Forum: Security software in learning devices upends teacher-student dynamic

I am dismayed by the Ministry of Education's (MOE) implementation of the device management application (DMA) in students' personal devices, which I find to be a heavy-handed and hasty solution to a simple problem.

With the monitoring and control of usage extending beyond the reasonable confines of school hours and MOE-issued devices, it calls into question the role of educators and efficacy of teaching, beyond the obvious privacy and security concerns.

Good education is the cultivation of discipline, moral character and passion for learning, through the support and mutual respect between teachers and students.

MOE has highlighted this inspiring relationship in its past marketing campaigns.

Yet, the DMA undermines this relationship by upending the teacher-student dynamic.

Mutual respect and trust cannot exist between two parties if one is privy to the most private moments of the other.

How do we expect students to confide in teachers and parents about their problems when there is a vast disparity in information and leverage? Furthermore, there have been cases of sexual abuse by educators. What will happen if these individuals have access to students' private data?

The DMA is an oversized stick

in a problem that requires a carrot. Students should be taught the value of education, and the danger of gambling and objectionable material through honest and sensitive discussions with adults.

This process is difficult in the digital age but that is precisely why we must persevere - human connection and empathy are established by showing genuine care, not through surveillance.

Most of what the DMA is trying to achieve has already been done in significantly less intrusive ways - the Infocomm Media Development Authority already maintains a list of banned websites applicable nationwide; videoconferencing software already allows for remote screen control for teaching; and many kinds of security software have parental control functions that can set time limits for programmes on a computer.

Actively monitoring a student's online activity doesn't address any of the above issues and will only encourage students to learn how to hide their online activities.

"You shouldn't worry if you have nothing to hide" is a false dichotomy which ignores the fact that privacy is needed even for the innocuous and mundane parts of our lives.

Many argue that companies like Apple, Facebook and Google already collect data from users so there's nothing wrong with the DMA. But these companies' unchecked data collection should make us question why there are no laws to protect consumers' data, not be used to justify even more draconian data collection.

Holmberg Dennis