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$189m Plan to Give 300,000 HCMC Students Tablets Draws Criticism

Last week the HCMC Department of Education proposed a plan to equip 300,000 primary students with tablets for the coming school year, reports Thanh Nien. With a pricetag of VND3 million – VND 5 million per tablet, the plan is being questioned based on economic, health and efficiency issues.

Not only would the tablets incur a huge cost to parents, but many are weary of the plan after the city’s controversial interactive whiteboard program failed miserably. In addition, neighboring Thailand plans to scrap its "One Tablet Per Child" program, leaving many to wonder why Vietnam is planning to adopt a similar effort.

Thai Admiral Narong Pipattanasai said the tablets “were not appropriate learning tools in all places at all times” and that teachers were the ones students should study with.

According to the tablet plan, “each pupil will use his/her tablet to study with and do test exercises while teachers “control” the class via computer,” wrote Thanh Nien.

“These kids are so young," said Mai Thi Ngoc Lan, the principal of District 1’s Dinh Tien Hoang Primary School. "How will using these devices for long periods of time affect their health? Will the public complain [about the project]? We can’t imagine how this will work out.”

A director of the Education Ministry’s representative office in the city, Ha Huu Phuc, echoed Lan's concerns.

“It’s a [very expensive] proposal, but it fails to show its primary purpose. Why [is it being tested] on primary school students? Why not high school students? Nothing in the draft discusses the potential impact, such as its effect on student health,” Phuc said, adding that, “Many figures in the proposal don’t add up, which will inevitably lead to a big difference in the real expense. It hinges on having an 'internet administration room' at each school, but do we have the human resources to administrate such rooms?”

We’re all for modernizing Vietnam’s classrooms, but perhaps given the risks, this is the kind of program that should start small and be scaled up over time if it yields positive results.

[Thanh Nien]

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