MPs fret over learning shift

MPs fret over learning shift

Education inequality grows amid outbreak

MPs and businessman have voiced concerns that the shift to online learning will worsen Thailand's existing educational inequality, making it harder for low-income students to learn.

Speaking at an online forum via Facebook Live held by Satsanu Patham School on Thursday, Thai Rak Tham Party MP Peerawit Ruangluedolapak said the transition from classroom learning to online classes is now leaving many students, particularly those from poor families, behind as they do not have access to computers, whether desktop or portable versions, tablets, and the internet in order to study from home.

"Even before the pandemic, there was already a large gap in achievement between rich and poor students," he said. "As many schools are now closed over Covid-19, the gap has no doubt grown even wider."

"Well-off children are far more likely to have access to the necessary kit, including laptops and reliable broadband internet access, while low-income students struggle in every way," he said.

Mr Peerawit, who is also a parliamentary commissioner for social welfare, said he has witnessed many students in Phitsanulok province struggling to study online and had to travel to the sub-district administrative organisation offices in their areas in order to use WiFi.

"Not everyone has the high-speed internet required for online education," he said.

"I've talked to some parents and learned that they don't have money to afford the internet service for their kids even though it's only 19 baht per day as they now have less income or have already lost their jobs," Mr Peerawit added.

The Thai Rak Tham Party MP said he will soon raise this issue at the parliament to find a solution ensure that all students are able to participate in online learning.

However, Mr Peerawit praised the government for being able to provide school milk and lunch fees to students at this difficult time.

New Economics Party MP Passakorn Ngernchareonkul, who is also a parliamentary commissioner for science technology, research and innovation, said he doubted that more than half of Thai students are not provided quality education via distance-learning platforms.

"It's not just students that are severely affected by online learning, many teachers are also struggling as they are not well-trained to teach online," Mr Passakorn said.

"In small schools where one teacher might have to teach many subjects and different class levels, it would be a very difficult task for the teachers during this time," he added.

Roongroj Zally, executive director of the Muslim Business Matching Group, said his company now allows students who do not have internet access at home to come and study online at the building.

He also urged other private companies to reach out to help disadvantaged youths.

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