Learning PC repair
skills at an early age
OUT OF THE BOX: Initiative turns
schoolchildren into accomplished repair technicians
Thapakorn Kamlangleui, 12, is not only keen on using
computers, but so far he has earned as much as 30,000 baht from repairing
PCs in his village in Buri Ram province in the Northeast.
Young Thapakorn was among several students, teachers and others involved
in an initiative to teach PC repair skills in remote schools, who were
introduced to the media last week by the ICT Ministry in conjunction with
its latest project to provide refurbished computers for use in schools.
The Prathom 6 (grade 6) student of Baan Nongpai School has been interested
in computers for four years _ ever since he first saw PCs in his school.
Curiosity made him a fast learner after his teacher taught his class how
to use a drawing program when he was in grade 4.
Admitting that he was not a good student in other subjects, Thapakorn is
top of the computer class and is one of only two students in Baan Nongpai
School who can fix computers.
Two years ago, Buri Ram MP Perapong Hengsavat initiated a project to teach
students computer maintenance skills when he donated computers to Chumchon
Baan HaisokSchool. Later, Mr Perapong learned that the school also needed
service support and so he contacted a friend in Lat Krabang, Bangkok, who
sold refurbished second-hand computers from Japan, Mr Parkpoom Permmongkul.
Mr Parkpoom, 39, the owner of NCC Computer and whom the children called "Kru"
(teacher), then set up a computer curriculum based on his experiences,
teaching students how PCs worked, what the parts were and how to fix
The holder of a bachelor's degree from the King Mongkut's Institute of
Technology, Mr Parkpoom said he believed that children could do this
because it was not difficult, adding that he had taught around 100
students so far.
When the students understood computer basics, they could manage any
problem, no matter whether the PC was an old or a new model, he said. Mr
Parkpoom still teaches the basic computer class for free in Buri Ram and
Nong Bua Lam Phu provinces.
Students have more confidence when they have computer knowledge, said Buri
Ram MP Mr Perapong, who added that those who could fix computers could
also earn money.
Chalermlit Oakanit, 13, and Wuttinant Chaithaisong, 14, both students from
Chumchon Baan Haisok, are other examples. Chalermlit can earn around 5,000
baht while Wuttinant can save around 3,000 baht a month from his PC repair
service. "Fixing computers is not difficult because I am interested in
technology," said Charlermlit, who wants to be a repair technician when he
They charge no minimum rate for their service, and the amount paid depends
on how much a computer owner wants to give.
Their customers live in their communities and they also support the
computer classes by helping to pay electricity bills and sometimes
learning to use computers along with their children, said Chumchon Baan
Haisok School President Ubol Chaichanavong.
"We get community support because they know the benefits of technology,"
he said, adding that the school was also a role model as to how schools
could initiate community support.
ICT Minister Dr Surapong Suebwonglee said these schools in Buri Ram would
help sustain the "ICT Computers for Children" project, officially launched
last Friday. The Ministry expects to receive around 100,000 PCs as
trade-ins to be donated to 4,500 schools nationwide in May.
In conjunction with the Education Ministry it will train two teachers at
each school in basic computer usage and in hardware maintenance skills so
that the schools would be able to take care of their donated PCs. The ICT
Ministry would also provide an Internet access for schools under the
Interested schools or donors can contact the project hotline at 1111.
The Education Ministry plans to
introduce 300 mobile PC facilities in an effort to bring technology to
According to Keartisak Sensai, director of the ICT Bureau of the Office of
Permanent Secretary, the project will see at least 20 of the facilities
rolled out next semester, starting around mid-May.
Each mobile unit will have around 14 PCs and a teacher, who will show
young students how to use computers.
"The project will provide an opportunity for children in remote areas to
play with and learn about computer technology," he noted.
The government aims to provide computers and Internet access to every
public school by the end of 2005.
Assumption e-learning centre gets high-speed infrastructure
Cisco Systems (Thailand) has teamed up with Datacraft (Thailand) to
deploy a high-speed network for Thailand's largest e-learning center at
Srisakdi Charmonman IT Building, Assumption University.
Asawin Kangvolkij, managing director of Cisco Systems (Thailand), noted
that the 10-floor building also houses the College of Internet Distance
Education, which started operations in mid-2004 and can accommodate
100,000 students per year.
Cisco networking will enhance Assumption's e-learning system in terms
of speed and performance, enabling it to compete with international
universities, added Asawin.
Somchart Kanha, general manager of Datacraft (Thailand), said the
network deployed at the e-learning center will accommodate a wide variety
of applications across the campus.
The network is composed of Cisco's high-end equipment including a full
range of Cisco Catalyst LAN switches, Cisco Wireless LAN solutions, as
well as Internet routers and wireless access points. The deployment also
includes data protection and access control.
The total project cost will be over 40 million.
After hardware installation, Datacraft set up a special team to manage
IT operations at Srisakdi Charmonman IT Building and will provide
dedicated support staff and system engineers to provide assistance to the
university for two years.
It is claimed as the biggest networking project ever carried out in the
education sector, according to Mr Somchart.
HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindkhom blessed the foundation stone of
Srisakdi Charmonman IT Building in June and will preside over the opening
ceremony on August 20.
Srisakdi Charmonman IT Building covers about 10,000 square metres and
houses over 2,000 PCs and an Internet Distance Conference facility.
Also located here are the VP-IT Office and offices of several IT
associations such as Thailand Chapter of the Association for Computing
Machinery (ACM), Thailand Joint Chapter of the Computer Society, the
Engineering Management Society of the Institute for Electrical and
Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Thailand Chapter of the Internet Society (ISOC),
Thailand Internet Association, Association of Thai Internet Industry, and
Prof Srisakdi Charmonman Foundation.
Other IT-related units include a Catholic data centre, Internet-based
radio station, four TV production rooms, digital library, IT curriculum
centre, Internet and computer security centre, software testing centre,
gaming data centre, study centre for social effects, software engineering
centre, and an e-government centre.
IS BANGKOK BREAKING?
|Tew Bunnag, on Bangkok: "It could go either
way. It could be made more solid, but it could crack."
