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Educational technology in Malaysia: The resource centre as a unifying concept

John G Hedberg
University of New South Wales

My first contact with Malaysia was a professional education conference held in Kuala Lumpur in January 1970, where the language of communication was English but the methods of presentation were largely talk with little presentation technology. At that time, I had only just arrived in Asia and the sounds and smells were so exciting and different, that I hardly noticed the lack of resources. Recently, I was invited to return to present the Keynote paper to the Second Malaysian Educational Technology Society Convention. After twenty years, I noticed a definite maturity about the way in which people were approaching educational technology. The sophistication was not only in the technology employed but in the concepts held about its appropriate use. In the intervening years, I had been fortunate to be a consultant to one of the premier Malaysian universities in the area of educational technology, and been a consultant and examiner to other universities in the same country.

In reporting his experiences over a similar period, Don Ely compared three developing countries, Peru, Chile and Indonesia. In summarising his conclusions he stated:

Educational technology is alive but not well in all three countries. There are diverse applications, but no unifying concept. Principles are transferred from more developed countries, but there is a lack of understanding on part of decision makers on what is meant by educational technology. This field must be defined in the cultural context of each country. The field must emerge as an indigenous innovation, not a transfer from another country. (Ely, 1990, p.1)
It is this context in which arises a difficult problem for Malaysia. The country contains an interesting series of paradoxes. At one time, it is possible to obtain the latest in educational technology and software, and at the same time, many classroom teachers are still working with simple, non projected, self made materials such as models and charts. It was pointed out to me by members of the convention that books are still precious items, despite the increase in the number of local books which are published for classroom use. The dilemma also extends to the implementation of educational technology ideas.

One of the best examples is the application of the resource centre concept to schools and districts (Tow & Zubir, 1985). While the educational technology ideas are adopted there are problems with their execution. There is a confusion about what are the key elements of the innovation and how can they be employed in the Malaysian context. The issues in Tow and Zubir's report are not unique to Malaysia or a developing nation. Problems of supply, and government bureaucracy are universal problems for educational systems. But when also dealing with unknown concepts the problem is doubly difficult.

Educational technology in Malaysia has had considerable support from the Education Ministry and government authorities. In fact, compared to Australia, there is remarkable coherence and organisation. Scarcity of resources has created a climate where sharing has created links not often seen in Australia. For example, Malaysian school libraries are part of the Educational Technology Division of the Ministry and participate in the growing sharing of resources through Resource Centres at school district and state levels. In this brief discussion, some of the key developments which demonstrate clarity and direction for scarce resources will be raised. These basic components of the situation can provide a useful picture of the application of education technology.

Creating an organisation to support educational technology

The Educational Technology Division (ETD) formerly known as the Educational Media Service (EMS) was established in 1972 with the main objective of helping improve the quality of education in Malaysia, particularly in the rural areas. It was believed that the technology would help make the teaching-learning process more effective. Prior to 1972, there existed an Audio Visual Unit in the Ministry of Education and a Schools Radio Service in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Following the success of two pilot Educational Television (ETV) Projects in 1965 and 1966, and the decision by the Government to introduce an ETV service on a permanent basis in 1972, these three services were integrated to form a new Division of the Ministry of Education called the Educational Media Service. This service was charged with providing a viable educational media and technology service for schools. The objectives of the division are:
  1. to create awareness of the important role of educational technology for the development and progress of education in the country.

  2. to assist in providing services that can help strengthen the teaching and learning process especially tor the benefit of the schools in the rural areas.

  3. to encourage teachers to present their lessons in more creative and innovative ways through the use of a variety of educational media.

  4. to motivate students to obtain knowledge in a more interesting and effective manner through a variety of educational media.

  5. to assist in providing services in teacher training both preservice and inservice especially in the field of educational technology.

  6. to assist in the planning and implementation of reforms in learning and curriculum.

  7. to provide advisory services and technical assistance for the effective use of educational media equipment.

  8. to disseminate information on the reforms and developments in the field of education to teachers and parents. (Abdul Hamid bin Ayob, 1989, p 11-12)

Infrastructure and administration

The Educational Technology Division is one of the twenty Divisions in the Ministry of Education. As the ETD prepares and produces educational radio and educational television programs for transmission using the National RTM networks, it works closely with the Department of Broadcasting of the Ministry of Information as well as the recently privatised Telecommunications Company of Malaysia (formerly the Department of Telecommunications).

