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e-learning leaves many students locked out of new school term

Jack Burton



PHOTO: Chiang Rai Times

Many Thai children, with no smartphone or internet to access online classes, find themselves unable to begin their new school term and participate in the online learning. The issue has become a hot topic among netizens after cases emerged in the northeastern Nakhon Ratchasima province of children unable to join online classes.

One 54 year old woman there says that her grandsons are studying in grade 2 and grade 6, but their family is so poor they cannot afford the internet. Another 60 year old woman says that her 4 grandchildren have no way of starting their semester and that, since the Covid-19 outbreak and lockdown, her family has barely had enough for daily necessities.

The education gap dividing the “haves” and the “have nots” threatens to worsen as online education gains traction, either as a short-term solution following the coronavirus outbreak or, for some classes, a more permanent solution for remote communities. Many students in far flung parts of the country do not have access to the internet, let alone buy computers for their children.

A survey by Kasetsart University, of 678 public and private school teachers in 67 provinces, found that 66% of students do not have access to a computer, the internet or even electricity. About 36% of students don’t even have a smartphone. The teachers say that only about 45% percent of students nationwide have the ability to attend online classes.

Meanwhile, the Education Ministry’s online learning program for students nationwide has begun via 6 channels – digital TV, Ku-Band and C-Band satellite TV, the Distance Learning Television website, smartphone applications and YouTube.

The hashtag #เรียนออนไลน์ (studying online) was ranked as the number one trending topic on Twitter, even as netizens voiced their problems, which included lack of learning materials, inappropriate teaching media, technical issues, an inability to note content in time and website crashes. Students are required to register to attend classes running from 8:30am to 2:30pm, under the supervision of their parents (adding another layer of problems with many parents unable to supervise because they need to work).

The Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha emphasised yesterday that students must study online until the Covid-19 situation improves and schools can reopen. Reporting his remarks, a spokeswoman said the government is trying to address problems of accessibility and affordability of teaching materials, parental care, and responsibility of learners.

SOURCES: asiaone | Chiang Rai Times |Nation Thailand


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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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