A life abroad prepared Tew Bunnag to examine his
native city and analyse it critically and lovingly
Story by NISSARA HORAYANGURA Photo by SOMKID
There is Jeed, a provincial girl who goes
to Bangkok to search for her missing brother, only to be sucked in by the
city's powerful allure herself. Jong is a financially comfortable
businessman, practically a stranger to his son who drifts into drugs while
his father casually indulges in extramarital affairs. And there is May, a
garland seller who by a twist of fate tastes the high life but finds
herself happier when she returns to hawking in the streets.
These are the colourful characters _ some disturbingly familiar _ that
inhabit Tew Bunnag's collection of stories about modern Bangkok. Fragile
Days is not a gay montage, but a gritty portrayal of the contradictions
convoluting Bangkok society today.
The characters are painted with a sure hand, so it is surprising to learn
that the author only returned to Bangkok five years ago, after nearly a
But then Tew has amassed enough life experiences _ twists and turns, up
and down, full circle at times _ to inspire many books.
Born in 1947 into the aristocratic Bunnag family, young Tew grew up
steeped in traditional Thai values and customs. At the age of seven,
however, he was packed off to boarding school in England, as was the
typical practice in well-to-do families of the time.
"But those first seven years were very vivid years," he said during a
recent interview in Bangkok. "They stay with you for life."
Throughout his life, Tew never lost touch, staying in contact with family
and friends, keeping up with local news, and returning frequently for
In the nearly 50 years he's been abroad, he's had his share of adventure.
He graduated from the University of Cambridge in 1968, then travelled
widely, hitchhiking around Asia and Europe. During those years, this son
of a privileged family did not want to depend on money from home _ not
that they were offering, he chuckled. Instead, he worked odd jobs, did
manual labour, painted houses, picked fruit, fished, worked in olive
groves. It was a tough time, but extremely educational.
During those years, he deepened his spiritual practice, reawakened during
university, after having first been ingrained at an early age by his
devout Buddhist Thai nanny. Since university, he has consistently studied
and practised meditation, as well as tai chi and yoga.
All of these spiritual interests were combined when he returned to
Cambridge in 1975 to set up a holistic spiritual therapeutic centre,
combining Eastern practices with Western psychotherapy. The idea, highly
progressive at the time, took off and spawned other centres in Europe and
Five years ago, his mother's ailing health drew him back to Thailand. He
now devotes his energies to working with Father Joe Meier's project caring
for the Aids-afflicted slum dwellers of Klong Toey. He also teaches tai
chi and writes, figuring he has "at least 10 more years of writing",
including a novel soon to be published.
Upon his return, he found a Bangkok much changed from his boyhood. The
picturesque town lined by limpid canals had given way to, as he writes in
his book's epilogue, something akin to "a paranoid hallucination" of
"unfinished skyscrapers standing like skeletons against the horizon" and
"black-water canals bubbling with plastic bags".
It was not just the physical landscape that had changed, however, but the
societal and cultural underpinnings of Bangkok, and of Thailand at large.
The book tries to make some sense of it all. He saw in Bangkok a
fragility, hence the book's title.
"[Bangkok] could go either way. It could be made more solid, but it could
crack. I always start writing with a question, and here it was, are we
going to get by or will we break?"
Rampant materialism is perhaps one of the most glaring, and destructive,
aspects of modern Thai society. Also challenging traditional values are
foreign influences flooding in due to globalisation.
Tew recalls: "In my times, there was a sense of belonging to a homogenous
culture that was pretty comprehensive on its own. [There was] this sense
of being sufficient in our culture. We didn't actually want to be anything
"If you're growing up now, you define yourself in terms of many different
cultures ...We define ourselves in a way both from our indigenous culture,
which I think is becoming very loose ... but also things coming in from
It's not that he has any objection to outside influences, or that he holds
the homogenous Old Bangkok as his ideal. In many ways, the society back
then was "feudal and unjust" with its much more rigidly stratified class
But something that Old Bangkok had was a sense of solidity.
"When I left [Thailand] ... there was a kind of cohesion. Shared values.
People knowing where they stood."
Now, Bangkok society is on the cusp between old and new _ without quite
knowing where it stands and where it is heading in the future.
"I think there are vestiges of shared values remaining. I think there's a
tension now. People are not sure what to let drop and what to hold on to,
what new values to take on."
He looks to his own life as a microcosm. He has experienced agonising
crises trying to grapple with the opposite pulls of east and west. While
he may have been sure of himself when he left, he recalls the great
confusion he felt when visiting Thailand as a young man, after British
ways had "overlaid" the Thainess.
It was difficult to simply shed what was acquired and come back to resume
an entirely different life.
"Who was I? How was I going to affix myself, at what level in this
society?" The questions confounded him.
To help assuage the inner turmoil, he looked back to his roots in Buddhism
for spiritual guidance.
"Little by little, my sense of self started taking shape. It ceased to be
so important whether I was east or west, as long as I knew who I was
inside. I had never looked at it that way. Suddenly those things
[bothering me] started to have less of an edge.
"Kindness is kindness, whoever you are. Badness is badness whatever you
Given the insight he was able to personally find in Buddhism, what role
could it, as one of the most deeply rooted anchors of traditional Thai
culture, play in addressing, perhaps even sealing, the cracks in the wider
"I think Buddhism has a big role to play... [but] I'm not quite sure
whether it's Buddhism as it is today, the cultural Buddhism of making
merit and saying your prayers.
"I feel it has to be dynamised, energised into something that has meaning
and relevance for people who live and work and not just something outside
The question of how to combine the spiritual life with the worldly life is
age-old, and has come up constantly for him personally ever since his days
setting up spiritual centres in Europe.
His take _ his personal view, he stresses _ is to draw on the concept of
the boddhisatva, one who has attained enlightenment but remains in the
world to help the suffering, as the bridge. More widely recognised in
Mahayana and Tibetan Buddhism than in Thailand's Theravada branch, he
wishes to emphasize this Buddhist concept, "not like a god or goddess out
there to be worshipped, but [as a] spiritual warrior, if you like, neither
male or female, somebody who lives the spiritual life in the real life".
