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Tablet Computers Are No Cure For Our Ailing Schools; Thai Opinion

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EDITORIAL

Tablet computers are no cure for our ailing schools

By The Nation

The eye-catching policy lacks planning, and could even erode our childrens' capacity to concentrate

Could tablet computers be a magic solution that makes our children smarter?

This is the burning question that Thais have been asking (and even hoping for a positive answer to) since the Pheu Thai Party announced its "One Student, One Tablet Computer" policy.

Of course, it is undeniable that tablet computers can be a high-tech classroom aid. But no one should believe they are a "magic bullet" that will instantly improve the quality of education, as the marketing gimmicks that Pheu Thai used would have voters believe.

Thai students have for decades been the victims of adults' failure to provide them with a proper educational environment. The quality of our schooling system is generally below par. The rich can afford to send their children to good schools but the vast majority of us are stuck with the low-quality education system.

Decision-makers and parties involved have been complaining about this issue for years but no sufficient effort has been made to fix it. It is no secret that one of the major weaknesses of our school system is the quality of teachers coupled with large class sizes. Each class at a typical public school usually accommodates 50 students or more, which makes it impossible for every student to receive proper attention.

Instead of addressing these fundamental problems, our politicians have opted for the quick-fix of the tablet PC scheme. In truth, these politicians are treating our education system as merely another channel for their populist marketing gimmicks.

They have diverted our attention to a narrow focus on physical materials in schools, even though education reform requires a more subtle approach that addresses the "software aspect" of learning.

Our children should be equipped to become responsible global citizens with the ability to express their thoughts, excel in whatever interests them, and with the conscience to protect our environment.

Taxpayers are willing to support our children. But we need an effective and strategic approach to ensure that this project is worthy of investment, not simply another empty mask hiding corruption.

First of all, the Pheu Thai Party has not come up with a proper plan to ensure that the tablet PC scheme will serve its purpose of enhancing the learning experience of our students from elementary school.

While the government plans to seek more than Bt2 billion to purchase 800,000 tablets, the Education Ministry and the politicians in charge have not convinced the public that they have a good plan to maximise their use. For instance, what will be the benefit of these tablets in rural areas where there is no broadband coverage? In addition, has the ministry prepared teachers so that our students will have qualified instructors to provide proper guidance and ensure that these gadgets will promote their learning ability.

The Pheu Thai Party is trying to justify the scheme by saying that they can acquire cheap tablets at around Bt6,000 apiece or less. But that is not the point. While these tablets could have a lasting impact on the environment when they become electronic waste in a couple of years, what guarantee do we have that they will produce any lasting impact on the intellectual capacity of our children?

Worse still, without proper guidance, these gadgets could exacerbate the problem of attention deficit disorders in children, and negatively impact their ability to analyse and think. In contrast, the much cheaper option of mass-produced textbooks has a proven educational value and, as history has shown, many of these books last for decades - even a century. Textbooks have served their purpose well in Thai schools, with their valuable information passed from one generation to the next.

It is also unclear how the tablet would encourage children to form a reading habit, which is widely recognised as a means to improving intellectual capacity. Thailand's slide in education rankings is no surprise if you consider that Thai children are now reading an average of only five books a year, while Singaporean students read 60, and South Korean around 80. Don't be surprised if Vietnam soon outsmarts Thailand - each Vietnamese kid now reads an average of 50 books a year.

In short, the priority for Thai schools is not an electronic gadget that could shorten students' attention spans, but good libraries or learning resource centres where they can spend time learning about whatever topics interest them.

Distribution of tablet computers is certainly not a crime, but politicians need to get the priorities right. They should ask themselves what our children can learn from these give-away tablets; have they prepared the infrastructure to enable our children to excel in their learning environment? But instead, the authorities are focusing on a mega-budget project which will, yet again, squander money that could have gone towards genuine improvements for our children's education.

These gadgets are no substitute for a good education - a point that even Steve Jobs likes to make. At the launch of the new iPad, Apple's CEO had this to say: "It's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough - it's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing."

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-- The Nation 2011-08-04

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Thai students have for decades been the victims of adults' failure to provide them with a proper educational environment.

Couldn't think of a better quote.

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What a well-written and, unfortunately, extremely accurate article.

My belief is that they would end up being nothing more than an expensive gaming station.

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I can't see my 8 year old niece struggling home with it in her school bag every day. If it's not stolen by some teenager, her older brother will probably 'borrow' it.

