IASL 2012 Conference, 11 to 15 November 2012
The 2002 IASL Conference
Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, 4-9 August
Yang Berhormat Tan Sri Dato' Seri Musa bin Mohamad
Minister of Education Malaysia
at the Opening Ceremony of the 31st IASL Conference
Datuk Abdul Rafie bin Mahat, Director General of Education, Ministry
of Education Malaysia
Datin Dr Nor Hayati Abd Rasid, Director, Educational Technology Division, Ministry of Education cum Chairperson of the IASL 31st Annual Conference Organising Committee
Mr Peter Genco, President of the International Association of School Librarianship
Distinguished Guests, Conference Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen
I wish to extend my sincere appreciation and thanks to the organisers for inviting me to officiate at this International Association of School Librarianship's 31st Annual Conference, incorporating the 6th International Forum on Research in School Librarianship. On behalf of the Government of Malaysia, I wish to extend a warm welcome to all the delegations and participants of this Conference. To the foreign delegates, "Selamat Datang" to Malaysia. We hope your stay in Malaysia will be a comfortable and memorable one.
Books have always taken me away from the mundane world and I feel sorry for those who cannot or will not read. This quote by Candy (1994) is I believe shared by many. The wonderful land of knowledge is to be explored in books and the best place to enjoy this infinite variety is in the library.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
School Libraries for a Knowledge Society the conference theme is apt as we examine and re-evaluate the role of the school library in addressing the present need to provide information for the knowledge seekers in the current Information Age.
The library is a central place in providing a range of information resources in support of the curriculum and of the pupils' personal and social development. The school library has further been recognised as part of the national information network, to facilitate teaching and learning with emphasis on learning to learn, and learning to handle information, which brings library and information services into the centre of the learning process. It is not just a physical space in which various media are stored; it is a concept, a tangible expression of the school's ethos and values, its approaches to equality of opportunity, and the moral and spiritual development of the student. It has the potential to introduce students to the world of literature and information and develop skills that will lead to lifelong learning. Information is gathered for a purpose, to solve some sort of information problem. Students thus have to develop an understanding of the information world that promotes choice among resources, builds flexibility in searching and encourages critical rhinking about information and the overall problem solving process The emphasis is thus to develop broad information skills but this can only be built on the foundation of reading skills.
A child who not only reads but enjoys reading has an enormous head start on others regardless of the medium in which the information appears. Where else can the child be initiated to the wonderful world of information than through the school library that houses a central resource of books and other information material. In the world of pictograms and icons, of sounds and pictures, and Internet and intranet, survival will be pressing if reading skills are poorly developed. The school library embedded within the whole school paradigm retains its emphasis on the provision of access to information resources.
The school library should have an excellent collection of materials, and an effective programme of services with a shift in emphasis from teaching to learning, from class instruction to individual exploration, from uniformity of sets of textbooks to the diversity of many different books of interest and information. A good school library can in fact help to develop and sustain in children the habit and enjoyment of reading and learning and the use of libraries throughout their lives.
Developments in the way we receive and process information has been altered with the use of new technologies that have made it possible for information to be available to us in greater volume, with better accuracy, and at higher speeds. A true information or knowledge society would require a conscious effort by the nation to inculcate information values that permeate the whole society and provide the necessary infrastructure and education in all aspects of commercial, technological, religious, cultural and other human activities in the society. In the process of arriving at this goal, a nation has to ensure that its people are literate and the ultimate goal is to ensure that the country achieves a 100% literacy rate. This is where the school library has an important role to play -- to facilitate literacy.
Literacy is the ability to make significant connections, to form interpretations, to evaluate situations, and to provide context. It is now generally accepted that literacy must go well beyond basic reading, writing and numeric skills. To be able to function in the information age that is synonymous with a knowledge society, a person should possess the knowlwdge and skills to locate and use information contained in various formats.
Based on the aspirations to become an industrialised nation, Malaysia has implemented various strategies to improve and develop the literacy rate to achieve a literacy rate of 100% by the year 2020. The Malaysian literacy rate based on the 1995 UNESCO findings is 83.5%. The same report gives the literacy rate for developed countries as 98.7% whilst that of developing countrues is 70.4%. Research by the National Library of Malaysia in 1996 on the reading profile of Malaysians indicates that 93% read books. Yet another research done in 1991 on reading habits of university students in Malaysia indicates 67.2% read the newspapers. Although these are encouraging figures the Malaysian government through various agencies is aggressively implementing measures to ensure even more positive figures are achieved.