What about those who believe that the truest form of spiritual practice is
renunciation and ordination?
"I beg to disagree," he laughs mildly. But then he turns serious. "The
world is burning. You've got to be [spiritually] committed in the world."
Critics claim this is easier said than done. An individual may want to
live by a moral code, trying not to oppress others, but the larger system
he inhabits _ global capitalism or corrupt politics, say _ perpetuates a
kind of structural oppression.
"Modern life is full of contradictions," he admits. "There's no easy way
"You have to really look at your conscience, look at what you can live
with, and be honest to yourself. If you can't live that _ if that
contradiction is too great for you _ then don't live it, because you'll
only break yourself up and you're going to spread more suffering around."
He is speaking from experience, particularly his dilemma over whether to
return to Thailand after university. He felt guilty about not coming back
to "contribute", but he couldn't see himself taking the traditional path
of the returned elite and become a civil servant or businessman and the
contradictions they entail.
Yet, he sees there are people able to turn the tables and still do good.
"The whole thing is to keep questioning, to keep evaluating your life and
what you do. The key to everything is to be conscious of what you're doing
and [have] that consciousness guided by loving kindness."
But first, one must build basic awareness of wider Bangkok society. Tew
believes many people, particularly the privileged, have an extremely
limited experience of Bangkok.
"They don't make an effort to see how the rest of the city lives."
What is needed, he says, is more consciousness of the widespread poverty,
the environmental degradation and other social ills.
His own consciousness is raised by his work in the slums. "I feel very
replenished. I feel really privileged. I've learned so much from working
there," he says.
A precious part of the experience has been witnessing the wealth of the
poor. He does not romanticise poverty, "but you know what? Sometimes you
see the wealth of poor people and it wakes you up to the poverty of rich
people. The wealth poor people have is the sense of community, the
laughter, the contentment with the very few things they have."
By contrast, the rich who are on a campaign to consume are caught in an
inexorable march that never ends. "Once you get on the whole acquisition
wagon, contentment goes out the window. [There is] awful suffering in that
gap between dreaming of acquisition and the possibility of it."
Having said that, Tew has met many "wise people" from his travels all over
the world who have chosen to live simply, to be content with little.
"That, to me, is wealth," he said.
Tew remains excruciatingly cautious about being seen as judgmental and of
That's certainly not the purpose behind his book. "In my writing I try not
to dish out formulas or put down Thai society. That's not my point. I
write from a love. From a love. A tough love."
It's a sentiment shared by many writers and social commentators who
uncover the seamier sides of a society in hopes of galvanising change. Tew
aims for something perhaps even simpler _ to provoke an evaluation of
society. One of the strengths of the Western world is rigorous, constant
evaluation of what's going on that is its safety net, he says. To him,
that kind of evaluation is underdeveloped _ if not missing _ in Thai
"I wrote to contribute to the questioning," he remarked.
By bringing out larger issues through people and real situations in his
stories, he hopes to make readers empathise and start evaluating their own
Has he tallied the results of his evaluation? Can he answer the question
he started with: Will Bangkok break?
He answers without a moment's hesitation. "I'm an optimist. I think we'll
get by. I think there's a natural intelligence here, which is not about
formal education. Thais have a lot of resources."
And perhaps the essential saving grace is namjai, kindness and generosity.
"I think in Thai society there's a lot of namjai, which is what makes it
in the end very livable, even Bangkok."
Ultimately, his use of the word "fragile" is optimistic, if cautionary.
"When I say fragility, I mean fragility, I don't mean collapse. [Bangkok]
is fragile. It needs care."
What kind of care? Keep evaluating. Keep conscious. Keep kind. That is
Tew's personal mantra. If Bangkokians follow it, they may yet survive
these fragile days.
EDUCATION - INTERNET
a broadband promise
|A volunteer English teacher from Triam
Udom Suksa School talks to a first-year student at Wat Pathum Wanaram
School. ICT Minister Surapong Suebwonglee has promised to provide
broadband Internet access to every school in Thailand by 2008.
The Information and Communications Technology Minister has promised to
provide broadband Internet access to every school in Thailand and link
villages in remote areas with broadband wireless connections based on
WiMax technology by the year 2008.
ICT Minister Dr Surapong Suebwonglee said according to a plan to promote
Thailand as an ICT hub for the region over the next four years, the
government would improve ICT infrastructure, boost the skills of local
people and support more Thai content.
To increase the accessibility and availability of the infrastructure, the
ICT Ministry would work with the Ministry of Education to increase PC
penetration in schools.
At present, the PC penetration in high schools is one for every 100
students, while in Singapore the ratio is one computer per 25 students.
"In the next four years we will reduce the ratio to one PC for every five
students," he claimed, adding that the PCs would be tools for students to
improve their IT literacy as well as develop their graphic and animation
In addition, the Ministry also plans to use WiMax _ an upcoming broadband
wireless standard _ to link schools and villages in remote areas to the
"I plan to ask the National Telecommunications Commission to allocate the
5GHz band as a public frequency for WiMax connections. The technology will
be used to connect remote area people to the Internet wirelessly," he
The ministry will also set up national ICT centres in Bangkok at Central
World Plaza and in ICT Cities Chiang Mai, Khon Kan and Phuket to provide
low-cost ICT training for students and the public.
There will also be a Thailand "knowledge center" portal as well as
multi-language programs to translate Chinese and English language web
pages into Thai by 2008, he noted.
In terms of government services, there will be a one-stop e-government
project where all Thai citizens will be able to use their smart ID cards
to securely access public services, he said.
And finally the ministry will promote the software and service industry in
fields such as animation and multimedia as part of the vision to make
Thailand a web services global hub.
"We have worked with Microsoft and Sun," the minister said, noting that
60,000 people would be trained for .Net technology and 10,000 Java
certified staff would be trained in the next three years.
Microsoft will invest some 268 million baht over three years to support
the project, called Thailand.net.
