ICT vouchers for schools – more harm than good

17 Aug 2007

Voucher schemes like Tesco’s Computers for Schools prolong and excuse the government’s lack of funding for Information and Communication in Irish classrooms, said chairperson of the Campaign for Commercial-Free Education (CCFE), Joseph Fogarty.

“Tesco has cleverly capitalised on government’s refusal to properly fund ICT in schools,” said Fogarty.

“It has suited the government to allow schools to trade commercial access to children for odds and ends of equipment which they should be funding – it has let them off the hook.”

The Computers for Schools Scheme gives schools ten weeks to collect vouchers which they can then trade in for computer equipment.

An Apple iMac, which retails at €1,400 can be obtained by a school community in exchange for vouchers collected from a €261,600 spend at Tesco, while a basic PC worth €818 requires a spend of €215,000.

Fogarty said that underfunded schools have been exploited into promoting a supermarket because of the shortfall in ICT funding coming from the government.

“The posters, target charts and collection boxes have pressurised parents, delivered marketing messages to a captive audience of kids and wasted teachers’ time,” he said.

“The payback to schools is miniscule both in terms of ICT equipment received and the undermining of schools’ educational mission.”

Tips from the Tesco websites for collecting vouchers include the suggestion to “use vouchers for counting practice in maths classes or to keep children occupied during wet playtimes”.

The site also encourages “inter-class competitions with a prize for the class who collects the most vouchers”.

As the Campaign for Commercial-Free Education group pointed out, Tesco does not allow collections to take place on any of its premises.

“It also widens social inequality as richer schools pay up front for digital whiteboards while poorer schools collect vouchers for mouse mats,” he said.

“The government has also famously refused to regulate what companies can and can’t do in schools making schools a gold mine for marketers eager to target children in an unregulated environment,” added Fogarty.

By Marie Boran