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PM wants tablets given out by March

The Cabinet yesterday set up a committee to expedite the handout of computer tablets to students.

"Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra hopes to see the tablets reach the hands of students before the next semester begins. She wants to see they receive the device in March," PM's deputy secretary-general Thitima Chaisang said in her capacity as acting government spokesperson.

The One Tablet PC Per Child policy was a highlight of the Pheu Thai Party's election campaign. Since becoming the ruling party, Pheu Thai has seriously pushed ahead with the project despite words of caution from many sides.

Critics have said the modern devices, without proper content or software, would not be effective in boosting the students' learning process.

Thitima said the committee established to expedite the tablet handout had Education Minister Suchart Tadathamrongvej as its chairman. Deputy chairmen, she said, were Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Minister Gp Capt Anudith Nakornthap.

"The committee will present the tablet-procurement format to the Cabinet on February 22," Thitima said. The Cabinet will convene a mobile meeting in Udon Thani on February 21 and 22.

In a separate interview, Suchart said about 850,000 tablets would be given to Prathom 1 students and he now expected all schools to have Wi-Fi services to facilitate use of the devices.

The ICT Ministry, he said, has begun installing the Wi-Fi services at schools.

"But if it does not act fast enough, the Education Ministry may use its own budget to ensure the full coverage of Wi-Fi services for schools," Suchart said.

He said students would be allowed to take the devices home.

Ammar Siamwalla, a respected academic at the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), said he would not criticise the procurement method or the budget for the tablets given that the government had already decided to acquire and hand out the tablets.

"But I would like to emphasise that the government must download quality educational software into the devices," Ammar said.

He said the tablets would not be of much use if the Education Ministry merely put online textbooks on them.

"The authorities must develop proper interactive educational programmes for the tablets so that children fully benefit from them," Ammar said.


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