FARMERS STUDY FOR DEGREE WITHOUT LEAVING THE FIELD
Four-year local wisdom course aims to increase
Story by PREEYANAT PHANAYANGGOOR
Nakhon Si Thammarat Rajabhat University
is inviting farmers to work their land and ``study'' for a degree at the
Farmers who own at least three rai of land can apply for a bachelor's
degree in local wisdom _ but they will not have to attend any lectures or
sit any tests.
The four-year course starts in June and at least 20 farmers are expected
to take part. Most learning will take place in the field.
Jaturat Kiratiwuttipong, vice-rector of the faculty of humanities and
social sciences and initiator of the degree, said the course would be the
first four-year university degree offered only to practising farmers who
learn from hands-on experience on their own land.
Farmers must be aged 20 or above, and own at least three rai, which they
will use for research, farming and development. They will get help from
academics, community leaders and farmers practising in different fields,
such as rice, rubber and fruit growers.
The course was inspired by the thinking of Mai Raeng community leader
Prayong Ronarong, a Ramon Magsaysay Award winner for Community Leadership,
who wants farmers to become self-sufficient and self-reliant. Its aim is
to turn out self-reliant farmers, who would form the basis of a future
self-sufficient community. It is also designed to keep competent farmers
in their home provinces, people who could stand on their own feet and earn
a living without moving to Bangkok or other big cities, Mr Jaturat said.
He hoped that by the end of the course, farmers would be equipped with new
farming techniques which combined local wisdom and modern technology in a
At least 20 local community leaders and experts in the province including
Mr Prayong would act as advisers and help assess students.
Mr Prayong said the local wisdom degree would serve as good preparation
for a future self-sufficient community because young people would learn
from real-life experience.
Animation camp for teachers
The Software Industry Promotion Agency (Sipa)
and the Office of the Basic Education Commission will work together to
train 1000 teachers in animation and multimedia.
Sipa will host a training camp _ TAM Camp 2005: Training the Trainer _ and
encourage teachers in the arts and related fields to add animation and
multimedia skills. Participants would be required to produce e-curriculums
for the teaching of students in the future.
Each school can send up to five teachers for the training camp.
Sipa will run the TAM Camp in four provinces: Phuket on March 21-25,
Chiang Mai on April 4-8, Khon Kaen on April 25-29 and in Bangkok on May
For further details contact Sipa at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 02-554-0452.
A NEW WAY
New teaching methods are keeping the young in
touch with their roots
Mention ``classroom'', and what comes to
Usually not trees, rivers, forests or the sky. When it comes to
classrooms, most of us think of a room filled with rows of desks and
chairs. But the College of Social Management (CSM) and the Alternative
Education Network are finding alternatives to the traditional classroom.
The college is promoting the ``community school'' project where villagers,
both young and old, can learn from each other.
``Communities in Thailand are so diverse. Hill top villages live
differently from those along river banks. Each community has a wealth of
knowledge and wisdom that it has accumulated as it has evolved and adapted
through the ages,'' said Chatchawan Thongdeelert, director of the CSM.
``So the community can function like a classroom, where students learn
about life and wisdom from community life. It's a living classroom. It
should be the best way to reform the country's education system.''
To show how a community-based school works, the CSM is holding a
``Community School Fair'' at the Office of Museum and Agricultural
Culture, Kasetsart University from April 1 to 3. The fair will introduce
seven communities who are forerunners in the project and show how a
student's knowledge can develop in their own community.
``Now students get well-educated but not well-versed in their community's
ways. The education system has taught them to alienate themselves from
their community, making them turn their backs on their roots,'' said
Prapat Apaimul, a community leader of Mae Ta River basin, in Mae On
sub-district, Chiang Mai.
``Those educated are taught to be employed. That's all right. But they
must know their roots so they can return home to farming if they are layed-off,''
agreed Promma Suwansri of the Mae Pern Mae Wong Conversation Network.
``The elderly have been aware of the problems arising from various
developments. So they came up with the idea of creating activities with
their children so that they [the children] can learn about the community's
traditional wisdom, otherwise, the knowledge can be lost,'' said Promma.
``The community school project aims to teach community wisdom to the young
through the learning camps,'' he added.
The lively learning environment will be showcased at the fair, and on show
will be activities such as organic farming, compost making, testing
produce for toxic substances, clay house building and other traditional
skills. The fair will demonstrate alternative ways of learning, and all
the students in the project will participate, sharing their knowledge and
opinions among the group.
``The activities will help the students develop their interpersonal and
social skills,'' said Sririwan Sripen, the project coordinator.
For those interested, admission to the event is free of charge, and here's
ICT center popular across the ages
ICT Learning Centre finds an audience among young
and old alike
Story by Chaiyot Yongcharoenchai and Karnjana
The newly-opened National ICT Learning
Centre is proving to be a popular hangout not only for youths, but also
elderly people who want to keep in touch with computing and Internet
technology. Visitors to the centre will also soon be able to add new media
technologies to their list of things to learn, with plans to introduce by
March a new range of training courses for people interested in producing
animation and multimedia content.
The centre on the sixth floor of Central World Plaza on Ratchadamri Road
attracts some 600-700 visitors during weekdays on average and 1,000-1,200
on weekends, including government representatives and student groups.
The ICT Learning Centre officially opened on October 30 last year with a
90 million baht budget from the government, which went to renovating and
equipping the 3,000 square metre location.
National ICT Learning Centre director Rachadaporn Tinaphongs noted that
the centre had attracted visitors across every age group since it had
opened. "It was a surprise to see senior citizens here because we had
never targeted them before. Mostly, they are here during weekdays and they
want to learn basic computer usage," she said.
One familiar face is a 75-year-old man, who often arrives from his home
near Lumpini Park with a friend of the same age to use the Internet.
"We have been here many times to surf the Internet because the speed is
fast and the place is clean," he told Database.
The two have learned how to use a computer by joining one of the training
courses at the centre, while he noted that there is also staff on-hand to
give assistance when needed.
Parents with children are also regular visitors. "We are here almost every
day," said Tawan Saetang, a father of two, who brings his daughter and son
here to play games.
