Irish Times article on ICT in Schools Thursday, March 20, 2008

Today, 20 March 2008, The Irish Times features an article on the lack of funding for ICT in schools and that the current spending plan is not sufficient. The article is free to read on but I will post below too.

€252m school computer plan lags behind EU, study reveals
SEÁN FLYNN, Education Editor

THE GOVERNMENT'S €252 million plan for computers in schools is insufficient and will leave Irish schools lagging behind their EU counterparts, according to a confidential report commissioned by Minister for Education Mary Hanafin.

In recent months, the Minister has resisted pressure from the Irish National Teachers' Organisation and Fine Gael to publish the report.

But a draft copy - seen by The Irish Times - is scathing about the current level of information and communications technology (ICT) in schools. And it is not optimistic about the future.

The report, Investing Effectively in Information and Communications Technology for Schools 2007-13, was prepared by a strategy group headed by Jerome Morrissey, the director of the National Centre for Technology in Education.

It questions whether the €252 million to be invested under the National Development Plan over a seven-year period to 2013 will be enough to close the gap on other countries.

While this will enable schools to update existing facilities, the strategy group states: "We suggest that this sum is inadequate to fund progress beyond the merely functional levels of ICT. Further investment will be required to bring our schools to an EU average level."

The report says overall confidence in ICT among teachers has been dented by years of underinvestment.

The Republic, it says, still "falls well behind the EU average" when it comes to ICT use in the classroom.

This, it says, has resulted in "insufficient and ageing equipment in schools, no provision for technical support and very inadequate levels of broadband internet".

Last night, the general secretary of the Teachers' Union of Ireland, Peter MacMenamin, said the report provided further evidence of the Government's "shameful" lack of commitment to ICT. Thousands of teachers, he said, had gone to the trouble of getting ICT training: "It is like learning to drive - and then sitting into a car with no wheels."

The main recommendations of the report include:

  • A "truly high-speed" nationwide broadband network available to every school;
  • A new national policy for the development and distribution of digital content for learning;
  • Centralised arrangements for the purchase of school-ready computers and a national plan for equipment renewal;
  • Schools retaining some autonomy and choice in their purchase of computers;
  • A new national framework for teachers' development in ICT;
  • New levels of inter-agency co-operation to drive the e-learning agenda forward.

The report was commissioned to examine how best to allocate the €252 million budget.

The most recent survey of computers in schools found that one in five cannot be used and more than 50 per cent are at least four years old.

The Republic has one of the lowest rates of ICT usage in education in the developed world.

The hardware currently available to teachers and students for use in the classroom is inadequate, the report found.

In conclusion, it states that, "It is not possible to create an e-learning culture and to embed ICT in the curriculum without having appropriate and adequate information and communication technology tools available in schools."