The Educational Technology Division has six different Sections - Educational TV, Educational Radio, Audio Visual, Library, Evaluation and General Services, and Engineering. The Division is headed by a Director who is responsible to the Director-General of Education and he is assisted by a Deputy Director and a staff of about 250 in the six sections. Each Section has an Assistant Director who plans and administers all the activities in his/her own Section. At the State level there are the State Educational Technology officers whose functions are to coordinate and help implement the ETD programs, activities and projects.

The ETD with its staff and activities at both national and state levels strives to provide an integrated educational media service for over 6,500 elementary schools, over 1,150 secondary schools and 28 Teacher's Colleges in the country. The target school population is about 2.2 million elementary school children, 1.3 million secondary pupils and about 180,000 teachers in the country.

The most significant development in line with the need to integrate services was the transfer to the Division of the Library Section (with effect from January 1st, 1988) from the Schools Division of the Ministry of Education. The prime objective again relates to the coordination of the educational resource centres set up at State, District and School levels. Thus the idea for resources centres has had a pervading and interesting impact on the organisation of educational technology support.

The Library section among other activities is involved in:

  1. evaluation and selection of supplementary reading materials for Schools and reference books for District Resource Centres (another project being implemented through a loan from World Bank).

  2. Printing of guide books on subjects such as management of school Resource Centres, book selection and development policy for schools and other educational institutions.

  3. Printing of the Educational Technology Bulletin and other special publications.

  4. Conducting of courses/workshops/seminars for teachers, resource personnel, students, parents and others relating to reading and organisation of resource centres. (Abdul Hamid bin Ayob, 1989, p.19)
The introduction of the KBSR (the common curriculum in schools) in 1983 may be said to have strongly influenced the various agencies to review and reassess their aims, roles and functions. The Library Services unit of the Schools Division and the Educational Media Services Division were no exception. Starting from the 1960s and up until the 1980s library services and media services developed as two distinct entities, though each had the same target group.

What may be termed a shift in emphasis from the preoccupation with the production of radio/TV programs and the provision of library books and non electronic AV materials to a concern over the concerted use of media (print and non print) to enhance the quality of education may be dated from the launching of the 'Projek Menggalakkan Penngunaan Perpustakaan Sekolah' (Project to Encourage Intensive Use of School Libraries) in 1981. In that year the Ministry set aside M$409,000 for a three year period during which 25 rural primary schools selected from the 14 states were given guidance, training, encouragement, and assistance to integrate book and non book materials and look upon them as teaching-learning aids. Initial emphasis of this project was the physical organisation of material according to the established school library system. The rationale here was that systematic organisation of book and non book materials would lead to easy retrieval which in turn would encourage frequent usage.

The Ministry of Education has embarked on a nationwide strategy towards setting up resource centres at State and District levels. Four State Resource Centres have been established in the rural states of Kelantan, Trengganu, Pahang and Kedah as a pilot project (Tow & Zubir, 1985). Under the current Eighth World Bank Loan Scheme, 360 new District Resource Centres are being built and equipped.

These state and district resource centres will operate in the context of the following functions:

  1. to act as a catalyst towards overall professional development of teachers, particularly professionalism in pedagogy.

  2. to provide inservice training and guidance to teachers in materials production techniques.

  3. to act as a materials bank to which teachers can contribute what they have developed either at the school level or at the resource centre itself and from where they can obtain model materials for reproduction and production equipment like cameras, video or audio recording facilities, etc. for self production of materials for use at the school level.

  4. to assist teachers, through inservice courses and informal meetings, in acquiring skills of organising and managing their book and non book materials more systematically at the school level, for easy retrieval.

  5. to help heighten current awareness of teachers through newsletters and other extension services by keeping them up to date on the state of the art in materials production, organisation and use.

  6. to offer on the spot professional advice to teachers in the course of visits to school resource centres. (Abdul Hamid bin Ayob, 1989, p22-23)
Be this as it may, the issues confronting the Ministry of Education now go further than the establishment of the school Resource Centres. The 1990s have to ensure the greater use of resource centres by teachers and students, for whole class teaching as well as individualised learning including self instruction. There has to be an increase in the understanding of resource based learning and this will have to be linked to an increase in the use of communication and information technologies including, of course the use of computers in education.

Training in educational technology

There are a number of institutions which train teachers. The most easily accessed figures are provided by the Universities (currently six in all). Training of preservice teachers usually includes one or two units in the use of educational technologies. From the figures, it is also evident that the teaching of the students is not also personalised and from experience large numbers of students are required to take educational technology courses.