"The place is quiet, unlike other Internet cafes. I want my children to
learn about the Internet and know how to use computers. They are happy and
I am also happy because children can use the Internet for free and the
price is cheap for me," he said, noting that the location is also
Compared to the charges of other Internet cafes offering broadband
service, the service fees at the ICT Learning Centre are low. The price is
10 baht an hour for adults (aged between 22-60 years old), five baht for
young adults between 18-21 years, and free of charge for those who are
under 18 and over 60.
There are 140 stand-alone PCs with soft seats and 30 Sun Ray thin-client
computers at stands surrounding the Internet cafe area.
According to director Rachadaporn, the centre has something for the whole
family, with parents able to use the Internet while students access the
library and children can watch the latest in animation. It also houses
training and conference rooms.
The ICT Learning Centre was established last year as part of an initiative
by the Information and Communications Technology Ministry to create a
learning centre for ICT where young people could spend their time after
school or during summer holidays.
It is also part of the ministry's plans to boost ICT human resources and
comes after initiating the GoodNet project, a group of learning centres
where youths can learn basic software and PC operations, education
programs and access broadband Internet.
The idea is also being looked at by other countries. A minister from South
Africa visited the centre because the government there has a plan to set
up an ICT centre and wanted to learn from Thailand. In addition, some
local officers from Nakhon Si Thammarat, Phuket and Chon Buri plan to
offer some services under a similar model, particularly the Internet cafe
For example, an Education Service Area Office in Nakhon Ratchasima will
set up an e-library and training facilities to advance the skills of
"We want to build up a centre to develop our human resources for 200
schools in two amphurs under our office coverage," said educational
instructor Yuttasak Jannaronk. "We have already prepared a two-storey
building for the purpose. The visit to the centre will help to give us new
ideas," he added.
At the centre, the services are divided in four e-sections. The first one
is e-content and comprises an e-learning facility and e-library service.
The director said there are some 2,000 general, business and IT textbooks
from here and abroad, while a kid's corner provides books for children.
There are also some rare text books sponsored by eight IT suppliers
including Adobe and IBM.
"We aim to have 5,000 books and we will have a committee to decide on book
rotation from each shelf, while the business partners will be asked to
handle their own shelves in order to bring more variety to visitors,"
Rachadaporn said, noting that the centre plans to rotate books every six
to seven months. Some of the books will be exchanged with the Thailand
Knowledge Park, which will soon open next door.
"We also plan to use a smart card to allow members to borrow books in the
future," she said.
Sakunthip Nakdee, a second year student of Rajamangala Institute of
Technology, says she always comes to the centre for the Internet and
"There are plenty of books here. I can spend all day here and never get
bored because there are so many thing to do," she added.
The ICT Learning Centre also houses training professionals in its
e-Training corner. For those who want to increase their skills or get
certified, there are multimedia courses provided by Apple Computer as well
as animation and graphic design courses offered by Imagimax Animation and
Open source, interactive English courses and basic computer literacy
courses are also provided.
Rachadaporn pointed out that the centre also provided facilities including
seven training rooms and a conference room for 280 people. People can rent
the space and beverages and lunch can also be served.
The rental service is one of the centre's plans to find sufficient income
to cover its monthly operation costs.
"We are a government agency but we have a structure to find our own
income. It's not for profit but we want to have sufficient earnings to
hire people, pay the rent and utility fees in the future," she noted.
The National ICT Learning Centre also has an e-Expo area for hosting
events, surfing the Internet, and watching animated movies in the only 4D
theatre in town. The theatre has 48 simulation seats and is equipped with
special effects that make the audience feel like they're in the action.
The theatre shows short animations from here and abroad every day. They
also have a rating system, so that parent's can ensure their kids do not
watch unsuitable content.
"It is interesting and fun. When they dropped flowers on the screen,
flowers also dropped from above. We have never experienced anything like
this before," said one audience member after a screening.
When walking out of the theatre, there is a technology showcase area
called the e-Technology zone. The zone is a drawcard for the young
generation and the tech savvy.
"I like to play (mobile) games here," said Poojade Sottianantachai, 16,
who has been standing at Nokia's booth for an hour.
His friend Worayut Huayhongtong said they like the centre because the
services are varied. Besides, they can charge their mobile phones for free
while spending time on the interactive mobile games, he added.
The e-Technology zone includes the latest technologies from CA, IBM,
Nokia, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Oracle and Cisco Systems.
The director said the centre plans to rotate the technology showcase and
have a monthly concept in order to keep it up-to-date.
In the future, the ICT Learning Centre plans to implement Wi-Fi hotspots
at its coffee corner and in the library. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
technology will also be implanted in books, while smart cards will be used
for library membership as well as for stored value so that visitors can
pay for services.
She said the management team also plans to enhance its e-learning courses
to serve the government's e-learning portal initiative.
"More activities will be organised here in future. We will recruit high
school students to be tour guides and assistants for visitors and
customers," she added.
ICT Minister Dr Surapong Suebwonglee also plans to set up one more ICT
Learning centre in Bangkok as well as in the three ICT Cities _ Phuket,
Chiang Mai and Khon Kaen.
Education is not only in the classroom, the minister said, noting that the
National ICT Learning Centre will be a step towards the country's goal to
develop a knowledge-based society.
E-learning for everyone
Thailand's proposed cyber university could help
the disadvantaged get an education
Story by SASIWIMON BOONRUANG
is 27-years-old and works in a small firm doing photocopying, but in his
free time he's something of a mechanical whiz. He repairs his own
appliances as well as those of his neighbours, and his company has hardly
had to pay anything for copy machine maintenance because it's something
that Surasak has learned to do.
But like many Thais, he does not have any formal education and no
prospects of going to university or gaining other qualifications. When it
comes to fixing things, he relies on his natural ability or gets ideas
from old magazines and books that he can get his hands on.
However, a plan by the government could see Surasak _ and the many Thais
that are in similar situation _ gain access to educational opportunities
in the hope of finding a higher-level job.
The Office of the Commission on Higher Education has recently proposed the
"Thailand Cyber University," a government initiative to increase education
opportunities by providing low cost, life-long education to students and
the general public online.
While many universities in Thailand already offer online courses, they are
generally offered to their own students. Few live up to the real potential
of e-learning by making them available to anyone at anytime and from any
location. They also follow their own procedures rather than having a
common system and standards.
