Maxis launches eKelas portal, education space gets crowded

  • Maxis rolls out eKelas online learning service to all 2,300 public secondary schools in the country
  • Official launch in same week as another major 1BestariNet development, and a similar Microsoft project
Maxis launches eKelas portal, education space gets crowded

CELLULAR services market leader Maxis Bhd launched its eKelas education portal in the same week that competitor YTL Communications made further announcements of its 1BestariNet project while Microsoft Corp rolled out its ‘Pop-Up Classrooms’ initiative.
All three projects involve the use of ICT (Information and Communications Technology) to enhance learning and teaching in schools, and all three are endorsed by Malaysia’s Ministry of Education (MoE).
The mother of them all is the YTL project, which will see all 10,000 schools in Malaysia using its YES 4G wireless Internet service and its sister company FrogAsia’s Frog VLE (virtual learning environment) software.
The Barisan Nasional government, before the polls on May 5 that saw it returned to power, had also made an election promise that 10 million schoolchildren, their parents and teachers will be provided with free laptops.
Earlier this week, YTL Communications launched a Google Chromebook manufactured by Samsung, saying that it will be rolling out the laptops to 3,000 schools in an initial phase.
The 1BestariNet project has been absorbed into the Malaysian Government’s National Education Blueprint. It will cost Malaysian taxpayers RM1.5 billion (nearly US$500 million) at least, and would take 13 years to complete.
However, it is unclear how independent projects such as those by Maxis and Microsoft – the latter’s also being endorsed by national ICT custodian the Multimedia Development Corp (MDeC) – will sit alongside the nationally endorsed 1BestariNet project.
At the official launch of the Maxis eKelas project on May 23, there was no clarity forthcoming from the MoE: The ministry’s director-general Abd Ghafar Mahmud left after officiating at the gala ceremony, having left instructions he was not prepared to answer questions at the press conference.
However, in his speech, he portrayed the 1BestariNet project as merely a connectivity play which can be complemented by initiatives such as eKelas.  It is unclear if this is the Government’s official stand, since no official announcement has been forthcoming.
This ‘connectivity play’ was also reiterated by T. Kugan, head of Product, Device and Innovation at Maxis, which had made a bid and was shortlisted in the otherwise opaque 1BestariNet tender exercise that comprised bids for providing connectivity, courseware and devices. All three aspects are now with YTL.
“Our bid for the 1BestariNet project was primarily on the connectivity (aspect), via satellite connections. It was distinctly about connectivity,” he told the subsequent press conference on May 23 at Menara Maxis in Kuala Lumpur.
The Maxis eKelas project included the development of courseware in cooperation with the MoE, covering math and science subjects for Forms 1-3 in secondary schools.
When asked how this would sit alongside Frog VLE, Kugan said, “The key thing here is that we’re providing content for free, to all the schools. Content is severely lacking, if you look at it globally or even locally.
"Content is crucial -- 1BestariNet actually addresses a platform,” he said. “It’s a separate discussion when you talk about which platform you make this content available on. It’s a discussion which is on-going today.
“The value we’re bringing to the public and our consumers today is the content,” he added.

Next page: Full-scale deployment to all 2,300 public secondary schools

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