Industry hits out at inadequate IT in schools

21 Apr 2006

The IBEC-based body representing the €51bn-a-year ICT sector has said that despite increased investment the Government has failed to put in place adequate plans to boost use of technology in Irish school classrooms.

Supporting yesterday’s call by the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI) that the Department of Education address the lack of technology usage in Irish classrooms, ICT Ireland director Kathryn Raleigh warned: “Irish students are falling seriously behind their European counterparts when it comes to using technology in schools. This will severely limit their career options and mean they are unable to fully benefit from exciting emerging technologies.”

She continued: “Between 1998 and 2004, €157m was invested in ICT for schools. This was focused on improving the computer-pupil ratio, improving teacher training in technology and providing digital content for use in schools. However, since 2003, there has been a deafening silence from the Department of Education, which should have set out clear and strategic policies to enable schools make the most of these resources.”

An OECD report published earlier this year shows that Ireland has one of the lowest percentage of frequent computer users at school among OECD countries, and student attitudes towards computers in Ireland are among the least positive.

The report also concluded that students who regularly use computers tend to perform better in key school subjects than those with a limited computer experience.

The report also establishes a strong link between computer use and student performance, particularly with regard to mathematics, an area where Irish students are below average according to the latest OECD reports.

“Later this year, most of our schools will have access to the internet, through the industry-supported Broadband for Schools initiative,” said Raleigh. “There is, however, no clear plan to help students and teachers make the most out of this new technology.

“The Department needs to prepare students to live and succeed in a world where technology is a central part of everyday life. In the future we will need increasingly sophisticated technology to carry out research, communicate instantly and perform transactions at speed.

“If school does not prepare students to succeed in such a world we will have failed them,” Raleigh warned.

By John Kennedy