Dr Anuchai Theeraroungchaisri, a committee member of the Thailand Cyber
University project, said providing a system that allowed for courses to be
transferred or learned across different institutions was difficult.
However, that's the goal of the Thailand Cyber University (TCU), which is
based on collaboration among the universities. A central concept is that
universities can share the e-courseware of others.
"All students can learn here together, while the universities can jointly
develop the course syllabus," he said, more importantly adding that all of
the content will be open for the general public to access.
The collaboration could save resources and costs for the universities. In
addition, it would help the institutions that are short of lecturers in
some subjects to be able to have online courseware that is of a standard
The Commission on Higher Education provides a caretaker role for
government universities throughout the country and has a policy to promote
learning via the Internet. So far it has developed the Inter-University
Network (UniNet) _ IT infrastructure that connects the universities to the
Along with setting up UniNet, it is involved in developing courseware, a
learning management system, and e-library.
The TCU has a goal to provide e-learning to the public _ at any age and
with any career _ via the UniNet.
It will be free of charge for individuals to attend.
TCU is seen as a continuing strategic project to promote quality distance
learning from the universities to the public. It is part of a goal to move
towards a knowledge based society, as well as share academic resources and
The commission has already granted funding to universities developing the
courseware and so far there are around 150 subjects being prepared for
online use. Some 100 topics of the content are general or fundamental
subjects that are available in every institution, such as science,
biology, chemistry and social science, while 50 topics will be provided
from engineering faculties.
By September of this year, Dr Anuchai said there would be some 300 topics
available through UniNet.
Another e-courseware module covers fundamental engineering and was
developed by Kasetsart University's engineering faculty. This courseware
has also been run in a traditional classroom setting to help students with
The Commission Office has also contracted CU's Continuing Education Centre
to develop the Learning Management System (LMS), which provides an online
content management system and student management system.
"Every subject that has been developed by the universities and institutes
will be conducted on the same system, using the same database," Dr Anuchai
said. "For example, Chulalongkorn students who would like to learn courses
from other universities can do so and will also be accredited. Likewise
students in other universities can do the same," he pointed out.
E-learning relies a lot on technology and a good quality of
infrastructure, Dr Anuchai said, noting that the growth of Internet,
electronic devices and networks had driven infrastructure and made it more
distributed in the rural areas.
Other factors making e-learning possible were cheaper PCs, computer modems
and telephone lines. "These are the physical factors that have to be done
first, and now it is the process of transforming the content into
courseware _ that requires an effort from the education sector," he said.
TCU will be the central agency for coordinating with the universities and
academic institutions to develop the online courseware that will be
delivered via the UniNet.
TCU is supporting the universities in areas such as e-learning objects,
e-courseware for self-paced courses, collaborative courses and supplement
courses. It also provides them with a virtual library covering e-books,
e-journals and e-thesis. Accredition and content will be covered by the
universities and institutions.
The Office of the Commission on Higher Education has developed an
e-library called the Thai Library Information System (ThaiLIS), a centre
of knowledge resources for students, instructors, and the general public
where members can borrow books across 24 universities.
The ThaiLIS database covers reference books, the union catalogue, a
digital collection, e-journals and an e-book directory.
ThaiLIS is linked to the Thai Library Network (THAILINET) and to the
provincial university library network (PULINET) on the UniNet.
TCU will be a multi-disciplinary school _ a centre of e-learning that
covers all systems of education, including formal education, non-formal
education as well as informal education.
The newly-launched TCU is now open for informal education, while modules
for other subjects will be added by the end of this year. Certification
for the online courses is expected to be ready over the next year,
according to Dr Anuchai.
In addition, the The Office of the Commission on Higher Education and the
universities are now working out regulations for online learning. So far,
there are no laws supporting students who have passed distance learning
In future, Surasak and many other Thai people will have a chance to access
a broad range of resources and learning modules from universities
throughout the country.
It is expected that TCU will better promote relevant education to all
So now people like Surasak, who has learned how to deal with machinery and
appliances through his natural talent, can complement their abilities
through more formal learning.
Lessons from Baan Sam Kha
Primary school teacher shows how technology can
help a village _ with a little outside help
Story by Karnjana Karnjanatawe in Lampang province
|Primary school teacher Srinuan Wongtrakoon
helps a student use the computer.
|A student gets on top of this computer
|Many students are happy to use computers
as an educational tool. — KARNJANA KARNJANATAWE
Srinuan Wongtrakoon, a primary school teacher in Sam Kha Village of Mae
Tha in Lampang, is proof that you don't need to be a computer expert to
introduce computer classes to students.
Instead, she sought out the expert help available at the Non-formal
Educational Centre in Lampang to train her and her young students in basic
computer usage even before they had a computer lab of their own.
Now that they have a computer lab, she and her students can help adults to
learn computers and the Internet after school, during weekends and over
the summer holiday.
"Children can do many things and learn quickly if they have the chance,"
said Srinuan, who has taught every subject at Baan Sam Kha primary school
for more than three decades.
She believes in child-centric learning methods and made a point of
bringing some students with her whenever there were computer training
classes at the Non-formal Educational Centre.
When Srinuan first used the computer given to her by a friend in 1995, she
realised that it would be an important educational tool for her students.
So instead of keeping it for her family, she gave the computer to the
"I brought the computer to school so that the students could play with
it," she said, adding that they learned the basics of the computer through
However for the villagers at the time, mostly farmers some 40 kilometres
outside the city of Lampang, the computer was something new.
The village is surrounded by mountains and forest and there are no fixed
telephone lines to any of the homes and only two public telephone lines to
the school, while mobile phone network coverage is rarely found.
Baan Sam Kha is the only school in the village and at present it has 43
students and only three teachers _ hence one teacher must teach every
subject. One takes care of grades one to three, Srinuan teaches the higher
grades four to six, while the four kindergarden children are taken care of
by the school head.
While the classes are all under one roof, this does not confuse the
children. "The students know what to do," Srinuan said, noting that they
make a plan of their lessons for each subject and class.
