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Electronic ID cards for students

A NEW electronic student identity card will be issued in September for Shanghai's primary, middle and high schools which will replace the earlier function of students' social security, education authorities said yesterday.

The new electronic student ID card will integrate a range of functions in and out of schools - from students' status, growth record, physical health monitoring to their social activities record.

The earlier card, for students below the age of 18, was a simple social security card that covered only medical insurance.

"An important function of the new electronic student card is to encourage students to take part in more social activities," said Ni Minjing, director of the elementary education, Department of Shanghai Education Commission.

Ni said students can visit local museums and social venues free of charge or at discounts by easily swiping their new ID cards on a POS machine. The commission is also building an information management system to support the use of the new card and collect feedback information to record the students' activities.

"As far as I know, many students are very happy about the mew card. Some of them even wrote letters to Shanghai Party Secretary Han Zheng, asking when the cards will be issued," Ni said.

The card can also be used to open access-control systems in schools, borrow books from libraries and make appointments for venues. From September, when the new term begins, the electronic student ID card will be the only evidence to prove a student's status, Ni said.

Shanghai has always supported using advanced technologies in teaching. But there are critics and parents who fear that all the high-tech and digital-based teaching method will affect children's eyesight while making them addicted to the Internet.

Take the e-schoolbag project for example. A school bag weighs about 10 to 20 kilograms. To release the pressure on students, some schools in Beijing and Shanghai introduced e-schoolbag, which is a tablet PC like iPad with e-textbooks installed.

An e-schoolbag costs around 1,500 yuan (US$242). It is not only lighter but also environmental friendly compared to the old-fashioned textbooks.

But many parents fear spending long time on screens will affect their eye sight. The electronic teaching materials are also not as rich as paper-based ones.

"The pros and cons for the e-schoolbag project are both strong," Ni said.

Ni said the commission was very cautious about the project and was trying to make it better. He, however, did not say how successful in local schools.

"China is experiencing the third revolution in education field, featured by the application of cloud computing," Ni said. "The fears are the same when the Internet first emerged."

Ni said the commission has a supportive attitude to this project.

"Our students will lag behind in the rest of the world if the education methods are not reformed," he said.

The commission will hold the 10th Shanghai Education Expo at Shanghai Exhibition Center from April 12 to April 14 to exhibit modern digital teaching methods and best practices of local schools for students, parents and educational experts.


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