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Shimane Pref. ex-mayor feted for bringing abacus to Thais.

BANGKOK, April 1 Kyodo

Ryuichi Takahashi, former mayor of Yokota in Shimane Prefecture, was honored Saturday by Thailand's Education Ministry for his role in abacuses to Thai pupils and contributing to the revival of abacus courses in Thai education.

Takahashi was not at the recognition ceremony in which more than 200 teachers and Education Ministry civil servants were awarded for outstanding performance and contributions to education.

The ministry will, however, send Takahashi a letter of recognition and a pin, officials said.

Since 1994, as a mayor of the town renowned as an abacus producer, Takahashi donated about 2,000 wooden abacuses to Thailand.

Some 70% of the abacuses made in Japan are produced in Yokota.

With the help of Japanese nongovernmental organization the Minsai Center, Takahashi inaugurated the abacus donations to schools in Thailand's northeastern province of Roi Et. Yokota also invited several Thai officials to visit the town to study how use of the abacus is taught in Japanese schools.

Thai Education Ministry officials said the ministry started pioneering abacus use the curriculum in 1997, setting up abacus programs in 26 schools between 1997 and June 1998. The ministry aims to extend the program for third to sixth-graders in all elementary schools within the next six to seven years, they said.

Thailand has about 40,000 elementary schools, but less than 1% offer abacus programs.

Aree Pradermchai, a teacher at a Bangkok school, said she has taught her pupils to use the abacus and it has been a greatly successful program.

"Most Thai children don't like mathematics, but after the abacus was introduced I found they enjoy mathematics," she said.

She added abacus use is also helpful in increasing children's concentration in class.

"It makes children have higher concentration in other classes too, because they seem to be relaxed and pay more attention," Aree said.

She added that pupils learning to use the abacus could calculate faster than those using electric calculators.

"Most of the pupils learning abacus also improved in overall academic performances, scores on examinations. Only small numbers of them remained the same," she said.

Education Ministry officials said teaching the abacus to pupils aims to enhance the children's skills in mathematics through thinking, not through machines. They also hope to improve children's concentration, which could lead to improvement in other subjects.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Date:Apr 3, 2000
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