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I like Steve Jobs' quote at the end. It's the humanities and liberal arts that draw us out to think about what being fully human means. Technology can and does assist that, but although new technology creates new communities (like ThaiVisa, for example) the deep human issues are not technological.

The unthinking opportunism of Pheua Thai's plan to dole out tablets is obvious and has been discussed extensively on another thread.

I am concerned with the editorialist's throw-away line that "It is no secret that one of the major weaknesses of our school system is the quality of teachers coupled with large class sizes".

It's not the "quality" of the teachers that is the problem. The teachers comprise large numbers of people with a wide range of "qualities". The problem is more likely that they are inadequately trained and are provided with inadequate support, insufficient resources and minimal ongoing professional development. Furthermore, they are disempowered - unable to challenge existing conditions and structures - they have no voice, no unions or staff associations and no leadership that seriously asks for their input. Most of them, no matter how intelligent, capable and conscientious they are, are forced to be drones. They can only do the best they can under very difficult circumstances.

If teachers are not able to do the job the community wants, the community has to ask what's stopping them? It's too easy to blame the victim.

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I like Steve Jobs' quote at the end. It's the humanities and liberal arts that draw us out to think about what being fully human means. Technology can and does assist that, but although new technology creates new communities (like ThaiVisa, for example) the deep human issues are not technological.

The unthinking opportunism of Pheua Thai's plan to dole out tablets is obvious and has been discussed extensively on another thread.

I am concerned with the editorialist's throw-away line that "It is no secret that one of the major weaknesses of our school system is the quality of teachers coupled with large class sizes".

It's not the "quality" of the teachers that is the problem. The teachers comprise large numbers of people with a wide range of "qualities". The problem is more likely that they are inadequately trained and are provided with inadequate support, insufficient resources and minimal ongoing professional development. Furthermore, they are disempowered - unable to challenge existing conditions and structures - they have no voice, no unions or staff associations and no leadership that seriously asks for their input. Most of them, no matter how intelligent, capable and conscientious they are, are forced to be drones. They can only do the best they can under very difficult circumstances.

If teachers are not able to do the job the community wants, the community has to ask what's stopping them? It's too easy to blame the victim.

Very good analysis. I'd add that the teachers also get an insultingly low salary. It's never going to be easy to attract talented and caring teachers for 4 - 5K baht per month. Some in rural areas probably make even less.

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A computer is only as effective as the information entered into it. All you are going to get from computers used in the present school system: Crap in Crap Out.

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Thai students have for decades been the victims of adults' failure to provide them with a proper educational environment.

Couldn't think of a better quote.

Perhaps because you are a victim of the Thai education system? :D Think sardonic humour. Please.

So far this rates highly on my list of threads that contain a preponderance of logical thought and sheer common sense. Not that that is by any means a recommendation. :(

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A computer is only as effective as the information entered into it. All you are going to get from computers used in the present school system: Crap in Crap Out.

:cheesy:, this made my day, crap in crap out

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It's not the "quality" of the teachers that is the problem. The teachers comprise large numbers of people with a wide range of "qualities". The problem is more likely that they are inadequately trained and are provided with inadequate support, insufficient resources and minimal ongoing professional development. Furthermore, they are disempowered - unable to challenge existing conditions and structures - they have no voice, no unions or staff associations and no leadership that seriously asks for their input. Most of them, no matter how intelligent, capable and conscientious they are, are forced to be drones. They can only do the best they can under very difficult circumstances.

If teachers are not able to do the job the community wants, the community has to ask what's stopping them? It's too easy to blame the victim.

Quite right.

And if this dishing out of tablet PCs does happen, who are going to be the fall guys when it fails to achieve anything. It will certainly not be the people who should take the blame.

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I like Steve Jobs' quote at the end. It's the humanities and liberal arts that draw us out to think about what being fully human means. Technology can and does assist that, but although new technology creates new communities (like ThaiVisa, for example) the deep human issues are not technological.

The unthinking opportunism of Pheua Thai's plan to dole out tablets is obvious and has been discussed extensively on another thread.

I am concerned with the editorialist's throw-away line that "It is no secret that one of the major weaknesses of our school system is the quality of teachers coupled with large class sizes".

It's not the "quality" of the teachers that is the problem. The teachers comprise large numbers of people with a wide range of "qualities". The problem is more likely that they are inadequately trained and are provided with inadequate support, insufficient resources and minimal ongoing professional development. Furthermore, they are disempowered - unable to challenge existing conditions and structures - they have no voice, no unions or staff associations and no leadership that seriously asks for their input. Most of them, no matter how intelligent, capable and conscientious they are, are forced to be drones. They can only do the best they can under very difficult circumstances.

