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Thailand Government Cancels OLPC Participation 196

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the roll-a-hard-six dept.
patiwat writes "Thailand's new junta-appointed Education Minister has cancelled Thailand's participation in the One Laptop Per Child project and scrapped a plan to give a 2B1 laptop to every primary school student. He has also cancelled plans to roll out computers and a broadband connection to every single school in Thailand. The cancellation of half a million scholarships for needy students is being studied. He cited the lack of readiness of teachers and the need to focus on basic education standards. "We will not focus too much on technology and materials. We will focus on substance," he said. This comes on the heels of the cancellation of the Thai government's open source policy."
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Thailand Government Cancels OLPC Participation

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  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu.gmail@com> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @01:48AM (#17012386) Journal

    Hopefully, /.'ers and others won't look upon this as an Open Source failure, it isn't. It's (in my opinion) more of a triumph somewhere of sanity... Technology has it's place, but a laptop for every child smacks of the program's hubris and less of a sane approach to helping poor countries.

    I think they show real insight when fearing little return on the effort because teachers are poorly trained. Heck, even in wealthy countries teachers consistently have no computer smarts (my sister is a teacher, she hasn't a clue!). Compound that with a techie-Linux platform (I love Linux, but for the mass public, with minimal background and training?) and this program was running off the rails from the beginning.

    There are excellent examples of schools in the United States where huge investments in technology for schools showed no tangible gains in students' profieciencies and at the same time examples of poor schools shifting emphasis to basics, discipline, and community with strong academic results.

    Technology for technology's sake is just that, but not much of a salve for third world economies, at least not by giving a laptop to every child. I think this is actually a positive development because it has (had) so many ways it could have gone wrong allowing companies like Microsoft down the road to point fingers at Open Source as the culprit, and if only Microsoft had been chosen to save the world.

    (For the record, this whole OLPC effort would be just as much of a train wreck with Windows, just a whole heck of a lot more expensive.)

  • by Ummu (830131) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @01:52AM (#17012410)
    I agree, but right now he seems to be focused on saving money instead of redirecting learning curriculum. I doubt he would bother to train better teachers.
  • by melted (227442) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @03:16AM (#17012906) Homepage
    The guy sounds quite rational there. I mean, there's bad education and then there's complete and utter lack of education. If you're in a country where 10% of people can't read and write (1% in USA, Canada and European countries, 0.5% in Russia) - you'll be better off if you spend the money on teaching them how to read and write. No fancy hardware is necessary - just a pen, a book and some paper. If you're in a country where 95+ percent of people are literate but computing is not easily accessible to high schoolers - that one can benefit from OLPC type program a lot more. Things are incomparably worse in India (which is why I guess it declined to participate early on). 30% of male and 52% of female population can't read or write. In Nigeria, percentages are 25 and 40% correspondingly. In Brazil - 14 and 13% correspondingly. In Argentina - 3 and 3%. Based on this, out of four countries in OLPC project (Brazil, Argentina, Thailand and Nigeria), only one country - Argentina - can potentially benefit from spending on OLPC more than from spending on basic education. In order to run, you first need to learn how to walk.

    High levels of government corruption in participating countries is not a coincidence either. Someone will make a lot of money on this, and you can bet it won't be teachers.
  • Re:Makes sense (Score:2, Interesting)

    by NeilO (20628) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @03:43AM (#17013040)
    According to the OLPC wiki [laptop.org] the concept is more than simply giving computers to children "to somehow make them learn more." Instead they write: "While the technical aspects create a platform for change, the real benefits will come from improved educational practice enabled by immersive access to connected laptops." So, no claim that simply giving children laptops lets schools off the hook.

    The OLPC advances an idea (to me somewhat orthogonal to basic educational practice) that connecting laptops connects the students together in ways that gives rise to other beneficial effects. Since we're all sitting here reading Slashdot it's an easy analogy -- Slashdot creates a community with a shared common interest, but with diverse opinions on those interests, and at the end of the day it's that diversity that is of interest. We read to learn what others think. So OLPC (ought to) create a means for children to interact with other children with the same effect, but on many other topics besides "news for nerds." And that sounds like a fine idea to me.
  • Because the OLPC has lower power requirements, making it better suited to situations where electricity supplies are limited. If the lights dim when you turn on a few of those old clunkers (which will be fine, since they all have switched-mode power supplies and can run off anything from 160 to 300 volts, DC to 1kHz), or a substation fuse blows when you turn on more than one machine at once (those switched-mode supplies can draw tens of amps for a brief instant at power-up), then that might make you unpopular.

    Not that it's an inherently bad idea to ship refurbished computers to some people. But the OLPC will be more useful in more situations than used kit.

    What's stopping you from taking a year out to work with a programme where you will help the locals sort through the e-waste we're currently dumping in Africa [bbc.co.uk] to find any usable parts and assemble working computers (and probably other appliances) which could then be sold? All you'll need are a fine-tipped soldering iron, a digital storage oscilloscope, a known-working computer, a good set of tools, a generator and a few CDs of Open Source software. Be prepared to write the whole lot off if you don't make enough money to replace everything within the first year. You will also have to teach the locals how to do the work after you have gone home. It won't interfere too much with the OLPC project anyway, since OLPC's goals are different.
  • by Dilaudid (574715) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @08:14AM (#17014580)
    I certainly wouldn't want to criticise communism on Slashdot. Perhaps it has just been "poorly implemented in practice". Stalin's purges and the millions of soldiers that were wasted at Stalingrad could be described as "teething problems". The Khmer Rouge and their murder of one fifth of the Cambodian population could perhaps be attributed to their use of a "beta version" of communism which sadly didn't work so well. Mao's great leap forward and the subsequent starvation of a large proportion of his population was perhaps "user error". So please, do continue to defend communism - it seems a good way to collect mod points, if nothing else.
  • by pryonic (938155) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @09:27AM (#17015152)
    No I shouldn't generalise, I agree. I'm actually British but I've learned from experience that if I'd stated it was a purely American problem I'd have been modded down in seconds. And to be fair the same problem does exist here in the UK, though to much lesser degree. People here are less likely to react without thinking, but it still happens and it does seem to be growing. I could blame everything from American TV, to Reality TV shows to just a general dumbing down of the media but I have no idea where the problem lies...

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