It has been one year since the government launched the One Tablet Per Child scheme. We have not heard whether the government has done any assessment of the project after over 800,000 tablets were distributed nationwide to Prathom 1 students last year. Is it working or failing, and how? Do tablets help improve or encourage the learning of the children, and how?
As far as I know, many schools faced problems in different forms. Some schools treated the devices as a school asset, so they didn't allow the children to take them home. One teacher told me her school wasn't sure whether the tablets should belong to the students once they progress to Prathom 2, or whether they should be passed to new students who enter Prathom 1. These are just some problems of schools' internal operation and management. I think the schools should be allowed to give their feedback now their students and teachers have had experience with the tablets.
One of the most important issues of the tablet project is the content _ the applications that are developed for the devices.
I think the biggest benefit of the tablets could be the content. We can read stories or books as much as we want, including those we have never read before. But for the Prathom 1 children who are at the age of practising spelling and word combinations, I don't see how the tablet is beneficial to them. Most of the kids are hooked by games and cartoon content _ they prefer to swipe their fingers across the screen to slash the flying fruit on the Fruit Ninja app rather than practise spelling words on their tablets. Meanwhile, games and entertainment apps easily outnumber the learning and education apps. The longer the kids spend time on tablets, the more they're drawn to entertainment content.
The worst thing is the tablets have blocked children's interest in reading.
I think that children at elementary level should be encouraged to learn through pencils, paper, erasers and books, rather through the cold surface of an electronic slate. As a mum, I find that reading stories to my children helps create imagination and impressions more than reading on the tablet, which is decorated with sound and pictures.
I agree with many people who're pleased that children today are born in the age of technology. Children are now quicker and even smarter than adults when they deal with smartphones, tablets or computers.
So I see no reason why we have to accelerate the kids or push them to be exposed to tablets in the classroom. Why don't adults let the kids naturally deal with those technologies when they want, or occasionally during free time (even though I do not quite agree with those parents who let their kids play with tablets by themselves while the parents are also immersed in their own devices)? At least one of the benefits of technology is to bring family members together.
The ICT Ministry is now moving toward the second phase of the project by distributing 1.6 million more units to students at Prathom 1 and Mathayom 1 _ 800,000 units for each, with a budget of 6 billion baht.
I am not against the government distributing the tablets to Mathayom 1 students as they are mature enough to be responsible for them, and are able to choose the content. But six- or seven-year-old students are not supposed to be guinea pigs of the government. It's better to let them experience naturally, exploring by themselves, so that one day they can find what they really want.
The government should allocate this budget, the money derived from taxation, to improving the quality of the education system and enable children in remote areas to have access to knowledge or at least have sufficient books and learning equipment.
My daughter is going to finish kindergarten very soon and will enter elementary level where I will have to respect the school's decision to partake in the government's tablet scheme, or not.
But if any Bangkok governor candidate has a policy to turn against this project, I will absolutely vote for him.
Sasiwimon Boonruang writes about IT for Life.
About the author
- Writer: Sasiwimon Boonruang
Position: Life Writer