If teachers are not able to do the job the community wants, the community has to ask what's stopping them? It's too easy to blame the victim.

Very good analysis. I'd add that the teachers also get an insultingly low salary. It's never going to be easy to attract talented and caring teachers for 4 - 5K baht per month. Some in rural areas probably make even less.

So true, there are several well qualified teachers in my extended family, two have graduated within the last three to four years and have the new 5 year education degree. These two are on 6,400, and 6,800Baht a month.

They have both mentioned that their teachers union representative told them the new 15,000 starting salary will not be applicable to new teachers (they know it won't be applicable to those already in service) because of some complex regulation which puts teachers into a different category.

Both are also annoyed that they get continuous push to borrow money from various teachers credit facilities. Both realize that getting into debt is unwise and should be avoided. They say the 'push' to borrow money is quite strong. One described it as 'if your haven't borrowed from the teachers credit facility then your not a real teacher'.

Both are desperately searching for other work, because of the low salary and because older teachers don't accept 'new kids with new knowledge'. In one case the headmaster tasked a couple of new graduates to make a presentation to the older teachers about new education theories and how to generate participation in learning activity (often called project based learning). Nobody turned up and some older teachers told the head they were insulted and demanded the head promise such a presentation would never be organized again.

Both new graduates have mentioned that in many cases the older teachers will not be able to do any form of 'coordination' between class room lessons and what might be available on the tablet PCs that kids will have. The older teachers simply don't have the IT knowledge to do this, plus they don't have learning theory knowledge to understand what might underly the various websites which might be useful as reinforcement activities.

It's gunna be a tough road.

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I like Steve Jobs' quote at the end. It's the humanities and liberal arts that draw us out to think about what being fully human means. Technology can and does assist that, but although new technology creates new communities (like ThaiVisa, for example) the deep human issues are not technological.

The unthinking opportunism of Pheua Thai's plan to dole out tablets is obvious and has been discussed extensively on another thread.

I am concerned with the editorialist's throw-away line that "It is no secret that one of the major weaknesses of our school system is the quality of teachers coupled with large class sizes".

It's not the "quality" of the teachers that is the problem. The teachers comprise large numbers of people with a wide range of "qualities". The problem is more likely that they are inadequately trained and are provided with inadequate support, insufficient resources and minimal ongoing professional development. Furthermore, they are disempowered - unable to challenge existing conditions and structures - they have no voice, no unions or staff associations and no leadership that seriously asks for their input. Most of them, no matter how intelligent, capable and conscientious they are, are forced to be drones. They can only do the best they can under very difficult circumstances.

If teachers are not able to do the job the community wants, the community has to ask what's stopping them? It's too easy to blame the victim.

Very good analysis. I'd add that the teachers also get an insultingly low salary. It's never going to be easy to attract talented and caring teachers for 4 - 5K baht per month. Some in rural areas probably make even less.

Salary completely wrong, Starting pay for a Teacher is about 6000 baht, (for a 21 year old) it goes up every year and includes a guaranteed pension for life. My ex head of English was on 40,000 baht with most teachers on 25,000 or more. This was in a Government school in Bangkok. Don't believe all of the Thai teachers poverty stories because they are usually not true.

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Of course tablets arent going to be a cure-all for the deficiencies of the system. The MoE would need to be sorted out first. However, they are another option for kids and shouldnt be knocked. There are Asian countries aiming on replacing paper in classrooms with these very machines in the not too distant future. Obviously Thailand is behind the curve on this but the idea of issuing tablets is founded on things others are doing. Obviously there is also the advantage that all kids as opposed to just wealthy ones get to handle modern technology and that in itself is going to be a bonus in the future.

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Of course tablets arent going to be a cure-all for the deficiencies of the system. The MoE would need to be sorted out first. However, they are another option for kids and shouldnt be knocked. There are Asian countries aiming on replacing paper in classrooms with these very machines in the not too distant future. Obviously Thailand is behind the curve on this but the idea of issuing tablets is founded on things others are doing. Obviously there is also the advantage that all kids as opposed to just wealthy ones get to handle modern technology and that in itself is going to be a bonus in the future.

The one tablet one child was a slogan to win votes, like the 300 baht minimum wage and 15,000 baht minimum salary for degree holders. None of these 3 policies were ever explained in detail as to their implementation by Pheua Thai.

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BANGKOK 20 February 2018 06:32
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