Thai education ministry ‘tablets’ a bright future: Bringing equality to classrooms

Picture courtesy of Tony Education.

The Thai Education Ministry is set to revive a decade-old initiative, which was originally launched by a previous Pheu Thai government, to distribute a tablet computer to each student and teacher across the country. This initiative aims to promote equal educational opportunities.

The announcement was made yesterday by Education Minister Permpoon Chidchob and his deputy Surasak Phancharoenworakul, both members of the Bhumjaithai Party in the Pheu Thai-led coalition. During a gathering of ministry officials, their stated goal was to endorse good learning, with happiness.

Permpoon revealed that every student would be granted a tablet computer to lessen their expenses and diminish disparities in educational opportunities under the one student, one tablet scheme. He added that he was currently evaluating the total cost of the scheme, suggesting that if the current budget was not adequate, tablets could be obtained through borrowing or renting.

However, A previous Democrat Party MP, Suchatvee Suwansawat expressed his concern about the programme to the Bangkok Post. While he concurred with the use of modern technology to assist learning and minimise educational inequality, he was hesitant about the scheme.

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Suchatvee, a former rector of the King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang, suggested that the Education Ministry should refrain from providing tablets to very young children as they need to develop interaction and socialisation skills first.

The tablet computers will pull them away from their friends, he noted, adding that the ministry should purchase tablets equipped with software that can adapt to future technologies to ease taxpayer burden.

He also referred to a study indicating that children who frequently use tablets or computer screens can exhibit symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and can show violent emotions. He stated that in such cases schools might need to employ psychologists for counselling.

Deputy leader of the opposition Move Forward Party, Sirikanya Tansakun echoed the sentiment that technological devices could enhance the learning process. However, she insisted that teachers also need to be proficient in using these devices.

“Do teachers have the skills to use tablets? Have preparations been made for them? Problems may arise if the focus is on equipment rather than the quality of content.”

Sirikanya further commented that the procurement of tablet computers must be executed with caution and transparency to ensure the devices meet quality standards. She also emphasised the need for an equal and even distribution of the budget to schools countrywide to promote educational equality.

The one-student, one-tablet programme was initially implemented by former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government in 2011. The distribution of tablets to 860,000 Prathom 1 (Grade 1) students commenced in mid-2012 with a budget exceeding 2 billion baht.

There was considerable scepticism regarding the cost and practicality of the programme at that time. A subsequent survey by the National Statistical Office (NSO) identified several issues, including faulty devices, anti-social behaviour, and deteriorating penmanship skills. However, the NSO survey also reported that teachers found the tablets particularly effective in enhancing language skills in both English and Thai, the Bangkok Post reported.

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Atima Homtientong

Atima is a dedicated news writer living in Bangkok. With a degree from Mahidol University, she focuses on reporting key issues and happenings around the country. In her off time, Atima enjoys writing and producing music.

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