What’s hot around the table? Just recently, Ho Chi Minh City’s Department of Education and Training has introduced a proposal which will cost around VND 4 trillion ($189 million USD) in total to “bring around 300,000 first, second and third grade students into special e-classes,” according to a draft of the new law. This means each primary school student in Ho Chi Minh might have to pay between VND 3 million and 5 million ($141 – $236) for tablet devices.
According to UNICEF’s analysis of the situation of children in Vietnam in 2010, “Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) estimates that the state budget for education will continue to increase and reach 184,311 billion VND (USD 10,342.34 million) by 2014, more than double the amount spent in 2008. Primary education is expected to continue to receive the largest share; but it will be reduced by half a percentage point by 2014, followed by lower secondary with 22 per cent.” This means that 1/55 of the planned budget for 2014 will be used for this e-textbook project and only within Ho Chi Minh City’s economic scale, which is increasingly more than the rest of country’s.
Professor Tran Hai Linh, lecturer at Inha University Korea doubted that if whether all parents can afford to buy and maintain those devices in good condition, meanwhile just paying for their kids’ tuition fee is still a headache already. One bright side of this method is the student would lighten the weight of their backpacks that they have to carry to school every single day, each backpack carrying books for the 11 subjects students are required to take. On the other hand, concerns still persist of the children becoming too dependent on intelligent technology.
One example to take into consideration is Thailand. The “One Tablet Per Child” project that began in Thailand in 2012, will be shut down next year. Maintaining the current program would cost $26.7M USD, but the focus is now geared towards “smart classrooms” instead of one tablet per child. Looking back to Vietnam, many of the teaching tools, including books and supplies implemented Most of them were not designable for teaching and left covered in dust in storage room for years. Besides, there are very few qualified teachers that are trained to master ITC’s teaching methods. Additionally, it is also true that there is a ubiquitous lack of teachers, lack of good-designed toilets, clean water, books and learning materials or safe play spaces.
As stressed in all MOET guidelines, awareness of the role of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in education is crucial to effectively integrate ICT in education. But at the same time a clear answer on how exactly to use ICT for teaching and learning is not provided, resulting in a gap between rhetoric and educational practice. Educators need to know exactly how ICT can be used as a teaching tool (UNESCO, 2004).
An unambiguous vision and a concrete mission to address the integration of ICT as a tool for teaching and learning to become every day practice. In order to do this, human-centered research methodology, which begins from deep empathy and understanding of needs and motivations of people, needs to be implemented. Providing the technology is only one aspect; adequate training must be simultaneously provided.