ICT education strategy on track, minister claims

18 Jul 2005

The Minister for Education and Science Mary Hanafin (pictured) has told siliconrepublic.com that future priorities and strategies for the use of ICT in education are currently being developed.

In response to a question regarding concerns such as those raised by Hewlett-Packard Ireland general manager Martin Murphy over the lack of a cohesive strategy for Republic of Ireland schools to rival the Classroom 2000 initiative in Northern Ireland, Hanafin said that a strategy is being worked on. Education authorities in the North are proceeding with a 10-year plan to give all students from primary to university level access to their own PC, email address and broadband access.

Hanafin told siliconrepublic.com the present €18m Broadband for Schools project and her department’s €18m investment in schools networking equipment inform a wider strategy of promoting the use of ICT in teaching and learning and the training and professional development of teachers is on the agenda.

Hanafin said: “The nature and range of future priorities for the strategy are currently being developed. These include modes of delivery in relation to the on-going enhancement and maintenance of computer infrastructure in schools, training and development programmes focusing particularly on the pedagogical use of ICT and the provision of high-quality on-line curriculum-relevant educational resources for schools.”

She continued: “Between 1998 and 2004, €157m has been invested in ICT in schools. At the core of this investment is an understanding that the integration of ICT into the learning process has the potential to enhance critical thinking skills, communications skills, problem-solving skills and team-working skills, all of which are extremely important in the knowledge society.

“ICT offers great potential for developing new and innovative teaching practices. In the case of disadvantaged students it can have an impact on literacy and numeracy and, when used creatively, can have major motivational benefits. The Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) Action Plan highlights this potential. We are only beginning to tap into the full potential of ICT as a tool for learning. Broadband connectivity will provide a platform to harness this more fully. I am committed to ensuring that the potential of ICT underpins wider education policy on a number of fronts, and in particular in the areas of curriculum development, teacher education and the ongoing professional development of teachers.”

Elaborating further on teacher training, Hanafin said that since 1998, over 80pc of first- and second-level teachers have availed of ICT training under the Government’s ICT in Education Initiative. “In all some 100,000 training places have been provided, in the main through Education Centres but also through courses operated in University of Limerick and summer courses operated by the INTO.

“The suite of courses developed by the NCTE include basic ICT skills, training in ICT pedagogical practice, technical skills such as website design, system management and troubleshooting as well as a range of special needs courses.

“Ongoing professional development support for teachers is of course central to achieving our objectives for ICT usage in classroom learning. The role of principals in providing leadership in fostering a culture of e-learning within their schools is also vital. Investment in the necessary supports for these will be central to the Government’s Schools ICT strategy moving forward,” she said.

Hanafin concluded by saying future investment strategies for technology in education are currently being studied by the Government. “The Government has identified the importance of ICT in schools for a range of reasons; most fundamentally because of the educational value of the learning tools available.

“Ongoing investment into the future will be a priority in the context of the Government’s overall future strategy in the area,” Hanafin concluded.

By John Kennedy