by Peter J. Foley, Ed.D. , editor-in-chief

SCLThailand editors were surprised and delighted to see—finally—some positive reporting on the use of the tablets in classrooms in Thailand.  In the February 4, 2013 edition of The Nation an article appeared entitled:  “Tablets Get a Cautious Thumbs-Up in Early Test”.  The distribution of free tablets to Prathom 1 students has been one of the hallmarks of Prime Minister Yingluck’s education policy. When the policy was first announced at the beginning of her term, The Nation newspapers was a vehicle for severe criticism of the policy.

For example, The Nation included the following in articles:

Respected educators like Dilaka Lathapipat, Ph.D. have voiced objection to the plan in his column “Chalk Talk” in The Nation September 12, 2011 edition.  Dr. Dilaka cited a study he co-authored of the damage to students’ PISA test scores when they are from the student cohort that use computers to play games.  Other educators have been even more forceful in opposing the plan.  The Nation posted an article on July 11, 2011 entitled: “Top Academics Oppose Computer Tablets Plan”.  The article cited Maitree Inprasitaha, dean of education at Khon Kaen University and Chainarong Indharameesup of Boyden Global Executive Search as against the distribution of the Tablet PCs to Thai school children. Professor Maitree specifically referred to a lack of e-books and learning software in her objections. In another article in The Nation dated September 3, 2011, Veena Thoopkrajae sums up her argument in her title: “Tablets Cannot Cure the Cancer in Thai Education.”

In contrast the recent February 4th article states: “So far, interactive learning with the tablets has provided good motivation to study and practice for Prathom 1 pupils at a Bangkok school.   The article goes on to say the tablets motivate students to learn.   The Yingluck policy has already resulted in the distribution 800,000 tablets nation-wide in 2012.  The government will eventually distribute 1.69 million tablets to all Prathom 1 and Matthayom 1 students countrywide in the 2013 academic year.

We applaud The Nation for actually following up and virtually making a volte face in its stance on the tablet policy of the current administration.

The February 4th article stated: “ During The Nation’s observation in both Prathom 1/1/ and ½ classes last week , Prathom ½ students were seen actively adding numbers in mathematics games, as Prathom 1/1 students practiced reading about two elephants on their tablets.”

The editors of SCLThailand have been saying all along that Yingluck’s policy was correct and the tablets, given the right software, would engage students and increase their learning in the critical areas of math and reading.

History will look back on this administration’s efforts to put tablets in the hands of its young people as a giant step in making sure Thai students can compete in the 21st century world economies.   There is much to do; nevertheless, we are heartened that at least in the realm of using technology to further learning this is a huge step in the right direction.