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Thailand

Mr. Narongsak Boonyamalik of the Monitoring and Evaluation Division, Bureau of Policy and Planning, Ministry of Education presented Thailand’s country paper.

National Policy

The National Education Act 1999, Thailand's first of its kind, forms the core of the education reform movement. For the first time, direction points toward the philosophy of education provision for the purpose of lifelong learning and societal participation.

Three categories of education management are identified, including formal education, non-formal education and informal education. Under the principle of equality, people are guaranteed rights and opportunities in education.

The goals and objectives of the ICT for Education Programme are:

1) Give all teachers, college lecturers and professors, school children and college students opportunities to learn to use ICT. The goal is to employ ICT as an enabling tool to access information and gain knowledge through self-paced learning, or through interactions with teachers and fellow students.

2) Link schools, colleges, universities, and libraries electronically to provide students, teachers and lecturers an enriched environment in which distant resources can be made available remotely at finger tips.

3) Make full use of ICT and distance education to meet the needs and aspirations of all citizens for continuous education and skills upgrading without regards to age, profession, distance, or geography.

Specifically, the Educational ICT Programme aims to:

  • Introduce at least one computer per 40 primary school students and one computer per 20 secondary school students by the year 2006;
  • Allocate, on a continuous basis, an annual budget of 1,000 million baht to acquire ICT equipment such as PCs, communication modems and, where appropriate, satellite receivers, and multimedia equipment. The amount should be sufficient to equip state schools with up to 30,000 PCs a year; and
  • Connect all universities, colleges, and later on, secondary schools to the UniNet, EdNet/Internet.


ICT Integration in the Education System

Recognising that an ICT for education policy will be ineffective unless clarity and continuity are kept in perspective, a holistic approach, taking into account the impact of globalisation and proactive long-term impact to education development as a whole is the key to success. In this connection, three sets of strategies are proposed including:

  • Value-Added Strategy Coupled with the nature of hi-tech hardware, which are relatively short-lived and the need for "soft" systemware (software, humanware, as well as useful content and knowledge), the "value-added" policy proposes the following actions:
  • Prioitise the provision of useful software, content and necessary supporting IT curriculum via searching, localizing, producing to make better use of existing hardware in schools;
  • Train teachers to gain literacy in computer and internet uses;
  • Establish maintenance program for the existing hardware;
  • Enhance the capabilities of organisations that can provide support and services to schools by forming network of agencies and individuals;
  • Continuously monitor and evaluate the use of technology for education and collect data for planning purpose.
  • Equity Strategy Even though there have been huge investments in IT at the school level, statistics show that such investments are not evenly distributed. In fact, a relatively large number of schools and communities are left behind. In dealing with this "digital divide", the following "equity strategy" attempts to remedy the situation taking into consideration the financial difficulties the country is facing.
  • Provide a set of minimum requirement equipment and facilities to needy schools including electricity, 3 telephone lines, 5 computer sets, 1 printer, 3 sets of televisions, 5 sets of radio, 3 internet accounts @100 hours per month via the SchoolNet programme
  • Provide a "Digital Learning Center" (DLC) to the community
  • Train teachers and trainers in IT & Internet literacy

Quantum-Jump Strategy Information and Communications Technologies and the Internet in particular provide vast opportunities for a country like Thailand. In this light, ICT provide opportunity for a nation to leap-frog development in general and in the education sector in particular. Some of the measures to accomplish the quantum-jump strategy include:

  • Setting a target for all teachers and students to be IT and Internet-literate by the year 2002
  • Centrally producing 250 titles of academic software and contents annually and providing funding worth 500 million baht per annum to various communities for content development as well as provide budget for localizing 2,000 titles of useful foreign content
  • Set PC density target by the year 2006 as follows:

-1:20 for Secondary School level
-1:40 for Primary School level

  • Investment in the production of IT and network equipment for use in the education sector including software and multimedia
  • Providing IT for education and professional development to the under-privileged, the disabled and people seeking lifelong education
  • Providing adequate radio frequencies for the education sector
    Investment in research and development in IT for education of at least 400 million baht per year
  • Establish monitoring and evaluating procedures and protocols
  • Establish a National Institute of Technology for Education

Scope Of ICT Use In Education

The Ministry of Education has over 35,000 schools under its responsibility, more than 11 million students and over 500,000 teachers. However, about 116,000 or only 21% of teachers/personnel have been trained. Meanwhile the total number of PCs used is nearly 200, 000 and more than 150,000 were used in learning/instruction process.

Many on-going national projects have been instrumental in providing learning resources through networks. Schoolnet, for example, started off in 1995 as a pilot project to provide Internet access to 50 schools is now in its fifth year connecting to 2502 schools, to date, throughout the country and is targeting to reach 5000 schools by the year 2002.

Manner Of Introduction Of ICT In Schools

Most of schools adopted ICT in their curriculums. ICT is used in formal and non-formal education in a number of ways.

  • Word processors to write and present their work;
  • Using a spreadsheet to enter data collected in investigations, creating charts and interpreting the results;
  • Creating databases as part of investigations, interrogating the database by searching and sorting for problems-solving;
  • Using hypermedia to write, lay out and present work for publication on the Internet; and
  • Using the Internet and CD-ROMs in research and investigation.

