Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Handphone has become indispensable gadget, an absolute necessity for both adults and children. Like every other invention of man, whether or not to allo the use of handphones in Malaysian schools is not an easy yes-or- no issue. This is the dilemma of the authorities.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â If properly used, the handphone can bring more benefits than harm especially to children. When television first made its debut in the 1960s, everybody imagined that it would have a negative effect on children. Parents fret over their children's addiction to the 'idiot box' and the neglect of their studies. Their fears were unfounded as they soon found that if strictly contolled, the television was as harmless as the radio or the gramophone.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â In more recent times, the same anxiety greeted the advent of computers, especially the Internet. Today, the Internet has becomean essential tool and we cannot imagine a life without computers. Like the computers, the handphone has many advantages, while an abuse of it can have disastrous results. Handphones are useful tools of communication. Parents and children can keep in touch with each other and any last mintue change of plans can be conveyed easily without any trouble to either party. Some children however, cite this as a loss of privacy as parents will have a 24-hour access to their children
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Parents say the handphone is more than a convenience-it is an essential item that can function as a tracker divece. With it they can monitor their children and check on their whereabouts via satelite. Thus, from whereevr they are, paretns can ensure the safety of thier children and avoid incidents like kidnapping and such crimes.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Education Ministry officials, school authorities and many parents believe that allowing handphones in schools would only widen the disparity between the haves and the have-nots among students. Handphones come in a variety of shapes, colours and function:from generic ones to highly sophisticated ones that double up as camers, video cameras and palm tops. Not every child in school comes from middle or upper class families that can afford to buy each child a handphone. The self esteem of children who do not own a handphone or who possess a basic one wii be affected. Low esteem among students would cause a rift among children. Cliques, jealousy and rivalry would result. This unhealthy situation should not be nurtured in a school. Instea, the school environment should promote equal opprotunities and equal treatment.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Another reason for the strong outcry against allowing studentsto bring handphones to school is the distraction it poses. SMSes, games and ringing tones are some of the distractors that take the students' attention away from the lesson. Children being children will not be able to resist the temptation of answering calls and sending messages when they should be listening to the teacher or classes, the games available on the phone is something the students would resort to after classes to overcome boredom.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Apart from diverting student's attention, the handphones can threathen the validity of school examinations. Students may cheat durin examinations via text messages. Information or answers can be passed from one student to the next while examiners may be totally oblivious of the cheating that happen.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Finally, even adults find it hard to exercise social etiquette and discretion in the use of handphones, therefore children cannot be expected to do any better. Despite explicit messages in movies threatres, at meetings and at formal meetings, we still hear phones ringing away. School administrators and discipline teachers would find it difficult to to effectively prohibit students from using their phones during lessons.
Â Â Â Â Â Â If Ministry of Education lifts the ban on handphones, schools may come up with new rules or guidelines to control the use of the handphone. Inevitably, teacher will be burdened with the task of monitoring the use and misuse of the handphone. All this is additional stress for teachers who are already loaded with heavy responsibilities. The Malaysian school system has thrived so far even with handphones being banned from schools. Why sudden change of heart?
Cell Phones at School: Should They Be Allowed?
by Maya Cohen
The question of whether cell phones should be allowed in schools has been hotly debated over the years. Most school administrations regard cell phone use as disruptive and distracting, and have implemented policies that prohibit using them on school grounds. There are benefits to giving your kids cell phones for use outside of school, but before you add them to your family plan, read the pros and cons:
You can be in touch with your children, and know their whereabouts.
Your kids can reach you in the event of an emergency, and vice versa.
If in danger, your children can reach the authorities or a medical provider.
Phones can be silenced during class or study periods, and active only in appropriate places.
Cell phones create a convenience that was previously unavailable. With cell phones, you can easily reach your kids for any reason: to ask them questions, change plans, or to simply say hello.
Students often forget to turn off their phones in class, and ringing noises or text-message alerts disrupt learning.
Even if set to silent, cell phones can still cause distraction, since text messaging has become a high-tech method of passing notes in school.
Students have been known to use cell phones to call in bomb threats to schools, to avoid or condense class time.
In the event of a widespread crisis, rampant cell phone use can overload communication systems and render them inoperable.
Student cell phone networks add to the spread of rumors and misinformation, which can be harmful during a widespread crisis.
Phones can be used as cheating devices during exams.
The long-term physical effects of cell phone use are still undetermined.
There are compelling arguments on both sides of the debate, and both enthusiasts and critics make convincing points. What do you think? Take our poll:
POLL: Should schools allow cell phones?