For computer classes, the students have one two-hour computer class each
week. They share their studying time together and those who have higher
computer literacy, such as students in grades five and six, always help
Athipong Kirika, 12, said he has used computers for two years and can also
use the Internet, including email and web browsing.
"I like visiting my village web site (samkhaschool.haii.or.th). I also use
Hotmail and know how to install computers," he said.
Today in his morning computer class, he is concentrating on the screen,
navigating the software with ease. "I am doing my assignment and writing a
story about a grateful dog by using the Microworld program," he said while
choosing a dog from a graphics list and pasting some trees to make his
animated story. He also knows how to do simple coding to make the dog move
from left to right.
Microworld is an application developed by the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology (MIT) and donated to the school by the Non-formal Educational
Centre, Lampang branch. It is a computer-aided-instruction program that
can encourage children to use their imagination to tell stories through
many colourful animated characters.
The students learn to create a story and organise their ideas in a Thai
language class before moving to an open-air computer lab next door to use
the Microworld program. Some juniors also write down their stories and
create a presentation in PowerPoint, while others are learning how to
"With Microworld, the children can indirectly learn how to type, use a
mouse and learn English language at the same time," said Srinuan.
She said that it is a very good program and thanked Dr Suchin Petcharak of
the Non-formal Educational Centre for providing it. Since 1997 he has
supported the program as well as donated five computers to the school.
Dr Suchin also asked TOT to install a telephone line for the school in
order to let students use the Internet after they received some basic Net
training in 1999.
However, all has not been problem free and the introduction of Internet
brought worries for elders, parents and monks.
There concerns are documented in a book called Lessons Learned from Sam
Kha Community, printed by the National Electronics and Computer Technology
Centre (Nectec). The village headman, Channong Chantrajom, said he did not
like computers and Internet because it was a sign of capitalism and could
bring harm to the villagers.
But Srinuan and her children proved that they could take advantage of the
technology for the good of the village.
In 2001, she and 45 youngsters including some primary school students and
a number of village teenagers attended a 10-day computer camp organised by
the Non-formal Educational Centre.
"It was a good opportunity not only for the children to learn how to take
advantage of computers, but also their parents, who visited them at night
to learn how to use the Internet along with their children," she
The students help villagers by using the computer to manage the community
financial records as well as for running a community bank.
Since the computers were old, sometimes they were also in need of repairs,
but once again they turned this into an opportunity. "We asked staff at
the Non-formal Educational Centre to help fix them. When they disassembled
the parts, the students also had the chance to learn how to fix the
hardware," she said, noting that some of her best computer students could
ease her workload by fixing basic hardware problems.
"I do not know much about this, but the students know how to handle the
problems," she said.
Eleven-year-old Chanakan Yutharaksanukul is one of a number students to
pick up computers quickly. He always assists his younger classmates to
find programs, repair hardware or help his friend finding computer parts
to fix the hardware problems.
There are now more than 10 PCs in the computer room, which is called the
Constructionism Lab and was set up by Cement Thai through the support of
the director of the Siam Cement Group, Paron Israsena Na Ayudhaya, and
some of the villagers a couple of years ago.
Another problem the school has found is the cost of the Internet
They use to pay 3,000 baht a month for TOT's service, but this
disconnected three or four times every hour, Srinuan explained, adding
that the connection was later changed to a satellite via the IPstar
service, but the cost was high.
"We used it for three months and could not cover the expenses, so we
changed the connection back to a service from Karnchanapisek (sponsored by
TOT corp to support the SchoolNet project of the National Electronics and
Computer Technology Centre). "But the service was not stable so we again
changed the connection back to satellite two years ago," she said.
For the first year, the service was free of charge.
However, now the school needs to find a budget to cover the service, which
costs 2,675 baht for a 750 kbps connection. The school manages to recover
some costs by charging those who use the Internet at 12 baht an hour. The
service is available after school and during weekends.
Meanwhile, the students are continuously updating their computer skills
through the Non-formal Educational Centre. The centre loaned them a
computer and video recorder for a year after they had undergone a video
One group of grade six boys learned how to develop video presentations.
They have been working with teenagers of the village and a computer
teacher at the Non-formal Educational Centre of Lampang to develop more
than 10 video documentary programmes.
The short documentaries are all about their village, such as how they dry
roast bananas _ the top product of the village _ how to make the popular
Phai Maew dish, and how rock dams are constructed to preserve the water in
Chanakan, one of the video production team, said he and his friends shot
the film by themselves as well as used the software for editing.
"I like video editing. I also want to be more skilful in this because I
think that I can earn money out of it," he noted.
Apart from video editing skills, Srinuan helps her students to study the
Northern Lanna language.
"The Lanna language programme is essential because many elders here still
use the language. We also have some 300-400 years old herbal medical
treatments recorded in Lanna language. When my students know the old
language, they can communicate with the old people and also translate the
old local knowledge into Thai," she noted.
The school got a free copy of a Lanna language software program from Payap
University. Unfortunately, the program is not complete so it has a problem
with fonts when typing some characters.
Srinuan is still searching for the complete program as well as other
needed software, such as a mapping program in order to create a village
map and let her students know where their houses and where the houses are
of those who have specific knowledge, especially village elders who
sometimes become guest teachers to share their experiences with the young
In addition, she is looking for some English language and CAI programs.
"Although our PCs are old, we can still use them or borrow computers from
others. The more important thing is to develop our children's skills and
minds," she said, noting that nothing is more important than human
BROADBAND / UNIVERSAL
Nectec to trial WiMax upcountry
The National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre (Nectec) will
run a wireless IP phone pilot project at Samkha village of Mae Tha in
The project will cost around one million baht, with financial support also
coming from the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity.
Nectec director Dr Thaweesak Koanantakool said the one-year "Rural
Wireless Broadband Access" project aimed to determine the real investment
costs for implementing telecommunication infrastructure in remote areas.
"We want to prove to the National Telecommunication Commission the real
cost of implementing telecom service in rural and remote areas," he said.
In accordance with the Universal Service Obligation (USO) of the Telecom
Bill, telecom operators will have to contribute to the USO Fund, which
will be managed by the NTC.
