old girl tweeting non-stop the whole day about everything they see in school, on the way home, and at home. (I've seen soooo many teenagers, girls especially, tweeting away like 1k tweets a day. That's mad -_-)

Unless students are very confident in themselves that they have super good self-control, I suggest that they leave the phone at home unless it is necessary for them to bring the phone. Because of the mobile media revolution, phones have become a greater distraction. And with the MOE saying that they would provide free wifi, there would be more problems. Students can easily access Facebook and Twitter which is already known for how addictive they can be, and then WhatsApp comes into the picture. Students can text away without even thinking because it's free! Sigh, even I find it hard sometimes to concentrate in class because I have a smartphone. *Bish.

Stealing phones is just a secondary issue to me because I think if the teachers and school authorities are willing to "help" students keep these phones safely, there shouldn't be any problem - perhaps logistics and monetary/funding challenges. Like providing students with lockers or just putting them inside the staff room or something. I'm sure things will work out if there is proper management and security. You don't see phones getting stolen easily in colleges unless you leave them lying around. 

However, students might be easy victims of robbery or theft if not careful because now everyone knows students can bring a phone and that most probably students will. And of course, bullying comes into the picture.

I know the reason that students are allowed to bring handphones is because we're already considered backdated and we're lagging behind. But I don't see how bringing handphones or any IT gadgets would effectively help our nation to progress further. Maybe it's because I cannot comprehend it yet due to lack of exposure? In defense, I would like to justify this matter :P MOE claims that all if not most schools are already equipped with computing facilities.. but are students taught how to use it properly? Nope. I didn't learn to use Excel, Word or PowerPoint in school (oh, I'm talking about national schools here btw). In fact, I've never used a computer in school for my entire high school life.

Unless handphones or gadgets are really put to good use, I doubt how it would really help us to be better all. That being said, using gadgets to learn and do revision... Has anyone done the research to prove its effectiveness? Because I think if I were to use an iPad to read something, I would toggle away when a Facebook notification pops out. I'm just being realistic.

There is no doubt that new rules and guidelines would be introduced to ensure that students will not retaliate and abuse the privilege of bringing their phones to school. But what I am afraid of is how rules would turn out to be, in the name of "discipline". I have listed some of the most ridiculous rules introduced to students by schools because they want students to be more disciplined. You can read about it (here) and (here).

Actually, I kinda see more cons to pros in this whole issue. But that's just me. Maybe I cannot accept such a change. I think if this implementation ought to take place next year, proper measures must be taken in order to reduce the possibility that students will get distracted, bully, etc --- now. Let me know what you think.

P/S: Surprise, surprise: according to StarEducate editor, most teachers and students are against phones in school whereas parents love it (source: link) Ain't that surprising? :P