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IT for Rural Schools

The IT for Rural Schools Programme was started in 1995, with the objective of minimizing educational inequality by providing rural school teachers, students, and children with disabilities with access to computer technology. The project covers some 72 rural schools across Thailand. Once the first batch of donated computers is installed in a school, progress is closely monitored, including determining whether the school is ready for more advanced technologies such as computer-assisted instruction (CAI) programs and the Internet. If the school is deemed ready, it is granted free Internet connection through SchoolNet and receives a donation of more advanced LAN-connected computers, as well as supporting literature.

The concept of “quality not quantity” lies at the heart of the IT for Rural Schools Programme. In its initial phase, the Programme’s focus was on introducing basic computer technology into schools, expanding coverage, and providing essential computer training. In the second phase, the focus has now shifted to enhancing the IT competency of the teachers and students so that they can utilize the technology more effectively and efficiently and also to prepare them to use more advanced equipment.

Basic Computer Maintenance and Repair Programme

The Princess recognized early on the important role computer maintenance and repair services play in the success of any project infusing ICTs into education, and thus appropriate courses were introduced in 1996. Offered through a number of vocational schools around the country, these courses serve to help develop the skills necessary for the IT for Rural Schools Programme member schools to service computers and peripherals used in the Programme. This initiative later took more permanent shape as the Basic Computer Maintenance and Repair Programme, with 17 participating vocational schools. These schools now provide maintenance and repair services and offer basic maintenance and repair courses, not only to IT for Rural Schools Programme member schools, but also to the general public.

Reaching into the community

ICT teachers from the schools participating in the IT for Rural School Programme offer extra-curricular computer classes on weekends or during vacations to their students and to fellow teachers. Some schools also open these courses to teachers and students from nearby schools, administrative staff from regional government offices, and local residents. Some schools have even developed computer service teams capable of providing computer and network installation and repair services to other schools and organizations in their community, and the provision of these services gives the students plenty of opportunity to practise and master their skills.

Impact

So far, the Programme has proved to be a success. After graduation, many of the students from the member schools have chosen to continue studies in computer-related topics at college level, and have gone on to find good careers in the IT field, both in Thailand and abroad.

Ekasit Chailunam, a former student at Suksasongkroh Tawatburee School in Roi Et, one of the IT for Rural Schools Programme member schools, is an excellent example of the positive impact this project has had on ordinary lives. Ekasit started taking computer courses in grade 10 and has been fascinated by IT ever since. Despite coming from a very poor background, Ekasit has nevertheless always been an excellent student. He ranked first n the national examination of National Science and Mathematical Olympiad for two years running (2001 and 2002), and in 2003, Ekasit was accepted onto the computer engineering programme in the Faculty of Engineering, at Khon Kaen University.

Since its launch, the positive impact of the IT for Rural School Programme has spread beyond the member schools to the communities around them. The Programme has led to substantial educational, social, and economic improvements in many communities throughout Thailand. Today, most students from disadvantaged families in remote areas have opportunities to learn how to use computers, write programs, and surf the Internet.