UniversityType of courseNo. hours/unitsNo. studentsStaff/ student ratio

2 units
3 units
3 units
1 unit
2 units

(Thanby Subahan & Abdul Mutalib Rani, 1985, pp.180, 187)

Linking educational technology concepts with professional development

Interestingly, the development of the resource centre concept has provided an indirect boon for the professional development of teachers. Not only have they provided the technological resources, but they have provided a meeting ground and a link with otherwise different serving agencies. The use of open learning approaches is now being tried to reduce the problems of travel and time away from the classroom. While not universally accepted, the method has significantly helped to improve teacher skills (Dhamotharan, 1990). Even with this newer approach to delivery, there are real problems of participation and the recommendation was that Ministry of Education should support the costs of teachers engaging in this form of professional development.

The concepts for the design and development of alternative delivery systems are similar to those found in other countries, namely, relevance, benefit in terms of time invested, individualisation in terms of needs and feedback, and self assessment (Dhamotharan, 1990, p.15). A simple comparison with an Australian study has found similar problems in working with teachers for their own professional development (Hedberg & McNamara, 1990). The general applicability of the open learning method is without doubt, the problem remains as to how to motivate teachers who feel that their employer should foot the bill as they believe they undertake the exercise for their employer rather than themselves.

Creating a professional association

Three years ago the Malaysian Educational Technology Society (Persatuan Teknologi Pendidikan Malaysia - PTPM) was formed and the current membership of around 330 people is remarkably healthy. There is considerable support from the Ministry of Education, with time release for teachers and financial support for the activities. The need to develop such an Association is a mark of the growing need for professional recognition of the role educational technology is playing in both the resource centre concept and in the changing resources available to schools.

Changing teaching strategies

Rohanna Zubir has been working and reporting a variety of studies related to the changing use of independent learning versus presentation strategies such as lecturing (see for example, Zubir, 1988). In this regard, Malaysia is facing similar problems to those faced by other countries when the ideas of changing teaching methods. Other authors have also suggested methods which have been tried in other countries such as the audio tutorial approach (Bujang & Hussain, 1985) but these appear to most often be experiments and not really integrate into the mainstream, largely because of resources available.

Recently, there have been policy changes which suggest that students throughout their secondary school and tertiary studies should be able to also speak another language fluently. The emphasis on English as a second language will have considerable impact on the use of one of the most prized resources - library books. Most universities have considerable collections of works in English. It is to be expected that the focus on learning to read and speak in English as well as Bahasa Malaysia will open up the resources to many students who cannot currently use the resources. The class sizes remain high and so it is unlikely and the staff are relatively inexperienced so that major innovations in teaching methods will not be a likely as the use of the simple resources of teaching, such as books, overheads and presentation.

Increasingly sophisticated concepts of information technology

Another idea which was brought home to me with the recent conference was the importance of preparation for life in an information age. The predominant focus in schools has been the acquiring of knowledge to pass the examinations. With growing awareness of resource based learning, there is now a call for the development of information retrieval and research skills (Vies, 1990). In fact this has been a theme of the Educational Technology Division in recent years (Abdul Hamid bin Ayob, 1989) as it encourages teachers to use the broadcast, and audiovisual materials developed by the different sections of the Ministry.

It is this change in the concept of how schools perform their key function of educating the society that educational technology is seen as a key player. The tangible development of resource centres has a clear impact on the presence of educational technology in learning. The organisational links between, print, broadcast, computers and other media forms has therefore potential for efficient development and less fragmented allocation of development effort.


In summarising the current status of educational technology in three developing countries, Don Ely claimed:
  1. Educational technology is more of a movement than a field.

  2. Efforts to transfer North American technology are resisted, especially in Latin America.

  3. Educational technology professions exist in all three countries, but they have different titles. (ie, Minister of Education, Director of Education, etc).

  4. There are existing networks of people: Prof. Assoc. of Ed. Tech. in Chile; National meeting of educational technology professionals in Indonesia.

  5. Reasons for acceptance of ed tech:

Malaysia by comparison has a strong belief in the role technology can play in teaching and learning. There is concern for what should be the main focus in the country and how is should be most effectively employed. This has been achieved by the resource centre concept and its many ramifications for converging services. The development of an integrated organisational structure is by far the most interesting outcome. The task of using it effectively has yet to be proven as the marriage is only two years old.

The changing policy of the government to the use of languages has a bearing on the use of technologies, there is more emphasis now in bilingualism - meaning Bahasa Malaysia and English, in that order and that will develop an increase in the use of the current resources such as books and English language materials.

