Thailand’s One Tablet Per Child: an education leap forward

One Tablet Per Child, an ambitious initiative of Yingluck’s government to equip every child in Standard One with a technological tool for the educational curriculum. The Education Minister, Suchart Tadathamrongvej, appeared to be confident of the introduction of the tablet into the schools.

“The tablet will revolutionize the teaching and learning process,” Suchart said. He also added that his ministry had prepared content for the devices and trained teachers to use them. Regardless of the displayed confidence of the ministry, I spoke to a good friend of mine who works in the information and technology sector. He had a look at the tablet, spent 17 hours fiddling around with the hardware and diligently testing the software.

Over local black coffee and cakes, we discussed the benefits and the concerns of the device.

His first remark, while sipping coffee, was: “This government may not have a good short-term approach on IT education but at least they are thinking about the future.” (a reference in connection to some minor hiccups on distribution)

I nodded my head, learned forward and jotted some notes as he rambled on, waving his half-eaten cake above his head.

He was concerned about the delivery system of the tablets to the children and he felt that some teachers would not have time to familiarize themselves with the device. Everyone, according to him, must have sufficient time to fiddle with the technology before it is actually used for its intended purpose. I felt he wanted others to “toy” around with the tablet, so as to understand it better.

Nevertheless we spoke about the negative aspects of the device. There was none. The hardware was standard, with some specs which I will release on this blog at a later date. Some underlining issues of resistance from teachers and parents, possibly because of adjustment from conventional thinking mentality and that maybe some parents feel that any gadgets in the hands of children would be a gaming tool or a quick access to porn. But this is debatable on the methodology of education, where teachers and parents can play an important role in raising moral awareness among the children.

There are also concerns that many Thai families do not have or have limited access to ADSL for internet surfing, especially outside of Bangkok. That may be so however as long as there is a dial-up and modem, children could use them as hotspots for data access – though depending on the location the accessibility will be slow. Not to mention, is it important for the tablet to have constant access to the internet in the first place? I think many forget that the tablet is merely a tool to assist the child in learning more efficiently.

In fact, my friend said that such a program should have been initiated a couple of years ago, during the maturity of the regional ICT age. But its better late than never, he said.

We also agreed that there are two categories of children who would not have access to the tablets:

1. Children who are in home-schooling.

2. Children who don’t go to school (e.g. street children).

And these children are considered as the “Missing Group”

I’m optimistic about the tablet program and its possible usage for some-degree of disabilities and to equip children with life skills such as critical thinking and problem solving. I shall comment further when I am finished toying around with the tablet, as I am eager, like a kid, to explore the possibilities of having such a tool.

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