In fact, the real decision regarding cell phones lies with parents. Short of checking each and every backpack, school officials can only enforce cell phone bans if they catch a student with a prohibited device. Would you allow your child to bring a cell phone to school? Share your opinion in our poll:
By MALLIKA VASUGI
WHEN initial reports about students being allowed to use handphones in schools were first released, many teachers were incredulous. Â
There were already enough problems in schools where the ruling against handphones was strictly enforced. With the lifting of the ban, all hell was bound to break loose. Â
We shuddered in our staff rooms, imagining the consequences. Â
It was a great relief therefore when the announcement to renew the handphone ban came shortly after that - although there were a few raised eyebrows and wry comments passed about the "now it's on-now it's off" thing. Â
During the period between the first and second announcements, many "letters to the editor" were written and opinions given about the ruling - both in favour of, and against, the bringing of handphones to schools. Â
While teachers were generally opposed to the idea, some parents were pleased. Â
"Times have changed," one parent wrote. "We need to keep in touch with our children. How else will they reach us in case of emergencies?" Â
One colleague remarked, "The way some parents go on, you would think their offspring came into the world clutching handphones to their ears." Â
Many teachers laughed quietly when further "restrictions" on the use of the handphone were outlined. Â
"Only during break time, in the canteen or school compound, not during lessons." Â
As teachers smack in the middle of this issue, with first-hand knowledge of the problems caused by handphones despite school rules against it, it is difficult not to be sceptical. Besides being an effective examination cheating tool and major distraction during the teaching-learning process, handphone text messages have also replaced the classic love-letter to the girl in the last row. Â
"That's an understatement," said another friend who is the discipline master in his school. Â
"Remember the old school boy trick of yesteryear involving strategically placed pencil-sharpener mirrors. Just imagine what they can do with camera-phones these days. Â
"And do you know what the worst part is? Â
"Some of the 'models' in the lewd, almost pornographic, camera-phone shots are our students. Makes you wonder what the root of all this moral decadence is, doesn't it?" Â
Of course banning the handphone in schools does not mean all these problems are going to be solved. Cheaters will still cheat and inappropriate behaviour in girl-boy relationships will still continue. Â
"Besides," asked another parent, "Wouldn't it be unfair to students who genuinely need to have the handphone with them? What about kids with medical problems who need to be in constant contact with their parents?" Â
School administrators have never been unaware of this situation and for that reason, there are always teachers on duty everyday to deal with emergencies such as sending students home, to the hospital, contacting parents and so on. Â
Some schools I know even allow students to bring their handphones to school but they have to turn the phones in to the school authorities throughout the school session. Â
"You know what really amazes me?" said my discipline teacher friend. Â
"Every time we conduct a spot-check and confiscate handphones, parents who have never attended any school function, never turned up on open day to check on their child's progress throughout the school year, are at the school office within half an hour of notification, pleading with us to return the handphones to their children." Â
Another point brought up by the "no handphones in school" proponents was the possible feelings of resentment, envy or even feelings of inferiority which may arise when students begin comparing handphone models in schools. Â
Like most of our material possessions that start out as "needs", handphones have become a sort of status symbol for some. Â
Parents know this when their teenagers tearfully plead for the over RM1,000 model that "every other kid has". Â
Imagine a kid who applies for the Textbook Loan Scheme because his father earns less than RM1,000 a month, sitting next to a student flashing the latest Nokia N90 which cost his dad RM2,500. Â
Most of us teachers especially, are glad that the issue is finally settled and the ban remains effective. Â
But we know some of the negative comments that are bound to be made by those less satisfied with the ruling. Â
"Teachers should not blame handphones for discipline problems. Â
"It is the teachers' job to ensure students pay attention in class and do not play with handphones. Teachers should not shirk their responsibilities or pass the buck, and so on and so forth...." Â
I wish someone would teach us teachers how to keep a student awake in class when he has been working part-time until 2am to pay for the luxury items he "needs", handphones of course being at the top of the list. Â
While we are at that, I also wish someone would teach us teachers how to prevent students from using vulgarities in school when they use them all the time at home. Â
Or tell them it is not okay to cheat although this allows them to get what they want. Â
Or that it is morally wrong to flash an expensive Samsung D500 in front of another kid whose parents cannot afford to give him lunch money. Â
By KAREN CHAPMAN
PETALING JAYA: The Education Ministry's decision to lift the ban on handphones in schools from this year has generally caused an uproar. Â
Director General of Education Datuk Dr Ahamad Sipon cited the increasing number of students owning handphones due to cheaper service charges and handsets as the reason for lifting the ban. Â
"Basically, the Education Ministry does not want to prevent the usage of handphones in school. But their use by both teachers and students must be controlled so that the teaching and learning process is not disrupted," he said in a circular. Â
RING IT IN
"Let's not panic unnecessarily with the lifting of the ban. Let's see what happens first. If there are problems as a result of the directive, I am sure the Education Ministry can then review the situation. Â
"Schools should also have their own rules on the matter." Â
SMK La Salle (Petaling Jaya) principal A Rajenthran
"I welcome the ministry's lifting of the ban. We allowed students to bring their handphones last year for convenience and security reasons. Â
"Many parents want to be able to contact their children. They also want their children to be able to contact them in case of an emergency. Â
"We set up a process where students who want to bring their handphones can do so, but they have to first register with us. Â
"We cannot run away from the fact that handphones make things extremely convenient these days." Â
Parent Abu Kadir Abdullah, 49
"All of us in the family keep in touch with each other via handphones, so in this ICT (information and communication technology) age, having handphones will help us communicate faster better." Â
Parent K.K. Wong, 43
"In this day and age where both parents are busy working until late in the day they have to depend on the handphone to keep in touch with their children in school. It is no more just a gadget to show off, it has become a necessity. Â
Many parents can attest to the fact that it has helped them in their lives. School authorities should make sure students help us communicate faster and better." Â
CALL IT OFF
Parent V. Gunasekaran
"I am really scared for my daughter. Some IT savvy boys may take funny pictures of girls and circulate them through the MMS. The Ministry should have a rethink." Â
Senior assistant Mary Goh
"We have a strict ban on handphones. I really don't see a need for students to bring them to school. There are enough public telephones in school and if there is an emergency, they can always use the office telephone. Â
"Although we are very strict, and will confiscate the phones if we catch them with one, some still manage to sneak them into school. It's really not a good idea. Â
Principal Suzana Ahmad
"I am concerned because bringing handphones to school will distract students from concentrating on their studies. Â
"Students are here to learn but they may be unable to resist the urge to check their phones for messages every now and then. Â
"After teaching for many years in urban schools, I can tell you that children in these areas can be very sneaky and may put their phones on silent mode in class." Â
Teacher R. Usha
"I agree it is not a good move. I am worried about the impact on those who do not have handphones. Â
"Children from wealthier backgrounds may possess state-of-the-art phones while the poorer ones may have something simpler or none at all. This will cause jealousy and may even result in thefts."