For once, commercial warfare is highly constructive. Competition among producers of computer gadgets designed to promote education is getting fierce, meaning prices should continue to drop. Governments, especially those in poor countries, must be prepared for what promises to be a great opportunity to boost the efficiency of their classrooms.
Key developments are coming thick and fast. Apple, for example, has hosted an education-focused event in Chicago that addressed, among other things, the future of education. The debut of cheap iPads for students strongly suggested the next big trend in computer tablets.
Make no mistake, Apple has had a strong commercial foundation in colleges and universities, with its products being the primary tools of students. This time, however, the “education monopoly” is being seriously challenged. The company’s dominance has slipped in recent years, thanks in no small part to the emergence of Google’s budget-friendly Chromebook laptops, which make up a large percentage of classroom devices.
What looks like a clash of titans is just the tip of the iceberg. For every brand-name new gadget, there are a dozen or more similar products being shipped, produced or tested, with considerably cheaper market prices. The fierce “red ocean” business is certain to involve major commercial lawsuits, but as far as consumers are concerned, it’s a promising situation.
Along with cheaper Wi-Fi services, educationally focused computer gadgets are what visionary governments must look at. The monitoring has to be constant and on a permanent basis, as policies related to technology can never be a flash in the pan. At the same time, implementation must be clear-cut and budgetary support unstinted.
And it’s not just about the gadgets. New technologies also require big adjustments among educators, since approaches to teaching must change and classrooms must be remodelled.
A few years ago, a government plan to give free computer tablets to elementary school students was heavily politicised, partly because of the ideological divide in Thailand and partly because of strong signs of irregularities. Both reasons can be the biggest enemies of any state-sponsored programme to support Thai children’s new-age learning.
The bad news is that the past controversy took place when the digital gadgetry landscape was not as flooded with makers and new products as today. To implement a state vision for youngsters’ best interests will be many times harder. But it has to be done.
If a visionary state policy concerning digital learning is implemented cleanly, with a proper balance between the technology’s advantage of hands-on and immediate experiences and the long-standing merit of human interaction, it will be a concrete step towards making Thailand fully competitive in many ways in the brave new world.
Education must be any government’s top policy, because futuristic classrooms, where distance learning is convenient along with other tech-supported activities, must be here as soon as possible.
Gone must be the days when the Education Ministry is where governing parties put the least-qualified politician because he or she needed to be “rewarded” or “pacified”.
As we can see, the Education Ministry will no longer be primarily about thinking how much teachers should be trained and paid. Having been considered one of the “smallest ministries”, where ministers were busy going through revolving doors, unable to concentrate on what really mattered, the Education Ministry must be given the importance it deserves. It must be a supervisor with true vision and integrity, full financial support from the government and solid backing from the public.
Published : April 01, 2018