Tablet plan prone to risks
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Tablet plan prone to risks

The House of Representatives recently approved the 2025 fiscal budget bill, totalling more than 3.75 trillion baht, at its first reading. Notably, the bill aims to allocate 340.6 billion baht to the Education Ministry, making it the largest budget recipient after the Finance Ministry.

That wasn't always the case. In recent decades, the Education Ministry consistently received the largest share of the fiscal budget. However, in more recent years, either the Interior or the Finance Ministry has emerged as the largest recipient due to its populist policy mission.

The Education Ministry will still receive huge funding, but education quality in Thailand has not improved commensurate with the money given. This year's budgetary decisions underscore the complex and challenging situation.

Deputy Education Minister Surasak Phancharoenworakul has criticised the reduction in funding for the ministry's "Learning Anywhere, Anytime" project, an online learning programme for Mathayom 4-6 students involving the distribution of mobile tablets, under the 2025 budget bill. The initial proposal for the project was 7.6 billion baht but it was slashed to 3.4 billion baht, a significant cut that raises questions.

Mr Surasak said this initiative is integral to the ministry's efforts to address educational inequality and conduct reforms. Nevertheless, the public should be informed clearly about what the project is and how it will help reform the education system.

The ministry says the project aims to enhance learning flexibility by providing more than 600,000 tablets to students and teachers and developing content they can access. The cost for the entire programme, from 2025 to 2029, covering 29,312 schools, is 22 billion baht.

This initiative has drawn comparisons to the controversial "One Tablet, One Student" project under the Yingluck Shinawatra administration. Before the coup in 2014, the Yingluck government had planned to buy or lease more than 2.5 million tablets, with a total budget of 12 billion baht, for students nationwide.

The provision of tablets may expand students' access to online learning, but it alone cannot solve educational inequality or enhance overall educational quality. Conversely, the project's extensive procurement processes carry inherent risks of corruption and misuse of funds. This is far from the concept of education reform.

The underlying issues negatively affecting the quality of education in schools, including outdated curricula, heavy administrative burdens on teachers and disparities in funding between ordinary and Stem-focused schools, persist despite budget allocations.

They are crucially overlooked and would not be solved by providing tablets. According to the Thailand Development Research Institute, while students in public schools receive about 6,100 baht per person per year in the 2024 fiscal budget, Stem-focused schools receive about 16,826 baht per student.

While Thai students from premier schools always made the headlines about winning international academic contests, most students from public schools have scored poor results in the Programme for International Student Assessment for many consecutive years. This proves that there is big inequality in the education system.

While the proposed budget for tablet procurement is substantial, it represents a potentially misguided approach without concurrent reforms addressing the core challenges faced by the education system. The initiative must be reviewed.

Editorial

Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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