In this knowledge society, literacy should not only be considered the ability to read and write but should reflect a wider connotation to include computer literacy. It is estimated that 20% of the 4.2 million Malaysian school children have some understanding of computer applications and educational courseware. This rate is increasing steadily as more schools are equipped with computer labs as students, especially in rural areas, are given the opportunity to enjoy these facilities. The Ministry of Education plans to equip all schools with computer labs by the year 2010. It is the government's intention that ICT be an important agenda in the dissemination of knowledge in schools to enhance teaching and learning. This is reflected in the Smart School Project.
The implementation of Smart Schools, one of the flagship projects under the Multimedia Super Corridor, requires schools to be equipped with computer hardware and multimedia peripherals to help improve the teaching-learning process. Students will not only learn through teachers and books but will also use the internet to source information. The Smart School concept will be the situational norm in all Malaysian schools in line with the direction of modern education systems. Learning must change to one where students are active learners who can plan and attain their own knowledge needs. This new learning culture teaches them to be knowledge workers who constantly seek to update and generate more knowledge.
The world is witnessing a phenomenon, information, transformed into shared knowledge and intellectual capital is changing the face of work, eductaion and every aspect of life. Information is now considered to be a wealth generator, not just in terms of contributing to economic performance, but as a major contributor to service based and knowledge based industries. In the age of information the advent of a Knowldege society is necessary to meet these changes. Global e-commerce will reach between $3.2 to $5 trillion by 2003 which is between 5% and 7.2% of world trade. The emergence of a knowledge-based society is thus imperatuve of countries wish to survive in this era of globalisation and new technologies. An example of forces shaping the future of global knowledge society is the Internet and Wireless Application Protocol technology. It is estimated that by the year 2003, there will be 500 million Internet users. This global scenario prompts us to think about the situation in our own countries. Are we ready for the new challenges that these new technologies pose? What are the measures that we have taken, to realise the emergence of a knowledge society? It is inevitable that we look at our respective education systems and schools as the generator of a knowledge society.
Knowledge acquisition is by far the most influencing factor in today's challenging scenario. In this context, the acquisition of knowledge can be divided into three phases; firstly -- the phase of the teacher as the sole knowledge provider, secondly -- the phase of the teacher and books which complement each other as knowledge providers, and thirdly -- the phase of the teacher, books and technology as the current and holistic knowledge providers.
We are currently in the third phase -- that of the teacher, books, and technology. As with the preceeding two phases, specific skills are required in the process of knowledge attainment. In this new era, the ability to listen, understand, read and write must be supported with the ability to harness and use technology lest one be considered technology illiterate. The non-ability to use technology limits the ability for knowledge seeking. If this phenomenon is not given importance, and not addressed with appropriate measures, the ability to generate knowledge workers will be severely hindered.
Changes in the work and environment also mean that people must learn constantly to adapt and progress. Learning is thus no longer limited to formal education but is part of the experience of life. Lifelong learning will be essential to those in a knopwledge society as career development will depend upon access to learning opportunities to upgrade skills and knowledge throughout their lifetime. Access to information is not the only panacea. Individuals will need to acquire new abilities in identifying personal needs, locating information sources, and, discerning an appropriate level and content to suit their personal circumstances. Thus a knowledge society should bear the following characteristics:
The Ministry of Education Malaysia strongly believes that cultivating a reading culture begins in schools. Some of the measures that have been implemented by the Ministry of Education to promote and enahce the reading culture in schols are;
School libraries are the gatekeepers to information, knowledge and learning. These roles are still applicable but in the knowledge based society, these libraries will have to integrate themselves into the multiple-delivery channelled networked society. Partnerships, alliances, content services, and access will be necessary to meet the multi-faceted demands of the different users.
Libraries are the essential entities in the knowledge society that supports lifelong learning. Apart from it being integral to the education process as well as it being essential to the development of literacy, teaching and learning and culture, the school library is to me the core to intellectual freedom and access to information that are essential in effective and responsible citizenship and participants in a democracy. Thus, school libraries will have to provide information services that will do more than satisfy users -- they will constantly have to amaze them.
Let me leave the questions on the present and future issues and challenges of school libraries to be answered through the sharing, presentations, and conclusions that this conference will generate. With this I officially declare open the 31st Annual Conference of the International Association of School Librarianship, incorporating the 6th International Forum on Research in School Librarianship.
Last Updated 8 April 2003 (LAC)