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Have school-going kids? Add tablet fee to budget

Have school-going kids? Add tablet fee to budget

It’s too early, say parents pushed into buying educational tablets for seven-year-olds

By Sajila Saseendran/senior Reporter And Muaz Shabandri/staff Reporter

Published: Fri 26 Jun 2015, 1:01 AM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 2:51 PM

Students of Grade 4 demonstrate the use of a ‘temperature probe’ attached to the educational tablet during a recent technology symposium held for parents.— Photo by Sajila Saseendran

Dubai - It is costly and too early, say parents of children who are being pushed into buying educational tablets for children as young as seven. At the Indian High School in Dubai, special education tablets priced at Dh2,285 (full option) are being rolled out from as early as Grade 3.

Several parents who spoke to Khaleej Times claimed the school is putting an additional burden on them in the middle of the academic year. They said the recently signed parent-school contract did not mention the introduction of the tablets or its price.

Education comes at a price

 > Cost of tab without keyboard: Dh1,895

> Cost with keyboard: Dh1,995

> 1-year extra warranty: Dh190 (without keyboard)

> 1-year extra warranty: Dh210 (with keyboard)

> Insurance (optional): Dh80

> Cost of tab with all options: Dh2,285

> Registration fee:           Dh1,000

Many parents of Grade 3 students said it was too early to introduce such gadgets for students their age. “This is the age for children to read books and write with pencils,” said one father. “If they are switching to tablets now, when will they do all this? Tablets may be good teaching tools, but should be introduced only in higher grades.”

“My seven-year-old daughter loses her notebook very frequently,” said S. Varghese, a parent. “I can get her a Dh3 notebook again. But, if it happens with the tablet, what will I do?”

Dr Ashok Kumar, CEO of Indian High School, said, “The opportunities offered by education tablets in the classroom are wide-reaching. Schools that embrace the interactive technology benefit by offering more interesting, engaging lessons to a generation increasingly exposed to advanced gadgets in their day-to-day life. The active learning using this platform takes them beyond acquiring knowledge. It helps in deepening the understanding and enhances their skills of collaboration, critical thinking, creativity and communication.”

A large majority of school students have already purchased the tablets and the school hopes to move away from physical textbooks soon. “At present the tablet serves as a strong tool for research and enquiry. Soon the school will be moving towards digital books which will be the solution for the persistent problem of heavy school bags.”

‘Not compulsory’

Dr Kumar said it is not compulsory for all students to buy the tablet.

Students without tablets continue to receive regular instructional modules from the teacher in a “blended learning environment”. Teachers have been provided with training to ensure that students without tablets do not feel left out or disengaged from learning activities, he said.

Parents, on the other hand, claimed students who were forced to buy the tablets last year used it for just two months.

The mother of a Grade 3 student said the school was “coercing parents emotionally” into buying the tablet even without making it mandatory. “Parents don’t want their children to feel left out and they are playing with this emotional dilemma of parents, because of which most of them have booked the tablets.”

She said parents are also worried how their children will be assessed.

P. Kumar, father of a Grade 4 student, said parents would feel their money is not wasted if the school can prove that tablets are used properly. “But this is not the case. Many senior students said that not all students bought the tablet last year and those who bought hardly used them,” he claimed.

He said the school initially sent a circular saying parents had to book the tablets with Dh1,000 in cash in advance within one week. “I have read that the KHDA (Knowledge and Human Development Authority) has said schools should intimate parents about such things at least a year before to plan their budget. Here, they did not mention it even in the parent contract which we signed recently. Instead, they said ... only limited number of tablets was available even as they said it was mandatory and meant for use by all Grade 4 students.”

A large majority of students of Grades in which the educational tablets were introduced last year have procured the tablets, said Dr Kumar. “In some special and genuine cases where parents could not procure the tablet, the school made some alternative arrangements.”

A business deal?

A parent claimed a school employee told him that orders for 1,500 tablets were made by Wednesday last week. “That is a Dh3 million business (deal) with Intel. How come Intel tablets are priced so high when even Apple iPads are cheaper? Most of the other schools are allowing students to purchase the tablets of their choice and then instal the required apps. The deal with Intel smacks of a nexus between some school officials and the company. The KHDA should investigate it,” he claimed.

Dr Kumar, however, said: “The features of education tablets are quite different from other tablets used for general purpose. The school only facilitates the procurement by arranging for educational licensing of Microsoft software and group insurance which makes it more economic. Parents are free to buy these tablets from any other sources as long as it has the same peripherals, probes, software and works on the classroom management system.”

On Monday, the school announced the extension of the deadline to book the tablets to Saturday.

Mohammed Darwish, chief of regulations and permits commission at the KHDA, said, “Tablets are valuable educational tools that enrich students’ learning experiences. Parents have the choice to purchase all educational resources from any retail outlet they choose or directly from the schools.”  muaz@khaleejtimes.com

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