Tablets swapped for ‘smart classrooms’

The Office of the Basic Education Commission (Obec) has confirmed plans to replace the One Tablet per Child scheme with "smart classrooms" equipped with interactive computer software in every school.

While there is no single definition of a smart classroom since the term came into use two decades ago, they typically feature a large interactive screen as a replacement for the chalkboard, and either laptops or tablets for students to access during classes. Foreign technology companies will clamber to compete to equip Thai smart classrooms.

The junta on Monday scrapped the policy initiated by the Pheu Thai-led government in 2012 because of the low specifications of the tablets, possible negative health effects of prolonged use and the short three-year lifespan of the devices.

The procurement of 402,889 tablets for Mathayom 1 (Grade 7) students and their teachers in Zone 4 northern and northeastern provinces has been halted with immediate effect.

But procurement in zones 1 and 2 for all Prathom 1 (Grade1 ) students nationwide will continue to avoid problems with contracted suppliers to the scheme. Procurement of 423,683 tablets for Mathayom 1 pupils and teachers in Zone 3 central and southern provinces will also go ahead.

All 10 agencies allocated budgets to procure the tablets will meet ICT and education officials on Monday to discuss refocusing their work.

The 10 agencies are Obec, the Office of the Higher Education Commission, the Office of the Private Education Commission, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, the Department of Local Administration, Pattaya Local Administration, the Border Patrol Police, the Department of Religious Affairs, the Institute of Physical Education, and Bunditpatanasilpa Institute.

Proposals from each office will be forwarded to the National Council for Peace and Order's social and psychological affairs team for consideration.

Obec deputy secretary-general Kamol Rodklai said budgets allocated to the tablet scheme for this academic year and next would be redirected to the smart classrooms project. "The budgets will establish smart classrooms in about 19,000 schools,” he said.

Obec supervises 31,000 schools nationwide, so the setting up of smart classrooms in all schools will be complete in two years, he added.

The new project will equip classrooms with technology including tablets, e-presentation systems and cloud computing capabilities. Each smart classroom will cost at least 250,000 baht, depending on the size of the room.

The junta has asked Obec to tell students in Zone 4 why they will not receive their tablets as planned. “We will tell them they will get something new which is much better,” Mr Kamol said.

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Writer: Lamphai Intathep
Position: Reporter