Thais question government’s online learning experiment

Source: The Ministry of Education

On 18 May, the Ministry of Education launched a large-scale online learning experiment to be put into full use in the upcoming semester, but Thais have questioned the quality of an English course and problems of equal access, as 10% of students nationwide still rely on schools. 

The online videos from Wang Klai Kang Won School have been broadcast to all Thai students via 6 channels: channels 37-51 of Digital TV, channels 186-200 of KU-Band’s TV, channels 337-351 of C-Band’s TV, and DLTV platforms including YouTube, apps, and a website. Wang Klai Kang Won School was under the Royal Patronage of His Late Majesty the King and has been a pioneer in distance learning since 1995.  

The online learning experiment was a response to the Covid-19 outbreak which forced the Ministry of Education to close schools as of 18 March. According to the Ministry, while students watch videos online, teachers will send learning materials, exercises, and tests to students at home and follow up using online applications. 

The online experiment is a part of preparation for courses in the new semester starting on 1 July. If schools can open by then, the Ministry of Education will give health guidelines to students and parents. Otherwise, the students will have to take courses which will be 80% online. Nataphol Teepsuwan, the Minister of Education, said that the first group to take online courses will be the senior high school students.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education is also considering categorizing schools based on the risk of infection. Some may require online learning all the time. Some may require online learning only sometimes. Some schools will require no online learning at all. Prayoon Rattanasenee, Director-General of the Department of Local Administration, is collecting data to categorize areas based on the level of risk. The data will be used to see to what extent each school requires online learning.    

On the first day of experiment, however, the hashtag #เรียนออนไลน์ (#online learning) topped Twitter in Thailand as students reported all kinds of problems from no learning materials and no exercises, to an inability to access videos. According to the Ministry of Education, around 10% of all students cannot access online learning due to a lack of equipment, including tablets, phones, TVs, set-top boxes, and internet connections. In these cases, the Ministry will allow students to attend class in schools but with no more than 20 students per classroom. 

But Thai netizens also criticized the Thai education system in general as the teaching videos went online. Twitter users criticized the teaching of pronunciation, grammar and usage in an English class. While some of them targeted the teacher in the video clip for incompetence, others concentrated their criticism on bad education policies. Some defended the teacher in the video clip for working hard and argued that a bad accent is not the same as incorrect pronunciation.  

According to the EF English Proficiency Index 2019, Thailand ranked ‘very low’ at 74th out of a total of 100 countries, the third lowest in Southeast Asia in terms of English proficiency behind Vietnam and Indonesia.