In order to know how much one telecom operator should give for USO, Nectec
started the pilot last month to find out the real costs.
"We know that USO is a problem worldwide in terms of the digital divide.
Wi-Fi and WiMax will be the answers to help improve communications in
remote areas," Dr Thaweesak noted.
Samkha village was chosen because there is no telephone service available
and because the village is surrounded by mountains and forest. The cost to
provide regular telephone lines to the village is high.
Nectec has previously worked with the villagers as part of a project to
provide IT facilities to the local school and promotes a community radio
project that is now used for broadcasting information and updated news to
Dr Thaweesak said Nectec chose wireless broadband access technology
because it would be a future mass communication system. In addition, the
technology could support both Internet access and telephone service.
During the first phase, Nectec implemented wireless IP phones in five
locations. A satellite link via an ipstar connection delivers Internet
access to the school, the house of teacher Srinuan Wongtrakoon, who
oversees the school's computer lab, a village temple, a health station and
a retail shop of the village.
Samkha village is located 42 kilometers from Lampang city. There are 152
households and only one primary school.
Srinuan said the service had worked well during the first 10 days.
"Everyone was so excited because the voice is clear. Making a call within
the village, such as to the health station, is also free of charge," she
She said a call to an outside area such as to Bangkok is also cheap at
three baht per call.
However, voice transmission consumes the bandwidth of the school's
satellite link, she noted.
Dr Thaweesak said although voice consumes high bandwidth, the cost of
bandwidth will be cheaper in the future.
At present, Nectec is helping improve the service quality after the
communications system was broken recently.
Five universities to offer courses electronically
Published on August 01, 2005
Believing that learning is not limited to the classroom, the
Commission on Higher Education has teamed up with five universities to
offer online education via Thailand Cyber University (TCU) by the end of
Pavich Tongroach, secretary general of the Education Ministry’s
Commission on Higher Education, said that the TCU offers pilot online
management education projects to more than 20,000 students, teachers and
the public nationwide.
“We offered a pilot project earlier this year and now provide basic
information-technology courses to enhance IT literacy amongst people,”
The commission and five universities would provide online education to
the public and students who want to participate in the courses over the
virtual network by the end of this year. The five universities are
Chulalongkorn University, Chiang Mai University, Kasetsart University,
Silpakorn University and Naresuan University.
First, the TCU will offer five to 10 online courses in subjects such as
computer engineering from Chulalongkorn University and mechanical
engineering from Kasetsart University.
Other online courses, such as knowledge management from Silpakorn and a
tourism course developed by Naresuan University, are also made available.
The electronic classroom would allow students to register to study and
access online courses though the Internet, anywhere and any time they
The TCU also offers an electronic library to give students and teachers
access to information and digital collections over the Internet. It also
provides a learning resources sharing centre, aiming to be a centre where
students and teachers are able to transfer information without going to
“This is an alternative that allow students and the general public to
reach online courses themselves,” said Pavich.
OVERRUN BY TOURISTS
The boom has attracted hordes of vendors
from elsewhere, while garbage is starting to pile up
Story by ANJIRA ASSAVANONDA
Koh Kret, a top tourist spot well known for its ethnic Mon culture,
faces a major change that threatens to take away its charm, an expert and
a civic leader say.
The change has come about due to booming tourism under a vigorous
promotion campaign by the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
On weekends, the little island on the Chao Phraya river opposite Pak Kret
district town in Nonthaburi, once dubbed the ``Amazing Island'' by the
TAT, is now crowded not only with tourists. Vendors from elsewhere also
rent space from the locals to set up their stalls selling a variety of
trendy clothes, ornaments, handbags, toys, food and other items alongside
pottery _ the local product famous for its intricate design and
``The uniqueness of Koh Kret is dwindling and Koh Kret on weekends is
becoming more like Chatuchak market,'' said Prasert Rithsamroeng, an
adviser to the Thailand Environment Institute (TEI), who supervises the
Koh Kret Sustainable Development Project, together with the Society for
the Conservation of National Treasure and Environment.
The project is being funded by the Thailand Business Council for
To start with, the boom in tourism has led to waste problems that appear
to be getting more and more serious for the tiny island community.
``After talking to the islanders and asking them to list urgent problems
that need solving, the locals said garbage and floods were the most
pressing issues,'' Mr Prasert said.
Chusawasdi Thanthuranon, a 47-year-old native of Koh Kret, said that it
was irresponsible tourists and vendors who were to blame for littering.
``Some tourists are mindful of keeping the island clean, but some of them
are not. And there are also vendors who come in the morning and go back in
the evening with lots of money in their pockets, leaving piles of garbage
behind for us to clear away,'' Mr Chusawasdi said.
Moreover, there has been a decline in the Mon culture as people's way of
life is changing.
Gradually disappearing are the Mon-style dancing and old traditions. For
instance, authentic Mon cuisine has become a rarity.
``The traditional desserts made by Mon people are tasty and not so sweet,
unlike those sold to tourists that are brought in from elsewhere,'' said
Mali Wongchamnong, a 77-year-old native of Koh Kret.
Pottery too, is on the decline. While tourists might still see a variety
of handmade products on the island, most of them are from elsewhere in the
Some come from Sukhothai, others from Lampang and Nakhon Ratchasima. The
products from elsewhere, while being much cheaper than ones produced
Bangkok chosen as
Bangkok has been chosen as the venue for Worlddidac Asia
2005, the Asian region's showcase for educational innovation and
Chainarong Limkittisin, director of Reed Tradex Co's industrial business
division, the joint organiser, said the Oct 19-21 show is expected to
attract a large number of people from education circles worldwide.
A similar event was held in Bangkok in 1995.
Worlddidac and BESA, the educational media association of England,
considered Bangkok the most suitable venue for 2005 because
education-related businesses in Asia, especially in Thailand, had grown in
leaps and bounds, Mr Chainarong said.
Education media business operators in England were keen to take part.
The show will be a regional forum for executives and educators of all
levels from all over Asia to see educational innovations for curriculum
and educational institute management improvement.
Worlddidac Asia 2005 will be held at the Sirikit National Convention