The teachers also use ICT in a variety of ways:

  • Using word processors to publish their text book, and test-book;
  • Using spreadsheet for data processing and statistics;
  • Using PCs to prepare teaching materials; and
  • Using the Internet and CD-ROM in teaching and assignment.

In the non-formal education sector, the Center for Educational Technology (CET), a unit of the Non-formal Educational Department in the Ministry of Education, is responsible for the production and promotion of educational media for the formal, non-formal and informal education sectors.

The Center for Educational Technology is also responsible for the production and broadcasting of educational radio and television programs, educational computer media, media for the disabled, printed materials, as well as video and audio tapes to supplement existing materials in the formal, non-formal and life-long education sectors.

Furthermore, PCs are used with networks for distant learning, like the SchoolNet Thailand programme at the primary and secondary education level and the UniNet programme at the university level.

Schoolnet Thailand

Presently, SchoolNet connects over 4,300 schools to the Internet. The network has been designed to serve the goal of universal access for every school nationwide. More specifically, a school only pays the telephone charge at the local-call rate per connection (at 8 US cents per call) and no Internet access charge, regardless of where they are located. Furthermore, content creation programmes and activities have been initiated to promote the use of Internet in teaching and learning, for example, in a digital library and a digital archive, which contains digitised materials in various forms with proper indexing and search engine for ease of use.

An easy-to-use tool was also developed for teachers to create their own content or teaching materials to add to the digital library. The SchoolNet Project achieved a “universal access” status since 1997. The project was cited in UNDP’s Human Development Report of 2001.

UniNet

UniNet (Inter-University Network), established in 1997, is a national network administered by the Office of Information Technology Administration for Educational Development, Ministry of University Affairs. They provide national and international education network services to enable research and development technologies to support all universities and institutions of higher education in Thailand.

Objectives

  • Set up an ICT infrastructure connecting all universities, institutions, and campuses in the country, called 'UniNet', by establishing ATM network via 155 Mbps bandwidth fiber optics; the infrastructure will connect the networks in Bangkok to the rural provinces through digital leased lines with 2 Mbps (E1) bandwidth
  • Develop self-study centres with electronic library databases, the Internet, multimedia, video on demand; these centers will connect to the high performance network
  • Develop social-learning and lifelong-learning systems by creating multimedia courseware, and providing knowledge databases and distance learning systems
  • Train teachers and assistants to apply ICT in educational development

Professional Development

Training of teachers and related personnel in ICT is a critical step in any effort to promote the use of ICT in classrooms, since teachers determine how ICT will be used in instruction. Thailand viewed the ICT personnel skill training as an important project and allocated a large budget for training programmes. To date, 71,442 out of the country's total of 358,781 teachers and education personnel in the primary education level have already been trained. Moreover, 25,000 out of 125,983 in the secondary education level have also been trained.

Connectivity

Hardware and software being used At the higher education level, all universities in Thailand are connected to the Internet, but only 22.50% of secondary schools and 1.19% of primary schools. Plans target that by the year 2002, the student-to-computers ratio in secondary schools should be 40:1, and in primary schools 80:1 (compared to 114:1 in year 2000).

The use of PCs for learning and instruction versus the use in office administration at primary schools is 29:1, and in secondary schools 3:1. It indicated that in the primary level, PCs are used mainly for learning and instruction.

Internet connection All universities are connected to the Internet, compared to 22.5% of secondary schools and 1.19% of primary schools. The country targets are of 100% connectivity for secondary schools by the year 2002 and for primary schools by 2004; but figures show these targets may not be met. Another use of ICT via the Internet is the schoolnet Thailand programme. At the present time, more then 4,000 schools are members of the schoolnet programme and it is expected that the number will increase to at least 5,000 by end-2004 (refer to http://school.net.th).

Evaluation And Indicators Used

While Thailand has an educational ICT policy and set up targets for monitoring and evaluation in 1995, these activities are lagging behind schedule. Formative evaluation has been done to improve project implementation, but only in the small scale, while summative evaluations have been few and of inadequate standard due to constraints in time, knowledge, financial support and expertise. The Ministry of Education set up a committee recently to monitor and evaluate the use of ICT in education project, but the committee is only just beginning its process and will clearly require time to achieve its task.

Issues And Problems

In the process of carrying out developmental work on ICT, for education, many arising issues and problems require remedies. Major issues include:

  • Accessibility and affordability Radio frequency for education is now a major issue facing the education community during this transition period of the commercial liberalisation of the telecoms market.
  • Networking In this area, investment and utilisation are piecemeal, redundant and ineffective in terms of costs.
  • Curriculum and Content The inadequacy of ICT curriculum still impedes the technology literacy, while quality contents for on-line and off-line learning are still minimal. 
  •  Manpower Shortages - in the number of computer teachers, qualified IT graduates, researchers, and IT technicians - are impacting on the quality of computer literacy attained.
  • Investment Most investment in-flows were for the hardware end and little for improving teachers’ literacy and content production.

In summary, the problem of the used of ICT for education in Thailand can be classified into three groups: (i) Accessibility and Affordability (ii) Need for appropriate content and (iii) Need for ICT literate teachers.