Outram Secondary: Net link lets parents check on students

Outram Secondary's link-up with IBM helps it to reach out to parents by using a web-based software system

STUDENTS hoping to stay out late by concocting phony school activities will soon have to think twice.

Outram Secondary School is teaming up with IT giant IBM to test a web-based software system which, among other applications, lets parents check up on school activities over the Net.

About 100 parents are already using the system, apart from the school's staff and students, and Outram Secondary principal Chan Poh Meng says they have even influenced school policy.

For instance, he said, when the school was considering changing school hours this year, parents logged on to ask that the hours be kept as they were.

"From there, we realised that parents had already adjusted to 7.30 am, so we listened and did not change the hours."

The Outram experience makes Singapore the sixth country to participate in IBM's worldwide Reinventing Education programme, a collaboration between the company and school administrators and planners around the world.

Under the programme, launched by the company in 1994 in nine US cities, IBM works with education departments to develop software applications to improve the way lessons are taught, involve parents in the learning equation and encourage teamwork at school.

Outram Secondary launched the IBM Learning Village system last July and yesterday got the IT company's promise to extend its capabilities with additional software tools.

Education Minister Teo Chee Hean, the guest of honour at yesterday's partnership agreement ceremony, said collaboration between school and industry would provide for a seeding of new ideas that could be adopted by other schools.

"As the tools become developed, and as other schools have a look at the tools available, including the ones here, I will leave it to the schools to decide which ones they want to use and which ones they think are useful to them."

IBM, whose software tools provided under the programme are now being used by schools in 12 other US cities and Brazil, Ireland, Italy and Vietnam, will provide US$425,000 (S$728,875) in services, technical resources, training and research in Singapore, while the Ministry of Education will provide teacher time for training and showcase the key elements of the partnership.

Mr Chan said the partnership would help the school review its progress.

"So far, we have been very successful in our education system, but we really have to plug into what the rest of the world is doing."

LOG ON: For all

Parents can:
* Meet teachers online.
* Keep tabs on their children's academic performance online.
* Give feedback on school matters easily.

Students can:
* Know how they will be graded, so they can work systematically to earn better grades.
* Talk to teachers online if they are uncomfortable doing so in person.

Teachers can:
* Develop lesson plans online.
* Set up their own websites for students to turn to if they miss a class.