Clem Chow (1990, p3) in reporting his perceptions of the use of new technologies in developing countries reported:

There have been many reports of failures in adapting these technologies. Hardware is relatively easy to get, as is technical assistance compared to help developing appropriate software. To develop successful software, it is essential that there be local input. The material must reflect the values of the particular culture.
Malaysia has indeed worked hard to provide teaching and learning materials with an appropriate national and cultural bias. The growing sophistication of production methods and quality of materials promises to assist the country achieve better educational methods and more enlightened practice. There appears to be a real movement away from the 'cargo cult' approach to the use of technologies toward an assessment of appropriateness and ease of implementation within the structures provided for dissemination. The unique mixtures are paying off and the growing professionalism of a group who are identifying themselves as educational technologists and who achieve national recognition is an important development.


Ayob, Abdul Hamid (1989). The role of educational technology in educational reforms and its implementation as an educational innovation in Malaysia. Paper presented to the UNESCO Seminar on Implementation of Educational Policies and Reforms, Bangkok, April 25 to May 2.

Bujang, Hhnin & Hussain, Mohd. Yusof. (1985). Individualised teaching and learning (ITL) - An approach to teaching Biological courses at undergraduate level through appropriate educational technology. In Rahim, M. S., Myint, S. K. & Rasidah, S. (Eds.) (1985). Pendidikan, Lathihan dan Teknologi-Teknologi Baru. (Education, Training and New Technologies) Proceedings of a seminar, 21-22nd December, 1984, Penang: Universiti Sains Malaysia. pp.140-174.

Chow, C. (1990). Using new technologies in developing countries. International Perspective, 18(1),3.

Dhamotharan, M. (1990). Open learning systems for the continuing education of professionals in Malaysia. Paper presented to the Second Educational Technology Convention, Kuala Lumpur, June Ist to 3rd.

Ely, D. (1990). Diffusion and implementation of educational technology in developing nations. International Perspective, 18(1),1.

Hedberg, J. G. & McNamara, S. (1990). The human-technology interface: Developing for open and distance education. International Perspectiv, 18(1), 5.

Persatuan Teknologi Pendidikan Malaysia - PTPM. (1989-90). Laporan Tahunan. Mesyuarat Agung Ke 3. (Third Annual Report). Kuala Lumpur.

Rahim, M. S., Myint, S. K. & Rasidah, S. (Eds.) (1985). Pendidkan, Lathihan dan Teknologi-Teknologi Baru. (Education, Training and New Technologies) Proceedings of a seminar, 21-22nd December, 1984. Penang: Universiti Sains Malaysia.

Thanby Subahan, M. Meerah & Abdul Mutalib Rani (1985). Pendidkan Guru den Teknologi Baru. In Rahim, M. S., Myint, S. K., & Rasidah, S. (Eds.) (1985). Pendidkan, Lathihan dan Teknologi-Teknologi Baru. (Education, Training and New Technologies) Proceedings of a seminar, 21-22nd December, 1984, Penang: Universiti Sains Malaysia. pp 175-194.

Tow, D. M. & Zubir, R. (1984). Educational Resource Centres. Project completion report. Fourth Education Project in Malaysia. World Bank Loan 1329-MA. Kuala Lumpur: Faculty of Education, University of Malaya.

Vias, R. (1990). The information age: Some implications for schools. Paper presented to the Second Educational Technology Convention, Kuala Lumpur, June 1st to 3rd.

Zubir, Rohanna. (1985). Models of Teaching and Student Learning: A Malaysian Perspective. In Rahim, M. S., Myint, S. K. & Rasidah, S. (Eds) (1985), Pendidkan, Lathihan dan Teknologi-Teknologi Baru. (Education, Training and New Technologies) Proceedings of a seminar, 21-22nd December, 1984, Penang: Universiti Sains Malaysia. pp 115-139.

Zubir, Rohanna. (1987). The challenges of innovation in teaching: A Malaysian context. Paper presented to the UNESCO Seminar on the application of communications technology in education in developing countries, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Bangi, Selangor, Malaysia, December 7-8.

Zubir, Rohanna. (1988). Descriptions of teaching and learning: A Malaysian perspective. Studies in Higher Education, 13(2), 139-149.

Please cite as: Hedberg, J. G. (1990). Educational technology in Malaysia: The resource centre as a unifying concept. In J. G. Hedberg, J. Steele and M. Mooney (Eds), Converging Technologies: Selected papers from EdTech'90, 177-185. Canberra: AJET Publications.

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