River Valley High drops iPad scheme

Secondary 1 students no longer need to buy own device for lessons

A scheme in which all River Valley High School (RVHS) Secondary 1 students had to buy their own iPads for lessons has been scrapped.

The iPad programme had been introduced by former principal Koh Yong Chiah in 2012.

Some parents, concerned about the device's price of about $700 and their children misusing the iPad to access unsuitable material, had questioned the programme then.

Now, technology has caught up with the programme, explained the school. Smartphones, laptops and tablets all have similar features now, and a "significant number" of students have smartphones, which can be used for learning.

The school announced the change on its website late last year. Instead of buying iPads, Secondary 1 and 2 students can borrow them from the school when they do activities requiring specific apps.

RVHS offers the six-year Integrated Programme. Its students move on to the A-level curriculum without taking the O-level examination.

Vice-principal Loi Guang You told The Straits Times that there is no change to the school's position on using information and communications technology (ICT) to teach and learn, and that it develops "self-directed learning, collaborative learning, communication and new media skills" in students. "The change from using the iPad to other devices will not affect our lessons and student learning," he said.

"Furthermore, the school has found that laptops serve students better in the senior years in terms of computing power, software and productivity."

Months after the compulsory iPad scheme was put in place at RVHS, then principal Koh stepped down at the end of 2012 because of a Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau probe. He pleaded guilty last month to giving false information to a senior Education Ministry officer in 2005. He had had an affair with a vendor to whom he awarded contracts worth millions of dollars, but denied the relationship when questioned by the ministry.

RVHS is not the only school that has adopted such an ICT model. At schools such as Nanyang Girls' High School and School of Science and Technology, students own smart devices for learning.

The reaction from parents and students on how effective such methods are has been mixed.

Ms Gracia Tham, 43, who bought an iPad for her son when he entered RVHS in 2012, said he used it frequently for school work only in his first three years. It was at times difficult to get him to put down the device, she admitted.

"You can't be watching over them all the time. It's very easy for them to toggle between the apps and hide what they are doing."

But third-year student Valencia Wan said that as she could access learning material on the iPad, there was no need to lug some textbooks to school daily. The device also helps to make English, mathematics and music lessons more engaging. "For example, we use the iPad for graphs in maths lessons. It helps us visualise the graphs better."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2016, with the headline 'River Valley High drops iPad scheme'. Print Edition | Subscribe