Teaching coding to Thai kids good if teachers are equipped for new role – educational economist
Teaching of computer programming language in schools is a good idea, but schools, teachers and students must be prepared, otherwise the educational gap between privileged and under-privileged students will widened, according to Dr. Kiat-anant Luankaeo, an educational economist at Thammasat University.
To begin with, he asked, do the schools have the infrastructure or the staff needed to teach coding to their students?
Noting that the nature of under-privileged students is that they need closer attention than the privileged students, he questioned who would perform this role, adding that the Singaporean model, which the Education Ministry wants to apply in Thailand, cannot be applied in its entirety and has never been trialed here.
Deputy Education Minister Kalaya Sophonpanich said, during the recent debate on the government’s policy statement, that it was not necessary for all schools to be fully equipped with computers in order to start the teaching of coding as envisaged by the ministry.
The only thing needed is the skill to teach, the minister said in response to a point raised by Future Forward party-list MP Kulthida Rungruangkit, who questioned how the program would work while the Education Ministry has not tackled its structural problems, such as educational inequality and qualifications of teachers.
Khunying Kalaya insisted that coding will be the third language for Thai students, because it is important knowledge for the 21st century, as she cited the case of Japan and China which have included coding in their curricula for next year.
“As a matter of fact, teaching coding is to teach Thai people to apply logic in solving problems. Teachers do not have to be worried, it won’t increase the burden on them, but will give them a new skill – a skill for the future in a digital world,” she said during the debate.
Dr. Kiat-anant, however, thought differently and admitted that he was worried. Talking to Thai PBS, he pointed that, before coding is incorporated into the curricula for Thai students, the Education Ministry must consider whether the schools are ready to accommodate coding, whether teachers have the skills needed to teach, whether there are enough computers and whether students are ready to absorb the teaching.
If the Education Ministry is determined to push through the teaching of coding as a third language as a priority, Dr. Kiat-anant proposed that the project to be implemented in three phases.
The first phase is a trial period, during which officials must assess the structural problems, such as the readiness of teachers and availability of computers in schools.
The second phase is for coding to be taught in pilot schools to find the proper model to be applied to schools nationwide, said the educational economist.
He added that the teaching should not be limited to online teaching because students are not equally enthusiastic about their education, they are not equally capable of absorbing the new skill and, hence, are in need of closer supervision.
The final phase is to apply the tested model to all schools across the country.