MOE flexible on students' use of devices after school

They can customise settings at home or turn off monitoring software used during class time

Bukit View Secondary School students using their personal learning devices. Education Minister Lawrence Wong says the security software built into learning devices does not track details such as passwords and locations. PHOTO: COURTESY OF BUKIT VIEW
Bukit View Secondary School students using their personal learning devices. Education Minister Lawrence Wong says the security software built into learning devices does not track details such as passwords and locations. PHOTO: COURTESY OF BUKIT VIEW SECONDARY SCHOOL

Parents and students will have some flexibility in how they wish to use their learning devices after school hours, said Education Minister Lawrence Wong.

For instance, they could have the option to customise the device software settings at home, or turn off the software so that there is no monitoring of online activities.

More details will be given as schools hand out the learning devices, said Mr Wong in a written reply to Mr Patrick Tay (Pioneer) on Wednesday.

"The Ministry of Education's objectives are focused on the school environment and on ensuring good teaching and learning outcomes in school," he added.

Mr Tay, who heads the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, had asked the ministry what information will be tracked by the security software built into learning devices.

The devices are meant to support home-based learning, which starts from the third term of this year, for at least two days a month in all secondary schools, junior colleges and Millennia Institute.

But some students had raised concerns about privacy and schools being too restrictive in implementing the device management application, a software that is meant to monitor how they use their learning devices.

In response, Mr Wong said the software "only collects information required to facilitate a conducive environment for teaching and learning, and to encourage good online practices".

This refers to basic student information such as his or her name, school and e-mail address, and does not track details like identification numbers, passwords and the location of the device, he said.

With this information, the Education Ministry and schools will be able to centrally update the devices - for instance, to install new learning applications or security patches.

Another purpose of the software is to support teachers in managing learning in classrooms, said Mr Wong. For instance, they will be able to see and support students' work on the devices during lessons.

The software will also help filter out harmful Internet content such as pornographic and gamblingrelated websites or those with extremist content, he added.

"In our engagements with parents, this feature of the software was something they strongly welcomed, as they were very concerned about excessive screen time and their children's access to inappropriate content online."

Mr Wong noted that any student information collected by the software is stored in secure servers managed by appointed vendors with stringent access controls.

"This is in line with the Government's personal data laws and policies to safeguard sensitive data collected by public agencies," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 26, 2021, with the headline 'MOE flexible on students' use of devices after school'. Subscribe