When former education minister Mary Hanafin announced in February 2007 that an advisory board was being established to determine how to spend the budgeted €252m allocated to upgrading much-needed ICT (information and communications technology) in schools around Ireland, little did we think that over a year later the funds would still be sitting in government coffers unspent.
This ‘e-learning culture’ of which Hanafin spoke remains in stasis and now looks even more uncertain. Current Minister for Education, Batt O’Keeffe, said in the Dáil this week that the government is not willing to make a firm commitment the €252m would in fact be spent because a final decision had not yet been made.
Reacting to this director of ICT Ireland, Kathryn Raleigh, urged the government to make the commitment to funding in this area.
Recent figures from the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) took a long hard look at the reality of our ‘e-learning culture’, where “ICT is fully embedded in teaching and learning across the curriculum” and “is a major priority for this government”.
The study estimated that 50pc of computer facilities in Irish schools are unusable, while one fifth of computers are over six years old and only 4pc of computers were located in classrooms with 58pc being kept in a dedicated computer room.
Speaking yesterday at the Internet and Experience in Education Conference in Tipperary, Raleigh said: “Technology in Irish schools has been grossly under-funded for years and this has left Irish students at a major disadvantage compared to many of their European counterparts.
“Government has for too long failed to make adequate financial commitments and back up stated policy objectives with the necessary funding. The future success of the Irish economy relies heavily on our ability to keep and attract high-tech industries. This cannot be achieved unless we invest in technology in schools.”
By Marie Boran
Pictured: a woodwork class at Coláiste Chiaráin post-primary school in Croom, Co Limerick