Schools to help students navigate the digital world

Every Secondary 1 student will have a personal learning device for e-learning by 2024, and schools will devote more time to teaching students about cyber wellness.

These moves to equip students with the skills and values to navigate the digital world come as the usage of social media among young people continues to grow.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung yesterday set out in Parliament how his ministry plans to boost digital literacy, and ramp up cyber wellness and mental health education.

Personal devices are as essential for e-learning as paper and pen are for a traditional lesson, he noted.

He said these devices – which could be a tablet, laptop or Chromebook – will be affordable, and students can pay for them through their Edusave accounts. Students from lower-income households will get further subsidies to ensure they do not have to pay any cash.

Students can use the devices to access an online learning portal with materials such as videos and other assessments.

The move is part of a national digital literacy programme the Ministry of Education (MOE) will roll out to guide students’ use of technology, as part of a “Learn for Life” movement that began two years ago.

Students will also be taught digital literacy in a way that helps them, instead of becoming a distraction.

They will be taught to “find” data from digital sources in a safe and responsible way.

They should then be able to “think” about this data and use it to solve problems systematically.

Most importantly, they should be able to “apply” digital resources productively to learn and work.

Finally, they should be able to use technology to “create”, whether that means coding a program or developing an app.

At the same time, in an acknowledgement that the impact of technology on children can be complex, the MOE will ramp up cyber wellness and mental health education.

In his speech, Mr Ong asked: “How do we ensure that our young make the right choices and survive well in an online world?

“In an online world, you can be anonymous, and there are no policemen, no editors, no verifiers. A child can choose to be nasty and then get away with it, with very little consequences.

“Whereas in the real world, it is not as easy to say something nasty to your friend to his face.”

He pointed out that instilling values and morals in students will be key to guiding them as they use technology.

To this end, the new character and citizenship education (CCE) curriculum will devote more time and resources to discussing issues such as social media and cyber bullying. In particular, schools will pay closer attention to the mental well-being of students, which is closely related to cyber wellness.

Elaborating on these efforts, Second Minister for Education Indranee Rajah said secondary schools will cover mental health education in the CCE syllabus so that students understand mental health issues and learn to have empathy for those with such conditions.

The aim is also to develop a peer support culture in all schools by 2022 so that students will know how to look out for each other, and flag to teachers and counsellors any cases of peers who need help.

“Research has shown that having a sense of affiliation among peers, positive vibes and feeling supported by one another, all contribute to positive well-being,” said Ms Indranee.

The changes to come in CCE, said Mr Ong, are meant to reinforce the teaching of values in children from as young as possible. “Digital world problems require analogue world solutions. It goes back to our values, our morals, our humanity.”

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