Over the next two years it will become mandatory for all public school students in Saudi Arabia to record their biometric details with the government in support of a new attendance monitoring system. According to Arab News, the project comes after school principals lobbied for the installation of cameras in classrooms to monitor teacher and student performance.
The Ministry of Education’s financial and administrative affairs undersecretary, Mohammad Saad Al-Shathry, told Arab News that a special committee has been formed to conduct studies on the proposed system. Obstacles in the way of deployment currently include facilitating the needs of schools in remote villages.
Biometrics can bring a number of benefits to schools that go beyond attendance tracking. In the USA for instance, biometrics are employed in student meal plans, allowing for greater convenience, speedier service (which equals more time to actually eat), and financial privacy for underprivileged children and teens.
Though biometrics bring these benefits to schools, a great deal of transparency and sensitivity needs to be observed, less panic undermine the good intentions of the educational system.
Earlier this year in Florida, the collection of student biometrics was banned throughout the state with the passing of Senate Bill 188. In an interview with FindBiometrics concerning this state legislature, Walter Hamilton, vice chairman of the IBIA called the decision a case of techno panic.
“Last year, the American Legislative Exchange Council published a white paper on biometrics and privacy which said that “there are real benefits to using biometrics. [Legislators] must use great care to craft privacy policies that guard against the drawbacks without jeopardizing the benefits of new technologies”. In the case of Florida, the extreme legislative action we are now faced with was prompted by an unfortunate incident in Polk County last year where a school set up a pilot test of iris recognition to ensure that school children got on the right bus. The problem was that there was no parental notice or informed consent and the superintendent of the school district had not been consulted in advance. So it was understandable that there was fear and negative reaction.”
The Saudi Arabian school biometrics attendance system will be rolled out in three phases over the projected two year period.
September 9, 2014 – by Peter B. Counter
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