Flexibility in use of learning devices after school hours: Minister

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's software settings at home, or turn off the software so 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 and school and e-mail addresses, 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 - to perhaps 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 gambling-related websites or those with extremist content, he added.

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