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Thailand rolls out school tablet scheme

28 June 2013, 15:49

Bangkok - Thailand will pay $110m to two firms to supply 1.2 million tablet computers to schools across the country, the education ministry announced Friday, awarding the tender for the next phase of a controversial schools policy.

The "One tablet per child" scheme, part of the government's election campaign in 2011, has been criticised as an expensive gimmick designed to boost the popularity of the ruling party among parents - and the next generation of voters.

But to its supporters, the ambitious scheme will bridge the gap between rich and poor pupils by using technology to boost education standards in a country, which measures up poorly compared to the rest of Asia.

China's Shenzhen Yitoa Intelligent Control and Thai firm Supreme Distribution will provide the tablets, the education ministry said in a statement, as the government rolls out its plan to equip 13 million pupils with the handheld devices by the end of next year.

"Each tablet costs between $63 and $93," it said adding the Chinese firm will supply 800 000 tablets to Grade 1, while the local company will provide more than 425 000 of the devices Grade 7s.

About 850 000 Chinese-made devices have already been distributed, in what the government describes as the world's largest handout of the devices for education.

While other Asian nations fared well in the most recent global education survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2009, Thailand came around 50th out of 65 countries in the rankings for reading, maths and science.

Experts say rote learning and a lack of encouragement for critical thinking compound a massive divide between rich private schools, and poorly funded state-run institutions.



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